Beautiful Handmade Statement Necklaces and other Fabulousness from Neena Shilvock - Inspirations and Designs From the Week Gone by
Hiya folks, thanks for coming by to have a look at the goings on at Caprilicious. This week, I've been stretching myself and moving waaaay out of my comfort zone. As a teenager, my mother taught me some embroidery skills and I decided then that this was definitely not something I would pursue. The needles seem to spring to life in my hands, attacking me and biting me deep enough to draw blood and stain the cloth I was working on and the threads turned into snakes that moved with a will of their own and got tangled and knotted. The air used to be blue around me and I invented a few really interesting swear words. And of course, I'd never beaded - beading work in India is done by the finest artisans and I would never have thought of ever attempting to compete with them.
It surprised me then, when for no particular reason my eyes were drawn to soutache jewellery and bead weaving. Perhaps it was the beauty of the stones I brought back from Jaipur or just the need to do something different. I'm not sure what the impetus was for this new direction I am taking, but here it is!!
I want to tell you a bit about Soutache jewellery. Soutache, also known as Russian braid is a tightly woven flat braid, used mainly on the uniforms of the soldiers in France and Eastern European countries from the 1800's. The braids were used to conceal seams, create embellishments and indicate rank on military uniforms.
A textile designer from Israel, Dori Csengri was playing around with pieces of the braid one day in the mid eighties, and in an Eureka! moment she designed a piece of soutache jewellery. How amazing is that! Since then the best proponents of soutache appear to come from Eastern Europe.
Soutache jewellery can be very colourful and that idea, as always, excites me as the possibilities are endless.
The technique is painstaking and slow. The braids have to be lined up so that the weaves are all lying in the same direction, tiny stitches to be inserted invisibly into the ridge between the two sides of the braid, tension maintained, beads added, and the whole piece backed with ultrasuede - and I, Ms. Needle Hater, was dismayed. However the call of the colours in this particular form of jewellery could not be ignored.
Of course being me, I couldn't possibly do anything simple and easy, could I? I decided that I had to learn basic bead weaving to embellish the cabochons as well. The stones can be attached to the backing with glue and surrounded with soutache braids, but the wire worker in me scorns the use of glue to hold a stone in place in perpetuity. I wanted to use tiny seed beads to weave a setting around the cabochon (there goes my eyesight!) and having made a few practice pieces, I decided to take a class to consolidate my knowledge of the technique and pick up a few extra pointers along the way.
The class was in London and I booked it well in advance and organised time off from the day job. I took the train to London nice and early, at the ungodly hour of 7am ( well, as far as I am concerned 7am is an ungodly hour), took a tube to Whitechapel and then found that I had arrived a day too early!.
Oh No! I went back home and did it all again the next day, there was nothing else for it. I even met the same Punxsutawney Phil's on the train, they were obviously commuters who go up to London on the train every day. It takes an hour and six minutes to get in to Euston, and of course, it is much cheaper to live in Warwickshire, even with the train fares. I sat in the sunshine and had a coffee at the same Turkish cafe - it really was a Groundhog Day moment. I made a couple of little pieces at the class. They provided us with ugly acrylic cabochons, cheap cotton thread with Bengali writing on the packaging that snapped as soon as I looked at it and plastic pearls and I couldn't bring myself to waste my energy on making anything that resembled jewellery with that lot - I know, I am such a snob! I can't understand why they would stint on supplies as the prices they charged were steep enough for them to have provided us with halfway decent stuff. Anyway, I learned the how to's and how not to's and was happy with that.
And then the fun part - SHOPPING! I sent off for braid and seed beads, needles and strong thread, researching the best supplies and designs as I went along and adding to another Pinterest board - I really don't know what I did before Pinterest. Presently I had enough supplies to make my first piece. To my pleasant surprise the Fireline thread I bought is very strong, fishing line covered by silk and it doesn't get tangled easily - it is just hell on legs to thread the needle with it as the beading needles are tiny.
The colours of the solar quartz in this necklace look so much like the waters of Copacabana Beach and the swirls of braid are joyous. I started out with a vague idea in mind, and ended up with this piece...
The blue quartz needles go so well with the pendant, would you agree??
Here are some pictures of another piece I started this week, my eyes and fingers needed a bit of a rest and I had to wait for the green beads to arrive. This time I kept a pictorial diary in Instagram - have you looked at the Caprilicious Instagram account??
It is called caprilicious_by_neena_shilvock, and I post updates as I go along if I remember to bring my mobile phone to my seat in front of the telly.
There's a way to go yet and I may not be finished by the time this blog comes out - I'm calling this one The Girl From Ipanema! I see a definite Art Deco face here and I also have an idea of how to string it. My next piece will be from a cabochon of Bumble Bee Jasper - I love the blacks and yellows in the stone that give it it's name.
That's me for this week, folks. I hope you've enjoyed the read. Do come back next week, see you on Friday, same time, same place.