Saturday, 6 February 2016

Night Flight

I count myself extremely lucky that, as a bead and found-object jewellery artist (yes, that fair trips off the tongue, doesn't it?) I get to work with some truly amazing, well, beads and found-objects. Lucky is perhaps not quite the right word, as of course, no one forced me to design and make this particular type of jewellery, nor indeed any kind of jewellery - but it somehow feels like in incredible part of my work that I get to handle miniature objects of art every time I sit down to create, whether I'm working with my own handwoven {song}beads or handmade elements from bead artists across the world - from the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Wight, from Bulgaria to Canada to Australia and back to Edinburgh. My bead collection (most of which will at some point fulfil its beady destiny and become part of a piece of jewellery, I promise) reads like a carefully curated world tour - a tour which, as you would expect, is full of colour, character(s) and contrast. 

More than that, each bead I work with (or have plans to work with...) is a touchstone -  imbued with a talisman-like quality. Something about their solid, tactile, textural nature means that each bead seems to me heavy with symbolism, simply from the fact of it being a bead. Beads are such a rich part of our social and cultural heritage - throughout time they have not merely been worn, but used as currency, for ceremonial purposes; for intimate, personal prayer, and of course, for adornment and decoration on all sorts of occasions - from an everyday trip to the market, to the highest of weddings. I am always aware of this when I hold even the humblest of beads - they contain echoes of times gone by, as well as the potential for future purpose. Something about that juxtaposition of times within them means they are always in flux - their journey is not complete at the point I receive them; they are dying to burst out and become something more than themselves. 

There are some beads, one could argue, that are complete just as they are - they are so intricately and beautifully made that all they need to do is sit and be admired. I have two printers drawers on my bedroom wall, containing not a few astounding beads, ones which particularly resonate with me, or just knock me out with their sheer awesomeness, but even so, the decision for them to be a bead rather than a hole-less object....that makes them different. Special. Destined to be more than themselves. 

And of course, that's what happened to the beads in the bracelet below - they outgrew themselves, and (hopefully) became more than the sum of their parts. 

Night Flight contains elements from so many of my favourite bead artists. A hand-cast pewter clasp from the Asheville Hills in North Carolina, a tiny ceramic heart from Devon, a handmade lampwork glass ran from Renfrewshire and an adorable, hand-carved owl from Wisconsin. I've added hand-cut iolite, wooden rounds and tiny glass seed beads to this bracelet, picking up the colours from the tab (reminiscent of the Northern Lights anyone?), creating a twilit scene in violets, teals and indigos. The wood and unglazed terracotta of the heart are like touchstone to the woods that are the owl's home. But they are second to the inky skies in which she's swooping and soaring within. 

Fanciful? Maybe. Perhaps you just like the colours, or have a thing for owls (who doesn't?). The story is there for you if you want it. Or tell your own tale - it's entirely up to you as the wearer. But this bracelet is more than just a collection of pretty beads - it's a carefully curated narrative of colour and character, just like the rest of my bead collection. 

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Earrings, earrings, earrings

....3 pairs of earrings. Yes, you might have imagined from the title that I would have oodles of new pairs for you, but I'm being strictly accurate, and so I have three pairs to share here today.

I know I've written about my love for earrings before, but in case you missed the memo, I absolutely LOVE earrings. Can't get enough of them. I've even got my ears pierced a total of 14 times (I think some of those holes have closed up now - sad face), although I would only wear teeny studs in most of those holes, you'll be pleased to know. I actually have tiny ears, and attached lobes, so it's quite a feat having quite so many holes punched in them!

And so of course, it follows that I really enjoy wearing earrings. However, my artistic earring creating sensibilities bend towards the very simple - when on creative autopilot, I do tend to make earrings containing only one or two beads. Which are, of course, perfect for every day! I love a simple drop earrings. 

Sugar Plum

But you want to know what I really love? Long, elegant, multi-faceted, many-part-filled earrings. I have quite a collection from other jewellery artists - not least Claire Lockwood, and the beginnings of a collection from Lindsay Philipson too - and I am almost always drawn to long, complicated, exuberant earrings. Oh, and usually with tons of colour too. I'm not sure why I struggle to compose that which I love to wear, but they don't seem to flow quite so naturally from my hands. Maybe 'automatically' is a more apt word - and perhaps that's a clue there; I need to be more intentional when making earrings. It could be it's a time thing - because they are 'only' earrings i.e. on the small side compared with a necklace for instance, I don't feel I should be spending a lot of time on one single pair. I'm not sure - probably a bit of all of those reasons. 

