Until around 10 years ago I worked as a town planner for a local Council and had worked for the State government for several years prior. All those meetings with Councillors, public servants, developers and the public would leave me pretty wound up at the end of the day and I felt the need to drink a few cleansing ales to calm down.
My partner at the time had just completed a week long beadmaking class with one of Australia’s best beadmakers. So one afternoon I jokingly said “Give me a go at that it looks like fun.” Little did I know how much fun it is.
My work is inspired by several things, the wonderful environment I live in, the amazing work of several glass masters I met in Venice a few years ago, unexpected chemical reactions between different coloured glass or between glass and silver or gold and challenges set for me by clients wanting specific colours or designs.
I live and work in Kin Kin, a small village in the Noosa hinterland. The area was a haven for magnificent rainforests prior to European settlement and the remnants can still be seen along the watercourses and gullies. The colours in the forests, the trees, barks, leaves and rocks provide a rich palette of colours. I also spend time canoeing the upper Noosa River around Harry’s Hut and love the colours and patterns in the reflections on the river. The freshwater parts of the Noosa River are heavily tannin stained and make for
wonderful reflections. The colours of the river and its reflections can be seen in my Noosa River series comprising necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
I also go fishing a lot (some people suggest that beadmaking supports my fishing habit!), in the Great Sandy Straits or in creeks flowing into the Straits. So I see lots of amazing sights, turtles (often) mangroves, the ripples and colour changes in the sandy bottom of the Straits, birdlife, dugongs (occasionally) and the forests on Fraser Island. These inspired my Seafoam necklace series.
Oh, I’m also a birdwatcher although not at the serious ‘twitching’
level! So the colours and shapes of birds influence my work, this is
obvious in the delightful ‘wren’ earrings I make. These are based on the shape of the little grass wrens that are found around here, all over Australia in fact. Think of the blue Superb Fairy Wrens, Red-backed Wrens etc. These lovely little birds are so tiny and delicate but often look as though they are too fat to fly.
influence my work, this is obvious in the delightful ‘wren’ earrings I make. These are based on the shape of the little grass wrens that are found around here, all over Australia in fact. Think of the blue Superb Fairy Wrens, Red-backed Wrens etc. These lovely little birds are so tiny and delicate but often look as though they are too fat to fly.
A visit to Venice and Murano (the ‘home’ of lampworking) a few years ago led to me learning how to make hollow beads using a steel blowpipe. I learnt this technique from a local beadmaker who was generous enough to allow me to watch and ask questions for 4 days! I didn't make any beads while there, but with a
lot of notes and a certain naivety I started blowing beads around 2009. The first couple of dozen attempts were dismal failures, cracking before finished, but in time I was able to work fast and evenly enough to save the beads. Mind you I burst so many at first, but realised these could be opened up to look like flowers so my mistakes became a new product! After several years, I’m now fairly confident with blown beads.
I have regular clients who buy beads and create their own jewellery so I’m constantly asked to make beads a little outside the ordinary (and my comfort zone). Hollow beads with raised flower patterns or polka dot hollow beads made with stained glass from the front door of my client’s family home for example.
I have a background in environmental science so I’m always looking at the reactions between different glass
colours. The colours are the result of elements incorporated into the glass, cobalt produces blue glass, copper iron and tin together make red glass etc. Most lampworkers discover the lovely reaction between ivory and turquoise glass, that leaves a dark almost black border to the turquoise. I’ve also learnt how to ‘fume’ glass using vapourised silver or gold.
While all the above is about the creative process, I’d also like to share with you how inspiring it is for me when somebody purchases my work. Making beautiful beads is not only my passion, it also is my main source of income!
For me, going to the market seems similar to going fishing or gambling – you put your ‘bait’ out there and wait for a ‘bite’! On any given day, I don’t know how much money I’ll make, if any! I’ll sit at my stall, listening to people telling me how “clever” I am or how “patient” I must be, or how “beautiful” my work is. That’s all lovely, but the real thrill for me is when somebody decides they like my work enough to want to buy it for themselves or someone special to them. This not only makes it all worthwhile, it allows me to continue doing what I love.
Another thing that inspires and thrills me is when I’m out somewhere and I see somebody wearing my work! Sometimes I’m tempted to go up to them and thank them for wearing it. I hope you have enjoyed this insight into my passion and life and remember that man isn’t staring at your chest, he’s just a beadmaker admiring your jewellery!