Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thoughts on Visual Journaling and The Bead Journal Project

Please note:
Registration for the Bead Journal Project closed on May 30, 2007.
There 239 participants in this year's BJP.

* * * * * * * * * *improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, detail from cover of hand made book
As of this morning, we have 32 participants who have pledged to make one "bead journal page" per month, starting in June of 2007! Already we span the globe... 10 states and 4 countries! If this is new to you, here are the guidelines.

I wish all of you could see the emails I've been getting. Everyone is so enthusiastic and excited about doing this. Some see it as a challenge to develop personal style, some as a means to practice and learn bead embroidery, some as a way to explore current issues and events in their lives.

I see it as a way to journal out-of-the-box. Give me a note book full of lined paper, and my journal will be dominated by intellect. Even following Julia Cameron's guidelines from "The Artists' Way" and writing off the lines, I still find my words full of thought process, rationalization and linear boundaries. Some years ago, I became aware of "visual journaling," which involves more of the play instinct - paint, paste, heart-to-hands. The freedom and apparent spontaneity of it appeal to me.
circular writing by Robin Atkins, detail from one journal page
If you've read my book, One Bead at a Time, you know that most of my bead embroidery is improvisational - without a plan or pattern. Over and over again, I notice that this work comes from somewhere deep in my heart. It seems to bypass my brain, bringing forward something fresh and dynamic every time. Rather than revealing what I think is real, it is real.

So now, full circle, back The Bead Journal Project, for me it's an opportunity to combine the idea of visual journaling with my favorite medium (beads) and my favorite method of working (improvisation). I intend to put the possibility of exhibition as far away from consciousness as possible. Right now, this is just for me. This is my place and my time to let it all hang out, to let myself be carried away in the moment, to let go of judgments and interpretation and planning, to go deeper than words. Wheeee!
improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, detail from framed piece
In case you'd like to read more about visual journaling, Sharon B (one of my favorite bloggers) has written and provided numerous links on this subject. Here is a somewhat historical look at visual journaling. Here are 13 steps, ideas that could help you get started and lots of links.

What are some of your thoughts about visual journaling? Do you have a favorite book or website to recommend?


  1. Anonymous4:00 PM

    Some sites to look at: teeshamoore.com


    Look at their links, too. Lots of eye candy there.

    The only rules about visual journaling is that there are no rules. I like that.

  2. My introduction to Visual Journaling came about through my study group. We are a group of 3 and have been meeting for about 10 years now. We study different subjects and did the visual journaling book one summer. For me the most difficult exercises in the book were things like, "draw anger." Well heavenly days, I thought, how do I do that. So I closes my eyes and just let my hand move. Very liberating. I like visual journaling sometimes, better than using words. It is more visceral, more right brained by its very function, I think than words are. The pen or pencil can move without going through a matrix of individual making that words must go through. (this [the matrix]was explained to me as our individual mesh that life experiences and our own personality has made for us.) Therefore it is more direct, less hidden than words. Sometimes the greatest truths lie in simple ways of moving. I think that is the appeal of visual journaling.

    For me it was great doing this with a group of people as what I didn't understand they could see the reason for and vice versa. We all learned a lot from our drawing and I still do this sometimes. But I never make collages.

  3. To BJP participants Theresa J, Mary T, Snowrose F and Kirsten K ~

    I've been trying to reach you with email, but your software thinks my messages are spam and they're being returned. Please email me!

  4. I have found it helpful to simply browse through pictures of others' visual or art journals, and try to identify the types and techniques that appeal to me. There are thousands available on Flickr - try searching for tags such as "visual journal" "art journal" "moleskinerie" etc. Often the descriptions include links to the author's blog where there will be a more detailed description.

  5. Anonymous10:20 AM

    I am so excited for this project to start! I've done visual journaling with collage and acrylics for several years, but never got organized enough to really give it a good shot with beading. I love working in series though, so that's my first step: to find a theme! Let the games begin!
    :-) Cyndi

  6. Hi Robin
    I am agonising over this challenge as I would love to join in but have a heck of a lot on!
    I tried to email you but I think I ended up in your spam basket - no matter I wanted to know if the first postcard is due June 30th or June 1st or anytime in June?
    For me I see the next 3 months as being very busy but easing off after that. I am not signing up, as I don't want to sign on then pull out but am just weighing up what is on my to do list and what might be possible

  7. To all ~ The Bead Journal Project blog is now active! If you have committed to making 12 bead journal pages, starting this June, one per month for a year, then you are a member, and you will be able to post to this blog. If not, you're still welcome to visit any time.

  8. I can't wait. I may have to combine with TAST at times, but I hope not.
    I'm tagging you. If you'd care to participate just post on your blog 7 things about you that we otherwise might not know. Then tag 7 more bloggers you think are interesting. I just posted mine at

  9. Anonymous7:22 AM

    I think I'll just have to join in with this one. I've written an entry about it in my blog tonight. I've only ever done a couple of beaded embroidery projects, but absolutely loved them, so I'm up for the challenge. ;-)

    There are links to visual journal info on my blog, for those who're interested. ;-)

  10. Dear Robin,
    This comment is not directly linked to the topics, but nevermind. I think I am writing you for the first time.
    I finished today my first bead emroidery necklace, which I started doing while reading your book "One bead at a time".
    I wanted to thank you for making me crossing one step towards freeform and original beading and to show you the funny result.


  11. What a great project. I love your beading. So tempting....

  12. I am studying art and contemporary craft, and we are doing an embellishment unit starting with beading. I have been so inspired by everything you have said and done. I now have too many ideas to complete in time. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful talent.

  13. Hi Robin, I'm downtown at the library taking advantage of their 'puters to look at your lovely site.
    Three cheers for Robin!

  14. I'll be watchin this project=:)

  15. Robin Like the lone beader I too will enjoy following this month by month not being a beader I can still enjoy all your skills and artistic vlaues.

    I look forward to its start.

  16. 5-31-07

    WOW 225+ participants -- that is just fantastic. What a beadingly wonderful year this is going to be.

    Beadin' Gram

  17. I'm so frustrated to read about Bead Journal project today, when it's too late to join.

    If only I opened my blog 10 days earlier!

  18. Hi Robin,
    I am so sorry I didn't find out about this in time. But so happy to be able to at least follow along. I decided to be an "unofficial". I am having a wonderful time with it and even have a thought as to how the whole thing will go together. This is my first time doing this style of bead work.
    So thank you for inspiring me to try this and because of this I even started my own blog.
    I also want to say I just love your work, you are an inspiration.
    Thank You again,


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!