Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Exhibition of my Beadwork!



Robin Atkins bringing beadwork to La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum for exhibition
Bringing my beadwork to the Museum
Many, many moons ago, when I first started beading, I made an important decision about my future beading career. I decided not to be in the business of selling my beadwork. That’s a huge and somewhat uncommon decision for an artist, because most feel that in order to justify the time it takes to do beadwork and the cost of materials, it has to be sold. Many also take sales of their work as a marker of their skill as an artist… “if it sells, then I am an artist; if I sell lots of it, then I am a successful artist; if a gallery takes my work, then my work is good,” etc.

Pre-opening demonstration of bead embroidery process by Robin Atkins, with Becki Applegate and Christy Hinkle
Demonstration prior to the Opening on April 1st.
Robin Atkins with a visitor at the opening of Beadlust exhibition


Robin Atkins - Beadlust, exhibition at La Conner Quilt Musuem - Opening reception
My dear friend, Liz, drove to La Conner for the opening!
Those are tempting thoughts, aren’t they?! However, I had previously been a metalsmith, making one-of-a-kind silver and gold jewelry for 5 years. During those years, I experimented with various methods of selling my jewelry – craft fairs, home shows, commissions, galleries – and found that I hated all of them. Marketing my work, talking about it, looking in people’s eyes as they walked by my booth without stopping, answering questions about how I made something, knowing the person asking was also a metalsmith and might copy my ideas – all of that was like a millstone around my neck, depressing, daunting, and no fun at all.

Beadlust - exhibition of Robin Atkins bead embroidery at La Conner Quilt Textile Museum

So, when beadlust jumped in my heart, I almost immediately decided I would not sell my work. Instead, I would make my living by selling beads and beading supplies, teaching others how to bead, and writing books about beading. It’s been a great pathway for me, almost always fun, challenging, exciting – and, it has paid my bills and given me the means for many beady adventures. To be sure, I have sold some of my beadwork, especially jewelry, here and there. But it’s always when opportunity comes to me, not when I’ve struggled to be accepted for a show.

Beadlust - exhibition of Robin Atkins bead embroidery at La Conner Quilt Textile Museum

Twenty-seven years later, I am looking back down my beaded pathway with great satisfaction, pleased as punch about my initial decision. Twenty-seven years later, I also own a substantial stash of beaded objects that I’ve made over the years – beaded jewelry, bags, books, dolls, wall art, sculptures, and quilts. While many of them decorate my studio and home, some live in boxes, stored away in cabinets. I feel a bit guilty about those poor babies. Shouldn’t I get them out, brush the dust off, and sell them? Oh yeah, I forgot, I hate selling/promoting my beadwork.

Beadlust - exhibition of Robin Atkins bead embroidery at La Conner Quilt Textile Museum

All of the above is to introduce a fabulous and unexpected opportunity that came my way recently… The curator of the La Conner Quilt & TextileMuseum contacted me to ask if I would be willing to exhibit my beaded quilts and other beadwork in a one person show at the museum for the month of April, 2015. WOW! Would I be interested? You bet I would!!!!

Beadlust - exhibition of Robin Atkins bead embroidery at La Conner Quilt Textile Museum

Twenty-eight pieces! Once I cleared the pieces for the show out of my studio, the nearly empty walls and display counter was depressing. Guess what happened?  I opened up those boxes, and brought out things I hadn’t ever displayed, or at least hadn’t displayed for a long time. What great fun to see them every day this past month! I love it!

Beadlust - exhibition of Robin Atkins bead embroidery at La Conner Quilt Textile Museum

Beadlust - exhibition of Robin Atkins bead embroidery at La Conner Quilt Textile Museum

Beadlust - exhibition of Robin Atkins bead embroidery at La Conner Quilt Textile Museum

Beadlust - exhibition of Robin Atkins bead embroidery at La Conner Quilt Textile Museum

Two days ago the show closed (waaa), and my work is back home again. Here it is, all piled up on my studio tables. Nice to have it home; not so nice to decide which pieces go back into boxes.

Robin Atkins studio - Beadlust exhibition closed, beadwork back home
Exhibition closed - beadwork back home again
And then there is the question of what is to become of it in the long run. I am 72 years old. It might be time to start thinking about that. Some will go to my beady friends, and some to my nieces and nephews (if they want it). And, I’d die happy if I knew that some of the best pieces were in the permanent collection of a museum or two. Rosie, The Uncaged Hen, for example should be in a museum, don’t you think?

bead emroidery by Robin Atkins - Rosie The Uncaged Hen
Rosie, The Uncaged Hen
Having the show in La Conner, seeing my work so beautifully displayed there, gives me the energy to start thinking about the future of my beadwork, to make a list of my all the pieces, place an "insurance value" on them, and start talking to acquisition curators about it. Although the idea of this task seems a little like “selling my work,” the show in La Conner makes it worth the effort.

La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum, photo by Robert Demar
La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum

21 comments:

  1. Dear Robin, I believe we are distantly, or not so distantly, related. Would I qualify as a niece? (Tee Hee!) I hope you enjoy the process of caretaking your work so that it will be available for the next generations!
    I love seeing the photos of your show. Having been in the museum, with you!, I can happily imagine the joy and inspiration your work brought to all the visitors! What a glorious treat!
    Two thoughts -
    One is that I was hoping to see some photos of your 'other' or 'older' work on display in your home. Is it too late to show some of that?
    Two, it seems to me that a traveling one person show would be amazing, seeing the photos of people enthralled by your beadwork at the Quilt Museum. I am just imagining the impact of your pieces energizing and inspiring artists throughout the country! Is that something LaConner QM could help with? Well, that's my wish!

