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Versatile Dahlias are a designers’ dream

Versatile Dahlias are a designers’ dream

Some beads are ever-ready wildflowers – rugged, hardy, and plentiful  — while others are hothouse varieties, exquisite in their beauty but often temperamental and hard to handle. Don’t let the apparent delicacy and extraordinary beauty of Dahlia beads fool you — these gorgeous girls can do it all.

The first time I saw a Dahlia, my  “wow”  was followed immediately by an intricate idea for how to set it off in a new bead-weaving piece that took off in my mind. With the right complimentary textures and colors, I knew I had a slam dunk for one of my most discriminating customers.  I mentally stocked Dahlias to be saved for special projects.

The Dahlia is always ready to take the place of a small button in many designs. This design by Judi Griggs features a Dahlia, 20 mm Drop, Rondelle, and 6mm Fire Polished Round — all from Nirvana — over Mosaic Magnesite and brass filagree.

It’s usually around 6 a.m. on a Saturday as we are loading the tent, tables, cases and displays into the back of my Prius when my husband asks again why we still sell my work at a suburban farmers market once a month. He understands that I got my start there and as they say here in Texas “you dance with who brung you.” What he doesn’t realize is, even at this point in the journey, I can still count on customers to be smarter than me.

I was still working on that “big” piece — already reserved by the client from initial photos of the Dahlias and sketches — when I made up a couple strung necklaces and simple earrings from my bead board at the last minute the night before a market. Customers new and old noticed the new bead immediately, bought what I had and wanted more.

Here’s a few of the things they have taught me about Dahlias:

  1. They are light and easy on earlobes.   The Dahlia offers the size of a 14mm coin but the density of the glass on either side of the hole not only allows more light play, but provides a surprisingly light weight. Depending on the relative finishes, some are lighter than a 6 mm Fire Polished Round.
  2. They are Couture Chameleons.  I’ve used the Champagne Mercury Dahlias for a classic and classy bridal set, so light and simple they only reflected the beauty of the bride and her dress. But I will be selling a lot of earrings and necklaces featuring the Beige and Turquoise Wash in the next few weeks as ladies prepare to dress up and dress down for the variety of events around Houston’s Livestock Show and Rodeo. Customers often assume the Turquoise color is actually stone — until they pick it up! The Antique Silver finish is so consistent that several people have asked whether finished pieces are glass or metal.
  3. They play well with others and stand alone even better. Sometimes it’s hard to keep a straight face during some of the “good” design ideas random booth visitors want to share. Sometimes my husband doesn’t. But when a well-dressed woman looked past my strung, mixed media and woven Dahlia work , picked up a pair of simple earrings and said “I want just this bead as a pendant on a light silver chain,” I told her I could put it together for her within a half an hour (it didn’t seem artistic to give the actual five minute task estimate). When others tried to buy her necklace before she got back, I started making sure I had both Dahlia pendants and matched earrings at all shows — art, craft or farmer’s market.
  4. They love to mix media. The delicacy of the ridged design and variety of finishes work not just for stringing and bead weaving —  but clay, wire, metal, resin, fiber and mosaic work. I stuck one in the middle of a small mound of scrap clay to bake in the last batch of the night and realized the next morning I not only had the makings of a unique and saleable piece, but…
  5. They play the role of button beautifully. I am a Czech Glass Button addict. They are featured in more than half of what I produce.  I would never have confused the Dahlia-in-clay focal with one of my button-in-clay focals, but my customers did – moving the piece to the trays with the buttons. I have since substituted the smooth-backed Dahlia in some of my 18mm button designs. The designs love the extra bonus of a focal I can string through and sew down without having to bezel and some customers appreciate the opportunity to spend a little less but still enjoy the altered art/ boho feel of my button work.
  6. They are a particular favorite of “sensitive” clients. I always stock lariat and strung pieces that are only glass and beading filament for ladies with metal allergies. The Dahlia pieces offer a simple closure with just a beaded loop and a Dahlia that have become the most popular with this group by far. I even have a waiting list for  “in case you can get Dahlias in this color in the future.”.
  7. No matter how many flowers are in the garden, this one will always stand out. The Dahlia is like that girl in school that you couldn’t hate for being exceptionally pretty, because she was so sweet and considerate of others. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Julie Ritter).

 

This Griggs pendant design builds out from a Dahlia baked into a polymer clay blend with the bead, clay and brass filagree finished in various inks, patinas and inclusions.

But keep in mind, this is not a Dandelion. She will require a little extra consideration every now and then. The pass-through size of the hole can accommodate multiple thread passes or 22 gauge wire, but the thinner walls on either side of the hole require you keep an easy tension.  Artisan pieces like Dahlias do not have machine precision and may sometimes have a rougher edge at the hole. I’ve had little problem with the Dahlia on that issue, but generally work in a simple flat bead like an “O” or Toho half-round to take my thread off a potential rough edge before making any type of beadweaving turn.

In reality, the Dahlia asks very little extra of a designer, but is willing to do so much — just ask my customers.

The Dahlia is still the star at the center of this Griggs design featuring hand-dyed silk, brass and finished paper and fabric flowers.

Dahlias dance on this light and simple wire wrap bracelet design

Simply paired here with a Melon beads, Dahlias can elevate the simplest design structures

Nirvana Beads Scribe

Nirvana Beads Scribe

Writer Judi Griggs designs and sells jewelry in Western New York in the summer and Texas in the winter.
Nirvana Beads Scribe

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