Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Things About Me ~

Robin Atkins with her favorite things, Fossies; 1943

1. I am daunted by making lists, especially one with this many entries. But I'm going to give it my best try because I've so very much enjoyed reading these lists on other's blogs.
2. "To do" lists, really help me, especially when I prioritize them.
3. I like writing "ten things" lists, such as "ten things I’m grateful for" or "ten things I love about my husband" or "ten things I forgive myself for doing or not doing."
4. Most of the time, I love my life just the way it is.
5. Touch is a very important sense for me… probably why I adore beads so much.
6. I used to read much more than I do now. As a child, I "read books" before I could read, as you can see below.

Robin Atkins loved her books as a child; 1944
7. I’ve been noticing short term memory problems lately, and it frightens me hugely.
8. I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life.
9. Laughing out loud is one of my top ten favorite things to do.
10. My husband, with his wacky, irreverent sense of humor, makes me laugh… no, let’s say "guffaw"… many times daily. Bless him.
11. Writing is a pleasure for me, something I do fairly easily.
12. I take some pride in being a bit iconoclastic, frequently following the roads less traveled.
13. Intense, strident, loud music in any genera makes me nervous; I turn it off or leave the source.
14. My three favorite types of music are: Baroque classical/chamber music, rhythm and blues, and Hungarian folk music.
15. For eight years, I performed with a Hungarian folk dance group. I was co-leader of the group for a couple of years, did some of the choreographies and sewed many of our costumes. What got me started was falling in LOVE with the music.

Robin Atkins in costume for first performance with Hungarian folk dance group; 1983
16. I took Argentine tango lessons for a while, and loved the dance form passionately. The style calls for the woman to be thin and willowy, wearing flowing low-cut gowns and high-high heels. Totally NOT me. But I loved it anyway. And the music is awesome!
17. My hands are my favorite body part.
18. I used to HATE my stocky legs until my husband took me and my legs out to dinner one night and told me I should appreciate my legs for all they’ve done for me, all the hiking and dancing . Now I put cream on them and rub them with affection after every shower. Did I mention "Bless him" previously?
19. I’m a closet singer.
20. Maybe that’s why I like the idea of American Idol. I like watching the actual competition, but not the auditions because the judges are sometimes brutal when they jeer at and bully some of the unrealistic contestants.
21. I love to watch dancing of any kind… ballet, tap, hip-hop, jazz, folk, ballroom… you name it… any dancing appeals to me!
22. My biological father died in a car accident 5 days before my 5th birthday. My husband was born 6 days after my 5th birthday. The accident and the birth, 11 days apart, both happened in California; and both individuals are photographers. Wooo-wooo. This is a picture of my Dad taken before I was born.

Clifford Atkins, Robin's daddy, with a black rabbit; picture taken prior to 1942
23. We didn’t have a TV in our family when I was growing up. I didn’t own a TV until I was 34 years old. When conversation turns to childhood TV favorites, I’m in the dark.
24. My husband enjoys a wide variety of TV shows, and early in our relationship introduced me to "The Simpsons." At first I thought the show was rather goofy, but now I love to watch and laugh at their crazy antics… the goofier the better.
25. The editors of "500 Beaded Objects" chose my piece for the cover of the book. When they called to tell me about it, I was speechless for several seconds. "Hello.. are you there? Hello?..." Sometimes I still have to pinch myself.
26. My earliest sewing experience was making crepe paper ballet costumes when I was about 6 years old. My grandmother taught my brother and me how to sew on her treadle sewing machine for this purpose.
27. Machine sewing is ok, but I much prefer to stitch by hand.
28. With a boy friend, I rode my bicycle around Europe (England, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany and Austria - about 4,500 miles altogether) for three months in the summer of 1974. By camping and cooking most of our meals, we did the whole trip (except air fare) for $300 each. That was a highlight of my life.
29. Another highlight was hiking all the way around Mt. Rainier on the Wonderland Trail (about 100 miles) in 1973. There were four of us; it took 10 days; we carried everything on our backs (no stashes). We had no bear encounters, but we did get snowed on one night. I was the only one with a camera, so there's only this one picture of me from that hike.

Robin Atkins hiking the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in 1973
30. While we’re on the subject of highlights, another has to be performing (Hungarian folk dance) at the World’s Fair when it was in Vancouver, BC. Scared… excited… whirl of time and clap of hands… relieved to be finished… fun memory!!!
31. It sounds like I’m bragging, which I don’t like.
32. I love all cats, including tigers, lions, snow leopards, etc. The jury is out on dogs. At age eight, I adored my first cat, Tippy.

