Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bead Journal Project ~ Sept and Oct Finished!

Finally, yesterday was OK weather for photography! I've been waiting for slightly overcast skies to photograph my finished Sept and Oct. BJP pieces...

Bead Journal Project, September, Robin Atkins, in process
Above is the start of October's BJP.

Before starting it, I had spent a fabulous day at the Quilt Museum and Quilt Festival in LaConner, WA. It's a show I try to see every year, because they exhibit the "best of the best." Only ribbon/prize winners from other shows around the country are eligible. The word "stimulating" comes to mine, but is inadequate for the amazing, creative and technically excellent work I saw! Also, be still my heart, they have vendors! One was Peacock & Periwinkle, an online fabric/ribbon/bead/button vendor with a lovely assortment of Dupioni silks.

I didn't have my camera with me, so you'll have to imagine a huge punch bowl filled with vibrant silks in all colors. Each piece was a 9" x 12" rectangle, folded in to a triangular-shaped puff. I pawed through them, selecting a few favorite colors, but not wanting to spend money that day, I put them back. Then my friend decided to buy some and I learned they were only $1.00 each. Wow! Can you see me diving back into that bowl? Yup! 22 pieces immediately jumped into my hands.

OK, so I chose three that appealed to me and layered them on my backing paper, as shown above. The picture was taken near the end of the first day of my Improv Bead Embroidery class taught in Baltimore, Oct. 3 & 4.

I beaded quite a lot in Baltimore, as I had a couple of "free" days (see here). By the time I got home, it only took a couple more days to finish. Here it is... Love in Delicate Balance.

Bead Journal Project, September, Robin Atkins, Love in Delicate Balance
When I started this piece, it was all about three fabrics that appealed to me. As I began to bead, I seemed to be making a "fence post" of sorts. When I put a heart on the cross-rail of the post, it looked like it could tip over, and I began to think about what a balancing act love and marriage can be sometimes.

Several years ago, my husband had an accident lifting a heavy object on his job of 17 years in the maintenance department at the Port of Friday Harbor. For months and months, he worked nearly every day with constant back pain. Several different types of treatments failed to improve the situation. He was on Dr. prescribed pain meds. About a year after the accident he had spinal fusion surgery. The pain levels were still very high 3 months later, different than before, but still high. With the help of pain meds, he continued to work at the Port.

Then at work about a year ago, he was on an aluminum extension-ladder which was balanced on a float leaning against a pier, when suddenly the bottom of the ladder disintegrated. Down he fell into the water, grabbing and tearing out many feet of electrical conduit on the way down. The incident resulted in more pain and increased levels of pain meds to compensate. However, this time, he found that he could not manage to work as he had previously and the Port didn't have (or wouldn't create) a less physically demanding position, so he became unemployed.

Not a pretty picture... a formerly active, able-bodied man, now with back pain, on pain meds and unable to work. Do you think he got kinda depressed? Yup, he did. So what happens to a marriage when suddenly he's home every day, sleepy from the meds and too depressed to do much? It gets challenging, really challenging. Maybe not for everyone, but for me it's been what I call character-building.

There is one possibility for which we both hold hope. His surgeon thinks the pain may be caused by the hardware (pins) holding the two fused vertebrae in place. Wanting to have the hardware removed, my husband had a bone scan to determine if the fusion was complete. It was not... far from it. So, since then he's been wearing a "bone growth stimulator" every day. Next month there will be another bone scan. If the fusion is complete, there will be surgery to remove the hardware. And maybe, hopefully, that will relieve the pain.

Meanwhile, try as I may to be a good, understanding wife and partner... I sometimes feel that our love is in delicate balance. You can see how that looks in my Oct. BJP.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I showed you a picture of my incomplete, September BJP, Depression Lifting, here. Below is a picture of it completed.

Bead Journal Project, September, Robin Atkins, Depression Lifting
I haven't decided yet what I want to do with this year's BJP pieces. Last year, I turned the edges and put picot edge stitch around them immediately after finishing each piece. At the end of the year those finished edges seemed to limit my options as I considered what to do with my work. So, this year I'm going to leave the edges unfinished until I decide.


  1. Wishing you and Robert much happiness and increased health in the weeks and months to come. Life does get kinda hard sometimes but the love we hold for each other more than makes up for it in the end.

    Beautiful and deeply meaningful pages, dear Robin!

