Friday, June 30, 2006

Confessions of a Chocolate Addict ~
How a Spirit Doll is Helping!

I am a chocolate addict. You may think this statement is funny, but actually I'm pretty serious about it. For years, I lied about chocolate, I hid it, I binged on it, I was obsessed about getting my chocolate fixes twice daily (at least). After the first bite or two, I didn’t even taste it.

As I consumed more and more of it, it began to consume me. Until finally, through journaling and writing poems in a group of writers bent on healing, I finally realized it was an addiction with a solution. Abstinence. I’ve fallen off the wagon twice in the past 10 years, but since 2002 I’ve been totally abstinent. No chocolate at all. I feel better without that awful compulsion crowding my life.

However! Here comes the part about the spirit doll… Last winter I went to “Quilt Camp” (a totally fabulous 3-day retreat with local quilters), and arrived to find a big bowl of candy on every table. Almost all of it was chocolate. Little Robin (LR) within me panicked… “What about ME? What treats do I get?” A quick look through the bowls revealed a few wrapped caramels in each bowl. Quickly LR went around to each of the tables and took the caramels to stash at our work station.

spirit doll by Robin Atkins, bead artist

That evening, suffering from fuzzy teeth from eating so many caramels, I began making a spirit doll with the prayer that she might help me and LR to eat more healthily. I wanted to make her a little purse to hold my written prayer. At first I made something that looked like a shopping bag… too big for the doll. I stacked two caramels in that little bag, and distributed the remainder of the stash back into the bowls at the other tables. Those two candies in the sack are still there!
spirit doll, detail, by Robin Atkins
After that I made the purse you see hanging from the doll’s arm. She has amethyst (a stone said to have healing and cleansing powers, especially beneficial to the mind) chips in her hair and fringe. The pearls represent purity. The ceramic face is her (and my) "happy tummy" - serene and contented.

spirit doll, detail, by Robin Atkins

spirit doll, detail, by Robin Atkins

spirit doll, detail, by Robin Atkins

At first nothing much changed. But just before Lent, a friend said she was going to give up sugar for Lent. Immediately I joined her. I’m still not eating sugar. This is a huge change in my eating habits… I AM eating more healthily. Yeah! Many, many baby steps - from chocolate to poems to quilters to spirit doll to healthier eating – and look who’s emerging!

Are you wondering about LR? I think she’s doing OK too. She and I are trying to look toward painting, time to play with art, as a treat (rather than sweets). At the risk of being overly optimistic, my Healthy Eating Spirit Doll seems to be doing her job, for which I am most greatful!

Monday, June 26, 2006

spirit doll by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Spirit Dolls ~
Two New Ideas!

Mary, one of my mail order customers, just sent me an email about her ideas for making her first spirit doll. She has two fabulous new ideas, which need to be shared right now.

Explaining that she's been disabled for 16 years and that there's no cure for her disability, Mary wrote that she could use a "miracle doll." Isn't that a great idea? It's a special, healing process to make a spirit doll, to imbue her with your prayers, to empower her with positive energy. What if you could take it one step further, and actually fill her with your prayers for a miracle? Why not?

Her second idea is really sweet! She writes: "the maker could write the intention on a piece of cloth (or soft paper), and include it in the stuffing of the doll - just to reinforce that intention forever!" I've sewn little pockets on the outside of some of my spirit dolls, pockets which then carry little scrolls of paper with poems and/or wishes written on them. I like Mary's idea, because it is more permanent (the little scrolls sometimes get lost) and because it's more private.

The spirit doll pictured here is Madrona ~ Tree Protection Goddess. I made her last summer when our beautiful madrona trees (and many other species as well) were suffering terribly from three consecutive years of drought. To weight her body (so she won't tip over easily), I put a packet of river pebbles inside at the base. My thought was that rivers carry water, and by association I wanted the pebbles to bring water to the trees.

