I’ve made perhaps ten of these complicated woven necklaces in my 22 years as a bead jewelry artist. As a beginner in the 90’s, I took lots of classes from a lot of fabulous well-known instructors. I loved learning about other artists’ styles and methods, hearing their tips, fondling their samples, and buying their beads and books. For me, there is no better way to spend time.
helen dietze (always lower case) gave classes in making “Ambassadors”—knotted woven seed bead chunks about 2” x 6” strung on thread which was tied in a knot and worn long. As named, she took them on her travels and gave them away. She also taught her techniques, including an advanced class where the Ambassador was used to encase a beautiful extraordinary object preferably found in exotic places. These creations were meant to exemplify the “more is better” theory. This class was made for me!
So, helen, here is what you taught me 20 years ago, adapted to my style, and an appropriate challenge for Week 25, almost halfway to the end; almost to my 75th birthday!
A bit of a bio of helen: Born in perhaps 1919 (she disallowed discussions of her age); she studied art at the Rudolph Schaeffer School of Color and Design in San Francisco; was widowed in 1959; lived in a house in San Leandro, No. California, which was packed to the rafters with mosaics, yarns, looms, and beads. Small of stature, she was tall in presence: perfect make-up with signature red lipstick; hair up in a chignon; black clothing; and always a major necklace on her neck. She was our Georgia O’Keefe. helen passed away in 2004, at approximately age 85. Needless to say, the crowds at her memorial were huge.
In closeup, above, in step 5.
To describe my necklace, I shall do it in terms of the construction process (usually called my design process):
- Go to the bottom of the necklace and find the knot of beads. This section, about 2” x 2” is the “Ambassador” starting point. I added the sterling silver fish and the pewter frog. Attach it to the 4” long shell with some holes supplied by Mother Nature.
- I weave and knot my way up and over the shell strip using multi-color beads of varying sizes. My principal colors reflect the iridescent shell—greens, pinks and greys in all shades. Blues and reds thrown in for punch.
- Practicing “more is better”, I add another shell, 2” at its longest. By now I am working with four strands of strong bead thread on each side.
- I start up one side. I string 2-3” on two strands and knot them. I string a new strand, add a few beads to one of the strand I just knotted. Repeat over and over. But I only go up 3-4” on this one side.
- Then I turn my attention to the other side, always consulting side 1 to assure balance by bulk and color.
- Note the Guatemalan fish dangles at about the 4” mark. Here I terminate one strand on each side so I can progress with three strands.
- I work narrower as I round the neck area, tie off and cut one more strand to finish with only two.
- The darling frog button gets attached on side 2 and I string medium size Czech glass on the loop side, completing the closure and the necklace. It took 22 hours by my best guess. Did you find the fourth fish dangle?
This woven necklace is 22.5” long. The centerpiece section is 7”. $139.