Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Delicious Delicas

When I began encrusted beading I was familiar with seed beads and had used them in the artist books that I had been making for many years. As I read and explored the magical world of beading I saw something called 'delica' beads but I had no idea what they were. I'll admit that when I first looked them up on an on-line bead site I found that they were more expensive than the seed beads I'd been using so I just skipped over them. One day, quite by accident I bought some Delicas at a local bead shop, thinking I suppose that they were the seed beads that I was so familiar with. Once I started beading with them I found many differences -- the larger hole was quite easy to work with and their uniformity made a neatnik like me sit up and take notice. Then I discovered their color ranges. At that point the whole thought of expense just dropped by the wayside because Delicas had put me under their spell. These days I probably use Delicas 85% of the time.

Seed beads are just as wonderful and in some ways they are more flexible than Delicas because they are rounder and are easier to use when there is a large expanse of base to cover. But I am entranced by the Delica colors. I love to use muted colors in monochromatic and analogous color schemes. Delicas seem to provide me with the shades that I'm looking for. What do you think, do you have a favorite or do you use both types of beads interchangeably?
Oh and the pictures you see here are from the first of my 'First Steps' collection. More to come in a later post.

"Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons." - Ruth Ann Schabacker

Friday, September 25, 2009

Moon Dust

The moon has long been my talisman. As a child I had to begin wearing glasses and the first thing I noticed upon donning them was the 'man in the moon'. I had heard that phrase but never knew what people were talking about because to my eyes the moon was a flat disk up in the dark sky. Now I could see the 'man in the moon'. My bedroom window, which was right beside my bed often showed me the full moon and its light. It was often bright enough to wake me out of a sound sleep. I would lie there and make wishes and know that 'Mr. Moon' was watching over me. It was easy to fall back to sleep knowing that I was so gifted by this big, bright orb.

Today, when the trees are not in full bloom, the full moon shines into my studio. Still watching out for me I guess. When I choose bead colors I often think of the moon -- I call many of my choices 'moon colors' because to me they seem soft and muted as if a cloud has passed over the moon. I love the feeling that soft colors give to me. I honestly admire those who can bead with bright, colorful beads -- I love to see them -- but for my hands it is the muted, misty colors that seem to represent most clearly what I'm trying to portray in my work. Hmm, sort of a mix-up there that the muted colors would portray me more clearly!

I'm drawn to soft greys and lavenders, robin's egg blue and aquamarine. Do you think I'm still whispering in the dark to my friend the moon by using these oh so quiet colors?

"Follow your inner moonlight, don't hide the madness". - Allen Ginsburg

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Goodbye Summer

Summer days – discovering a hidden waterfall by traveling up a ribbon of long and winding pavement. There was Shunkenwauken Falls, right along the road. The water pouring over the rocks making a warm summer day seem cool and tranquil.

Summer days - A multitude of frogs living in a small pond outside my studio window. My in-house biologist/ecologist contributed this picture of resident “Big Bubba”. DH has the knack of walking right up on the frogs whereas when I approach all I get are plop, plop, plop as they jump back in to the water.

And so I bid goodbye to summer by walking behind the waterfall at Bridal Veil Falls. There is nothing more welcome than a waterfall on a summer day.
Goodbye sweet summer and welcome fall!

"The summer song sings itself." - William Carlos Williams

Friday, September 18, 2009

Along The Way

My beading journey has led me down paths I've never before traveled. Sort of like going into a forest, without a compass, turning this way and that way - but loving the adventure of it all.
Along the way I discovered sculptured beading. I'm not even sure if that is the 'real' term for it - but for me it is when you have a three dimensional form and you bead it thoroughly, creating a beaded sculpture. This idea amazed and intrigued me. On one of my thrift store visits I found a pair of white kid gloves and immediately I could see one of them completely covered in white beads. I realize now that to take on a project like this, so early in my beading days, was utter folly. But -- I had to try it. And so I began to bead this glove.

Beginning with the fingers (the most difficult part of the whole thing I soon learned) I beaded and beaded and beaded. I do not normally keep track of the number of hours any piece takes -- because I don't care -- but out of curiosity I kept track of the glove work time. When the four fingers you see here were finally finished I had put 46 hours into them.

Once the fingers were finished the glove sat on its tray, waiting patiently until I had recovered from the trauma of the previous beading. Trying to stitch beads deep between fingers that didn't want to move and trying to keep from going blind while distinguishing between the 'different' white beads (which after all looked almost exactly the same) was quite a task for this novice beader. Finally -- I moved onto the thumb, beading slowly around and around. At least there is only one thumb on a hand!
Because I was doing other beading, in between glove work, I was learning and even developing a beading rhythm which I didn't have when I began this project. I was also learning more about the beads themselves and how they often dictate where they will go and what they say.
All the while this unfinished project was waiting patiently for me...

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience". - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Creative Ramblings

Here is a variation on the 'necklace' theme -- whereby I attached the beaded piece to fabric and framed it all. This 'picture' is named "Twilight Path" because I used muted purple and green beads in several shapes and sizes. Unfortunately the colors don't show up here very well -- so you'll have to take my word for it.

Any new adventure takes a leap of faith. During the learning process it is often hard to branch out, to 'let myself go' because I'm all involved in the 'rules' and trying to master stitches. As I keep learning the basics of beading I begin to feel more secure with the craft and that allows me to try things that are not exactly as the books had shown.

