Monday, October 21, 2013

Change your design approach

Changing how you approach your design process can help you in your creative process. It is very typical in bead embroidery to start with an amazing focal and create a design to use it. Whether that focal is a cabochon, a large bead, shell or other wonderful object, it is the source of focus and inspiration. In fact, the ability of bead embroidery techniques to create a fabulous jewelry piece using this approach is what gets many people learning bead embroidery. This type of beading celebrates the unique and provides a vehicle to showcase that amazing thing you have.

While this is the standard starting point, it is certainly not the only one. So, for a design exercise, try a different approach and start by selecting a strand of beads. You know what I mean, that strand you saw, loved and had to buy (sometimes even though it was too expensive!). That strand. The one that you have, but haven’t used yet. Yes, start with that. The project on pg 23 in Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects does just that.

So, for this necklace, the start was a beautiful strand of flat oval millefiori beads. These beads dictated the color palette and completely influenced the design from choosing a simple pendant type of necklace (they said I’m the STAR, let ME shine, don’t compete with me), to the selection of the flower bezel technique (millefiori=thousand flowers), to finally the subtle Side Petal Edge. The result is a necklace that is easily wearable, soft and feminine.

For my second example, I start with a strand of 8mm round beads made of magnesite chips in resin. Hot, bold….the red was screaming at me! Again, since there was so much pattern in the beads, I selected a solid color cabochon (mountain jade dyed a deep red) and 8mm buri nut round beads. I selected a Twisted Bezel to introduce texture around the bold red cabochon and used some white seed beads in the surrounding rows to mimic the chips in my inspiration bead strand. I finished with a Side Petal edge and attached with a Herringbone Loop, side variation. My bold design will look absolutely fabulous on a white top and is even bold enough to handle a top with a pattern in the fabric.

In my next example I selected an Amazonite Fan bead strand. I want to focus the fan in the center, emphasize the fan shape (not use it on a bead embroidered surface). So, I chose a design variation of the project on pg 97. That project is asymmetrical, but I chose to do it as a symmetrical piece. I filled in with other Amazonite beads and Tiger Eye. Here is my design and the project I based it on.

In the next example I started with a strand of small sea urchin shells. There are many colors in these shells, but I selected the rust tones, copper, and plum. I ignore the white in the shell. This is often an effective approach (ignoring) when there are many colors. Again, this design is based on the approach in the previous mentioned project on pg 97. And, oh my, I had some left over... so of course a new design.

Oh how I love coral sticks! Often they are top drilled, but I got a strand of center drilled…. Yes, excitement that means I NEED to use ‘em! What could be better that accenting with turquoise and blending with orange calcite? I strung the necklace strand first and then worked and decided on the rest of the design. This looks so good on my chocolate brown sweater I could eat it!

Genuine stone chips are easy to find, buy and they are economical. Personally, I love the organic look they give… every chip is a little different…. freedom. However, since some are fat, others skinny, it can be challenging to use them in designs. The solution is to create designs with some freedom with the form. This piece started with a strand of New Jade chips adding in black for accent and wardrobe wear ability. It is an interpretation of the Midnight Waterfall necklace in Dimensional Bead Embroidery pg 123.

Ok, here is my point. Sometimes to kick our creative juices into a flow it is helpful to change up your approach. So stop staring at that cabochon and wondering what you are going to do with it. Instead, take a break, grab a strand of beads that you love and start the juices flowing! Get in touch with your inner stringer and honor the strand. Work it into a design and let this change in approach open your creative eye.


  1. In april I have bought some nice beads and I just decided to start a beadembroidery project with those beads instead of starting it with a cabochon or another focal bead!! It is goog to read that there are more ways to start a beabembroidery project!!
    Greetings from Esther - the Netherlands

    1. Good for you Esther! The creative process loves it when there are no rules, and you were listening to your heart. Congrats!