Well, it’s been a while since I posted on here, despite my best efforts, so time to remedy that and time to show you why Battle On! is such an apt title for this post. I think my last blog was about two months ago when I was announcing plans for National Beading Week. I firmly intended to follow that up with more news and with a nice little post celebrating Spring and new life. Well, that bit is still to come, but I have been rather overtaken by a very bad spell with the CFS/ME. I don’t really know why or what happened: I could suggest all sorts of theories about trying to do too much or look at all the huge life changes that have taken place for me over the past year, but I actually don’t think these really cut it, so that leaves me with no explanation. Just the fact that I have been facing a series of energy peaks and troughs…well, I say peaks, but in truth there haven’t really been any peaks, just a lot of troughs punctuated with spells where I have managed to function ok. I’ve had a long weekend where I felt my energy levels returning to the point they were at 13 years ago – something I’ve been lucky enough not to have experienced for a good few years. Suffice to say, basic things like eating, drinking and having a shower or getting dressed, proved beyond my capabilities and I was so exhausted that I didn’t even care. The good news is that I’ve bounced back from that a lot quicker than I did originally (in days rather than years), but I’ve been bouncing back to spells of random physical symptoms that have been horribly unpleasant and even a little scary – anything from blinding headaches to unexplained dizziness, nausea, stomach and lower back pain and, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve experienced all of this before, been to the doctor, been told ‘it’s just the ME’ and been offered various explanations as to which part of my central nervous system is responsible for these various nasty symptoms, I could be forgiven for thinking that I had some really serious illness, rather than ‘just ME’. Anyway, here in the UK it has been the most beautiful sunny, warm week and I’ve been sleeping lots and feeling a bit better. I’m thankful for the fact that I have a job that has allowed me to be ill and for the people with whom I work for understanding all of this. Years of practise have now shown me how to work around the bad spells so I’ve managed to hit my work deadlines and teach some really fun workshops, so I have a lot for which to be thankful as I Battle On in my personal life.
Those of you who have followed my beading adventures for a while may have noticed that this is the time of year when I traditionally Battle On in another sense. Yes, you guessed it…Battle of the Beadsmith 2015 launched on 1st April. This year I freely confess I have no battle strategy, so my beading to date has been a bit of adventure and exploration and I can’t decide whether I like it or not. However, that actually doesn’t matter: for me, Battle of the Beadsmith is all about the experience. Having an excuse to just make something big and bold and maybe even a little outrageous is very precious. It’s an opportunity to try out new techniques, experiment with new beads and test some new ideas. This year it is also a huge boon to me to be able to fill my time with beading that isn’t attached to a magazine article, or tutorial or workshop. Don’t get me wrong – I love all those things, but I have managed to bead myself into a bit of a corner. One of the ways in which I get through the ME bad spells has been in beading. I find it more relaxing and easier than staring at a computer screen. It requires minimal physical energy and it satisfies an essential need in me to create. So in my better spells I’ve been doing quite a lot of beading and consequently I have quite a lot of tutorials to write up! You will have seen some of them appearing on here recently. Whilst I Battle On with my Beadsmith piece for 2015, I’m also managing to make my way through the tutorials that have been stacking up, in between magazine editing, so you can certainly expect a few more patterns to emerge on here over the next few weeks. Hopefully by the time my Battle piece is finished I will be ready to start creating again…I have Quadratiles, O beads, Inifinity beads and who knows what else all calling to me!
Which leads me rather nicely into the final battle of this blog. I have recently published a series of patterns documenting my first experiments with Kheops beads. I have mostly been trying to work out how to arrange these new beads into interesting patterns and, in one of these experiments, I found myself raiding a special bead stash. I’m sure many of you will have heard of York beads. They traded in New York for ninety years, which I think is a pretty amazing record. I confess I was rather late to the party there as I only discovered them a couple of years ago. My friend Amy Kohn spoke very highly of Perry Bookstein and Kelly Stevenson who were running the shop. I also ended up getting to know Alfred Dorante who I think I am right to credit with a lot of innovation. Well, imagine my shock in hearing that such a long-standing, popular beading shop was closing its doors for good! I know that the beading market has been a tough place to trade recently – I like to hope this reflects the worldwide recession and not a decline in the love for beads (who couldn’t love beads?!), but it is still distressing every time you hear of another designer or shop leaving the industry. As it turns out, my first order from York Beads was probably also one of the last that they sent out before closing the business at the end of 2014. In addition to the beads I had ordered, they sent me some silver Charlottes and it was to these that I turned when I created my Kheops Art Deco necklace. As I bead I often think about where the beads I’m using came from or where they will be going to, so in my eyes this necklace will always be a tribute to York Beads. It is also a symbol of continuity: I combined these ‘old’ beads with my ‘new’ Kheops and I am pleased to be reporting that the people behind York Beads have also found ways to Battle On and continue in the beading industry. Perry Bookstein is now working for the Beadsmith, so I’m looking forward to continuing to get to know this lovely, knowledgeable man. Kelly Stevenson has set up his own online beading shop, Back2Bead, which he launched with one of the best ‘selfie’ videos I’ve had the pleasure to watch on Facebook. He is a man who both knows his beads and loves helping his customers, so do check him out. He is also a man on a mission to make it back to Bead and Button show in 2017, so I’m sure he will make that happen! Finally, Alfred Dorante has also set up his own beading business, Bon Beads, and I believe he has recently become a father, so this is wonderful news. It all goes to show that people will Battle On through any adversity and it’s great to be able to talk about these good news stories.
So, if you love beads and beading, have a little thought for the shops and designers that make it possible for you to follow your passion. The little (well, quite big, actually!) community that we share is a special place and I hope it will continue that way for a long time to come.