Sunday, May 02, 2010

March BJP ~ Finally Finished!!

It seems more difficult to do, yet I think the work is getting a bit better... does that make sense? Here is my March BJP, finished!

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, butte at Grand Canyon
Sometimes I look at the finished piece and think it looks like a boat or submarine. Wrong! Actually, it represents a butte in the Grand Canyon, as seen from the South Rim. In March, my husband and I went to AZ and the Canyon for our first real vacation in many years (see pictures here). The foreground objects are things I either found on the ground or bought while we were there.

Although I wrote them on March 1, two weeks before we flew to AZ, all six of the words manifested during our time there. We explored as much as we could of the state, learned a great deal about geology and cactus, built a strong relationship with the desert, reflected on the magnificent beauty at the Canyon, one of the world's greatest natural wonders, danced in our hearts every day, and flew over the Canyon on the way home! I hope that my piece reflects at least a little of the awesome beauty we found there.

If you've been following my BJPs for this year, you know my plan is to incorporate 6 words (chosen improvisationally on the first day of the month) into the piece, along with fabric, felt, beads and decorative papers that I paint with acrylics. The size (not counting the black background) is 7 inches square.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, fabrics, trims, beads
I constructed the butte first, before even knowing what else I wanted to do with the piece. A dear friend (thank you, Elaine!!!) gifted me with a beautiful packet of coordinated fabrics, threads, trims and beads, which looked perfect for the SW. I layered the fabrics, pleating and stitching them, to suggest the various geological layers found in the land formations of the area. I tea-dyed the rickrack and one of the fabrics and used the wrong side of two of the fabrics to get the effect I wanted.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of layered fabric butte
I've struggled (to put it mildly) each month with the words. This month was no exception. At first I was going to write them somehow on the found objects in the foreground at the bottom of the piece. Yikes! I gave myself a headache trying to think of how to put words on these objects in a way that would look like they belonged there.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of word clouds
Finally one day, I got the idea of writing the words in the sky, which at that point was painted blue and aqua (no clouds). After playing around with a few ideas that failed, I tried cutting some cloud shapes out of paper toweling and writing the words in marking pen on them. No cigar. But the basic idea was good. So next I tried rubber stamping the words on paper toweling, cutting out the clouds and then separating the towel layers so that the final clouds were thin and somewhat transparent. Voila! I used matte medium to apply the word-stamped clouds to the background sky.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of beading
Once the sky, clouds and butte were set, the last part was easy. Of course... it was the part to be beaded!!! I thought you might like to see some detail pictures and read about how I attached the various objects to the background, which is dark brown wool felt...

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of arrow point
I first stitched the arrow head to the felt using Nymo thread (for strength) and then covered the Nymo with embroidery floss (one direction) and with a section of fuzzy trim (in the other direction). The foundation of the trim was a tightly woven thread cord. Every two inches or so there was a "fuzzy flag" of thread. I used it a lot, as you'll see.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of bezel holding ceramic shard
The glazed pottery shard was tricky because the edges and point were very sharp. I constructed a bezel by joining the tops of stacks of beads stitched around the shard. My first attempt failed. The white clay of the pottery showed between the stacks and I was worried about the sharp edges cutting the thread. So I took it off, sanded the edges and used colored pencils to color the clay to more-or-less match the beads I used in the bezel. It's not perfect, but looks better actual size than how it looks in the above picture.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of rusty key
The rusty key is attached the same way as the arrow head, first with Nymo for strength, which is then covered with more of the "fuzzy flag" trim.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of ancient pottery rings
These ancient pottery rings are also attached with Nymo, which is then topped with "fuzzy flag" trim.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of rusty plate
I used beads to attach the rusty metal part, stitched through the existing holes at each end.

bead embroidery collage by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of rolled silk beads and fuzzy trim
These are tube beads made by rolling triangle-shaped pieces of hand-dyed silk organza impregnated with matte medium on knitting needles. The edges of the fabric are sealed by burning, which is what makes the dark lines on the beads. While they are somewhat fragile, they held up well even when I caught the thread on them repeatedly as I sewed the brown background beads in place. I attached the beads by stitching from both of the outside edges a short distance into the bead and then through the bead wall into the felt. Between the tube beads is more of the "fuzzy flag" trim. I snipped one end close to the fuzzy part and sealed the tip with bead tip cement. Then I couched the other end (about an inch of the cording) in place.

I'm relieved to have this one finished and posted. Now I just need to find some time to do April and May, so I can be back on track by June. I hope that the word thing isn't such a struggle... I would give it up, except that I think I'm actually making some progress and I really want to get better at collage with words.

In case you missed them, here are links to my January and February BJP pieces.


  1. Well, I recognized that you beaded a butte at first glance. This piece is really different than your usual style. It seams trite to say I really like it, but I do. I love all the textures you have incorporated into the design. The bits of Canyon country that you used tell a story in themselves. Each time you look at it, it will bring back wonderful memories of you vacation AND remind you of how glorious this earth is.

    Whatever can you do to top this one!!
    xx, Carol

  2. I LOVE this!! All the texture is amazing. You know what's wonderful about this piece -- everytime you look at it you'll see something new and of course it will bring back those wonderful desert memories. All of the wonderful techniques (like the use of paper towels - who would have thought)are so inspiring. Sounds like this was not only a labor of love but a creative test -- you PASSED with flying colors.

