The theme for week three of May’s Self-Representing Artists in Jewelry Design challenge was “Dionysus, god of wine, parties, madness, and ecstasy.” I had to put away the polymer clay I’ve been using to create my designs for these challenges because it’s too darned hot in the studio (a.k.a. my non-air conditioned kitchen) this time of year, and overly warm clay is extremely uncooperative.
That’s okay. As much fun as I have had exploring new techniques in polymer clay, I’ve recently become hooked on wire crochet. I need to take some time to explore this new technique and decide if I want to add it to my jewelry making repertoire. When I saw the god of wine was part of this month’s challenge, I instantly knew I wanted to wire crochet a vineyard-themed design.
Before I tell you about my drunken Dionysus design, let me tell you a little story about my self-guided adventures in wire crochet with beads. I began by ordering a pattern book from Amazon. The designs are relatively simply and I am sure anyone experienced in crochet with yarn (and reading crochet patterns) could tackle them with no difficulty. For me? There was difficulty.
I know how to crochet. Sort of. My mom taught me when I was a child, and I made some basic squares, a.k.a. pot holders. Also, I could slip stitch a chain out of an entire skein of yarn in no time. Decades later (none of your business how many) I decided to try amigurumi and make a crocheted sea creature mobile for a friend who was expecting a little girl. Before you get all impressed, spoiler alert: the mobile turned into a single bug-eyed lavender sea horse.
Before I could undertake my overly ambitious mobile project, I needed to remember how to hold a hook and read a pattern. Enter my patient friend, Jeannine, to the rescue. And when I say patient, you have no idea. I am not well known for my own patience and when I am not instantly good at something I want to do, I become a …pill, as my grandma would say.
Jeannine weathered my tempests, helped me recapture the muscle memory, and translated the pattern. For her efforts, she got this little teal, lime green, and lemon yellow sea horse of her very own. And then I put my hooks and yarn away.
Years later (the friend’s daughter is in school now) I decided to try crochet again. But with wire. And beads. I warned Jeannine. She bravely stood by to help. Luckily for her, I managed the basic pattern for my Bead Soup design on my own. But she remains on stand by, because that’s the kind of friend she is.
This bracelet was my practice piece before I attempted the Bead Soup necklace. I wanted to make sure I could work with wire, and beads, on a smaller project before I wasted a bunch of wire on the real deal. You can’t unravel crocheted wire and re-use it. Also, if you mess up on beaded wire crochet, you have to cut loose each and every individual bead. One. At. A. Time.
I absolutely positively cannot tell the wrong side from the right side in wire crochet. Nor does it seem I am very competent at keeping track of stitches. Luckily, wire crochet has a more forgiving “organic” look than fiber crochet, due to the nature of wire. Add some irregular or free-form chip beads and no one but you will know you dropped a stitch, added an extra row, put a SC where there should have been a HDC, etc.
Having gained some confidence that I could still hold a hook, I jumped into my Bead Soup necklace. If you have been wondering what Bead Soup is, you can catch up here. In short, someone sent me some beads and I had to create with them.
My bead soup had a fish pendant, and lots of turquoise blue beads. In the jewelry making equivalent of word association, I first thought of fish swimming near a reef, then of fishing nets, which made my muse say “Hey, let’s try some wire crochet!” Sure, why not?! I am happy to say it turned out pretty close to my vision.
With one successful beaded wire crochet necklace under my belt, I started day-dreaming about how to use the technique to represent the drunken debauchery for which Dionysus is known in some circles. An unkept vineyard overgrown with ripe fruit came to mind.
I used gold-colored artistic wire for the vines, Czech pressed glass leaves, and Swarovski crystals and glass pearls for the grapes. I crocheted with reckless abandon (although there was no actual wine involved), trying to string my beads in random order and not worry too much about the stitches.
In fact, in some cases I worked my SC through both wires, or just the front wire, or just the back wire. And in some rows, I skipped a stitch, or added one. Not on purpose, mind you. That’s just the way it worked out.
I am not instinctively good at random-looking designs, where there’s no repeating pattern. There actually is a deliberate process involved, that, when it’s done well, looks effortless and, well, random. In hindsight, maybe some wine would have been a good idea. Luckily, due to my lack of expertise in wire crochet, and the aforementioned stitch mishaps, it actually turned out just the way I envisioned. Wild, overgrown, random.
The theme for next week is “Chronos, god of time.” I hope to see you back here then to see how I translate that theme into a jewelry design. And I hope you’ll subscribe to this blog (by RSS feed, email subscription, or feed servers linked in the right column under my photo), follow me on Facebook, join me on Google+, and tune in to my Twitter feed to get updates on my newest jewelry designs, sales in my Etsy shop, and other design challenges and adventures from Paisley Lizard.