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TOHO Challenge 2019: my experience

TOHO Challenge 2019, starfish beaded box, Katie Dean

Rewind back to a dark evening in October 2018… I opened my inbox to find an unexpected email from the lovely Melinda Barta. Much to my surprise, she was writing to ask if I would like to take part in the TOHO Challenge 2019…

Well, that didn’t need much consideration. I’m always up for a challenge! And any excuse to come up with a new design.

What does the TOHO challenge involve?

Basically, Team TOHO send out a gift pack of beads. These are all TOHO and Czech brand and my invitation was to create a piece of beadwork to showcase my style.

But, here’s the fun bit. I had a carefully chosen colour palette with which to work and a theme to inspire me.

I was allowed to add more beads of the same type if I needed them. Plus, I could also choose a very restricted number of additional TOHO or Czech seed beads in the same colour scheme, if I wanted.

TOHO Challenge 2019, starfish beaded box, Katie Dean

The TOHO Challenge 2019 theme

So, what was the theme for the TOHO Challenge 2019…?

“Imagine the sand and surf at a California sunset…walk the beach, listen to the waves, and enjoy the fading light. Inspired by these southwestern colours, you are now ready to show the world why you love beading!”

My Ideas…

So, let’s break this theme down. Why do I love beading? Well, at the moment, reason number one is: because I can make beaded boxes!

So, there we go – I knew what I was going to make.

Now, how about that wonderful image of the sunset stroll on the beach? Well, let’s imagine I stumbled upon a Starfish briefly washed up onto the shore…

I had a vision of a Starfish with drawers for legs and a box with a lid in the centre…

Starfish beaded box pattern, TOHO challenge 2019, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

What was the challenge for me?

Well, I think the TOHO Challenge 2019 really gave me two potential problems…

How to make a beaded box with seed beads?

My challenge pack did include some Aiko beads (TOHO’s brand of Cylinder beads – ie their equivalent of Delicas). But not enough to make a complete box. So, would my idea work with seed beads?

Second, the quantities and colouring. I could see that with one tube (either 22g or 10g) in each colour, I was going to have to do some serious colour mixing in this. I tend to work in large blocks of colour. But there was no way that I would be able to make a section of a box with just one tube of beads.

So, although I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve, I didn’t know if it was going to be possible.

TOHO Challenge 2019, starfish beaded box, Katie Dean

What did I learn?

Well, this kind of challenge – the ‘can I actually do this?’ variety – is an amazing learning curve. I could have gone out and bought more tubes of the beads from my kit. But I chose not to. Instead, I wanted to learn more about colour mixing, shading and working with restricted bead quantities.

So, that really dictated the colours on my Starfish. I spent a while looking at images of actual Starfish to get a sense of colour and shape. That all fed into the design as I began working with the actual beads.

But at every point, I questioned whether this would work. So, each beading session became a mini journey of discovery.

Starfish beaded box pattern, TOHO challenge 2019, Katie Dean, Beadflowers

The second lesson

I also found myself working with some beads that I had never tried before. The TOHO Demi Rounds and AIKO beads.

Now, I’m very used to working with Delicas. So, I loved trying the AIKO beads. They are beautiful to work with. I was able to use them for the central inner box and they gave me a wonderful structure.

I also fell in love with the Demi Rounds. It’s always interesting to mix up different bead sizes and see what effect you can achieve. So, by mixing these beads, I was able to get a more rounded look for my Starfish legs. Mixing up the sizes gave me shaping without needing to decrease.

Again, mixing up the bead sizes and shapes allowed me to create the effect of waves in my sea.

So, I’ve made a lot of discoveries with colour and size that I’m sure will feed into future designs.

TOHO Challenge 2019, starfish beaded box, Katie Dean

Over to you…

If this TOHO Challenge 2019 has inspired you, then I have written up a pattern for my Starfish beaded box, which you can find here>>

But I also want to inspire you to try out the TOHO brand of beads if you haven’t already.

They are beautiful quality. Lovely colours. Nice big holes, so you can make plenty of thread passes. And a really even size. So, yes, if you have good quality beads, you can make a beaded box with seed beads. I invite you to give it a try!

The challenge is now open to everyone. So, if you fancy giving it a try, here is the link to find out how to do that>>

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