Sunday 15 July 2012

Beads Of Clay Design Challenge

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



  1. Beautiful work! These necklaces turned out wonderfully ;)

  2. Really like the way you used the beads as a pendant bail.

  3. They're gorgeous Lesley :)You really have the Midas touch with beads!

  4. Beautiful pieces. Both of them are lovely. I love all of your work!

  5. Both necklaces are beautiful, and your choice to keep it simple really shows off the wonderful handmade beads.

  6. Beautiful Lesley! My favorite themes in jewelry is always the ocean, beach, nautical. Love the first necklace!

  7. I like the way you used the beads to make a bail and natural cord was a good choice for the gorgeous ocean necklace.

  8. Love how you bailed the pendants!!!! Ingenious, often time the holes aren't big enought for leather a angry jewelry day for me when I have an design in mind. Great job! I love it.

  9. Wow!! You did really, really good with the beads.

  10. Ditto all the above. I really like how you subdued the dark elements, especially in that second necklace--the play of the white against the raku & the cord makes it really unique.

  11. Hi Lesley,
    Beautiful necklaces! I enjoyed reading about your thought process in creating these beauties, well done.

  12. Hi Lesley,
    Thank you for sharing such an interesting challenge. Both your necklaces are beautiful so yes you definitely rose to the challenge! They are all great beads individually but a tricky mix as a collection. Well done all, I thoroughly enjoyed the hop.
    Claire x

  13. Both pieces are beautiful! They look so lightweight and summery!

  14. I love both of these - their simplicity and clean fresh lines. I'd wear them both, happily. I esp. like the Urban Beach necklace. I think the bail and pendant are very clever!

  15. Wow! These are fantastic! Your creativity in that second piece really shines...Love how you made that bail, with a trailing tail of beads! Awesome work, Lesley!

  16. I love both of the did a wonderful job, very creative!

  17. Wow! I came to your blog from Linda Landig's. I wanted to see what the rest of you did with your beads. These are gorgeous pieces. Urban Beach is my favorite! Very clever!

  18. Both necklaces are pretty amazing! I'm so impressed!


Don't be shy - join in with the gossip...