An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Etsy Beadweavers Challenge Piece now listed

Just a quick update on my last blog - several folks have asked to see the finished Esty Beadweavers Challenge piece - here it is - Byzantine Golden Thyme. Voting for the challenge starts on the Etsy Beadweavers Blog on the 9th December - if you have a moment do stop by and vote as it's a great opportunity to view some fabulous and creative beadweaving.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is the sparkle of crystals a health hazard: its beauty and its dangers

I am just putting the finishing touches to my entry for the Esty Beadweavers Monthly Beadweaving Challenge. The theme this month is Simon and Garfunkel. My entry - Thyme is golden’ (see photo) inspired by Scarborough Fair - is in soft green and gold tones and it includes several crystals lovely sparkling sage tones – the last of those beads in my stash. I’ve been watching the play of light on the crystals and I started to wonder – what creates those wonderful sparkles and why is it that some crystals sparkle more than others. What is in a sparkle?

It may surprise you to know that much of the sparkle is produced by lead oxide. When lead oxide is added to molten glass if forms lead crystal. The addition of lead creates a high index of refraction or in the colloquial a high index of sparkle. It also makes the glass clearer, heavier and much less likely to crack when carved or etched. Regulations in Europe specify that to be named “lead crystal” the glass must contain 30% or more lead. Anything below that amount can just be advertised as “crystal.”

Lead oxide is toxic if when introduced into the bloodstream (for example by swallowing it). It can cause memory loss, nausea, depression, fatigue, joint pain, abdominal cramping and vomiting. Most manufacturers, including the famous Swarovksi glass bead makers, argue that simply wearing or touch crystal lead jewelry does not expose you to enough lead to be toxic because the lead is not easily released from the beads.

Lead can be leached from glass and into our bloodstream when it is exposed to highly acidic environments over an extended period of time (for instance, when a lead decanter is used to store alcohol or orange juice for some months). Clearly, we don’t drink from crystal beads but there are a couple of ways in which lead can be leached into our blood stream from products with lead in them. First, if components containing lead are sucked or swallowed, saliva and/or stomach acids could leach the lead out into the body. Second, if we in some way heat jewellery items with lead in them, toxic fumes can be released which we then inhale. As our skin contains acid I found some sites online recommending that to be safe after you have worked with crystals you wash your hands before touch or preparing any food and to totally avoid lead crystal in jewelry for young children (who may accidently ingest the beads).

Given that I am no authority on these issues and that it is difficult to find authoritative advice online I’d welcome your thoughts or knowledge on these issues. If you know of a good source of authoritative information I’d love to hear about it and share it. I think as in most things, exercising caution is probably a wise route.

Useful sites to consider the issues further:
  • RingsNThings jewelry supplies:
  • Californian Department of Toxic Substances Control:
  • Waren Wilson: A site that lists recalls of products that contain dangerous levels of lead including items of jewelry:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Special Blog Followers December offer

I promised myself that when December arrived I would think about Christmas and the upcoming festive season. So, here's a peak at my first Christmas bling bauble featuring a shimmering diachroic handmade bead and sparkling teal green pyramid bead - will be listing it shortly. More to come over the next week or so.

As a thank you to all my blog followers - new and not so new - I've also created my first Special Blog Followers discount coupon for my Etsy shop.

If you make a purchase from Dax Designs Bead Art and enter this coupon code you'll recieve a festive season thank you discount of 10% on all items througout December.

Enjoy and thanks for following my blog throughout the year.

Special Blog Followers Coupon Code: 1BLOGDECFOLLOW2010

I'll be adding a special coupon code for my destash shop (patterns, etc) later this week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Open Drawer: new venue for bead and other artists

I'm very excited to have some of my work on sale at a new venue in Melbourne for bead and other artists - The Open Drawer Learning Centre, 1158 Toorak Rd, Camberwell 3124 (Mel. Ref 60 C6) Ph: 9889 7227 Email: Web:
Oening hours Mon, Wed & Fri 9.30-5.30 Thu 9.30-7pm Sat & Sun 10-4 (Closed Tuesdays)

If you live nearby do pop by and support this great venture that aims to support local artists - maybe you'd like to do a review of the shop and share it on my blog???

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Peyote, gourd or running-bond stitch: what's in a name?

History is often tricky to piece together so it shouldn’t be surprising that the history of beadweaving is not straightforward. Nowhere is this clearer than in trying to piece together the history of an off-loom beadweaving stitch that is widely called Peyote stitch. It is a stitch using a needle and thread in which the beads are woven together to create a beadweave that reflects what is called a ‘running bond’ brick pattern (see image). There are different types of peyote stitch - even count flat peyote, odd count flat peyote, even count tubular peyote, odd count tubular peyote and flat round peyote which can be in one-drop, two-drop, three-drop or even a four-drop count.

Some trace the origins of the running bond off-loom beadweaving stitch history to Ancient Egypt (2 & 8) and others to the beadwork of the Plains Indians in the 19th century in the USA (3). The running bond stitch is also used in beadwork in different parts of Africa and it is not clear when its use began in Africa (2). Allen (2000) (8) argued that with the arrival of beads to any country come the arrival of beading techniques and that examples of off-loom techniques can be found in Egypt as early as 500 BC. So, the question who invented the running bond beadweaving stitch looks a tricky one to answer.

It seems that the that naming the off-loom running bond beadweaving technique ‘Peyote’ technique does originate in the USA with the 19th century Plains Indian beadwork and the establishment of the Native American (peyote) Church. The Native American (peyote) Church is based on a mix of Christian and Native American spiritual beliefs and rituals. It is estimated that there are between 250,000 to 400,00 members of the church in the USA today. Key to the spiritual rituals of members of the Native American Church is the use of a Mexican psychoactive cactus called Peyote (see the strange blue object in the picture (right) - that is a peyote plant!). Members of the church believe that Peyote is a gift from god. In the late 19th century Comanche chief Quanah Parker who had experienced the healing power of Peyote whilst in Mexico established the Native American (peyote) Church. The use of peyote for its visionary and curative properties has a long history including its use by priests and shamans of the Aztec culture.