If you've never been to the NW coast, you may not know what a madrona tree looks like. Fortunately for you, my husband is a photographer! Go here to see color images of our beloved madronas (taken right on our property), and/or here to see B&W images. Both series feature close-ups of the fracturing, peeling bark... a phenomenon that ocurrs mid to late summer every year.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

bead embroidery sampler by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Puget Sound
Bead Festival

If you can't make it this year, put it on your calendar for next year! Hands down, this is my totally favorite event of every year, and it's right around the corner. Just a week and a few days from now, I'll be up to my ears in beads, glorious beady people, and the nicest host and hostess one could ever want.

In July each year, the Bead Factory sponsors the Puget Sound Bead Festival at the Tacoma Convention Center in WA state. What began in the early '9os as a bead bazaar, a gathering of bead spirit doll by Robin Atkins, bead artistsellers and buyers, has evolved into a fabulous 4-day event with many top-notch teachers and a huge bazaar.

Despite the size of the event, organizers, Vicki and Mark Lareau, manage to make everyone feel comfortable with their seemingly tireless personal attention to details. For example, every class room is equipped (at their expense) with an Ott Light for every work station. This is a fantastic advantage for beading students... no eye strain here. Also their friendly staff are conveniently stationed and available to all participants to answer questions or solve the occassional problem.

Now, if you aren't already itching to jump on your magic carpet, think about this: the Tacoma Convention Center is walking distance from the Museum of Glass, where cfinger weaving, treasure bracelet by Robin Atkins, bead artisturrently they are featuring a full-scale exhibition of beadwork by Joyce Scott! Joyce is a prolific, internationally known bead artist. Her work always generates an immediate, strong emotional response. Although her work is widely published, it's well worth seeing in person.

The pictures in this post illustrate the 4 classes I'll be teaching this year: Techniques of Bead Embroidery, Bead Embellished Spirit dolls, Woven Treasure Bracelet and Beaded Buttons.

Will you be there?

beaded buttons by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Mountains & Streams
Improvisational Bead Embroidery
In Progress
bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Here is Mountains & Streams (shown finished in previous post) about one third complete. You can see the Kaffe Fassett fabric that I chose for this piece. By the way, I'm really not a fabric snob. Other than a preference to work on natural fabrics such as cottons or silks, all fabrics are possibilities. Most of the time, I buy fabrics without the slightest idea of what I will do with them, choosing simply on the basis of "love at first sight." I wouldn't have known that this lovely ikat fabric was designed by Mr. Fassett, except that the clerk made quite a point of telling me.

When I begin working on a piece, I go to my fabric stash and pick out something I love at that moment. A few weeks before starting this commission piece, I'd been to the quilt shop on the mainland, where I picked up about 6 fat quarters and a half yard of this ikat fabric. Being on top of my stash and very lovely, I chose it for this piece. Next I gathered a bunch of beads I loved, the colors of which were naturally influenced by my fabric choice.

The size of the piece was determined by the fact that my customer wanted it the same size as Moss & Wildflowers, which she had seen in one of the classes I taught at Quilt Festival. So, the first step was to cut the fabric to about 9 inches square, cut a piece of acid-free interleaving paper to the same size, draw a rectangle of the finished size (6.5" x 6") centered on the paper, and baste the two together around the lines of the drawn rectangle. The paper is a stabalizer, so that I can keep my stitch tension fairly tight without puckering. The basting stitches, showing on the fabric, provide a beading guideline and show the image area. In the picture above, I folded back the extra fabric border, but you can see my red basting stitches along the top edge.

Time to bead!!! Sewing the first beads on a piece this large can be daunting. I often begin by dividing my "canvas" with lines of beads. Then I can work on one small area at a time, which seems much less difficult. This piece was no exception, so I began with lines of silver beads, which eventually started to look like mountain peaks. Then, to further divide the piece into workable areas, I sewed on diagonal lines of aqua beads. These lines immediately suggested streams or rivers.

At this point, it was pretty obvious that I was headed toward mountains and streams as the subject of my work. Yet, this isn't "forced" in any way. I don't try to make a realistic picture. I don't even try to make a picture at all. It's just in the back of my mind somewhere that this seems to be about mountains and streams. I continue to choose beads I love, and sew them on somewhere. If I had turned the piece upside down one day, and it had suggested something else, I might have gone off in a totally different direction.

