Friday, May 20, 2011

Express Yourself

Lately I've been thinking a lot about facial expressions on my critter beads. I think it came about because I was asked to make a flock of funny birds (similar to the ones in the short film Bird on a Wire). I noticed right away that the birds had very comical expressions - ranging from surprised to angry. I knew more than anything that the expressions I put on my beads would be the biggest challenge when I made them. Also, I had never put eyelids on my beads before (as a result, they all suffer from sever dry eye), so that added to the challenge. The birds posing on the Jenga block are the ones I made for my special order, and I was pretty happy with how they turned out. They got me thinking a lot about expression and how I could improve or expand on the facial features of my beads.

Back when I started making beads, I found a couple tutorials that were instrumental in helping me make critter beads. Super talented Emma Green, from Bead Envy, shares them on her site - one for a penguin and one for a cow head. At the end of the penguin tutorial, she reveals that the most important part of a critter bead is its eyes. "The eyes have it," as she puts it, and I agree completely. By adding eyelids to some of my bird beads, I gave them a more skeptical look. But also, the position of the black eyeball definitely will change the look of a bead from surprised to, say, lonely.

The expression on my penguins is almost always the same - poker faced. They always look as if they don't know what's going on, like, duh, I don't know. I think the position of the wings contributes to this, too, because it looks like he's shrugging his shoulders.

For cow beads, I usually put down a layer of black before I put the white eyeball and then the teal coloring. All these layers take up space on the bead, and as I melt them in they expand, causing the eyes to smush together. For some beads, this is not the effect I want, so I pull off the eyes (don't worry, doesn't hurt a bit) and start over. But for cows, I happen to like how it gives them an almost petrified look. I try to keep the blacks of the eyes closer together and in the middle, and somehow it works.

The sad puppy dog eyes are probably my favorites to make. I start with a layer of black, then white, then a shade of transparent topaz or brown. For these, I try not to let them melt together like on the cows, but I do let them expand a bit. Then I'm careful to put the blacks of the eyes toward the top and also toward the snout. Now he looks like he could use a good scratch behind the ears. Or a cookie.

One look I'm still working on is the sideways glance. I tried it with the kitty on the right, but it seems like only one eyeball got the message. This happens a lot (see the pink bird on the right in the top picture). I need to work on getting those eyeballs in the same spot on each eye. It seems to work when the brown kitty is seated next to the bad fish-eating kitty because he's got something to look at.

I'm going to make it my goal to try to give my beads a little more expression and personality. Let's hope they are cool with that. If not, I guess they'll show me.


  1. Your critters are so expressive! Love them!

  2. The facial expressions are priceless!
    Especially with my flock of birdies. ;-)



  4. Love the birdies, they're amazing!