Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vintage Seed Beads ~ French & Czech

What do you think came in this vintage box???

old box, photo by Robin Atkins
Well, yes, originally it contained a neck scarf. But what do you think was in the box when I acquired it 15 years ago?

old bag which contained vintage seed beads, photo by Robin Atkins
This envelope was in the box. OK, I'm being mean... you can easily guess what was in the envelope... I was just making you wait for the picture... Here it is! And, yes, it is clickable to enlarge!

vintage seed beads, photo by Robin Atkins
Can you believe these precious little hanks of seed beads? I'm not actually certain about their origin. Most of the little hanks made in France are so labeled, which leads me to think these are Czech. These beads are very, very small ~ size 15, I think, or perhaps size 18. Each bundle has 10 hanks. According to the labels, they were originally sold for $.05 per bundle of 10 hanks. Awesome! Some of the colors are faceted (or cut), and as such would be called Charlotte cut seed beads (see below).

I don't know exactly how old these beads are, but I'd guess they were made prior to 1900, and possibly in the early to mid 1800s. Don't you just love this tangible connection to our past? I do!

Here are some other precious little hanks of beads that have fallen into my hands during my 22 years of beading. These were all made in France, and they are metal or have a fired (baked on) metal surface over glass. The ones below are not glass ~ they're made of aluminum. The sweet thing about these is that they retain their silver color forever, because aluminum doesn't tarnish.

vintage aluminum seed beads from France, photo by Robin Atkins
The hank shown below is quite heavy. I believe these are referred to as steel cut seed beads, and are made from steel and faceted.

vintage seed beads from France, photo by Robin Atkins
The hank below is also quite heavy. My guess about this one is that the beads are made from steel, faceted, and then plated or fired with gold.

vintage seed beads from France, photo by Robin Atkins
According to this article about Charlotte cut seed beads, there is only one remaining manufacturer of seed beads in Europe ~ located in the Czech Republic. Apparently the French factory closed in 2004. That's a sad thing, because it produced some very wonderful, unique colors such as mustard yellow, Cheyenne pink, pumpkin, French porcelain, Arapahoe green, Periwinkle blue, buckskin, greasy yellow, and several colors of white hearts. In 1985, when I started beading, one could still find these colors, especially at stores specializing in beads for Native Americans. Sadly, I never see them any more. Even more sadly, when I sold my bead shop, Beads Indeed, I didn't think to keep a stash of them for myself. Duh!

Important Question about Using Vintage Seed Beads

To use or not to use, that is the question.

I've hoarded these sweet and beautiful little hanks of beads for many years. For what? I don't know. Perhaps I should donate them to a museum?? Or, maybe should I use some of them for my Bead Journal Project pages?

I haven't decided yet about the bundles. But Monday I bit the bullet and took two strings of beads off the hank of aluminum seed beads to use on my July BJP page. You will see the piece and the aluminum seed beads in my next post.

In the mean time, what do you think about these treasures? Would you use them? Do you have any in your own stash?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bead Journal Project ~ Thom's June Page

If you've been following the Bead Journal Project, you know the official participants include 241 women and 1 man. That lone BJP dude is my brother, Thom Atkins. An artist he is; a computer dude he is not. So, for now I'm going to post his BJP projects on my blog. Maybe someday he'll start his own.

bead embellished quilt by Thom Atkins, Laurel's Mermaid
Shown above is his June page. It's called Laurel's Mermaid. It's a beaded and quilted wall hanging, about 10 inches wide x 16 inches high (including the fringe). I believe both pictures are clickable to enlarge.

bead embellished quilt by Thom Atkins, Laurel's Mermaid, detail
Here is just the center panel. I love the waves and the way he's beaded them... also the colors, the two fish, and her embellished tail! Way to go, Thom!

Thom's been an artist since he was born... well, practically. I always thought of him as "the artist in the family," because his talent and interest in art developed very early. Even as a young man, he was very secure in his calling. The two of us used to envy each other quite a bit... me, especially, knowing he was majoring in art and thinking there was no potential for two artists in the family.

For many years,Thom's primary art form was bronze sculpture, which you can see on his website here , here and here. In recent years, he has returned to an early passion for sewing and embellishment. You can see some of his quilts here. I love his quilts... they're so unique and rich. Although it's difficult to choose, my current favorite is this one.

