Thursday, June 13, 2013

How I got Locked in Time!

Let me take you on a short journey to show you how I created my Battle of the Beadsmith Piece "Locked in Time".  I've really been drawn to the Steampunk style of clothing, costumes and accessories in the last year.  I've created my version of "Bead-Punk" using clock faces, keys, gears and other bits embellished with bead embroidery and bead weaving.  But the Battle of the Beadsmith is the place to take your ideas to a whole new level.  I wanted to create something substantial...almost an article of clothing or part of a costume.  I was looking for inspiration and saw some really great clothing and costumes and would take note of the parts I really liked.  I brought my ideas to my Daughter-in-Law Jenny Ray Maj.  She is an artist (she works in several media) and I can't draw to save my life.  She took my scattered ideas and came up with this INCREDIBLE sketch...
Sketch by Jennifer Ray Maj
The very first thing I did was burst into tears!!  I couldn't believe how perfectly she captured all the elements I really wanted!  The next step was to find the raw materials.  I went straight to ebay and bought a couple boxes of of old alarm clocks and one of old cuckoo and chime clockworks.
You might be able to see Harry the cat scanning the haul!  I covered my kitchen table with cardboard, put on a pair of gloves, got out a whole bunch of tools and spend an entire weekend completely dismantling this whole mess!  I was after as many gears and plates, bits and pieces as I could get.  As a person who works primarily with tiny glass beads and delicate beadweaving, I REALLY enjoyed getting all smashy and dirty for a couple days!
My giant cauldron of "Bead Soup" in a variety of bronzes and peacock blue, green and teals

The next thing on the agenda was to find a base for the piece.  I wanted leather for the most authentic Steampunk look, but I also wanted to stick with the idea of Up-cycling.  So I scouted out all the local thrift shops and finally found a long men's large leather trench coat.  PERFECT!!  I needed to have a dummy or mannequin in order to create the shape I needed, so I found a couple used candidates at a local fixture shop.

I cut out an initial base for my piece and tried to use some of the features of the coat like the seams and edges.  And I just noticed that my mannequin had enormous chesticles!!  My husband decided it was disturbing, and I just laughed and nicknamed her June (is busting out all over).  I left June sitting there with her leather costume so I could get used to the look and decide how to proceed.  Nope, too big...too much fabric, and kinda hung wrong.  I was able to cut it down a bit here and there. 

I began placing the gears and the centerpiece and get ready to begin beading. I was particularly excited by this cool "flower" brooch I created.  That way cool copper flower component was part of a cuckoo clock.  And I thought I would create some beaded flourishes to accent the gears.  But that was wonky and puckered the leather, and off it came. 
 So I added more gears and started surrounding and edging them with my beads.  When I got to this point, I sat back and just looked at it for a day or so.  Something still wasn't quite right.  The centerpiece didn't make me happy. 
 In a fit of pique, I cut the sides apart and restarted the centerpiece.  I would figure out how to join the front later on.  I completely cut out the back as well.  So now I had 4 separate parts that I had to figure out how to join at the shoulders as well.  Well, fiddle dee, dee.  Tomorrow is another day!
I decided that I wouldn't think too hard about how to join all the pieces and would treat them as I normally would with bead embroidery and back them with the suede from the leather coat and edge bead everything.  Once I had finished that and had these four individual beaded elements, I entered into what I call the dark period.  I experimented with no less than half a dozen ways to join the front and the shoulders...and I took them apart each time.  I just wasn't happy.  One of the last times I had put it all together and declared I was not happy, my husband nearly staged an intervention.  I couldn't keep trying to put it together and ripping it apart.  So I stared at it...said very naughty things to it, even considered starting over.  I had just ONE MORE IDEA to try.  If it didn't had to work.  I needed to be DONE!!  Oh, and why did it just occur to me that at least one side had to open in order to get it over your head??
It WORKED!! Woohoo!!  I created shoulders out of the leather.  On the right shoulder, I used a set of three buckles that can be opened to go over the head.  The left shoulder got the peacock feature treatment and the front was joined by a strip of the suede.  Chains and dangles were added and I was FINISHED!!  I took several series of pictures, but the outdoor ones really turned out nice.  How long did this take me...well, I completely lost count between gathering the materials and all the re-do's, but it was pretty much an entire two months working from an hour a day to 8 hours a day.  As you can see, it morphed and evolved from the original sketch, but in the end, I was very happy with the finished product.

Stop by the Battle of the Beadsmith facebook page for updates and links to voting! 


  1. I enjoyed the story, it was heroic. I love the result, a masterpiece. Congratulations!~ Ileana

  2. Thank you for sharing the journey to your battle, Chris. I hop you progress to later stages! June is a lovely model too!

  3. Chris, for me, I love the process of beading as much as seeing the finished work. Sort of like the old 'the journey is the thing' philosophy. Reading your process was a delight, I admire your 'maybe this will work better' outlook. Your BOTB'13 entry is super; I have put it on screen several times just to let my eyes wander over it and always find something new to admire. Best wishes, Jeanne