Sunday, December 16, 2007

New Book about Bead Embroidery ~ Please Vote for Title and Sub-title

You may have noticed my "absence" here and on the BJP blog for the past few weeks. Sorry 'bout that...

I've been writing and beading samples for my new book!!! Oh man, it's looking good and feels so great to be making progress on it! Everything else is suffering... you don't even want to visit my house right now, and of course I'm getting behind with the BJP and not spending much time on the web. Christmas? Is it really that time of year already? All that will get caught up once the book gets to the printer.

Please Help!

The cover design is pretty well set, but I can't make up my mind about the title. Will you help me please? I've added two polls to the side-bar. The first poll is for the main title, which will be laid out like this:
The Joy of
Beading on Cloth
or like this:
The Joy of
Bead Embroidery

The second poll is for the sub-title, which will appear below the cover art in a smaller size font. Will you please vote on both polls? Also, I'd appreciate ANY and ALL comments about this. You can tell me why you voted as you did and/or give me alternate suggestions for either title or sub-title.THANK YOU so much!

In case you're wondering, the projected release date is spring or early summer, 2008. Guess that means I'd better get back to it right now... Thanks again...

PS (on 12-17-07)
Thanks to everyone who is voting and commenting! What wonderously wise beaders you all are!!! I am getting lots of insights from your comments, and appreciate them very much. The interesting vote for me is about the sub-titles. The last one ("...making art...") was a spur of the moment thought while writing the post. Who would have thought it would earn so many votes? Anyway, this is very helpful!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bob Dylan in my Dream Last Night!

fibula pin by robin atkins, lavender
I am on the street outside of a cafe, milling around with a group of people who are attending a beading conference. I get tired of waiting, leave the group and enter the cafe, where all the tables are empty.

After taking a seat, I look up and see Bob Dylan entering the cafe. He's young, looking like he does on his
Freewheelin' or Blond on Blond album cover. Dual emotional response: 1. Wouldn't it be cool if he sits with me! And, 2. OMG, I wouldn't know what to say to him if he did!

I'm so shy that I put my head down and wait. He comes and sits kitty-corner from me at my table. Slowly I look up at him. Bob Dylan smiles slightly and asks, "What are the important influences in your life?" I freeze with shyness. I don't respond, and the next thing I know I'm back outside with the crowd.

End of that segment of the dream. However, I wake up soon, envisioning Bob and his question. A one-word answer snaps into my mind: teachers! My teachers are the most important influences in my life. All kinds of teachers (not so much the ones from my formal school years)...

Let me name, honor and thank a few of them here:

Andrew Dale ~ My tai chi teacher during the early 1990s, Andy taught me about physical balance and it's correlation to emotional balance. He taught me to walk with my weight back about 1/4th inch (I had been leaning forward slightly). This saved my feet and enabled me to walk normally again!

Shelley Tucker ~ My poetry teacher during the same period as above, Shelly taught me how to by-pass my controlling and frightened brain, and allow words to flow from my heart. I was already doing that with bead embroidery, but this was an entirely new thing to be able to do it with words. I still use her wonderful writing models, and have shared one of the best with you,
here. If you want to introduce poetry writing to young children, Shelley's books are super!

Ferne Cook ~ My mother, Ferne, taught me many wonderful life skills, including strong work ethics, ethics in general, how to sew, the value of quality craftsmanship, and good grammar.

Robert Demar ~ My husband, Robert, teaches me significant things nearly every day, including the most valuable lesson of all... that it's only money... you can see my progress with this concept
here. He opened the door for my recent insight about respecting my body, by taking my legs (the heavy ones I've always hated) out to dinner one night in appreciation for all they've done for me over the years. He has changed my habit of swearing when thwarted or frustrated, by showing me how it creates a negative aura. There's lots more.

Liz Chenoweth ~ How can I pick just a few things to mention about what I've learned from my best friend for 34 years? Among many other things, from Liz, I've learned that under anger there is fear, that love is all there is, that acknowledging love is hugely important, to give time and money, and to honor commitments.

