Posted on

Dancing Queen

When I was approached to create a necklace for @redheaddancingmachine I was very excited.  The name of her Instagram account sounded extremely passionate and vibey!  A perfect candidate for a unique African Baroque adornment.  Barni had definite ideas which put me under slightly more pressure than usual.  There were textile colour combinations and design briefs that were fairly tight.  And yet I felt that I could interpret her personality well enough to still take some leeway.

This necklace incorporates far fewer beads than usual.  Instead I’ve used a lot of tightly clustered tandletons.

These tiny ones are really difficult to make and my fingers feel like bananas as I struggle to stuff the filling in and stitch them up.

After seeing a progress pic on my Instagram account, Barni mentioned that she’d like a bit more orange and that turned out to be a key moment.  I added dollops of orange using shweshwe and raw silk.  The necklace went from  eight to twenty eight tightly clustered tandletons.

I’ve played with it toned down in a casual combination and I know that it will also look incredible with the proverbial little black dress for a more formal occassion.

And now I’m really looking forward to it reaching it’s recipient  and getting some pics!  Redheaddancingmachine is going to electrify LA!!!!

Posted on

A Brooch for Ben

I’ve been working on another brooch and really enjoyed the change.  A couple of months ago, artist Karin Lijnes commissioned a needle-felted ring for the satirist and journalist Mark Verbaan better known to most as Ben Trovato.  Check out his blog here but fasten your seatbelt first!!

This was going to be difficult; Karin couldn’t tell me what the finger size was as it had to be a surprise and in addition, I’m not experienced enough with felting to gauge the amount of shrinkage that might take place.  A further concern was that an AK47 is a long rectangular shape and I was worried that, as a ring, it would lose it’s rigidity and start to flop around.

Someone suggested I make a brooch instead and this was the route I followed.

textile brooch wearable art

Karin was very happy with Ben’s brooch!  So happy in fact, that it was with reluctance that she gave it to it’s intended recipient.  The solution was obvious!  She commissioned a second one!

Karin is a gutsy artist (get an idea of what her work is about) who isn’t scared to tackle anyone or anything and knowing her well, I knew it could be big and bold and colourful so my first decision was to needle-felt the gun in a purple pink.  From then on it just got bigger and bigger.  I had some lovely hand made Tibetan felt in a weird lime spinach sort of colour that Karin liked, but not enough of it, so I made it from a very light yellow green roving and then dyed it to get a closer match.  The felt was a bit flimsy so I folded it over and stitched it onto some thick cerise Tibetan felt leaving one lovely wavy edge (i love to leave clues to the fact that this is not machine made, mass produced stuff).  A bit of blanket stitching closed off the three remaining edges.

After this I wanted to embellish it and after trying various beads and other odds and ends, my trademark textile buttons seemed to be the way to go.  I had some gorgeous Vlisco  in lime green, tangerine, black and cerise that seemed perfect for some mini tandletons.  I love the way they add a playful feel.  I also stitched the layers together with red crosses – They look like kisses but also resemble the mass crosses  marking the graves of unknown soldiers.  The red shrieks a bit on the green background, but I was fairly sure that Karin would be fine with that!

The final touch was to add a row of Ethiopian silver beads at the bottom.  They give visual support to the base of the brooch, but they also add a layer of meaning;  The Ethiopian beads are all handmade from recycled pots, pans and used bullet casings; remnants of war that have been transformed into objects of beauty.

Today I delivered the brooch to Karin who loves it!  And it looks absolutely fabulous on her!  She really has the personality to carry it off!!!!  As soon as I have a better pic I’ll post it!  But in the mean time this one will have to do.

Posted on

Coptic Cross Pendants

These fabulous pendants feature Coptic crosses, handmade in Ethiopia and a selection of handmade Ghanaian glass beads.  Their adjustable leather thongs allow them to be adjusted and worn stylishly long if desired.

The coptic crosses I use are made in Ethiopia where they are individually hand cast. They are normally made of a copper alloy and then silver plated.   A typical Ethiopian cross usually incorporates detailed and elaborate latticework which represents everlatsting life.   Each cross is unique depending on the artists design sensibility.  Although most crosses are made from metal, some are also made from wood.   The metal ones are cast using the lost wax process.

There is a very well made short video on the making of Coptic Crosses here and the most incredible documentary on Ethiopian Christianity here.  

It is the rich stories behind the beads, crosses and textiles that I use that I love, and this is what makes each African Baroque neck adornment so special.