Friday, April 30, 2010

Felting, Dyeing, Beading, Stitching ~ Exciting Workshop in June!!!

June 17, 18 and 19, yours truly will be on lovely Lopez Island to learn all about making and embellishing hand-bound blank books with resist-dyed, felt covers. Oh be still my heart!!!

handmade books by Chad Alice Hagen, hand bound, resist-dyed felt covers
This intensive workshop, taught by nationally-recognized felt artist, Chad Alice Hagen, is brought to 12 lucky students through the efforts of Jan Scilipoti, a felt and quilting artist who lives on Lopez Island (one of the San Juan Islands in NW Washington state). Thank you Jan!

handmade book by Chad Alice Hagen, hand bound, resist-dyed felt cover
Just in case you're starting to get that itchy feeling (the way I did when I first heard about this event from Sweetpea, who also will be attending), yes, there are still a few openings!!! Contact Jan to get all the information (she'll email you a pdf flyer), ask questions and register. But don't wait too long...

handmade books by Chad Alice Hagen, hand bound, resist-dyed felt covers
The first day will be all about resist dyeing on needle-punched prefelts... Imagine, 15 dyebaths and oodles of ideas for creating uniquely patterned felt!!!

handmade book by Chad Alice Hagen, hand bound, resist-dyed felt cover
The next two days are all about creating at least two books each, using our dyed felt for the covers. I've made and Coptic-bound a few books and done a bit of beading (LOL) in the past, but never with felt. I'm looking forward to the feel of the felt in my hands as I work the embellishments and binding! We should have lots of delightful hours surrounded by color, texture, and the companionship of like-minded, wool-dye-bead-book-crazy gals. (OK, men too, if any dare to join us!)

If you'd like to join us, for sure, Lopez Island, mid-June is the place to be! You can see more pictures on Chad's Flickr photostream. And here is Chad's blog, which is waaaay fun!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Hoffman Batiks are Out!!!!! I LOVE Them!

batik fabric, Hoffman, Paradise G2178
The first two years of the Bead Journal Project I used at least one batik fabric (sometimes 3 or 4) for each of my monthly pieces. I LOVE batiks. This year, I'm stitching on felt and find that I really miss my batiks...

batik fabric, Hoffman, Juniper BPN006
I love to buy batiks in fat quarters. They come in so many delicious colors and patterns. I love that they are hand-dyed and printed.

batik fabric, Hoffman, Petal G2215
I buy batiks wherever I am... fabric shops, quilt shows and conferences, and online. My favorite online supplier, by far, is Batiks Plus. They measure a yard at 40 inches, a lovely bonus, and gift their customers with free fat quarters for larger purchases. Their website is fabulous, listing and showing over 3500 fabrics! The pictures are good and the colors true. The pictures in this post are all from their website.

batik fabric, Hoffman, Teal G2220
These fabric swatches are from Hoffman's newly released line of batik prints. You can see them all, arranged in "designer groupings" on the Batiks Plus blog. Put on your bib, gals... you'll be a droolin' for sure! Oooooh, the new colors are soooooo exquisite!

batik fabric, Hoffman, Petal G2232
The pictures in this post are a few of my favorites from Hoffman's new line! Hmmmm, now don't I have a birthday coming up soon???

batik fabric, Hoffman, Paradise G2227
If you are viewing this blog on Internet Explorer, you can hover your mouse over the fabric swatch to get the color name and pattern number for each design.

batik fabric, Hoffman, Smoke G2220
Aren't they just yummy!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

6th Photo Challenge ~ FUN!!!!

Mortira over at Inspirational Beading, invited me to participate in a candid look at the past in a "photo challenge"... What fun! How could I resist?
The idea is to go back in blogtime to your earliest posts and identify the 6th picture you posted. The next task is to critique your own photo, explain what you would do differently now, and then pass on the challenge to 10 other bloggers. I'm not big on passing along, because of the sense of obligation that might be felt, so the challenge is extended to anybody who's interested!
I started blogging in 2006... (Yikes! Time flies!)... My 6th photo appears here in my 3rd post, dated May 9, 2006.

