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5 Questions with Cheryl Giffen

A throwback to last September's Design Challenge and a reminder of fall colors! Read up on Design Challenge winner, Cheryl Giffen.
Falling Leaves Cheryl Giffen

Here in Wisconsin, our leaves go through a few different stages during the fall season. First, they transform colors, going through the full seasonal color palette, gradually intensifying from a soft auburn to bright yellows, reds, and oranges. Then, as temperatures get cooler, they begin to cascade in steady streams to the ground and raking activity is in full swing. Finally, at some point, you look up and the trees are bare, and the ground below is covered in a cushion of soft leaves. Suddenly, the temperature is no longer that of fall but winter. 

Around this time of year, we start to feel the latter. In an effort to hold onto the image of those leaves, though, and reflecting on last September's Design Challenge, HARVEST MOON, we asked our Design Challenge winner, Cheryl Giffen, some questions about her winning piece. 

And the name of that piece? FALLING LEAVES. The bright colors of her piece remind me of (slightly) warmer temperatures and leaves still on trees. But, let's hear from Cheryl herself!



Celtric TriskeleTriple Spiral
Cheryl's "Celtic Triskel (Triple Spiral)."

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

 

My Name is Cheryl Giffen and I live in Hooksett, NH. About eight years ago I was introduced to the world of beading. And about four years ago I started Wonder If Designs to sell my jewelry. My background is in dance and theatre. I have spent over forty-five years as a choreographer, director and performer in professional, community and educational theatre.

 

HOW DID YOU LEARN JEWELRY-MAKING?

 

When I first started my adventure in beading, I was lucky to find Bead Bush Studio in Derryfield, NH. Judy Bush, the owner, and Deb Fairchild have developed a program called the Master Beader’s Program. It is for people at any level of beading experience. It was wonderful for a beginner like me. The program has three levels, Apprentice, Journeymen and Master Beader. Judy and Deb serve not only as teachers but mentors helping us move through the different levels. At the Studio, I have been able to take classes in numerous beading techniques and other creative areas such as leather, polymer clay, fused class, wire, and felting to name a few.

 

I LOVE "FALLING LEAVES." WHERE DO YOU USUALLY FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WORK?

 

Living in New England, our four seasons are always an inspiration for creating. I am also inspired by music, theatre, and traveling to places that are different than where I live. I am inspired by all kinds of handmade art. It is not that they make me want to create the quilt, needlepoint a tablecloth, or paint a picture, but what I take away may be the use of color, the boldness of the design, or the emotion that it invoked. This inspires me to try and capture that essence in one of my designs.

Salsa Bracelet
Cheryl's "Salsa Bracelet," suggesting that "inner glow" Cheryl refers to.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MATERIALS TO USE IN YOUR WORK?

 

I love the inner glow of Luna Soft cab, and frequently pair it up with Soutache. Many times to add even more glow, I will use Japanese Miracle Beads.

 

NAME TWO THINGS THAT YOU ALWAYS HAVE WITH YOU WHEN YOU WORK.

 

Strong bright lights are a must. There are two positioned over my beading mat at all times. Since I have been known to bend a beading needle just threading it, I always have a tube of Tulip beading needles close at hand!

 

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE THAT YOU EVER GOT FROM A TEACHER OR A MENTOR?

 

One of my mentors once told me that it was time for me to take all the techniques and information I have learned from the many class taken over the years and find my own design style.  She gave me the confidence and courage to work on allowing my voice to shine through in my designs.

I Can Fix That  Necklace
Cheryl's "I Can Fix That!" Necklace, a not so goofy result of her goofiest mistake!

WHAT’S THE GOOFIEST/MOST EMBARRASSING MISTAKE THAT YOU EVER MADE? (one of those things that only another jewelry-maker would understand!!)

 

The first time I tried bead embroidery, I had a beautiful stone cab to use. I glued it to the bead backing, back-stitched around it, glued the backing on, and edge-stitched the piece. When I showed it to the teacher, she got a funny look on her face and said that I had not done the edge stitch correctly. I put the piece in a box where it sat for a couple of years. When I next saw it, I felt it was too nice a stone not to use and I needed to find a way to fix it. I glued it onto another piece of backing and stitched beads around the stone. This time I cut the bead backing to close to the beads to put Soutache around it. So once again I fixed it by gluing it onto bead backing and using some gold pearls to circle the piece. I decided not to use Soutache and just put the ultra suede on the back and edge bead it making sure to have the beads facing the correct way this time. This has turned out to be one of my most complimented necklaces. I still lovingly named it my I Can Fix That! necklace.

 

WHERE CAN PEOPLE SEE MORE OF YOUR WORK?

 

My work can be seen at Susanne’s Sew Studio, 26 Warren St., Concord, NH.

FIND MORE: soutache , embroidery

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