I’ve been making it a priority to participate in the Art Bead Scene’s monthly challenges this year. I’ve appreciated the opportunities for growth this has afforded as I learn to express the ideas and colors of a painting into three-dimensional jewelry. The only stipulation to participating in the challenge is to use at least one art bead. These are beads, pendants, etc. which are created by hand in small batches by independent artists. I don’t have very many – when I do I prefer to use professional artist beads, but oftentimes I’ve found myself experimenting and making my own. It’s been exciting to learn new techniques and explore new mediums of art. With that introduction, July’s inspiration was lovely.
This beautiful still life was created by Balthasar van der Ast (isn’t that name incredible!) in 1640. The painting looks like it was a creative inventory of someone’s curiosity cabinet. This Dutch Golden Age artist specialized in still life paintings of fruit, flowers, shells, and lizards. I love the muted tones he sets the scene with – the yellows and browns of the shells pop off the grey/blue silky background. I also love still life paintings for their composition and mixing of various natural subjects together. Note in this painting how the artist skillfully weaves shells, berries, and moths together.
I originally planned to make a necklace featuring some tiny shells I bought in Denver with some purple clay beads I bought a while back from Humblebeads. I worked with that design for days before eventually scrapping it and deciding to try a new approach. I made some clay pendants using seashell charms to make molds. After pressing clay seashells out of the molds, I adhered them to larger clay pendants and baked according to the directions. Then I painted with layers of acrylics in brown, grey, and cream and after they dried, I lightly sanded them to give a weathered look. Here’s a sampling of some that I made.
With the sand-dollar, I experimented with writing in the clay and inscribed the word “Listen” on the top. I had an extra sand-dollar which I formed into the unusual shaped pendant on the left. I was thinking it kind of looked like a shell in a bottle.
Here’s the necklace I made with the sea star pendant.
I attached it to a piece of weathered wood I picked up on a hike in Denver and strung some little creamy brown beads on hemp to the pendant as well to bring in some of the warm tones of the painting. I hand-dyed a silk ribbon with blue-grey, aqua, and brown inks to hang the pendant.
For the earrings, I made textured clay charms and aged them with brown acrylic paints and lightly sanded them. Pearl disks, wire tendrils, and an aqua bead hang suspended from the charm, and they are finished off with the brown beads on hemp to tie them thematically to the necklace. Although there are no seashells, I like the way the textured clay suggests organic bits of sea life that you might find along the beach.
I was pleased with both pieces, but still a little disappointed that my original idea didn’t pan out. I was hoping to create something that looked like a drawer from a curiosity cabinet, rich with seashells and natural objects. When I was discussing my frustration with my muse (aka, Mom) she suggested I try a brooch. I gave that some thought and decided to do it. I finished it up this afternoon and it’s all I hoped it would be.
I formed the base from clay, making it look like a piece of driftwood – it’s marbled with different shades of brown and textured to look like wood grain. After it baked, I washed it with light grey-brown acrylic paints to soften. I dyed some cheesecloth with brown, grey, and rust colors to look like netting and I added in some strands of weathered burlap I found on a walk. I glued a variety of seashells and beads on top of the cheesecloth. I don’t often name my pieces, but I’m going to call this one “Flotsam” because it looks just like something you’d find washed up in a tide pool. I love it! Hope you enjoyed your tour of the beach with me as much as I enjoyed creating it!
Blessings to you,