Monday, June 25, 2012

Floral Beads - The Development of the Stamen!

I am always striving to improve my beads and to find a new challenge!  I can't help myself my brain is always working ahead of me on the next bead or next project and for a long time I have had this niggle in the back of my mind .... "why not add stamens to my floral beads?" 

Whilst they look pretty and almost like trapped flowers with the plunged dot in the centre, they would look much more realistic with stamens!  So, my brain goes off into over drive .... how can this be achieved ...... and I find myself turning into an amature botanist examining and photographing every flower I see .....

The stamen is composed of two parts; the big orange (in this case) furry bit at the top called the anther, which is responsible for producing pollen and the long slender stalk called the filament, at the base of which can be found nectar.  The stamen is the male reproductive part of the flower and the large protuberance in the middle is the female reproductive part of the flower called the carpel (pistil).  This consists of the stigma which is at the tip, then the style and the ovary at the base.  Ok .... biology lesson over ..... so how do I incorporate this into a bead?

This was the tricky part .... I decided to start off simple and made a very simple cane using opaque yellow glass encased in clear.  I made these into stringers and aligned them horizontally on a clear rod.  I encased the cane in clear again and pulled this into a stringer.  The development of the anther would have to be a project for for another day!

I decided to keep the flowers simple too (little white petals) and concentrate only on the stamens.  Now, I know this photograph isn't brilliant but I found it difficult to see the stamens, they were too small and spindly(maybe the cane was too thin).  Annoyingly, I kept trapping bubbles of air between the outer encasing layer and the stamen which also made them difficult to see.  So, I go back and study a few more flowers for some ideas ....

I made a more complex cane based on the Choisya flower in the photo above.  I decided to attempt multi-layering the cane by alternating a layer of orange with yellow and white encased canes.  If I hadn't of been so heavy handed with the white cane then I think this may have been more sucessful!  

This bead was a total disaster!  I thought I would try and be clever and make a Geranium bead.  Quite a few things went wrong here.  The number of petals was my first big mistake!  They don't look too bad in this photo, but throughout the bead I had stray petals that didn't look as though they belonged to anything.  I made these stamens using a simple cane - brown glass encased in clear, pulled into fairly thick stringers and then placed horizontally on a clear glass rod.  I added multiple layers of brown cane separated each time with a layer of clear.  Again they looked a little spindly to me!

There must be a way to make the stamens stand out more? ...... Perhaps if I add a white dot to the centre of the flower and add the stamen cane on top of that ...... no!  I think I made an even bigger disaster with this bead .... still this is a good way to learn .... I suppose .... and practice makes perfect!  haa haa!  Sometimes, quite by accident you can stumble across a new idea .... if I develop the centre of the bead further (forget adding petals) I will have the start of a Lily. 


This was my final attempt at stamens!  I went back to the simple yellow glass cane, used larger stringers and multi-layered this onto a clear glass rod encasing each layer in clear glass.  Finally I pulled all of this into a fairly thick stringer and used it to create my stamens.  I am happy with these for now!  I just have to perfect my technique so that all my flowers are consistent.

Well ..... there is still this niggle about the anther's .... oh and having the same number of stamens as petals!

Sarah xx

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Barrington Court - Antony Gormley Inspired!

The inspiration for these earrings came from a trip to Barrington Court to see Antony Gormley's installation called "Field for the British Isles". The installation consists of 40,000 clay figures that had been meticulously laid out in three rooms completely filling the room so that no floor could be seen.  It was very impressive and it looked like there were thousends of little tiny people looking at you.  They were laid out so that the eyes of each figure faced the front and the figures closer to the front looked up towards the ceiling.  Very effective!  They were all very individual, different shapes, sizes and colours.  I wish I could of taken some photos but we were not allowed.  If you click on the link above you can view some of the official pictures.

The clay figures were quite small and had been made by a group of families in St Helens near Liverpool back in 1993.  Antony Gormley used the figures to completely fill the floor of one of the exhibition rooms at the Tate Liverpool in 1993 and as a result won the Turner Prize in 1994.  He is also very famous for the 'Angel of the North'.

According to the National Trust article Antony Gormley said: “ .....The instructions to create the work are very simple. You sit on the floor. You take a ball of clay from a pile. With your clay, you create a “body” in the space between your hands. You allow it to stand up, and make it conscious by giving it eyes with the point of a sharpened pencil. That repeated action of taking a hand-sized ball of clay, squeezing it between your hands, standing it up and giving it consciousness becomes meditative, the repeated action becoming almost like breathing, or a heartbeat.”

Well, knowing I had a pair of earrings to make for the 52 earrings a week challenge, I had to have a go!  But I wasn't alone making the earrings this time ..... my family had a go too.  It was great fun and my children loved it!  So I mixed three batches of clay in three slightly different colours and we each had a go at making our own clay figure.

