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Fashion Plates

As a child of the 80’s, “Fashion Plates” was my favorite toy as a girl and I spent hours and hours curating collections of pretty outfits. From the many plates, I’d usually choose my favorite top – a waist-up model wearing a collared blouse and sweater, with billowing long hair and a wistful smile. I’d usually pair this top with my favorite bottom – an A-line knee length skirt and very cool, high-heeled leather boots. Clamp down the typing paper and then the magic: rubbing the side of a black crayon to reveal my wonderful outfit. Like I drew it myself. Coloring this outfit with different patterns and prints was such a simple thrill.

Looking at Alphonse Mucha’s hauntingly beautiful “Precious Stones” panels, I’m reminded of those Fashion Plates. Both sets have a lot in common. Mucha uses a familiar woman, striking a seated pose for each panel. Art Nouveau beauties all, these models each look like Mucha’s favorite muse: Sarah Berhardt. But it’s Mucha’s composition that make this series the best Fashion Plates ever. Long, vertical panels, each with a medallion sunrising behind the model, and a field of flowers at her feet. This girl amethyst, that girl ruby, but all unique jewels, set in a perfect template.

Inspired by the striking template of Mucha’s panels, I designed pieces using the one template, as well. Each piece is a long pendant worn on a simple leather cord necklace. Long, and lean like the panels, each pendant combines interesting elements that hope to embody each of Mucha’s Precious Stones.

Highlighting the round medallion in the background and draping of Topaz’s skirt, I used a stamped copper link by Miya Beads as the focal point. An auburn disk bead by Marsha Neal reminds me of the model’s gorgeous hair, while a white panya bead (Job’s Tear) and two amber beads draw from the white-dappled, burnt orange palette.

Starting with an Afghani link from Hands of the Hills, this pendant fell into place as I just kept adding beads that looked like the Ruby panel. An embossed white Czech glass heart, gilded with gold, totally looks like the model’s bodice, while little red coral chips emulate the red flowers’ fireworks display.

Inspired by the varied plum hues of the Amethyst panel I chose lampwork rondelles made by Evelyn Fay Leinback. Each bead is a subtly different purple, with pretty swirls like an iris garden. More Afghani links from Hands of the Hills lends interest.

Probably my favorite one, I loved working off the sage-y verdant palette of the Emerald panel. A vintage brass willow leaf picks up the spindly form of the leaves here, while a Marsh Neal disk is the perfect centerpiece. The disk’s color and shape perfectly up the medallion in the background. A clear/swirled rondelle by Unicorne Beads, along with silk thread, all remind me of the model’s silk dress.