Phase Two of the Barb-Way

I fell down a rabbit hole.

A 1950's French rabbit hole.

Behold, my Barbie dress collection, "Paris 1952." See if you can spot the Dior "New Look" suit.

Let me break this down. The first part of the collection are these dresses with bows.

Then the sundresses:

And the shopping outfits:

I used plain eggshell muslin and some hand-painted muslin and linen I cranked out back in 1995. The hats and bags were made with felt, ultrasuede, chamois, and leatherette. 

I swear that Phase Three will be the end of this madness, when I make the black & white collection for The Jade Dog.

Unless I get sidetracked by beading the muslin stuff from Phase One.

But I won't. I'm longing to get back to the Big Fat Art Project. 

So - more later for sure.


Project Barb-Way. No, Really.

I set aside my Big Fat Art Project in order to make some holiday gifts and do some baking and finish a book series I've been reading (the Poldark novels by Winston Graham). And then *this* thing came up.

I was messaging with my daughter, who has been - let's just say she's not been herself since November 8th. She mentioned that when she's really down she breaks out her Barbie dolls and makes art jewelry for them. We talked of this and that and before I knew it, I had committed to making a dozen outfits for her in black and white. I have a lot of old Barbie patterns so I showed her what I could do, she picked out what she liked, and I made prototypes in muslin - because that's what you do when you're designing a collection, right? I showed her photos of how everything turned out, and she made her final selections from there.

A sampling of the patterns

Most of the prototypes

So I took a little break and did some baking and started making some gifts for my grandsons. I also decided I would decorate my house for the season - get a tree and all that - something I haven't done in sixteen years. I've always been too busy with decorating the bookshop. I went over to the Dollar General where I knew I could find an inexpensive tree, and while I was there I wandered down the toy aisle.

Let me back up a minute here. I had four Barbies I found at a thrift store a few years ago - I got them for an art project I never quite got around to. When it was Barbie's 50th anniversary, they came out with a reproduction doll EXACTLY like my first Barbie, which I never forgot, so of course that was my birthday present to myself six years ago, which increased the herd to five.

And last month I got a surprise package from my BFF Antonia, which included the Barbie-as-Sandy doll. Now there are six.

I get into this whole Project Barb-Way thing, remembering how much I enjoy making the tiny clothes, getting all nostalgic, and walk down the toy aisle in the Dollar General.  So now the herd has increased to nine.

I can't believe I did that.

No. Wait. Yes I can.

Kirsten, Jane, Emma, and Violet were the original four.
Tamsin, Regan, and Deirdre are the new kids.

Now I need to make some clothes for the two Ken dolls I have . . .

Just to legitimize all this for the beadwork blog, the plan is to eventually bead all these outfits.
Honest. That's the plan, anyway.

More later.


My Big Fat Art Project

I gave up on National Novel Writing Month after only three days - a new record for me. There were just too many other projects piled up to give it the kind of attention I have in the past.

My favorite project at the moment is My Big Fat Art Project. It's underway, and the first tile is finished!

Playing with techniques and a minimalist palette is proving more challenging than I originally thought, as well as being interesting, and strangely compelling, work.

Only nineteen left to go -


More later -


I Should Get Dressed

I'm still in my soft pants and it's 10:30 on a Saturday. I woke at about 7 - did some stretches, checked the mail, made coffee, stared at my work table for a while, read a chapter of "Demelza," rode my bike half an hour, thought about - but did not have - breakfast, did some beading, got all dreamy about my Big Project (more on that in a minute), and came to the rude awakening that I desperately need to structure my days more effectively.

Here's why. A few days ago I got this brilliant idea for a beaded art piece. I looked around, and the whole house was knee-deep in at least a dozen projects I wasn't working on, due to sensory overload. I cleaned off the table and all the horizontal surfaces in the main living area. Next thing I know I'm experiencing Craft Creep. I took some photos of my table.

First, there's this Cubic Right Angle Weave bangle cuff I felt compelled to make - something about the combination of matte chocolate and matte turquoise - makes me think of striped socks on witches. It *is* that time of year, you know. CRAW is time-consuming, intensive, has great texture, and is very, very durable. I love the weaving of it. It's meditative. I NEED TO DO THIS.