Many of the objects used in the Peyote ceremonies of the Native American (peyote) Church (e.g., handles of fans, rattles and sticks) are decorated with the ‘running bond’ beadweaving stitch - hence, Peyote stitch (see photo of peyote fans in this post). Hence, also the debate over whether or not those of us who are not members of the Native American Church can and should use the term ‘peyote’ to describe beadwork that is not used on objects used in Peyote ceremonies in the Native American (peyote) Church.

However, when the Plains Indians first used running-bond stitch is less clear. The use of seed beads dates to their arrival in the USA in the mid-1880s (8). For instance, examples have been found from the mid -1800s of young Western Apache women’s puberty ceremony T-necklaces made from this stitch so the stitch was being used by Plains Indians to decorate ceremonial objects prior to the establishment of the North American (peyote) Church. Sometimes the running bond stitch is referred to as gourd stitch. This name for the stitch derives from its use in decorating gourd containers that are used ceremonially by the Plains Indians but are objects not specifically used in peyote ceremonies.

What else do you know about 'peyote' stitch? What is the running stitch called in other parts of the world? Why? What do you call it? Why? Perhaps the answers to those questions will be in the next post.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Creating productive time for beading: how do you find it?

I decided to catch up with email reading today – reading emails I hadn’t had time to read last week. Ironically, several of them were about how to find time to do what you like to do! Beading is not everything in my life but finding some more time for seems a challenge. Etsy’s emails for online shop owners are full of advice on how to create time to move through the things that make for a successful online shop, The Beading Gem’s Journal listed 10 tips on finding time to bead and a piece on simplifying your life so you can do what you want to do appeared in my ‘junk’ mail folder. An omen??? Mind you distilling all this time-saving advice took quite some time! Here’s what made most sense to me in my efforts to have a regular, productive and calm space to bead:
  • Do at least one beady thing today that gives you pleasure
  • Limit the time you spend on the computer and/or texting, etc. as it is a major way in which time can be lost in current times
  • ‘Edit’ and declutter your workspace so that it is not full of the unnecessary and the impossible - just spend 15 mins on it a day and celebrate what you achieve, knowing you'll do more tomorrow.
  • Choose to do one beady thing today that you have been putting off for a while
  • Create beading routines that allow you do to some beading you love every day
  • Single task your beadwork, rather than multi-task – it’s less stressful
  • Create a strategy for dealing with UFOs.
What works to make your beading time productive, enjoyable and as often as you’d like? I'd love to know. I'm off to try to put these handy tips into practice - 15 mins for declutter with the computer left off!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Colour my world, or should that be tint, shade, illuminate, saturate and add intensity to the hues of my world?

As some you of will know I have been working hard on completing my entry for the Victorian Bead Society’s (BSV) annual bead challenge. It was indeed a challenge but it is finished. Part of the challenge for me was finding a way to work with a colour palette that I don’t use very often – soft sage greens, aqua, deep blues and tans. That challenge, and writing a few words on discussion about the Colour Wheel at a recent local BSV meeting made me realise how little I knew about the origins of the Colour Wheel.

Little did I know it is but one of many systems for ordering colour in our world. Spirals, triangles and charts have each been used to organise and name the colours in our world (see Sarah Lowengard’s book for a great history of this). The creation of the Colour Wheel is generally attributed to Isaac Newton. In 1706 he developed his theory of colour. He observed the colours created when light passes through a prism and then created a way to represent their relationships to each other. He chose to represent their relationships in a circle in which each section of the circle represented a specific colour found in the prism and the way it was ordered ordered in the prism (their chromatic order). The Newtonian colour order was red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. There are several colour wheels but they generally organise colours into 5 types:
  • PRIMARY COLORS. Red, yellow and blue. These are the colours all otheer colours are derived from and they cannot be made by mixed other colours.
  • SECONDARY COLORS. Orange, green and violet :: These are the colours created by mixing two primary colours.
  • TERTIARY COLORS. Red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet and red-violet :: These colours are created by a mixture of primary and secondary colours.
  • COMPLEMENTARY COLORS. Colors located opposite each other on a color wheel.
  • ANALOGOUS COLORS. Colors located close together on a color wheel.
Using the Colour Wheel or other systems of organising colour draws on what is refered to as Colour Theory. Colour Theory provides rules and guidelines for creating different types of visual impact from how colour is combined, mixed and juxtaposed. If you’d like to learn more about colour theory there is a very easy to use free tutorial on the web: in You can use it to learn about the language of colour - learn the meaning of hue, saturation, intensity and more. With this knowledge you can play with the colour palette of your beadwork and experiment with colour combinations that are new to you.


Good resources on colour for beaders

  • Deeb, M. The Beader's Guide to Color, Watson-Guptill Publications, USA.
  • Classes by Margie Deeb – Colour Wheel Magic.
  • Wallace, S. The Beaders Colour Mixing Directory, Search Press, UK.
  • Deeb, M. The Beader's Color Palette: 20 Creative Projects and 220 Inspired Combinations for Beaded and Gemstone Jewelry, Watson-Guptill Publications, USA.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Facebook Fan and Blog Followers offer

TODAY ONLY - one free pattern of your choice from my destash shop if you are my 50th sale. Just made my 49th destash shop sale. To celebrate the 50th sale I'm offering a free pattern of your choice to the person who makes it 50 today. What a wonderful spring morning it is here where I live.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Organising a beadwork exhibition - finding an organising principle

I have had a frantic week preparing for the launch of my first beadwork exhibition. The launch was held last night (Sunday 27th Sept). Various dictionaries claim that an exhibition is an organised collection of items for public display. It was hard on Saturday night to imagine I’d ever reach the status of ‘organised’. Jewelry was strewn throughout the house, display boxes were in a state of undress and my printer decided to run out of ink just when I wanted to print the exhibition leaflet. A minor miracle and timely help from my partner and friends got me over the line.

