Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Revontulet -- one of my first bead embroideries

I recently had a look at my little bead embroidered piece called Revontulet and since this is my first finished bead embroidery project it was a bit interesting, re-visiting old beadwork I haven't thought about in a couple of years now. I made it in 2008 for a beading contest at Pärlplatsen, a Swedish bead community were I'm a member. You can see all the entries here. I won, but you can see that I was a newbie at bead embroidery when I made it.

The theme for the contest was aurora borealis, the Northern lights. Bea, the founder of the community lives in Norrland (far North) so she's used to this phenomena and it was when looking at the lights that she came up with the theme. I live in Skåne in Southern Sweden and have never seen it IRL.

In my research for finding an approach to the theme, I read all sorts of folklore and myths. I stumbled across a site that said the Finnish word for Northern lights, revontulet, means fox fires. According to legend, there'd be special fire foxes in Finnish Lapland and when they ran across the snowclad mountains, sparks would fly from their fur. Those sparks were the Northern lights. Didn't know enough about Finnish folklore to judge if the story was true or not, but it sparked my imagination.

This piece is made using several different stitches: couching, satin stitch, back stitch, running stitch, back stitch variation. I wanted to test many different stitches as I was new to bead embroidery. When I was finished I came to this conclusion: it toughest part is that embroidery take so much time, even the little things -- the hardest part was translating my sketch into beads. The beads have a whole different feel and density than pencil marks. Where my sketch focused on the soft and ethereal, the bead embroidery had to focus on colour and shape.

I wanted to avoid using beads with AB finish as it felt a bit cliché so instead I used sparkling-lined Delicas in green and turquoise hues. I also used jet green iris to get the feeling of the dynamic in the Northern lights, the flowing and changing properties you can't capture on photos. Iridescent beads look black in certain angles and sparkling green, blue and purple in others.

The background is black, unbeaded felt and the contours of the landscape is embroidered using transparent gray lustre 15/0 seed beads. There you find two tiny sterling silver "foxes" (actually wolf or coyote beads, I think) and the sparks from their furs (also known as purple iris Delicas). All in all, this piece is 16 x 11 cm big/small.

Not an easy piece to photograph with the sparkling, shimmering beads and black background that refused to get as dark as I wanted on camera. This is the original photo I submitted to the contested, haven't tried re-shooting it.


  1. Beautiful work. And we do have firefoxes here in Finland. The bead colours you used are perfect for the Northern lights, more naturalistic than the AB finish.


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