November and December leaves

Monday, December 27, 2010

I didn't get as much finished on these two as I had intended, but they're mostly done.  November is the Dia de los Muertos piece.  My leaf for this one is Cheiranthodendron pentadactylon - Monkey Hand tree - a truly unique and wondrous tree with a long spiritual tradition in its native MesoAmerica.  The leaf is small, in the lower right corner, but just to the right of that I beaded a seed pod from the tree.  The rest of the beadwork is pretty much just following the design of the fabric - I meant to add more, but didn't!  December brings out the Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) berries.   The madrone is beautiful at anytime of year but stands out on the hillsides at this time when covered in bright red berries!  December 18 marks the feast of la Virgen de la Soledad de Oaxaca.  I depicted her with a madrone leaf on her skirt!  She's still missing her crown and I wanted add some madrone berry clusters and attempt some bead depiction of the bark - that what's missing there.  So now I'm on to next year!

Beaded Tree

Monday, December 20, 2010

I went to a bead class yesterday to learn to make a beaded Christmas tree. As you can tell I haven't finished yet. Aside from wishing I'd started with smaller beads at the top I'm pretty happy with the way it's turning out. I don't know why I put such large beads at the top. I think I was just getting caught up in the colors! 

The second picture shows two of the trees the instructor made. Admittedly they look somewhat better! But I'll keep practicing and pretty soon mine will improve. I have to practice making wire curls - it's kind of difficult and painful on your fingers! I'm going to finish this tree and Thursday when my daughter comes to visit I'll show her how to make one and I'll do a second one for me. I think I want to do a blue and silver tree next but I'm going to use just small beads for it! 

BJP is on Facebook!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The BJP now has a page on Facebook! If you use Facebook please "like" the page and share it with your friends!

Bead Journal Project

Monday, October 25, 2010

Registration for the 4th Bead Journal Project will begin on November 8th. If you aren't currently participating and are at all interested, I'd urge you to sign-up. This is the second year I've been involved and I love it. I am admittedly somewhat behind this year . . . that's ok though! It isn't about how fast you do your projects or keeping up with someone else or comparing your work to other beaders. It's about personal growth through what you are creating, sometimes about working out problems by dumping out a bunch of beads and starting to put them on fabric, sometimes about just plain fun.

I found the BJP in the first year it started and went to different blogs admiring the work beaders were doing. Prior to that the only beading I'd ever done was small Mill Hill ornament kits. I've been doing embroidery, quilting and sewing for as long as I can remember but never beading. Anyway, I sent an email to Robin Atkins, who is the originator of the project, and asked about joining. She explained that they'd probably be doing it a second year and I could sign-up to join then. I am not a joiner nor am I a person who writes emails to total strangers. But I was so fascinated by this idea that my desire to participate overcame my initial shyness. There's something about working with beads that I find soothing and creative. And fun! During the first year (second of the project but my first year) my daughter was admiring all the beading and decided to join this year. It's been a lot of fun seeing her projects and comparing ideas.

You don't have to have any experience or particular skills. It's pretty easy (at my age with a good lamp and magnifying glasses) to put a bead on a needle. And don't feel you have to be "creative." I didn't think I was creative enough to come up with anything original but I have and I've learned a lot in the process. If you have even the slightest interest, just a small thought that maybe it'd be fun, then JOIN!

Oak Pendants

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I forgot to post the photos from our class! My daughter and I took a class together and made wire oak pendants. I saw the class offered at a local bead shop and was going to take it and make one for her as a Christmas gift. Then I started thinking she'd probably enjoy the class so I told her about it. We both had a great time and it was fun going to the class with her. I love wire-wrapping but it takes practice and I know I still need a lot more. It's also hard on your fingers - mine were numb and full of pokes by the end of the class. It was fun though! The top picture with the cord is Jill's, the bottom mine.

