Saturday, July 16, 2011

How To Make Your Beaded Flowers Look Lifelike

It's a shame to see beaded flowers that are very well-made but still look stiff or too artificial. There are a few things an artist can do to help make their beaded flowers look more lifelike. As with everything else, it's in the details.

You don't necessarily have to use exactly the same shade of beads in every flower on a spray. Take a look at some roses from the same bush. They can be different shades. The flowers that are just blooming can be lighter; the ones that are dying can be a "dustier" shade; and the ones in their prime can be a more robust color. Also, sometimes a flower can pick up stripes, spots or colored edges as it ages. Take some time and explore this idea.

Of course, living flowers don't have any wire in them. Beaded flowers should show as little wire as possible. For dense flowers with a lot of layers, this means covering each layer of stemwires with a row or two of tape. This way, the inner rows of petal wires won't show through the finished wire.

Also consider using wire that's colormatched to the beads. There are many colors of wire available now, so matching should be easy. If you're using transparent beads, you can even create slightly different shades of flowers by using different wire colors. This color will show through the beads.

Here's a fun idea: Don't cut your top basic wires short. Leave them long. Add beads to them, fold them down the back of the petal, and twist the wire in with the other stemwires. Voila! No visible top stemwire at all. This is especially useful if you are making a pin or hair decoration. The wearer's hair or clothing will not get caught in a top wire that's been cut off, because there won't be any end there.

Lastly, be sure to keep your finished flower stems slim. You can do this by reducing the bottom wires to 2 instead of 3 when you're making petals that require a bottom loop during construction. It may not sound like a lot, but you'd be surprised how much wire you can delete if you use this technique with a dense flower. If you're just learning how to make beaded flowers, be sure you learn this technique.

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Happy beading!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Don't Be Afraid To Make Mistakes

I have had a number of students that I have taught to make beaded flowers. I've taught personally in several states, and my tutorial DVDs have been sold all over the world. Many students have also emailed me asking for guidance and advice on my patterns or on general techniques.

There have been many common threads among these students, of course, but there is one that stands out. Many of them were hesitant to try a new technique because they were afraid to make a mistake.

For example, one time I was beading with a group of friends. We had all found each other on the Internet. We were delighted to find that we lived fairly close together, and we decided to get together for a Beading Day.

Instead of cutting off the top basic wire, I was leaving it long and beading it, then twisting it into the regular stemwires of a petal. One of the beading ladies had never heard of this technique, and was fascinated. She was afraid to mess it up, though, and I could see her indecision. If she didn't do it correctly, she was afraid she'd have to undo her whole petal.

Another time, a student emailed me, nervous about a fairly complicated technique. I wrote back and took her through it step-by-step.

What I learned when writing my own patterns is that mistakes are part of the process. In the U.S. we're programmed to try to be perfect the first time we do something new. It's ingrained in us from an early age.

Once I was writing the Magnolia pattern, and found after I'd made a lot of petals that the pattern was wrong. It didn't look like a Magnolia at all. What did I do? After grinding my teeth a little, I cut all the petals apart. All that wire and all that time was "wasted." I hated to do it, but if I hadn't done it, the flowers would have been wrong forever.

And you know what terrible thing happened?


Nobody yelled at me, I didn't get a big red F on a test paper, and no one criticized. I just re-strung the beads, rewrote the pattern, and came out with a much better result than I would have had. The time wasn't wasted after all. I learned to take more time and be sure my patterns were right before plunging into a big project.

So - be patient. If you're just learning, pretend you are your favorite teacher from school, who was patient and kind. Nothing bad happens if you have to undo a petal, or a lot of petals. It's just metal wire and glass beads, and like nature, they are patient teachers.

Enjoy the learning process and relax.

More posts soon!

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