Also, I need to get going on the next piece for Embellishing the Runway - inspired by the winner of Episode 7. Calling it the Skull Island Challenge. 
The sketch doesn't really tell the whole story. 
But then, it's a very, very short story. 
More like Flash Fiction, actually.

Then last but not least, the Big Art Project, still in the gathering and plotting stage. All I'm going to say about this right now is that it is destined to be wall art, and it involves a lot of mookaite, matte and semi-glaze finish seed beads, and a bunch of pewter stars.

I predict I'll be working on this over the next four to six months, since there are other things that need doing. Like making holiday gifts and ornaments. And baking. And National Novel Writing Month. And other beading projects as they crop up. Hence the desperate need to get seriously organized.

First, though, I should get dressed. And get some breakfast.

Obviously - as time allows -  more later.


Embellishing the 15th Runway

I'm caught up on all the episodes to date, so here they are.

From Episode 4, the winner of the design challenge was Rik Villa - this was the "Heidi's Sweatshop/Create Your Own Textile" combo challenge. I made a two-sided pendant with Japanese seed beads in a harlequin pattern, accented with orange/red glass crow beads

From Episode 5, the dreaded "team challenge." This wasn't too bad - there were multiple looks to draw inspiration from. I had to dig for it, but I finally found mine in the embellishment that was slapped onto that *shudder* coat. I was happy for Dexter Simmons to get the win that week as the leader of the team. Good for him.

And now here we are, all caught up with Episode 6, the cocktail dress competition. I really liked Laurence's design the best, but OH WELL. The winner, Jenni Riccetti, used the Absolut vodka copper pineapple as her inspiration, so I did the same. I used copper lined Czech seed beads, accenting the pendant with glass crow beads and copper metal rounds.

Now it's back to my regularly scheduled beadwork - I'm taking a short break from barrettes and exploring the wonders of herringbone stitch. I saw a wonderful hand crocheted autumn blanket in fabulous muted tones, and I thought - I can re-interpret that into some nice cuff bracelets. I bet.

So more later!


Staying Busy

I finished my fourth piece for Embellishing the Runway, and the fifth challenge is on the drawing board - I'm shockingly behind this week - because in the meantime I've been making some other things.

First off, I'm obsessed with those delica beads I got a few weeks ago. I've been making barrettes.

I created this pattern, Rebecca's Ribbons, as a gift for my daughter-in-law, and just loved it so much, I had to make more and more and more. And there are more on the worktable. 
Here's some close-ups:

The design is based on a traditional quilt pattern.

I'm also working on a bead crochet lanyard for a friend - she requested an ombre effect, which I have done before - I just forgot how long it takes to plot one out and then string it. Two days. Fortunately, the crochet itself just whips right along, so here's that work in progress, just past the half-way mark.

So that's what I've been up to.

And I really am working on that fifth design for Embellishing the Runway. See?

So obviously, more later!


Time Again: Embellishing the Runway

Project Runway is once again serving as inspiration for our small but mighty band of intrepid artisans over on Facebook:

Embellishing the Runway

And aside from making a super-long bead crochet rope for myself,

and making Chinese lantern beads for the Jade Dog,

(I stole this pic from the Jade Dog, since hers came out better than mine)

I've been making pendants in response to the current "Embellishing the Runway" design challenge. So far there have been three episodes/challenges, and here are my results.

From Episode One: 

This was the "unconventional" challenge. The winner was Erin Robertson.

A closer look.
In this challenge, I took elements from Erin's design - the color, the fringe, the ball candies, and came up with this pendant using a beaded bamboo tile, Japanese glass seed beads, and a beaded fringe bead. I hung it on a copper chain.

From Episode Two:

This was the 'design for actual people' challenge. The winner was Laurence Basse.

A closer look.
Again, I went with elements from the original design - the color and the suede band, but looked to the accessories for more detail, using Japanese glass seed beads, antiqued copper metal beads, and vintage black sequins. I hung it on a black ball chain.

