Thanks again – already looking forward to next year’s challenge!
Well. Here we are at Day 14, and the end of this year’s fast and furious Trollbeads Challenge at Tartooful. Normally I’d be just getting warmed up, with many days left to explore all the facets of my collection, but this year we shortened the challenge to encourage more of you to take the plunge and join in. Like every year, I feel as though I really am just getting started. Every day that I perform the ritual of creating a fresh design, I have more and more ideas for future designs. Like every year, I have ended the Challenge with more unexplored inspiration than when I began.
I’d like to thank so many of you for your support and participation. Having all of you playing along with me each day gives me a real sense of the extraordinary community of Trollbeads collectors that I’m privileged to know, both in the gallery and online. I’ve been delighted and inspired by so many of your creative and beautiful designs. Your daily encouragement and kind words for both my designs and the compositions of other collectors brings an element of joy to this exercise that goes far beyond the pure aesthetics of our designs. Thank you, my friends….
On countless occasions I’ve explained Trollbeads to neophytes as “Like Lego for Ladies”. In other words, Trollbeads are cleverly designed components that can be built and rebuilt as many times as you like, in endless combinations. To emphasize the versatility of Trollbeads, I’ve chosen to finish the Challenge by creating a “convertible” design that can easily be worn as either a bracelet or necklace. For this design you’ll need three bracelet chains, with two of them the same length. You’ll also need two decorative locks that are similar in form. They don’t have to be identical, here I’ve chosen two one-piece locks with different patterns. You’ll also need a third lock to close the necklace at the back of the neck. Place a simple but elegant group of beads, and center them on a bracelet chain with a pair of stoppers. On the other two bracelet chains add a handful of beads that are twins, so on each bracelet are a very similar group of beads, in the same order. connect these two chains to the bottom one with the centered grouping using the matched pair of locks, and voila! A necklace. Remove the center portion, and it can be worn alone as a bracelet.
There are endless variations on this – filling all the chains with beads, using a leather for the back of the neck and so on… but the basic concept that you can create a necklace – by combining your various Trollbeads components remains the same.
In the end, Trollbeads is simply a creative toolbox to design whatever jewellery you wish… and it just begs for play!
Thanks for playing along with me!
Today I’m tackling another design challenge that I have visited in past years. I thought it would be interesting to see how the finished bracelet would look and feel with the recent updates to my collection.
Over the past couple of years I have made a conscious effort to add certain shapes and sizes of silvers to my personal collection. I’m very particular about each silver – it has to have a meaning that makes me happy, but it also has to function well for the way I like to build my bracelets. I tend to make balanced compositions, so that means that pairs of silvers are useful. However, with very few exceptions I tend not to actually buy duplicate designs, but rather prefer to find patterns that are complementary to each other in both theme and dimension.
Luckily for me, Trollbeads tends to have a few relatively standard size grades within which they produce a number of designs. For example, “Jugend””Carved Flowers””” and even the “Rolling Troll” all have a similar form and size, so they work well to balance each other in a bracelet. I often use “Ball of””Sweater” together for the same reason. One bead that I simply had to twin in my collection was the “Bee on Hive”… it’s one of my favorite silvers, as it features the Bee image that I take as my personal emblem. It’s soooo useful to have that one pair for bangles, necklaces and so on.
I like to group silvers not only by appearance, but also to some extent by narrative theme. For example, I usually place my “Ball of Yarn” and “Sweater” together on a bracelet along with my “Spider”. I like to think that the spider is a crafty little knitter of webs. Similarly, I place my “Frogs”, “Neither Fish Nor Bird” and two “Happy Fish” on a design together for a wetland sort of a theme.
Perhaps the most relevant habit that I usually employ, however, is that I always…*nearly always* mix the glass or stones in with silver. Occasionally I might make a bangle with only one metal bead. From time to time I might make up an all-amber or all-glass bracelet. But all-silver? Nope. Only for the challenge! It’s a tough one for me, as it’s missing the colour elements that are my comfort zone. It’s also very tricky to build all-silver while creating a sense of order to the design. This year, with the addition of more size pairs, I think I’ve managed to design a bracelet that I would make and wear again.
It has a very comfortable amount of movement on the bracelet, which results in a very fluid feel in the hand. It’s satisfyingly heavy and I am enjoying wearing it today!
Today it’s all about “Aurora”. There are a handful of regular collection and limited edition beads that are unmistakably “Aurora”, and until fairly recently I thought we had to be content with this narrow selection of designs. However, lately I have noticed quite a few unique designs which feature that distinctive, hazy shimmer.
For the most part, these beads display a more subtle version of the Aurora effect, which has opened up new design options for me. I find now I can combine my softer Azure Bubbles with paler traditional Aurora designs and the new subtle uniques for a fresh look. Add a hint of dichroic glass and a couple of luminous stones and it’s a complete design.
The pair of stones that I have employed in this design are the smooth, retired form of “Chalcedony” and a treasured, very translucent “Dendritic Agate”. I’ve had the Chalcedony for many years, but the Dendritic Agate is a very recent addition. I came across it just before the Challenge began, so it managed to slip into the collection just in time. Dendritic Agate is a variety of Chalcedony Quartz, and is often found with deposits of other types of Chalcedony. This relationship is easy to see in a translucent example such as this, where the two stones are nearly identical, save for a few traces of Dendritic Agate’s distinctive fern textural markings. Imagine how difficult it must be for stone cutters to predict how to cut and facet these stones to best display their hidden branchlike patterns… years of experience and well honed instincts must be required!
