Monday, July 17, 2017

For the Love of Animals - Heidi Kummli

We are so fortunate this week to have Heidi share with us some of the techniques she uses to create her unique voice in bead artistry.  Her work is immediately recognizable as her work, yet she shares her techniques so that we may too create similar beauty.    I love how she creates such organic bead scapes with the always perfect touches of embellishment.  Thank you Heidi for sharing our process and your love for the planet and animals.  Marcia

Gorilla in the Mist 2017

The  Howlers 2017

The spiritual practice of shamanism teaches us we are all part of the great web of life. Everything is connected, and every action affects something, somewhere. Every thing has its role in the universe, whether it is an insect, animal, microorganism, rock or even human. Viewing the Earth from space shows that we are all one, we are the Earth. When you understand this, you will learn to honor all life on the planet and beyond.

I try to reflect this in my beadwork; I try to honor all of life and all species. I have always felt my work has a message to tell, a feeling to express. My love of animals is something I am very passionate about. Unfortunately animals can’t speak out about losing the land they call home, polluted water or global warming. They live in the moment, they have to adapt to what ever comes their way. Some species will vanish, and some species will adapt. The Earth gives every living thing what it needs to live upon her, water, air, sunlight, plant medicine, food and so much beauty. Without these valuable resources we will vanish, so please take a moment to think about that before you hop in your car to drive a block away, or water your lawns on a hot summer day, or spray deadly chemicals on a dandelion.

I want to share a simple project (it can be made as a pendant, brooch, or even a bracelet) that will allow you to honor an animal. First, take a moment to just be with yourself and think about an animal that best reflects you. Is it an animal that has always shown up in your life? Perhaps, an animal that you are attracted too? Maybe you have something in common with an animal. 

In this project we will be using a plastic animal that can be found at your local toy store. I like the Schleich animals. You can purchase them at some local stores (Michaels, Target), or online at I feel they all have their own personality.  If you can find them at a store then you can pick the one that speaks to you. 

Once you have the animal you want to work with, you will be cutting the head off. It is best to use a vice to hold the animal while sawing. I feel a coping saw works best. If you cut the head off at an angle it gives the animal a more life like feel to it. After the head is off, use scissors to cut off any rough edges, then smooth out the back with sandpaper. You can use the left over animal and perhaps chop a paw of to use in your designs, or have fun with it by gluing another head onto the body and decorating it.

Suggested Supplies:
Animal head
Ultrasuede or bead embroidery foundation of choice 
2-part epoxy or E6000
Aleene's thick tacky glue
Various size seed beads
Old pieces of jewelry, stone cabochons, fur, sticks or stones you found on a walk. Whatever you have in your bead stash that might work with you center piece.

I like working with the size 9 Czech beads in gold iris and also size 15 in metallic gold. I don’t often use other colored seed beads in my work as I feel it distracts from the components I use. This is your piece, so please use what you want. Play with these pieces like a puzzle, positioning them around the head and seeing what looks good here and there.

Get Started:

I like to use ultra suede for my bead embroidery foundation. But use whatever material you prefer, make sure that it is a material that doesn’t unravel after cutting it, such as leather or felt. Cut a piece that will be big enough for your project to grow on. I use a non-permanent maker and mark centerlines horizontally and vertically to help with placement. You can also add sidelines to help keep your piece balanced. I use a 2-part epoxy to glue my components on. The lion I used is looking upward, this made her look like she was gazing at something. Play with the placement of the head to see how it changes the animal’s mood. After the glue has dried, use the backstitch to add a row or two of beads around your head. The backstitch is explained at the end of this blog.

After your rows of beads are in place, glue your next component in place. I like to add one component at a time, and snug them up to the row of beads. 

Use whatever beads you have available; in the above photo I added some two hole Rizo beads. I backstitched the bottom row next to the lion, and than added a larger bead in-between and along the outside, tacking the Rizo beads down.

Fur adds a wonderful texture and look to your work. When using fur always cut from the back using a utility knife. Also keep the direction of the fur in mind when cutting. Do you want the fur to hang down, up, or opposite? It can be tricky to use especially when you want both sides to be symmetrical. 

People often ask me if I feel good about using fur in my pieces. If I love animals how could I support using fur? I don’t kill animals for fur; I use fur that would otherwise be thrown away. I feel that if an animal is killed every part of it should be honored and used. Every time I use a piece of fur I thank the animals whose fur I am using. A small piece of fur goes along way, so it doesn’t take much. I use Aleene’s Thick Tacky Glue to glue the fur down. In some applications I also stitch the fur down, with Nymo size B thread. I have noticed that some thread pulls the fur through the foundation, making it hard to use. You will need to keep an eye on your thread to make sure it doesn’t tack the fur down. You can use your needle to pull the fur back up on top.