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    1. Wow, Vicki, you think BIG! I think the LCQM has about all they can manage running their own shows, although I know they'd certainly recommend me/my work for such a show. Nice dream though. Thanks so much!

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    2. I forgot to take photos of my studio with the previously boxed up work in place. Sorry.... I will photograph some of the pieces though and put them in a post or on FB. Will that do?

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    3. Vicki8:04 AM

      That would be great, when you have the time. I love seeing all your work. I had a couple of smiles this week, as we sorted through our old taxes, getting stuff we didn't need ready for shredding. I found old receipts for your shop Beads Indeed, that brought back lovely memories of the anticipation of receiving treasures in the mail!

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  2. Hi Robin... What a lovely exhibition! I too am taking the teaching route with my art, and I find it very satisfying. Rosie is my favourite beaded object of all time, she certainly deserves a special place.

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    1. Great, Genevieve... Hope it works as well for you as it did for me. Is your book out/available yet?

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    2. Yes Robin. Send me your mailing address at gcrabe@mac.com and I would be happy to send you a copy!

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  3. Your work is so wonderful.
    I feel the same about selling Each thing you make is a part of yourself .I do not sell any more .Like you I just put in in a boxes
    I meet you at grow your blog It was fun to come back Laura

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    1. Thanks, Laura... We are among many who have work in boxes. Can't you just see it all filtering into the "antique" shops over the next 50-100 years? Ha! Just as we treasure our antique store textile finds, I'm sure in the future somebody will treasure our work in the same way.

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  4. Robin, I love your bead-work and we are related we are "bead addicts"...sister dear!!! You have always been my favorite all time "beader, writer, creative person" and I admire your tenacity, your idea's and can well understand the "not liking to sell", I agree with your philosophy on that to. Having been creative for well over 60 years I probably give away more than I will ever sell, it is the "joy, the love, the creative process" that moves me the most....I celebrate with you your on going adventures, you might even think of donating some special pieces maybe to a local museum...that way you will always remain a part of the history of where you have been the most creative....WA state, my favorite state. Hugs

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    1. You are sooooooooooo right, Jody... the satisfaction and joy of making each piece is the real, the only significant, payoff. Sometimes that's hard to keep in mind. I also like your idea of keeping the work in a local (Washington state) museum, in the part of the world where I have been the most creative. Thanks for putting that idea into words!

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  5. The creation of your pieces brought joy into the world, their continued presence reminds us of the good and important things art does for us. They deserve lives of their own, out of those storage boxes, but I understand it's not always an easy thing to accomplish. The art world - galleries and museums - can be such brutal places. Rosie should definitely have a permanent publicly exhibited space. I wish I had the ability to make that happen.

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    1. Thanks, Liz... Yes, it's true that museums don't always want to take work, even when it is donated. They have space and storage considerations. But now that the thought is in my mind, I will start making some inquiries. The first, of course, will be the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum. :)

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  6. I have so enjoyed meeting you and seeing some of your work in person, it is wonderful! Is there a museum in Washington state that would like to have some of your pieces for their permanent collections? One of my biggest goals is to have one of my pieces at the Mesa Art Center, a lofty goal but I can dream. Take care of yourself and keep posting.
    Susan Feldkamp, aka Night Beader

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    1. Oh Susan, I have enjoyed meeting you too, and seeing your beautiful beadwork over the years. The connections with folks like you feed me, keep me excited about beading. I wish you all the best with getting the Mesa Art Center to take one of your pieces!

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  7. I've enjoyed your column, and your "uncaged hen' is a masterpiece..it should def be in a place where it can be seen by a wider audience..

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    1. Thanks so much.... Rosie thanks you too :)

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  8. What a wonderful honour to have so much of your work on show and I really hope you manage to get some of those pieces into collections where they can be valued and enjoyed for years to come.

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    1. Thanks, Alex... It certainly was a wonderful honor! As to getting a few pieces into permanent collections, just thinking about which ones and possibilities for where is a first baby step taken already!

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  9. I absolutely understand and agree with your attitude to not produce bead art commercially. Making things expressly to throw them on the market, in my opinion, interferes with creativity.

    You are wise to plan ahead concerning a permanent home/permanent homes for your art. I am holding my thumbs for you to find good and satisfying solutions. Also, what about the remaining stash after all is said and done? (I for one know that I will not live long enough to use up all my stuff, and for sure you are the same in this respect, probably even "worse".) Sigh! All these decisions!

    Thank you for this most interesting post.

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    1. You are most welcome, Sabine, and thank you for the excellent way you worded my ongoing philosophy.

      Yes, darn it, there is the bead stash as well. I've been wondering if I have the organizational skills and perseverance to divide my stash into "must keep" and "can sell" piles, selling the later on Etsy or eBay. Hmmm.... It's that selling conundrum again... although doing it on line might work for me. At least it would get the beads into the hands of people who would/could use them. And the Lord knows, I do not have time in my remaining years to use more than a 10th of them. Thanks for getting me thinking about this, Sabine!

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Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!