Friday, January 29, 2010


Here it is the end of January and I have just barely finished up my January BJP.  Really, its only the first month and here I am scrambling to get the very first piece done in time! But it is finished - except that I will be framing each piece once I complete more of them.

This piece was worked while snow piled up outside my North Carolina windows.  The word for January was: Interlude - an itervening episode, period, space, etc.  I decided to use 'time' as my representation for this word.  I used a watch face with a charm face attached to it and also the inside workings of an old watch I had on hand.  I love to work with time themes -- the whole idea of time fascinates me.  Each season of the year seems to have its own time flow.  In the winter time can move quite slowly.  With no desire to go outside into the cold -- I find myself cocooning in my studio.  This is the perfect 'time' to curl up with a good book, or to learn new bead embroidery stitches, or just watch the weather outside and be thankful that I have shelter, warmth, food and a comfy bed to curl up in when the day ends.

Now it is on to February's BJP -- my hand dips into the jar and pulls out a word.  Nope I'm not telling what word it is yet... stay tuned.

"Dost thou love life?  Then do not squander time for that's the stuff life is made of." - Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Be A Tree

If there is such a thing as reincarnation - I think I want to come back as a tree.  As I make my way up the hill each day I often stop to look at the trees.  I mean really look at them.  Studying the way they stand there day after day, month after month, year after year.  They are so strong and yet so flexible.  They sway in the wind, they grow leaves and then shed them each year, they dig their roots deep, deep into the earth. 

Sometimes as I walk I will spot a tree that has lost a branch, or as in the case of this picture a piece of the tree has been whipped away, leaving a large jagged piece behind.  What happened overnight to make this happen?  I don't remember hearing the roar of wind, I don't think there was lightning overnight -- but there it is, evidence that something took a piece of this tree away.  And yet, the tree stands there strong and true.  As the leaves come back that scar will be covered over and become invisible from my view point down here on the ground. 

I like to talk to the trees as I walk -- thankfully there is no one around to hear me.  When I talk to them I thank them -- for their bright, new green in spring, the shade they give in summer, their bright colors during autumn, and their bare branches against a bright blue sky in winter.  Oh yes, I long to be like one of these trees.  Perhaps I should start practicing their grace and patience.  Perhaps I can even begin to capture the peace that seems to belong to each and every tree.

"Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind.  To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all". - Buddha

Friday, January 22, 2010

Underneath It All

A question from one of the BJP participants got me thinking about the 'bead prep' that I do for each piece.  As we all know, in life, a good foundation is one of the keys to success -- and so as I learned beading and what worked for me the base of the piece became very important.  Its easy to forget it when you are 'itching to start stitching'. 

There are many techniques and materials that beaders use  -- and not being very familiar with all of them I'll just explain my process. 

First of all there is the determination of what I am going to bead.  I'll use an example of a picture but I also use the same technique for figure work. 

Once I have created the design I make a template out of cardstock.  I trace around the template onto Pellon (or Pellon-like) interfacing.  When choosing the weight of the interfacing I look for a 'midweight'.  A heavier weight is good for pictures but for figures (which will have to 'give' when stuffed and curved) the medium weight works best.  Next I choose the fabric which will cover the interfacing.  Some beaders stitch directly to the interfacing but I like to put cotton over it as I think my needle goes in an out with greater ease. I use regular cotton fabric (fat quarters are great for this).  I try to choose my fabric color based on the bead color family that I have chosen.  However if it is a light colored work I can just use a neutral color.  Because I'm encrusting, the fabric shouldn't show through - but if you want to do some special stitch along the way and the fabric may show through a color that blends with the beads is best.

Using Misty Fuse (love this stuff) I fuse the fabric to the front of each piece of interfacing.  Once the fabric is fused to the interfacing I cut around the fabric leaving about a quarter inch out from the edge.  Then I clip and turn the fabric over the edges basting it down.  This is not absolutely necessary for pictures but for figures I've found it works well to fold the fabric over since there can be many curves and smaller sections like arms and legs and with hemmed edges I know exactly where my edges are.   

That completes the prep work -- and I have to say it feels really good to see that blank canvas sitting there all ready for me to start beading. 

"The loftier the building, the deeper must the foundation be laid." -- Thomas Kempis

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Sonata an extended instrumental composition usually in several movements in contrasted moods and keys, each movement being developed with a balanced form in mind.

This definition of the word 'sonata' also serves as my inspiration for this figure piece.  The purple colors, the beads upon beads, the use of fiber and her elegant face all create the balanced form that I had in mind while beading her. 

Do you see her walking into the concert hall - perhaps an opera has brought her out on this cold night or is it a concert conducted by her favorite conductor?  She sits in a box up above the orchestra and listens with rapt attention as the music floats upward.  She studies her program and joins others during the intermission for a glass of sparkling champagne.  And I'm sure there is a soft velvet cape waiting to keep her warm when the the concert is over and she goes back into the night.

