Archive for the 'Beading' Category

Approaching wire

I’ve been circling around, making different starts with wire, seeing what might come together.

Egg head

Ages ago (last year?) in a drawing class, tutor Sue Vesely brought hard boiled eggs marked up to show various angles and spacing of the human head. I’ve since made a version of my own, using Sue’s notes and a toy (rubber?) egg. Could I make these shapes and lines using wire and random weave basketry techniques?

It turned out I couldn’t. Nothing to show – it was quickly dismantled, cut up, reused…

… some of it into this face.

Which also doesn’t particularly thrill me. Clumsy lines, not the right selection of which lines to include. This weight of steel (construction wire, annealed steel, 1.57 mm diameter, 16 gauge) was difficult to work with at this scale (slightly less than life).

Not a dead end, but not an enticing path for now.

Another experiment using broken ceramic and wire in random weave also didn’t quite work for me in its first form.


The same steel wire, smoothed and drilled fragments from a cup and saucer, random weave.
The blu-tac is to hold bits in place until I could stabilise placement. Each shard has 3 holes, which I thought would allow enough connections to create a stable non-vessel.

Once again the gauge of the wire, its stiffness when working, caused me grief. When bending wire I was constantly at risk of breaking ceramic, and without sufficiently bending the wire to hold them the pieces kept sliding around.

More recently I’ve been introduced to galvanised steel wire. Lots of different gauges in the hardware store, doesn’t rust (although the shine wouldn’t suit all purposes), not a good choice for jewellery, but a great new option in this kind of work. The old 16 gauge wire has been cut off and new work begun. It’s going reasonably well, but needs to progress before any more photos.

More of the same 16 gauge wire and the ceramic, and still not satisfied with the various possibilities I’ve generated so far. The proportions of the ceramic and wire elements isn’t pleasing. The curve of the wire (from my new dapping set) doesn’t sit well with the different curves of the ceramic pieces. Beads of different sizes have been trialled at different positions, and then the earrings get too long.

I’m really not in a grouchy mood and I don’t think the inner critic is getting out of control. There are possibilities here, just so far none I would wear. It will come.

Now some happy snaps. My friend Claire and I got together for a day of dipping wire in paper pulp. Neither of us had previous experience, so it was all free experimentation. Claire brought the pulp – made from waste cardstock. We both had different types of mesh and wire. There’s more detail and process shots on Claire’s blog – https://tactualtextiles.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/paper-pulp-dipping/.

Here are some of my results.


Above: the pulp built up well on bird wire mesh. On the left is the form as dipped. When dry I was able to change the form, the paper remaining attached.

Above: two views of a form created before the mesh was dipped. A much firmer and sharper end result (compared to re-shaping a dipped piece).

Above: two more vessel forms, quickly random woven together using galvanised wire. I’d like to try this again with more preparation time, creating smaller spaces that the pulp would span better. It tended to slide off these.

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Above: a range of forms, wire and an offcut of bird mesh. The pulp held better on the smaller spaces.

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Above: the “flower” wouldn’t hold the shape. Some extra fine wire across the leaf helped marginally. The two views of a single “earring” show the impact of lighting on this material.

Above: the two sides of a piece of copper mesh that I had distorted.

Above: more mesh and pulp experiments. Love the combination of copper and the warm cream of the paper.

There’s lots of promise in these results. Some lessons learnt, some really nice effects. I’m hoping Claire and I can arrange another day – with enough lead time for more preparation. Maybe a series of days (or in summer??), so we can let things dry between dippings.

Finally, some first steps following Keith Lo Bue’s Poetry in Motion DVD workshop – http://www.keithlobue.com/product/poetry-in-motion-making-marvelous-mobiles-dvd-workshop-set.

This is what led me to galvanised wire, opening various doors as mentioned above. I’ve worked through the first couple of exercises, and am feeling excited and inspired.

First up was a clever way to straighten wire, plus practice in creating precise shapes and angles. I think a series of these piled up has much more promise of an interesting and dynamic composition than my earlier attempts at wire lines at the top of this post.

Next was an exercise learning to find and fix balance points. Back to 16 gauge wire (galvanised this time), plus corks.


Above: my very first mobile, in two variations. On the left, a flat, horizontal form that spreads out in space. On the right, a simple change in the orientation of one looped end changes the form to a broken straight line, descending in space.

I can see potential for a number of the approaches above to combine into a fruitful line of investigation – even those that left me cold as stand-alones. It’s the end of the weekend, work tomorrow, but I’m rubbing my hands in anticipation.

Effie Mitrofanis – Enrich the Surface

Last weekend I went to an ATASDA class with Effie Mitrofanis, who does beautiful, rich and colourful embroidery. It was a really lovely couple of days.

It was detailed work and I am slow, so nothing came close to finished. Subtract the orange stitching near the top and the beads, and on the left is my entire production for Saturday. The stitched area is about 12 centimetres square (under 5 inches). I’m just setting expectations of what there is to see, not complaining – it was a weekend of learning, companionship, colour and fibre. Pure pleasure.

We started with a base of muslin, then put on strips of fabric – mostly dupion silk. Straight and herringbone stitch secured and decorated the edges. (Effie has some samplers showing incredible variety of texture and appearance using just straight stitch.)

Next were some tips on binding the ends of gold cord, followed by (drumroll) bullion stitch over the cord. The class was absolutely quiet as we worked on this, but I think everyone was very pleased with themselves and their results.

Dual rows of blanket stitch were worked at the top, setting ourselves up for the next day.

Some beautiful random-dyed gimp was wound over the blanket stitch base. There is also some beading over the gold cord and some bugle beads where I plan to do some seed stitch in a variety of threads.

My second sample has raised chain band up the left side. The blue thread is something anonymous that I bought from a member stash-busting stand at a recent ATASDA meeting. Very effective. On the right is wave stitch (more thread from the same stash-buster!). I’ve also added some little flower-shaped beads to highlight the line I wanted to extend from the patterned fabric. I don’t know yet what’s going to happen below.

Effie also showed us how to make a wrapped cord. My sample used six lengths of stranded cotton thread, plus beading thread and some gimp. I wanted to do at least a little of most of the techniques Effie showed, but I didn’t get as far as knotting or multiple wraps side by side. You can build up all these elements to get some really effective results.

I learnt quite a bit over the weekend, over and above the various techniques from Effie.

  • I followed past advice from Claire, choosing a colour scheme and heavily editing theĀ  material and thread I took to class. This saved a lot of time and really helped me to focus on what we were doing.
  • Zinger threads. When finished these small works can be really rich and complex surfaces. I can get lost in the detail. The use of “zing” (like the blue in sample 2’s raised chain band) brings life and focus.
  • It’s a detail, but I like the red thread used as a base for the raised chain band. It felt a bit risky when I chose it, a bit out of the main colour theme, but the small amount visible really adds some subdued complexity. My working theory is to try to be bold in the early stages. If it doesn’t work it can be covered or adjusted somehow. Better than being bland.
  • Not everything has to be planned and have deep meaning or thought or concept. Responding to the thread and work, to what is developing under your hands, is a wonderful, centering, restorative experience. I don’t know how that fits with OCA course work, where you’re trying to fulfill requirements, show development and critical thinking, develop design skills… It’s not necessarily all mutually exclusive. Perhaps it’s a matter of balance, perhaps I just need more skill / experience / development.

Resource: Mitrofanis, E. (2009) Threadwork: silks, stitches, beads & cords. (Binda: Sally Milner Publishing)


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