Battle of the Beadsmith 2014: A Bounty of Beadwoven Inspiration

Necklace by Ann Braginsky, Winner of Battle of the Beadsmith 2013It's barely summer and already I'm feeling a little bit of that annual laziness take hold, the kind of days where I just want to sit outside with a lemonade and look at pretty pictures.  Thank goodness for the Battle of the Beadsmith … and for Beadwork editor Melinda Barta who asked me to write about this event for an upcoming issue of the magazine.

For the last week, I've been admiring the photos submitted for this annual competition. More than 200 international competitors have created some incredible  beaded jewelry and accessories.  I love that this competition includes both "big name" beaders that you'll recognize from their popular classes and publications, as well as some you may have never heard of before.

If you're not familiar with this contest, it started in 2012.  Beaders are given a limited time to create a piece and then paired against one another.  The one with the most votes moves to the next round until there is a single champion.  Amazingly, there is no prize, just the prestige of being chosen largely by your bead artist peers.  The voting can be extremely close, as Beading Daily editor Jennifer VanBenschoten noted in her "How Not to Enter a Jewelry Competition" post in 2012 where she revealed that she lost her round by a single vote!

One person on Facebook commented that she was running out of adjectives when commenting about the entries and it's safe to say that I feel the same way.  Stunning!  Amazing!  Wonderful!  Astonishing!  The use of striking color combinations, varied techniques (all forms of beadweaving, bead embroidery or soutache), materials (lots of all types of seed beads, plus crystals, pearls, fire-polished glass, ceramic beads, semiprecious gemstones, and more), and the shapes/structures of the designs will likely fill your creative well to overflowing.

The photos themselves are fascinating, too.  Some use models, others don't.  Some use light backgrounds, some dark.  A model helps with scale (and reassures the viewer that the piece can actually be worn), but it can be easier to see and appreciate the beadwork details when the jewelry is photographed alone.  (If you're interested in reading more on this debate over the best type of photos, see the comments on a blog post on the Beadsmith site from 2013 titled "To Model or Not to Model.")

Since I don't want to influence any of the voting, I'm not going to share any favorites from this year's entries.  The beautiful design here is the 2013 winning design by Ann Braginsky from Israel.  She used bead embroidery, brick stitch, peyote stitch, and netting with sizes 11 and 15 seed beads, Czech glass beads, and Swarovski Elements.

You can see the current entries as they're posted on the B.O.T.B. '13 Facebook page. (The page covers this year's competition, too, despite the "13" in the name.)  You should also check out the 800+ photos from last year's battle on the Battle of the Beadsmith 2013 Pinterest Board.

If you're still hungry for more beaded inspiration, maybe you should see a doctor … you might be infected with a beading tapeworm!

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