Saturday, June 21, 2008

Return of the Phoenix

I'm profoundly thrilled to report that my phoenix has returned from the offices of Bead & Button Magazine. Many thanks go out to Lynne Soto, who put up with my incessant nervous emails about the status of the piece and the contract. I hope that she won't hold it against me the next time I send in a piece to Bead & Button Magazine.

Included with the phoenix is a copy of the August 2008 issue of Bead and Button magazine. A picture of the phoenix can be seen on page 26. Now I just need to buy a bunch more issues to distribute to friends and family.

Of course, as I thought more about the phoenix, I realized that I had a couple photos of the work in progress which you can see below.

The first picture shows the phoenix after only a few beads have been added. You can see that the wing designs went through a couple revisions from my pencil marks on the Lacy's Stiff Stuff.

I wasn't able to find any online tutorials to help me out on bead embroidery (and I was too stingy at the time to buy a book on technique), so I just did what was intuitive for me and what I've done ever since. Essentially, I use a whip stitch with beads--sewing eight beads to the piece, then going through the last four beads before adding another eight beads, and so on. It was the only way I could think of to get the smooth lines that I wanted. There was probably a faster way to make it (especially finishing it...), but I'm happy with the way things turned out.

Towards the body of the phoenix, you can see light pencil marks for individual feathers. I eventually drew in all the individual feathers and bead embroidered the shapes of all of them.

The second picture is quite a jump from the first piece--it makes me wish I had done a status photo after every day I worked on it. In any case, you can see that the bird is still attached to Lacy's Stiff Stuff. I've also glued down the beak and talons made from Friendly Plastic (which has my vote for one of the best craft products around). I later sewed through the edges of the friendly plastic to help connect the plastic pieces to the Lacy's Stiff Stuff, which was a challenge.

Finishing the piece took forever. Why? I didn't want to embroider the beads to leather, favoring something lighter. I also wanted the perfect red for the back of the piece. I found an excellent shade of red satin, but knew that the satin would fray all over the place. I decided to use double-sided fabric tape to attach the satin to the Lacy's Stiff Stuff all around the edges of the piece. When I cut the edges, the satin fibers stayed in place, and I was able to embroider the edge of the piece in embroidery floss that complemented the beads (using gold embroidery floss for the work around the talons and beak).

I almost forgot: Fire Mountain Gems sent me a certificate for my award--with a picture of the phoenix printed on it!

My phoenix has been to two other states for almost 5 months, and I'm happy to have it back.

Vanessa Walilko

Handcrafted Beaded Jewelry, Beaded Dragon Sculptures, Chainmaille and an awesome bead embroidered phoenix necklace


  1. I love your finished Phoenix. Beautiful work! :D

  2. do you sell your work??