Trollbeads Design Challenge: Day 29


IMG_1670In these last days of the challenge I am trying to implement design ideas developed over the course of the past month.  The aim of the challenge was to rediscover the potential of my own collection, to break down my preconceptions of how pattern and colour could be combined, and ultimately, (hopefully), become a better designer.

IMG_1669It has been humbling.  I certainly discovered some shortcomings… both in my abilities and in my collection.  For example, I’d like to add some golden yellow to my palette.  I realized this after seeing the powerful complementary role it plays in fellow challenge designer. LeAnn Lowe’s incredible compositions.  Melinda Deyhle’s delicious combinations of blues and honeyed yellows made me miss a few beads that I have had and given up along the way.  I really must replace “Moon Ocean”, “Beach”, “Cool Dusk” and “Honey Dawn”.  (Some beads stay forever on my bracelet, others I part with if a customer really, really needs it!)


IMG_1664I never would have composed a bracelet like this one before the challenge.  Here I’ve colour blocked the glass in equal sets of three.  Between those sets of I have grouped silvers, also in sets of three.  I played with the difference in shape between the “doughnut” shaped silver and the perfectly round spheres.


IMG_1665This bracelet design is very structured, but having tight limitations on a given design can inspire greater heights of creativity.  In this case, being able to pick only *three* beads of each colour made me look very closely at each one and try hard to put together a trio where not only were the individuals lovely, but also complementary to each other.


This bracelet is wonderfully tactile.  Groupings of silver beads flow on the chain in a way that is very heavy, fluid and satisfying.  I confess that while I have always admired the silver, and acquired some lovely pieces, I have not tended to fall in love with them the way I do glass and natural stones.  However, over the course of the challenge I have finally begun to understand the powerful role that the silver can play, and I know that it will affect how I see silver from now on.


One.  Last.  Day.  What to design?!  There are still too many compositions to create!


Trollbeads Design Challenge: Day 18


We’ve had some folks asking for some design ideas for Fantasy necklaces, so I thought today I’d share my approach of using similar designs for either bracelets or necklaces.

IMG_1555I tend to fall in love with a colour combination or blend of patterns and want to wear it all different ways for a bit.  I’ll make up a bracelet with it, and when I want a change without giving up the composition I’ll transfer the design over to a fantasy necklace, leather bracelet or choker.

In this case, I loved the combination of icy blue and warm ivory with touches of gold.  I made up the necklace first, playing the ivory off the white pearl.

IMG_1536It was so easy to expand on the concept, switch a few things here and there and create a bracelet design from the same palette.  My bicone golden amber adds another warm touch , and I am able to use both my blue dot and green dot…

IMG_1533For me the main difference between designing for the various chains is simply how to arrange the different sizes of beads.  For example, on the bracelet I tend to place the largest ones in the

IMG_1535middle, and then taper towards the ends.  I try to balance the colours evenly across the circle of the bracelet, so that it doesn’t appear heavier on one side than the other.  When I come to the last bead on each side I like to have them play particularly well together, so that when one looks at the lock it appears harmonious.

IMG_1534However, when designing a Fantasy necklace I think in terms of stacking the beads in a pile on the chain… so I like the widest and thickest bead to sit at the bottom to give it a stable and pleasing look.  (The large barrel shaped silvers are so great in that position).  Then I taper the beads as one goes up the chain with the smallest at the top.

IMG_1554If one plans to double the chain using our modified lariat approach, then the last couple of beads should be stacked on in reverse order, so that when they are slid around to the other side of the necklace the smallest bead still ends up on the top.


On a daily basis I’m most likely to leave my fantasy necklace made up with a pretty neutral composition with ivory, gold and grey.  I do wear my necklace almost every single day – with everything from jeans & worn in boots to black velvet and heels.  On those days when I feel like a change, it only takes a few moments to toss something pretty together.


Trollbeads Design Challenge: Day 16


Well, I’ve kept at it, and I think I might have done it.

Working with all silver posed a surprisingly difficult design challenge for me.  Possibly it’s because I am so accustomed to working with the soft, forgiving glass and stone beads… or possibly it is because I have some seriously quirky silvers.  Clowns and spiders and boats oh my.  When I placed all those little faces and bits and bobs together on a bracelet they just seemed so complicated and busy and I couldn’t see any of the charming elements that made me love them.


IMG_1522Perhaps it’s a little like creating art.  It’s actually easier with colour, because it’s so forgiving.  Pare design down to purely form, and it’s immediately apparent if anything is imbalanced.

