Friday, May 6, 2011

The Flowers of Mae: Wire Crochet Splendor

Charming Mae Barraclough teaches and works at the bead shop where I occasionally teach classes.  It was her Rose City Cuff that first grabbed my attention and convinced me to feature her here. Be prepared to be impressed.

The organic beauty of Mae's work with wire crochet will, as they once said in the sixties, blow your mind! Her designs evoke the splendor of flowers frozen in time, and many of her designs remind me of the intricate ironwork in Barcelona, Spain. Her work inspires you to imagine yourself in some exotic locale such as that, perhaps while sipping red wine as you picnic at Park Guell and gaze over the city.

Rose City Cuff

Tell us a bit about yourself: who you are and who you want to be.

I am a 24-year-old jewelry artist who moved to Portland in September 2010 from my hometown of Ashland, Oregon in order to pursue art and a dream to build a thriving business based on my jewelry designs that eventually expands into a bead store and gallery/studio space.

Currently, my work is for sale at several boutiques throughout Oregon as well as on Etsy. I also love teaching and am right now in the process of writing up many of my designs into patterns to be shared with fellow beaders through my blog.

Light Heart*

How has your career path led you to being a jewelry designer?

I have been obsessed with beads and jewelry making forever. I started selling designs to friends and family as a teenager mainly to justify buying more beads! Throughout college, work at the Bead Studio in Ashland was where I really began to push myself to become a jewelry artist and a professional beader, honing my skills and teaching classes in a variety of beading techniques.

I was a resident artist for one year at an Ashland gallery called Studio 5 and then became a studio artist at the Ashland Art Center until the recent move to Portland. I'm now pursuing my business full-time while teaching classes and working part-time at Dava Bead, where I get to hang out with a wonderful group of fellow artists.

Passionflower ensemble

Your Etsy store has some sensational wire crochet pieces. How did you get started working with wire crochet? What inspired you to focus on this area?

An avid crocheter and beader since childhood, I realized several years ago that the two techniques could be merged. It has since become my absolute favorite jewelry-making technique. I love how the classic stitches of crochet can be combined to build virtually any shape. Never content to work from patterns, I have developed my own techniques over the years through much experimentation. I consider my techniques and designs to be on the cutting edge of both beading and crocheting.

Greenwoods Go-Go

How does the process of creating a new design begin for you? What are your methods of visualization?

It varies from day to day, project to project. Sometimes I start in the three-dimensional realm by playing with materials and making it up as I go along. Other times, I start two-dimensionally by sketching many divergent designs and formulating a loose plan before beginning.

Do you have a special creative routine when you are designing or making a project, like listening to your favorite music or working in a special spot?

The spare bedroom of my house has been converted into a cozy little studio. It has become a private retreat from the hectic outside world where I can hole up and focus on creative pursuits. The work desk is set up right next to the window in order to take advantage of the natural light and be inspired
by the microcosm of nature that is my backyard.

La Dorada

What other types of handwork interest you?

I love knitting and crocheting with yarn as well as wire. I also enjoy paper crafts and I'm very interested in learning to draw, paint, and sculpt.

What do you do when you are feeling "stuck" creatively?  What helps you get back into the creative mode?

When I'm feeling stuck, I usually change gears completely for a while until the creative urge strikes again. It helps to go out into nature or do something physical like dancing. Sometimes I'll also pull out various materials and play around with them until a new idea begins to form. I also like to study jewelry of various cultures, both ancient and modern, and think about how various constructions would look in crocheted wire! Etruscan, ancient Roman, and ancient Egyptian jewelry styles are especially fascinating.

La Dorada 

What are you planning for the coming year that most excites you?

Another beading passion is off-loom beadweaving. I'm currently writing up patterns and creating kits for several beadweaving designs to be sold online through my Etsy shop. This will be my first foray into retailing beads themselves rather than finished jewelry, and it's very exciting as I've had a dream since childhood of opening my own bead store.

What is something you think people would be surprised to know about you?

My educational background is actually in biology and psychology. For most of college,  I wanted to go to grad school and become a therapist.  I dropped out after four years of full time study due to some financial and personal difficulties.

After much soul-searching, I have decided to return to school at Portland State University this coming Fall to pursue a different path: art and business. I didn't study either of these disciplines before because I have had a hard time taking myself seriously as either an artist or a business person.

Through much proactive effort, I have learned how to give myself permission to follow a dream of being an artist. Still with a strong desire to help people, I'm excited to explore how I can integrate this passion with my art and business in the future.

Lily Pad Deluxe

What advice do you have for someone who wants to learn wire crochet?

First get comfortable with crocheting with yarn. It's easier on the hands to learn how crochet works with yarn, since it's a lot softer and easier to manipulate. Once you have mastered the basics, get some metal crochet hooks and 28 gauge craft wire and start playing. How do different sizes of hooks affect the look of your work? What unique shapes can you make with standard crochet stitches? Look at granny squares crocheted from yarn and see if you can reproduce the designs in wire.

Do you have any advice for aspiring jewelry artists in general?

Spend time getting to know your artistic self and developing a clear vision of what is unique about your art.

Discover what truly inspires you through experimentation and let intuition be your guide. What materials feel right in your hands? What colors images, themes, and textures speak to your heart?

Be yourself, nothing less and nothing more, as big as you want to be, and others will resonate with the purity of your expression.

Stop by Mae's website and visit her online store for more of her work and friend her on her Facebook page, LMB Jewelry.

*Mae's piece, Light Heart, will be competing in Bead Dreams at this year's Bead and Button show. Wish her the best of luck in the competition!


Kala said...

Wow, what incredible talent, thank you for showcasing her work:):) Simply beautiful!

jdavissquared said...

oh wow! those are absolutely amazing pieces!

Love your story about your mom...the fact that your dad first spotted her riding her bike...swoon, what a romantic story for a bike lover like myself! thanks for sharing!