Mary Oliver ~ Although I've never met her, poet Mary Oliver taught me an extremely important lesson... that I do not have to be perfect. The powerful healing medicine of
her poetry is beyond compare. On Monday, Feb. 4th, thanks to a gift from Liz, I get to hear Mary Oliver read her poems, live at Benaroya Hall in Seattle!!!! OMG, I'm so looking forward to it!

Bob Dylan ~ I've listened to Dylan's music since the 1960's. The man can write! And through his songs, he taught me to investigate everything, to look beyond the surface of people, and to care.

Lori Talcott ~ Metalsmith and friend, Lori taught me about how flat is boring, especially with wireworking. I used to make fibula pins with loops and spirals that were flat... pounded metal, but flat. Thanks to Lori, I now use my fingers to curve and shape the loops and poke out the spiral three-dimensionally. There's an example at the top of this post and several below.

OK, these are just a few examples of teachers and their important influences in my life. It's still November, the month of thanksgiving, and so I am giving my huge thanks to these and other teachers.

For the past two weeks, I've been making jewelry like crazy for a Holiday Sale this Friday and Saturday. Yesterday, I took pictures of some of the fibula pins I just made... thought you might like to see some of them...

fibula pin by robin atkins, soft green
fibula pin by robin atkins, teal green
fibula pin by robin atkins, teal purple
fibula pin by robin atkins, silver black
fibula pin by robin atkins, peach taupe
fibula pin by robin atkins, periwinkle gold
fibula pin by robin atkins, red yellow blue
fibula pin by robin atkins, rose black
fibula pin by robin atkins, silver grey
fibula pin by robin atkins, blue Chinese
fibula pin by robin atkins, orange black
fibula pin by robin atkins, taupe black
fibula pin by robin atkins, grey taupe

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Improvisational bead embroidery - October Bead Journal Project

materials for bead embroidery by robin atkins, bead journal project for October
One picturesque sea-side town (with more neat little shops, galleries and eateries than just about anywhere) is La Conner, WA! Plus, they have a fabulous Quilt Museum! On September 29th, a couple of my quilt-sisters and I went there to see the annual Quilt Festival shows. WOW! Especially awesome was the exhibit of "Blue Ribbon Winners" from around the country, with only quilts that had won numerous awards in shows... the best of the best. And they were!

Besides that, there were vendors... which brings me to my October BJP page... Until then I didn't have a clue what to do for October. But in one vendor's stall, I spied some lovely, carved-bone buttons and pendants. Picking up a goddess figure pendant and a heart, I said quietly to myself, "I love my body."

This, of course, has never been true. I've always struggled (rather lamely) with my weight, plus I have naturally heavy legs. I've hated my body for as long as I can remember.

In July, Angela Plager was working on Threshold (her July BJP piece) and making a determination to change some of her habits... making a commitment to exercise and healthy eating. Both her beadwork and her commitment resonated with me in a huge way. We had some email correspondence, and I decided to join her from a distance.

As of August 1st, I've given up eating sugar in the form of pastries and deserts. I still eat fruit and occasionally sweetened sauces, but no other sweets. Also I've started to walk every day. I live at the top of a 500 ft. ridge. Nearly every day since August 1, I've walked up and down that hill. On the second day of walking, I found a feather, thought about setting my body free from its extra load, and saved it. This isn't about loosing weight, although I have lost 10 pounds... It's about RESPECT... respect and love for the body that was dealt to me by the hands of birth. Thank you, Angela, for this amazing wisdom!

Back to October's BJP... So, I'm at this Quilt Show, I buy the goddess and heart pendants, and another vendor gives me a little sample of batik fabric. Immediately I know that I will use the pendants, the feather and the fabric sample for my October piece, which will be a respectful tribute to my body. At the top of the post, you can see the key components. Below is my finished October page.

bead embroidery, improvisational, by robin atkins, bead artist, bead journal project for October, title is Respect
Below is a close up picture of the bottom of the piece. See the three dark pieces surrounded by beaded bezels? They are ancient, fossilized, pieces of turtle shell, given to me by a friend who found them excavating a river-bed in Florida. I don't know why I used them or what is their relevance to this piece, but I love that they are here!