So I decided to approach designing with all silver with the same disciplined approach as colour.  No simply chucking beads together – find the points of similarity, and them set up a rhythm.  Looking closely at the design below you’ll see that I’ve put together a basic pattern of round forms alternating with tall & narrow ones.  I do love the narrower silvers that are shaped like “doughnuts”, or like glass beads of silver.


I think that it would be even more effective if I had planned my collection specifically with this in mind.  If I were picking silvers for this approach I would lean towards the more modern, sculptural silver forms, to keep the overall composition smooth and satisfyingly clean.

However, having said all that I am pleased with the end result of this little exercise.  This bracelet feels amazing to wear… so heavy and fluid!  I’m so glad I kept at it and was able to wear this.


Trollbeads Inspiration: True Blue


A recent online inquiry prompted me to play with some of the cobalt blue beads that we currently have in stock and the result is a great reminder of houw powerful and beautiful this colour can be.

uu44-1It all began with this ivory bead with delicate blue flowers scrolling around it…. I had placed it in the past in softer blue compositions, using the ivory background to soften the brilliant cobalt.  When the question came this morning of whether it would stand up to a bolder, cobalt composition I wasn’t initially sure of my answer.

uu44-2However, as may be seen in these photos, this little lovely fits right in with its cobalt companions.

We have a number of excellent blue uniques in stock at the moment, so it was fun and easy to pop together a fresh composition.


uu44-7The blue, silver and glass tassels that grace the clasp of this bracelet are our last few Christmas Ornaments, but in this composition they don’t feel the least bit seasonal… they’re just a fun design element – simple, pretty and glowing in the light .

uu44-6It’s a extravagant gesture to place not one or two but three (!) on the clasp.  These droplets would be lovely clustered at the end of a Fantasy Necklace as well.  The pearl drop would nestle in among the glass tassels, becoming one of the group.  The overall effect is rich and musical.

Thank you for your questions and design challenges… they inspire us and keep our imaginations working!



Trollbeads Insider: Designer Kevin Powell

By now all of you will be familiar with the lovely new addition to the collection, “Loving Light”, by Peoples Bead winner and designer Kevin Powell.  However, perhaps you are unaware that this artist is a local resident and Tartooful regular – how exciting to have a Trollbeads designer in our midst!

On Trollbeads Universe Kevin writes, ”

“I love going on hikes in the mountains to look at the subtleties of nature, but when I bring my sketchbook, I stop looking and begin seeing. There’s a fundamental difference between just looking at something as mundane as a leaf and seeing it for it’s true form by drawing it. I feel this process gives insight and allows me to see that the common place objects passed by everyday tend to be the most interesting.”

We spoke with Kevin recently to ask him for some personal insight into his creative process and the story of this particular design.  We were delighted to find that it was truly a love story…

It begins with a background in art and design… as his artist’s statement says,

“Kevin studied painting and drawing with the very talented oil painter and teacher Aeron McBryde for three years.  From there he went into the animation program at the Art Institute of Vancouver, studying everything from storyboarding to art history”.

However, it was his equally artistic girlfriend Jennifer who introduced Kevin to Trollbeads.  She is an avid collector of Trollbeads, and Kevin has helped her to create a beautiful and substantial collection through gifts for every occasion that they share.  Jennifer’s creative spirit finds expression both through her Trollbeads bracelets, and though the lovely jewellery boxes she creates for her fortunate friends and family.  Note the meticulous details that she incorporates in each of her boxes…

When Kevin was introduced by Jennifer to Trollbeads he found an inspiring new medium.  As he says,

“…being a little familiar with sculpture I found it quite remarkable that they could produce this incredible detail in such a small space..”

When he came across the Peoples Bead contest online on, Kevin decided to enter a design that Jennifer and he had often discussed:

” I remembered  Jennifer saying that she’d always wanted a round bead with a cross on it with a heart in the middle. By coincidence the theme was spirituality so immediately I grabbed a pen and the closest thing nearby which happened to be a cereal box to sketch some ideas and came up with the “Loving Light” design. I then transferred those drawings over to a sketchbook to make it suitable for submitting.”

Kevin entered not one design, but three.  All were compelling concepts, and might easily have been selected as a finalist, but Trollbeads decided that only one design per artist would be allowed, so the “Fox and the Hare” and “Koi Pond” were not in the 100 designs on which we all voted.

Kevin commented on Trollbeads’ choice…

“I’m actually glad they picked Jen’s (design) due to her love of collecting Trollbeads…”

“The relationship between humanity and god. The crosses represent faith in god, the heart represents god’s love and the star represents the light of god.”