Creating an ‘organised’ collection of beadwork was much harder than I imagined. It meant trying to find an ‘organising’ principle. Should I organise according to purpose (for instance, put all the earrings together, etc.), would organising by shape or colour create an enticing display or should it be organised by grouping items together that are from the same collection? I had advertised that I would have items from three of my collections (the Endangered collection, the Desires collection and the Earthstones collection) on display. What do you think I did - what organising principle do you see in the photos of two of my display frames for the exhibition?

Many exhibitions occur in large institutions such as museums, galleries and exhibition or trade fair venues. My exhibition is in a lovely small organic café called the Healing Web’s Vitality Café, in Geelong, Victoria, Australia (you can catch details on their Facebook page ). Geelong is the second largest city in Victoria and it is about to be larger by 200,000 or so people as it is hosting a major international bicycle event in the next week. My exhibition didn’t attract quite those numbers (the venue only takes about 25 people at any one time) but it was lovely to have friends attend and support its launch. Thanks to everyone who attended and supported my work in this way.

The Art to Enrich exhibition is on until the end of October – pop by and enjoy great food and coffee if you are in Geelong. You can also see the meditative artwork of my exhibition partner Lynda Crowther.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gold Fire bracelet featured

I'm busy preparing for my exhibition next week but was very excited to see one of my designs (Gold Fire bracelet) featured on brochure for a Festival of Glass in my local area (Drysdale, Victoria, Australia) in Feb next year - it's the gold bracelet on the left hand side.

If you live in the the area or might be visiting you might want to note the dates for your diary.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Art to Enrich - Glenda's first bead exhibition - any advice?

Hi all
Just to let those of you living locally know that I have my first beadwork exhibition coming up: ART TO ENRICH.

If you are nearby please do pop by - there will be a range of pieces for sale. It is being held at a fabulous new cafe that is supporting local artists, does terrific organic food and has a lovely atmosphere. I'll be exhibiting with a local Wax artist. All very exciting and yet daunting all at once.

For those of you who have done this all before I'd love to hear any handy hints or words of advice that you have.

Here's the details:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Fireline or not? What do you think?

Fireline is on my mind. I have just bought a large spool from a local shop that sells fishing tackle and now I can complete a spiral rope that has been waiting for this purchase. For those of you out there who are not beaders or beginning beaders, Fireline the brand name of a form of fishing line made from a synthetic fibre, called Dyneema that is tough, does not absorb water, is unaffected by ultra-violet light and stretch resistant.

Dyneema began to be produced in the 1990s and is considered to be the strongest fibre in the world - fifteen times stronger than steel fibre of the same weight. The fibre is a synthetic fibre made from polyethylene. It is used in making a wide range of products from aquaculture nets, medical and protective gloves, and bulletproof armour to containers for airfreight and ropes for underwater projects.

Whilst, Fireline’s qualities are clearly great for fishing line they are also great qualities for a beading ‘thread’. Many beaders like to use Fireline in their beadweaving to give it added strength and durability. For instance, the spool I bought today is a 6lb test spool so it won’t break very easily but will pass through my beads several times because it has quite a fine diameter.

Of course, in the way of these things I ran out of Fireline when I was half way through my current spiral rope project. So I am delighted to have my new spool of Fireline and its strength as a fibre will ensure my project is extremely durable. Mind you, I don’t think I could claim it was bulletproof!

The qualities of Dyneema has given it great eco-friendly credentials as it is being used in a wide range of products designed to reduce our eco footprint.

You can readily see Dyneema’s eco-friendly credentials in several of its products:

· HyFlex Dyneema medical and protective gloves can be laundered several times and still ensure cut protection. This reduces the overall number of ‘plastic’ gloves used and it reduces hard waste.

· When Dyneema ropes replace steel ropes in underwater projects they cut out the environmental issues associated with the need to lubricate steel wire when it is in water.

· Dyneema panels in airfreight containers are stronger and lighter than the traditional aluminium ones and therefore help reduce carbon emissions from helping reduce cargo weight and thus reduce fuel use.

However, it seems that fibres such as Dyneema do not biodegrade, they photodegrade and take between between 500 and 600 years to do so. That means beading with Fireline creates a beading item that can stand the test of time, but it also means there is a lot of fishing line in the world that will be here for a long time as well! It seems that Dyneema in the form of fishing line brings significant ecological costs.

So as a beader, to Fireline or not? What do you think?


Monday, August 30, 2010

Daffodils of hope - new free beading pattern

Last Friday (27th August 2010) I noticed that the daffodils planted at the front of our land are in full bloom. They are such a bright and hopeful sign that spring is on the way and it’s exciting to see more of them blooming this year than there were last year. Coincidentally, last Friday was also Daffodil Day in Australia. Daffodil Day is a major cancer awareness and fundraising day run by the Cancer Council of Australia. They describe it as a “day for all of us to give hope for a brighter, cancer-free future for ourselves, and for those we love”. As a person who has had relations and friends die from cancer it seemed timely to honor their memory and the spirit of Daffodil Day by designing a daffodil bead pattern.

I hope you like it. I’m off to bead it tonight. If you’d like to bead one the pattern is available free to all Fans and Followers. Just link here.

For more information:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Women's rights - free peyote pattern

I was working with a group of women in a community song writing workshop at the weekend and was reminded of how the message of women's rights is still very pertinent. Some of the women in the group are survivors of domestic violence. In honor of them and of the songwriting group I've chosen my next free pattern offer for Facebook Fans and Blog Followers - the women's rights symbol. Link here to my website to download the free pattern. Love to hear how you use it. Traditionally, for feminist there is a clinched fist in the middle but that was too much of a challenge to do in beadwork. Happy beading to all women.

