Hello my beady friends! Welcome to a brand new year. I’ve got lots of fun plans that I’m hoping I’ll have time to pull together this year. Life just seems to keep getting busier, so we’ll see how much I can do.
First fun thing this year is a bead-along! If you remember a blog from a while back, I had started a Facebook group called “Learn How to Make French Beaded Flowers,” and invited my friend Fen Li from the Bead Flora Studio to join me in running it. I’ve been running bead-alongs in that group periodically. Thanks to some feedback from newsletter subscribers, I found a way to also run those bead-alongs here on my website for those who aren’t on Facebook. I will be teaching one of these bead-alongs in the group and here on my website in February! We will be making miniature tulips. I’m going to share the flower study I did on them down below, but first, let’s talk about this bead-along and go over again how that’s going to work here.
This bead-along is a little bit different. We aren’t just making the flower, but we will also be exploring bead finishes. So I’m putting together a little packet as a guide for that exploration. The goal here is to experiment with different bead finishes to see the effects they create, and to figure out which ones you as an individual artist enjoy working with or suit your personal style. I picked a small flower because I’m asking everyone to make several of these flowers during the month – all in different finishes so you can compare them and analyze the effects and such. You can just make the flower if you want, too, and ignore the bead finishes experiments. No pressure at all. Just something fun I thought I’d include this time.
Now how does this work on my website? The same rules apply here as they do in the group. The bead-along itself is free. You will have to enroll in the course here on my website, just like you have to be a member of the Facebook group to participate. Your enrollment in the class will expire at the end of February, meaning you will lose access to all of the course materials at the end of the bead-along. That’s the same way it works in my group. If you want access after February, you will have to re-enroll in the course – but at that point it will no longer be free. If you enroll, you will receive emails from me during the month announcing when new portions of the class are available, and they will contain some advertisements as well. I do advertise in the Facebook group during my classes, so that is the same as well – just a different method of delivery. If you want to participate, you have to download the files and watch the videos by the end of the month. Videos cannot be downloaded or saved. There are no exceptions made under any circumstances – that makes it even across the board for everyone. If you miss out, you miss out. If you start late, you don’t get extra time.
There are some differences, though. The Facebook group allows us to have a bead-along in a community setting. This creates a more social learning experience. This particular bead-along will have others sharing their flowers in the bead finishes they selected and sharing their opinions and observations about the finishes they picked. Unfortunately, I cannot recreate this group setting on my website. There is a Q&A section on my website, though, so you can still ask me questions while working through it. You just won’t get that same group interaction aspect. But, you will get the same course materials, so you can further explore more bead finishes on your own and record your own personal observations.
Enrollment is open now! After you enroll you will be able to download the materials list so you can prepare in time for the class to start. Find the class page here.
Miniature Tulip Study
I’ve posted a little bit about my design process in the past, and I’ve also posted a couple flower studies before. I decided it would be fun to post this flower study as well. These little miniature tulips were grown in my own garden several years ago. I picked one to dissect and study. This helps me recreate the flowers as accurately as possible. With a dissection I can measure, trace, and photograph each component of the flower. I can clearly visualize textures and coloring patterns. And I can see how all the pieces connect together. These are all important aspects of designing accurate flowers. The pictures in this study were taken a few years ago. If I were doing this now, I would have taken more photos at different levels of dissection, and photos of every leaf because they come in different sizes.
Before cutting the flower apart, I photograph the full flower. I measure the height and width. I make note of the shape of the flower and leaves from every angle. I also note any important spacing measurements.
From these next two images we get these dimensions:
Total height: 5 3/4 inches (from top of flower to ground level where I clipped it)
Flower head height: ~1 1/4 – 1 1/2 inches
Flower head width: ~1 1/4 – 1 1/2 inches
Stem length between flower and leaves: varies, see notes below
Stem length below the leaves: 1 1/4 inches
Now let’s look at these leaves. This particular tulip had three leaves – two large ones, and one smaller one higher up on the stem. Notice on the flower stem that the leaves are folded in half. When they are removed and flattened, you can see the full width and height. Photos 4 and 5 show the largest leaf. I did not take pictures of the smallest one, but the two larger ones were a similar size.
