Friday, May 21, 2010

April Bead Journal Project ~ Finished!

Well finally!!! At last the words, felt, painted paper and beads all flowed together easily (and fairly quickly)... Here is Forgive, my BJP piece for April!

improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, Forgive, April 2010 BJP
It must be due to the fabulous hand-dyed felt that Sweetpea gifted to me. She made it in a workshop taught by Chad Alice Hagen. When she showed me the precious bundle of resist-dyed felt she had made in the workshop, I about went nuts... drooling, petting it, rubbing it on my face (sooooo soft!), tracing the patterns with my fingers, admiring the saturated colors... What could she do? Of course, she gave me not one, but TWO, of the pieces!!!!

Until this month, I've used store-bought, wool felt and covered it with beads so that you couldn't see it. I was bored with it... bored with plain, solid color... and frustrated by the way the beads would sink down into the felt. I kept wondering WHY on earth I had decided to use felt this year.

Well now I know! Working of this piece of butter-soft felt with its uneven, felted edges (must be a proper term for this type of edge) was such a tactile pleasure!!! I did not use paper or any other stabilizer under the felt, which made it pleasing to touch on both sides of my piece!!!

improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, Forgive, detail
The other thing that made this piece come forth so beautifully was the lime-green felt. I was visiting my family in Minnesota and beading with Julie (my brother's wife) and we got to wondering if it would work to rubber stamp on felt. It does! She had a scrap of lime green felt from which she had punched out a Christmas tree (see the shape on the bottom?) So we stamped it with a bird stamp. I liked it and asked if I could have it. (Who me a shameless beggar? You bet!)

The scrap looked a little different when she gave it to me. For this piece, I cut it in half (the lime green beads flow between the two parts), frayed out the edges using a needle and embroidered the birds and branch using single strands of standard embroidery floss (mostly back stitch).

improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, Forgive, detail
I painted the tags in the same colors as the background paper and wrote the words on them with a #3 micron pen.

The words are special to me for the month of April and so is the piece because of some personal changes I began making then. To forgive myself and others is an important part of this change... I see the words flow and forgive working together in this piece to guide me in the process. The other words are part of it too, especially to rest and to finish what I've begun.

One other reason this piece went together so easily is that I worked improvisationally, without a plan. On last month's piece, I worked more representationally (the mesa or butte), which is always more difficult because I'm trying to make it recognizable.

Unexpected things happen when I work improvisationally. In this case, after completing the piece, I noticed the over-all shape of the felt reminded me of a house... a bird house? a house for a Robin? This metaphor applies to the changes I am making, yet I didn't plan it at all! Improv just works for me and I'm always more satisfied with the end results.

I hope you like it too.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One Bead at a Time ~ Free Download!

As of today, my first book, One Bead at a Time, is available as a free e-book ... Click here!

One Bead at a Time, book by Robin Atkins, cover
After five print runs of this book, I decided to retire it in bound form and instead make it available to you through the internet (pdf format). I hope you will enjoy the journey. And, do tell your friends. I love knowing that many more creative souls will have access to it!

You can read it on line by scrolling through the pages. Also, you are welcome to print it. The margins are wide enough so that you can punch holes and keep it in a 3-ring binder. Please respect my still-active copyright and print this file only for your own, personal use.

The companion or follow-up book, Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery, full of many more techniques and inspirations, is still available in print and can be found in bead shops or ordered here on my website.

Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery, book by Robin Atkins, cover
Note: to enter the drawing to win one of my last four printed/bound copies of One Bead at a Time, write a comment on this post before June 1, 2010!

A few bead shops (both on-line and on-the-street) may still have remaining hard copies of One Bead at a Time on their shelves. Also some book sellers may have used copies available.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blogiversary Giveaway!!!

improvisational bead embroidery, robin atkins, beaded bag
I can hardly believe it! Picture me... happily blogging for four years! Time has flown by, I've made wonderful friends and even met some of them in person. In this blogging community there are some of the MOST supportive, friendly, classy, talented, creative and loving people I know. It's changed my life in so many good ways!

improvisational bead embroidery, robin atkins, beaded bag
It just so happens that the 4th birthday of Beadlust coincides with another important marker in my life...

One Bead at a Time, cover of book by Robin Atkins
Ten years ago, I wrote and self-published my first book, One Bead at a Time, Exploring Creativity with Bead Embroidery. It was a remarkable experience in many ways.

When I started thinking about this book, I telephoned Helby Imports, the nation's only distributor of beading books to bead shops. With trembling voice, I asked to talk with the owner and then told him my ideas for the book. He totally discouraged me, saying no book would ever sell unless it included both projects and techniques. He said they wouldn't carry it.

improvisational bead embroidery, robin atkins, beaded button
Not completely daunted, I then called several publishers. They all said the same thing. It almost stopped me in my tracks. Almost. My experience teaching Improvisational Bead Embroidery workshops was so powerful and my students seemed so empowered by it, that I just had to try.

So I wrote it, took the photos for it, designed it in Microsoft Publisher, printed 300 copies of it on my ink-jet printer, had it professionally bound in Seattle and put the word out to my beady friends and students. In just 2 months I had sold all 300 copies!