And so this week, I decided to try to intentionally build some more complex pairs of earrings. Ok, they are not as exuberant as some in my own collection, but I think it's important to give people a choice - you want a Songbead stud? I've got it. You want a simple drop? Got that too. You want something a bit more fancy-pants? Yep, I've got that three. 

Verdant Cairns

I'm also enjoying mixing my handwoven {song}beads in with other handmade beads and other elements - freshwater pearls, oxidised silver etc - they bring such a visually textural quality to my jewellery, I love it. All of the {song}beads in the earrings below have been stitched with silver-lined 1mm beads, which means that (along with being incredibly detailed!) they have a wonderful glow and glimmer to them. One of my favourite types of glass seed beads to stitch with, for sure.

Sugar Spun

Another thing that has happened this week is that I decided to invest in an Etsy shop review from this lovely lady. Gosh, but she knows what she's talking about! I'm am immensely grateful that I had the good sense to hop onto her listing and click 'purchase'.  I have lots of areas to build on and tweak (the good news was that I'm doing most of the right things, I just need to do them more, if you know what I mean), and you'll hopefully see me develop and expand my shop over the coming weeks and months. But one of the main things that came out of the review was the clarification that really what I want my jewellery to do is tell stories. Not necessarily my stories - I am of the belief that something I create can mean something entirely different to the wearer than it did/does to me - but stories. My jewellery is not merely figurative (in many cases) but narrative too. And so this is something I am already starting to work on - making my listings and descriptions more personal, explaining the connections between the jewellery I make and the titles I give each piece, particularly with my OOAK (one-of-a-kind) items, which these earrings all are.

And so, when you click on any of these listings - Sugar Plum, Verdant Cairns or Sugar Spun, you can read a little bit more of the story behind each pair. Sometimes I don't see the connections myself until I have completed a piece and named it, but I think that's the nature of creating, and it's good to think about a design's story - to take a minute to reflect on what you have just made. Sometimes you have to take a step back to really see what's in front of you, even when you're the one who created it.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Meadow Sweet - or how I'm making friends with Rose Quartz and Serenity

Rose Quartz and Serenity - who? What? Or alternatively, will you please stop blethering on about them Rebecca?! 

I will, honestly. Pinkie promise. But just let me chat about them a little bit more, 'kay? 

For those of you who am wondering what I'm talking about, rose quartz and serenity are Pantone's Colours of the Year (you can read about my first impressions here). Yes, that doesn't necessarily mean anything, and yes, they're not necessarily my cup of tea by themselves - and yes, who do Pantone think they are, telling us just what colours we have to focus on for a whole year? All true, I agree. 

But, and this is the thing for me, selecting colour(s) of the year (this is the first time that Pantone have selected more than one shade as their stand out colour of the year) present me and other designers with a challenge. As I said in my previous RQ/S post, my jewellery isn't fashion-led. I prefer quirky, earthy, bohemian stylings that will last a lifetime - after all, if you're investing in a piece of narrative art jewellery, then you don't want to feel you can't wear it a couple of months after purchase, do you? And so instead, I see Pantone's selection as a challenge - they're throwing down the colour gauntlet and it's my decision whether to take it up or not, within my jewellery! And in this new necklace, Meadow Sweet, I have taken up that gauntlet and wrestled it into Songbead shape. 

Meadow Sweet

Since my last RQ/S blog post, I've added to and expanded my Pinterest RQ/S board - check it out here. I found that I was continually drawn to images that didn't really focus on these two sweet shades by themselves, but instead fully incorporated them into fuller palettes - palettes that contained mint julep green, lemon yellow, coral peach, soft beige and often (and perhaps surprisingly), black. (Top colour tip - black is an excellent foil to pastels, and really takes the sometimes saccharine edge off them). In Meadow Sweet, I've taken RQ and S, added some deep lilac, pale aqua and delicate turquoise, along with a heavy helping of soft beige. I've added in a touch of a deeper rose-pink, with my own handwoven {song}bead round, up there on the right-hand side. The heart focal I snaffled from Soul Silver is a prime example of why I like adding to the basic colours of the year palette - the bright, verdant green really takes the edge off the overly-sweet (to me) combination of simply pink and blue. It's colourful, fun and the palette seems to have more to say than RQ/S alone.

