Friday, January 20, 2012


In 26 years of making my living as a bead artist, author and teacher, the subject of copycats has reared its head several times. I guess SOPA is one underlying reason for its return today. That, plus Sweetpea, who has been noticing that her images are showing up on Pinterest at an alarming rate, sent me a link to a really good post on the subject of copycats.

No way around it, when we publish photos on the net, display work in a gallery or museum, sell work at a studio tour, or in any way make our art public, there are people who are going to copy it, or at least try to copy it. There are even some who will copy it and say it's their own.

The worst offender for me was a student who copied my handout (word for word, plus the drawings!) for my beaded button class and made up kits with my instructions as the main feature. She sold the kits to quite a number of bead shops over a period of a year or so before I learned of it.
If you prefer posts with images, please scroll down to the previous posts... This one is all words...
Another student in the same class, called to tell me about it. She also reported it to her local bead society and made it her business to call all the bead shops, asking them not to carry the kits. I don't know what happened after that.

The truth is: her kit sales did not hurt me in any way (OK, except my pride). I still had and continue to have more teaching offers than I can manage to accept. I still teach the button workshop at filled-to-capacity levels. Nobody ever accuses me of stealing the idea from my student's kits (ha ha).

The way I figure it is this... It's a mighty big world. And there's an unfathomable amount of art in it. There's room for everybody and everything, including copycats.

That's the simple conclusion. It originally came from my artist friend, Carol Berry, who once said: "People copy my ideas. But I don't really care, because by the time they do, I'm already onto something else." Well, that's how I remember what she said... not an exact quote. It sticks with me as basically true.

The other thing that seems important to me is art vs. guns. Yep, art, most of it, in my opinion, is a peace agent, one of the best we have. It's an antidote to war, greed, fear, prejudice and inhumanity. I believe in putting as much art as possible into the world. That's one reason why, when the current printing of my books runs out, I'm going to make them available as free downloads. My first book, One Bead at a Time, is already available for free (here).

I put images (not itsy-bitsy ones, not protected or water-marked ones) of my art on all my blogs, my website, Flickr and Facebook. Other people copy them and put them on sites like Pinterest and sometimes I see them on personal blogs and other sites. Sometimes folks attribute the art, quote and/or photo to me; sometimes not. Today, I'm weighing in as not caring. Today, I'm grateful for every peaceful, soulful, contented thought that happens as a person, somewhere in this world, views my art/photo. It's the only way I know to bring more harmony into the world.

Just today, I joined Creative Commons, which is a way to publicly license my words, my art and the photos of it, allowing free use for non-commercial purposes with attribution... might as well give a little structure to what I believe anyway.

What about you? What are your thoughts about copycats?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thom's Beaded Quilts - OMG!!!!

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, Monterey Seascape, detail
On Jan. 11th, my brother's first solo show opened at the LaConner Quilt Museum... 43 beaded quilts.... 10 years of work by Thom Atkins!!!! To say I am one totally proud sister is a drastic understatement.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, Monterey Seascape, detail
I took a few pictures with my little point-and-shoot camera. And then the battery went dead. No spare. Good news, however... my beadiferous-fiber friend, Sweetpea's Path, also attended the opening and took pictures with a more advanced camera. She posted them here.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, Monterey Seascape, detail
You can also visit Thom's website to see more. Better yet, get thee to LaConner.
There is NO WAY that any camera can capture the awesome totality of these quilts, beautifully displayed on the museum walls, full size, up close and personal.
The town is a fun, artsy town, with nice places to stay, eat and see. There's even a new quilt shop that just opened. The show closes on March 25, 2012.

The above pictures are detail shots of Monterey Seascapes. Be sure to click to enlarge these images so you can see all the beady details. You can see the whole seascape on Thom's website, on this page. I think the way he used beads to construct the various underwater flora is utterly amazing.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, Australian Dreamscape
Most of the quilts in the show are for sale, although the prices aren't posted. There's a price list available in the Museum gift shop on the same floor as Thom's exhibit. I'm so pleased for him... two of the quilts, including the one shown above and below, Australian Dreamscape, sold during the artist's reception.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, Australian Dreamscape, detail
Here is a picture of Thom working on Australian Dreamscape in my studio during a visit in July, 2004. And here's where you can read more about it.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt artist
I bet you'll all be glad to know Thom's book on quilting with beads will be out this fall. I'll post a notice when it is available. The quilt below, which is one of my favorites, is on the cover. The title of the quilt is Tenuous Membrane and it's 25.5 x 43 inches. I love the colors and the harmony of lines!

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, Tenuous Membrane, detail
Here's a detail shot. It's not on his website yet.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, Tenuous Membrane
Another of my favorites is My Father's Shadow. Our biological father died in an automobile crash when Thom was 3 1/2 and I was just turning 5. I never thought of depicting our father in this way, but when I saw Thom's quilt I got a massive lump in my throat and a dense coating of goose bumps. It hit home, big time.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, My Father's Shadow
Here's a detail. The grass is entirely beaded. Here's the page for it.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, My Father's Shadow, detail
They're all favorites... but one more for you, just a detail... Serenity lives up to it's name... lichen-covered rocks, with moss-covered bases, sit serenely in perfectly raked sand. This picture is just a detail, a teaser, because the whole is not yet on Thom's website. You'll have to go to LaConner to see it.

Thom Atkins, beaded quilt, Serenity, detail

Monday, January 09, 2012

Sept BJP Finished - Best Friend!

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of centerWhere to start? I guess the heart says it all. Liz and I met in 1973, when we both lived on a houseboat on Lake Union in Seattle. Best friends for 39 years, she knows me better than anybody else in the world. She's my rock. She accepts and loves me exactly the way I am.

I could write so much more about our relationship, about how much we respect and admire each other, about some of the things we've learned from each other, challenges we've met together... You just don't put something so huge in a blog post; it's a whole book (at least).

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, bead journal project
September being my birthday month, it seemed the perfect month to bead an impression of our enduring and deep friendship. Ouch! Think about it... someone with whom you've shared 4 decades of your life. How do you illustrate this story in one 5" square, X-shaped piece of bead embroidery?

I'll tell you one thing about the process. I had to consciously put aside the exceedingly strong urges

  • to get it right
  • to please Liz with it
  • to figure it out
  • to plan the outcome
  • to make it really, really, really, REALLY, SUPER special... as special as she is to me
bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, detail of cross

Improvisational all the way, I think this piece speaks to the pure joy of having such a true, honest friendship in my life. Which arm of the X is me and which is Liz? While stitching the beads, I had no clue which of us I was beading. Only when it was finished, did it seem that the two pieces of amber represent Liz and what she means to me. If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see the amber pieces and, therefore, that Liz is the upper left to lower right diagonal.

Amber is a sun-colored material of nature, ancient, enduring, a bit of magic, the soul of the tiger, symbol of courage, with major healing properties attributed to it. Liz = precious amber!

At the intersection, the point where our paths cross is a big, cheerful heart. Colors of childhood, Little Liz and Little Robin always playing together and having fun. Rabbit, precious to both of us, perhaps as a symbol of innocence and yet at the same time enduring and strong. This rabbit, carved from bone, comes from life... and represents our shared lives.

Words can not adequately express my gratitude for Liz. She is an exquisite blessing!