After completing the silver and aqua lines that divided the whole, I settled on the area in the lower right corner, and began to fill it up with beads. The small area on the lower left side was next. I continued to bead one small area at a time, ending with the sky, until it was finished. You can see a nice large picture of it here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

bead embroidery by by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Mountains & Streams
Framed Bead Embroidery

Quick post late tonight to get you through tomorrow, as my husband and I are going to "leave the rock" (the island where we live), and head for "the mainland" (via a 1 hr 20 minute ferry ride). I'm posting a picture of a framed piece of bead embroidery that I did for a commission. It was the best possible kind of commission, because she told me I could do anything. In return, I told her that if I work improvisationally, by the time it's finished I'll like it. If she didn't want to buy it, no problem. As it turns out, she was most eager to have it. This is the picture I sent, so she'd know what she was getting.

Saturday or Sunday, I'll post this piece in progress and talk about how it can look like mountains and streams, yet still be improvisational.

The thing with pictures, at least of my bead embroidery, is that two dimensions doesn't cut it. My work is very textural with a lot of surface fringes and other raised techniques. Most of that is lost in pictures.

What's challenging about commissions, is that I get attached to a piece as it takes shape... it begins to have personal meanings, many of which are deep and important. I hung onto this piece for several months after finishing it before I could part with it, and had to get very stern with myself before I could actually mail it. Fortunately, my customer was quite wonderful and understanding.

One day soon I'll put this picture on my website, with a link to a full sized version... until then hope you like "Mountains and Streams" of the Pacific Northwest.
Buttons vs. Beads

A couple of posts ago I promised to reveal the answer to the question posed about number of bead books vs. number of button books available through Amazon. The simple answer, which surprised me, is this: Buttons = 1500; Beads = 1200.

However, the simple answer is rarely the whole story. Let's investigate further! Until recently the noun button referred to ”any small disk or knob used for fastening, as on a garment or shoe.” In fact, that definition is right out of my 1984 Webster’s Dictionary.

Sometime during the past century, political buttons, the kind that pin to your jacket and say things like “Vote for Joe,” became popular, and in recent years collectible as well. Now if you search eBay for “buttons,” you get more political buttons than sewing buttons.

Even more recently, we began to see what I call push buttons, which are little graphics used on websites and blogs to give viewers an opportunity to choose an action (rollover buttons, radial buttons, etc.). Recently I searched the word button under Google - Search All Blogs, and got a gazillion pages of blog listings, nearly all of which were about designing “push buttons.” In fact the first listing referring to sewing buttons wasn't until page 9 of the listings.

Fortunately (for my sanity) a bead is still a bead is a bead. Not true about buttons. A “sewing button” is not a “political button” is not a “push button.” And that takes us back to Amazon. Out of the first 20 titles resulting from searching button, 13 are not about sewing buttons. Out of the first 20 titles resulting from searching bead, all 20 are about beads as we know and love them. Ah ha! Doesn’t that change the answer to the original question?!! Yup, bead fans… there are many more books in print about beads than about sewing buttons.

This is of special interest to me, because in 1985, when I first began my beaded pathway, there were no books in print about beads... not one! I found two pamphlet type books in a used bookstore, one about Native American loomwork beading and one about beaded flowers made on wire. Now, just 21 years later, beads and beading have become so popular, that there are more than 1200 titles available, which include not only books about many different beading techniques, but the history of beads and bead collecting as well.

For pure inspiration, one of my favorite books is 500 Beaded Objects... a book which prooves beyond a doubt that beading has come into its own in the world of art as recognized by galleries, museums and collectors. And, by the way, I just have to add one little brag... that's my piece on the cover (Rosie, the Uncaged Hen)!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How to Make
Beaded Buttons
(part 2)
Please see Part #1 for the first steps in making a beaded button.

how to make beaded buttons by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Cut both paper and fabric around the outside circle.

how to make beaded buttons by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Moisten the outer edge of paper slightly, and tear it away. Do not try to remove the paper from under your stitches.

how to make beaded buttons by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Sew a small running stitch around the outside edge of the fabric.

how to make beaded buttons by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Pull the running stitch and gather the fabric into a cup. Place the button form inside the cupped fabric. Pull the stitches tight and knot to secure the fabric around the button form. Then snap the back on the button. Voila!

beaded button by Robin Atkins, bead artist

beaded button by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Here are a couple more beaded buttons I've made recently. They're a grand project to do during meetings or while watching a movie on TV...