We had such a lovely day visiting Barrington Court (and I am very sentimental) I decided to turn our figures into a necklace to keep as a memory of our day.

Sarah xx

Monday, June 11, 2012

Marvel Inspired Beads.

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely places! One of my son's Marvel Comic's was the inspiration for these beads.

I made these beads using a very simple polymer clay cane.  I am still very new to polymer clay but I love how you can achieve some amazing results by 'mixing things up a little'.

So very simply here is how I made these beads .....

1  Choose three contrasting colours in the polymer clay of your choice.  I chose red, white and black.

2  I took the red and white clay and made two cylinders, one in each colour.  Then I rolled a sheet of white around the red and a sheet of black around the white to make two very simple canes.

3  I reduced the size of the white/black cane to make a long thin cane.....

4  I chopped sections off the black/white cane and positioned them around the red/white cane as per the photo.  I then covered this in a thin sheet of black clay and reduced the cane.  I have learnt that the easiest way to do this is to start in the middle.  Slightly pinching the clay all around the centre and then work your way out to the edges making the cane smaller as you go until you have a long thin cane.

5  Once the cane had been reduced.  I made a thick cylinder of black clay and cut even segments.  I rolled these into even sized balls.  Then I cut thin slivers off my new cane and placed them onto each ball as shown in the picture.

6  Using a perspex sheet, I slightly squished one of the round beads to make it a lentil shape and moved the sheet in round circular motions.  Eventually this will create a beautiful swirl on the bead surface.

7  Very carefully I make holes in each bead using a cocktail stick.  Be careful not to distort the beads.  Sometimes it is easier to place them in the fridge so the clay can harden up before attemtping to make holes in the bead.

8  Now you should have a set of beads to turn into a beautiful and unique piece of jewellery. 

Happy Claying!

Sarah xx

Monday, June 4, 2012


My inspiration for these beads came from a trip to Barcelona and a dress I saw in one of the shops.  Everything was so bright and vibrant and ...... sunny!  There is of course a story behind this all........

Last year my husband took me to Barcelona to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.  It was a very special surprise!  You see, 10 years ago we decided to back pack across Europe for our honeymoon .  We had no map, no plan, nothing booked.  All we had were a couple of backpacks, a train ticket and three weeks off work.  Fantastic!

What adventures we had....hee hee....all recorded in our travel journal that we occasionally re-read and have a good laugh about.  It would have made a very funny blog! Maybe still could.....

One of the places we were going to visit was Barcelona but due to circumstances beyond our control, we never made it.  It was a shame but in a way I am glad we didn't because I don't think I would have appreciated Barcelona then as much as I do now! 

It is a beautiful city filled with the most inspirational art, artists and architecture.  Honestly it is an amazing place to visit!  Where else can you find buildings like the Casa Batllo designed by Antoni Gaudi.  It is an architectural masterpiece .... or should I say one of his arhitectural masterpieces .... the man was a genius!

This was only the outside....the inside was completely amazing in many different ways...the picture below shows the swirling whirlpool of a ceiling in one of the rooms in Casa Battlo.  One room could give you enough inspiration to last a lifetime and my notebook is bulging full of ideas for beads and jewellery! I could write pages about Antoni Gaudi, he was a very unique man!  Definitely worth having a google search ....

Barcelona was a fascinating place to visit and we completely exhausted ourselves visiting everything we could - The Picasso Museum, Salvador Dali Museum, Guell Park and The Sangrada Familia to name but a few...all amazing places to visit.... But...on our travels from one place to another we found this really strange building.  It looked to me like there were lots of eyeballs on sticks watching us walking around the streets....very different! .... definitely my kind of thing ......

It was clearly something that had stuck in my mind because the other day I sat down at my torch and made these beads....

The beads were made using Effetre Turquoise 591034 as the base colour.  I started by making a barrel shaped bead which I heated gently and then pressed into a lentil shaped mould.  After returning the bead to the flame to remove the chill marks I added a random selection of dots in different sizes using a pale blue stringer (Effetre Pale Blue 591224).  I heated the dots enough for the glass to adhere to the bead but I didn't completely melt the dots, I left them slightly raised.  To make the larger dots a little bit more interesting I decided to add Effetre Lapis 591246 on top and finished them off with Effetre Periwinkle Blue 591220.  With each addition of glass I made sure the dots were raised and not melted in the surface of the bead.  They look quite funky!  I'm not sure if I am going to sell them yet or make them into a unique piece of jewellery.

Another place we were both inspired by was the Picasso Museum and I know there is Picasso inspired set of beads lurking within me ..... just waiting to be made ..... but that will be another blog for another day ......

Sarah xx
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