Leaf height: 3 1/2 inches
Leaf width: ~1 3/4 inches
I don’t have a picture of the smallest leaf to have exact measurements, but I can get close enough using what I already know. I can estimate the length from the picture of the full stem length that I posted above. Combine that with the general sizing ratio from the big leaf – which says the leaf is about twice as long as it is wide. So…
Small leaf: 2 inches long x 1 inch wide.
I can also estimate that the small leaf attaches to the stem about 1 1/2 inches below the flower.
I didn’t get a good picture of how the leaves attach to the stem on this particular tulip, so I’m including another image from a different tulip study that I think shows the layering and attachment pretty clearly (Photo 6). Tulip leaves wrap around the stem – all the way around so both sides touch on the opposite side of the stem.
Notice that there is also space between each leaf as you go down the stem. I can intuit from the images of this tulip and the previous tulip that this space is somewhere around an inch.
The leaves have a pointed top and pointed bottom. They also have some subtle veining and colors varying from green to light green at the base and edges.
Let’s take a closer look at the petals after I separated them from the flower (Photo 7). There were six petals on the flower. The petals do curve in the completed flower, so the flower head is a little shorter than the actual petal.
Petal Length: ~1 1/2 inch
Petal Width: ~ 1 inch
I didn’t take an image of make notes of the petal width, but I can estimate that it is roughly 1 inch wide. The petals have a pointed top and pointed bottom, with a nice plump rounded center.
Take note of the coloring. The petals are mainly a bright fuchsia, but they have a little bit of white near the base of the petal. There’s even a tiny bit of a pale yellow in that white marking as well. The white portion extends less than 1/2 inch into the petal, and rounds downward near the edges of the petal. This same coloring is on both sides of the petals.
One fun little fact about Tulip petals that I learned in other types of research. Tulips only have three petals. But I said above that there were six. So what are the other three? Those are sepals. Sepals in most flowers are little green bits below the flowers. They cover the bud petals until they bloom. In some tulips, the sepals are a little smaller or larger than the petals. In this particular one, they were close enough to the same size that I didn’t bother taking images of the other one. When flowers have sepals that look like more petals, the Petals + Sepals together are called Tepals.
Pistil & Stamen
After removing the petals and leaves, I take a closer look at the center of the flower, which is comprised of the Pistil and Stamen. In the tulip, the pistil is the tiny white thing in the center, and the stamen are the six white and black things that surround it. Photo 1 above shows the top view of the flower, which will also be useful in studying the flower center.
Pistil: 1/4 – 3/8 inch
Stamen: 1/2 inch
Further breaking down the stamen…
Black/Purple/brown tips: 1/4 inch
White/cream stem: 1/4 inch
I like this image with some of the petals still attached (Photo 8). That gives me a very clear view of how the petals are shaped.
What are some other things we can observe while studying flowers? Take a look at the color of the stem. What do you see? This particular tulip has green right as the base of the flower, but it fades to brown. The Tulip in Photo 6 has a stem that is completely green. Is the green the same color as the leaves? In this case it is, but many times you’ll find that flower stems might be lighter or darker than the leaves. That’s one more detail you can include that will elevate your work.
One thing I’d like to encourage is to really take a good look at the texture of petals and leaves. Then consider which bead finishes can help you achieve that same texture. Are the leaves glossy? Maybe some lustered or rainbow finished beads would be good for that. Are the petals velvety? Would matte work? But also consider whether you care to mimic the texture. This is the part where art and science meet and overlap. You can study and measure and research, but in the end, the decisions you make are going to create the mood or aesthetic of the piece.
I’ve just gone over how I study flowers, but I feel it necessary to make some notes here. If I had picked two of these same tulips out of my garden to study, it’s very likely I would have gotten different measurements. Flowers don’t all grow to the same sizes, or with the same number of leaves. Leaves and petals aren’t always the same length or width. So while designing I take that into account. And sometimes I intentionally change them to make it easier to bead. I also have to decide which details are worth the effort, and which aren’t. My studies give me an idea of what direction to go. But if my leaves or petals turn out a little smaller or a little larger, that’s okay. That’s also why it’s okay if your flowers and leaves don’t turn out looking exactly like mine. They don’t always need to look exactly like mine in order to look like that particular flower. If you accidentally short yourself a couple rows on a leaf, or if it isn’t perfectly straight, don’t throw the leaf away. You haven’t failed. Just call it natural variation and move on.