bead embroidery, improvisational, by robin atkins, bead artist, detail of bead journal project for October, title is Respect

Here is the poem I wrote while working on this piece. I was teaching a 2-day improv. bead embroidery class, and always write poems on the second day with my students:

I am celebrating my body today!
My bones, the feeling of age –
memory aids and breath mints –
rulers and good light –
earthy colors, spiral, curve of a feather –
all of these (and more)
are celebrating my body right now!
Even constant and irritating fan noise,
snippets of thread and technical difficulties
contribute in some way
to joyful celebration and respect
for the goddess within my body.

* * * * * *
My one and only husband, Robert, besides being the man of my dreams for the past 10 years, is also quite an exceptional photographer. He's been snapping pictures since he was a child, getting better and better with the wisdom of age and the practice of gazillions of photos. Initially, he worked in black and white, always doing his own darkroom work. Now, with his digital cameras and Photoshop CS3, he's a big color fan.

Here are two of his recent photos to tempt you to take a look at his NEW blog, started just a week ago... no words... just lots of eye candy!

island dogs, robert demar photography
madrona tree bark and leaves, robert demar photography
* * * * * * *
Out of the blue a few weeks ago I got an email from Tatiana, a young and passionate beadworker from Russia. She said she was starting a new website, Magic Beads, and wanted to interview me for an article. Yup, I said, sure I'll answer your questions. Well, what a pleasure it was to see the interview (here) and read the English translations of the interviews she did with other well-known bead artists. I'm sending her a copy of One Bead at a Time... maybe if we do a BJP next year, she will join us!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bead Quilt - For Sale as Fundraiser

The above quilt, designed by Cheryl Lacy (a member of the BJP) and made by the members of her local bead guild, is available as a fundraiser for their group. If you want to know more about bead quilts in general, check this earlier post.

Birds of a Feather measures about 36" wide x 24" high and is beautifully quilted and finished (Cheryl's work). Individual members made the beaded feathers. The Mat-Su Valley Bead Society is seeking someone to buy this quilt. They would probably accept an offer of $500.

I am somewhat shamelessly promoting it for them because I think it is a beautiful quilt and that anyone with the price on hand would be lucky to have it! I'm so tempted myself, but I just more than depleted my funds to pay for the second printing of my book, Beaded Treasures, and am looking toward the need for creative funding in a couple of months for the new book I'm now writing. There's no getting around it... Birds of a Feather is seeking a home, and this time, it can't be mine.

If you'd like it to be yours, please let me know, and I'll get you in touch with the person who is handling the sale.

Friday, November 02, 2007

September Bead Journal Project ~ Gifts of Friendship

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project, September 07, Gifts of Friendship click picture to enlarge

I started September's BJP piece while in Minnesota and Wisconsin during September. I was still using (and liking) the same box of beads that I had originally selected for June, then also used for July and August. On the last evening before leaving, I threw in a few odds and ends of special little things.

The three fabrics in the piece are upholstery-weight silks. A friend and former student bought them to make pillows. When I saw her pillows, I must have been drooling at the rich beautiful colors, because (without any prompting) she offered me some of her scraps. WOW! What a lovely base for bead embroidery! I preserved the selvage edges, as you can see. Also I fringed one edge and braided the warp threads.

In Wisconsin, I worked on this piece during my 2-day improvisational bead embroidery workshop. At one point I always have my students write poems following this model:

  • Look at your beadwork and around your beading work area.

  • Jot down all of the words and/or phrases that come to your mind as you look.

  • Circle the word or phrase that seems the most compelling.

  • On a new sheet of paper, write this line: "I am _________." Put the word or phrase that you circled in the blank space.

  • That is the first line of a poem about you. Use the any or all of the other words/phrases in your poem.

Here is the poem I wrote that day based on September's BJP while it was in progress..


