Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2011 featuring SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS
Grand Prize Gold Medal Winner
Category: Necklace - Sparkling Elegance
Meet the Designer-Artist
Where do you live?
I live in the beautiful Hunter Valley in NSW, Australia. It's a very pretty and yummy place to live, the Hunter Valley being one of the main wine making regions in Australia. But it's also a very beautiful place to live, surrounded by mountains and bush but still only 45 minutes to the beach. I'm very happy to be living here in the first home Russel, my husband of 6 years, and I bought together surrounded by all our family and friends. I also have a job I really enjoy; I am working in the local health food shop.
Describe your artistic style.
Well my artistic style is very eclectic; it tends to change with the seasons. I learn a new technique then go crazy with it, design and make several pieces using that new stitch and then I see a new technique I want to learn, study it and the process starts all over again. I feel like I have started to have enough techniques under my belt to be able to start mixing stitches and styles together more and come up with new my own new interesting designs.
What inspires you as a designer-artist?
In general I am drawn to very symmetrical designs and I love, LOVE vintage jewellery, especially jewellery from the art deco era. I would have to say one of the most influential designers for me is Miriam Haskell, I would really aspire to design and create jewellery half as beautiful as her designs are.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Anything and everything. The perfect cut and sparkle of Swarovski, the colour and luster of a beautiful pearl, natural stones that are never two alike, the shear variety of colours available in a small versatile Delica, there's such a wide variety of good quality beads out there today how could you ever choose just one thing. I think the key is quality. I try, if I can afford it, to only buy the best materials. Also the basics like threads and finishes are really important.
What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
What inspired this design?
Fire Ice was one of those pieces where I had the crystals first and was inspired by the colours. I wanted to design something that really showcased the crystals, so I decided to keep the design simple and really elegant. I felt it would have lost something if I mixed the two colours together so I decided to keep them separated. The AB crystals in the center tied the gold and the silver together and the drops just finished it all off. It wasn't the most intricate design I have ever done but I think its simplicity is timeless and it's something I could imagine a 1950s Hollywood star wearing.
Share Your Background
When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I started beading 6 years ago, not long after I got married. I started taking an interest in it while I was engaged but was too busy planning the wedding to really get into it. But once Russel and I were married I soon realized another reason why I was so lucky to have him, his mum and two sisters were mad keen beaders who quickly introduced me into the very sparkly, pretty, sometimes expensive but highly addictive world of jewellery-making.
Have you ever entered any Fire Mountain Gems and beads jewelry making contest?
No, this was my first entry in any competition organized by Fire Mountain Gems, but it surely won't be my last ... I might even be brave and enter Bead Dreams next year ...
Do you have an artistic background?
I don't have any formal artistic training, but I am dyslexic and I really feel that makes me see colours and designs differently to most, or that's what my family keeps telling me. Speaking of my family, both my parents are artistic in their own way, mum's into everything, quilting, decoupage, cross stitching, folk art but for the last 10 years she's been oil painting which I think she's quite good at. Dad can pull a computer apart and put it back together in no time, which I think is an art on its own. So since I was younger I was always trying different crafty things but none have ever stuck like beading has, I enjoy it so much. Taking all these small components and turning them into something beautiful to wear, something you designed and created, it's a great feeling.
How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
I love reading the American beading magazines, especially Bead and Button and Bead Work and have seen the ads for Fire Mountain in there. From there I just went online and checked you out and was amazed by the sheer number and variety you have. I've ordered several of your catalogues and so enjoy looking at page after page of pretties, getting all inspired wishing I was rich and could afford 10 of everything ...
Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
I have been a part of the bead society of Victoria here in Australia. They are the closest bead society to where I live and they're a whole fourteen hour drive away, so bead societies aren't really big in Australia yet, and there aren't many of them around. But the bead society of Victoria has been fun to be a part of, they bring out a members magazine called 'connect' and run beading challenges which have been fun and challenging to be a part of. What I am more regularly involved in is "girls night" where the girls from my family get together and we drink bubbly and bead on a Friday night. They're the best bead group I could be a part of.
What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
Beading has been a really welcomed and big part of my life for the past 6 years, it's giving me a creative outlet which I felt I really needed. Being dyslexic I struggled at school, thanks to my mum I was in the top classes and got really high grades but we worked so hard, she tutored me after school every day. But the creative side of my mind flourishes, designing and creating jewellery has never been hard work, and I so enjoy the fact that it comes so easily to me. Reading and following patterns, now that's another story ... lol. Show me once and I have it, but unless there's pictures in a pattern I am lost.
I think everyone needs a hobby, something to distract them from their daily routine, I think my life would be far more boring if I didn't bead. There's something special about having an idea, just a flash of something beautiful you spontaneously create in your mind, then nurturing it, feeding it and it grows into a beautiful design. The other side of the coin is seeing something beautiful in the world a flower or a sunset and trying to turn that memory into something you can wear and will remind you of that beautiful sunset you saw after the picnic with your family or the wild flowers growing everywhere while you were on holidays. Some people paint it, or take stunning photos I try to create a wearable memory. Then again sometimes you just find some special beads that speak to you; sometimes I find they scream at me. And you have the fun of trying to design a piece to make them the shining star. Ultimately I just love creating beautiful pieces of jewellery to wear, for myself and for family and friends. My only sibling, my brother Mitch, is getting married in a few weeks and I have been making Dani my future sister-in-law's bridal and brides maids jewellery and the joy I feel in creating something she can wear on the most special day of her life so far is indescribable. I feel so privileged to be a part of making her feel beautiful on her special day. And at the end of the day I think girls just want to feel beautiful and special and the perfect piece of jewellery can do that.
If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
At the moment my beading is just a hobby. I ran my own online business for a couple of years but it ended up costing me far more than it was making. I was designing and creating bridal jewellery and had quite a few orders, which I was over the moon about. But I found the cost of advertising in bridal magazines and going to bridal expos ... overwhelming! It was thousands of dollars just for a one page ad, it was a real eye opener. For example the "what's hot" pages in magazines, I naively thought they were real new interesting companies or innovations that the magazine had come across and were letting the public know about, in reality you only ever got a mention in a magazine if you paid for it, didn't matter if your product was interesting, innovative, new or not. It was all just money, money, money and that was robbing my joy of beading. That was my experience anyway. I was glad I gave it a go; I didn't want to look back with regret about 'what if' in years to come.
I would still love to get my designs in a little boutique shop somewhere they can be appreciated. It might be silly but it has been a little dream of mine for some time to get a celebrity to wear one of my designs to some sort of red carpet event. I see the beautiful women in gorgeous dresses with the hair and makeup all done and think how I could make something divine to drape around your neck ...
Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
To be honest I have never seen any beading related charity events organized in Australia that I could be a part of.
Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Start with the basics, like finishings. You don't want to make something you love to have it fall apart because you used the wrong knot or the metal of the clasp cut your thread. (By the way, my beading world changed the day I discovered FireLine® ... I use it for everything!!!!) Practice makes perfect. Don't be influenced by styles or fads, do what you love. What I think is fabulous with art is there's no right or wrong, you can mix any colour, texture, style you want together and as long as YOU love it that's all that matters.
View all of Lauren's designs in the Gallery of Designs.