Yesterday, my husband and I spent the afternoon strolling the Artists Market at the Decatur Arts Festival, and met Dan’s friend, Jessica, and her husband, John, at an outdoor cafĂ© overlooking the festival for lunch. Perched atop high stools, we had a front row view of the festival goers and the artisan works on display. As we were getting to know each other over pulled-pork sandwiches and bottles of ale, Jessica asked me how I got started in beading. I recalled a trip to the beach nearly four years ago with several of my sisters-in-law. Each night, Dan’s sister, Kathy, spread her bead stash across the condo’s dining table and everyone dug in to create colorful masterpieces in glass and stone. Jewelry was not something I gave much thought to, and although I did manage to string a simple bracelet, I spent most of those hours organizing Kathy’s stash by size and color. There was something about the feel of those beads in my hands!

Once home, I ventured into a local bead store to find a clasp and some crimps for my beach creation, and as I approached the cash register, I noticed a magazine cover and realized you could SEW with beads, too! I left with my first tube of seed beads and a package of needles. That magazine was Bead and Button, so you can imagine how excited I was when I learned last night that my necklace created for this year’s Bead Soup Blog Party was chosen by Kalmbach Publishing as a winner in the Best Use of Seed Beads category!


I am so honored that my necklace received the same award from Beaducation. As I’ve branched out from beadwork into wire the last few months, I discovered the work of Lisa Niven Kelly, who is such an inspiring wire artist. The online classes at Beaducation are the first place I turn to master a technique and explore the possibilities of metalworking.
And, of course, showers of thanks go to the extraordinary Lori Anderson, for her tireless work in bringing all this about, and a huge personal thank you from me for being my Bead Soup blog partner this year. Lori gifted me with the sensational Thai silver elephant pendant and I had the fun of dreaming up a design worthy of it!  

Who knows, maybe next Memorial Day week-end I’ll be experiencing the Decatur Arts Festival from inside one of those artisan booths. It's fun to dream!
You can see all 46 Bead Soup Blog Party winning designs by clicking here.


May Art Bead Scene Challenge

The inspiration for this month’s Art Bead Scene challenge is Vase with Flowers in a Window by Dutch artist, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder.

Every time I look at Bosschaert’s still life, I’m reminded of my grandmother’s house, with its dark-paneled vestibule that smelled of aged wood and fragrant roses. A small table in the entry hall always held a vase like the one in Bosschaert’s painting, overflowing with flowers from her garden. Each August, we set out from Kentucky to her house in Scranton for a week that included mouth-watering pies made from the cherries we picked from her trees, glasses of sarsaparilla from dark bottles kept ice cold in her cellar, and cozy talks on her front porch glider. Great memories!

My focal for this month’s challenge piece is by California artist, Erin McAlister, and features the mustard yellows, warm browns and red-oranges of the painting. Erin handcrafts each glass bead with sand and donates a portion of all her sales to the Surfrider Foundation to protect oceans and beaches.

The central section of the neckstrap combines  peach-toned seed beads with carnelian teardrops in brown, maroon, deep oranges, peach and cream. Firepolish beads and Czech glass give additional texture. This was my first attempt at freeform spiral stitch, which can be found in Carol Cypher's Mastering Beadwork. It was great fun to experiment with, and the perfect stitch to convey the lush, opulent feel of Bosschaert’s flowers! The neckstrap is finished with calcite chunks and carnelian agate roundels.
Many thanks to Art Bead Scene's editors for choosing such a fabulous work of art to inspire us this month. You'll want to click over to the ABS Flickr group to see all the entries!


A Time to Stitch - Spiral Challenge

Learning spiral stitch has been on my to-do list for the last year, but it took a challenge from Christine Altmiller and Therese Frank to spur me to actually check out some tutorials. Their challenge, A Time To Stitch 3, let us choose among 3 very popular spirals; Cellini, Russian or African Helix. After stitching up samples of each in a myriad of bead shapes and sizes, I settled on Russian spiral, using gold 3-cut size 8 seed beads and brick-red and gold marbleized size 11’s. To learn the stitch, I followed a tutorial by Mortira Vanpelt of Inspirational Beading. I liked Mortira’s approach to this spiral, which results in a snug stitch, but a very fluid and soft rope.

The challenge also included a trio of flat stitches – brick, ladder and square – and I chose one of my favorites, square stitch.  Tila beads and the same size 11’s from the spiral rope sections were used to create a square stitched “chain” which I made double-sided for extra heft.
My focal is a carved ebony button layered with a handmade bronze disc bead from Tamara Scott Designs, capped with a Swarovski crystal. Interspersed between the chain and the spirals are some carved ebony tubes and a charming collection of ceramic beads by Mary Hubbard of White Clover Kiln. The bottom photo shows a close up of her bird bead with its enormous and curious eyes! I like the touch of whimsy it brings to this piece.

Thanks to Therese and Christine for hosting our challenge, and helping me check off another item on my to-do-list! You’ll want to click over to their blogs and the blogs of all the participants to see how versatile these stitches can be!


Hats Off Challenge

I grew up in Louisville, where my parents and their circle of friends celebrated the Kentucky Derby each year with bigger and bigger parties. When it was my parents’ turn to host, my sister and I joined in the pre-party frenzy. Janet whipped up her legendary cream puffs and it usually fell to me to polish the dozen or so silver mint julep cups used only on this storied day.

Hats were always the crowning jewels of the event, both the ones the women wore (there was usually a contest for most creative), and the silk top hat that was passed from host to host and held the horses’ names each year. Guests had to cheer for the horse they drew, and won the pot if they held the winning name.
So, I just had to sign up for Bobbie Rafferty’s Hats Off Challenge, where our goal was to design a piece of jewelry inspired by one of the extravagant creations Bobbie curated for us. I chose this very interesting hat from the Sculptural category.

The day before Bobbie unveiled the designer hats from which we could choose, I picked up this vintage 1950’s focal at a local bead show. Can you see the face in the mahogany obsidian stone?

My design plays up the browns and corals in the hat and gives a nod to blue in the lampwork flower by Sue Kennedy.

My husband and I will be having our own Derby party this afternoon. (The mint julep cups are polished and waiting!) But not until I hop around to see what all the other Hats Off participants dreamed up for this challenge. And thanks so much to Bobbie Rafferty of Beadsong Jewelry for showing us you don’t have to go to Churchill Downs to enjoy Derby Day! Here's a link to all the participants' blogs:
Bobbie Rafferty www.beadsong.blogspot.com
Susan Nelson Bowie www.susanbowie.wordpress.com