I am also, of course, noticing these two colours together everywhere at the moment. I'm sure it's simply because they're in my consciousness, but I think they may be a tad in others' consciousnesses too. Perhaps not the exact shades of Rose Quartz and Serenity, but lots of pastel pinks and blues in combination - and of course, the mid-lilac shade they create when layered together, as seen in the lampwork tab of Meadow Sweet:

For me though, the colours definitely need a splash of something cooler - mint, turquoise, aqua. Something that brings something a little different to the colour table. Here's an example of one of my pinned images that really inspired me in creating Meadow Sweet:

Sure, the palette at the bottom makes Serenity blue a little scarce, but look at the top two left-hand images - it's there alright. This is more like it for me! 

And for me, that's what responding to Pantone is all about - taking something; a colour palette, an idea, a work of art, an artisan bead - and making it my own. Transforming it into a story that feels like it comes from me, rather than simply lifted from elsewhere. Hopefully with Meadow Sweet, that's something I've achieved. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Heart-centred - Part 1

We're coming to the end of January now - thank goodness! January is definitely not my favourite month of the year - all the lovely festivities are over, there's still a few months of awful weather left, things are dark, and (at least over here in the UK) TAX. Yuck! Thankfully, I've almost (honestly!) submitted my tax which is a huge weight off my mind. It's one of the very few times that I wish for a salaried, contracted job where I just wouldn't have to think about sorting out the tax side of things myself. But those wishes don't last long, it must be said. Self-employment suits me 43628954563 times better than a salaried job, at least at this point in my life. 

This is turning into a fairly wordy and reflective post, so I'm going to intersperse it with pictures, so you don't lose the will to live from All The Words TOO much! Feel free to just scan through the pictures if that's more your thing. Links to all the jewellery are beneath each image. 
Love More 

January 2016 has also been made more unenjoyable than usual by my having flu for the first 2 weeks, and one or two other long-term health/body issues happening behind the scenes (we're trying to have a baby, but essentially, we are not even getting to the starting blocks right now due to my silly body). These things that I thought my body was being more co-operative with, it's decided it really doesn't want to co-operate with at the moment, thank you very much. Hoping that next month, things will settle a little. Keep your fingers crossed for me! I'm trying not to be too down-hearted about it all (it's been an ongoing issue for around 2 years now), but I can't help but feel a little flattened by this month's setback. Flattened really is the word too - like a compressed vessel, struggling to pop up into shape and structure and purpose again.

Quilted 2

And really, it seems like a comparatively minor issue - but who likes short days and long nights? I miss the light. I miss the sun. I won't go as far to say that I miss the warmth (I do live in Edinburgh, after all!) but I am longing for a little more daylight. Soon; soon. 

Onwards and upwards for sure, but I think it's important to recognise these upsets and setbacks before we try and move on, not to simply repress our feelings and pretend everything is 'alright'. Otherwise they pile up until you simply can't shut that lid anymore, not even if you sit firmly upon the case! I'm trying to count my blessings however, and more importantly (to me), seek solace through making. Through colour, through form - through other people's art and creating something new from that. I love these 'silent collaborations', as I like to think of them. We're working on improving my 'make space' in our flat - my Curious Bead Shop set up is generally good, but my Songbead space leaves something to be desired. And it's time that was fixed! Charity furniture shops (Big Love to these wonderful establishments) and Ikea (not quite so fun or potentially beautiful, but often, just what is needed), here we come! 

Love Bravely

Of course, in my solace-seeking making, I have been turning to hearts. I used to be a little turned off at the idea of using these within my work, but I've found over the past year or two, more and more hearts have popped up in my jewellery. Am I softening in my 'old' age (ok, at 34 I know I'm not what a lot of people would class as 'old' - but gosh, you don't half change a lot from your 20s to your 30s!)? Maybe - but I think it's also that I'm more confident that they won't 'cheese up' my jewellery, which used to be a worry for me. If that makes sense! I do look out for quirky, artist-made heart focals, perhaps in non-traditional 'love-heart colours' - but even so. If I look through the past year or so of jewellery, there are definitely more and more hearts popping up. (I won't say that it might be because I am incredibly fortunate to have an amazing wife with whom I share a very stable, loving and happy relationship, because that make you and me both feel a little nauseated. I'll spare us all that!)