Chocolate truffles, ‘in’ colours for beaders and southern skies

I’ve just downloaded a preview of the latest Margie Deeb Colour Report for Bead and
Jewelry Designers.
Margie ( writes prolifically on colour for beaders and I own her book The Beaders Guide to Colour (published by Watson-Guptill Publications.) Margie publishes regular seasonal colour reports for beaders that appraise them of the latest in colour trends for the upcoming season. I’ve have downloaded her latest report - the Fall/Winter 2010 report. It has some enticing colour combinations in it. I was drawn to those associated with the PANTONE® colour ‘Chocolate Truffle’. PANTONE® has created what is considered to be the definitive international reference for selecting, specifying, matching and controlling ink colours.

PANTONE® describe their 'Chocolate Truffle' as “Elegant.... evocative of delicious treats, is a rich brown with piquant plum undertones, that pairs tastefully with Purple Orchid." PANTONE® 19-1526. It sounds good enough to eat. Maggie suggests using Delica #1574 to emulate their rich brown.

I was just about to head off to my Delica stash to see if I had any when I realized that what might be ‘in’ for beaders in the northern hemisphere isn’t necessarily in for southern hemisphere beaders. We are just beginning to turn from winter to spring and instead of brown autumn leaves there yellow wattles bursting into flower and blue skies sneaking through the grey. So as delicious as chocolate truffles might look and sound should a southern beader be tempted by them?

Searching for advice online I’ve been rather overwhelmed by the wide range of fashion colour reports available to us beaders for inspiration. I’ve listed some key ones below but I haven’t yet found any that answers my question – what should a girl in the southern hemisphere do – be tempted by chocolate truffles or not? What do others think?

By the way those luscious choclate truffles in the picture above are from Chocolate Lushes Etsy shop - stop by for other temptations and/or inspirations.

Sources for colour inspiration and colour trends online
Pantone's website:

Fashion Trendsetter - has the following colour reports:
  • Pantone Fashion Colour Report for Fall 2010 - The CIFF Autumn/Winter 2010/2011 Fashion and Colour Trends
  • APLF Colour and Material Trends Fall/Winter 2010/2011
  • The Must-Have Colour Trends for Fall 2011
  • Inspiring Color Hues From Prada!
  • Lenzing Textile & Color Trends Autumn/Winter 2010/11
For Northern and Southern hemisphere trends -

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Synchrotrons, Ancient Egypt and a turquoise sort of day

The birds are singing, the sun is shining and I am looking out my window at the first bright blue sky in weeks here on the Bellarine Peninsula (Victoria, Australia) where I live. I think I can feel a walk on the beach (just a few minutes away) beaconing. It all feels very cheering after weeks of much needed rain, grey skies and cold winds. It could be called a ‘turquoise’ day. Apparently, as a gemstone turquoise makes the wearer feel happy and cheerful. Some say this is because it’s tones are produced through the combination of the light bright blue of sunny skies and the beautiful greens of the sea. Mind you ironically, turquoise should be protected from strong sunlight as it’s colour can fade in it. It is also a gemstone that promotes finiancial well-being. According to gemstone,org the ancient Persian scholar Al-Qazwini wrote: 'The hand that wears a turquoise and seals with it will never see poverty.' Maybe that is why some women in Ancient Egypt used to bake their own in the local bread oven! To explain:

Not content with managing the household it appears women in Ancient Egypt were also keeping the budget in the black with some home-based manufacturing. That is the conclusion an Australian team has drawn by using synchrotrons to analyse the synthetic turquoise that was popular during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten around 1300BC.

Amongst my gemstone stash are some lovely pieces of turquoise that I haven’t looked at in ages – so after this blog post I am off to choose one to use in my beading later today. I have been working hard on creating beaded beads for the last few weeks and feel an itch to do some beading with cabachons. I think that Mother Nature is calling me to honor the day by beading with turquoise today and I don’t feel quite up to baking any!

I hope you have a turquoise sort of day.


  • Cooper, Dan: Synchrotron probes Egyptian beads, May 2010,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Beading Needle Survey update - 25 in so far

Thanks to everyone who has filled out a survey so far - helpful comments and a clear winner emerging to date ... the suggestion about KRDesigns about a list of suppliers I'll take on board - where to buy the best needles at the best prices.... Let others who bead know about the survey - the more, the more likely we are to have a good guide to the best value, best quality needle.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Four broken beading needles: it's time for a beading needle quality survey

Last night I managed to break four beading needles whilst making a pair of peyote earrings. The needles are part of a batch of a pack of 25 needles that seem to just snap at will. I have decided never to buy that brand again! Once I believed that a beading needle is a beading needle. Now, I am learning that where needles are made (I have used needles made in the UK, USA, Japan, India, and China) is linked to how much use I get from them. I have also learnt that not all brands from a specific country are necessarily of the same quality. So, putting on my hat as a researcher I've decided it's time for a Beading Needle Quality Survey of the beading communities I am part of. If you are a beader I hope you'll join in during the month of August.

The survey takes a few minutes only to complete (unless you decide to write an essay on beading needles - which of course I'd love to read). It asks you to assess the quality of needle strength and durability, needle eyes for threading and fraying, needle sharpness and value for money.

Click here to take survey (Please note this will take you to Monkey Survey - an online survey site where I have placed the survey - it's free of charge!)

I'll post results of the survey on the blog in early September.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Escher, mandalas, recycling and the move to eco-friendly jewelry packaging

I have been researching the best way forward to create more stylish and eco-friendly packaging for my designs. It’s been a longish project with not a little frustration attached to it I’ve found very little in the way of custom-made eco-friendly packaging for jewelry that can be ordered in small quantities.