How to Make
Beaded Buttons

beaded button by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Hope you don't mind staying with buttons for one more post. I get a lot of email messages asking how to make beaded buttons, and so I thought it might be nice to show you some pictures. I do teach this as a workshop; and it's one of the projects in my book, Beaded Embellishment. So here I won't go into how to do the bead embroidery stitches. I'll just show the button construction part.

Start with a 3.5 inch square of printed fabric backed by acid-free interleaving paper. Draw the fabric cutting template from the button-form package on the paper; centered inside that circle, trace around the metal button top. (I always use Dritz half-dome button forms, the kind that you snap together with your fingers, not the kind that requires a squeezing tool.) Baste around the inner circle to make a beading guide. On the fabric side, fill the area inside the basted circle with bead embroidery.

how to make beaded buttons by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Your work will look like this on the front side...
how to make beaded buttons by Robin Atkins, bead artist
...and like this on the back side.
Now I can't get any more images to upload.... frustrating! I'll start a new post... see above.

Monday, June 19, 2006

vintage button, detail on quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist
One More
Favorite Button
with Wings!

Isn't this one grand?! I've been asked the value of the buttons on Grandpa's Gifts (see previous post), and by that the person asking means "monitary." I don't know the answer. They're priceless to me, so I guess it doesn't matter.

Tomorrow I'm going back to the subject of Spirit Dolls... See you then!
Button Quilt
Grandpa's Gifts

quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

I made this wall quilt as a memory piece about my grandfather, Charles Atkins. It looks like him... very warm on the inside, with a cool and composed exterior. I remember standing behind him, watching him work at his desk, either paper work (he was Superintendent of Schools in Amador County, CA) or working with one of his collections. His (and my) favorite of these was an extensive button collection started by his great aunt in the mid 1800s in England. He adored sorting, arranging and labeling these buttons. While I watched, I remember making up stories about the buttons - who had worn them - what type of garment - how had they come to be in the collection? Grandpa was a quiet guy, and I was required to be quiet when I was around him. I knew him more through his collections than through direct interaction with him. Yet, I somehow knew he had strong regard for me. This quilt tells our story.

back side of quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

The fabrics are Dupioni silk. I sewed the buttons on the quilt with a knitting "ribbon," tying them on the back side. To quilt around the heart shape, I used red thread to make a beaded running stitch. Here's a detail showing how it looks on the top.

vintage buttons, detail on quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

I'm having unusual luck with uploading images today, so I'm going to try to add pictures of my three favorite buttons on the quilt. As you can see, both Grandpa and I loved winged things! The button with three flowers is a "perfume button." The wearer would soak the fabric interior (brown velvet, in this case) with her perfume. Sounds romantic, but possibly it was a practical measure to cover the odors likely present in clothing that was not often washed. OK, so one of the winged buttons wouldn't upload... look for it above in my 2nd post for the day.

vintage button, detail on quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

vintage button, detail on quilt by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Artists Need Feedback ~

And writers need to be read... just a fact of being human, I guess. So, thanks for your comments! Like oil for a nice old machine, they keep me running. I could continue with this topic, but I promised you buttons for today. So here you go.

These are buttons 1, 2 and 3 by Karen Cohen (see yesterday's post). She's just learning to do bead embroidery, and working improvisationally is new to her too. Aren't they fun!!

When she sent the pictures, she said: "I haven't figured out yet what to do with them, but I belong to a local arts group and we have a show in July that Iwill put them in. They took me about 3 hours to make. I figured $45 a button ... I'm looking at my bags and jackets and stuff to put them on. I'll see. They would be good for study pieces as they take so much less time than a full embroidery."

