Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bead Journal Project for December ~ Finished Today!

Here's a peek...

bead embroidery, bead journal project, Robin Atkins, December, Detail
By the middle of November, I was already experiencing the customary dread that happens every year as the Christmas season approaches. What to do about my December BJP, I wondered? I remember trying to concentrate on change... a strong desire to shift my negative attitude about Christmas to one that could bring more joy and contentment to me and, by association, to my husband, family and friends.

Fortunately, several wonderful people stepped into the picture to offer amazingly positive influences.

The first was Christi C. You saw her beautiful BJP pieces here. Her work explores her relationship to the place where she lives using found objects, as in the detail below.

BJP by Christi C, detail
I love her work and love the idea of it! After seeing her pieces, I walked out of my studio with a new eye for the many gifts of nature... beauty everywhere! I began collecting little twigs with bits of lichen on them, madrona berries, a feather... things to remind me of these special gifts... things that make me feel joy, even in the darkest, coldest month of the year, even at Christmas time. Some of these will be on my Dec. BJP, I thought!

The second influence was Rochelle Zawisza. She reads this blog. One day, out of the blue, I received a beautiful, handmade Christmas card from her. It featured a circle cut-out with a beaded wreath hanging from the center of it. This is the wreath.

Beaded wreath by Rochelle Zawisza
It's made with 4 mm bi-cone crystals and size 15 seed beads. Here's a fun post she wrote about making the wreaths and cards.

The point is this... the unexpected gift of her card brought me great joy. Here's a perfect example of showing Christmas spirit not as an obligation and not in a commercial way. I decided to use the wreath on my December BJP as a symbol of this type of Christmas giving.

The third influence was internal. I was driving to town one day thinking about Christmas and about how I wanted to include a house on my December's BJP, because another gift in my life is our warm, cozy home and our life together here. Then, suddenly, a thought came to mind about a house being a symbol for the place within us where the spirit resides and is protected.

On the lintel above the entrance-door to his home, the psychiatrist, Jung, had carved this message, “Called or not called, the god will be present” and above the fireplace, these words, “Seek that which is not possible.” (Read more here.)

I guess something about the door and crossing its thresh hold called to me as I drove to town that day. I recall feeling ecstatic thinking about the house I would create and the door which can be opened to reveal the spirit inside... something about my own spirit, previously closed at this time of year, and now more open to my own understanding and appreciation of it. Wow! It was a moment to remember and cherish!

bead embroidery, bead journal project, Robin Atkins, December, Door Closed
And so, December's BJP began to take shape. Here it is, finished, with the door closed. Note that a tiny bit of light still escapes, under the door at the thresh hold. As it turned out, Rochelle's wreath was too large for the door. But I copied her design (not difficult - see how at the end of this post) using smaller beads.

bead embroidery, bead journal project, Robin Atkins, December, Door Open
And here it is with the door open !!!

bead embroidery, bead journal project, Robin Atkins, December, Detail
Here's a detail. I used a strand of yellow embroidery floss paired with a strand of silver embellishing thread to stitch the spirals and lines of light. The windows are the same fabric as what you see when the door is open, only I sandwiched a little piece of lace between the house and the yellow fabric.

I am so grateful to the BJP, Christi C. and Rochelle for inspiring me toward a new and happier experience of Christmas! Doing this page and all that contributed to it has, indeed, lifted my spirits and hopefully begun a lasting change. I thank the universe for all it's gifts of nature... large (including frequent peek-a-boo views of the awesome Mt. Baker) and small, some of which are included in my piece.

* * * * * * * * * *
The red "beads" on this piece are actual berries from the Madrona trees in our yard. Below are two of my husband's Madrona berry images. Our bird population feeds on these berries during the late fall and winter months.

Madrona tree, berries, photo by Robert Demar
Madrona tree, berries, photo by Robert Demar
You can make beads from nearly any berry, seed or small cone!!! Here's how to do it:

Gather the berries fresh. String a needle with button-hole thread or any heavy-weight nylon thread. Sew through the berries using a double thread.

Cut a little slot on each end of a shoe box (or similar). Knot one end of the thread and slip it into the slot with the knot on the outside of the box. With the beads in the middle, stretch the thread across the box so that it is quite tight and slip it into the slot on that side. Tape it securely to the box. Now the berries need to dry completely. However, you must remember to turn them on the thread once every day or two. When they are completely dry, you can take them off the thread and use them as beads.

Try this with fresh, whole cloves for very nice smelling beads! Pumpkin and squash seeds also make nice beads. Small rose hips are great too.

Another way to do it is to file a point on a piece of wire and pierce them. Use the same drying and turning procedure.

* * * * * * * * * *
Here's how to make Rochelle's wreath:

You will need:
  • 13 bi-cone crystals, 4 mm, clear crystal
  • 7 bi-cone crystals, 4 mm, light Siam red
  • a pinch of size 15 seed beads, silver-lined emerald
  • Nymo D, fireline, fishline or other fine stringing thread
Row 1: Leaving a 4 inch tail, string three seed beads and a crystal. Repeat until 10 crystals are strung. The first two crystals are red; the following 8 are clear. String back through the first two seed beads at the beginning. This is the outside of the wreath. You will work toward the inside of the wreath in the next two rows.