October Bay Leaf

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica) is an incredible tree which can grow very tall and develop some very twisty and thick trunks.  The leaves are dark green and fragrant.  These trees reach their most impressive proportions in riparian habitats, but also grow in the company of live oak and madrone on the north-facing slopes of my local hills.  Despite being evergreen the laurel drops some of its leaves in Autumn.  Shades of yellow change to orange, umber, and - after rain - deep garnet hues.  In my project the leaves have fallen onto the stones of an Autumn-dry creek - the grayish green color and patterning of this batik fabric suggested a dry creekbed to me.  It seems that every time I go to draw a leaf outline of a fallen bay leaf the leaf is crossed by another leaf.  So I arranged my model leaves (which appear in one of the pictures) to suggest this arrangement, which I then stitched with my beads.  The little snake goddess pendant is there because I've often seen snakes slithering across the dry stones in arroyos.  I decided to give this headless pendant a yak bone skull in observance of Samhain and Dia de los Muertos - times when Death and the dead are celebrated.  My next project will also focus on one of these holidays - as I said before I really enjoy Autumn!

September Big Leaf Maple

Sunday, September 19, 2010

For the month of the Autumnal Equinox I have revisited my Vernal Equinox leaf from March.  The maple (Acer macrophyllum) leaves that were just beginning to unfurl in Spring have now began to turn yellow and brown.  Though the leaves turn in a mottled pattern from green to yellow to brown here I gradated them from left to right to show the season's change.  I also reversed my half sun half moon motif from the Spring Equinox to show that the days are getting shorter.  Though it's the same size as the unfurling leaf I depicted before I tried to give a sense that this a bigger, mature leaf that is ready to fall into the Autumnal mulch.  Autumn is my favorite time of the year, so I'm looking forward to the upcoming months!

Wire Wrapping

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I took a class last week at a local bead shop to make a wire wrapped beaded heart pendant! It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed making the heart. Over the past week I made a wire-wrapped leaf for my daughter. I thought it came out pretty good for a second attempt! I think this is inspiring me to get busy beading again. I'm way behind on my BJP!

Ginkgo Leaf in Fog

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This month I chose to depict a gingko leaf.  This is my first non-native leaf, but I think that millions of years ago they did grow here, so it almost counts!  I remember my grandfather pointing out this tree to me years ago and telling me it had grown when the dinosaurs were alive.  This fixed it in my memory and when I met my fiance I learned that he too shared a fondness for gingkos!  Since John (my fiance) has his birthday in August I chose this ancient tree for this month.  He also has a fondness for bunchgrasses, which I depicted (rather abstractly) in the lower left corner.  The right is a fabric following design of ocean colored beads in tribute to the fact that the Bay Area this year has had an unusually cool August.  I've enjoyed all the fog rolling in off the Pacific, so I beaded a representation!  I chose the fabric color to match the colors of the year right now - Summer-dormancy shrouded in fog that awaits the rain.

Elder Leaf for July

Sunday, August 1, 2010

As the dry season settles in we still can find some green in Sambucus mexicana - the blue elderberry.  This project is pretty simple - a leaf, some flowers (upper left), and green, not yet ripe berries (lower right).  Right now most of the elders have green berries, but a few are already a deep ripe purple, and some are even still in flower!  I chose the elder partly because this fabric's colors reminded me of it.  In fact one of the reasons I used few beads was so I could still see the fabric's lovely hues!  The elderberry branches are used by indigenous Californians for clapper sticks and flutes so is associated with music here.  But of course this little tree has a lot of history and mythological associations in Europe, also, and I found out recently that the European and Californian elders are now considered to be the same species!  This much revered plant is one of my favorites so it was nice to represent the elder in beads.  You can see a leaf from one of my garden elders in the first photo!