The rest is history… Kevin and Jennifer’s design stood out from among more than 10,000 entries, was voted on by Trollbeads collectors from all over the globe, and is now part of the 2012 Spiritual Collection.  Kevin Powell is now known around the world as part of the elite group of artists that have created Trollbeads, but he remains modest and is quick to credit Jennifer for her role in the design…

“… for those of you who like this bead, please thank Jennifer as well…”

Congratulations to both of you on the success of your design, and thank you for sharing your story with the readers of our blog… We look forward to hearing where your art takes you next!


Trollbeads Surprise: Earrings!

These earrings took us by surprise a few days ago when they arrived at the shop – we entirely forgot that we had placed an order for these specialty items!  …But what a wonderful surprise!

These stunners feature two rich, blue dichroic glass stones, paired with warm white pearl drops that sway  below the silver setting.  The silver is reminiscent of “Trinity”, with its slightly nordic design elements.  The post closures are secure and comfortable.  I can imagine these becoming treasured favorites for special occasions, adding an unusual and dramatic note to classic ensembles.  What a wonderful gift idea for the “Trollie who has everything!”

I love surprises!


Trollbeads: All In Bloom

Spring has officially sprung, and the Trollbeads are coming into full bloom!  To celebrate, we thought we’d share some of the outstanding flower bracelets that we’ve seen over the last little while…

Of course, the Spring 2012 collection included lots of lovely fresh flower designs, including this “Snowdrop” which is of course, really an Easter Egg in disguise!  This bead adds a delicate touch to a necklace or a bracelet.

The country-fresh tones of the Aquarelle series act as the foundation for my daughter Odette’s bracelet… In this pretty garden design you’ll find “French Anemones”, “Wisteria”, and “Buttercup”, with birds such as “owl” and “Sparrow” tucked in between.

There are lovely garden images among the silver designs, as well… “Rose”, “Hydrangea”, “Forget-me-not”, “Large & Small Berries”, “Lotus”, and many others have become classics in the collection.  Blending these with Spring colour creates a Troll Garden.

Flower beads can be artfully combined to make a subtle, tone-on-tone composition…either soft and natural, or monochrome bright and sunny!

This bracelet still stands out, a couple of years after we created it at Tartooful… Yellow can be difficult to wear, but the inclusion here of “Yellow Jade”, “Beige Bubbles” and “Honey Dawn” softens the impact of this power colour to make an everyday favorite.

This gorgeous ring is stealing hearts at Tartooful at the moment… it’s very reminiscent of midnight flowers, but artfully cradled in a beautifully wrought tendril of silver that wraps comfortably around one’s finger.  It’s impossible to take one’s eyes off it when it’s on one’s hand.

We made up this juicy composition when the Spring 2012 collection was first released.  It includes “Forest Flowers”, “Forget-me-not”, “Cherry Blossom”, “Flowers”, the “Green Flower Tassel” and of course the dramatic new clasp, “Catching Hearts”.

Finally, the “Girly-girliest” of all the Flower beads:  “Grandma’s Favorite” – the quintessential Spring Flower design…

Stay tuned for even more flowers…


Trollbeads: The Seer

There are certain Trollbeads that beg to be put on tiny plinths, to be shown off as the miniature sculptures that they truly are.  “Buddha”, “Birdhouse”, “Origami”, “Frog”, and the “Indian Elephant” all come to mind… But perhaps the best example of all is “The Seer”.

This beautiful piece is being retired this month, and while it is true that we didn’t sell very many of this large bead at Tartooful, I will miss it.  It’s graceful, lyrical lines are so lovely, and the little dichroic glass orb is so beautiful, cradled carefully in the figure’s hands. Dichroic glass is perfect to create an aura of mystery, with its subtle pattern and shifting hues.


Trollbeads 2012 Retirements: Part II

In part II today we present the retiring Trollbeads silvers, locks and pendants of 2012. We’ll be very sad to see some of these go – the Juggler is close to my heart, and I must scoop an “Etruscan” before they are all gone, as I’ve always loved that silver.

So often we prioritize the purchase of glass and put off silver – after all, if we fall in love with a particular glass bead it’s important to add it to one’s collection.  Each glass is so individual that we may never again see one just exactly like it!  The silvers are more consistent in appearance, so we tend to think – “oh, I’ll pick it up next time…”.  In the wake of the retirements announcement there may not be a next time for these beads, so if there is one you really love please let us know and we’ll order one for you as soon as posssible.

It’s a very busy month for Trollbeads – up next, all the details on the new, Limited Edition Chinese Zodiac beads!