Row 2: String 5 more seed beads. Skipping a seed bead - crystal - seed bead unit in the first row, string through the middle bead in the next group of three. Repeat this step all of the way around. You are basically making a loop of five beads that goes around each of the crystals.

Row 3: String through the first three beads of the first loop. Add a red crystal. String through the third bead of the next loop. Add another red crystal and string through the third bead of the next loop. The next five crystals will be clear and the last two will be red. When you reach the starting point, string through seed beads and crystals to the outside of the wreath. Use any knotting method to knot off both the starting and ending threads.

Note: this design is Rochelle's original idea inspired by a Sparkly Wheels design by Nikia Angel. To make my smaller version of it, I used 2.5 mm crystals, which are available at Stormcloud Trading in St. Paul, MN (I phone ordered them), and vintage size 18 seed beads. I think it would have worked OK with size 15 seed beads as well.


  1. OMG Robin that is so moving and so beautiful. Poetry in beads - that's what you create. You are surrounded by people that care for you and your art reflects that light and love!

  2. Robin, I love your DEC. bead journal project! I love the richness added by the shell & twigs, I love that the door opens and is warm & inviting - happy. I love the snow flakes and the bird and rabbit. And the wreath makes it definite a December view. I love how the interior beads flow outward or vise versa. It also brings to mind the house/home in me. I want to explore what that is in my life. Thank you so much for sharing your Dec. piece and also what inspired you to make it, Liz

  3. What a beautiful piece and thank you for sharing the inspirations!

  4. A beautiful piece to match your beautiful house, inside and out! I love all the earthy gifts. I'm glad this time of year is starting to lighten for you - it might have been helped by that sunshine blazing off all the snow we had dumped on us!

  5. And thank you for being such an inspiration to me this year, both as an artist and a person, your constant striving towards the light is a reminder to me of the important things in life.

  6. Robin, I love the way you are able to express your feelings with beads. Being part of this project has helped me begin to also. You are guiding me by detailing your thought process in determining what your page will be. You are a wonderful teacher.

  7. Robin,
    I love your cozy home. It kind of reminds me of you. No matter how down we get, you are there to shine your light of encouragement on all of us. I'm so happy that Christmas was better for you this year. Thank you for all you do.

  8. Wow Robin! What a heart and hearth warming piece! I love the instruction on drying the Madrona berries. I am such a found object fanatic in all of my are inspiring me once again! I had a dream about you the other night...We were tending a lush green field filled with very large exotic birds in blue green hues...quite magical. Happy New Year!

  9. A house is perfect for your BJP, and it turned out marvelously. The open door is great.

  10. Robin, how amazing you are!
    I could never make my inner battles so public, but for you it is natural and normal...and uplifting for the rest of us.

    The fabric you used for the windows is SO perfect, I just love that...
    ...and the whole concept is as always so beautifully realized.

    Happy New Year!!! There is no one like you.

  11. I'm so glad Christmas was a better time for you this year. Honest Abe was right wasn't he?

    Looking forward to April. And love the new page.

  12. Robin, your piece is protective and safe and warm. Exactly what xmas should be for us all. The open/close door is such a fun element of it. My favorite part is the little bird. Im happy you were able view xmas in a way that was good for you. It means so many things to most of us, not always good.

  13. Love how the door opens! Did you get that idea from me? ;)

  14. A delightful piece ! You really caught the true Spirit of Christmas, light and warmth and giggles.

    Thank you for the beautiful post too.

  15. Hi Robin! Thanks for your comment on my blog! Yes, I am excited - I finally had my first 2 Etsy sales last week! The woman who bought my sheepdog said she was amazed & speechless when she opened the box!! :) So, think I will work on some small wearables for my shop regularly while I work on my pop art cars. :D

    And, you're right - the door on my blue bus opens. :) Have a great day! :D

  16. To All ~ Thank you, everyone, for your warm response to me and this piece! How could I even think of doing this work without you? You are my mirror and my support!

    To Beadbabe ~ And thank YOU for the inspiration YOU are to me!

    To Carol ~ From your November BJP, I'd say you certainly are expressing your feelings with beads! If I've helped in any way, I'm glad!

    To Camilla ~ I can't wait to see what you do with making beads from natural things. I bet you'll make some wonderful discoveries!

    To Allie ~ Art does not require making public one's internal battles and neither does blogging. Your work and blog are obvious examples. You give me great pleasure, and it's kinda nice to step away from issues once in a while :>} By the way, the window fabric is the same as in the doorway... I just stuck in a little piece of lace between the two fabrics.

    To Julie ~ I'm glad you noticed the bird... it's an important part of this piece!

    To Lone Beader ~ I have to go back and check out the blue bus door!

