Sunday, May 10, 2009

Making French Bead Flowers Vibrant and Lifelike

One issue that is not often addressed is how French bead flowers can be made to look as lifelike as possible. Even with the finest construction techniques, the straightest basic rows and the most invisible lacing, bead flowers can look stiff and artificial and not like the exquisite natural objects they are imitating.

Here are a few ideas that will help your flowers to be their loveliest and most natural-looking. You can use these tips even if you are making a "fantasy" flower. A flower is a flower, after all, and even if the one you have created doesn't yet grow in nature, odds are that someday some botanist will develop it.

When making the petals and leaves, reduce the bottom basic wires to two instead of three. It may seem insignificant, but this one improvement will make a big difference in each flower. The flower stems should be as narrow as possible, so reducing these wires is important.

Tape the stemwires of each petal, sepal, leaf and center before constructing the finished flower. Tape tightly and use as little tape as possible. This will reduce "wobble" in your finished flower. Living flowers' parts don't move and neither should the parts of bead flowers. Be sure you have used enough wire for the stems of petals and leaves; leaving these wires too short can cause the flower to fall apart.

During construction, wrap the construction wire and tape as tightly as possible. If you are adding many layers of petals, stop after each layer and cover the construction wire wraps with green tape. I have found that, on large flowers that require many rows of flowers, construction wires for early rows tend to show through later rows. If green tape is all that is visible, the eye will ignore it; messy wire will pull the eye and ruin the flower's beauty. Push sepals right up under the base of the flower. Think of sepals as being a warm muffler in the winter: you plump that up right under your chin. A sepal that seems to spring right from the base of the flower will make the flower look rich and luxurious.

Now that you have the flower built, allow yourself to use some imagination. Take a look at living flowers. Compare several roses to each other, or several daisies. You will see variations among the individual blooms. Examine the way the stems may bend. Do the flower heads tip forward? Do some petals curve or curl more than others? Does a leaf twist rather than unfurl straight?

To copy nature's variations, you have a few tools at your disposal. The common pencil can help you make your roses breathtaking. Push the tip of your thumb into the bottom third of your rose petal, then curl the top backwards around a pencil. This will give the petal the shape that many varieties of rose possess. To make a twisted leaf, use two pliers (one at the top and one at the bottom) and twist in opposite directions. This effect can also be achieved by holding the leaf in a hemostat and using one plier to make the twist. For more shape, curl the top of the leaf backward a bit. For a different shape, "crease" the petal or leaf inward along its basic row and then roll the outer rows back to a more curved shape. You can combine these techniques to make infinite variations in the look of your flowers.

When the flowers are arranged in sprays, be sure to bend the tallest stem once to the left and once to the right. The top of the tallest stem should usually take another small bend so that it points straight up. Secondary stems can have one bend in them. This will give the spray motion and flow. Use one or two pliers to get this effect.

Most importantly, relax and enjoy the process. As you work with the flowers more and more, you will develop a "feel" for how they should look. With patience and practice, your flower-arranging skills will improve and give you great satisfaction with your arrangements.

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