Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bob Dylan in my Dream Last Night!

fibula pin by robin atkins, lavender
I am on the street outside of a cafe, milling around with a group of people who are attending a beading conference. I get tired of waiting, leave the group and enter the cafe, where all the tables are empty.

After taking a seat, I look up and see Bob Dylan entering the cafe. He's young, looking like he does on his
Freewheelin' or Blond on Blond album cover. Dual emotional response: 1. Wouldn't it be cool if he sits with me! And, 2. OMG, I wouldn't know what to say to him if he did!

I'm so shy that I put my head down and wait. He comes and sits kitty-corner from me at my table. Slowly I look up at him. Bob Dylan smiles slightly and asks, "What are the important influences in your life?" I freeze with shyness. I don't respond, and the next thing I know I'm back outside with the crowd.

End of that segment of the dream. However, I wake up soon, envisioning Bob and his question. A one-word answer snaps into my mind: teachers! My teachers are the most important influences in my life. All kinds of teachers (not so much the ones from my formal school years)...

Let me name, honor and thank a few of them here:

Andrew Dale ~ My tai chi teacher during the early 1990s, Andy taught me about physical balance and it's correlation to emotional balance. He taught me to walk with my weight back about 1/4th inch (I had been leaning forward slightly). This saved my feet and enabled me to walk normally again!

Shelley Tucker ~ My poetry teacher during the same period as above, Shelly taught me how to by-pass my controlling and frightened brain, and allow words to flow from my heart. I was already doing that with bead embroidery, but this was an entirely new thing to be able to do it with words. I still use her wonderful writing models, and have shared one of the best with you,
here. If you want to introduce poetry writing to young children, Shelley's books are super!

Ferne Cook ~ My mother, Ferne, taught me many wonderful life skills, including strong work ethics, ethics in general, how to sew, the value of quality craftsmanship, and good grammar.

Robert Demar ~ My husband, Robert, teaches me significant things nearly every day, including the most valuable lesson of all... that it's only money... you can see my progress with this concept
here. He opened the door for my recent insight about respecting my body, by taking my legs (the heavy ones I've always hated) out to dinner one night in appreciation for all they've done for me over the years. He has changed my habit of swearing when thwarted or frustrated, by showing me how it creates a negative aura. There's lots more.

Liz Chenoweth ~ How can I pick just a few things to mention about what I've learned from my best friend for 34 years? Among many other things, from Liz, I've learned that under anger there is fear, that love is all there is, that acknowledging love is hugely important, to give time and money, and to honor commitments.

Mary Oliver ~ Although I've never met her, poet Mary Oliver taught me an extremely important lesson... that I do not have to be perfect. The powerful healing medicine of
her poetry is beyond compare. On Monday, Feb. 4th, thanks to a gift from Liz, I get to hear Mary Oliver read her poems, live at Benaroya Hall in Seattle!!!! OMG, I'm so looking forward to it!

Bob Dylan ~ I've listened to Dylan's music since the 1960's. The man can write! And through his songs, he taught me to investigate everything, to look beyond the surface of people, and to care.

Lori Talcott ~ Metalsmith and friend, Lori taught me about how flat is boring, especially with wireworking. I used to make fibula pins with loops and spirals that were flat... pounded metal, but flat. Thanks to Lori, I now use my fingers to curve and shape the loops and poke out the spiral three-dimensionally. There's an example at the top of this post and several below.

OK, these are just a few examples of teachers and their important influences in my life. It's still November, the month of thanksgiving, and so I am giving my huge thanks to these and other teachers.

For the past two weeks, I've been making jewelry like crazy for a Holiday Sale this Friday and Saturday. Yesterday, I took pictures of some of the fibula pins I just made... thought you might like to see some of them...

fibula pin by robin atkins, soft green
fibula pin by robin atkins, teal green
fibula pin by robin atkins, teal purple
fibula pin by robin atkins, silver black
fibula pin by robin atkins, peach taupe
fibula pin by robin atkins, periwinkle gold
fibula pin by robin atkins, red yellow blue
fibula pin by robin atkins, rose black
fibula pin by robin atkins, silver grey
fibula pin by robin atkins, blue Chinese
fibula pin by robin atkins, orange black
fibula pin by robin atkins, taupe black
fibula pin by robin atkins, grey taupe

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Improvisational bead embroidery - October Bead Journal Project

materials for bead embroidery by robin atkins, bead journal project for October
One picturesque sea-side town (with more neat little shops, galleries and eateries than just about anywhere) is La Conner, WA! Plus, they have a fabulous Quilt Museum! On September 29th, a couple of my quilt-sisters and I went there to see the annual Quilt Festival shows. WOW! Especially awesome was the exhibit of "Blue Ribbon Winners" from around the country, with only quilts that had won numerous awards in shows... the best of the best. And they were!

Besides that, there were vendors... which brings me to my October BJP page... Until then I didn't have a clue what to do for October. But in one vendor's stall, I spied some lovely, carved-bone buttons and pendants. Picking up a goddess figure pendant and a heart, I said quietly to myself, "I love my body."

This, of course, has never been true. I've always struggled (rather lamely) with my weight, plus I have naturally heavy legs. I've hated my body for as long as I can remember.

In July, Angela Plager was working on Threshold (her July BJP piece) and making a determination to change some of her habits... making a commitment to exercise and healthy eating. Both her beadwork and her commitment resonated with me in a huge way. We had some email correspondence, and I decided to join her from a distance.

