A few months ago I was delighted to be chosen as one of a group of people to become Design Partners with the Beads of Clay Professional Artists Team . Every few months five of those designers will be challenged create jewellery with identical components made by BOCPAT team members and I'm taking part in this, the very first challenge - so welcome!
Before we received our beads we were given a little taster in the form of this black and white photo and told that we would be required to make a necklace or necklaces from these beads.
From this picture I felt that there might be some big challenges in co-ordinating the shapes and sizes of these these beads but without knowing the colour palette I couldn't really begin to start designing - for me colour dictates so much about the mood of a piece of jewellery. I recognised the work of a couple of people and could make an educated guess at colours but not all and of course no hints to the colour palette until this arrived...
My first thoughts were that this was quite an eclectic mix of pieces and not ones that I would normally put together, nor was it one of my usual palettes but hey, that's what a challenge is all about isn't it.
Then the beads arrived and for a while I found it quite difficult to marry the softer organic elements with the chunkier, almost architectural pieces but as I shuffled them about they began to remind me of something.
I'm an inveterate collector of random objects that appeal to me from a design perspective - be that colour, shape, texture...anything really. This is particularly true when I'm out walking the beaches near my home and what these beads were reminding me of was the contents of my pockets after one of these walks; shells, stones, driftwood and all manner of miniature flotsam and jetsam can find it's way home with me.
An idea began to crystalise and my plan was to try and create a kind of keepsake necklace such as you might make from found objects on a beach or deserted island. The result was this piece which I've called 'Castaway'...
To keep within my theme I used a simple construction with natural cotton cord and knotting techniques, with the pendant suspended from a bail created by threading the cord through one of the raku oblong beads in both directions, accented with contrasting rounds and filigree bead caps. The rest of the beads are then strung and knotted at intervals as if added as they are found over time. A sliding knot closure (finished with a couple of ceramic beads form my own stash) means that the necklace can be worn long or short and the striped tube bead which sits at the back of the neck helps keep it at its chosen length. And of course, the extra length means more 'collectibles' can be added over time.
I was hoping that I could make one piece using all the beads but it would have been too forced so, having made this piece I was left with one large raku bead, one cream ribbed bead and two filigree beads caps. I spent a bit of time debating whether to use the raku bead as a pendant or to string it and in the end plumped for the pendant option. I dug a couple more ceramic beads out from my stash and constructed the same sort of bail as the first necklace, but this time I used leather cord and created tails beneath the pendant. This was the result...
The dark metallic patina and shape of the pendant has a sort of urban feel which contrasts nicely with the softer ivory beads. I wanted to keep to a minimal palette on this one and liked the idea of mixed metal so I added some brass beads to the tails and to the leather cord and finished it off with a simple lobster clasp. I've borrowed the name of one of my favourite local restaurants 'Urban Beach' for this as I think it sums it up well.
I hope you think I rose to the challenge and will use the links below to hop along to my team mates blogs or Facebook pages to see what they've done with the same beads:
And finally, a big thank you to Marla James for organising the designers and answering our endless questions and to the following artisans for donating the beads:
Raku oblongs - Duane Collins, Elements Pottery
Cream/Aqua beads - Marsha Neal Studio
Striped tube bead - Golem Studio
Pendant - Shaterra Clay Studio
Vintaj chain and bead caps - Marla James, Marla's Mud