Monday, September 13, 2010

Seeking Beads for a Good Cause...

A beady friend (Corinne... also in the BJP) in Phoenix, AZ is volunteering at a Domestic Violence Shelter and is seeking bead donations. One of the young women in the shelter is making beaded jewelry to sell in the thrift shop which supports the shelter. My friend has offered to help by rounding up more beads. We are thinking that beading is good therapy (right!) and that perhaps other women there will join in making items for the thrift shop as well.

I've just gone through my beads today and found some that are nice (yet I'll probably never use them), including some porcelain beads from China, a few charms, a set of jade beads that needs re-stringing, some seed beads and some findings. I'm going to send them to the shelter tomorrow.

I'm posting this because I figure maybe there are some readers who, like me, might have things in their stash they probably won't use. If so, and if you'd like to send them to the shelter, here is the contact/mailing information. Please let me know in the comment section if you plan to send a package, so I can alert Corinne to expect it.

Eve's Place
15270 Brookside Lane, Suite 129
Surprise, AZ 85374
623-547-6175 (Bonnie answers the phone)
Laura Horsley - Executive Director

That's it for today... Happy beading and stitching everyone!

* * * * * * * * * *
UPDATE: October 14, 2010

Eve's place has notified me that they are very grateful for the packages they have received thus far, having a plan in place whereby the resident who works with beads is teaching other residents, giving them all meaningful work which contributes to the operating funds for the shelter. If you've been thinking of sending a package but wondering if they still need more, the answer is YES! However, please mail your package now as the shelter is moving at the end of October. Thank you for sharing from your stash!

If you are reading this after October 31, please don't send a package. After they've moved and are settled into their new place, if they still need beads, I'll write a new post about it.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Fine Art Finishing Technique for Bead Embroidery

quilt, Evolving Sampler by Myrna Giesbrecht
This post is inspired by the quilt by Myrna Giesbrecht pictured above which I saw at an exhibition last November (more about it here). It was set apart from all the other quilts in the show by virtue of the way it was displayed, not hanging soft against the wall, but mounted on a stretched and painted canvas. The artist had painted a stretched canvas black and then sewn the quilt to it, which made the quilt look like a fine art painting. Wow!

Even though it may not be fair to the quality, originality and beauty of the other quilts in the show, I believe Myrna could have sold her quilt for two or three times the amount any of the others could have gotten... because traditionally fine art commands higher monetary value than craft, stitchery, quilts, etc.

Light bulb! I tucked that sweet idea for display of fiber arts/beadwork in the back of my mind for future reference and recently resurrected it because I wanted to enter some of my Bead Journal pieces for this year in our County Fair, and I wanted them in the Fine Arts division! I hoped that mounting them in this way would give them a fine art look. Here's how my three pieces turned out. (All pictures in this post are click-to-enlarge.)

bead embroidery and collage by Robin Atkins, 3 pieces from 2010 bead journal project
All three (l to r: Release, Believe, Forgive) won blue ribbons, two of them also won "best of class" and one won a "special award gift certificate for art supplies." How's that for an idea that works? And why not share the finishing technique with my blogging friends? OK! Here you go...

How to Mount Beadwork on Canvas Stretcher Frames

Buy a pre-made, canvas-covered stretcher-frame from your local art supplies shop or on-line. No need to get one that is primed as you're going to cover it with fabric. It should be larger than your piece, but not so much larger that your piece is lost in the center of it.

canvas on stretcher frame
Select a fabric that enhances (but does not in any way detract) from your piece. For the three pieces shown above, I used a black batik. It's a tightly woven, durable fabric with no sheen to it. On close inspection it includes dark red, dark green and dark black in addition to deeply saturated black. I like the way the very subtle colors relate with the colors in my pieces. Cut the fabric about 3 inches larger than the stretcher on each side.