Ocean Seaweed Garden

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's taken a couple of weeks to post, but I did finish it by July 1st! As the hotter part of the year approaches we take more trips to the cooler coast. It's only 45 min. away and usually is about 20 degrees cooler and wonderfully foggy. So for June I chose seaweed shapes rather than leaf shapes. I used white pearls (yeah, I know they're freshwater - it's still aquatic, though!) to depict lines of foam as the waves go out. The other dyed ones were scattered around and used to construct a holdfast for my largest seaweed. And the shell was one I found washed up on the shore. It also repeats the spiral, which also popped up in last month's project. I think the colors and shapes of the seaweeds turned out pretty well. I mixed some garnet nuggets into the reddish one. I also used shiny rather than matte finish beads to give the impression of being wet and freshly washed up. Here's a couple of pictures of the beach and seaweeds that inspired me!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Well May is finished and I'm officially caught up and working on June! May was a very difficult month for me. It felt long and dark and endless so that's what I was trying to show in my project for this month.

I had originally planned to use all black beads around the heart but something just wouldn't let me and I kept adding color so maybe it wasn't quite as dark as I thought. The heart in the middle is full of holes which is how I've felt but it's also anchored. I used red and white beads to hold it in place and it felt like I was trying to stitch up a fractured heart but I think it worked. The line of white beads is hope because I know there is still a lot and I just don't look in the right place sometimes. Why it snaked outside the borders I don't know - it just had a mind of its own. I did a close-up on the blue beads in the corner because they looked so pretty and sparkly!

This really seemed to have a mind of its own and took off in a direction I hadn't planned. Which I guess is what life does all the time. I think June is going to be brighter though!

Queen of the May

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another view of my project.

The Penstemon azureus whose hues inspired me.

This month is The May Queen in a Western Hawthorn Leaf! I've had this little Goddess spiral pendant for a very long time but since I don't really wear much gold-colored jewelery I never got around to incorporating Her into a necklace. But I love the design and the gold color is perfect to evoke the afternoon light through a verdant mixed evergreen forest in May. And May was especially verdant this year with above average rainfall! So I adorned my little May Queen with a bunch of green beads, with some Penstemon purple and blue colors as well. I also scattered some beads in those colors outside the leaf. Penstemons come in a range of colors but here I was inspired by Penstemon azureus. But the upper left represents a Clarkia unguiculata flower - the common name is Farewell to Spring! The model for my Western Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii) leaf was the little hawthorn I bought this year at the native plant sale. It's the plant that you can see a bit of in the background! Anyway I had fun with this, but it was challenging to figure how to make the leaf margin look serrated. It was pretty simple to stitch, though, once I figured out how to do it - I think you can see from the picture what I did. The other problem when I first started was unexpected - I had trouble attaching the pendant because it's fairly heavy! But eventually persistence paid off and once I ran the thread through a few times it stayed put. And I love using these batik fabrics! The colors are so much fun to look at and work with. I'm also really liking using the interleaving paper to back these!

April BJP

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The last 7-8 months of my life I've been taking a lot of risks and when I found this little plaque in my bead box I thought it'd make a nice statement for April. One of the risks I've been taking is around writing. April is National Poetry Month and I joined National Poetry Writing Month to commit to writing a poem every day. I did it but it was difficult at times. Putting my feelings into poetry feels very risky to me!

I don't know if you'll see arrows or vines. They are supposed to be arrows but they do look rather viney! I was trying to figure out what to put on after I added the plaque and doodling came to mind. When I doodle on paper I draw arrows branching out so I tried to replicate that. I think these are prettier than the arrows I generally doodle! I embellished them a little because I wanted this piece to look pretty. I used my favorite color, pink, in different shades and the silver because I thought it contrasted nicely. I guess I was trying to make risk look pretty. . .

March BJP

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I finally finished March! My neighborhood has a number of corner curb gardens. Here's a picture of one that is mostly lavender but others are full of different flowers. In March a lot of flowers, especially bulbs, were starting to bloom and I enjoyed walking around looking at the little gardens. I decided to depict one of these for my March BJP.

I originally considered trying to do something that was more an actual picture but I figured it'd take me far too long and I'd never get caught up! What I ended up with is more representational but I'm pleased with the way it came out. I used fabric and beads on the bottom to depict dirt and embroidery floss to do the stems. There are a lot of trees in my neighborhood and a couple of the little gardens even have a small tree so I made the outline & branches to represent a tree. I was a little afraid it would overwhelm the piece but now that I'm done I think the flowers are holding their own. The first clump with purple beads is lavender, then daffodils, tulips and a rosebush. So now it's onto April and hopefully I'll be caught up soon!