Maybe you have some ideas for her?

I am thinking button collectors might be interested (and there are LOTS of button collectors, including me in an informal way). In addition to button dealers in antique malls and button societies, there are many fine books about buttons. This is a good, affordable starter book, if you're interested in identifying buttons (or just a good drool). By the way I searched Amazon for buttons and there are about 1,500 current titles on this subject!

Button collectors all over the world have shows - exhibitions where they show off their collections according to set rules and annual theme choices. I've been to a couple of regional shows, which made my fingers itch (not in a nice way, I tell you). Although I tire quickly of looking at display after display of buttons arranged on a white board, framed in black, and all on the same theme, the buttons themselves are amazing.

Back to books for a sec, I just checked Amazon for book titles on the subject of beads. Anyone want to hazzard a guess (without looking, of course!) as to whether there are more books about beads than buttons? I'll give the answer in my next post.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Inspirations for
Bead Embroidery!

For many years, Karen Cohen's art has been cloisonne enameling, which when you stop to think about it has a lot in common with bead embroidery... placing little particles of glass on a surface. No surprise, then, to see her take up needle and thread. What I enjoy most about her first bead embroidery, is the way she's worked with the inspiration for her piece.

This adorable art, the tree and child's head, is the logo for the Med-O-Lark summer art camp for children in Maine. (Karen is teaching beading there right now as I write this post.) To practice and learn bead embroidery, she decided to make a piece inspired by the camp logo to hang on the office wall. Here's her work:

Isn't this fabulous!!!!! She's made her own art, but kept the basic design and feeling of her inspiration. In one of Karen's emails, she said, "I was really hoping not to get bead fever, but it has happened. My local bead store (50 minutes away) has a sign that says something like I didn’t cause your habit, I only support it. Hits the nail on the head." You bet it does!

Tomorrow, I'm going to post three of Karen's beaded buttons. Again, you'll see the connection between her new bead passion and enameling.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

More Bead Embroidery

This is a detail shot of The Journey, an improvisationally beaded mandala by Julie Bartlett. Please read all about it in the post below.

By the way, improvisational means different things to different artists. If you'd like to give your working definition of this term, please add your comments below. My definition is this: "Improvisational does not necessarily imply abstract. Rather, it means working without a plan - with no predetermined design or outcome, either on paper or in my mind."

Based on a phone conversation with a friend who was totally "stuck" one day (couldn't even make herself go down to her studio area), I wrote three short essays regarding the pros and cons of preconcieved designs and the inner critic. But this is a subject for future post...

Bead Embroidery
can be very

I love it when someone takes my book, One Bead at a Time, to heart. It's all about exploring creativity with improvisational bead embroidery, and the side benefits that often happen during the process. And I love it even more, when someone takes it to heart and then sends me pictures and tells me about their experience. Just such a blessing happened today - a message from Julie, someone I've never met, but someone who used my book to open doors (as you will see). The picture below shows her first bead embroidery piece!

The Journey, a mandala by Julie Bartlett

Here is what Julie writes about her work: "The Journey was my first experiment with bead embroidery after having bought your book. I bought the book because I wanted to learn how to “colour outside the lines” so to speak. Creativity has always been a big part of my life. In fact along with a few other precious people and events I’d say it was pretty much a life saver. Until The Journey I had only made jewellery with beads ... I used other peoples’ patterns. I needed to convince myself that I could create by myself with no plan. Truly, this was a test of courage.

I was very nervous at first. I tentatively put a few beads down, all the while thinking that I wouldn’t get very far. That I would run out of ideas soon and that it would look bad by the time I had finished it. It was slow at first but the work seemed to gather momentum. The more I did, the more encouraged I became. Eventually it became so enjoyable that I could barely be parted from it. On some days when the sunlight shone on the beads, it was heart breakingly beautiful. The colour green has always attracted me. I never wear it but I’m quite sure that green has a healing effect. I felt this with every stitch.