I am surrounded by more gifts
than I knew I had
before this moment –
a silver kitty,
grandpa’s buttons,
fabrics coveted, then given
by students and friends,
fairy ribbon on my name tag,
a sterling blessings medallion,
a book of wisdom,
beautiful beads,
including two green frogs.
My eyes are open
to the delight of these gifts,
the collective enormity of them,
and I am so blessed.
Hearts in all sizes and all textures,
love and friendship,
freely given to me
and woven into my art.
I am humbled and thankful.

From then on, as I worked on this piece I found myself being mindful of what beautiful gifts of friendship and love have come my way through beading. So this piece is a tribute to all of my beady friends and students, wonderful women and a few men with whom I share this passion! All of them have given their friendship, support and understanding to me, and I am greatly blessed by it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Beading for Change ~ BJP August's Page

improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project, August 2007, detail
Does anyone else out there have a bothersome mindset about money? Does it ring any bells when you read the following list?
  1. Always look for the cheapest thing on the menu; while husband thinks nothing of having a steak.

  2. Worry about not having enough money, or about running out of money.

  3. Buyer's remorse after a bead or fabric shopping trip.

  4. Get in a twit when the Dow drops 10 points.

  5. Get in a huge twit when the Dow drops two days in a row.

  6. Put off getting new glasses because they're so expensive.

  7. Stay in the cheapest motels when traveling.

  8. Not give money to those in need.

  9. False self-talk about money.

Money issues. Yup, I got em... Years ago, writing poetry and doing improvisational bead embroidery, I lessened the grip of money issues quite a lot. But in recent years, as I've approached seniorhood, the worry has started to creep back into my life.

My wonderful husband doesn't seem to be afflicted in this way. He's always telling me, "Go ahead... it's only money!" When I worked on this issue 10 years ago, I backed my bead embroidery with a $5 bill. I made a book with it, and used it to list my "money commandments" (such as "Thou shalt worry about having enough money" and the two shown below). Here are a couple of pictures of this project.

improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, hand-made book, Money Madness, cover
improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, hand-made book, Money Madness, cover detail
improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, hand-made book, Money Madness, inside cover
improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, hand-made book, Money Madness, inside page
improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, hand-made book, Money Madness, inside page
Ever since then, I've thought that I should have used a $100 bill! So this time I did. Below is my August BJP page.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project, August 2007

I was so nervous when I tore the bill at the start, but as the piece progressed, I started to feel pretty smug about it. Yes, it IS only money, after all.
Reactions have been very interesting:
  • Do you realize how many beads you could buy for $100?

  • I couldn't do that!

  • That's not really real... You made a copy of a $100 bill!

  • If you ever need it, you can take it off, tape it back together, and use it.

My response is:
  • How much do you think it would cost to go to a therapist and deal with my money issues?

  • How much do you think my inner sense of well-being is worth?

Time will tell how well this bead therapy has worked for me, but already I've made some changes that make me feel much better.

improvisational bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project, August 2007, tiger detail
The tiger is one of my two totem animals. He is here because I need his power and strength to put money worry behind me.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ripping Out...

Years ago, when I first started doing bead embroidery, a good beading friend suggested, "Why not make a rule that we'll never rip anything out!" And so we did... for years, neither of us ripped.

I learned something from those years. At one or more times during the process of making each piece, I've hated it and wanted to rip. But when I just keep working, adding beads I love, eventually, I come to peace with it. In the end I've been happy with all of my work, even the pieces that have parts I hated during the process.

Here are two types of beaders at opposite ends of a continuum..

Beader #1 draws and carefully plans each piece, taking time to really think about it before she begins. She shops as needed to make sure she has just the right beads. She has high standards, and will rip out anything that doesn’t meet her vision. She wants to get it right, and sometimes completely abandons a piece, starting over with a fresh idea, when her work doesn’t meet her expectations. Beader #1 makes some amazingly beautiful pieces, some OK pieces, and some that are not so good. Her work gives her and others pleasure.

