I hate the term 'statement piece'. Possibly because every last item of adornment I own is an eye-fucking monster, but I mean, what's the point of demure or (shudder) understated jewellery?
Splendour is necessarily tyrannous and exorbitant.
W H A T Y O U ' L L N E E D
- The large beads of your choice. These ones range between 4cm down to about 1 cm.
- The small beads of your choice. If you don't have anything lying around, go to a shop or look online for something called 'seed beads'. These are the weeny little ones that are threaded between the larger feature beads. Choose either a complimentary or contrasting colour depending on the look you're going for. Or just plain black. I'm using amber-coloured glass beads.
- Tiger tail (beading wire), waxed linen thread or fishing line. Get at least a metre, or even better, buy it on the reel- it's much more economical and can be used for everything from hanging pictures and masks to garrotting rivals.
- Some kind of clasp or hook and if so, two little metal crimps that go behind them on the line to secure the excess thread from the knots (optional) You might have a clasp you can reuse from older necklaces you've dismantled. The large string I'm doing today is just knotted. No one will know or care so don't go mad trying to source a catch if you don't have one.
- Pliers Any kind will do are long as they're not stupidly huge. And you only need them if you're going to use a metal catch. Multitools often have a plier fitting.
I was stringing this up at night so I apologise for the weird exposure on some of these pics. But as I said, if you're not using a catch (and that's perfectly fine because I'm not going to), you really don't need anything more than the beads themselves, some stringing medium, a nice stretch of clear table, good light and some time. Send away anyone who's going to bother you while you're doing this. Take the phone off the hook. Put on some convivial music.
The first thing to acknowledge about natural, irregular materials is that they militate against order and symmetry. Don't fight that because you will lose. Instead of order we are looking for two equally valuable things- balance and tension. These are fundamental elements of design.
Take the biggest beads from the pile regardless of shape or colour and space them out like this > leaving enough room between to arrange the smaller beads when the time comes. I'm making a double loop so there are two lines here. Regardless of exact proportions, these beads share something called visual weight. They look like siblings, or at least cousins. They will anchor our composition.
Start by looping the string around your neck and working out roughly how long you want it to be- stand in front of the mirror to do this. Cut it to size, then begin by looping the end around a marker bead like this one here > ; something with a large enough hole to take the thread twice. This is a temporary stay to keep the beads from zooming off the end of the string. Very important.
< Now get the next sized beads down from those monsters and arrange them between. Remember, balance and tension blah blah blah. Get all weird and creative. Don't try and keep it regular. Move them around til you get the right combination now, because they're a pain in the arse to rearrange once you get more beads in play.
Each of these lines represents a string of finished beads. Clump some colours together in a few places to create focal points but space them out elsewhere. Take your time. Walk away and come back to it. Smoke a bowl. Give in to the power of randomness. Go crazy.
< Okay, so now you have most of the consequential beads in some kind of pleasing composition. Mr Burns voice Excellent. Now we can think about stringing that shit up.
We'll just string up the main body of the necklace first and worry about the ends later.
The only other technical thing you really need to keep in mind is how the beads sit against each other on the line. Turn them around and substitute until you get it right. Nothing looks more budget than string peeping through between beads.
< This is good form. Below is hell no.
> You can draft in some really shitty and even unrelated beads for this section in a pinch; if you use something completely different peeps will just think it's arty or some shit like that. Just tell them it's an obscure personal reference. They'll never look at you the same way again. Remember- keep them small and taper out as you get back into the main body of the necklace as per below.
< First round almost done. The stretch with the smallest beads to the far left is the bit that's going to go around my nape. Pick where that's going to be on your line and stick to it. Big and pointy beads will poke you and interfere with how it sits on your neck, so don't put any here. If you're running low on beads, use your crappier ones here especially if you wear your hair long, since no one really sees this part.
^ To finish this off I tied a plain overhand/granny knot in the rear of the second string, tucked the ends back into the flanking beads and snipped them off with pliers.
Below left is the finished product, after I woke up this morning and completely rejigged the whole thing because one little stretch bothered me, lol. And I decided it needed a few more longer sections of plain seed beading. It sits nicely, I must say, and I'll wear it with the larger three-tier collar of butterscotch amber I made a couple of years ago.
Below right is another way to make asymmetry your bitch- by using a simple composition to offset the differences between individual beads. This works because the tension created by difference is resolved by the harmony imposed by both gradation and chromatic uniformity. This is the darker cognac amber with the little yellow seed beads as spacers. Dark beads like this really benefit from translucent spacers as more light can pass through the beads and show their colour than if they were all smooshed together. I put a catch on this one, just a lobster-claw and jump ring.