Liberte – a new collection of jewellery

Liberte is a new collection of jewellery by Helen Clarence Designs. Inspired by the concept of ‘liberte’, but what is Liberte? It’s freedom to choose, it’s individuality, it’s confidence.

The colours in this collection are bold and vivid, there are no soft pinks or blues or pastels shades. The patterns are geometric and the jewellery is sculptural. This selection is designed to be worn in the office but also to take you into the evening.

Currently you can found this collection in a La Boutique de Chemin d’Ateliers, Saint-Amand-Montrond (18) and also in La Boutique Des artisans d’Aubusson, Aubusson (23) and by commission.

Premier May

Well, the sun may be shining but its freezing outside and its the 1st of May. That’s a big holiday here in France, the start of good times to be had with summer just around the cornier and indeed the weather forecast is promising summery temperatures by the end of the week. ‘Premier mai’ is a time for giving and receiving lily-of-the-valley flowers here in France. I love these flowers, they have a heavenly scent and are so unassuming a plant that, for me, they just scream ‘chic’. I made a brooch and a bracelet last year with lily-of-the-valley as the inspiration, but this year I’ve added to the collection with a quick make of a spring bracelet in luscious greens, a touch of pink and blue and some quiet bead which I’ve used as ‘dangler’ in this beaded charm bracelet. The bracelet is in the shop, and there is also a similar make but in autumn colours (not that I’m wishing the year away!).

faux shibori bracelet

I was intrigued recently when trawling the internet looking at jewellery to find that one of the latest crazes in bead embroidery is incorporating shibori silk ribbon with the beads to create some wonderful jewellery. Now, bead embroidery, for some reason that escapes me, is not something that I have done a great deal – odd when you think that I trained as an embroiderer!
I thought I would try my own shibori bracelet as I loved the effect and its good to try something different every now and again. However when I found a supplier of the beautiful hand dyed silk ribbon I was put off by the cost – if I was to make a piece of jewellery using this then by the time I’ve finished and priced it I knew the cost would make a very expensive product and hard to sell so I looked for an alternative. Using a piece of hand dyed habotai silk that I had hidden away in a box of ‘bits’ I made the resulting bracelet. I found that the fabric does not have to be cut on the bias, (as the ribbon is), just make the silk double the width of the bracelet and a little longer. I sewed the silk to the ends of pelmet vilene turning under a small hem to hide the raw edges and then folded the silk and caught down the folds with tiny stitches using ordinary sewing cotton. These stitches were later hidden with the bezelled rivoli’s and other beads that were back stitched in place. I am pleased with the result and of course I am now thinking of all the other lovely fabrics that I could incorporate into my jewellery…red velvet for Christmas perhaps?

The Wonder of Christmas Markets

I have had the wonderful opportunity of visiting  various Christmas markets over the festive season, two in France (although one was in the Alsace and is as near to Germany as you can get without actually being there!) and two in Scotland. It was interesting looking at the way in which different countries tackle markets and the difference in produce available. The market I visited in Glasgow was small but very popular with the locals adding a certain ambiance to the whole affair, the one in Edinburgh delightful because it is set around a park and the Christmas lights and ice rink add to the atmosphere hugely. However the produce here was nearly all imported goods. In France the fare for sale was mostly locally produced handcrafted items which I find much more interesting. Mulled wine was available at each one and of course I had to try some in each destination but was unable to set a preference! (Perhaps I should have studied harder?)

I walked past smelly cheese stalls, handcrafted chocolate stalls, hat and wooly jumper stalls and of course many jewellery stalls. I am yet to walk past any jewellery stalls however that has jewellery for sale made from beads and off loom weaving. Perhaps it is just to expensive to produce because of the time involved; competing against quickly strung beads or imported silver from India. I can’t believe that there are not the people out there making this stuff, but then again its not as if I had a stall at one of these markets – mental note to sell before the New Year starts, must try harder to ‘get out there’!

The photo shows the church at Mulhouse wonderfully lit up at their Christmas market.

Life in France

I have had a love affair with France for many years now and finally got to move the Limousin two years ago. Limousin is right bang in the middle of the country. We have cold winters with snow but hot summers and four very definite seasons which I love and find excitement with each changing season. Limousin has three ‘departements’ and I live in the Creuse which is the least inhabited (and stupidly one of the seven regions of France which does not produce its own wine!). It does however have the most spectacular countryside and I live amongst woodland and rolling hills and hedgerow full of wildflowers. It has most definitely influenced my work in both embroidery and beading; I find myself almost exclusively trying to recreate the colours and forms of the flowers.

Selling my work here is a challenge because of the language however the culture in France is to shop in markets and they are everywhere, making it easy to sell wares directly to the public for very little outlay. I have also found a shop in a local town which runs like a gallery charging commission. I think its a great way to have a shop. The shop owner doesn’t need to buy stock reducing overheads and artists get a chance to sell products in a ‘proper’ shop. I wish I could find more of these shops in other parts of the country!


I’ve been ‘beading’ – very much a verb, for 10 years. I now sell my designs in the made up form and also as patterns and kits but have been shy of ‘blogging’ – another new verb – but at last have taken the plunge.

I love texture in my work and use a variety of stitches, mainly peyote, netting, herringbone and right angle weave. As a trained embroiderer you would think that I would love bead embroidery but for some reason I just love off-loom bead weaving. I think it’s the idea of creating a fabric from nothing, just the beads and the thread.

I live in a very rural part of France and find my inspiration all around me; to love living here you have to love the countryside. I get excited about small things like the carpet of moss covering my local forest floor, tree stumps with mushrooms growing out of them; coloured beetles that make you wonder how on earth do they fly?;  to hummingbird moths and fuzzy caterpillars. What I see every day as I walk out with my Border collie dog keeps me coming back for more and wondering how will I find the time to recreate it all in beads?

I hope as I develop my blogging skills I’ll be able to share my enthusiasm for the visual world I live in, in both words and in beads!