Beader #2 picks up some materials she had on hand, and with a hint of an idea, she gets right to work. She forges ahead no matter what, rarely ripping anything out, even though sometimes she’s not sure where her piece is going or if she likes it. She works rather quickly, and her friends admire how much she accomplishes. Beader #2 makes some amazingly beautiful pieces, some OK pieces, and some that are not so good. Her work gives her and others pleasure.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quilting ~ Love, Friends and Zen

Quilting ~ for Love

My first two quilts, made in 1985 were baby quilts ~ one for each of my nieces, born 4 months apart, children of two of my brothers. Here they are.

Layne's baby quilt, made by Robin Atkins

Margaret's baby quilt, made by Robin Atkins
Layne, the eldest, carried hers around until it wore out, except for the appliqué teddy bear in the center. Her Mom framed the bear, and she still has it. Here’s a picture of Layne as a child.

Layne Cook, 1988
They grow up so quickly! This spring, Layne graduated from college. Here’s a picture of her taken a couple of years ago.

Layne Cook, 2004
What better gift of love and congratulations than an adult-sized quilt? When I asked her what colors she liked, she replied, “all colors, bright colors, especially turquoise!” Works for me too! I love Bali batiks, so decided to go with a patchwork quilt with squares of bright colors bordered by turquoise and navy. Here it is displayed at our County Fair!

Layne's Quilt by Robin Atkins, exhibited at 2007 County Fair
Obviously, I’m pretty pleased about the ribbons. Didn’t expect to win anything, as the design of the quilt isn’t very complex.

Layne's Quilt by Robin Atkins, ribbon winner at 2007 County Fair

Quilting ~ with Friends

My first half-dozen quilts were wing it quilts, which means I made them without really knowing anything about how to do it, and with no experienced quilters to help me ~ following the old just do it philosophy.

It worked ~ the quilts were lovely and kept us warm. Yet, it is so much nicer to make quilts in the good company of others, especially friends more experienced than I, who can explain the easy way to cut a binding, how to make the corners square, how to iron seams without stretching the fabric, etc. That’s how it is for me now that I’ve found and joined our local quilting group.

Here we are pinning the back, batting and top together for Layne’s quilt.

quilt by Robin Atkins, pinning layers

Quilting ~ from Zone to Zen

The exciting, fun part of quilting (for me) is designing the top and buying the fabrics! After that, it’s all about getting the job done. Cutting the pieces is hard on my back. Sewing them together into blocks is fun for the first few blocks, then becomes tedious ~ at least until the final seam reveals a finished top. Then comes the quilting ~ in the case of Layne’s quilt, marking and machine quilting stars and diamonds over the entire generously-sized, double-bed surface. Finally, there is the job of hand sewing the binding around the outside edge of the quilt.

What goes around in my mind during all these hours of sewing? At first, during each stage of making Layne’s quilt, I found myself in a counting zone ~ making mental note of relevant numbers.

For example, while sewing the blocks, I multiplied (in my head) the number of pieces in each block by the number of blocks, and added the number of pieces in the borders to arrive at a total number of pieces in the quilt top (754). While machine quilting, I passed the time by figuring out how many total quilting seams I had to sew across the width and length of the quilt (38), then how many times I had to stop and change directions (678). And, while hand sewing the binding, I timed myself to figure out how many inches I could sew in ½ hour, then multiplied that times the number of stitches in an inch, which gave me a stitches/hour figure (500+). Whoa ~ anyone else do anything this goofy?

quilt by Robin Atkins, machine quilting
For a while I stayed with the numbers, mentally ticking off how many units were finished and how many I still had to go. After a while, my mental state shifted. I forgot to keep track. The process slowly became more meditative, and I went from one step to the next seamlessly, without conscious comment. My hands kept working; my mind was calm, and long chunks of time passed in peace and contentment. Until eventually I realized, with surprise, that I was doing the final unit in the process.

Is that Zen? I’ve read about Zen Buddhism, and once attended a 4-day silent meditation retreat. Of course that’s hardly even a start to understanding the nature of Zen. Yet, I feel it is so ~ that while quilting, I sometimes come into a Zen state. It’s a beautiful place to be!

Teaching ~ in WI

In case any of you midwesterners have a bit of free time, in two weeks I'll be teaching at the Valley Ridge Art Studio in SW Wisconsin. I show pictures of this fabulous place taken when I taught there last year here.