The post is about a 4-day workshop I taught at Valley Ridge Art Studio in Wisconsin... Beads, Books & Paint was all about creating a hand-bound book with painted decorative papers and bead embroidery inset into the cover. I still vividly recall the glorious time we had. Exhausted and exhilarated, all of the students left the last day with a finished book, which you can see here (worth the time to look - they're fabulous!). And below is picture #6... my students victoriously holding up their finished books!

book arts class by Robin Atkins
Wow! This is bringing back so many wonderful memories for me!!!!! What a treat to see these smiling faces and review the beautiful books they made. We were utterly exhausted, having worked all day and well into the evenings for four-loooong-days. Yet, we all had a great time, got to know each other and felt a huge surge in our creativity as we worked together. How can I critique this photo when it is brimming with such realized potential?

Not easy, yet there's much I've learned in nearly four years about photos and blogging... Looking at my 6th photo, here are a few pointers that come to mind:
  1. Save a LOT of frustration by centering photos and not trying to format them in blogger like books with text on one or the other side of the photos.
  2. Size photos before uploading to 105-200 KB at 72 dpi, so that they will be click-to-enlarge. I wrote a post about taking, editing and sizing photos here.
  3. Learn Photoshop or Elements or some other photo editing program. Take a class or on-line tutorials so that you can crop, correct errors, sharpen, delete background shadows, etc.
  4. Add photos to a post AFTER it is written and spell-checked. I add them in the "edit Html" mode, as they are easier to place without Blogger inserting automatic code that flubs up the spacing.
  5. When taking photos, allow time to pay attention to details. Remove distracting elements. Be sure your primary subject is well-lit but not in glaring light.

Just for fun, I returned to my original of the 6th photo and re-worked it a little in Photoshop. It wasn't a great photo in the first place. I obviously didn't pay attention to details as two of the faces are hidden and the back lighting in the room did nothing for the photo. Below is the revision (the best I could do with a poor original image), which unlike my 6th posted photo, is sized correctly. I also used shadow/highlight and the dodge tool to lighten the faces a bit.

book arts class by Robin Atkins, revised image
OK, now it's your turn!!! If you're reading this and have blogged for a while, please accept the challenge to take a look at your 6th posted photo!!!! And if you have a moment, leave a comment here that you've done so... With pleasure, I'll come take a look!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I've been reading blogs today and am finally inspired to bead. Yay! My March BJP piece will have something to do with the Grand Canyon...

sunset, grand canyon, photo by Robin Atkins
To the studio....

PS. Report, 4 hours later... all's well in beadland... Robin's back!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How to Blend Bead Colors

Kali recently posted this picture of her beautiful March BJP piece, called Dancer.

Dancer, bead embroidery by Kali Tal, March BJP piece
She wrote:

The first thing I learned is that, no matter how many different colors of beads you’ve got, it’s never enough. As a painter, I’m used to mixing my own colors, and it’s a bit tougher with beads. Next time, though, I’m going to try mixing some bead soups to supplement my color palette.
Like Kali, if you're working with glass beads, you'll soon learn that there are only so many colors and those you have can't be mixed like paint. Even the Delica line, which has by far the most colors, is limited in some areas. And, for bead embroidery, Delicas are less than wonderful because of their large holes and tubular shape.

When you need a color you don't have, you might try changing the appearance of the color with the thread color. For example, if you have transparent yellow beads and you want them to appear lime, you can stitch them with green thread. This only works with transparent beads.

Here's another way to "blend colors" that works with any beads (matte, opaque, transparent). I discovered it 25 years ago when my bead thing was making multiple strand necklaces such as the one below. (Note, all the pictures in this post can be clicked-to-enlarge so you can really see the details.)

kimono necklace by Robin Atkins, blended red and black beads
Notice how this is a red and black necklace, yet in the center of the necklace the red and black blend together making a smooth transition from one color to the other. The chart below shows the basic technique for accomplishing a blend between two colors (click to enlarge).

pattern for blending bead colors by Robin Atkins
The pattern is: 5B, 1T, 4B, 1T, 3B, 1T, 2B, 1T, 1B, 2T, 1B, 3T, 1B, 4T, 1B, 5T. This variation of the pattern takes 36 beads to go from one to the other color. But it can be done with more or less. For example, the center section of the pattern only takes 14 beads (3B, 1T, 2B, 1T, 1B, 2T, 1B, 3T) to achieve the transition. While one could make a random blend, I often use a variation of this pattern.