    Kathy V in NM

  2. This piece means a lot to me in my own love/marriage life. Thank you Robin for your constant blessings to all!


  3. Sometimes our feelings come out in our beading even when we don't know it. Your work is beautiful. All the best to you and Robert.
    Marty S
    Crackpot Beader

  4. WOW Robin these pieces are a masterpiece. I am blown away! i especially love and relate to loves balancing act. In 1996, I was on my job at the GM plant here in Janesville, just doing my notmal job. A couple hours into the night, I tried to remove a paint bar when I felt a severe pain in my chest and down my arm. To make a long complicated story short, ended up with a blown disc in my neck for which I have had 3 surgeries. I have had spinal fusion, plates and screws, bone grafts, failed bones grafts, wire looped around the fingers of my spine in back. I wore a neck brace for almost 3 years. Wore a bone growth stimulator for the 3rd and final surgery. It finally held. I am left with nerve damage in my right hand, chronic neck pain. You know the story. 3 years later I have had to have back surgery with chronic residual pain. So as you see, been there and done that. Seems like when you get 1 level fixed, the level above or below goes bad. I hope all ends well for your hubby (and you) Your pieces are lovely. Guess thats why you are an author and teacher...huh?

  5. I love how even though you start out randomly, it ends up having such meaning, and the beadwork talks to you. I've missed that show twice now! At least I've gotten to the museum a couple times now - it always is an isnpiration.

  6. Your pieces are lovely Robin.
    I'm amazed how we start to bead & the end result shows us our innermost thoughts & somehow makes it all a bit clearer.

    I truly hope that your husband (& you) find some relief.

  7. Robin, both pieces are so beautiful and meaningful. I wish your husband all the best with his recovery. My sister is going through the same thing he is going through so I empathize immensely. We just hope one day she will be pain free as well. I love your use of the hearts on the branch..just teetering every so slightly!

  8. I send you my very biggest hug and one to your dear husband too! Your beading comes from the heart and as your book "One Bead at a Time" says bead have a magical quality. If we want to, we can make our own life story in beads. Thank you for sharing these two beautifully created pieces.

  9. Hi Robin: Of course I think your pieces are beautiful. October struck a cord with me becaue my husband has RA (diagnosed in '76) and has gradually gotten worse. Meds to control have helped. We can only guess how bad it would be without them and pain meds also make him even more tired than the disease. (Vertebae are fusing together.) His pain makes him iritable and I close an ear to it. I hope, with the help of two more of your books I just ordered, that I will be able to achieve a better ability to express my feelings in this bead journal. I am satisfied that I am off to a good start.

  10. Although your pieces are even more glorious in person I am so glad to see how October turned out. As usual your work speaks to me, the emotions that you put into your work radiate outward and touch us all. I feel so privileged to have been able to watch you complete September and start on October.

    Love to both of you, Angie

  11. Oh, these are wonderful pieces... so evocative of the emotions that created them. Thank you for these!

    Also, what a crazy quilter you would make! ;0) I always get ideas for seam treatments from your wonders.

  12. As usual, your pages speak to our emotions. Even though you bead about your feelings, they reflect how many of us feel when dealing with our lives.
    I pray that Robert is soon feeling better and you both are able weather this storm in your lives. Remember, we are here for you as you have been here for us.


  13. As usual I am blown away not only by the beauty of your pages but of the emotion they convey.

    It takes courage to relate something so personal, I hope your courage is rewarded by the warmth and good wishes that are flowing your way from your readers and I hope the Roberts bones heal quickly so he can have the surgery and most of all some relief from his pain.


  14. Hi Robin,
    Thank you so much for sharing your challenging journey and your beautiful heartfelt pages. I can relate to your story so much. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband for hope and healing.

  15. Anonymous10:31 AM

    I really love how October came looks like such a happy piece to me. Hearts and flowers...what's not to love there? :-)

  16. Poor husband--and poor you. I've been the care giver off and on for the last 9 years and know exactly what you are staying. Take care of yourself. It's the first rule of care giving.

    I love the pieces.

  17. Well, girl, I can see why you might both get a bit depressed. I think the best thing is that you have this medium to work things through.

    Praying for both of you. I'd love to see Robert get his pain lessened and that would give you so much more freedom.

  18. Oh Robin! beautiful heartfelt pages that tell your feelings so well! Hang in there ... serious illnesses and pain always bring depression and heartache to all those involved. It does get better and in the meantime you will learn from all of it! My thoughts and prayers are with you and Robert!

  19. Thank you everyone for your support, positive energy and prayers. I debated about writing this post, but thought it might be a good idea to let you all know what's going on with be... because it does affect my beading and blogging quite a bit. I'll update this situation from time to time. Hugs to you all... I feel very blessed! Robin A.

  20. Robin, your emotional honesty fills an important role here in the bloggosphere of beaders and stitchers....
    I wish both you and your beloved Robert relief and peace...

    Meditation techniques can be so helpful in situations like this. Is that something you are looking into?

