Wednesday, 13 January 2016

When the chips are down

New Discoveries...

When I find myself betwixt and between - finished a big project but the idea for a new one hasn't fully matured - rather than do something productive like attend to my website or practice CorelDraw or, heaven forbid, do housework, I like to make cuffs. They're just the right size, not too big of a project but big enough to get your teeth into and explore new ideas, discover something new.

Not that I need a new idea as an excuse. Usually, I make them just for fun, starting with my stash of gemstones and crystals and playing around with combinations until something speaks to me. Its become a bit of a habit so this time I thought, what could I do differently? 

I'd just bought some strands of gemstone chips. One, to create a fringe for a collar I'm planning and the other because it was Amazonite and I find it impossible to resist. 

With fringing on my mind I wondered that I hadn't seen many fringed cuffs. The ones that I'd seen had fringing built off the horizontal edges - either falling into your plate on the edge closest to your hand, or just a short one off the other end, otherwise where would the fringe go when your arm is hanging down by your side? How would a fringe look if it hung vertically down the cuff, parallel with the arm? Not too long so it doesn't get in the way, just a bit of a sashay to catch the eye as you move your hands in conversation (What, doesn't everyone speak with their hands?)

A fringe is good but what about the body of the cuff? I thought it might be nice if the whole cuff was encrusted with the gemstone chips and the fringe looked like it was spilling off the cuff. So I had my focal - one hundred or so of them. Time to pick the supporting cast: a few sew on crystals to add interest and these gorgeous opal white vitrail coloured O-beads. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the O-beads at this stage but I liked the way their colours tied the amazonite and the honey colours of the crystals together.

So far I was excited, placed the crystals and I was off sewing the chips down with a single little size 15 as a stop bead. That excitement lasted all of five minutes. This was way harder than it looked! Not only were the chips all different shapes (I already knew that!) but none of them had a flat base and the holes were not parallel to anything. I bet you can tell that just from looking at the photo right? Never occurred to me! I had marked out a rectangular cuff that was about 6cm (2.5 inches) wide. There was no way I was going to cover the whole thing with the chips and not go crazy. 

I didn't want to make it narrower as that would reduce the amount of fringe it could have and I thought that straight edges would work better with the angularity of the chips so no cut-outs...Bingo! I'd make the centre two-thirds of the cuff in the chips and blend those O-beads into the last third either side of the clasp, they'd be much easier to use....Yes and no. I'm a bit of a perfectionist (did I hear 'a bit?" muttered sotto voce), I hate any foundation showing and of course I zoom focus in on every square millimetre so I couldn't help trying to cram a bead into spaces where only half a bead would fit causing the surrounding O-beads and chips to move and overlap. The whole time I worked on this cuff I could feel myself grinding my teeth, my shoulders would creep up towards my ears whilst I death gripped my needle. Eventually I had to let go, calmly tell myself that I'd pre-coloured my foundation and no one but me could really see the gaps. It felt like aversion therapy!

Of course it felt like it took forever but at least the fringe was a breeze and I like the result. The way the fringe swings when you walk and the chips gently tinkle as your hand moves - it makes me want to go out to dinner and rest my elbows on the table and talk with my hands.

So, I made quite a few new discoveries during the creation of this piece...a fringe on a cuff can work. I don't like using gemstone chips unless its for fringing (which is a real shame because they're as cheap as...well, chips. $1.80 for the strand and I've still got some left over), I'm a bit OCD (already knew that). Also, because the cuff was quite wide I thought rather than make the edges that the clasp is attached to straight I'd splay them out a bit so the gap between the clasp would remain equidistant, thus making one horizontal edge wider than the other. What I didn't take into account was that this would limit wearing the cuff to only one wrist because if you flip it over to the other arm the narrowest part of the cuff ends up on the widest part of your wrist, or the fringe ends up on the inside of your arm, closest to your body. And finally, I discovered that the finished cuff does not look good laid out flat (explaining the lack of a photo here), which creates a display problem for me as I need some sort of elevated cuff form that allows the fringe to hang down. 
So I'll just have to keep it!