Let's look at the red/black necklace in detail. Below is how the strands look before attaching the clasp.

kimono necklace by Robin Atkins, strands of red and black beads
And here is a detail showing just the center part where the colors are blended. By changing where the blend happens in each strand, I also achieve a vertical blend from strand to strand.

kimono necklace by Robin Atkins, center section, strands of red and black beads
Below is the red side of the necklace. Notice there are no black beads in the upper part of it. I tried, but they were such a strong contrast in value that they made the eye go right there. I wanted the eye to come to the center of the necklace and enjoy the blending of the two colors.

kimono necklace by Robin Atkins, detail, top of red side
Below is the black side of the necklace. Here I have put some red beads in with the black because without them it seemed unbalanced in value, too dark.

kimono necklace by Robin Atkins, detail, top of black side
And below is a detail showing how the center of the necklace looks when worn.

kimono necklace by Robin Atkins, detail, center where black and red beads are blended
I've used this technique in many multiple strand necklaces over the years and have always liked how it looks. When I began stitching beads on cloth, I often needed colors I didn't have or that don't exist. Could I use the successful stringing blend for my bead embroidery?

beaded butterfly by Robin Atkins, bead embroidery, bead journal project
Yes! Above is my November BJP (2008-9). Wanting to bead a fairly realistic butterfly, I needed to blend the colors, especially on the edges of the wing and where the wing meets the body.

beaded butterfly by Robin Atkins, detail, bead embroidery, bead journal project
By using backstitch and changing bead colors in a similar way to the chart above, I was able get the look I wanted. When you backstitch several lines of beads next to each other that all have color changes in them, you can create a beautiful blended look. I also blended colors in the short stacks that make the body of the butterfly.

bead embroidery, landscape, by Robin Atkins, waterfall and skunk cabbage
For my April BJP (2008-9), I used this method to blend colors in the waterfall and flowing creek water.

bead embroidery, landscape, by Robin Atkins, waterfall detail
Above is a closer look at the water. It's actually only 3 colors (white, clear and smokey topaz). I used a dark brown thread color where I wanted it darker and white thread for the lighter areas. Plus I blended the colors in each line of beads, similar to the pattern shown on the chart above.

bead embroidery, landscape, by Robin Atkins, skunk cabbage detail
For the skunk cabbage, I used a different method for blending. Again using backstitch, I stitched a line of beads in one color, a different color next to that, and a third color in the ditch, on top of the other two lines. This gave both texture and a subtle shift in color to stems, leaves and flower. I've marked the places where I used this method with white arrows.

bead embroidery, landscape, by Robin Atkins, skunk cabbage detail
Below is a detail picture showing one of the other skunk cabbages.

bead embroidery, landscape, by Robin Atkins, skunk cabbage detail
I've probably only scratched the surface of what is possible in the color blending department. If some of you have found other ways, I'd love to read about it on your blog!


I designed the red/black necklace based on colors in a Japanese kimono as a project for Margie Deeb's book, The Beader's Color Palette. See pages 91-93 for step-by-step instructions how to make it. Also, if anybody is interested, I might be willing to sell Kimono Necklace.

I also designed several other pieces for Margie's book as projects or to illustrate specific color palettes. Two of them also involve color blending: pages 55 and 163.

If you don't have this book and have any interest in expanding your color comfort zone, Margie's book is a must have... at least check it out from your local library!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Desert + Grand Canyon + Motorcycle!

saguaro cactus, Hwy 87, Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
So, how do I manage to write a post about a 10-day trip to Arizona when I took close to 2,000 pictures? I call my friend Christi, who says, "What are the top three experiences of the trip? OK... if I pick my top 7-10 pictures for each of these three things, then maybe, just maybe, I'll have a reasonable post!!!! Thanks, Christi!

#1 ~ Desert

desert scene, Bush Hwy, Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
We bushwhacked and hiked in the desert Northeast of Phoenix every chance we got. I fell in love! Yes, I never would have predicted that both Robert and I would develop such a deep passion for the desert. Everything about it, from the tallest saguaro cactus to the wee little wildflowers, is compelling and beautiful. Highway 87, north of Mesa toward Payson, is a desert gold mine!!!!

saguaro cactus, Bush Hwy, near Phoeniz AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
desert scene, wildflowers, near Phoeniz AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
Boulder Mountain, Hwy 87, Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
Granite boulders on Boulder Mountain, one-mile stretch along Hwy 87, NE of Phoenix.

prickly pear cactus, Hwy 87, Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
Prickly pear cactus! Notice there's one heart-shaped paddle... my fave, of course!

saguaro cactus, Bush Hwy, Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
Saguaro and prickly pear cactus silhouetted by the setting sun... Oooooooh!

cholla cactus, Bush Hwy near Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
The pretty cholla cactus in the foreground is the devil in disguise! Also called chain or jumping cactus, it's spines are barbed. When they get into your skin, they stay there. The ends break off when you try to pull them out, leaving the barbed points in your thumb to fester. Please, don't ask me how I know this!