  21. I read your post and examined your beautiful pages and pondered your words. Then I went away without posting a comment. Today I'm back and I want to tell you how much your honest, forthright and insightful comments about life have encouraged me to be more open and expressive with my bead journaling. You are a blessing and an inspiration. I'll say a prayer for peace and healing for Robert.

  22. My prayers are with you Robin for your hunband's recovery and may god give you strength to cope with the situation.


  23. Dear Robin,

    I just visited your blog to see whether there was anything new, and found this fabulous post!

    These are two most expressive and exquisite pieces. It is amazing to see how you translate a tragic story into something as beautiful as your two BJP-pieces while living through an extremely difficult time. My best wishes go out to both you and your husband. Let us hope that the hardware is the reason for the pain and that its removal will bless you with a new life.

    I had to laugh when I read your description of buying the silk. Can't we all imagine a similar situation!


  24. Love in the balance, it shows. My heart fell when I saw your October page. I felt it totally. I feel for you and your husband. I've been in sever back pain for about 13 years now. I can only imagine what you're going through since I know what my husband is going through. I'm glad you're getting out - that's important. I'm sending loving healing light your way for both of you. September's page is beautiful, too.

  25. My husband had spinal fusion in May and last week had neck fusion. So far, so good. He got a little depressed in the convalescent leave time, I can't imagine how you guys are doing. I'll be hoping that things improve for you both!

  26. Robin-What a beautiful, deep, and honest sharing combined with the healing process of your lovely art. Thank you for your honesty. As I read your many responses, I know how blessed and supported you are by the community of all of us!
    Much love and many blessings to you my bead friend.

  27. Just wanted you to know that I quoted you on my blog today. THanks for the inspiration! :D

  28. There's no helping grieving the loss of your old life with your husband. I appreciate your honesty and understand that your love is a struggle on some days. I believe in your strength and the fact that that fencepost is so grounded that it is not going to tip over. I see other hearts underneath that unsupported side of the fencepost holding it up. It's a lot though, Robin, both your Mom and your husband...Please take care of yourself and continue to embrace things that bring you joy and lift you up. That is what they need you for. Your life, your energy and your joy. Here's wishing you lots of it.

  29. intense and wonderful... to me this is really what this project is about. Making something beautiful that expresses the tribulations and joys of everyday life. I have gone through the joblessness and the injured stints with my other half as well so I can relate!

  30. Robin...I am so sorry. What a difficult and challenging time for you right now. I am grateful that you shared your feelings. Know that we all care and are here for any support you may need. Your pages convey your heartfelt emotions SO beautifully!

    Wishing you strength and hope in the days thoughts are with you both.


  31. These pages are really beautiful, Robin. It's always a pleasure to see your pieces and the way you work. Your october theme speaks to me.

    I have a thing with the Pea Princess and couldn't help noticing that you put beads that look like green peas in both your pages.

  32. Robin, yet again your work is ...jeepers, can't even convey how I feel. Remarkable, amazing, nothing that comes to mind is adequate. Thank you for opening your heart and explaining the meaning behind this page. Your ability to turn your life experiences into a beaded page is ....again, I'm at a loss for words. How lucky your husband is to have found you. I hope he appreciates everything you offer, not only to him, but to all of us.

  33. Robin - you are a good woman. I too suffer from chronic pain from multiple injuries and it got too much for my ex-husband and he left.
    "delicate balance' really strikes a chord for me - and I do hope this new course of treatment is successful.



  34. Robin - these are gorgeous! Can't wait to see your butterfly piece when it's done. Thank you for your lovely comments on my October piece, and yes I do have quite the fabric stash. :) Marva

  35. dear robin,
    it is so beautiful how your monthly beadwork has become a powerful, beautiful journal of your life.
    i have used art and play for my clients and myself, but today is the first time i have seen someone express their life in beadwork. thank you for your sharing.
    i will be sharing your post, by email, to my teacher, who encouraged me to use art and continues to use art herself in her work, and in her personal journal.
    would you consider guest-posting this post of yours on my blog?
    please let me know.

    in the meantime, best regards!


  36. Oh Robin I know I should have read this long ago & I wish I had - All the things you talk about are what is happening in my life, has been for some time & getting worse as Joe take stronger & stronger pain meds - His personality is changing with the Morphine he now takes to control the pain.

    He too fell from a ladder, on the docks in Bellingham about 17 yrs back. He crushed his spine in both the lower back & neck.. I really never feel comfprtable talking about my personal life & problems in public so it's difficult for me to share what is happening to us - a lot of it not nice & I feel depressed & stressed so often - You have encouraged me to open up about Joe's pain & mine too..

    My beads are my only escape sometimes ;)
    hugs Ellen


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!