Making a bindi

Aside from doing my own costumes, I’ve been known to make jewellery, specifically items that I wish I could buy but never found, or never found anything I liked well enough. An example of this was a Victorian/Art Nouveau choker made with real garnets that I wanted, but every piece I found available was either made with crystals (or worse, plastic) or not made in a style I liked, and vintage pieces were prohibitive (and still not what I had in mind). So, some years ago I bought a few findings, wire, garnet beads, and created the choker of my dreams. And promptly gave it away to a friend for her wedding.

Still, as part of that work, and as part of the costume making process, I accumulated certain materials: silver plated jewellery findings, silver-plated wire, beads, some tools, flat back crystals. Part of that still gets used for beading (see the new teal bra for details), but others were left unused. I also finally discovered a spirit gum that allowed me to wear bindis without falling off my face, and therefore I started searching for bindis I liked. Sadly, most of the bindi makers I liked live abroad, and the shipping for their teensy but lovely items was prohibitive (think about 50% or more of the cost of a bindi). What to do? Elementary: since I had nearly all the materials, I’d try my hand at making them myself.

I checked a couple of tutorials online and realised that the process was rather simple, just paste what you wanted over a suitable base. I picked acetate sheets, and my supplies, and used a suitable glue (E6000). If you want to try your hand at making one, you can follow my instructions. The process is not difficult, but it can be very fiddly, as you’re dealing with very small parts. You will need:

assorted findings, crystals and stones

assorted findings, crystals and stones

  • acetate sheets: you can find these at craft stores
  • masking or paper tape
  • suitable glue: I’ve read GemTac works, but I’ve also read it’s not really suitable; if you’ll be bonding stones or crystals to metals, you might want to use something a bit sturdier, so I picked E6000 (also recommended often for crystal embellishing and jewellery)
  • a wax pencil or picker is not necessary, you can use tweezers, but the picker makes your life easier
  • stones, crystals, pearls, findings, whatever you want to put on the bindi, this is where your creativity comes in!

Pictured above, an example of materials you’d need, which has antique bronze and antique silver coloured findings, abalone shell cabochon, a 7mm Swarovski, and quite a few other smaller Swarovski crystals of assorted sizes So, now that you’ve got everything you need, how do you do it all?

mock-up bindi

mock-up bindi

  1. pick your supplies and have it all at hand.
  2. needless to say, remove any child or pet, make sure you’re working in a well ventilated environment, and if you’re going to be cutting findings and not just using crystals, make sure you wear protective gear
  3. over a stable background, put together a mock-up of your desired bindi: arrange the findings, stones and crystals in a way that you find pleasant, take note of whether any finding needs a more even base or has bits sticking out that might result in unbalanced crystals; see example of this on the right
  4. if you have a rogue finding, you will need to grab a file and file down the offending parts; quite often you might want to remove unwanted parts of findings (like connecting rings), or split findings into several parts to have more versatility; for each of these, you will need to file down the edges by hand (again, example of modified pieces on the right)
  5. cut a piece of the acetate about half bigger than your finished bindi, secure to your working surface with masking tape to make sure it stays put
  6. first layer of the bindi

    first layer of a bindi

  7. with a thin piece of wire, or a match, or something equally thin, smear some glue over the acetate, and following your chosen glue’s instructions, start building your bindi: use the wax pencil to pick up each piece and arrange them over the glued-up acetate, starting with the bottom layer; I prefer to start from the centre outwards, as it helps to keep it all balanced; this first layer for me tends to be metal findings
  8. once your foundation layer is done, add the second layer, if required, in the same manner: this is when I add crystals or gemstones and other accents
  9. nearly finished bindi

    nearly finished bindi

  10. it will look a bit messy; I’d let it cure for 48 hours, and after that time, cut carefully around the edge of the bindi, then go through the nooks and crevices of the findings and crystals with a needle or a pin to remove leftover glue

If you want to minimise your glue waste (and mess!), you can assemble your mock-up over paper, then trace the outline before putting the acetate on top, so you just put glue within the outline. I should also warn you that the glue does get everywhere, and even if you are careful, you will find globs of it all over the bindi no matter how careful you are, that’s why it is vital to do the final step and remove the leftover glue after it’s had time to cure.

