I first met Chloe Menage back in 2010, at the British Bead Awards. I think we had corresponded before that time when Chloe became editor of Bead Magazine. She was kind enough to feature my work regularly in the magazine and she was really lovely to work with. We soon became friends as well as work colleagues. Chloe sadly left the magazine in the spring of 2014, but her own beading journey is still continuing and when I was thinking about the designers I would like to interview on here, Chloe came right out at the top of my list. I’m very pleased that Chloe agreed to talk about her work and the publication of this interview coincides with the launch of her new Pinkhot Jewellery website, so do make sure you pop over and take a look at it – it’s fabulous!
Chloe, how did you get started in beading?
I’ve always been crafty and have been making jewellery since I was tiny; whether it was wonky earrings made from plastic beads, friendship bracelets or elastic bracelets. However, I didn’t discover beadwork until I was in university; when my Mum (an art and textiles teacher) introduced me to some bead looms and the book ‘The Art and Elegance of beadweaving’ (Carol Wilcox Wells). She had got them in to try with some of her GCSE group but hadn’t had a chance to experiment, so asked me if I fancied having a go while I was home one weekend. That was it! After that I beaded almost every evening after I’d finished my university work, it was wonderful to have something to do that was so different to my journalism studies. Unfortunately most of these early pieces quickly fell apart but I had so much fun!.
Did you have any formal training?
Everything I’ve learnt I’ve gathered from books, workshops and friends. Whilst working at The Bead Shop Nottingham I was taught all the basics which gave me a wonderful springboard.
Is beading now your full-time career, or is it still a hobby?
Beading for me is definitely more than a hobby, but I also have a full time job in the world of marketing. All of my beading and work on Pinkhot takes place in the evenings and weekends. I adore the challenges running my own small business offers me and would love the chance one day to see if I could make it work full-time, but right now I’m happy with the balance.
What are your favourite techniques?
I probably work most in peyote stitch or RAW. A lot of my work uses bezelling and most of the time I use peyote for that – however working with so many of the new Starman two- and four-hole beads has encouraged me to explore more freeform techniques.
How would you describe your style?
My style is modern and contemporary, full of bright, vibrant colours. A lot of my work is made up from repeated components; whether they are bezelled stones or beaded beads, I love the versatility of this style.
Who, or what, inspires your work?
I love fabrics and these are a great source of inspiration for colours and shapes. A trip to India last year was a huge source of inspiration for me; I was overwhelmed by the fabrics, colours and jewellery. I feel I still have several designs to come out of that trip…
Inspiration strikes anywhere. I am frequently inspired by highstreet jewellery worn by friends or colleagues; I think ‘Now how could I make that in beads?’
Do you have a favourite piece of work?
My Sari Pendant is one of my favourite makes, I designed it originally to wear with a sari I bought whilst in India for a friend’s wedding. After being told by the girls who helped me put on my sari that I needed ‘more jewellery’ I felt that something inspired by the fabric and the trip was needed for the second part of the wedding in the UK. For me it is a memento of a really special trip and it was so much fun to teach it as a workshop earlier this year.
I’m also currently working on a piece for the Stitchncraft Challenge, and if I actually get this finished it will be the largest piece I have ever created – so hopefully something to be proud of.
What is your beading space like?
I love working in my bead room, whether it is updating my website or making a mess with polymer clay. I tend to do most of my actual beading on the sofa in front of the TV, but I enjoy pulling out all my beads for a project on my desk and loading them onto a tray.
I’m looking forward to hopefully moving later this year – a larger studio is on my tick-list, which will allow me to teach from home.
My current space is messy and far too small! Haha! Actually it’s not that small but it is full to bursting. Even though I tidy it regularly it doesn’t stay pristine very long. I have come to accept I am not a naturally tidy person. It’s a small spare bedroom; I get all the afternoon sunshine streaming in which is great, and it has lots of storage and colourful photos and pictures on the wall. Oh, and my collection of My Little Ponies!
Do you teach beadwork at all?
Yes I teach regularly at Stitchncraft Beads in Dorset, Hobbycraft in Havant and Spoilt Rotten Beads in Cambridge. I will also be teaching an open workshop at Medway Beaders, Kent, in June of this year (2015). I teach around once a month, and may teach at some new venues next year. If the new house allows then I hope to be able to run evening classes too.
Has your work been published anywhere?
I have been published in most of the UK beading magazines at some time or other. As editor of Bead magazine for almost four years, many of my designs were printed in it. Now I am a regular contributor to Making Jewellery magazine and I have a fun peyote design in the current issue; Queensberry Treasure (Issue 80).
Do you sell your work?
I do sell my work. My new website has some of my current range; which I will be adding to over the coming months. I will also be exhibiting for the first time as part of Hampshire Open Studios this August.
Do you do other forms of craft as well?
I love trying new things though and always prefer to give a handmade card over a shop bought one if I can.
I love to crochet, I tend to only do this to make gifts for family, although my wire crochet cuffs are a popular commission for bridesmaids.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to create their own designs?
Don’t be afraid to just play with the beads and see what happens. There really are no rules and you can’t get it wrong, just keep working at it until you are happy with it. Experimenting is truly the key to success!
Do you have any tips for people who want to sell their work?
Pricing is the trickiest part, especially when it comes to beadwork and other time consuming mediums. Speak to other designers and artists and read some books and articles – there are plenty out there now aimed at crafty people like us.
After you’ve got that right then it’s all about the marketing – many beady friends I meet find selling themselves the hardest part. Don’t be afraid to shout about your work; once you get over the initial fear it will get easier. Make the most of social media channels, your blog (if you have one) and other more traditional formats.
You can find finished jewellery, beading patterns and all Chloe’s teaching and beading news on her website, www.pinkhot.co.uk