Center your beadwork on the fabric and determine how best to stitch your beading to the fabric. My choice was to whip-stitch over the couching stitches that hold the twisted cording around the perimeter of my piece, using the same holes and matching thread colors. See right and wrong side below.

beadwork sewn to fabric, how it looks on the front
beadwork sewn to fabric, how it looks on the back
The next step is to lace the fabric to the frame. I use acid-free photo-mount stickers in the corners of my beadwork to hold it centered on the canvas while I lace it onto the frame.

use photo mount stickers to hold fabric in place on stretcher frame
I use buttonhole thread (but any synthetic beading thread will work as well) and lace side to side first. I make my lacing stitches about a half inch apart at the ends and about an inch apart in the center. At first I simply lace without concern for tension. After the lacing is complete, I work from the starting point to the end, snugging each section of lacing thread as I go. Try to achieve an even tension across the width of the frame, but not so taught that it pulls your beadwork out of shape. Knot off the thread.

lace the sides first
Then on the back side, carefully mitre the corners at the top and bottom, folding the fabric inward and pinning it at the corners. Mark the approximate location of the hanging eye-screws. They should be about a third of the way down from the top and about a half inch in from the edge. The reason is that you don't want to cut your vertical lacing threads when you drill the holes for the eye-screws! Record the measurement on scrap paper. The corners should now look like this...

pin corners and mark where eye-screws will be placed
Lace the top to the bottom in the same way as the side lacing. Be careful not to place lacing over or near the marked spots. Snug the tension in the lacing and knot off the thread.

lace top and bottom
Use a piece of black or kraft paper, acid-free if possible, to cover the lacing. Cut it about one-quarter inch smaller all around than the canvas. I write the title of the piece and the date along the bottom edge of the backing paper and sign it before attaching it. Using double-sided tape or PVA glue all around the edge of the paper, center it over the back of the frame and drop it in place.

tape or glue backing paper over back to cover lacing
Remember the recorded measurement of your drilling spots? Use it to correctly locate the spots and mark them on the backing paper. Use a small hand drill and an appropriately sized bit to drill holes for the eye-screws.

mark and drill holes for eye-screws
Insert eye-screws. Measure a piece of picture wire 6 inches longer than the distance between the two eye-screws. Insert wire into one of the screws and twist the end around the wire to secure. Do the same on the other side, adjusting the tension so the wire is pretty much straight across. Add felt bumpers to the bottom corners. The completed back side looks like this.

finished and ready to hang
Note: You might ask, why not staple the fabric to the frame, like the canvas? In my opinion, with the beadwork already sewn to the fabric, you need a more forgiving method. You need to be able to delicately adjust both the tension and the positioning of the beadwork relative to the frame. To do that with staples would be tricky at best.

I am so pleased with how professional my pieces look mounted/framed in this way! Originally, I had planned to bind them into a hand-made book. Because everything is stitched rather than glued, I can easily disassemble these pieces and re-mount them in my book. But after seeing how they look like this, I'm tempted to change my mind and display all twelve pieces this way..

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

July BJP Finished ~ Focus

bead embroidery, Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail Focus
As always, I chose my words for July's piece on the first day of the month...


Of the six words focus seemed super significant. I'm trying to make some changes in my life and the idea of focusing my full attention on the process seemed (and still seems) very important.

When I went through the felt pieces I made in Chad Alice Hagen's workshop, I immediately chose the one with the circle of red. The painted paper choice was easy too... first one I tried with the felt was a keeper. In fact nearly all the decisions regarding this piece were quick and easy... beads, threads, embellishments and the idea to bead the words were all no-brainers. Here it is finished...

bead embroidery, Robin Atkins, bead journal project, Focus
The finished size (not including the black background) is 7 inches square. The stitching is done with button hole thread and is a combination of back stitch and straight stitch. The beads are size 15s. It's less embellished than my other pieces this year, which seems appropriate to its meaning. To focus means to gather your attention toward one spot and not be distracted by other things... to keep it simple.

It was with this piece that my theme for the year finally became clear to me: Words to Live By! The notion to incorporate words in my pieces this year has been really challenging (I almost gave up after the first two months). But, piece by piece I feel that I'm improving. Besides that, having all these great action words in my life (my pieces as a constant reminder of them) is really satisfying.

You may recall that I've already posted my piece for August (here) and notice that this one is out of order. Although it was nearly finished in July, I was still missing the ribbons that hang from the pole on each side. I had ordered silk ribbons on line from Garden Fairies Trading Company. I waited and waited. Finally I called. Then I emailed. Someone wrote back that the order had been sent. 10 days went by. No order. I contacted them again. "order shipped," they said. Ha. Two more weeks went by before it arrived, post marked more than a month after I placed the order. On top of that they charged me for an item that wasn't enclosed and more than doubled the actual cost of shipping. Although they appear to have a good selection of silk ribbons, I'm sorry to say that I can not recommend them based on this experience. Anybody know of a friendly and reliable on-line seller of silk ribbons?