September 7 & 8th, it's Acrylic Painting ~ Delux Decorative Papers, where you will learn all about painting in layers to create painted papers for collage, book arts, cards, etc. You can see a few examples on my website, here.

September 9th and 10th, it's Improvisational Bead Embroidery, where you will learn all of the basic bead embroidery techniques, many variations, edging, fringing and finishing methods, plus create your own unique piece working improvisationally.

As far as I know, both workshops still have a couple of openings.

Visiting Mom ~ in MN

For a few days before and a few days after teaching in Wisconsin, I'll be in Minnesota (St. Paul), visiting my wonderful 90-year old Mom. For a couple of decades, she was THE banner maker for her church. After moving to assisted living, with limited space, she quit making them, until last spring she got the bug again. So while I'm there, she'll be working on two Thanksgiving banners while I finish my August BJP and start the one for Septmeber. After all the quilting I've been doing, it will be great to get back to beads!!!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bead Journal Project ~ My July Page

July's "page" is so different than June (see here), and yet they seem closely related, and I think deal with the same subject. Before I delve more deeply into the meaning, here is July.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, July bead journal project
When I went to Minnesota mid-June to visit my Mom (and teach in Chicago), I didn't really think I'd have time to work on my bead embroidery much. I took with me a small box of beads and prepared fabrics for my June page. To my surprise, I actually finished June and still had a couple of days with time to bead.

My sister-in-law (also a BJP member, but not yet active in the blog world) and I went fabric shopping to a great fabric/textile shop in St. Paul (Colorful Quilts) where I bought several fat quarters and quarter-yard cuts.

For July, I selected three of the fabrics that appealed to me at the moment and layered them on interleaving paper. The top layer is organza (from JoAnn Fabrics). It's quite reflective at some angles, but held at a different angle, you can easily see the pattern of the fabric under it.

Since the only beads I had with me were the ones for my June page, I had to go ahead and use them for July as well. Maybe that's part of the connection between the two pieces, although the fabric colors are opposites on the color wheel.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, July bead journal project, unfinished
Here's a picture of how it looked when I got back home. Something about it seemed incomplete... One morning I woke up with a strong awareness that I wanted the layers to be less flat. So that day I sewed a bunch of branch (or kinky) fringe at the edges between the layers. Below is a closer look at a bit of it.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, July bead journal project, detail of layering
One of my goals for the BJP is to use different materials, such as the organza fabric. For this piece, I also included some Angelina fibers, fused together as per this tutorial. Fun!!!! I used a small piece of it behind the rabbit charm, as you can see below. By the way, I believe the rabbit is one of my totem animals.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, July bead journal project, detail showing angelina and rabbit charm
Both the organza and Angelina were a stretch for me, because I'm the Matte Bead Queen... as in, puleeeezze spare me from any bling or glitz. And since this time I was going for the glitz anyway, why not add more? So the last thing was to use some of my vintage aluminum seed beads to make shooting stars.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, July bead journal project, detail vintage aluminum seed beads
Looking at the piece now, I see earth, water and air. This was not conscious... I only see it now that I'm finished with the piece. The whole piece is improvisational, and so the meaning stems from some unconscious source within me. As I've mentioned previously, sometimes I can find an understanding of my improvisational work by writing poems. Below is the poem I wrote while looking at both June and July at the same time.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, June & July bead journal projects
I am layers.
I am looking through the wall to the other side.
My big heart glows with simplicity
and tries to catch a glimmer
across the deep chasm
of the flowers on the other side.
I don't know where my pathway will flow.
The clock is ticking.
A river of time ~
misty, unpredictable.
I am seeking something intangible.
My beads and my rabbit will guide me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vintage Seed Beads ~ French & Czech

What do you think came in this vintage box???

old box, photo by Robin Atkins
Well, yes, originally it contained a neck scarf. But what do you think was in the box when I acquired it 15 years ago?

old bag which contained vintage seed beads, photo by Robin Atkins
This envelope was in the box. OK, I'm being mean... you can easily guess what was in the envelope... I was just making you wait for the picture... Here it is! And, yes, it is clickable to enlarge!

vintage seed beads, photo by Robin Atkins
Can you believe these precious little hanks of seed beads? I'm not actually certain about their origin. Most of the little hanks made in France are so labeled, which leads me to think these are Czech. These beads are very, very small ~ size 15, I think, or perhaps size 18. Each bundle has 10 hanks. According to the labels, they were originally sold for $.05 per bundle of 10 hanks. Awesome! Some of the colors are faceted (or cut), and as such would be called Charlotte cut seed beads (see below).