Today I think I’ve found a solution. Trying to work with the 3 R’s of recycle, reuse, reduce I’m considering moving to a form of packaging I will make myself from eco-felt - an envelope shaped pouch. Eco-felt is made from recycled plastic bottles (the first R) but looks just like wool felt, it will be designed to be re-used by people to keep jewelry and other small items in it (the second R) and it should be light but protective for posting items reducing it’s carbon foot print in the air and reducing the need to use the tissue paper I now use for packing and protecting (the third R). I already recycle bubble wrap as a protective layer and am looking to recycle envelopes more.

I’ve just ordered some sample eco-felt to work on my prototype packet and will post some pictures once I have had a go.

I’d welcome feedback and critique on the direction I am going from those more knowledgeable than I about such matters.

In the meantime, in celebration of a possible solution to my packaging saga I’m offering a free bookmark (or bracelet) pattern for Facebook fans and Blog Followers based on the recycling symbol - just let me know if you'd like it. If you’d like to learn about the history of the symbol you can read about it in detail here:

To entice you to do that here’s a tidbit from it: Looking back, he (the designer) feels that his designs were influenced not only by M. C. Escher's art and the Möbius strip, but also by the wool symbol, reminiscent of spinning fibers, and the concept of the mandala as a symbol of the universe in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Free HIV/AIDS Awareness Bead pattern

Several folks have emailed wanting a copy of the Free HIV/AIDS Awareness Bead pattern which is great.

To help people more readily access a copy I have set up a PDF download link on my website:

Please feel free to share this link with others in your beading community. I'll be adding other patterns over time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Talking with beadwork (Ubuhlalu): messages of hope, love, and solidarity

I’m delighted to have just been given two beaded dolls from South Africa. They are Zulu AIDS ‘Orphan Dolls’ about 4 inches tall with wonderful disk head dress (see photo). These dolls are most often handmade by Zulu beaders who are grandmothers and who are taking care of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. The women make the dolls as a source of income to help them care for a generation of children orphaned by AIDS. Often these children will not be related to the grandmothers.

The dolls also carry a message to the world. They are sent to remind us that there are millions of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic and to express a hope for the future free from the AIDS pandemic and its effects on everyone. A powerful message sent through beadwork.

The use of beads to send messages has a long history in many cultures. In traditional Zulu culture bead colour and the beadwork patterns carry meaning. Zulu beadwork (Ubuhlalu) is designed and created solely by women, but both men and women wear it in the form of bracelets, headbands, necklaces and clothing adornment.
Traditionally, each colour and pattern in a piece of beadwork expressed a different meaning so that a Zulu woman could weave a “message” into her beadwork gifts to man using a combination of colour and pattern. Generally, her beadwork messages were about courtship, marriage, sexual intentions, hopes and relationships. For this reason, beadwork was not made for or given to blood relatives.

In contemporary times, beadwork in South Africa has also carried messages of protest and political solidarity. For instance when Nelson Mandela appeared for his trial he appeared in Tembu dress with a wide beadwork collar. The photo of his appearance was not published until the 1990s when ANC was unbanned.

Among the Zulu beadwork is women’s business. Zulu women learnt their beading techniques and symbolism from their mothers and/or older sisters and Zulu men and boys had to rely on the women in their family to translate the meanings of beadwork gifts that they received. Now, beadwork enables many women to become wage earners and their beadwork (for example, AIDS orphan dolls) is critical to the finances of their families and communities.

Whilst not all contemporary Zulu beading carries messages of love, sex and courtship the tradition of Zulu women using their beadwork to talk about issues important in their lives is clearly apparent in my AIDS orphan dolls. It is also apparent in two other pieces of contemporary Zulu beading I own - two beaded AIDS awareness red ribbons. These ribbons carry the message of solidarity of people living with HIV/AIDS.

What messages are in the beadwork you own?

If you'd like to bead your own HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon I have designed a free pattern as a Friday Followers and Facebook Fans offer in peyote and square stitch - just email me or let me know in a comment and I can email it to you.

• The History of Zulu Beadwork |
• Carey, M. 2001, Gender in African Beadwork, in Sciama, L. and Eicher, J. (Eds), Beads and Bead Makers: Gender, Material Culture and Meaing, BERG, Oxford. (pp. 83 – 91),

Friday, July 16, 2010

New competition - jewelry that has non-bead components

BeadStyle magazine has a new challenge for beaders - make a piece of jewelry with non-bead components or findings. Send a JPEG of your piece to by September 6, 2010. Finalists are published in the January issue and we can vote for our favorite. What would you make?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And again a Treasury

Summer Night Sunset - the Eye of the Lemur by Dax Designs Bead Art bracelet is featured. Wonderful company it's in.

Etsy Treasury time again

Dax is in two new Treasuries curated by Etsy shop owners. Here they are:
  • Hyperallergenic - featuring some of my DaxDestash surgical steel earstuds.
  • Cuffs, cuffs, cuffs, cuffs, cuffs - featuring Dax Bead Art Eye of the Snow Leopard cuff bracelet

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shop banners - what attracts you? What keeps you looking further?

I have just started a new thread in the Etsy shop critique forums titled the best and worst about this banner. A fun and constructive way to get some feedback about my shop banner and for others to do the same about theirs. Please join in if you have an Etsy shop and would like some friendly critique of your shop banner. It's also a great way to see other Etsy shops.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When history was made for a country, a beader and a black pearl that was not black

Thursday 24th June 2010 history was made. It was the day that Australia gained its first female Prime Minister - Julia Gillard. It was also the day I became the proud owner of a beautiful Cellini necklace strung with black pearls, carnelian and smoky quartz beads. Mind you my black pearls, like many black pearls are not really black at all. Mine are a wonderful soft grey-green with the deepest pearl lustre. Confusingly, black pearls come in many colours ranging from black, champagne grey, peacock green, eggplant, bronze, cream, pink and gold. They are called black pearls because the pearls are created by the black-lipped oyster found in French Polynesian waters (the 'Pinctada Margaritifera' oyster). So, it’s not surprising that my first meeting with a black pearl was in Tahiti. (More of that shortly!)

