Thursday, April 24, 2008

April BJP Page

The Crystal Cave
by Mary Stewart

This book is very dear to my heart for many reasons. When it was first published in 1970, I eagerly added it to my fledgling collection of King Arthur legend writings. As each subsequent book in the trilogy was published, I greedily snatched them up and reread them many times. Our oldest son discovered the joy of reading about King Arthur in the early 1980's and read these books so many times they fell apart! Now, I ask you -- can anyone not love a book that turns a young man onto reading in such a manner?

The Crystal Cave tells the story of Merlin as a young boy and his journey to discovering who he is and ends with the begetting of King Arthur. I have chosen to illustrate the moment when Merlin, at the age of seven, discovers the Crystal Cave. While trespassing in a large cave, the boy tries to avoid discovery by hiding in a small space in the rock wall as the cave's owner comes home.

I heard the quick hiss and chime of flint and iron, and then the flare of light, intense in the darkness, as the tinder caught hold. Then the steady, waxing glow as he lit the candle.

Or rather, it should have been the slow-growing beam of a candle flame that I saw, but instead there was a flash, a sparkle, a conflagration as if a whole pitch-soaked beacon was roaring up in flames. Light poured and flashed, crimson, golden, white, red, intolerable into my cave. I winced back from it, frightened now, heedless of pain and cut flesh as I shrank against the sharp walls. The whole globe where I lay seemed to be full of flame.

It was indeed a globe, a round chamber floored, roofed, lined with crystals. They were as fine as glass, and smooth as glass, but clearer than any glass I had ever seen, brilliant as diamonds. This, in fact, to my childish mind, was what they first seemed to be. I was in a globe lined with diamonds, a million burning diamonds, each face of each gem wincing with the light, shooting it to and fro, diamond to diamond and back again, with rainbows and rivers and bursting stars and a shape like a crimson dragon clawing up the wall, while below it a girl's face swam faintly with closed eyes, and the light drove right into my body as if it would break me open.

This page is heavily encrusted with beading, black jet, and polished stones and rocks from my personal rock collection. Vintage red, gold, and clear rivolis are surrounded by silver beads and various sizes of AB crystals and flat crystal rondelles -- April's birthstone is the diamond, after all.

March BJP Page

The Lady of Shalott
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

This stunning epic poem is fraught with imagery, any stanza of which could prompt a page in itself. Realizing my limitations timewise and designwise, I tried to focus on a pivotal point in the poem with this page.

The Lady of Shalott is bound by a curse -- she must never look directly upon the landscape of Camelot but instead view her surroundings through a mirror. She weaves a magic web

with colours gay,
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

You will never know how tempted I was to try to bead a magic web!

One day she was a little down and that is when the pivotal point of the poem occurs:

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro-the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot;
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot,
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

I sure hope my sister (who adores this poem) isn't disappointed in my interpretation of "the mirror crack'd" and Sir Lancelot's "helmet and helmet-feather burn'd like one burning flame together".

Believe it or not, the Hoffman floral fabric is entitled The Lady of Shalott and beautifully depicts the bloom of the water-lily. I have hoarded this fabric for over twenty years! Aquamarine is the birthstone for March and my attempt at a pseudo Celtic border features beads in this color.

If you wish to read this wonderful epic poem in it's entirety, go to

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

February BJP Page

My Quirky Queen of Hearts

We grew up in a generation of card players. My first work experience after graduating from high school was for a large bank in Cleveland, Ohio -- we played Hearts or Bridge at lunchtime and even brown-bagged our lunch to save time for card playing!

When I started sewing the piece of manufactured Battenburg lace to the background of this page, I realized I was heading for trouble. It was nearly impossible to get a needle through this stuff! Although I have several lovely antique pieces of Battenburg lace, I did not want to cut them up. So I had to rethink my original intent to bead the outlines of all that lace.

The end result was that I got really silly with the ornamentation of this page. Scrounged through all my sewing and beading supplies and even "borrowed" a few of my husband's antique keys. The large heart is an old Christmas ornament that I kept for my 17" fashion dolls. The amethyst hearts came from an old supply of craft items left over from our younger daughters.

The Queen's cuffs are peyote stitched tubes and her hands were done in peyote stitch as well. A large vintage amethyst rivoli forms her lower bodice.

All those amethyst hearts represent our six kids and our first grandchild. The large heart is for Jim, the love of my life. You can guess which key goes with which heart(s) . . .

January BJP Page

Supernova 1987A
A Tribute to the Challenger & Columbia
Shuttle Crews

I have no doubt that all of us can remember where we were or what we were doing on that fateful January day of the Challenger launch. And I did not work on this page until March during the anniversary of the Columbia shuttle disaster -- another such day when one remembers only too well where they were in their life.

Glittering stars and wisps of gas create a backdrop for the self-destruction of a massive star, Supernova 1987A, in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy. Astronomers in the southern hemisphere witnessed the brilliant explosion of this star on February 23, 1987.