Once the fur was glued into place, I stitched a metal component between the fur. I didn’t use a stone or component that would be glued on top of the fur, because I felt it would be flopping around rather than firmly in place. By using a component that had holes I could stitch it down. If I wanted a stone I would have glued it to suede, beaded around it, trimmed it, then glued and stitched it into place. Next, I sometimes add additional beading or components, before trimming the foundation.

Many people are afraid to trim the foundation because they might cut a thread. Don't panic! You can always sew the beads back down. I trim my foundation even with the outside edge of the beadwork. You need enough foundation to work with when beading the edging.

Cut a backing for your piece to add some stiffness. Trace your work on a piece of cardboard (such as a cereal box). Cut the cardboard about 3mm smaller than your piece, so you don't have to bead through the cardboard. Glue the cardboard lining to the back of your foundation and beadwork using Aleene’s Thick Tacky Glue. Next, glue this to your suede backing and trim the excess suede. 

Edge your piece using the simple edging as described at the end of this blog. The edging holds the piece together by stitching the foundation and the backing together. If your piece is to be a pendant, attach a bail to the top. If you want a brooch, glue a pin back to the back. You may also want to add some fringe or a stone dangle. Maybe talk to the animal and see what they want to have hanging off of them. You can also add a gemstone on the back of your piece to bring you healing. 

Wear this with pride and gratitude, feel the power and love it brings you and all of life. May it remind you that we are only a small part of the whole, we can change the world, and we can make it a better place for all generations to enjoy. For the love of animals, try not to get pulled into the unconscious thought process of ego and greed. Take a moment in your day to realize how lucky we are to be able to experience this amazing planet and that it is our duty to care for all species.

Arctic Cuff a project for Bead and Button magazine June 2010

Stitch Guide.

Backstitch: Come up through the base where you want to begin the backstitch. String 4 beads; lay them against a cabochon, or line of beads, and pass down through the foundation next to the last bead added. Pass up through the base between the 2nd and 3rd beads just added, then pass through the last 2 beads. Repeat around the cabochon, or until the desired length. When you have completely encircled the cabochon, with your needle and thread go back through the whole row of beads to pull the beads nice and snug to the cab, this also helps to make the row nice and straight. Pass through the base next to the bead you are currently exiting.

Simple Edging: With the thread coming out the front and close to the edge, string 4 size 15 beads; pass up through the base, from back to front, about 2 beads width away. Pass up through the 4th bead. String 3 beads; pass up through the base about 2 bead's width away, and pass back up through the last bead (Photo 17). Repeat all around the edge. For the last bead, you may only string 1-2 beads, and then go down through the first bead added in this round, and out the back.

Monday, July 10, 2017

SRAW Puffy Heart & LOVE Letters by Gwen Fisher

This tutorial was inspired by Chris Prussing’s Puffy Heart and Marcia De Coster’s Love Letters, stitched with right angle weave (RAW) and cubic RAW. I wrote this tutorial expressly to be given freely on this Bead Love blog, a blog of inspirations on love and beads. I have been so inspired by so many other wonderful designers in the bead weaving community, and this is a little way for me to say "thank you" to all of you who have inspired me. Here you can learn to bead hearts and the letters in LOVE with just one size of seed beads in two colors. Since you only need one bead size, you can use any size you want. The hearts above use 15° or 11°.  The heart below uses 8° on the back (shown) and 3 mm bicone crystals on the front.

This tutorial starts with step-by-step instructions for weaving hearts using a stitch that I call super right angle weave (SRAW) because of its relationship to RAW. Both SRAW and RAW are made with loops of four beads, but SRAW also has loops of eight. You can learn more about SRAW on my blog, gwenbeads. This tutorial ends with charts for the letters in LOVE to get you started using SRAW to weave an alphabet.  What better place to start, anything really, than with love?

One size of seed beads in two colors
Beading Thread
Beading Needle

SRAW Puffy Hearts in 3 Sizes
The smallest heart uses size 15° seed beads. The medium heart uses size 11° plus other beads  for the arrow and hanger. The largest heart I made uses metal size 8° seed beads on both sides and 3 mm Swarovski bicone beads on the front. This large heart has 2 mm holes, making them large enough for a thin cord or chain. Of course, you could use plastic pony beads or even larger bead to make beaded hearts as large as you want.