There is a small book that I would love to recommend to you. It is called "Creative Authenticity" by Ian Roberts. It has nothing to do with beading, but everything to do with creating. I discovered this book several years ago and my copy is now much worn from the times I have read it. It stays by my bed and I'll often read just one chapter before going to sleep. I especially love the chapters "Searching for Beauty" and "Your Craft and Your Voice".

One of his thoughts goes like this: You would not expect to be able to play a violin if one were handed to you, unless you had previous experience. However, with perseverance and practice you could learn to play. The secret is practice, practice, practice. I think it is that way with our craft and art forms. No one would expect someone to be an expert seamstress just by sitting down at the sewing machine so why would we expect to master any other skill or art immediately. So, here I am giving myself the time to practice, practice, practice with those teeny, tiny beads and in so doing I am learning to love beading in all of its forms (many of which I still haven't begun to try).

"Own your own creativity. You are creative with the same juice that flows in all of life. The question is not whether you are creative enough but whether you will free yourself to express it." - Ian Roberts

Friday, September 11, 2009

Into The Fog

I love the misty fog that has been gracing our hilltop these mornings. The cool damp air touches my skin like a balm against what will later become a warm southern day. It is bliss to start off on these walks up the hill with the forest surrounding me.

The forests in this area are very dense at this time of the year. From the ground up it is difficult to see further than a few feet into the deeply shadowed understory. The fog then tends to blur the view even more, like organdy fabric over everything. This all seems to make the forest itself even more mysterious. There is life in there, deep in the green depths of the woods. There are animals - deer, bear, bobcats, turkeys, squirrels, rabbits all living out their lives quietly unaware of me (unless I startle them). There are snakes and frogs and all manner of insects. There are spiders gently weaving their webs in amongst the foliage. Perhaps there are even elves and fairies hidden within - peeking timidly out to see what stranger is passing by. I hope I don't startle them as I am only passing by, enjoying their view and their solitude on this foggy morning walk.

"Derive happiness in oneself from a good day's work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us". - Henri Matisse

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Baubles and Bangles

As I began this journey into bead art my thought was that I would try every form of beading that I possibly could. Partly to see how I liked it, partly to see if I could actually do it. Of course as I kept reading and learning I found there were probably more forms than I would ever be able to try, let alone learn. That didn't still my spirit. I knew that some of what I tried during this time would not appeal to me -- either the piece I made or the technique I used or both. But, I still felt the need to practice and 'perfect' the craft of beading by trying as many different forms of encrusted beading as I could. Hopefully through this 'study' period my own beading style would emerge.

Jewelry was my next step. This necklace was so much fun to make. I loved working on a smaller piece, something that fit into my hands easily and yet had several different stitches. Also practicing with the cabochon was a delight to these untutored hands. I was able to 'master' caging the cabochon with a lace cage and learned how to make the necklace strand which was a test of my patience.

From necklaces to bracelets. Using a metal cuff as a base I fashioned two braclets, one 1-1/4" wide and one 1" wide. I was very nervous when I put the first one together, using ultrasuede as the backing - but miracle of miracles, it worked!

The bracelets as well as the necklace were a stretch for me for reasons other than the beading techniques -- I am not a jewelry person. I hardly ever wear much jewelry (although I love it) and I am very petite so that large bracelets look out of place on my skinny wrists. The large encrusted necklace has the same effect. So while it was great fun to make these pieces (and very good for my learning curve) I realized that encrusted beaded jewelry is probably not my best path.

"Not on one strand are all life's jewels strung". - William Morris

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Finding My Way

No journey ever taken can be attempted without the help of a map, a guide, a guru -- well I guess it could, but that's a good way to get lost. And so, as I began my exploration of encrusted beading, just last fall, I turned to those who were already following this path.

My first map came in the form of this book. Before seeing "Beaded Embellishment" I had no idea the various forms that encrusted beading could take, in fact I will admit I hadn't even known there was such a thing as 'encrusted' beading. I quickly discovered those oh so creative bead artists fashioning intricate pictures and then went on to discover the possibility of beaded purses and jewelry and sculptured items... well the list goes on and on.

My first encrusted beading project was this picture, aptly named "Autumn Journey". It was a good 'first' because it allowed me to practice all sorts of stitches on a flat surface. Thanks to Amy C. Clarke's and Robin Atkin's directions I began to explore (and stretch myself I might add). I won't even tell you how many beads I put on and took off in an attempt to finish this piece. Not only was I learning beading stitches but I was learning color and placement of the beads -- and probably the most important lesson learned was 'patience'!

I found out that Robin Atkins had other books and quickly ordered those too. By this time my head was swimming with possible beading projects -- all of this without really knowing a thing about beading itself. My dreams were definitely outpacing my skill. But isn't learning, exploring and dreaming what life is all about?

"Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind." - James Russell Lowell

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And so it begins...

...my first blog entry. I see this as my journal of sorts, recording and sharing thoughts on creativity, inspiration and my own journey into bead art. Who knows where this path will lead, but surely the journey is far more important than the destination.

The above picture shows an artist book that I made called “Cartography” – a little book that celebrates the journeys we take.

Until late last fall I worked on book arts exclusively and had done so for five years. And then one day I made this book called “Embellishment”. The whole idea of the book was nothing more than embellishment, telling no story, just putting snippets of this and that onto the pages. When it came time to make the cover I decided to try some beaded embroidery – most especially ‘encrusted’ beading whereby the whole background is covered in beads. This book was the first step in my beaded embroidery ‘journey’. The lure of beading had entered my spirit – almost like an invisible, addictive ‘bead dust’ - and that’s where I am today. I hope you'll join me in my journey.

"It is good to have an end to journey towards but it is the journey that matters in the end." - Ursula LeGuin


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