I do most of my Christmas shopping in November to avoid the crowds, but otherwise Christmas doesn’t start for me until December. Usually, at least. I completely ran out of time to make a Halloween bead this year, so I was determined not to leave my Christmas bead to the last minute. Which meant that I needed to do it this month!
I started with a list of the things that I associate with Christmas: trees. Stockings. Stars. Cookies. Candy canes. Presents. Warm cider. Eggnog. Snowflakes. As I continued my list, I realized that I could make something like my Hannibal bead (minus the cannibalism, of course) to bring together several Christmas traditions. Despite the challenge of piecing together the Hannibal bead, I liked how each part contributed to the larger story of the bead.
When I finished my list, I had 22 ideas on it. I crossed off half, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get the details in such a small size, then picked a few ideas and started making the pieces. I made seven pieces and the base, then stopped and waited for them to dry. I knew that I’d probably need more peices, but wanted to see how the ones that I had so far fit together.
One of the trickiest parts I find in making a compilation bead is fitting the pieces onto the base so that there aren’t empty spaces between them. After they’re attached to the base, I can’t always get them off without breaking them, so figuring out the rough order beforehand is important! I’ve tried laying them out on a table but a happy arrangement on a flat surface isn’t always so happy when you have to account for the curve of the bead. This time I decided to just dive right in and hope that the order that I came up with worked out. I was lucky. The pieces fit together well, with a gap around only the candy cane. I revisited my list of ideas and, after a bit of fiddling, filled in the gap.
The bead tells the story of our Christmas traditions.
Every year we head out to a tree farm to choose our Christmas tree as a family. Our kids run up and down the field to see all of the trees, and even take a turn at the saw (even though they can’t really use it), then help us pull the tree sled back to our car. Then we have hot chocolate and cookies and decorate the tree together. The kids tend to pile all of the ornaments on one side, so we spend the next week rearranging the ornaments on the tree so that it doesn’t fall over.
A few days later, the presents start to appear. Our kids help us wrap some of the gifts, although they have a tendency of getting so excited about the gifts that they sometimes tell people what they are getting before Christmas! But I don’t mind. When I was younger, my brother and I had a Christmas Eve tradition of telling each other one gift that we knew the other was getting, so it feels like this is just a new twist on that tradition.
The star is for the star that we put on top of the tree. I wanted to put the star above the tree on the bead too, but it left too many gaps. So the stocking took its place, with the ornament and heart nestled in above it. We still do Christmas stockings for all of the people in my family. The kids get little toys, games, and candies and the adults get things like bubble bath, chocolates, and lottery tickets. It’s fun to pick out small things that people aren’t necessarily expecting. I was loath to add the heart since it’s one of the things that I find is thrown onto some beads even when it doesn’t make sense. But, in this case, I thought that it was appropriate since Christmas is about spending time with your loved ones.
The candy cane slid into the final spot on the bead. Well, the almost final spot. There was still the little issue of the gap in the hook of the candy cane, so I added the bell for the Carol of the Bells, one of my favourite Christmas carols. The bell might not be the perfect fit, but it felt like the right piece to add. Hopefully the recipient feels the same.
Yup, this bead was never for me. Although I based the ideas for it on my family’s Christmas traditions, I made it for someone else. I originally started working on another idea for myself, but once I got the idea to make this bead for my gift, I knew that I wouldn’t have enough clay to finish both. And this one had to go first so that it would arrive in time for Christmas. It’s currently winging its way to its new home to spread some Christmas joy.
I will have a Christmas bead, though. Or at least I hope that I will. I’m crossing my fingers that my replacement metal clay makes it here in time for Christmas!
Are you starting to prepare for Christmas already? Do you have any special Christmas traditions?