Thursday, July 10, 2014

Michelle's Gift - Little Puck from Midsummer Night's Dream

Little Puck is getting all dressed up!
“Are you sure/That we are awake? It seems to me/That yet we sleep, we dream” 
― William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

My friend Michelle Tocher is a storyteller. Isn't it amazing that there exists a field in which one can make a living telling stories? Not only that, she helps her listeners to generate healing within themselves as a result of listening/working through magical stories.

A very young me, sharing a bedtime story with my son.
What is it about stories that appeals to humans everywhere? I think it's that stories often hold our earliest memories of love. We begin our lives with them. If we're lucky, our most precious memories are of the times before bed when we were held close in the arms of our caregivers, safe and warm, ready for that mysterious journey into sleep--listening to the cadence of their voices as they told us stories.
My daughter Jess, telling stories. 
 And storytelling is an art that passes down through the generations. The photo above is one of my favorites of my daughter, Jessica, telling stories to her collection of dolls and stuffed animals. She's doing it with a puppet on her hand (holding the book).

Even when we grow up we're enamored of stories in the form of movies, songs, poems, and the phenomenon has grown to huge popularity with the advent of the Internet and games, in which we get to play characters within stories. Even higher education and business/commercial enterprises recognize the value of stories for capturing and holding the attention of listeners and viewers everywhere.

Illustration from Quatrain XI of the Rubaiyat by Edmund Dulac

I think the value of stories is that they lead us to one of our most powerful, inherent gifts of God: the gift of imagination. And though the power of imagination is still largely veiled from us, we are discovering the strength of it and the healing and empowerment it can bring to each of us. There is no real barrier that can separate us from this power as long as we have control of our minds. It lives inside of us. It belongs to each of us. The illustration above is by one of my all-time favorite artists, Edmund Dulac. His images can really send my imagination soaring!

Some of the most powerful and influential people on earth have learned of the inherent power in the use of imagination, such as Dr. Masaro Emoto, who wrote The Hidden Messages in Water, and Albert Einstein, who said, "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

In Dan Millman's book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior we are reminded that first comes desire, then comes thought/imagination, then action to bring that vision into our reality here on earth. I love the simplicity of this formula. It works! 

And I love Michelle and her work as a storyteller. So I decided to commemorate her with a necklace all her own, and that is how Little Puck (image is by Arthur Rackham from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream) became a wearable piece of art!

Michelle's necklace
When she wears this necklace while telling her magical stories, Little Puck will be looking up at her and listening. Puck delights in plot twists and sometimes mischievously creates some of his own!

The first thing I do is cut out the image, which I've had printed on glorious, thick matte paper at JARU, a top-notch printing house here in town, and then I use 3D Crystal Lacquer to attach the image to a glass-domed cabochon. (I do these in groups since it can be very messy to work with the lacquer.)

Beautiful cabs waiting to be embellished!

First stages of making Michelle's necklace
Once that's done, I use EZ-6000 to attach the cab to Lacy's Stiff Stuff (which I've dyed black with Dylon permanent fabric dye for Michelle's necklace). After a few hours of drying underneath a good old stack of books, it'll be ready for embellishment! 

Decisions, decisions!
While it's drying I like to spend time choosing which bead colors I'll use and I get them all out and pour some into the little bead dishes I love to work with. Most of my bead dishes are the type that restaurants use for serving soy sauce. Some I bought in Chinatown (Philadelphia) when I had a chance to visit and some I've gotten online

Arthur, my little wooden model, does his "Vanna act" with the bead dishes.
The great thing about these bead dishes is that they make it easy to pick up the tiny seed beads and they separate the colors nicely. Sometimes I have about 12 dishes with various selections of beads in them. It can take 2 or 3 hours just to choose the bead colors for a piece, and this is one of my favorite parts of a project! Occasionally I have to order some new ones if I don't have a particular color on hand.

