Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2015 Toho Challenge Necklace

This year I was invited to participate in the 2015 TOHO Challenge, a beading challenge put on by the Japanese seed bead manufacturer TOHO Beads. Each participant was given the same set of Japanese seed beads and Czech beads to create a finished piece of beadwork. We didn't need to use all of the beads in the challenge kit, but we couldn't add any additional beads except for findings and stringing materials (with the option of including one extra focal piece). All the challenge pieces are on display at the 2015 Bead & Button Show, and after that they will travel to Japan where they will be on display for a year.

I was stoked to receive the challenge box because they included colors that I already love and use in my beadwork; gorgeous magentas, bronzes, and rich metallic greens. For the challenge piece itself I wanted to create something representative of my signature style, and I also wanted to play with a relatively unused stitch. I went for a more everyday-wear look rather than anything over-the-top, and I ended up with this simple but elegant necklace.

The round focal uses the geometry of an icosahedron, so it has 30 edges and 20 triangle-shaped sides. The edges are represented by 2-hole tile beads while a collection of magmata and mini dagger beads sit on each side, in a manner similar to that of my Tila Garden Pendant. But unlike the Tila Garden design, this focal is self-supporting without the use of a round core bead, though it did require some extra engineering to keep this beaded ball from being squishy.

Since the focal is hollow, it could be strung on a headpin or through beading wire as a beaded bead, but I instead elected to attach it to a beaded rope.

I wove the rope using twisted cubic right-angle weave (CRAW), using primarily green beads to set off the magenta and bronze beads in the focal. The twisted CRAW technique is a versatile stitch that can make a variety of ropes, bangles, and components, but it seems to intimidate everyone I describe it to. It's actually much more meditative and easier than CRAW once you get the rope started (no, really!), and I'm looking forward to exploring this stitch further. In this piece I wove it in both the right-handed and left-handed directions so that each side of the rope is symmetrical with the other side, and both sides meet in the middle in a novel join. I also had fun incorporating fire polish beads into this beaded rope, which become more prominent closer to the focal of the piece.

The clasp is a little beaded toggle that mimics the triangular shape of one of the sides of the focal. I sometimes elect for a metal clasp over a beaded clasp primarily due to time constraints, especially if it's a piece that I will need to illustrate for a beading pattern. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to each clasp approach, but for this piece I was able to use a beaded clasp which nicely complements the focal of the necklace.

If you'd like to see the 2015 Toho Challenge pieces in person, please visit the display case near the registration desk at the Bead & Button Show. Keep an eye on the Team Toho page for more images of the challenge pieces as well.

Thanks for looking!


  1. Absolutely stunning! You're very talented! I've been making beaded jewelry for years and always wondered, with a ball and loop closure in a necklace, which side does the ball and which side does the loop go on? I see it done both ways and was wondering what you think?

    1. Thanks Jessica! I don't know if ball and loop closures have a designated side for each part... I end up doing it both ways too!


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