The Journey refers to our journey back home to The Creator, our journey back to wholeness and love. I’m not religious funnily enough but I am extremely spiritual, and creating The Journey has been a very spiritual experience for me. It has been about having the courage to trust that every step we take in life is perfect for us. Stepping away from ego and being willing to be who we really are warts and all and loving ourselves and others for being just that. Seeing that life and all of us is perfect just as we are. The Journey helped me to see that. Every little stitch helped me to understand that it all unfolds as it should, that whatever comes next is simply perfect. It also helped me to understand that we are the coCreators of our life too. Now, you can’t ask more from a piece of bead embroidery that that can you!

Mandalas have always been a symbol of wholeness and I guess that’s why I chose not to bead outside of the circle. I did wonder about whether or not to embellish the outside edge but chose not to in order to keep to the true nature of a mandala."


I didn't edit Julie's story much because I think every word of it is precious. Art is a journey for so many of us. And for me, like Julie, it is a pathway to my more spiritual side.

I wanted to include one more picture - a detail of her mandala, showing the circular patterns of the dark green background color - but the image upload isn't working right now, so look for it in a new post, above.

What I especially enjoy about Julie's mandala is that it's at the same time symetrical, yet not symetrical... I love the background circles. I love the way the background fills a slight void in one of the circular motifs... I love the pathway through the piece. Her mandala, unlike others I've seen, really tells a story. It IS a journey; even just to look at it is a journey.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Japanese Ladies
are pleased with their
Spirit Dolls!

Here are the pictures I tried to upload to the previous post, with no luck. Read the story in today's earlier post. Don't these ladies look just as pleased as punch with their dolls! What a fun time it must have been for all of them.

And this is the back side of the doll Patsy made for her friend Sandy, the doll that got them all hooked. I love the way she's used scraps of pieced fabric to construct the doll. Can't you just picture some antique shopper 100 years from now delighted to make such a find! Or who knows, maybe it will stay in Sandy's family...

I sometimes think about all of the beads and beadwork lovingly made in the past 20 years since I acquired beadlust, and wonder what will happen to it. Part of the charm of beads is that they're small, portable and very durable. Archeologists are increasingly aware of and interested in the "stories" told by beads found in archeological sites. I see a simple strung necklace in an ethnographic museum, and wonder about its origin. Will our work survive into the future like that?

Quilting & Spirit Dolls
Unite the World...

Well, maybe "the world" is a bit of an exaggeration... yet I've seen it again and again... how beading, quilting and doll making do unite (mostly women) from many cultures and countries. Here's my example for the day!

Patsy and Sandy, two quilters from Georgia began an exchange with quilters in Japan in 1996 when they were involved with the Georgia Quilt Project, which recruited quilters to make two quilts for each country participating in the Olympics. (There's even a book which shows all 400 quilts made for the project: Olympics Quilts). Because of this, quilters from Japan did the same thing when the Olympics were in Nagano. Several of the Georgia women and several of the Japanese women met through this project and, over time, began a regular exchange. Recently they all got together in Georgia at Sandy's house.

Sandy had just celebrated her birthday, and Patsy had just made the above spirit doll for her. The Japanese ladies saw the doll, and "fell in love" with it! Patsy writes: "Well, as you can imagine, it's hard to entertain when you can't communicate well, and we were running out of things for these ladies to see and do. So Sandy asked me to come over and show them how to make the dolls. Turned out to be a great thing for all. We had a carry-in-dinner with a few more quilter friends in our area, and I took more of my dolls to show. I turned out to be their "super star"! What a treat! They gave us all gifts of Japanese fabrics and patterns, and it was a really nice experience."

I'm trying to upload a picture of the Japanese ladies and the back of the doll Patsy made for Sandy, but they won't load. So I'll start another post ....

Monday, June 12, 2006

Going In
Bead Embroidery Turtle
by Lisa Binkley
Lisa Binkley took a basic bead embroidery techniques class from me at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago a couple of years ago. She immediately grasped the possibilities, and began making the techniques her own! Going In is her first major piece, and totally gratifying to me as a teacher. She combines quilting, thread embroidery and bead embroidery in an amazing creation, one that is extremely rich in detail and at the same time compelling from afar.