Fringe on FireLine lets you scrunch it up like curly hair or straighten it out!
After I've gotten the border sewn around the cab, I start working on the fringe, which is also one of my favorite parts! The fringe on most of my cabs is two layers thick, and tipped with Czech dagger beads and sometimes specialty beads, such as beautiful iridescent leaves or  spiny oyster shell dagger beads. Isn't it wonderful that someone out there takes on the task of making beads from shells like this!

When I do the fringe, I start with about 4 yards of 6 lb black FireLine and pull half of it through the middle bead on the bottom of the cab. I wind up the other half, securing it to the back of the cab to keep it out of the way while I'm working. And then I sew and sew choosing along the way whether or not, and if so, how to add extra embellishment with Swarovski crystal beads. I do the whole right-hand side of the fringe and then unwind the other half of the thread and do the left. The left is always easier since the decisions have been made and I just have to replicate the right-hand side. So in doing fringe, to make it symmetrical, I start from the middle and work out to the sides.

The ultrasuede backing
After the fringe is finished, it's time to sew on the soft, ultrasuede backing. The photo above is of a different cab necklace because I forgot, in my excitement, to take a photo of Michelle's.

The braided seed bead necklace
Then, after the cabochon is done I create the necklace that it will hang from. This part can take the longest and can be somewhat challenging. 

First, I create one half of the sterling silver filled fastener, which is a combination of hand-twirled wire, jump rings, and a lovely lobster clasp. Then I secure three strands of 014 inch diameter stainless steel Accu-Flex wire to the fastener. Onto each strand of Accu-Flex wire, I string hundreds of seed beads, choosing the pattern along the way. Finishing the other end can be a real challenge because I have to temporarily secure the ends of each strand after they're beaded but before they're braided. I use a combination of tape and bead stoppers.

Simple black leather with sterling silver filled fastener
And I generally like to create a simple black leather necklace so that the owner can choose between wearing the whole beaded piece, or changing to the leather for simpler events. They can also wear the seed bead necklace alone, without the fringed pendant - options ROCK! 

Puck loves being the center of attention!
So about 30-40 hours later, that's how Little Puck became a wearable piece of art! Hope Michelle likes it. I sure enjoyed making it : )

Here's to fun projects and spending time in uber-delicious ways! Now on to the other cabs waiting, which will be available for sale at Dreamkeeper Creations and the Green Drake Gallery. Don't worry, pricing is not based on the time spent making these beauties!



  1. Oh, Jen, you are so incredibly talented. I really appreciate hearing about the details of your craft, the labosr of love, and also the painstaking effort you put into making every piece. I think those of us who wear your beadwork are ESPECIALLY blessed by your beautiful spirit. Thank you with all my heart!

  2. Hi Michelle, You're most welcome! I learn something new each time I make a piece, and I think yours is one of my best. I learned with that one to use the FireLine and I LOVE how it sews and how you can scrunch the fringe or smooth it out. I'll be using it all the time now. Also I liked the colors in yours. The bead pieces always tell me what they want to be. I hope it brings you joy every time you wear it!

  3. thanks for posting your process. I am especially interested in the cabs you make. Thanks for sharing. I love your pendants. It's been a while since I beaded them.
    xx, Carol

  4. Sorry, I got lost in your process and forgot about the beginning of the post. I am saddened by todays youth and some parents that allow their young children to use electronics. They don't seem to be learning how to imagine and don't seem to be reading many books. I preach the value of reading in growing vocabulary and other aspects of education. Well, off my soap box now.

  5. Hi Carol,
    Would love to see some of your beaded pendants : ) Thanks for your interest in the process. I wondered if anyone would read it lol. I like to record some of that stuff so that other beaders can access the info, and I enjoy learning how others do things. I agree that too much time with electronics doesn't leave much time for imagination or focus. Am glad you're in support of reading and building a decent vocabulary, me too. Being able to choose words to write with can be such a great pleasure.