Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Morgan le Fay - A study of the complex character

This is a necklace I made recently for a challenge "Ladies of Camelot" held by the Australian Beading Forum. I chose to do Morgan le Fay because she was one of the most complex and fascinating characters in the Arthurian romances. I did a Google search and found some interesting articles, including a thesis written by Dax D Carver. It was suggested that the character originated from the Goddess Modron in Welsh mythology. Throughout the Middle Ages, her character was transformed from the Great Mother Goddess of the Celts to an enchantress to one of the most infamous characters in literature, as a result of demonizing of old pagan deities by medieval Christians. She was both a goddess and demon, fairy and human, heroin and villainess, healer and destroyer, feminine and masculine. She had been portrayed as a lustful malicious queen, an evil enchantress. However, behind her hatred, lust, jealousy and hideous appearance, I like to think that there was also love, nobility, admiration, and beauty. I wanted to make a piece that encompassed the different facets of her complex character, and showed both the beautiful and evil side, with a touch of Merlin's magic.
The necklace is a mixed media piece combining bronze clay, enamelling, wire wrapping and a little seedwork. I used bronze clay and moulds to make the gargoyles, assembled them into pendants, added patina, and set a Swarovski stone in the main pendant by wire wrapping. Made the two oval green cabs using silver foil and enamel on copper plates. I used mainly gold filled wire, which I then patinaed with liver of sulphur. One thing I have learnt is – it’s very difficult to add patina to gold filled wire. I had to use quite concentrated LOS and left them to soak for quite a while. As a result, my house stank!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Rose Garden

This is a piece I made a while ago, which came second in the metal clay category of the 2007 Sydney Bead & Gem Show competition. The inspiration of the central pendant came from a pair of antique cuff links I saw in a shop, the structure of which was quite interesting with a two tier base. The design of the cuff link, however, was rather Art Deco and totally different from my piece. The central and four side pendants as well as the bead cap of the tassel were made with silver clay. The central red stone is a faceted garnet set in bezel setting. The green stones are cubic zirconium. Each rose has a small clear cubic zirconium set in its centre. Each of the four side pendants is composed of a dome-shaped "cage" made with silver clay, encasing a black onyx cabochon. The tassel is made up of small garnet beads and Swarovski crystals. The whole piece is actually quite sparkly in real life because of all the cubic zirconium and crystals, but couldn't capture that in the photos. This piece was also a finalist in the 2008 Bead Dreams competition.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Madam Rose of Shanghai - enamel pendant

I have always had a fascination about Shanghai especially anything from the 1920s to '40s era. This pendant was made with a piece of copper which I cut out, then applied various enamel techniques including cloisonne and painting enamel. I have lost count of the numbers of firings I've done on the piece. I wanted to create a piece that's both reserved and sensual, vintage yet modern, with a strong Oriental feel. In my mind, Madam Rose was a beautiful, strong and independent woman from Shanghai in the 40s, but because of the restrictions and limitations imposed on women at that time and the economic difficulties in the immediate post war period, she had to resort to using her beauty to survive. The pendant measures just over 6cm long, and will be the centre piece of a more elaborate necklace, for which I have picked out some stones and beads as shown.

Madam Rose grew up in Nanjing, and was studying at the university there when the war broke out. Nanjing was bombed, and she escaped to another city and eventually reached Shanghai just after the war. She tried so hard to find a decent job but as she had no relations there, she was bullied to the point that she contemplated suicide, until one day, a well dressed middle age woman approached her and asked if she would like to work for her to entertain guests at her parties. That's when her life as Miss Rose and later Madam Rose began. She was transformed from a naive young lady to a calculating woman - her beauty was irresistible, and she knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. She danced with rich business men, high ranking officials and colonels, in exchange for monetary and business favours. She started her own clubhouse, and invested her money in government bonds. She wore the finest silk cheongsams, diamonds, pearls and French perfumes. She was the most desirable madam in the whole of Shanghai and yet, her life was empty. When she wasn't entertaining, she liked to sit in her garden among all her roses, thinking about what life could have been.......

Well, that's how the story goes in my mind.

Dance of the Fire Phoenix

I created this piece for the Create Your Style Creative Beading Awards 2008 in Australia, organised by Crystal Park and Creative Beading magazine, and sponsored by Swarovski company. At the time, I was organising a holiday to Thailand, and I saw pictures of Thai dancers with their unique postures and colourful costumes. I also came across pictures of some gorgeous Swarovski crystal pendants in fire opal colours. I wanted to create a piece that would incorporate all these images in my mind. I wanted the piece to be feminine, exotic and dazzling, like an Oriental princess, like a phoenix rising from fire in a blaze of glory. The piece was constructed with Swarovski crystals and gold filled wires using various wire wrapping techniques. This necklace was awarded first prize in the competition.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Memories of a Showgirl

The inspiration of this piece started about 2 and a half years ago when I purchased some 1920's vintage confetti buttons at a vintage textile and clothing fair (the round cream coloured ones in some of the pendants). Around the same time my mother-in-law found an old broken chandelier in her garage which they bought about 30 years ago, and she salvaged the crystals (the octagonal ones) and gave some to me. Ever since then I had wanted to make a piece which would reflect both the vintage feel of the buttons and the opulence of the crystals. Gradually collected other materials including some Czech glass buttons, rivolis, other Swarovski stones and beads, fresh water pearls etc. The whole piece was constructed with gold filled wires using various wire wrapping techniques. The colours are interesting because some of the crystals have coatings on the back, and they look quite different on different coloured background.
The colours of the confetti buttons and the octagonal crystals actually reminded me very much of a famous showbiz person who had passed away many years ago. I wanted to make a piece that would capture her femininity and glitz and glamour of a bygone era. She was a superb entertainer and a sensual goddess who had posted semi nude for many photos. Her life was full of colours and controversies, and tragic at times. She was inspirational.

This piece was a finalist in the 2009 Bead Dreams competition.

How it all started.

I have been making jewelry for about 5 years. Like many people, my jewelry journey started by chance when I and my sister-in-law attended a craft show and saw a lady doing a free demonstration on how to make a simple strung necklace. We were fascinated and after the demonstration, rushed to the stall and bought some kits. I had played with beads before, when I was 6 or 7 years old, but as I grew older, I ventured into all kinds of arts and crafts and forgot about my beads. That demonstration rekindled my interest and started my journey into jewelry making.

In this blog, I would like to share with you my creations and the stories behind some of them. I thought it would be nice in this first post to show you a piece I made from way back, not long after I started. It's an antique style necklace made with silver clay and onyx. This piece came first in the metal clay category of the 2005 Bead & Gem Show competition in Sydney, Australia. I love working with different media and often combine them in my pieces. In the next post, I'll show you one of my more recent pieces. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I do posting them!