As I said, not difficult, but rather fiddly, worth doing if you’ve got the materials lying around or you require a particular colour combination, but keep into account that crystals do sell by the 50s or 100s, so you might not want to do this for a one-off project unless you’ve got the items already. You can also make these as cheap or expensive as you want: I only use Swarovskis or gemstones or vintage stones in mine, and quite a few of my findings are silver plated, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do cheap and cheerful versions. I did a few trials with resin 4mm stones, and found that while they do look ok, when comparing them with Swarovskis, or even EIMASS (English) crystals, they were not catching the light as well. And that is what I wanted them for: as embellishments, and therefore they needed to be as sparkly as possible. The beauty of this, however, is that you could also use vintage costume jewellery, or broken jewellery items instead of crystals and findings. You’d still need to clean them up, but if you are after a very specific look, it might be something to consider. And you could make other facial adornments, not just bindis.

Now, if you still want bindis, but don’t want to do them yourself, why not head over to the shop to look at the ones I’ve got for sale?

Inspiration: Derwood Green, and ATS World Wide Flash Mob

It’s Friday, so there should be an inspiration post. It’s also a good time to remind people about the upcoming ATS World Wide Flash Mob happening in October. The song has been chosen, it will be Phil Thornton’s and Hossam Ramzy’s Derwood Green. The track has created a teensy bit of a controversy, as some people felt it was too long for the common public, and others that the constant changes from slow to fast tempo, with the extra bits that can go either way would be unnecessarily complex for beginners who might want to participate. Granted, it is a very complex song, but based in my (limited) performance experience, the differences in the tempo will make the general public maintain their attention, so the concern for the song’s length is unfounded. The concerns about the complexity aren’t, but the surest way to deal with it is with everybody being very familiar with the song, so the changes are not abrupt.

As part of our “homework” over the small break we’re having, our ATS teacher sent us to look for performances of the song. I’ve found a few, some ATS, some vaguely ATS (I said vaguely because I could almost recognise the moves but they were executed like someone that had picked them up from videos without direct ATS instruction), some non-improvisational Tribal, some Fusion, and even a few done cabaret style, including a raqs assaya one using canes… I guess it’s all that mizmar. It’s been rather interesting for me, because normally I would look at videos from known groups or from Festivals, so mostly I’d seen FCBD, Black Sheep and the like. Suddenly I was exposed to a lot of smaller troupes and groups, each with their take.

As a result of this Derwood Green overload, interestingly enough, I do seem to be developing a stronger sense of what I’d expect in terms of musicality, although things like seeing the Tribal Fusion duo picking up a slow flute phrasing instead of the frantic drumming to follow has also been a nice reminder that music has many layers and we don’t necessarily need to focus on the most obvious.

Anyway, these are my picks, from the ones I’ve seen so far, and (surprise!) all three of them include at least one member of FCBD. Enjoy! And if you want to find out more about the World Wide ATS Flash Mob, head over to the Facebook Community

What I’ve been up to?

Looking at the dates of posts in the blog, you’d think I’ve lost interest. I haven’t. I’ve just been so busy, that writing about what I’m doing has taken a back seat to actually *doing* stuff. Because doing is always a lot more fun, of course!

In the dancing world, I am continuing attending Tribal Fusion classes with Hilde Cannoodt in Brighton, while also still going to ATS classes (still at Level 2, trying to polish it all before moving up, hopefully by the end of the year). I am still practicing with the Silk Road troupe locally. I’ve taken an intensive with Rosangela Silvestre. I’m doing an ATS residential in January. I am now schedule for a first duo performance at the local Hafla in October, and want to try practicing my second choreography to see if I could do my first solo *gasp* by the end of the year. I will attempt a review of Rosangela’s intensive, but it will be difficult, not because there was too much or too little, but because a lot of the work has been quite personal to me.