My wonderful necklace will remind me not only of a historic day for Australia but of the delightful colleagues who gave it to me at my farewell morning tea at the University at which I have worked for the past 15 years. Ironically, and unknown to my colleagues it also has historical significance in my life as a beader. I met my first black pearl in Tahiti some 15 years ago. That holiday is memorable not only for being a wonderful holiday with my partner and seeing my first beautiful black Tahitian pearls but because on that holiday I created my very first peyote stitched amulet bag. I used fairly poor quality seed beads and the peyote weaving is very uneven but my love of peyote stitch was born on that holiday under palm trees overlooking a wonderful coral reef lagoon. What a place to fall in love with peyote stitch? My wonderful new necklace of black pearls that are not black is already full of history. How fitting for a farewell gift.

Some links to follow if you’d like to know more about black pearls.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Celebrating bead weaving across time and styles

At the weekend I went with two beading buddies to a delightful exhibition of beadweaving and bead embroidery at an art Gallery in country Victoria. If you have a chance do pop by. My only niggle was the lack of consistent signage that told us the story of each piece - who made, when and how. My favourite piece was a vintage bead embroidery bracelet made from the tiniest beads you have ever seen - probably size 24/0. I would have loved to know about it's maker and it's history.
Brilliant Beads at the Art Gallery of Ballarat (Victoria, Australia) is presented by the Ballarat Branch of the Embroiderers Guild of Victoria as part of its 50th Anniversary.
  • Dates: Thursday, 6 May 2010 - Sunday, 4 July 2010
  • Venue: Timkin Community Gallery
  • Admission: Free.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Etsy Treasuries galore

Thanks to fellow Etsyians who have featured my pieces in their treasuries over the past week. Here are the wonderful collections they have put together to showcase the work of folks on Etsy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dots, dyes and durability in Delica beads: getting organised to avoid disappointment

After yet another foray onto Miyuki’s website to check the durability of the finish of some Delicas I want to use in my latest project I’ve finally decided it’s time to get better oragnised on this front. I’m off buy some sticky coloured dots that I can use to mark the containers of the Delicas in my stash that have less durable finishes because after a couple of disasters with Delica finishes ‘wearing off’ I seem to spend as much time on Miyuki’s website checking out the durability of finishes as I do beading.

My first durability disaster hit with the first Delica project I ever did (see photo) back in the late 1990s. It was an amulet purse I designed inspired by a piece of gold threaded Thai silk I had seen on holiday in Thailand. The silk was worn by a Thai classical dancer wear during a delightful dance performance I had seen. I was so delighted with the finished piece that I wore it daily and within a week or two the bright tumeric coloured Delica beads began to loose their colour. So, I learnt the hard way to avoid dyed Delica beads.

Other hard lessons followed as I learnt through experience that several seed bead finishes are not durable. The lack of durability of several seed bead finishes is not a secret – for instance, Miyuki’s website allows you to check durability by bead number and many bead sellers keep a chart of bead finish durability. However, my disappointments with durability arose because not all sellers do this and not all bead labelling includes information about finishes. Unfortunately, this means that impulse bead buying when this information is lacking can bring diasters in their wake. I have quite a stash of beads bought this way that I now need to be very wary of using.

There are several ways to avoid the durability disappointments I've had.
  • Be particularly alert to beads that have a very vibrant or unusual color especially if they tones of purple and pink.
  • Learn the language of seed bead finishes so you can make a judgement before you buy.
  1. Ceylon (clear beads that have been lustred that have a shiny pearly finish ) – may sometimes fade in sunlight
  2. Dyed (often very bright colours) – friction and skin acids bring them back to white beads
  3. Galvinized (metallic finishes) – can rub off with friction from wear or other beads and with chemical reactions to skin oils and acids
  4. Inside colour or painted linings – can rub off the inside over time
  5. Plated (metallic finishes) – relatively permanent but can rub off with friction
  6. Silver lined (very sparkly) – these can go black overtime
  • Test beads before you work with them by either spraying window cleaner on them or sitting them on a dampened paper towel for a while – the colour on dyed beads is vulnerable to this test.
  • Create your own durability labelling system for your bead stash. My hope is to have a simple dot system for those that I already own that I can remember easily:
  1. Ceylon – yellow to remind me that they might fade in the sun
  2. Dyed – white to remind me they fade back to white
  3. Galvinized – green cos it starts with G too
  4. Painted linings – pink cos it starts with P too
  5. Plated – silver because silver is often plated
  6. Silver lined – black to remind me that they turn black
Mind you I may need to rethink my system after I visit my local newsagency. I suspect their line of colored dots is rather limited.

If you really want to use non-durable finishes – or like me – have a stash of them bought in ignorance you can apparently produce a more durable finish if coat them with clear acrylic spray paint before using them or dip the finished work into clear acrylic floor wax. I haven’t tried either of these methods but I’d be curious to know if anyone else has and what you think works best. What other tricks and tips do you have to avoid the disappointments non-durable seed bead finishes can bring?

Delica durability charts

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Creativity, gemstones and you

I have just listed a Red Tiger Iron gemstone cabochon in my Etsy Destash shop (see photo and link to for more information). In reading about this gemstone I met its folklore as a stone that could aid creativity. Ah, I thought, a perfect stone for beaders. Whoever works with this cabochon could produce a wonderfully creative design. Mind you it is not the only gemstone believed to enhance our creativity. For instance:

  • Amber builds creative confidence
  • Carnelian gives us creative energy
  • Citrine generates positive new thoughts and ideas
  • Dioptase energises creative insights
  • Garnet sparks us to act on our creativity
  • Iolite unlocks our creativity
  • Jade stimulates spontaneity in our creativity
  • Rhodochroisite encourages playful creativity

Beliefs about the magical properties of gemstones have a long and varied history. Over time in different cultures gemstones have been attributed with many magical and healing properties. In researching this history for her novel A Rumour of Gems, author Ellen Steiber found that just about any gemstone was capable of anything. The magical and/or healing properties a particular gemstone is believed to have can shift from culture to culture and time to time. For instance, it was claimed in times past that if you put your hand in boiling water after a topaz had been thrown into it the water would not harm you. So, it is with that caution in mind you might turn to my creative gemstone list when you need a boost to your creativity. Mind you, I still believe that my Red Tiger Iron gemstone cabachon will stimulate who ever uses it to create a wonderful design. What stimulates you to be creative? Do gemstones have a place in that for you?