I celebrate beading and music in the creation of 'Sonata'.

"Ah, music.  A magic beyond all we do here". - J.K. Rowling

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fiber, Fiber, Fiber

As we all know - fiber is good for our bodies.  But I am vowing to begin this year with a new mantra: fiber is good for my beading!  I would like each piece that I work to be as textural as possible.  Beads upon beads.  Bits and pieces of found objects upon the bead surface.  Adorning the surface with ribbons and fiber.  My book art years were filled with these chanced upon additions to each page.  As I learned to bead (an ongoing process I might add) focusing on just getting the beads on the backing in some semblance of 'good' beading was enough for me.  But no longer am I feeling constrained by the beading itself.  I am ready to branch out -- to add whatever comes to hand.  I have bunches of ribbons and fiber and trim, left over from my book art days - so why not incorporate it into my beading? Embellishing my work this coming year will happily involve delving into my fiber stash and pulling out those colorful streams of ribbon and threads and yarn and...  The options are uncountable and I know that this form of fiber use will be every bit as important and valuable to my 'health' as the food kind. 

"My fingers emit sparks of fire with expectation of my future labours." - Blake

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Begin at the Beginning

The BJP 2010 has begun and so have I - although not quite as quickly as I had hoped but at least its still January so I'm not behind (yet)!

As I mentioned in my October 1, 2009 blog posting my 'theme' for 2010 will be 'bookmarks'.  I have a jar on my work table with bunches of words inside. Each month I'll pull out a word and translate it into a bookmark form.  I made one sample bookmark and realized that you could never actually use it for a bookmark because the beading makes it too thick.  BUT - I love the idea of using words and using the bookmark form so I have decided to go ahead and make the bookmarks - however I won't back them with ultrasuede (as I had originally planned to do) but eventually will mount them in frames. 

My word for January is 'interlude'.  I love that word - it just seems to work with the time of the year (these quiet winter days spent inside due to really cold weather). Here is the tray set up with the eyelet placed and the 'cab' placed.  Now on to the beading...

Interlude, n.  An intervening episode, period, space, etc.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Today I would like to be silent -- and pass along words from another.  Jan Phillips has written the most beautiful tribute to creativity and I must share her thoughts with you.  This quotation sits on my work table (amongst all my other treasures).  When I am frustrated or seek inspiration or just need a moment of quiet I read these words:

"We get so caught up in the flurry of our lives that we forget the essential thing about art -- that the act of creating is a healing gesture, as sacred as prayer, as essential to the spirit as food is to the body.

Our creative work reveals us to ourselves, allows us to transform our experience and imagination into forms that sing back to us in a language of symbol who we are, what we are becoming, what we have loved and feared.

This is the alchemy of creation: that as I attempt to transmute a feeling or a thought into an artistic form that can be experienced by another, I myself am added to, changed in the process."

I pass this along to all of you out there who are bringing your artistic forms into being today.

"Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self." - Jean Luc Godard

Monday, January 4, 2010

How Do They Do That?

As I sit quietly stitching seed bead after seed bead onto fabric I often think of how they are made.  Who patiently creates these lovely beads in all their shades of color? Who touched these beads before they came into my hands?  Who do I have to thank for all this beauty? And one day I wondered 'how is it done?'...

Seed beads are predominantly made in Japan and the Czech Republic. The process used has remained virtually unchanged since the 15th century.  Doesn't that lend an even greater 'value' to these tiny pieces of glass which pass through our hands each day?

Seed bead production begins with the creation of a very long, thin glass rods.  A furnace melts a mass of glass all at once.  As the stream of glass leaves the furnace, compressed air is blown into it, creating a hole in the cane. The glass cane is cut into yard-long lengths right after it passes through a wheel.  After being tied into bunches by hand, the canes are taken to the cutting machine.  A worker lays the canes out on a vibrating platform which slides the rods down onto a metal stop which is set to determine the chopping size.  In order to achieve the classic, rounded shape, the chopped beads are mixed with a clay-like compound to coat their sufaces and plug their holes.  It is then heated in a kiln, which rotates to keep the shape of each bead uniform and to keep the beads from sticking to each other.  After this process the beads are placed in an acid bath to remove the chalky compound from the holes and to make the surface shiny again.  The seed beads are then washed and dried in massive centrifugal machines.  Finally the beads are sorted by size and either strung onto hanks or bagged loose. 

From now on when I walk into a bead shop and see rows of seed beads - all lined up, ready to be used - my respect for these beauties will be even greater. [Thank you to "Beadopedia" for the above information]

"Measure not the work until the day's out and the labor done." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning


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