That was my test run and as far as I was concerned, a successful one! So at that point, I added 8 pages showing basic techniques of bead embroidery and took out a loan to have 2,500 copies printed professionally! I gave Helby Imports a money-back-guarantee if they would just try one case of my book. They took the offer and have sold many, many cases of them since then.

improvisational bead embroidery, robin atkins, beaded bag, detail
Three more times, the press has rolled! Each time, as the number of beading books increases geometrically and others are publishing books about bead embroidery, the book moves more slowly. Today, I have exactly 4 remaining copies from the last printing.

And guess what? I'm going to give away one specially inscribed copy for each year of my blogging life! Details at the end of this post.

Am I going to reprint? No, I think One Bead at a Time had a lot more time on the active book market than most beading books. And for this I'm very grateful. Now it's time to retire it. However, the good news is I'm not retiring it completely. In the next few days, I will convert it to pdf format and make it available as a FREE download through my website. It won't be a pretty, bound book. But a person can print it and read it, which is still a good thing.

improvisational bead embroidery, robin atkins, beaded button
One Bead at a Time has influenced many lives. I know because people write to tell me about it. Bless them. In turn their lives influence mine in the most wonderful ways. I am so grateful to have stumbled on the notion of improvisational bead embroidery and to have the skills to teach others the value of it in developing creativity and artistic self confidence.

If you are one who has purchased this book, I thank you, for you have helped to keep me out of a 9-to-5 job and given me time to do my own art work and to organize the Bead Journal Project, now in its third year.

improvisational bead embroidery, robin atkins, beaded bag

So, today we are having a
birthday party

and a
One Bead at a Time
retirement party

To have a chance at winning one of the four remaining copies of One Bead at a Time, please leave a comment on this post and include your email address. It doesn't have to be for you; you could win it and give it to a friend, perhaps someone just starting to bead. If you win, you can tell me to whom you'd like it inscribed.

Please remember to include your email address. To keep the hackers away, write your email address like this: WantToWin(at)YourBook(dot)com. Use (at) rather than @ and (dot) rather than .

Thanks, everyone, you are special and tremendous in every way!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Metal & Beads ~ New Book Giveaway!

Metalwork and beads compliment each other so beautifully!

bead embroidery and copper charms by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail
Artists who combine their own metal components (whether silver, copper or bronze) with beads always seem to have a competitive edge in the market place. Their work seems more original, more unique, more precious to me.

doll by Kaite, metal and indigo, bead journal project
And it's not just jewelry. Above is a Kaite's April BJP doll, Metal-Indigo. Kaite made all of the little copper squiggles and dangles in a workshop. Don't they add great character to her doll?!

Back in the 70's, I was a metalsmith, fabricating silver and gold jewelry. Below are a few examples of my work.

metalsmith, sterling silver zipper necklace by Robin Atkins
metalsmith, man's ring by Robin Atkins
metalsmith, picture jasper necklace by Robin Aktins
I learned metalworking skills from three sources: 1. Community college and art college classes, 2. from my friend Liz who was getting a college degree in metalsmithing and 3. from several books (best one was The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight, which is still available). I made and sold jewelry for 5 years, loved working in my shop, loved forming metal!

Later, when I shifted into beads, I used my metalworking skills to create findings and components for my beaded creations (two examples below). Handy!

bead necklace with copper charms by Robin Atkins
bead necklace with copper and sterling hand by Robin Atkins
I also taught wireworking and developed a unique style of fibula pins (below), which have sold well over the years.

fibula pin by Robin Atkins
Frequently beaders have asked me, "I want to learn metalworking... what book do you recommend?" Until now, I have had to answer, "Sorry, there is no decent metalworking book for beaders. Get Tim McCreight's book and figure out for yourself how to apply the skills to beadwork."

At last Candie Cooper has given us beaders a really fabulous book on metalworking!!!!!

Metalsmithing 101 for Beaders, book cover
I like everything about this book! Candie's instructions seem easy to follow, yet thorough. She takes you through all the basics... tools, marking, sawing, filing, riveting, soldering, texturing, patinas... everything needed to create findings and components to compliment beads. Plus she gives many wonderful design ideas, projects and patterns.

Good how-to pictures and drawings...
Metalsmithing 101 for Beaders, setting saw blade
Exciting design ideas... fun fish pin...
Metalsmithing 101 for Beaders, fish pin project
Elegant earrings...
Metalsmithing 101 for Beaders, earrings project
Unique charms...
Metalsmithing 101 for Beaders, handmade charms
...and many more!

I read every word of this book (something I rarely do)... I found it entertaining (not expected), accurate/complete (also not expected) and it made me crave the feeling of the tools in my hands, working the metal, transforming wire and sheet metal into beautiful objects again. I give this book FIVE STARS ++++! Bravo to Candie and Lark Books!

This post is a giveaway! I have one copy of Metalworking 101 for Beaders, by Candie Cooper to send to somebody who writes a comment on this post. Please, include your email address in the comment, so I can notify you if you're the winner!

I shall select the winner randomly on May 20th from those who comment... that's two weeks from today. If you can't wait or don't win, you can buy it here or at your local bead shop.

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.