On My Soul

January has also contained a few highlights, it has to be said. I'm not sure I'm ready to create a gratitude jar (too much potential for guilt over forgetting to use it, I reckon), although it is a really lovely idea. But I have been struck by something that a good friend (and astonishing bead artist) Julie Wong Sontag shared a wee while ago - Brene Brown's TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability (YouTube link!). I'm paraphrasing here, but one thing that Brene mentions is 'practicing happiness and gratitude'. Yes, that DOES sound like a platitude - but somehow, the idea that happiness doesn't just fall into our laps - that it's ok to have to work at it - really stuck with me, and it was something that Helen and I talked about, and that I have continued to ruminate on. Yes, sometimes you can really try to think positively and look on the bright side (as I mentioned earlier) and it is just too hard, and not something that feels or is indeed possible (I'm sure we've all been there - I know I have) - but the idea of seeking out small joys and moments of thankfulness when I can really struck me. So I am trying to remember those small moments - those morsels of happiness; those chinks of kindness and laughter - when I'm feeling blue. Balancing out. This month, I've reconnected with two old friends - people that I had drifted from over the past few years - and that felt good. It felt like an active choice on my part, rather than simply being passive to time and life's sometime erosion of certain relationships. I'm very good at being passive to life - it feels good to get up and meet it face to face.


So, you've made it to the end of this post, almost! It may have felt like a slightly dreary one, but it wasn't meant to be, I promise. I guess I'm just saying, January has been tricky, but I've kept on going, and there have been a few treasured moments there, and I'm doing my best to make note of them. And that I am pressing on with my heart-centred creations as a central part of this. Whether you gift yourself something for Valentine's Day - it's never wrong to celebrate yourself, in my opinion -  your partner - or if you simply ignore it, and the hustle and bustle of commercialism that it can bring! -  then I hope you'll like my current offerings. I'm still keeping up with my resolution to try and pop new items into my etsy shop every few days, so do stop by to see what's new. 

January, I can't say I'm sorry that you'll be leaving us soon, but I'll be taking a few joys with me and hopefully leaving the negatives behind with you. Time to savour this last week and find more small joys to be thankful for. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Looking Out - Responding to Art

I feel very fortunate as a bead and found object jewellery designer-maker (try saying that quickly!), to work with not only some fascinating beads and objects, but some true works of art. It's funny - it's something I've been musing on a lot as I begin to pick up my silver-smithing skills again this year, and think about dabbling in lampwork and possibly even polymer as the year progresses. I have always loved to work with things that already exist, even when creating my own original compositions. As a musician - something I pick up whenever I can - I sang and played pieces which were already composed - pieces of music which had often existed for 100s of years. The challenge is to make your performance worthy of the composer's art, to bring not necessarily something new in my opinion (originality does not always mean the best and most authentic version of something!) but to bring yourself to the music, in the moment - to create something of beauty and share it with others. 

As well as performing, I did a lot of composition during my years studying music. I love sitting down with a blank sheet of manuscript and a piano, and creating something from scratch - from a set of notes that many, many others have worked with before and will do in the future, and come up with something new. Something you. It's magical, and I'll be honest - a lot more strenuous (at least for me!) than whipping up a pair of pretty earrings! 

Even with composing music however, my favourite thing to do was and is to set words. Words! I just love them. Other people's words, never my own (I fear I have very little talent there, my wordsmith-ness extends to this blog and not much further). To respond to something already in existence. It really is marvellous to work with poems and words, and transform them into something of myself. 

And that's how I feel with beads. If you're a frequent reader here, you'll know that along with making my own handwoven beads, I also love to work with as many other bead artists' handmade beads in different media, as I can get my hands on! 

Here's one of my latest pieces - a handmade necklace featuring handmade art beads from Soul Silver (the polka dot turquoise lampwork tab up the right-hand side), a pewter swirl hook clasp from Green Girl Studios, and a wonderfully grungy etched lampwork glass heart from Helen Chalmers. How lucky am I that can not only work with Sally Soul Silver and Helen's beads, but also call them my friends? We are often craft fair buddies. I've added in a couple of my own handwoven rondelles, and a whole bunch of pressed glass beads and tiny glass seed beads. 

As for Looking Out? These colours seemed to me to be a typical Scottish sea scene (on a bright day, mind!). Vivid, deep hues of the sea and the sky, and dark, foreboding colours of the rocks and possibly/probably a forbidding sky somewhere. What is more inspiring than the sea? But the title also strikes me as particularly apt for my way of working. Not just looking inwards to my own artist's soul, but outwards to the art that exists before my eyes - responding to that which already is. 

Monday, 18 January 2016

Pantone - Rose Quartz and Serenity

If you are a fan of colour like I am, you may well also be a fan of Pantone - not just colour experts, but guides in the world of colour fashion. In their own words:

"For over 50 years, Pantone has been inspiring design professionals with products, services and leading technology for the colorful exploration and expression of creativity. In 1963, Lawrence Herbert, Pantone's founder, created an innovative system for identifying, matching and communicating colors to solve the problems associated with producing accurate color matches in the graphic arts community. His insight that the spectrum is seen and interpreted differently by each individual led to the innovation of the PANTONE® MATCHING SYSTEM®, a book of standardized color in fan format."