In this picture of the turtle, you can see that the head, feet and tail are thread embroidery, whereas the shell is all bead embroidery. The thing I most like about the shell is that it is both realistic and fanciful. Unlike an ordinary creature, this special turtle carries a sun and the interface between water and sky on its back!

If you spend a little time looking at all the elements in the above detail shot of the turtle's foot, you can see Lisa's skill at using beads and threads both independently and mixed in the same motif. To my eyes, it's amazing!

I also want to share with you what Lisa says about her turtle: "Going In is a meditation and a celebration. All of my life I have identified with turtles—being quiet, slow, deliberate, and loving and feeling at home in places where land and water meet. The turtle in this embroidery is literally “going in” to the water. By being alert, quiet, and patient, the turtle is also going within itself, realizing its oneness with the land, water, plants, and rocks around it."

The two images above show Lisa's ability to create variations on a motif and technique. Each of the circles in the border of Going In has its own distinctive pattern, yet the techniques are few and simple. I admire her work so much, and am delighted she allowed me to share it with you!

As some of you may want to know more, here are the specs:

Title: Going In
Date: Completed 10/05
Dimensions: 15” x 15” x ½”
Materials: Beads, hand-dyed silk and pearl cotton threads, nylon beading thread, cotton fabrics, wool batting
Techniques: Machine pieced and quilted fabrics; hand embroidered beads and threads

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lisa's Beautiful Hand Made Book

Today we're taking a look at the 9th of 10 books made in my recent 4-day class in Wisconsin. Before getting into it, here's a link to a page of pictures on the Valley Ridge Art Studio site (taken during the class); I'm the one with greying brown hair, black painting shirt and red apron. There are some really neat closeup pictures of some of the painted papers we made, many of which remind me of fabrics.

Now back to Lisa! Here she is, painting a wash on the back side of her painted papers. Each of the signatures in this book design is wrapped with a painted paper. A color wash made with watered-down acrylic paint gives a pleasing look to the insides of these signature wraps. One can rubber stamp, write or draw over the color wash.

Lisa had taken a bead embroidery class from me prior to this class, and so whizzed right through the beaded piece made to inset into the cover of her book. I'm going to feature one of her other pieces in a post sometime in the next few days. It's an amazing portrayal of a turtle. I mention it now, because it's theme is "Going In"... going into the water, the place where land and water meet. To me, it seems that she may be exploring that same theme in her book... green and blue... sky and water. What do you think? By the way, she wrote to say that she is using her book to transcribe some of her favorite poems.

I love the soft colors of Lisa's painted papers. She achieves a lovely harmony between her beadwork and painted papers. The colors of her beads are bright enough to stand out, but don't completely overpower the gentle nature of her cover paper. By her smile, I'm guessing she's pretty pleased with her finished book!

Reminder: check back in a couple of days to see some detail shots of Lisa's amazing turtle piece!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Beads & Long-distance Friends

I just love it when beads string across many miles and bring people together because of their common interest! Bead conferences are like that. Bead traders in all parts of the world are like that. You and I can relate to a villager in South Africa or Siberia because of that - a common bead bond, a bead language.

Susan and Phyllis are a great example. They both used to live in Texas and work at the same quilt shop. A few years ago, Susan and her family moved to southern California. For some, this might have been the end of a wonderful friendship. But not these two. Once a year they meet somewhere to indulge their passion for quilting and beading, and to renew their friendship. This year it was Valley Ridge Art Studio in Wisconsin where they took my 4-day workshop "Beads, Books & Paint!"

Both Susan and Phyllis chose the same fabric for their bead embroidery - a bright and playful Kaffe Fassett print. Although their bead embroidery reflects their individal style, the predominant color in both pieces is red. Here is Susan's. (Refer to my post on June 2 for Phyllis.)

And here are Susan's painted papers. She had fun repeating a theme of hands, spirals, hearts and buterflies - a heart warming and playful theme that matched her fabric and her mood during class.

Below she shows off her creation! A couple of days ago she emailed to tell me that she'd already transcribed a Mary Oliver poem into her new book. That's music to my ears, as I love it when these books actually get used!