Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bead Embroidery ~ December BJP Finished!

As promised, I'm back again today with another finished Bead Journal Project piece!

December was a challenge for me because I get a little unglued at Christmas time. Thinking about it, the word upside-down comes to mind. I was avoiding working on December's BJP until I read this post by BJP member Acey. It took guts to get by the trepidation of "what people would think" and write about her unpopular attitude toward Christmas. I took courage from her, and decided to attempt to show how it is for me. It's like this...

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, December 07
And here is the poem I wrote while working on it:

I am darkness
looking at Christmas,
pointing dark thoughts
at Christmas,
especially at all the hype,
the production
and the requirements
at this time of year.
I am supposed to be happy,
merry and bright.
But I am not.
I am darkness.

I want to change.
I want to hear
the sweet songs
of Christmas birds.
Where is my big heart
at Christmas?
Follow the birds.
They will help me.

You can see that the tree is surrounded by darkness and is upside-down. Yet, the tree itself (which represents Christmas) is very bright and cheerful. It seems to repel the darkness. I think the many hearts on the tree represent what I'd like the real meaning of Christmas to be. The birds and the golden star must be hope, spirituality and the possibility of change. Notice that the bird songs and star are not confined by the dark beaded edge.

December darkness has been with me for a long time... probably since my 20s. Mom has it too. Hers is Depression Era related. Her mom died when she was 11 during the Depression years. None of her relatives wanted an extra mouth to feed, so she was shifted from family to family, always with resentment toward her. I don't imagine she had much fun at Christmas. Both of us probably suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which doesn't help. Other than Mom's influence on me, SAD and my aversion to marketing hype, I don't really know why I get so down. Maybe the birds, making this journal page and realizing that I really want to change my attitude will help next year. I hope so.

Pam Troug, another BJP Member, also used her December piece to work through some dark thoughts. One fabulous thing about being in the BJP and this blogging community is that we find kindred spirits, whether in the light, the dark or the twilight. I am so grateful for the opportunity to stitch my thoughts and feelings in the company of understanding and supportive souls.

Thank you!


  1. I like the upside-down-ness! :D

  2. It's good to see you back, Robin - with stunning pages as usual.

    Very sad story about your mum though.

    BJP is certainly a fabulous and precious group.

    Take care,


  3. It seems that Christmas has taken on a different meaning over the past few decades. It's all about $$$ now and even though I'm not a religious person I still don't think Christmas should be about "what are you gonna get me this year"! I like your upside down tree and even though it's surrounded by darkness there are still bright spots. Your story about your mom is so sad. Children are what it's all about and yet she didn't have that experience.

  4. I was pleased to see your comment on my blog Robin. Usually I get the comments in my Inbox too, but for some reason a couple of them have not come through so I did not know that people were reacting postitively to my Dec. piece.

    In repsponse to your question (if I remember correctly and completely!) yes, my journal quilts are what I've been doing all along for the BJP. From the outset I wanted to piece a ground and then embellish it with beads, found objects, embroidery, whatever was appropriate. I missed out on the "official" journal quilt projects, but this seemed a more comfortable fit for me anyway. And I have found kindred spirits in this group; that's always a blessing :- )

  5. It has been interesting to see many "non-traditional" beaded page portrayals of the holiday season, but there seems to be a lot more cheerfulness in yours than you may suspect!

    Kathy V in NM

  6. Anonymous1:00 AM

    I can so identify with this page. It seems that the older I get, the more irritated I get with all the commercialism of all our holidays. With ads for months in advance of every holiday, it's hard to stay enthused.

    I worked nights and slept days for so many years that I still live like a mole. I'm going to try to change that with my retirement.

    I love both new pages.


  7. Wow, Robin, I LOVE this... this seems to be a recurring thing I am hearing from (mainly) women these days about Christmas, the holidays, festivity in general... It doesn't seem to mean anything anymore, and then we seem to correlate it to our own feelings of depression, or SAD, or regretful memories, but now I wonder is it more of an unfortunate result of the greediness of retailers and advertisers and supposed "in the spirit of the holidays" people who promote all the hype???
    I too, want to hear the birds sing.

    pam T - Wisconsin

  8. This December page actually gives me a grin. I de-Christmased about 15 years ago, I don't even have an ornament. This year I was in one of the nurseries and saw a gold tree hanging upside down and decorated. I thought if I ever did put up a tree it would hang that way.

  9. Wow Robin, this is an amazing page. Your work depicts what so many people, yes I think mainly women, are feeling at this time of year. With each passing year I am finding it harder and harder to get into the "Christmas spirit" because it has been so de-enchanted by our society. It feels like a dizzying ride, like Space Mountain at Disneyworld where overwhelming stimuli is coming at us from all angles at once. As you so eloquently voiced it, we are so lucky to have each other, supportive and understanding as we bead what lies within our hearts.

  10. I am glad to see you have so much support and thoughtful commentary about this journal page! I do think I got a lot of courage and confidence from the 'disembodied organism' of the collective group. I love the way your poem resolves you sense of personal dilemma through trust that birds and what they express to you will guide you to a new December association and self-world relationship. Awesome!!!!

  11. Apparently, this is not an uncommon feeling at this time of year and has been reported on widely in the UK over the years. I suspect it has many elements, the breaking up of families, families growing up and away, the general darkness of the time of year and the falseness of the time.

    I must admit I enjoy Christmas now more than I did when I was a child but that is probably because I was ungrateful child and it only on reflection I realise how much sacrifice my parents made to make Christmas happy, especially one year when they were both unemployed but it the Christmas I remember most.

    I love the upside down tree. If people didn't know they might be tempted to correct it and hang it the way they thought it should be hung,which is exactly how most people think about Christmas. Its a happy, jolly time so everyone must be happy and if not, you must be a Scoorge!(except you are not)

  12. Very creative piece Robin! It does give me a smile when I look at it, and I totally relate to the fragmented, disjointed feeling of December. I am amazed about how a piece of beaded art can provoke and convey such a complex array of emotions and experiences. I was very sad to read about your Mom's early life experiences.

  13. My tree is right side up on my Dec. page but there is a story which I will tell when I get it done (hopefully this weekend) and it bears a teeny bit of resemblance here.

    My grandkids ask me every year what is my favorite part of Christmas and I always tell them "the baked goods". It's one time of year I help my daughter and we make snacks galore. We live on them for a week or two and then it's back to normal food. The kids are always surprised and say "not the presents?".

    Your tree represents the highs and lows just about everyone feels at this time of year. The kid in us wants to find magic and I guess it doesn't matter how many years go by, we still want that magic.

  14. Anonymous8:22 AM

    A powerful way to comment on your feelings about this time of year!

  15. Anonymous2:18 PM

    I think this is one of the most profound pieces I have seen on the commercialness of holidays in modern times. It's all upside down and backwards. All those heartful wishes hanging on the tree can come true for you and every one who has them.(we all do) I have lost loved ones on every holiday of the year so I don't celebrate them any more. I do however spend each day making just 'one' of those heartfelt wishes come true for myself or someone else. When each holiday roles around, I have gotten into the habit of doing that 'one' thing per day and the holidays now go by without as much darkness. That 'one' thing per day
    keeps me living in the now and not bearing the burden of the past. I am not ever going to forget it but by looking at the beauty of 'right now' I am able to look past the greed, past the hollow symbols and past the holidays to what is really important. All of us here and now, together.
    Charlie's Ceramics

  16. To Charlie ~ I hope you check back and get this reply to your comment... I really appreciate all that you said, expecially your use of "one" thing per day. I'm going to try that. Thank you so much and blessings, Robin


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!