  17. At first, I am in love with your block. All is exquisite.The house is irresistible, 'craquante' in french! I love how the doo can be opened and the windows..what sort of fabric is it? So, I want to tell you are a great beadartist but also very attentive and generous, you have always positive comments and you have a gift to encourage others. What you say about the critical voice, I want to learn it by heart!!!
    Thanks and bonne année!

  18. Hi Robin! Your home is welcoming and warm, full of light and love. Your comments are from the heart which I know your house is full of. Thank you for your kind words throughout the year and for your blog, it is truly inspiring. I'm glad that your Christmas was brighter this year, may they get brighter each year forward. Hugs - Heidi

  19. Happy New Year, Robin!

    Kathy V in NM

  20. I like the little house with the open reminds me of your blog. The door is always open and the glow comes from your friendship and the open way you share with us.

    I hope you have a fantastic 2009! Happy New Year!!!

  21. Oh Robin, lovely December piece and what a difference from last year's upside-down tree! I love how you described your process and what everything means - and thanks for the tips on the berries, etc! I love using "found" stuff in our great outdoors....

  22. Robin, as one who has a struggle with the season due to old memories.
    This year I did the holiday for others.. they were in need of a festive place and I provided.. guess what? I was given the gift of a joyful peaceful time- the first in several years.The Magic was in the giving and letting go. I am so grateful and the snow was an extra blessing. I send you peace and many more holiday surprises in "your house with the open door". Joan T

  23. Hi Robin, I just had to laugh - here I am reading through your blog and you are doing the same with mine. Thank you for taking the time to stop by for a bit of my "lace dinner".

    I just love your Dec work of art. It's like opening the door to your inner soul. It always amazes me the creativity hidden in all of us. I truly enjoy your work and look forward to seeing more.

    Happy New Year!

  24. Hello, Robin,

    I do love your December piece. The house looks so homely and cosy. To look at it, one would not guess that you are having problems with Christmas.

    So far, I am holding on to finishing my November doll, because as long as I am working on it I don't have to start on my December piece. Although I have a rough idea about its looks, I hesitate to make it. Poor doll, what a bad start into life! In any case it is reassuring to find out that there are others as well who are on an uncomfortable footing with Christmas.

    The berry-bead part is interesting, too. It reminds of when I got my earlobes pierced by a dermatologist about three decades ago: For about two weeks I had to wear thread circles through the holes, and I had to turn the threads several times a day.

    My best wishes for a happy new year to you,

  25. Another beautiful page Robin, full of wonderful surprizes when one looks closely.. I love your door & how the light from the sprit inside is creeping out from under the door..

  26. Robin, Thanks for your visit this evening. I appreciate your comments, always. You really don't even want to know what '08 was like here, just know that I expect to realize a much happier '09 and hope everyone else does also! And, I'm beading right that makes it better already. Take care. Pat

  27. Robin,
    This is wonderful! The colors, the natural pieces, especially the door that opens to a warm home. Love it!

  28. Robin, Thanks for your comment today....and also for the "assist." I may take you up on that one day, but first, I need to exhaust all help from the son and daughter. I happen to be "electronically challenged" as is obvious. I have a Mac OS X, but actually never have used it to it's max...because of being "challenged." You take care. Pat

  29. Dearest Robin, I really feel joy in your December piece which makes me happy for you. The light spilling from under the door, the lace curtains, the madrona berries, the perfect little wreath, the mountains -- ALL of it just glows with warmth, wisdom and wonder. I'm so glad you shifted your focus from changing to the beauty that surrounds you and is within you. It's a strong little house, isn't it?

    I'm wondering if that limpet shell was the one I gave you when you were in Baltimore? I can't get close enough to the picture to tell.

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my blog -- it's always a special day when you visit. I also thank you for your New Year's wish for me. I could use a few days just to "be", especially right now. Tomorrow is my birthday and plan to let the day decide itself. Thanks for the mirror. xoxo Susan

  30. To Susan ~ Yes, of course it's the shell you gave me! I love that shell! We have limpets in our shore waters too, so I thought it was appropriate to use on this piece. I'm so happy to have a little of you on my Changing Christmas Attitude piece, as your optimism and good spirits can't help but rub off on me a bit. Thanks for your comment.

    To All ~ I appreciate your comments and support VERY much!!!

    Robin A.

  31. Robin - I love your house!!! Especially the opening door! Thanks so much for your comments on my Dec. piece and my sketching blog! Glad I could influence you! Another great book of Danny Gregory's is "The Creative License." That one will really light your fire! :) Marva

  32. Robin......Thanks for visiting me today....yes, I LOVE the fabric sample books from thursday art day.....have spent the day removing the fabric from the books...what chore! But, ok, as all the free fabric to bead and embroider on is wonderful!
    I have looked everywhere for my copy of your book, Beaded Embellishment (I got it when it first came out). Guess I have lent it and not gotten it back. I'll keep looking for a bit and if I don't find it......will the new one perhaps?? You'll hear about that later. Sure appreciate your visits. Pat


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