  3. So interesting! I love all the little elements you added- shades of Heidi K! And this month's Bead and Button!!! Great minds think alike, I guess.

  4. Fabulous! I did have to admit that I first saw a ship but after reading the entry also saw the butte. Love all the embellishments that were incorporated into the piece. How textural! Can't wait to see what you do next month.

  5. whew!! I'm so relieved that it's a landscape, because that was the very first thing I thought of when I saw it, but then when you mentioned boats, I began to panic! Love it :-)

  6. Absolutely love it, Robin! What a precious memory this will be as you look at it again and again over the years. While you may have struggled with it, none of that shows a bit. It's terrific!

  7. Anonymous10:42 AM

    Wow, this is better than any souvenir you could have brought back. Well, actually, it includes some of your souvenirs! I love the cloud-words, perfect(!, and the overall feeling is definitely SW landscap-ish. You've done it again!

  8. What a marvelous piece... without you even telling I would have recognized your trip! I love all the trinkets and "objets trouvé" in you piece. It gives it a whole extra layer of meaning and depth.
    BTW, I find it reassuring you write about your trials and errors. As I am working on my april piece, I have messed up and started over some myself.

  9. Great piece! And I really enjoyed reading the process and descriptions you provided us! Thanks for that too!

  10. Anonymous4:46 AM

    That is amazing!!! You should be proud of yourself as this piece is really something. I love fiber arts and this piece captures all the reasons why I love it :)

  11. I agree with everyone - this is amazing! I love that the piece is very much a visual journal of your trip and contains souvenirs from your travels. The texture is wonderful!

  12. P.S. Thanks for the close-up of the bead-stacks! I can see what you mean now. Will have to try that next time I have a stone to sew on.

  13. Your vacation photos are beautiful! I love that you were so inspired from your trip to create this piece. I just may try that paper towel and stamp technique; that is really unique. I, too, really enjoy all the fibers and layering and especially like how it is finished on the borders. I could go on and on you know, but to sum it up-it is amazingly beautiful. - Marlene

  14. Love this, Robin! As soon as it popped up on the screen I knew what it was... masterful job as always. Thanks so much for the closeups... it really helps to see how you have snuggled everything in together. ;0)

  15. Well, by now all I can do is repeat what's been said! I've been to the Canyon briefly, and would like to explore it further - you've captured it so well! And I LOVE the word application!

  16. Oh, I LOVE the words in the clouds! What an excellent idea.

    I saw the butte right away, but it also reminded me of an old building or ancient ruins -- the verticals near the top are a little bit like columns.

    That mossy looking fuzzy trim looks perfect the way you've used it, and makes the piece feel very organic.

    So beautiful!

  17. I absolutely love this piece, love the story you wrote. The colors all look great together, the words in the sky done with rubber-stamps & paper towel are way cool.

    Thanks for sharing, hugs Jody

  18. This piece is absolutelly smashing !

  19. Oh, you must not give up the collaging now - you are on a ROLL!! - this piece is just splendid, Robin!! And I'll echo previous sentiment by saying how much I love the words in the clouds :>D

    My first thought when I saw all the objects at the base of the butte? "That's like years of buried treasure down there..." WAAAY COOL.

    I lovelovelove every inch of this!!!! I had to giggle when I saw the rickrack...remember how AWFUL that tea smelled (hence, using it for staining vs. consumption)?!?! A marvelous outcome, I'd say. And I especially love your detailed description of the making of this - whenever you do this, I learn so, so much!!

  20. Thank you so much, everyone, for your comments and encouragement!!! It helps a lot with my decision to stick with my plan for the year, at least for the next piece.

    Robin A.

  21. I can define see the butte with dunes in front, love it! I love seeing how you combined all the different elements and the found objects. Great photo of the bead stacks, I want to try that instead of a traditional bezel at some point and that photo really helps me "see it". I love seeing you develop a new style/element to your beading. Very inspirational!
    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, btw... I really appreciate the input and encouragement!

  22. How could I not love your piece with all those found objects? It seems that you're really getting into the mixed media aspect. Great job! Of course, I love all your work, but this one seems particularly special. Perhaps it was all that sunshine, cacti and joy!

  23. Terrific piece. I realized it was part of the Grand Canyon when I saw it. Great job on the word clouds. I hope the words don't remain such a struggle for you in the future pieces.

  24. Cool! It was fun to look closely to find all the different kinds of embellishments. I'm not sure I would have identified paper towels and the clouds unless you had explained that.
    Marty S
    Crackpot Beader

  25. This is great! I love the lettering on it, it looks airy! I really like how you're using different techniques with beading. That's something I'm tentatively starting and want to do more of.

  26. I knew right away that was a butte from the southwest. This is a magnificent piece Robin. The colors are perfect (that package from Elaine really was ideal!), the beading documents your physical presence there, the paper towel words are an ideal solution. It just couldn't be any better!

    I'm still trying to catch up with march and april and may and I don't have the excuse of a trip!

  27. This really is an extra-special piece. Thanks for the Wikepedia-link, as I could not find "butte" in any of my dictionaries. In case your ambition is to top this piece, you've got some hard work in front of you during the coming months! And thank you for sharing with us the steps that led to the completion of this BJP piece.


  28. how could i have missed this post? oh, robin, what a spectacular work of art! i love every element of it. it was fun to find the objects in your piece that you showed me while you were here. this is just a stunning representation of the buttes and of you as an artist.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!