These Azure bubbles play nicely with others…
After a few years of practicing the creative exercise of the Challenge, I’ve found a few composition themes to be particularly interesting… in some cases they are simply designs that I find difficult – such as all silvers, or asymmetrical. Each year they become a little easier to achieve, and that’s very encouraging! In other cases certain design challenged show me the changes that have occurred in the elements of my collection over the previous twelve months, which is a good measure of how my tastes shift from year to year.
This ombre design is one that I have explored in the past, and I find it interesting to see the changes that have taken place since last year. This year’s version of my ombre bracelet gently transitions from softest golden peach, through pink and bronze into plum and finally completes at a delicious claret.
Some beads that were key in previous versions are no longer a part of the design. Other beads have joined the collection since last May, and are now glowing here. It’s different from last year, but I like it just as well. It’s such an interesting exercise to see – really *see* the colours and how they relate to each other.
Today I am featuring a lush bracelet design with saturated colour and heaps of texture and pattern. It’s an abrupt change from the simplicity and calm of yesterday, and a fun exploration of the huge range of expression that the Trollbeads toolbox offers.
I adore cranberry red, even more so when combined with other saturated tones such as raspberry, pink, coral, goldenrod yellow – or in this case all of them! It’s a “Singapore sling” bracelet with juicy sunset colours that range from soft pink and peach down into egg yolk yellow, raspberry, tomato red and claret. These riotous colours all play together nicely, partly because they are all in the warm red family, but also because the textures and patterns of the glass are of a similar complexity and mood.
I could have contrasted the ornate glass with simple silvers to offer a pause for the eye, but instead, consciously chose to make this bracelet an extreme contrast to yesterday’s breath of calm. I enjoy playing at both ends of the Trollbeads design spectrum!
Today I hankered for a soft, simple composition that felt calm and meditative. I decided to start with a whispery soft Purple Jade for the very middle of the bracelet, and framed it with a pair of Labradorites. That felt so perfect that I decided to carry on with only natural stones in the softest tones that could find in my collection.
I wanted the silvers to have a similarly calm mood, so I used “Shortcut”, “Spot”, “Heart” and “Smiling Cylinder”, whose clean lines and smooth surfaces felt just right.
I fondly remember shared time with my Mother, enjoying the charming poetry of A.A. Milne together… This poem is my gift to you today. XO
Put on a golden gown.
James James Morrison’s Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James Morrison’s Mother
Said to herself, said she:
“I can get right down
to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea.”
Put up a notice,
“LOST or STOLEN or STRAYED!
JAMES JAMES MORRISON’S MOTHER
SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.
QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD,
SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN
TO THE END OF THE TOWN –
FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!”
(Commonly known as Jim)
Not to go blaming him.
Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he:
“You must never go down to the end of the town
without consulting me.”
Hasn’t been heard of since.
King John said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?”
(Now then, very softly)
C/O his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J.J. said to his M*****
“M*****,” he said, said he:
Today I am replaying a concept from previous Challenge years… I’m trying a bracelet design using only my most petite beads. It’s difficult to really get a sense of scale from the photos, as all the beads are around the same size, but all of today’s players are tiny. I included “Small & Beautiful” glass, my very smallest silvers and mini ambers.
Last year I tried this same approach, and the result was a bracelet that felt surprisingly different from my usual compositions. It was super light, and the itty bitty beads were tactile and wonderful. My difficulty in creating that design was that I simply didn’t own enough tiny beads to create a palette and pattern that was pleasing to my eye. My conclusion then was that I “*needed* more small & beautiful beads! Over the past year I have kept my eyes open, looking for great additions to this niche of my collection, and as a result this year’s bracelet looks very different.
This is an absolutely fantastic bracelet for me… I love the way it feels, love the featherweight size and the colour combination makes me so happy. There’s only one problem – I’m using lots of beads that I love to wear in other combinations… I can see that for the next little while my beads will be doing lots of chain hopping as I rearrange often!
Today is a “More is More” sort of a day. More colour, more silver, more pattern, just MORE.
It all started because I adopted this “Purple Armadillo”, just as it was being retired. I tucked it into my bead bag of little “extra”beads that haven’t found their way onto one of my semi permanent combinations. I thought that I’d get back to it and explore its possibilities during the challenge, and now I’m having a lovely time playing it into all sorts of combinations! Today I find it at the center of an all-armadillo bracelet.
Each year during the challenge I enjoy playing together all my armadillos to see how the new additions (and subtractions) are settling in. A few of our Tartooful Trollies have extraordinary armadillo collections, and by comparison mine is very modest… however, I’m pleased that I finally have enough ‘dillos to make a grouping of colours that work together nicely!
For today’s bracelet I chose relatively ornate and complex silvers with a theme of faces, trolls and other (slightly horrifying) creatures… I just love seeing all those ugly little faces peeking out from between the glorious glass beads. It’s a little bit of shock value, and it makes me smile.
Beyond simply entertaining me, the large silvers serve two very practical purposes in this composition as well… First, the larger silvers offer a visual gap, to allow the eye to pause between shots of intensive colour. The complex patterns serve to force the eye to take in the design more slowly, and enjoy each element. In addition the longer silvers such as “Fabled Faces” and “Beads of Fortune” take up more real estate on the bracelet chain, which allowed me to complete this design with only a few armadillos in complementary colours. I have addition Armadillos in my little bead bag, but selectively weeded them out of this composition as I didn’t feel that their colours matched the intensity of their neighbours.