Black Oak - April BJP

Friday, May 7, 2010

Here's my April project - an unfurling Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii) leaf! These trees are really amazing when they leaf out in the Spring, and I've included a picture of the tree that inspired me here. This month is usually the peak of the wildflower season in this part of California, so I included the multicolored beads in specific colors I've observed in flowers. I liked the idea of including the fabric design in my beading, so I did the viney things in multi-hued greens. These greens recall all the grasses and leaves that accompany the flowers. I also got a chance to use some interestingly textured bugle beads that Mom kindly shared with me!

Note: This entry says posted by robin michelle but it's Jill's April project. I just posted for her because she's a luddite. . .

Big Leaf Maple - March BJP

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

For my March project I chose Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophylum) which begins to leaf out at the beginning of the month. I'm always a bit anxious around Spring because this is when it starts to get unpleasantly warm (for me that's over 70F!) and I know that soon it will be Summer and the rain will stop. But Spring is really a special time of year in this area - the Winter-dormant plants are all starting to leaf out and grow, the Summer-dormant plants are still actively growing, and the wildflowers begin their incredible flower display. It's one big swirling explosion of green and flowers!

So I went out to a local hillside where I found my maple leaf beginning to unfurl. It was a translucent green tinged with a coppery color - I used these colors in my outline. The circle in the middle that is half yellow and half white is representational of the Vernal Equinox - half of the Moon and half of the Sun for the balancing of day and night. To create this I strung the beads and sewed them down into a spiral shape.

While walking on the trail looking for my maple leaves I came across trillium (Trillium chloropetalum) and gooseberry (Ribes menziesii) blooming in the woods! The trillium is an incredible woodland bloomer on a stalk about 18" high with three huge leaves topped with three sepals and three petals. I stitched these on the left of the leaf. I just included the sepals and the petals, which can be white, maroon, or rose-pink. These are depicted as you would see them looking straight down at the flower. The gooseberry is a thorny shrub and the flowers hang down from the branches like little fuchsias. The gooseberry flower is on the right-hand side - the flowers are smaller than the size I stitched them. I used different bead shapes and thread for this one and I think it looks pretty realistic. I was actually a bit surprised by how realistic it turned out! So there's my project - inspired by a Springtime woodland!

Note: This entry says posted by robin michelle but it's Jill's March project. I just posted for her because she was having computer problems. 

February BJP Finished!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I finally finished February! It took awhile and I'm not entirely sure what it means but here it is. Since each month is supposed to be a journal of what's going on in my life that month I was waiting until about half-way through the month to start. I put the rose cameo on Feb 13th and then worked a little around it on the 14th. On the 15th a close friend of mine died. I stopped working on it after that and didn't start again until the 1st week of March. There are a lot of tears on this because I thought about him every time I picked it up to work on. My original thought when I had started February was a kind of nebulous idea of something along the lines of "looking for love in all the wrong places" as a satiric homage to Valentine's Day and some not so great choices I had made. Once I started working on this again and thought about it, I realized in a way it still fit. My friend Paul was one of the right places I looked for love. He was one of my closest friends and always there to listen to me gripe & complain. He loved my bead stuff too. I have some pretty heart beads he had sent me after he moved and I wanted to include one on this but when I finished it just didn't seem to fit so I'll save it for another project. I halfway wanted to do this all in dark beads to reflect how I felt but I could imagine him coming back to haunt me for being morbid and weepy! He was a happy person and laughed a lot and that's how I want to remember him and I do when I look at this. I mostly did wavy lines - through no plan, it just came out that way. Maybe because I've felt not so stable this past month. But it's done and I'm fairly pleased with it!

