Hello there, lovely beady people! As some of you may recall, I taught a class in the Seed Beads and More Facebook group last month for String of Bananas and Aeonium, two new French Beaded succulent designs that I developed specifically for that event. I made the Aeonium in three different coloring patterns – ones that I thought would be simple enough for beginners, and using colors that I thought would be easier to substitute for more readily available brands.
Now that that class is over, these designs are now available as a PDF or a Video Class + PDF. I will be putting together more bead packs for these color combos soon. I wasn’t going to originally, but people messaged me for more so I will make some more available.
During the class, I had a goal to make a Black Aeonium – also called Zwartkop or Black Rose. I’ve seen lots of photos of this succulent, and they are so striking and unique. The coloring seems to vary from all black to mostly black with a splash of burgundy in the center… to what I’ve done, which has a wider array of coloring from green to pink to burgundy to dark purple. Most of my projects have a brighter and more, well, floral-y color palette. So working with something different was exciting for me. I’ve actually had my beads for this project picked out for over a year. And I’ve had the cool pot I used for almost as long, just waiting for the right project. Though I didn’t specifically pair it with the Black Aeonium until I had started working on it. It just felt like it needed a creepy pot to match it’s mood, and I just so happened to have just the thing.
I chose a mix of metallic, galvanized, and iris beads. I really wanted that deep, almost-black purple, and the bead I knew could capture that were metallic. Though I did almost use a silver-lined black bead that Toho makes. I figured that it would just look better if they were all metallic. They had just the right gloss and sheen that I wanted, and also added that little extra something special that I wanted. And I was able to find metallics and galvanized options in all of the colors that I needed. I used some hex cut metallic beads around the edges, which are extra sparkly. Mostly just for fun. But if there’s no fun, what’s the point? What I ended up with is a succulent with both drama and a little bling. And I just love how it turned out!
This piece was harder to photograph than most. It’s dark colored, so it was difficult to get it to show up against a darker background. But lighter backgrounds ruined the mood of the piece, or the skull didn’t show as well. But, I think I’ve managed to do a decent job. I really like the reflections of the skull pot. I should take photos at 8-10 am more often. That lighting worked pretty well with the beads.
This design has some alterations from the original Aeonium design, in addition to a more complex shading pattern, and tree structure. So, instead of bundling it with my Aeonium and String of Bananas, I separated it out in it’s own little PDF. That PDF is now available in my shop! I did also put together a handful of bead packs for this design. I must say, it does feel pretty good to have my October publication done already. Now I can use the rest of the month to work on my book and other upcoming projects.
Now that I’m looking at it again, I’m wondering if I should get some red crystal drops and dangle them on chains from some leaves so it will (maybe) look like drops of blood. I just might do it. Haha. Or maybe I’ll save that idea for whatever I put in the other skull pot.
The first time I assembled this plant, I made it a little more leg-y and tall. At first I liked the look of it, because it is cool and unique and I could add more curves to the stems. But the more I looked at it, the more I thought that it would look better if there were more rosettes to fill it out, especially from certain angles. I didn’t really want to make more of them. Plus, it was too big for the cool skull pot I wanted to put it in. It just felt un-balanced. It might have felt better in a different pot, but I really wanted my little skull pot. And, since this is a project I wanted people to be able to make for themselves, I didn’t want to use too many of these beads since they are a little more expensive. So, I took it apart and re-assembled it a little shorter so I could use it with the pot I wanted, and I am much happier with the results.
I did purchase a second skull pot to test, but that one was too large for both the short and tall version. So, now I have another skull pot that will sit around waiting for just the right project. Haha! Who knows how long that one will be waiting. Now I’m thinking it needs some red flowers dripping blood-red crystals. Or something.
If you like the cool carved skull pot that I used for my tree, you can find that here. (<< This is an affiliate link. If you purchase after clicking on my link I do get a small portion of the sale, without any extra cost to you.)
I want to talk a little about this oft neglected detail of making beaded flowers. Shaping in French Beading refers to how the components are molded after you make them. Most of the time, our components turn out flat. Natural plants aren’t flat. Well, some are, but I just feel like beadwork looks a little extra stiff and flat without that shaping. So, even if a plant is somewhat flat, it might look better with a little shaping somewhere when you make it in beads.