Seed Bead Size     Heart Size
                            Height x Width x Thickness

15°                       16 mm x 19 mm x 4 mm
11°                       22 mm x 25 mm x 6 mm
8° with 3mm         33 mm x 40 mm x 7 mm

1. Use moderately tight tension all the way through this project.  Don’t apply a death grip, but snug is good.   Figure 1 shows the chart for the heart up through loop 61.  This chart is explained in detail in steps 2 through 12. After you complete the 61 loops in Figures 1 and 12, you can skip to step 13.

2. Thread your needle. Loop 1: Pick up 4R.  Pass through the first two beads again in the same direction to make a loop. Slide the beads down the thread leaving a tail that is long enough to rethread and weave into the beadwork.
Loops 2-3: * Pick up
     • 5 beads: G, 4 R.
Pass through the first R you just picked up. Repeat from *.
Loop 4: Pick up
     • 3 beads: G R G.
Close the loop by passing through the 2nd R bead in the first loop.  Then pass through 3 beads: G RR to position yourself to start the next stitch.  You just stitched an irregular starting unit of SRAW.

3. Loops 5-6: * Pick up
     • G, 4 R.
Pass through the first R you just picked up. Repeat from *.
Loop 7: Pick up
     • G.
Pass through RG RG RR. You just stitched a regular unit of SRAW.

4. Repeat step 3, 6 more times.

5. End First Row of SRAW:
Loop 26: Pick up
     • G, 4 R.
Pass through the first R you just picked up. 
Loop 27: Pick up
     • G R G.
Pass though RG RR.

6. Start Second Row of SRAW:
Loop 28: Pick up
     • G, 4 R.
Pass through the first R you just picked up. 
Loop 29: Pick up
     • G R G.
Pass through RG RR GR.


7. New Repeat:
Loop 30: Pick up
     • G, 4 R.
Pass through the first R you just picked up.
Loop 31: Pick up
     • G.
Pass through RG RG RR GR.

 8. Repeat step 7, 6 times.
9. End Second Row of SRAW:
Loop 44: Pick up
     • G R G.
Pass through RG RG RG RG R.

10. Start Third Row of SRAW:
Loop 45-46: *Pick up
     • G, 4 R.
Pass through the first R you just picked up.  Repeat from *.
Loop 47: Pick up
     • G.
Pass through RG RR GR.

11. Repeat step 7, 4 times, ending loop 55 as shown in Figure 11.

12. Loop 56: Pick up
     • G, 4 R.
Pass through the first R you just picked up.
Loop 57: Pick up
     • G R G.
Pass through RG RR GR.
Loop 58: Pick up
     • G R G.
Pass through RG RG RRG RRG R.
Loop 59: Repeat Loop 60.
Loop 60: Repeat Loop 61.
Loop 61: Pick up
     • G R G.
Pass through RG RG RG RG

13. The Zip!
Now fold the beadwork in half to make a heart.  You will now zip up the seam between the two layers. Starting on right: Pick up
     • R.
Pass through R on left.  Pick up
     • R.
Pass through GR on right.
Pick up
     • G.
Pass through RG on left.

14. Continue zipping...
Starting on bottom layer: Pick up
     • R.
Pass through R on top.  Pick up
     • R.
Pass through GR on bottom. Pick up
     • G.
Pass through RG R GR on top. Pick up
     • G.
Pass through R G on bottom.  Pick up
     • R.
Pass through R on top. Pick up
     • R.
Pass through GR on bottom.

15. Continue zipping...
Starting on right layer: Pick up
     • G.
Pass through RG on left.  Pick up
     • R.
Pass through R on right. Pick up
     • R.
Pass through GR on left.

16. You just added the first 3 beads in the figure below.  Continue zipping:
*Pick up
     • G.
Pass through R G R on other size.  Repeat from * 3 more times. 
All the beads are now added.  Follow the green line below to balance the weave and make it symmetric.

17. Stitch around the top of the heart, using the thread path shown in figure 14,  but do not add any beads this time. The extra thread will balance the weave and help the beads sit straight.

18. Weave the last little bit by stitching the thread path shown in figure 13, but going in the opposite direction, and do not add any beads. 
Note. Start from the red bead near the arrow.

19. Tie off by weaving both ends of thread through the loops of beadwork. You don’t generally need to tie knots in SRAW if you secure your ends by weaving through 5 or 6 loops.  