Pine Creek loop trail, Hwy 87 NE of Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
This is Robert, my husband, tossing a rock on the "victory pile" at the summit of Pine Creek loop trail off Hwy 87, NE of Phoenix.

Pine Creek loop trail, Hwy 87 NE of Phoenix AZ, photo by Robin Atkins

#2 ~ The Grand Canyon

Although we viewed three movies about the Grand Canyon before we went, they hardly prepared us for what we experienced there. We both love taking pictures, and took hundreds of them at the Canyon. In retrospect, I believe that taking pictures ensures that I see many details of the place... that I notice composition, color, form, shadows and highlights. But it's possible I miss the whole, the very essence of the Canyon, while busily noticing the details through my view-finder. And then, as I look at the results, they don't even come a tiny bit close to what it's actually like to be there, seeing the Colorado River a mile down and the sky infinitely high.... However, here are a few that at least serve as decent reminders.

Grand Canyon, south rim, photo by Robin Atkins
Grand Canyon, south rim, photo by Robin Atkins
Grand Canyon, south rim, photo by Robin Atkins
Grand Canyon, south rim, photo by Robin Atkins
Grand Canyon, Colorado River as seen from south rim, photo by Robin Atkins
Can you see the Colorado River (Robert calls it the Color-red-oh River)? Imagine - a whole mile down! That's 18 football fields, end-to-end.

Grand Canyon sunset, south rim, photo by Robin Atkins
Grand Canyon, south rim, photo by Robin Atkins
If and when there's a next time, I want to just sit in one place and meditate for a long while!

Grand Canyon as seen from flight between Phoenix and Seattle, photo by Robin Atkins
We got lucky on the flight home between Phoenix and Seattle. I took this picture of the River and Canyon from my window seat!

#3 ~ Motorcycle

We rented a new, powerful (1800 cc) Goldwing for three days... What a blast!!!! On one of the days we joined Corinne (BJP member) and her husband, Loring, for a day-ride to Jerome and Sedona. I knew Jerome was an old mining-town, turned ghost-town, turned hippy/artist tourist-attraction, but had no idea it was on the very top of a mountain with switchback streets. Who-eeee, what a fun ride to the top! I also knew about the famed, red-rocks of Sedona, but was not prepared for just how red and beautiful the rock formations in the area are.

Robin Atkins, self-portrait while riding shotgun on the Goldwing
I took pictures while riding behind Robert on the Goldwing. I even took one of myself.... see how the wind is blowing my face?

fancy controls on the new Goldwings, Robert is driving it
Robert Demar and our rented Goldwing motorcycle
Robert and our rented Goldwing. We've stopped to photograph the red rock formations near Sedona, AZ!

red rocks as seen from the motorcycle
red rocks near Sedona, AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
Robert, Corinne and Loring in Jerome, AZ
Above are Robert, Corinne and Loring posing in front of an old hotel building in Jerome, AZ.

cliff dwelling, Montezumas Castle, AZ, photo by Robin Atkins
This cliff dwelling is called Montezuma's Castle. It was built and inhabited by the Sinagua people in the 1100s.

sycamore trees, photo by Robin Atkins
I fell in love with sycamore trees... with their long, graceful branches and especially with the mottled, soft celedon, tan and violet colors of their bark!

More pictures on my Facebook page

If you like the above pictures and would like to see a few more wildflowers, cactus, Canyon, etc. pictures, you can go to my Facebook page and check out my photo albums, here. (I hope this link works...)

More fun in Arizona!

We had many other memorable experiences, such as dinner with Corinne and Loring, two spring training baseball games, good SW food, the Little Colorado River Gorge, a fabulous exhibit of Ansel Adams' photographs at the Phoenix Art Museum (the exibit is open to June 1st) and beading with Lisa C for half a day! We are very grateful to our friends, Patricia and Roger, who allowed us to use their vacation home in Fountain Hills as our base. We're also grateful for fabulous weather!

BJP Progress Report

I'm a terrible behinder right now. I've hardly started working on my March piece. Yet, the week ahead looks pretty open right now... I'm crossing my fingers to keep it that way so I can bead, bead, bead.

My six words for April are:


The one I circled as my key word for the month is forgive. Hmmmmm.... wonder what that's about?! Well, one thing for sure... I need to forgive myself for not getting around to any of my favorite blogs for a long time.... It's on the list!