Friday, May 14, 2010

Etsy Treasuries featuring Dax Designs Bead Art - the latest news

Two treasuries this week with Dax Designs work featured. Thanks to the curators for including my work. 'Glorious Sunrise' featured Giraffes at Sunset cuff bracelet and 'Yes or No?' featured my latest hairstick - Abstract Artz. I love learning about the work of other Etsians through these treasuries.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The 6th Photo Game

Cindy Caraway of Artful Living on the Bluff has invited her readers to play along in the 6th Photo Game with her. The fun begins when you search through your earliest blog posts and find the sixth photo that you ever uploaded to share with your readers. The next task is to critique your own photo, and explain what you would do differently, then pass on the challenge to ten bloggers.

I was invited to join the game by Inspirational Beading to join the challenge. My 6th photo was my photo of a bracelet I am very fond of called Kimberly Lizard - here it is. It is much better than many of the photos i was taking at this time but I can see that it would have benefited by some tinkering to make it brighter and sharper. I've had a go to see what happens if I try to do. I have used my Image Preview program to sharpen and brighten the image and then increased the contrast slightly. The original photo needed to be more in focus but I think overall the tinkering has worked to produce a better photo - what do you think? What else would you do?

I’m passing on the 6th Photo Challenge to:
  1. Beaded extravagence -
  2. Beading fantasy -
  3. Bead bugs boutique -
  4. Beadwork by Amanda -
  5. Beadazzled of Oregon -
  6. Enchanted beads -
  7. Good Quill Hunting -
  8. Peter Sewell -
  9. Smadar's Treasure -
  10. Time2cre8 -

Etsy Artisans supporting each other - Aunt Jane and her feature of Dax Designs Bead Art

Since opening an online shop on Etsy I have had lots of support from other artisans with Etsy shops. Support behind the scenes has included helpful tips and advice on setting up my shop and managing life on Etsy. More public support in has included being featured by other artisans in their Etsy Treasuries. Etsy Treasuries are are themed handpicked selections of Etsy items for sale that are published online as part of Etsy's website. My work has also been featured on the blogs of other Etsians. It's very exciting when this happens as the interest and affirmation of other artisans is wonderful to have as part my day. Aunt Jane is the latest Etsian to do this. She has just featured my work on her blog -

If you have a chance do pop by her blog and have a read. You can also see her wonderful work on her Etsy website. She sells Original Fantasy Art on sculptures, paintings, jewelry, greeting cards and prints. I just love the shapes and colours on her greeting cards - one is featured here. Could be great inspiration for beading designs. Support artisans, supporting other Etsians by popping by her shop.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dax's Friday Followers earrings offer and FREE shipping

Friday Fans and Followers special offers are a way to say thanks to my blog Followers and Facebook Fans. This Friday I'm in a mood to create some earrings with a difference so I've decided Dax's Friday Facebook Fans and Followers special offer will be earrings - I am offering a two for one special on my Etsy shop earrings for this weekend (7th - 9th May). It's for Dax's Facebook fans and blog followers only. Just send me a message in the message to Seller with the code - EARFFandF in it once you have made your earring purchases and I'll refund the price of one pair of earrings.

Also to celebrate reaching 200 shop hearts on Etsy I've introduced FREE shipping on all items.

If you are in the mood for browsing pop by and see what's new in Dax's Etsy shop.

Butterflies, Rainbows and Bead Challenges

It's the monthly Etsy Beadweaver's Challenge time again. It's part of our team membership requirements that we participate in the challenges. This month I've created a bracelet - The Butterfly Rainbows - for the Etsy Beadweaver's "Colour Embedded in the World of Insects" Challenge! Please visit the EBW blog between May 9th and 15th, choose your favorite challenge piece and vote for it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Eye of the Tiger and Eye of the Zebra in favourites on Etsy treasuries

Just catching up with posting on two treasuries two of my recent cuffs in my 'Wild Side' series. I've offered patterns for each of them on my Etsy destash site ( as well as listed the beaded cuffs for sale in my Etsy shop. Working on finishing my next in the series - Eye of the Snow Leopard. Just waiting on the right grey Delica beads to arrive from my latest bead order. Hope you enjoy the Wild Side of my current work.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The changing traditions of the needle case – so much change and yet so little has changed

How important to you is a needle case and how do you keep it handy?

Apparently in times past (e.g. Ancient Egypt and 1st – 5th centuries in Northern Europe) a needle case was considered important enough to keep close at hand that it was buried with a person’s remains so that they had it with them in their afterlife. Depending on when and where you were buried your needle case might be made of bone, bronze, leather or tin although it’s basic shape was much the same – a long tube closed at one end with a removable stopper or cap at the other. In Ancient Egypt it is likely your needle case would be made from hollowed bird bones capped with cloth and a reed stopper. Interestingly, the North American Inuit also traditionally used hollowed bird bones for storing their needles. As the European tradition of burying needle cases with a person’s remains to keep them handy for the afterlife changed so did traditions of keeping needles handy during life. Needle cases in European societies were worn variously suspended on cords or ribbon from the neck, around the waist, on the wrist and from the shoulder and in different times and places they have been kept handy by being attached to belts, brooches and chatelaines. With changing fashions for keeping your needle case handy also came changing fashions in needle case decoration. I am not sure if the idea behind decorating the needle case was to make a fashion statement when you wore it or to make it easy to find when you needed it. Either way, you can see wonderful examples online of highly decorative antique and vintage needle cases made from intricately carved ivory, precious and semi-precious metals and elaborate embroidery and beading (I have provided links below to some delightful examples).