The remnant of Supernova 1987A is surrounded by inner and outer rings of material set in a forest of ethereal, diffuse clouds of gas. The many bright blue stars nearby are massive stars, each more than six times heftier than our sun. They are members of the same generation of stars as the star that went supernova about 12 million years ago.

In a few years, the supernova's fast moving material will sweep the inner ring with full force, heating and exciting its gas, and will produce a new series of cosmic fireworks that will offer a striking view for more than a decade.

I must share my experience of beading on real suede -- it is nasty stuff to work with! But I have a large piece of yardage and thought it would be a perfect background for this astronomical depiction. Unlike Ultrasuede, real suede is tough to get a needle into, but I am a stubborn old girl and stuck with it to the finish.

Garnet is the birthstone for January and many, tiny garnet beads have been worked into those rings of gas. Crystal AB rivolis have been used for the bright blue stars and flat crystal rondelles and 4mm crystals were used for the smaller stars.

Monday, April 21, 2008

December BJP Page

The October Horse
by Colleen McCullough

a novel of Caesar and Cleopatra

I was coerced into taking into taking Latin by my high school principal. What began as a reluctant study ended up becoming a wonderful adventure. And I even managed to score straight A's in the subject for two years!

Thus began a lifelong interest in any book surrounding the times of Julius Caesar. My December page represents the parting of Caesar from Cleopatra and his sea journey back to Rome. McCullough masterfully puts us into Caesar's mindset at this point in time:

A voice whispers: where are you going, Gaius Julius Caesar? And why does it seem to matter so little? Is it that you have done all that you wanted to do, though not in the way and with the constitutional sanction you yearned for? No sense in ruing what has been done and cannot be undone. No, it cannot be undone, even for a million gold crowns studded with rubies or emeralds or ocean pearls the size of pebbles.

But without rivals, victory is hollow. Without rivals, how can Caesar shine?

The sting in winning is to be left the only one alive on the field.

December's birthstone is turquoise. The Tibetan coppery print fabric is mindful of a rolling sea. I vainly attempted to reproduce an outline of the Mediterranean Sea against this dark fabric and ended up beading far more than I intended. Caesar and Cleopatra's lives are intertwined around the Egyptian symbol for eternal love.

November BJP Page


Fall arrives late and suddenly in southern New Mexico. On any given late November day, the air turns colder, the leaves drop all at once and voila! It is autumn.

Autumn makes me think of my favorite poet, Robert Frost.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both,
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Topaz crystal beads radiate from a polyclay molded sun face during the shortened daytime hours of this page. Dark amethyst polished nuggets and beads were used in contrast with the yellow "turquoise" jasper stones.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

October BJP Page

Bless Me, Ultima
by Rudolfo Anaya

Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood. She took my hand, and the silent, magic powers she possessed made beauty from the raw, sun-baked llano, the green river valley, and the blue bowl which was the white sun's home. My bare feet felt the throbbing earth and my body trembled with excitement. Time stood still, and it shared with me all that had been, and all that was to come . . .

I chose this book for October's page for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is one of the most special books I have ever read. I wanted to do a page in tribute to New Mexico and my dear New Mexico-born husband, too.

Bless Me, Ultima is an important piece of literature. It was written in 1972 and the author is considered to be the father of Chicano literature in English. Anaya is a professor emeritus from the University of New Mexico. This book is required reading for every high school student in the state of New Mexico and is featured in university literature classes throughout the nation.

A large piece of Opalite has been substituted for this month's birthstone, the Opal. A painting by one of the most beloved New Mexico artists, Frank Howell, was used as a background for this page.

September BJP Page

Queen Elizabeth I

A loose interpretation of a sleeve detail from
The Phoenix Portrait by Nicolas Hilliard, c.1575
National Portrait Gallery, London

I was so taken with the costuming details in this portrait that I simply had to try my hand at duplicating the beaded motif used throughout. The few motifs I completed gave me pause for thought at just how much time it must have taken to bead the entire gown!

There was an interesting side note in the commentary about this painting and the Queen's gown: "This gown is of blue velvet. Blue was, by the Elizabethan period, considered a color worn mostly by servants, due to the cheap cost of indigo dye. Who knows? Perhaps the queen was trying to make one more symbolic point."

This beaded page was made with antique pearls and five different shades of gold beads. Since the sapphire is September's birthstone, I used deep blue velvet for the background. The silver netted fabric was gathered and sewn to replicate somewhat the lace trim on the gown.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Love Squared -- Pink Artist Charity Doll

I can't remember when participating in a project has given me more satisfaction than this brainchild of Monica Magness. "Love Squared" was a collaboration of 182 artists who placed their 2x2 inch squares in the capable and wildly imaginative hands of Monica. This 40" tall beauty is destined for a grand adventure and, hopefully, will garner a huge auction price. The proceeds from this pending auction will benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

Thank you, Monica, for bringing all of us together in this community effort and for your wonderful, arty ways!