In the costuming world, I now need to start working on the belt to match the teal bra I finished in June, and will probably also do a Ghawazee coat to match. I’ve also started making bindis, I’ll be posting a tutorial soon, although it’s not for the faint of heart. And if you’re observant, you’ll notice a “Store” button above… I am not going to have a full blown store, but I will put some of the bindis I make up for sale, and it seemed like the best idea. Stay tuned!

In the body world, Rosangela’s intensive did open up a lot: her warm-ups were very specific, VERY slow, no cardio as most people expect but opting for slowly stretching and pushing the body, and I’ve found that works tonnes better with my muscles, and her way of explaining moves also helped me break through mental barriers that were preventing me from achieving certain body moves. My ATS teacher has also changed the conditioning so these days we are working rather differently, which has helped. My ankle is still not fully healed, though, although it is getting better slowly, and I am scheduled in for nail surgery during September, which hopefully won’t be an issue. And all this work has also kickstarted a different body awareness, which I am still not sure where it will take me, but that is proving to be rather “interesting”… more on that when I get my thoughts organised better!

So what can you expect, coming up?

  • making of the teal belt
  • tutorial on making a bindi
  • review of the Silvestre Technique Intensive
  • some further thoughts on health, body awareness and technique
  • more inspiration posts
  • further down the line, on the sewing pile: brocade bra and belt, another tribal belt, two fustan raqs, and re-threading and re-beading of a Cabaret Costume


Review: Tribal Skirt from Devadasi Design

During my first attendance to Tribal Remix in Brighton, a skirt wearing caught my eye: it was a 25 yarder, yes, but made of very light cotton, with lurex strands running through it, like a glitter pinstripe. It looked amazing, particularly in movement, and being burgundy -my favourite colour for clothing- it generated an instant desire to get something similar.

At a later time I found through one of the ATS groups on Facebook that similar skirts were done by Devadasi Designs. The skirts looked really nice, but as usual, a bit too small to fit my hips. And the site was in German, although thanks to Google Translate, I could figure it out. On a whim, I decided to write to them. Could they do custom orders?

Gudrun from Devadasi Design

Gudrun from Devadasi Design in her workshop

Turns out that the answer was YES, although they suggested Sea Green instead of the teal I wanted -they don’t do teal for the lurex ones- and not only they did custom order to my hips and length (allowing me the extra length I need to avoid the dreaded bum-lift at the back) but they didn’t charge extortionate prices for the convenience either. The communication with Gudrun, the owner of Devadasi Design, was nothing short of superb. My order arrived quickly, and because it came from within the EU, also avoided the dreaded VAT/TAX/Duty/Handling Charge that Royal Mail will slap on your order. What’s not to like?

The skirts are *gorgeous* in person, and I got plenty of questions of where I’d got it. They are fluffy and soft and light, they twirl and fly when you move, and you can even wash them. The colour is great, and although it’s more of a minty green than I expected, it works. I loved it when I took it out of the box, and worked wonderfully with the teal bra that I’d made. I’ve only worn it once for performance, and I do still need to adjust the length a touch to even out the bottom, but that’s something I’ve come to expect with every new skirt, and has nothing to do with the skirt itself and all to do with my particular body shape.

Would I order again from Devadasi Design? Yes! I was very, very satisfied with the customer support, my questions were answered promptly, I got informed when my skirt went into production and when it shipped too, so the whole process was transparent. I felt very cared for as a customer! I have also revised my “beware of postal made to measure” position. The fact that gradient skirts can be dyed to order means that also you can have unique skirts that are like no other, or have skirts ordered for a whole troupe, dyed in the exact same batch so everybody’s look the same, if that’s what you’re after.

Now go visit her website, and drool: Devadasi Design. I just lament that I didn’t take any picture of myself wearing the skirt when I used it for performance.

New Teal Bra, part 2: beading!

