Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy (Belated) Valentine's Day to Mrs. K

Last week The Gruffalo and I were out for a romantic Valentine's evening. Halfway through the meal, he received a call on his mobile.

The call was from a dear friend who wanted to ask a favor: the friend's 90-something year old mother had just been put under the care of hospice, and the friend wanted The Gruffalo to drive out of state with him to be at his mother's bedside.

The man that I married is the one in our circle of friends who gets these sorts of calls. That's just how The Gruffalo is. After dinner we went back home so that The Gruffalo could pack a bag. He & his friend hit the road in a car fully stocked with granola bars, Beatles CDs and lots of memories.

As a result of the above, I spent the weekend alone at home with the critters. The dogs got lots of extra walkies and the cats made several suicidal attempts to dash outdoors to enjoy the sunshine (we live in coyote country, and our cats are hairless; I keep reminding the felines that our resident predators would not even have to peel them to eat them). As much as I missed the Gruffalo, I had a nice weekend.

During the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, I had gathered several red, pink & clear beads with every intention of making something special to wear out to dinner. The time got away from me and I never got beyond gathering the supplies.

With some extra time on my hands this past weekend, I started to put together this necklace, which I am naming after our friend's mother. The Gruffalo, a very proper British gentleman, never refers to this woman by her first name, so this necklace is called A Valentine for Mrs. K:

I set myself a goal to use only supplies on hand and to use no tools except scissors to create this piece. Everything is strung on waxed paper cord and knotted. No metal findings at all were used. There are two simple strands on each side with a ten strand twisted center portion. The beads that I used were glass pearls, crystals (bicones and rondels), stone chips and metal tube beads. The closure is a button:

I wanted to use a Czech glass button for the closure but all of the ones in my stash that were the right color were far too large, so I settled on a button from my sewing box.

There are some things that I like about the final result: I like the rock candy look of the stone chips. I like the length of the finished necklace (hence the first photograph on the jewelry form so you can see where it would lie across the neck). And I like the contrasts: rough (the waxed cord, the stone chips) & smooth (glass pearls), shiny (crystals) & matte (silver tube beads), rounded (knots, pearls again) & frayed (knotted part that attaches the twisted portion to one side).

While this was coming together, I was thinking about Mrs. K and about what it means to be a mother. We take all of the strands of our family's life, try to make them hold together and somehow create harmony out of elements that might not naturally go together.

Mrs. K is at the last stage, when all of the strands slowly slip out of your hands until the last one that holds you in this life is released. As of this writing, she is still alive, but her hold on that last thread is weaker every day. We wish her peace.

Edited to add: A few days after I published this post, Mrs. K released the final strand of her life and passed into the next world. Her son, our friend who asked The Gruffalo to travel to Mrs. K's bedside with him, had a birthday in early April. We gave him this necklace as a birthday present, which might seem an odd gift for a man, but there is no one else that I can imagine has a greater claim on this piece than he does.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Change is good...sometimes

The New Year has proven very busy with lots of changes and more on the horizon.

I was able to start a new beading project last week. Sometimes, when I am not feeling particularly moved to create something from scratch, I keep up my skills by following a set of published instructions in a magazine. Sometimes I follow the instructions exactly and sometimes I make changes. Usually the changes work well. This is an example of making a change that has created a challenge for the finished piece.

The design is called 'Machu Picchu Jewels' and is from a recent issue of Beadwork Magazine. The design calls for small drops at the bottom of the necklace. Because I had some larger drops that I was just dying to use, I substituted them for the suggested size of drops.

This is what the work in progress looks like:

This is such a pretty, delicate design. The drops that I swapped are the clear, iridescent ones along the lower edge of the piece. It looks fine in this configuration. But, remember, this is supposed to be a necklace. When I spread out the beadwork in the sort of arc that a necklace would assume when worn, it looks like this:

Notice that the three large drops are all bunched up together and that the prettiest part of the design, the oval pear with a fan-shaped embellishment, is covered up. The tip of the scissors is pointing towards the worst of the bunching.

Rather than undo all of this work, I will finish this piece and make it into a bracelet rather than a necklace. In bracelet form it will be able to retain the curvature that works best. When I start again on a necklace with this pattern I will be sure to use the size of drops that are called for by the designer.

Experimenting is good and it is the only way that we grow as artists. But you also have to realize when a departure from the rules is working against you. When I finish both the necklace and the bracelet I'll post photos of them side by side so you this pattern as the designer intended.