Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Contest 2009
SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS Category
Grand Prize Gold Medal Winner
"I don't believe in fairies, but they sure do believe in me!
This is really exciting! I was just so happy when I made this piece ... simply SO happy. I really feel that my happiness reflects in this design. It was inspired by my mother--she believes in fairies and taught me about beauty. No matter what your life is like, you must find a way to make it beautiful!"
Midsummer Nights Dream
2009 Fire Mountain Gems and Beads SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS
Grand Prize Gold Medal Winner
Meet the Designer-ArtistWhere do you live?
I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. I now reside in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Describe your artistic style.
I call it, Foothills Fusion--an eclectic mixture of geography and culture with a healthy dash of BAAAD attitude.
What inspires you as a designer-artist?
I am inspired by ideas and concepts as well as the materials I work with--always have a sketchbook and a design pad with me as well as beads. There is very little that doesn't inspire me--even when I don't like something, I make myself explore it and often get incredible results. I am always transformed by opera and beautiful voices such as African-American spirituals.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
I love beads, fiber, leather and drawing.
What inspired Midsummer Nights Dream?
Midsummer Nights Dream came to me a year after I survived a horrendous car accident. For the first time, I truly realized my life was a gift. It celebrates the joy of simply being alive. I am so grateful to be able to share it with so many people.
I made a decision to make pieces inspired by people in my life--Rock Me Daddy (second in Gemstones Category of the 2009 Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Beading Contest) was made for my geologist father.
Midsummer Nights Dream was for my mother. It portrays her strong love of nature and her superstitious side. I meditated on the summer solstice and what it meant to everyone. The summer solstice is an important event in Europe, surrounded by mystery and superstition. Young women try to gather 15 different flowers, place them under their pillow and they would dream of their future husband. The piece is inspired by two musical works, "Midsummer Night's Dream" by Mendelssohn, and "Dragonfly Ballet" by Janacek.
How did it come together? For example, did you plan it out or did it define itself once you began working?
I could hear the music as I made the piece! The magic was in it all along, and I am not quite sure how it happened--I did plan it, but it came out on its own the more I worked on it. I was still in shock and the Fire Mountain sales people showed their understanding, as I kept having to call back and order extra things--you people really showed your stuff when I needed you!
I entered the 2008 contest and didn't understand why my piece didn't win. When I asked the Fire Mountain staff, they explained that my piece needed to show more emotion. I thought about that, and then I put my heart and soul into this piece. I think it shows…and I won!
The beautiful Swarovski crystals sent sparkles dancing all over the wall as I worked, and inspired my cat to "help" too!
Share Your BackgroundWho introduced you or inspired you to bead?
I played with sand-cast beads as a child. I adored them; I still remember counting out beads and stringing them time after time (there were only enough for one necklace). New things were being invented (pop-beads) and plastics were just coming into household use. When we arrived in Canada, I saw First Nations and Métis beadwork. I was awestruck. I loved the color, the detail, and it was so different from post-war Scotland. New things were being developed that no-one had conceived of. My high school teacher encouraged me in craft and artistry--I just can't thank you enough GJ! The synergy in a box of beads or buttons can keep me going for hours.
Do you have an artistic background?
I left home at 16 years--I supported myself by making jewelry. Yes, I have many years of Art College and University. I was lucky enough to start my education in an excellent school where self-expression and the arts were highly respected. I have had several companies and been fortunate enough to have had awards from other areas that interest me. My brother and daughter are both artists. We have a family of artists, scientists and musicians.
How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
I honestly forget. About 15 years ago it seems--my first orders were the wholesale style of the time--10 strands of each. The catalog was excellent, as you knew exactly what you were getting and what size--it saved me a lot of work. We take it for granted, but it used to be such a risk to try new products--most companies just had lists. Fire Mountain Gems' catalog was perfect for planning large orders. It saved the step of ordering samples, then creating products, then getting the catalog order. I could just look and plan.
What other hobbies do you enjoy?
My other study areas were Mathematics and Archaeology. I speak a bit of several languages and hope to learn more. I love the cryptic crossword, Sudoku and many games. In bridge, I am a Diamond Life Master and have represented my district several times in NABC (North American Bridge Championships) competition. Other hobbies include origami, drinking espresso, daydreaming…
Beading SuccessWhat role does jewelry-making play in your life?
I just love making things! Creating anything is just part of my life! I used to draw pictures of the parents, friends and animals I wanted. Art has helped me deal with serious chronic health problems and focus on something else. In that vein, jewelry-making has provided an income even when I spent half of my life in the hospital. Making jewelry provided me with independence, and nothing can beat that! Beads are easy to work with, even when you don't feel well.
If you use jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are your selling yourself and your jewelry?
I am now working on a handicraft that I invented in 1985--it takes me a while to get things going. I have had to have several operations on my hands and have been slowed down a lot. I hope to get my website up and running again. My activity is mainly teaching and entering contests.
Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I developed programs for teaching mathematics and ESL (English as a Second Language). I've worked with young people with established criminal records, the women's shelter, the Humane Society, homelessness and many other programs.
I was a Civil Rights activist in the Sixties and am still doing things in the community when I am able. When I was younger, I helped found Arusha Centre, The Calgary Eco-Centre and The Calgary Epilepsy Society. That was years ago. It is great to see so many people involved now. I see the world as "extended-family" and help out where I can.
Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
YOU, yes you, are right. When people say "you can't do that" or "it will never work," they mean THEY can't do it...but you can! You may have to keep trying to find an outlet that suits your work, but don't give up--it's out there.
When making jewelry to sell, you have to be their (your customer's) voice, and your own--you have to be both. I do that and I've never had a problem selling.
View all of Francesca's designs in the Gallery of Designs. Many pieces are winners and finalists in the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Jewelry-Making Contests.