From Episode Three:

This was the technology challenge - all the outfits had to 'transform' under black light. Erin Robertson was the winner again. I 'shopped in a detail pic to get a better look at the embellishment.

A closer look.
I used the embellishments Erin created for the dress as my inspiration, specifically the color palette, fringe elements, and the big blue dot (from her 'nipple covers'). I used Japanese glass seed beads, a black glass crow bead, a silver colored ball bead, and a few tiny freshwater pearls.  It's hung it on multiple strands of black/white ombre rayon ribbon.

My time is currently consumed with these gorgeous picasso and delicious semi-glazed seed beads from the Jade Dog - sketching like a mad thing and generally having fun with different pattern concepts.

With more episodes of the Runway ahead, and all these perfect-for-fall colors of beads on hand, there will definitely be more later.


Obsessive? Compulsive?

I might just be. I get a concept in my head and I just work it and work it until I've either exhausted the beads necessary, or myself. And with this bangle idea, I haven't even come close on either score.

With the black & white cuff, I used three different sizes of drops and magatamas, giving it a playful texture.

I can't decide what this reminds me of more strongly - bubbles or dew drops on the lawn: 

Right now I'm working on one that's a mix of drops and spikes.

More later!


Listing the Pendants

After much hemming, hawing, redesigning and re-designating, I got myself in gear and listed the pendants I've shared here over the past few weeks.  You can find them in my Etsy shop's Necklaces section HERE.

This is what you'll find:
Click to embiggen!

I have a tenuous schedule for listing some other stuff I've been working on lately, but the making of stuff is more enticing. I'm determined to find that balance between the crafting and the business of crafting. It's a struggle for sure.

More later!


Too Many Ideas

Seriously, it never fails. I no sooner settle in with an interesting design - in this case an embellished net bracelet with a lemon chrysoprase focal bead and garnet chip accents - than I get a flood of ideas and just sketching them out won't do. I just have to see if they'll work out.

This was the state of things on August 4th -

This is when I got sidetracked with a bit of wire work, which resulted in this:

By Friday things had just gotten out of hand - I had at least 6 more projects in various stages of work spread all over the worktable:

And the most recent result is this: 

I love this. Seriously. I'm going to set all the other projects aside and really explore this one.

This is my favorite kind of bracelet - a big, fat, wide statement bangle. I recently unearthed a small stash of magatamas and drops, which were acquired so long ago I can't remember what I wanted them for. They are PERFECT for this. I was inspired by something I came across on Pinterest - the ceramic work of Japanese artisan, Takuro Kuwata - specifically his "drip" series of vessels, and this vessel in particular:

Ain't it cool? Welp, these beads ain't gonna weave themselves -

More later!


On the Fringe

I love making fringe beads and fringe bracelets. Mostly I love gathering all the elements, finding just the right blend to tell the color story of your vision. My recent obsession with the Miyuki yellow matte Picasso finish beads has led me down multiple paths, and I don't feel like I'm done yet.

The most recent result is this fringe bracelet. I'm not usually one for the bling, but there was just something so right about the beads I selected - tiny, pale green faceted Czech glass, amber bicones, yellow aventurine stars, all set off with ceylon seed beads and a unique CopprClay toggle clasp from Jade Dog Beads :

Just before I started this, I made a pair of right-angle weave bangles with brass and the Picasso beads, also from Jade Dog Beads:

Before I made these, I wanted to practice my pearl-knotting technique, so I made a wrap bracelet, using Czech pressed glass shapes and bead cord, with a replica vintage button:

And this all kicked off with a simple strung bracelet. I went nuts for the color story. This one was made using Czech pressed glass shapes, travertine size 3s and pale gold Darice glass pearls:

Let's bring out the models, and let them showcase my latest:

Here's a better look:

I don't feel quite done with this colorway yet. I'm not sure what's next, but I know there will be more later.

ETA: I almost forgot! August 17th is my 10 year anniversary of selling on Etsy - so I've got a coupon offer in my shop - 10% off anything and everything! Help me celebrate!! MJMullinsBeadwork on Etsy!