Variations and Inspirations...
Now bead yourself some love letters.

Below are the charts to get you started, but I'm not going to tell you how to do the zips. You will have to figure out how to do that part yourself. Think of them as little puzzles. One of the things I have always enjoyed about bead weaving different designs is that they are each their own little puzzle, and when you solve it, you win that thing.   

If you would like to download a printable PDF of this tutorial, click here.
See more of Gwen Fisher's work on her website Bead Infinitum, and in her Etsy shop gwenbeads.
You can also follow Gwen's beadwork on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Love Molecule by Cindy Holsclaw

When Marcia first approached me about the Bead Love Blog project, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about: love chemistry! As a trained chemist and a geeky beader, I decided that I wanted to talk about beaded jewelry depicting oxytocin, AKA "the love molecule."

Oxytocin is involved in many biological processes. It's a peptide hormone that's made in the brain, and when it acts on the brain, some studies have shown that it's involved in bonding, intimacy, and stress reduction. However, like love itself, oxytocin's role in social behaviors is likely quite complicated, as it's just one of many brain chemicals involved in these complex emotions.

Oxytocin's physiological effects are more well-understood, especially when it comes to reproduction. It's released into the bloodstream during sex in both men in women. It's also released during breastfeeding, where it causes the milk "let down" reflex. During labor and childbirth, oxytocin causes uterine contractions which help to move the baby down the birth canal. Interestingly, while oxytocin is involved in so many processes, this is one of the few areas where it's used as a medicine; a synthetic version (called Pitocin) is given via IV during labor induction.

(While I'm on the subject, shortly after I committed to this love chemistry project it took on a dual, personal meaning for me, as I soon learned that I was pregnant with my first child. We're due next month and we couldn't be more excited!)

To make a beaded version of oxytocin, I decided to use a technique that I've used to make other beaded molecules in the past; it's a combination of the fringe and netting stitches, with a portion that's sort of a variation on CRAW. During this process, we work up and down the entire length of the molecule, adding beads to each atom as we work. For a molecule like oxytocin this can get quite complicated, but the important part is that we end up with a chemically-accurate 3D version of the molecule that looks and moves just like the real version.

I used a combination of color-coded bicone crystals and Japanese seed beads to depict the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur atoms in the molecule, while just Japanese seed beads depict the smaller hydrogen atoms. Japanese bugle beads depict the bonds that connect the atoms together.

My first version of beaded oxytocin uses IUPAC coloring, which is a standard colorway that chemists use to depict beaded molecules. We use black for the carbon atoms, red for oxygen atoms, blue for nitrogen atoms, yellow for sulfur atoms, and white for hydrogen atoms and the bonds in between the atoms. The type of molecule will determine how the colors look in the finished piece. Since oxytocin is a "peptide," many of its atoms are carbon atoms, but it also has several nitrogen and oxygen atoms that sit evenly along the length of the molecule. Therefore, its colors are evenly distributed throughout the piece, and its two sulfur atoms provide just a dash of yellow.

By following all these guidelines, we get a piece of beadwork measuring approximately 8 inches long which contains a couple of ring structures, several branches, and both sulfur atoms just near the center of the molecule.

I was pleased to see that the structure of oxytocin lends itself nicely to a necklace form. So, for my second version, I centered the three long branches in the middle of the necklace, and I attached a drop crystal off of each one for a nice artistic accent. I wanted to choose colors that would represent the themes of love and birth without necessarily being exclusive to either theme (I'd like to wear this necklace long after I'm done being pregnant!), so I went with a palette of jewel tones and metals; purple for carbon and siam AB2X for oxygen to represent love, emerald for nitrogen to represent birth and growth, the elegant gold aurum 2X for sulfur, and sterling silver for hydrogen and the bonds.

Since beaded oxytocin isn't long enough for a complete necklace, I wove a finishing chain with simple beaded water molecules. Jump rings connect the water molecules to each other and to the oxytocin molecule.

I'm happy with how this piece turned out, and every time I wear it I'll think about what Bead Love means to me. In addition to my love of chemistry, geeky jewelry, and my growing family, I love how beading as an art form allows for such a diverse range of expression. From Marcia's versatile LOVE letters to Tracy's whimsical beaded dolls to Nancy's artistic beaded stones, we've had the pleasure of seeing a wide variety of bead love styles in the six months since this blog launched. I'm honored to contribute a love chemistry perspective to such fine company.

To see more of Cindy's work including patterns for other beaded molecules, please visit her website at