I don't know exactly how old these beads are, but I'd guess they were made prior to 1900, and possibly in the early to mid 1800s. Don't you just love this tangible connection to our past? I do!

Here are some other precious little hanks of beads that have fallen into my hands during my 22 years of beading. These were all made in France, and they are metal or have a fired (baked on) metal surface over glass. The ones below are not glass ~ they're made of aluminum. The sweet thing about these is that they retain their silver color forever, because aluminum doesn't tarnish.

vintage aluminum seed beads from France, photo by Robin Atkins
The hank shown below is quite heavy. I believe these are referred to as steel cut seed beads, and are made from steel and faceted.

vintage seed beads from France, photo by Robin Atkins
The hank below is also quite heavy. My guess about this one is that the beads are made from steel, faceted, and then plated or fired with gold.

vintage seed beads from France, photo by Robin Atkins
According to this article about Charlotte cut seed beads, there is only one remaining manufacturer of seed beads in Europe ~ located in the Czech Republic. Apparently the French factory closed in 2004. That's a sad thing, because it produced some very wonderful, unique colors such as mustard yellow, Cheyenne pink, pumpkin, French porcelain, Arapahoe green, Periwinkle blue, buckskin, greasy yellow, and several colors of white hearts. In 1985, when I started beading, one could still find these colors, especially at stores specializing in beads for Native Americans. Sadly, I never see them any more. Even more sadly, when I sold my bead shop, Beads Indeed, I didn't think to keep a stash of them for myself. Duh!

Important Question about Using Vintage Seed Beads

To use or not to use, that is the question.

I've hoarded these sweet and beautiful little hanks of beads for many years. For what? I don't know. Perhaps I should donate them to a museum?? Or, maybe should I use some of them for my Bead Journal Project pages?

I haven't decided yet about the bundles. But Monday I bit the bullet and took two strings of beads off the hank of aluminum seed beads to use on my July BJP page. You will see the piece and the aluminum seed beads in my next post.

In the mean time, what do you think about these treasures? Would you use them? Do you have any in your own stash?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bead Journal Project ~ Thom's June Page

If you've been following the Bead Journal Project, you know the official participants include 241 women and 1 man. That lone BJP dude is my brother, Thom Atkins. An artist he is; a computer dude he is not. So, for now I'm going to post his BJP projects on my blog. Maybe someday he'll start his own.

bead embellished quilt by Thom Atkins, Laurel's Mermaid
Shown above is his June page. It's called Laurel's Mermaid. It's a beaded and quilted wall hanging, about 10 inches wide x 16 inches high (including the fringe). I believe both pictures are clickable to enlarge.

bead embellished quilt by Thom Atkins, Laurel's Mermaid, detail
Here is just the center panel. I love the waves and the way he's beaded them... also the colors, the two fish, and her embellished tail! Way to go, Thom!

Thom's been an artist since he was born... well, practically. I always thought of him as "the artist in the family," because his talent and interest in art developed very early. Even as a young man, he was very secure in his calling. The two of us used to envy each other quite a bit... me, especially, knowing he was majoring in art and thinking there was no potential for two artists in the family.

For many years,Thom's primary art form was bronze sculpture, which you can see on his website here , here and here. In recent years, he has returned to an early passion for sewing and embellishment. You can see some of his quilts here. I love his quilts... they're so unique and rich. Although it's difficult to choose, my current favorite is this one.

Thom says he's started to work on his July BJP page and is excited about it. Can't wait to see it, Bro!