Using houses in my jewellery creates a narrative… I’m not just stringing beads, but telling a story.
British jeweller Karen Trezise from Ditsy Blue creates handmade jewellery that tells a story. She hand crafts polymer clay beads inspired by the old cottages, flowers, birds, stones and sea glass she sees on her Devon doorstep. We caught up with Karen and discovered that, for her, jewellery is a narrative in which each bead tells another part of the story…
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hello! I’m Karen from Ditsy Blue and I make handcrafted art beads and jewellery out of polymer clay. I live in Devon with my husband and four children.
I have always loved arts and crafts and have been creating for as long as I can remember.
Where and how did your making journey begin?
I have always loved arts and crafts and have been creating for as long as I can remember. I used to love drawing as a child and still do, and I also enjoy painting, working with textiles and paper craft. I’m able to bring many of these elements to my bead making when experimenting with colour and texture.
Which came first, the jewellery or the beads?
Definitely the jewellery. For many years I made simple pieces to give as gifts to family and friends, then one day I stumbled on a picture of some beautiful hand-crafted polymer clay beads, and that’s when my own bead-making journey began.
I stumbled on a picture of some beautiful hand-crafted polymer clay beads, and that’s when my own bead-making journey began.
How did you come up with the idea for your beautiful little house beads?
I’ve always loved old cottages – there’s something fascinating about them and I’m intrigued by their history and the many generations of people who have lived and breathed within their walls. Using houses in my jewellery creates a narrative… I’m not just stringing beads, but telling a story.
What or who else inspires you?
I find inspiration all around me. I have a huge passion for colour and often a bead or a piece of jewellery will have been inspired by a particular palette. I also love to work from paintings, again telling a story – drawing out key elements and colours from the piece and interpreting it in my own way through my beads and jewellery. I gather together lots of inspiration on Pinterest, and have a rather impressive collection of colour palettes on there!
Does where you live influence your work too?
Very much! I’m lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world and have both seaside and countryside on my doorstep… and there are lots of cottages!
My workspace consists of a large work table that’s big enough for me to make beads at one end and design jewellery at the other.
Can you talk us through your making process? How do you start a design?
I have several sketchbooks (as well as lots of random pieces of paper) where I initially jot down ideas for both my beads and jewellery designs, and then I start mixing colours and making beads. Polymer clay is a hugely versatile art material to work with, and I use a variety of techniques including surface texture, sculpture, appliqué and millefiori. This can be a long process because I often experiment with new techniques and ideas as I go along.
When the beads are cured I start putting them together to create my design, and often some will work and some won’t. So then I make some more beads. It can take a long time to arrive at a finished piece, but I think that just makes it all the more rewarding.
There is something hugely satisfying about getting to the ‘sitting down with a cup of tea and listing’ bit!
What’s your favourite part of the making process?
All of it, from the first hint of an idea through to photographing the finished pieces. I love the whole process. There is something hugely satisfying about getting to the ‘sitting down with a cup of tea and listing’ bit!
Can you describe your workspace?
My workspace consists of a large work table that’s big enough for me to make beads at one end and design jewellery at the other, and a dresser, which is home to absolutely everything I need to make my beads and jewellery, including clay, clay tools, paints, pastels, inks, jewellery making tools, findings, beads, art books and lots more. There are occasions when pretty much all of these things are being used simultaneously!
Lots of my custom orders involve tweaking things on my cottage beads so they resemble their new owner’s own home.
You can make custom orders for people too. What’s been the most fun project you’ve been asked to do?
Lots of my custom orders involve changing colours or tweaking things on my cottage beads so they resemble their new owner’s own home.
What’s the best thing about being creative for a living?
Waking up every day and being excited about going to work, the sense of satisfaction and reward when other people like what you’ve made, and the flexibility of being able to work around my family life.
More and more people are now realising the value of something handmade. I feel very proud to be part of that.
What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
Be brave and go for it!
What does craft mean to you?
Craft to me means learning how to make something with your hands, then putting your heart and soul into developing that skill.
I have a huge passion for colour and often a bead or a piece of jewellery will have been inspired by a particular palette.
How does it feel to be part of the craft scene today?
There are so many talented designers and makers, and more and more people are now realising the value of something handmade. I feel very proud to be part of that.
How would you spend your perfect day?
It would have to be a lovely family day at the beach followed by drinking tea, eating cake and making beads!
To celebrate being our featured maker Karen is offering 20% off her beads and jewellery with the code FOLKSY – valid until 28th Sept.