Bridget's Leaf Garden

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February - for this month I wanted to incorporate the celebration of the the feast day of the Celtic Goddess Bridget - Imbolc - with the seasonal changes here. I had been reading about this holiday in a wonderful book called "Kindling the Celtic Spirit" by Mara Freeman. I also went back to some the original source material in Alexander Carmichael's "Carmina Gadelica". After this I decided to use the quartz crystal to represent Bridget and surround Her (in beads) with the first flowers of the season. So I looked around and saw a lot of lupines (I'm not sure which species) and a few California poppies (Escholtzia californica) in bloom. The Lupines produce beautiful spikes of blue flowers, whereas the poppies are brilliantly orange and chalice-shaped. I also included the little white beads for Milkmaids (Dentaria californica) which I've also seen at this time of year in some of the oak woodlands further inland. But of course I needed a leaf shape! At this time of year the California Buckeyes (Aesculus californica) begin to leaf out. Imagine a bare tree with silvery branches and each branch is tipped with green flame. This is the drama of buckeye leafout! But after searching out my tree (I'll post on this later) I realized that a simple outline of the leaf would not convey the experience of the leaves bursting out. So instead I used the shape of the entire tip with all the leaves coming out. Then as I stitched I also wanted to incorporate the design on the fabric. As it turned out it's somewhat abstract, but I hope still representative enough anyway!

January BJP

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I decided to do this year's BJP as an actual journal of what is going on in my life that month. I chose a 4x6 size because I wanted to have plenty of room. Now that I've finished the first one I'm not sure either of these were good choices! 4x6 took a lot of beading! Working on this as a journal was hard, there are a lot of tears mixed in with the beads and a couple of times I took sections out and redid them. But it was good - I was doing improvisational beading following Robin Atkins ideas in One Bead At A Time. I keep re-reading the book looking for directions! I'd find myself unsure how to bead a section and then when I started it just seemed to happen on its own.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. January was a difficult month for me. Last October I moved from the SF Bay Area to Sacramento. Not a huge distance in miles but emotionally it was like moving to a foreign country. I'm living by myself for the first time in my life which is wonderful but scary. I don't really know anyone here, I'm looking for work and still, most mornings, waking up and wonder why I did this. But it's also amazing and I'm glad I did it and I hope that shows up in the beading!

I have in my mind a very clear path of where I want to go and that's what the blue bugle beads are representing - a ladder I'm climbing to reach my goal. All the little side paths and circles are things that get me side-tracked from that goal. Some in a good way that help to clarify and redefine things, others in a negative, unhelpful way. While I was working on this I sent pictures to my daughter asking her what she thought. At one point I had the heart and passion plaque on and told her I planned to completely bead everything. She said that sounded good but to be sure I didn't lose my plaque or heart. I know she meant design-wise but it made me realize that was important for my life also. I came close to losing both in January but now that I've encircled them with beads, I think it's going to be ok!

Jill's Leaf Garden

Friday, January 15, 2010

I have finished my January Bead Journal Project! My theme for this project is Gardens Inside A Leaf Shape (leaf to be chosen by season) on a piece of 4"x5" fabric. This month was inspired by the lush world of lichens and mosses found growing on a coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) trunk at this time of year. Though they're present year round, the mosses in particular are hydrated and growing during the rainy season. I wanted the leaf I chose to be one that is actually in leaf at this time, so I chose an oak which is evergreen. The leaf is outlined with crystal and white beads to remind us that despite the mildness of Winter in California's Mediterranean climate there are still frosts and occasional snows on the higher mountains. Through the color, form, and texture of the beads and stitching I tried to give an overall sense of the way these mosses and lichens look on the tree trunks. I used shiny green beads to show how the mosses look when they're damp with rain - they have a glowing green translucence! The fabric is a batik print that reminded me of bark. The challenge I found in this project was to represent without illustrating. I wanted to give a sense and feeling of these organisms that grow in the oak woodlands and portray them with accuracy, but not to feel a need to copy them perfectly. Accuracy is important to me, but this isn't a beaded field guide so I don't have to be exact! The biggest technical challenge I encountered was getting the leaf outline in the proper shape - but I got creative with couching, and I was pleased with the result! I even used short bugle beads for the little spikes these leaves have on their edges. So there's my January Leaf Garden!
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