When I design a piece, I try to do it in an unhurried way, so that I can consider everything-- design, placement, elements, story-- without the pressure to finish for a deadline. Well, that's the ideal anyway.
Sometimes the ideas just jump into my head and I work furiously on something, without any specific purpose in mind. Experimental ideas, especially. Usually I go to my sketchbook, to get my thoughts down before they dissolve like morning mist. But sometimes (usually) my housework, dishes, chores or whatever take a backseat to the siren song of my Muse.
As most of you know, a lot of my large pieces were a result of my participation in the Art Bead Scene's monthly Challenges, with fine art works as the inspiration for a strung piece using art beads. Some month's selections call very strongly to me, as did the choice for March 2009 by Henri Matisse. This painting as a poster hung on the door of my bathroom after I saw the original at a Matisse show in San Francisco. Oh that orangey-red color! Pure passion and intensity! When I was a child, I wore greens, browns and rust. Who would have thought that these days the color red in all its many forms would be found in almost every room in my home?
For my first take on this, three years ago, I made up a polymer clay mokume gane blend (a technique from Japanese metalworking where layers of different metals are revealed by drilling and grinding) of orangey-red, dark green, yellow and violet and applied slices to 18mm polymer bead cores. Then I made several lentil beads in different sizes and did the same. These were strung with black and red seedbeads and black coconut shell slices. Overall, it had the modern feel I was seeking to complement the abstract design of the lentil and round beads.
Original “Rainforest” necklace – March 2009
I couldn't bear to sell the piece-- I just loved those red goldfish too much! But my style started changing too and became more complex and layered and I decided to re-do it. On a practical note: don't use coconut shell slices-- they have sharp edges and are uncomfortable to wear around your neck!
I started with the focal, as it didn't seem large enough or too weak to support the other elements. I added an elaborate black and white textured frame but it was just too much. [The great thing about polymer is that you can continue to add new pieces to the original as long as you haven't coated it with anything that can't take the 275 degree curing temperatures.] I ripped off a lot of that and began to layer on a textured backing and finally had my focal design! Since I used acrylic for the color I could employ my favorite polishing medium—shoepolish-- for a subtle shine.
Rainforest focal – reverse
Then the fun began-- I really love stringing!-- and I added irregular-shaped natural coral pieces, some Oaxacan clay bird beads, Dalmatian jasper chips, black bean beads, green vintage African glass and metal beads, some small yellow spacers and my mokume gane rounds. The clasp was hand-hammered annealed steel wire, which I also used for the twisty bail ends to attach the focal.
So now my necklace is more complex and interesting, the feel is more tribal and yet still abstractly modern and my homage to Matisse's genius feels like my style, finally. Paired with the bead-stacked mokume ball earrings, I feel the second time around for this necklace is a true victory lap!