A while back, my Facebook friend Steven of The Beadsmith, contacted me and asked if I would like to use two of The Beadsmith's new Elegant Elements clasps in my designs. Of COURSE I said yes, these clasps are astoundingly gorgeous - and ever more so in person, with a heft and feel that only a fine clasp can give you. They are 23kt gold and rhodium plated, with Swarovski crystals and pearls, YUM. The designers who were chosen were able to choose the two clasps they would like, and then have free reign over what to create with them.
The Swarovski motif on the antiqued gold clasp inspired the design for the focal bits, and then from there, it seemed that a plainer background would make the focal panels stand out more. I bezeled around the clasp itself, and around a large Swarovski jet nut rectangle on the reverse, using right angle weave with tiny little 2mm round crystals and 15s as embellishments. Then came the sorting of the panel sections and the framing. The panels are entirely beaded in 4-6 backstitch in 15s, and the frames are bronze 11s and 4mm crystals for the reverse focal, and 3mm crystals for the clasp focal.
The background is a combination of size 11s, size 15s and size 8s, all in metallic plum iris and bronze accenting throughout. I've only used two bead colors/finishes for the entire thing, but the direction of the rows of beading and the variation of the bead sizes can make the illusion of color differences. One of my goals in this project was to see how well I could imitate a fabric's feel/look using beads. In person, the background beading reminds you of corduroy, due to the changing bead sizes, while the flat panels of 15s seem more like velvet. In order to get such a different texture, the thread had to be different as well as the bead sizes - the focal panels were beaded with Fireline, which leaves a perfectly smooth, even finish, tight to the backing. The background was beaded using purple One G thread, so the beads have more movement and do not sit as tightly to the backing, despite identical stitches.
So, the corduroy-like bits are softer and more flexible in the end, while the focal panels are quite stiff and unyielding. I felt that this also helped to protect the focals themselves from coming loose or moving around while the purse is manipulated, moved, opened or closed. (Side note; I always always always use Fireline in my embroidering and HATED using the thread instead. But I did like the resulting 'fabric' so it was worth it. If you embroider only with thread yourself, I recommend trying out the Fireline yourself on something to see if you like it. It is extraordinarily useful for making straight or curved lines that will not move around on you while you bead!)
The sides are closed using a variation of right angle weave/netting, but are so densely beaded that nothing short of bobby pins will escape (and those might not). Weaving it closed results in a small gap between the two edges, so that more items will fit inside the purse - if I had beaded side panels, it would be too wide, and if I had sewn it shut with no beading, it would be too thin. The clasp design dictated all of it, especially width and depth, so that it would flow. At the tops of the sides, there are two loops, which are used to attach the strap. The loops fold into the inside of the purse invisibly, so that it may be used as a clutch rather than a shoulder bag if desired.
I struggled a lot over the strap, as I could NOT decide if it should have one, or exist just as a clutch. I finally resolved that having a removable strap would make me the happiest - so then the challenge was to come up with one that matched the overall design, and wouldn't be too noticeable - it needed to flow with the rest of it. The 32" strap is modified right angle weave/ladder stitch, made with Fireline, reinforced over and over, so that despite its delicate look, it's very strong and sturdy. It acts like chain links when moved about because I stitched it so tightly; I had considered edging along the length, to give the strap a more solid appearance, but I liked the drape of the 'chain' so well that I had to leave it alone. At the ends of the chain, it switches to peyote stitch for the last two and a half inches, to provide a stable setting for two sets of snaps per side; these are used to close the strap around the loops on either side, so that it can be used as a shoulder bag.
I really really really loved working with this clasp. I can't wait to start on the next project - but I have to, as I have two Christmas gifts that I have to make this week. :) If you'd like to drool a bit, head over HERE to check out all the gorgeous varieties of Elegant Elements clasps. Also, make sure to stop by The Beadsmith on Facebook and like their page and look through the new photo album that holds the glorious work of international bead artists designing with more of these fantastic clasps.
I'll leave you with some of my newer creations (as I haven't blogged in quite awhile!) and wishes for a wonderful holiday season, and a fruitful and fulfilling new year.
Garnet Garden (sold)
Slaying Dragons (design by Cynthia Newcomer Daniel) and Pink Filigree Necklace