Luckily, French Beaded plants are made from wire, so we can use our fingers to mold and pose and bend the leaves as needed to mimic the appearance of natural plants. The way you shape your flowers can affect the finished look. Sometimes when our flowers don’t turn out looking just like the designer’s, it isn’t due to personal technique or the beads used, but how it’s shaped afterwards. Take, for example, the succulents from my class.
For my Green and Turquoise Aeonium, I curled upwards. The leaves in the upper layers are tilted so they incline upwards, then curl at the ends. The leaves in the middle layer come straight outward first, then curl upwards at the ends. The leaves in the lowest layer first slope downward a little, before curling up at the ends. Sloping downward first, before curling up creates more volume so the plant looks more full and “fluffy.” I use this in many of my flowers.
The Red plant was based off a real variety of Aeonium called “Medusa” which has drooping leaves that curl downward, rather than upward. The upper layers first tilt upward at the base of the leaves, then curl downward at the ends. I did curl a couple of the ends upward, just to give more life and movement. For the leaves in the middle layer, I brought the leaves straight outward from the stem, then curled downward at the ends. For the last layer of leaves, I curled downward starting at the base of the leaves with the curl getting more dramatic toward the ends.
Notice how very different the plants look. Both used the same basic leaf shapes. But the way they are shaped afterwards gives them their own unique appearance. Here is how my Black Aeonium looks with drooping leaves. In my studies of this plant, I saw both types of shaping, as well as some that stick straight out without any curve in either direction. But I do personally prefer the upward curl, so I went with that for mine.
Here’s another example of how shaping can affect your flowers, and why it is often crucial to making them look realistic. This is my Laciniated Dahlia before shaping….
And this is what it looks like when properly shaped. So much fluffier and more dahlia-like. By the way, I included closeup photos of the beads and petals for this super crazy dahlia at the end of my Large Split-Tip Dahlia Pattern. I’ve love to make this one again someday.
The next time you make a plant, take careful consideration in your shaping! Really get in there and mold the pieces. And you can usually re-mold them later if you aren’t perfectly happy with what you’ve done.
French Beaded Immortelle
I recently added a new antique Immortelle to my personal collection. I’ve posted about these before, but for those who are new… Immortelles – also called Funeral Crowns or Mourning Wreaths – are large beaded wreaths or wall displays. Many have bead-wrapped framework with intricate detailing, and flowers in the center of the frame. These pieces are an important part of French Beading history. As the name implies, they were used during funerals and displayed on gravesites. Sometimes they were hung on the wagons bearing the deceased to the funeral or gravesite. They were popular in many countries in Europe sometime in the mid 1800’s to mid 1900’s.
The larger ones measure 3-4 feet. Those ones were intended for adults. Smaller ones were made for children. Here’s the new one, which is now the largest one in my collection.
There are so many different frame styles, and I really loved the frame on this one. And she’s in great shape for her age! She was made in France somewhere in the early 1900’s. It is 40 inches tall and x 29 inches wide! There are a few spots where wires broke, leading to missing beads. And the embroidery floss wrapping parts of the frame and flower stems are starting to fray in some places. But, it’s in great shape.
When it arrived at my home, the framework and flowers were a little bent out of shape. So I spent some time to gently re-form all the bits and pieces. That’s a delicate process with such old wires. I also cleaned it as it was a bit dusty. I was able to get most of the dust off with wet wipes. But, someone had dripped some blue gunk on some of the leaves and petals. Some had seeped down inside and between beads. I was worried at first that the beads might have been dyed by whatever the mystery substance was. I hadn’t seen that in the description, but perhaps my eyes glazed over that… With some effort I was able to remove all of it! I got out a thin beading needle and some thin tweezers. I had to carefully flex the rows to expose the bead holes. Then insert the needle to push the gunk out the other side. Then use either the needle or tweezers on the other side to pull out the globs. It took forever. Turns out, the gunk was paint! But I got every bit of it off of and out of the beads. And they were not dyed. So, yay! Felt wonderful to save it.
Some of the beads look gray. However, they are actually clear and white opal beads. The wire that was used has tarnished and turned black with age, which makes the beads look gray. Some of the tarnish on the wire may have discolored the beads as well. That I can’t do anything about. But, she’s still beautiful! Now to find a wall to hang her on.