Amongst these changing fashions the basic shape of the needle case has changed little. It remains a long hollow tube with one end closed and a removable cap at the other. What my latest beaded needle case designs show (pictured above) that what also remains is the 16th century Venetian tradition of painting the tube and then decorating it with seed beads. I hope I have honoured the tradition and that these designs mean you will want to keep your needle case handy.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Midwives, Scissoroos and Sandpaper - tips for choosing and using beading thread cutters

At present I seem to have more blunt instruments for cutting thread than I do sharp ones. My current count of blunt instruments is two pairs of thread nippers, one pair of traditional embroidery scissors, one pair of nail scissors and one daisy wheel cutter. It’s clearly time to either get them sharpened or buy a new thread cutter. I’ve also decided its time to buy my first thread burner. Faced with decisions about what to buy I’ve been doing some research about the pros and cons of different thread cutters and reflecting on my own experiences with them.

As in all things, different thread cutters do different jobs. Here’s what I have found works for me.

General cutting of beading threads (So-No, Silamide, Nylon, etc)

  • Embroidery scissors
  • Thread nippers

Cutting Fireline and other fishing line threads

  • Craft scissors or special thread nippers as it blunts good scissors very quickly.

Getting into tight spots to cleanly cut thread

  • Embroidery scissors - the point needs to be very fine and sharp
  • Thread nippers - they seem to work well for me to do this job
  • Havel's Snip-Ez cutter. This is a new tool I am just about to try – our local Lyncraft shop stocks them.
  • Battery powered thread burner or zapper. This is another new tool for me but it apparently cuts the thread and melts the end into the bead so that it is like having a knot to secure the thread and it creates a very neat finish. I’ve been told it’s great to use on small stray bits of thread that poke through your beadwork.

Beading on planes

  • A daisy wheel thread cutter. It’s hard to make close cuts to the thread using a daisy wheel cutter so I tend to finish off the cuts once I am back on the ground. You can use your favourite close cut thread tool or a thread burner to do this.

Keeping the cutting tools happy for clean thread cuts

  • sharpen or replace cutters when they are blunt (see below on hints for sharpening yourself)
  • cut your thread on an angle so it’s easier to thread
  • use cheap scissors for Fireline (or similar) to avoid blunting your favourite more expensive cutters or keep a special pair of thread nippers
  • throw out your daisy wheel thread cutter once it goes blunt – the blade can’t be accessed to sharpen or replace it.

Sharpening your cutters

eHow has a great post on how to sharpen your cutters - Two of their tips are remarkably low tech, cheap and easy to follow - I am off to try them after this post.

  • cut through fine grit sandpaper several times until they sharpen
  • wipe the blades with Isopropyl alcohol and then cut through aluminium foil several times until they are sharp.

A little bit of scissor trivia

My favourite find in researching thread cutters to buy was the Australian made Scissoroo embroidery scissors that have a kangaroo rather than the more traditional stork on the handle (see image above). Apparently the stork on embroidery scissors was first found on a set of clamps used by midwives in Europe in the 1800s to clamp the umbilical cord after birth. The stork beaks formed the clam (see the photo which I found on a Medical Antiques site -

Many midwives did needlework in their spare time and kept their medical tools, including the stork clamp, close at hand in their sewing basket. For some reason the stork design and decorations from these clamps were then placed on embroidery scissors.

For some fantastic images of scissors in times past and a short history of the scissor visit the links below.


Dax's Designs in two new treasuries on Etsy over the weekend

Bead Geometry, Oval is a treasury featuring my Vintage Violets necklace.

Be Careful, It's Hot features my Hot Chilli Ziangle necklace.

Thanks to the curators for including these pieces in their treasuries.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dax Designs Bead Art Friday fan and follower free offer

To thank all my Dax Beadart Facebook fans and bead blog followers I am offering them a fun free beading crossword today - if you would like a copy just post a comment in this post with your email address or do the same on my fan facebook page in the crossword post and I'll email the crossword to you in a PDF document. I have had fun creating it and hope you might have fun doing it.

Love to hear who is the first person to complete. Just let me know when you'd like the solution emailed.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Learning what not to do as beadweaver: the lessons never stop

Today I added two new ‘nevers’ to my beadweaver’s ‘top tips’:
  • Never reuse transparent beads if you have previously woven them on black thread.
  • Never combine new and reused beads in a project when you are beading at night.

These two ‘don’ts’ emerged from my beading my latest cuff design - ‘Giraffes at Sunset’. I love the design but I am just about to unpick about 5 cms of it because there is a noticeable colour difference between the new and ‘recycled’ transparent bright orange Delica beads (DB 744) I’m using in it. The recycled DB744s are much darker than the new DB 744s. I didn’t notice the difference when I was using them on Saturday night but in Sunday’s bright daylight it shouted at me. I can’t be certain what caused the older beads to darken but I have my suspicions. I had originally woven the recycled DB744s on black Silamide thread and I suspect that a deposit from the black thread left inside the beads has darkened them. Washing the beads may remove it but I’ll need to undo Saturday night’s weaving to test that out. Has anyone else had this experience?

I have been gathering my ‘what not to do’ beading lessons into a booklet of tips for successful beadweaving. In honor of my latest ‘what not to do’ lesson I’ve put my booklet in my Etsy Destash shop so others can learn from my mistakes. It contains 45 tips grown from my own experiences of what not to do. I hope they’ll make for happier and easy beading for all.

Dax Designs - now on Artisan Co-op