So there you go! Now, I'm not necessarily very fashion-led - I wouldn't say I am unfashionable exactly (hopefully!!), just drawn to timeless, classic pieces - be they in wearable fashion, home furnishings or interior design - and even more than that, I am drawn to quirky, colourful design that doesn't quite fit into any fashion niche. I am more interested in the art that we wear and surround ourselves with being an expression of our true selves, and having an emotional connection with that art. It doesn't have to be high-brow or serious - but it does have to connect. 

Nonetheless, I am always intrigued when Pantone brings out their Colour of the Year, and the palettes which they release twice a year. For 2016, they've changed things up a little, and selected two colours for this role - Rose Quartz and Serenity.

If you're a bright and saturated colour fan like me, you may be thinking 'meh' a little. Ok, I admit this was my first reaction! Old-fashioned 'gendered' baby colours. (Colours don't have a gender - something else I'm not a fan of! Hurray for boys in pink and girls in blue and everyone in all the colours of the rainbow.) But take a look at Pantone's Spring 2016 Colour Report palette:

I am a lot more of a fan of this larger selection - particular the brighter hues at the right-hand side (surprise surprise). I had secretly hoped that Snorkel Blue would be selected as 2016's colour of the year! However, seeing the soft pastels as part of a larger selection, I feel much more happier with them - they seem to make more sense to and for me. I've also begun a Pinterest board for Rose Quartz and Serenity, so that I can explore these colours in many different visual contexts. 

And really, that is what I love about Pantone's palettes and colours of the year. They push me to work with colours and colour combinations that otherwise I might not. Cornflower and pale rose-pink? I admit, neither are the first colours I reach for when beginning designing. But seeing these over at Pantone and on Pinterest is somewhat of a challenge - it inspires me to try and incorporate them into my designs, and to make them work for me. 

One of my first ports of call when exploring colour is to whip up some handwoven beads in whichever colours I am keen to explore. Look out for these in my own designs (particularly the Rose Quartz I have to say - I am in love with it's subtle shimmer, and delicately frosted exterior) - but if you are also a jewellery designer, then you can pick these up over at The Curious Bead Shop in various combinations - pairs, and sampler sets. 

What do you think of the Pantone Colours of the Year? Are you drawn to them, or are they more of a challenge for you, as they are for me? 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

New Year, New Jewellery

Well, well well. Blogspot, we meet again! It's been quite some time since I graced the pages of the bloggerverse, for one reason or another. November and December felt incredibly busy and slightly stressful months for me, and I guess something had to give! Not least because I've had back to back colds since the end of October too - I'm currently tucked up on the sofa with a blanket and a hot Ribena, the cold remedy of champions. My Facebook pages also slipped through the net for December at least. But it's a new year - time to turn over a new leaf and get back to it! Sometimes, I think there are just SO many social media outlets, that I get overwhelmed and so succeed at nothing, rather than pacing myself and selecting the arenas that work best for me. But I've goals and aims and hopes to be more organised; more streamlined in 2016 - to use my time better. Hopefully, you'll see me more frequently ~

*On Twitter (Ok, so this is linked to my FB page so there's a lot of overlap, but still - good if you are a Twitterer rather than a Facebooker)

Phew! It's not like it used to be, is it?! I remember when it was all about the blog and nothing else. But there you go - times change and we must move with them. My favourites are undoubtedly the blog (honestly, despite my very infrequent posting habits of 2015!) and Instagram, but they all have their place. 

Anyway, I know that they say about good intentions and all that, but if you don't start with them you can't really hope to get anywhere, can you?! 

And I have at least begun well with jewellery creation this year, which I don't always manage to do. Often, I feel a little paralysed by the unspoken challenge that a new year brings - bigger, better, bolder. Instead, I've chosen to continue to organically build on what I was doing towards the end of last year. Essentially, just carry on making! I took a break for a lot of December - we hosted 13 for Christmas day, and had a heap of preparation to do before then, and I am one of those people who is well and truly wiped out by a cold, so the past couple of months have been a bit of a struggle(!) - but wanted to start the year as I meant to go on - with beads. 

A couple of these pieces have been snagged already but most of them are in my etsy shop. Please excuse the lazy-girl instagram pics - the Christmas tree is in my usual photography spot and due to the awkwardness of taking photos right now, I am just using my phone and Instagram rather than my bad boy camera. The tree will be down some time tomorrow, so once that's gone (sob) I'll have my little photo set up up and running again. 

Thistle in the Crown (sold)

Sakura (sold)


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