I loved freeform beading the moment I first saw it. I love the artiness of it, I love the visual rollercoaster of it, I love the texture of it. So, finally, here is my first foray into freeform peyote. The inspiration behind this bracelet was our new Picasso Tila beads in cobalt, orange and light olive. I wanted to use these three colours together, so I built my bead choices around them. I used Karen Williams’ book, FreeForm Peyote Beading: Design and Creation of Original Wearable Art Jewelry, as my guide to get started.
The first thing I discovered is that “freeform” is not a synonym for “haphazard”, and that a certain amount of planning, balance and judicious choosing of beads is in order. I started by selecting a larger range of beads than Karen recommends in her helpful chart relating to same, but as I stitched, I wound up not using all of them. Less may not be more when it comes to freeform beadwork, but knowing when enough is enough certainly is. It wasn’t deliberate, but I used six different types of bead for each colour, everything from 6/0s to 15/0s, and I threw in the Tilas and some 4mm Czech fire-polished beads for good measure. It’s also important not just to mix sizes, but bead finishes, too. Beads ranged from silver-lined, colour-lined, matte, opaque, transparent, lustered, and Ceylon to Picasso.
I admit that I broke a couple of rules that I’d read elsewhere (I’d broken them before I read about them, so I can’t claim to be an artistic visionary). One was to avoid a stripe-y effect. Yeah, well, so much for that – big, fat stripes galore here. The other was not to transition from larger beads to much smaller beads too quickly. Transitioning from larger to smaller beads meant that there was a certain laciness in the surrounding area, and it also meant that I got those wonderful bumps and ridges that freeform peyote is known for. So, that was one “rule” I was happy to ignore.
By the time I got two rows in, I realised that I had no idea what I was doing, but I’ve never let a little thing like that stop me, so I just kept going. One of the things that I noticed about freeform beadwork is that it takes a lot more time than “regular” beadwork, which is largely down to the fact that at least every couple of rows or so (if not every row), you have to make a decision about which beads you’re going to use next, and consider what impact they might have on the overall design. You can spend ages sitting there, staring at your work and wondering what to do next.
I used C-Lon size D thread for the bracelet, changing colours as I changed sections. I toyed with the idea of using FireLine, but FireLine can be a bit stiff and C-Lon/S-Lon threads have such a lovely drape. I wouldn’t rule out using FireLine in a future project, though. The choice would depend on the weight of the beads and the overall effect I wanted.
I found this project wildly fulfilling. I loved every bit of making it, and the finished bracelet is much more striking than the attached photos show. Freeform peyote may well become my favourite type of beadwork.
Before I switch over to the list of beads that I used, I’d like to say a bit more about Karen’s book: there is very little information out there about freeform beadwork, which makes it difficult for a newcomer to know where to start. Karen’s book is a small-ish one, but provides a lot of useful information for getting started. It's not a project book, it's a technique book. I’ve cobbled together bits of info about freeform peyote from many websites, so there’s still more that could be said about the topic. Nevertheless, if you want to take the freeform plunge and don’t know where to begin, take a look at Karen’s book, linked above, and her blog at http://baublicious.blogspot.co.uk/.
The beads used in the orange segment are:
The beads used in the blue segment are:
The beads used in the green segment are:Chartreuse C-Lon Size D Thread