As of August 1st, I've given up eating sugar in the form of pastries and deserts. I still eat fruit and occasionally sweetened sauces, but no other sweets. Also I've started to walk every day. I live at the top of a 500 ft. ridge. Nearly every day since August 1, I've walked up and down that hill. On the second day of walking, I found a feather, thought about setting my body free from its extra load, and saved it. This isn't about loosing weight, although I have lost 10 pounds... It's about RESPECT... respect and love for the body that was dealt to me by the hands of birth. Thank you, Angela, for this amazing wisdom!

Back to October's BJP... So, I'm at this Quilt Show, I buy the goddess and heart pendants, and another vendor gives me a little sample of batik fabric. Immediately I know that I will use the pendants, the feather and the fabric sample for my October piece, which will be a respectful tribute to my body. At the top of the post, you can see the key components. Below is my finished October page.

bead embroidery, improvisational, by robin atkins, bead artist, bead journal project for October, title is Respect
Below is a close up picture of the bottom of the piece. See the three dark pieces surrounded by beaded bezels? They are ancient, fossilized, pieces of turtle shell, given to me by a friend who found them excavating a river-bed in Florida. I don't know why I used them or what is their relevance to this piece, but I love that they are here!

bead embroidery, improvisational, by robin atkins, bead artist, detail of bead journal project for October, title is Respect

Here is the poem I wrote while working on this piece. I was teaching a 2-day improv. bead embroidery class, and always write poems on the second day with my students:

I am celebrating my body today!
My bones, the feeling of age –
memory aids and breath mints –
rulers and good light –
earthy colors, spiral, curve of a feather –
all of these (and more)
are celebrating my body right now!
Even constant and irritating fan noise,
snippets of thread and technical difficulties
contribute in some way
to joyful celebration and respect
for the goddess within my body.

* * * * * *
My one and only husband, Robert, besides being the man of my dreams for the past 10 years, is also quite an exceptional photographer. He's been snapping pictures since he was a child, getting better and better with the wisdom of age and the practice of gazillions of photos. Initially, he worked in black and white, always doing his own darkroom work. Now, with his digital cameras and Photoshop CS3, he's a big color fan.

Here are two of his recent photos to tempt you to take a look at his NEW blog, started just a week ago... no words... just lots of eye candy!

island dogs, robert demar photography
madrona tree bark and leaves, robert demar photography
* * * * * * *
Out of the blue a few weeks ago I got an email from Tatiana, a young and passionate beadworker from Russia. She said she was starting a new website, Magic Beads, and wanted to interview me for an article. Yup, I said, sure I'll answer your questions. Well, what a pleasure it was to see the interview (here) and read the English translations of the interviews she did with other well-known bead artists. I'm sending her a copy of One Bead at a Time... maybe if we do a BJP next year, she will join us!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bead Quilt - For Sale as Fundraiser

The above quilt, designed by Cheryl Lacy (a member of the BJP) and made by the members of her local bead guild, is available as a fundraiser for their group. If you want to know more about bead quilts in general, check this earlier post.

Birds of a Feather measures about 36" wide x 24" high and is beautifully quilted and finished (Cheryl's work). Individual members made the beaded feathers. The Mat-Su Valley Bead Society is seeking someone to buy this quilt. They would probably accept an offer of $500.

I am somewhat shamelessly promoting it for them because I think it is a beautiful quilt and that anyone with the price on hand would be lucky to have it! I'm so tempted myself, but I just more than depleted my funds to pay for the second printing of my book, Beaded Treasures, and am looking toward the need for creative funding in a couple of months for the new book I'm now writing. There's no getting around it... Birds of a Feather is seeking a home, and this time, it can't be mine.

If you'd like it to be yours, please let me know, and I'll get you in touch with the person who is handling the sale.

Friday, November 02, 2007

September Bead Journal Project ~ Gifts of Friendship

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project, September 07, Gifts of Friendship click picture to enlarge

I started September's BJP piece while in Minnesota and Wisconsin during September. I was still using (and liking) the same box of beads that I had originally selected for June, then also used for July and August. On the last evening before leaving, I threw in a few odds and ends of special little things.

The three fabrics in the piece are upholstery-weight silks. A friend and former student bought them to make pillows. When I saw her pillows, I must have been drooling at the rich beautiful colors, because (without any prompting) she offered me some of her scraps. WOW! What a lovely base for bead embroidery! I preserved the selvage edges, as you can see. Also I fringed one edge and braided the warp threads.

In Wisconsin, I worked on this piece during my 2-day improvisational bead embroidery workshop. At one point I always have my students write poems following this model:

  • Look at your beadwork and around your beading work area.

  • Jot down all of the words and/or phrases that come to your mind as you look.

  • Circle the word or phrase that seems the most compelling.

  • On a new sheet of paper, write this line: "I am _________." Put the word or phrase that you circled in the blank space.

  • That is the first line of a poem about you. Use the any or all of the other words/phrases in your poem.

Here is the poem I wrote that day based on September's BJP while it was in progress..


I am surrounded by more gifts
than I knew I had
before this moment –
a silver kitty,
grandpa’s buttons,
fabrics coveted, then given
by students and friends,
fairy ribbon on my name tag,
a sterling blessings medallion,
a book of wisdom,
beautiful beads,
including two green frogs.
My eyes are open
to the delight of these gifts,
the collective enormity of them,
and I am so blessed.
Hearts in all sizes and all textures,
love and friendship,
freely given to me
and woven into my art.
I am humbled and thankful.

From then on, as I worked on this piece I found myself being mindful of what beautiful gifts of friendship and love have come my way through beading. So this piece is a tribute to all of my beady friends and students, wonderful women and a few men with whom I share this passion! All of them have given their friendship, support and understanding to me, and I am greatly blessed by it.