Thom says he's started to work on his July BJP page and is excited about it. Can't wait to see it, Bro!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bead Journal Project ~ My June Page

Bead Journal Project, June's page by Robin Atkins, Bead Artist
I deliberated for a long time about showing this, and finally decided to go ahead. The subject of my June journal page is quite personal... I'm turning 65 in September and find that I'm in denial about it.

A few of my goals for the BJP are: to play with layers, to not cover the entire surface with beads, to experiment with using text, and to use a visual journaling approach (whatever that means). So June began with sewing a scrap of fabric left over from making a spirit doll to another piece of fabric. Next I wrote in permanent black ink on the red fabric. Here's was it says:

I am facing a wall of denial.
I don't want to accept my age.
I don't want to be a senior citizen.
Youth and youthfulness ~ I can't go back.
The clock keeps ticking.
It's a wall.

Bead Journal Project, June's page (detail) by Robin Atkins, Bead Artist
I guess that's journaling, eh? Here's a detail that shows the writing. I thought it was quite brave to write on my piece and allow it to show!

After writing and before beading it, I expected the piece to be either full of rage or dark and gloomy. No such thing happened, as you can see. Almost all of my work on it was done in my Mom's assisted living place in MN. She commented that just past the "wall," there seems to be a great profusion of fun and beauty (the flowers). I don't really trust it will be like that yet, but working on the piece seems to have set me at ease a bit. It seems to be "saying" that it is all just a journey, and that 65 is simply a marker along the way.

Bead Journal Project, June's page (back side) by Robin Atkins, Bead Artist
Here's a picture of the back. I'm showing this because of the "finishing" discussion on the BJP blog. As you can see, I use paper (acid-free interleaving paper) as a stabilizer for my work, to keep it from puckering. When I finish the beading, I tear away the edges of the paper and fold the fabric edges to the back, tacking them in place with small stitches. Then, for this piece, I beaded a picot edge stitch around the outer edge.

Eventually, I may paint, embellish, and write on a water color paper postcard (4"x6") to glue on the back of the piece using PVA bookbinder's glue. Before I do that, I need to decide what I'm going to do with my 12 journal pages, and if I want to attach them to each other or some other thing. If that's the case, I might want to sandwich some attachment device between the beaded piece and the postcard.

Right now, I should be preparing to teach at the Puget Sound Bead Festival next week, but all I really want to do is to work on my July piece. It's nearly finished already! By the way, short notice... but I still have openings in all four of my classes. Also, becuase a couple of you have asked... yes, I will have autographed copies of my books for sale at the "Meet the Teachers" event and in my classroom.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fabrics ~ hand painted with dye

hand dyed fabric by Robin Atkins, bead artist
While in Chicago last week, I dyed and went to heaven!!! While I was teaching my usual beady subjects, Ann Johnston was teaching eager students how to paint fabrics with dye. One evening, two of her students invited me to join them and use some of their dyes ~ to give it a try. WELL! Heaven it was! I now want to take a workshop from Ann, want to buy dyes, want to paint and paint! If I could do these in about 3 hours, OMG, what could I do in 5 days?

hand dyed fabric by Robin Atkins, bead artist
I'm looking forward to using these fabrics ~ parts of them for Bead Journal Project pages, and parts for quilting. I wish there was enough to make a jacket ~ maybe if I piece the dyed fabrics with solids in the same colors? No time right now though...

hand dyed fabric by Robin Atkins, bead artist
I think if you click on these images, they will enlarge so you can better see the detail (especially the one below).

hand dyed fabric by Robin Atkins, bead artist

* * * * * * * *
Please forgive my long absense. June came and went before I could say boo... I was sick with a cold that would NOT go away for the entire month for one thing. Plus I had to prepare to teach 3 workshops and spend half of the month in the midwest. I know... excuses, excuses.

* * * * * * * *
Next week is the Puget Sound Bead Festival, my favorite bead event of the year. I'll be preparing kits, handouts, etc. for teaching there during the 4th of July week. I don't know if there is still space in any of my classes, but I'll post an update if I find out soon.