Finished bra

Finished bra

I wanted to start this post with the finished bra, because it would make what follows a bit more palatable. Yes, the results are gorgeous, but yes, it will require a bit more work than normal. I won’t cover adding the straps and sides, as the process is fairly similar if not identical to what I described previously for the black and burgundy bra, the dress, and even, a bit, for the belt: use a sturdy base, cover with the fashion fabric, attach. The “new” bit here, and what warrants the extra post, is the beading. And I am not talking about the embroidered beads, those were covered before, and there are other ways that you could do it. I am talking about the dangles.

As a big girl, I’ve refused to have dangles before, because, I thought, they would attract the eye to my stomach, and of course we’ve always been told that is BAD (yes, in bold and capital letters). However, we are dancers, and we practice a form that works better for smaller audiences, and up close, with small, precise moves that sometimes are so delicate to barely be seen… But when parading or performing at fairs, all the typical trappings of our costumes do start paying off: the dangles, the tassels, the ruffles, the drapes, all serve to amplify our moves, because the guy standing 3 metres away from you might not be able to notice your amazing Arabic shimmy, but he *will* see that you’re moving because the tassels and falls are moving, and his brain will fill in the blanks.

Tools and parts for beading

Tools and parts

This time, I wanted to do something special, and I was encouraged by the lovely combo of beads I’d used for the bra, and decided I wanted some more beads strung, but because of the nature of our moves, I needed something a bit more sturdy. Enter the copper wire. I’d done jewellery before (why, yes, you *should* be surprised!)  so I had all the necessary tools. They are not many and can be obtained cheaply, I’ve seen basic sets on Ebay going for a fiver. Places like Hobbycraft sell ergonomic versions that are much pricier, if you’re going to be doing a lot of it, you might want to consider it… because warning: beading CAN and DOES hurt.

Among the tools you will see 2 types of pliers: round nose and bent, and a wire cutter. I also used three different filigrees to construct the focal piece, chain to create the central dangles, some bead caps, head pins, and an assortment of czech crystal fire-polished beads in different colours and sizes. I went with a lot of faceted stones because they do catch the light better, and that helps making your costume sparkly, and with AB (Aurora Borealis) finishing because that tends to add an iridescence that is quite attractive, and would contrast quite nicely with the deep jewel teal of the base.

Beading closeup

Beading closeup

For assembling each strand, I created a mock-up of the finish set using sturdy thread, and decided to split the beads in groups of three, that you can see in the photo on the right. I used the wire to create a loop that I then wrapped to secure it, put the beads in with just enough room so they could move without being too loose. The wrapping of each loop is *vital*, because these dangles will take quite a bit of punishment, with turns and shimmies, and the wrapping will prevent the loops from becoming undone. And this is also the reason why I used wire, and didn’t just use elastic or heavy-duty thread like I used on small beaded tassels before. Yes, this might just be over-engineering, but I’d rather do the work once, and not have to repair it, or waste time going over it for half an hour before and after each use because there’s a chance that something might be loose or worn, the beads will fly out, and poke someone in the eye. I am not going to go into the wiring detail, there are probably plenty of tutorials on YouTube that should explain things clearer and more in detail than I can go in here, done by people who do jewellery as their trade.



Finally, I assembled a centrepiece out of 3 different filigrees. You can use glue to get these together, however, I used thread to sew them together and onto the bra. If you’re lucky enough to find a piece that you love, good for you; I wasn’t that lucky so I used what I could. I added a central dangle to it using the chains, some more beads, bead caps and the head pins, and attached the beads to this central piece, and to the bra.

If I had to do it again, I would probably create a slightly smaller central piece, as the bottom bit can poke into my tummy if I’m contracting too much for tummy rolls, for instance. And I would probably create the beads with lobster clasps so they can be removed at will (and used elsewhere!). But those are considerations that have more to do with your costume planning, so they don’t have to be exactly the same. And anyway, the piece was nice enough to get a *lot* of compliments from people, so I’m happy enough as it is!

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