Robin Atkins and her first cat, Tippy; 1951
33. My parents were avid bird watchers and instilled an early knowledge and appreciation of back yard birding.
34. I believe in the concept of totem animals.
35. Writing poems and journaling are two things that nourish my creativity.
36. I have a master’s degree in counseling psychology and worked as a counselor for about 7 years. Those were not the happiest years of my life.
37. My next career was in the theatre business… first as a subscription and box office manager for an equity theatre, then ten years in marketing for a company selling theatre equipment and supplies. Fun times; challenging work.
38. Box office hours were 5 days on, then 5 days off… During my days off I was a metalsmith, making fabricated gold and silver jewelry. This was great fun! Except that I didn’t much care for making more than one of anything, and flat out didn’t like the selling aspects of it.
39. Therefore, when beadlust hit me like a tornado, I decided to make my living selling beads and teaching rather than trying to sell my work. Good plan! Never regretted (or changed) that decision, although I do sell some jewelry at local events and on line.
40. Ok.. a new subject needed here… what about "true confessions?" OK. I’m addicted to chocolate. I hoard it, binge on it, lie about it, feel controlled by it. Finally, I decided there was only one solution – abstinence. I have not eaten any chocolate since the summer of 2002. This is good.
41. Red, rose and pink were my favorite colors for a long time. Now I'd have to add purple to that list. This picture was taken in 1982, just after I had my long hair cut and permed.

Robin Atkins; 1982
42. I’ve always tended to dress conservatively.
43. I don’t wear makeup; never have, except for an occasional party when I was young.
44. I love learning how to make or do new things.
45. I’ve played more games of spider solitaire on the computer than I care to admit.
46. This list was going ok for a while, but now it’s overwhelming me again… I’m not even half way yet.
47. Did I tell you I ride motorcycle? Nope, I’m definitely NOT a Harley babe. I ride a Suzuki Intruder, 800 cc bike and totally love it!
48. I took the Motorcycle Rider Safety course (which I recommend), just to be on the safe side, in case something happened to my husband while we were cruising a back road… so I could ride to get help. Ha! Wheeeeeeee! Thanks, I’ll get my own bike, dear! This was my second bike, a Honda Shadow 500 and I'm with my husband, Robert.

Robin Atkins with husband, Robert Demar on motorcycle ride
49. I was 54 when I met my husband and 57 when I got my first motorcycle.
50. No kids. Married (first/only time) at age 58.
51. Regrets about not having kids? Oh, just a little sometimes. Fortunately, I have a close relationship with my nieces and nephews. This is my nephew, Andy, who is now a grown man and a special person in my life.

Robin Atkins and her nephew Andy Cook;1984
52. My husband has kept active friendships with his friends from high school. I haven’t kept in touch with any of my HS friends, and only two of my college friends.
53. But my best and dearest woman friend and I have been confidants for more than 35 years.
54. By nature, I’m a night owl.
55. I lived on a houseboat on Lake Union in Seattle for about 5 years. That was back when it was a rather hippie thing to do. Now it’s yuppie and EXPENSIVE.
56. Learning and practicing tai chi was a passion for about 5 years.
57. I regret that I haven’t kept at it.
58. I especially love "tree chi gong," which is about sensing and drawing in vertical and horizontal energies from trees. I still do it.
59. As a child I wanted to be a ballet dancer when I grew up.
60. As a teenager, I wanted to be a math teacher when I grew up. I enjoyed learning in High School. This is me, a junior in HS, writing a paper.

Robin Atkins writing a HS paper; 1959
61. As an young adult, I didn’t know what I wanted to be and didn’t want to grow up.
62. Finally, when I discovered beads, the artist in me awakened and flourished and I knew what I was.
63. The jury is out on "rebirth," but if there is such a thing, it might be fun to come back the next time around as a well-loved pet cat. Here's a picture of our darling and somewhat comical cat, Hollie Three-Bell-Huntress.

Hollie Three-Bell-Huntress, our Siamese cat
64. Heights frighten me. As I walked across a rope suspension bridge crossing a gorge on our hike around Mt. Rainier, I had to close my eyes. My brother said I kept repeating "Oh mamma, oh mamma…" all the way across. If we hadn’t been three quarters of the way around, I would have insisted that we not cross, but rather turn back the way we came. Here's a picture of my friend, Anne, crossing that bridge.

Crossing the suspension bridge on the Wonderland Trail, Mt. Rainier, 1973
65. The name of my favorite childhood book is "Marshmallow," about a rabbit and a cat.
66. My favorite childhood color was pink. I still like it. I can almost remember the corduroy coat I'm wearing in this picture; I think it was pink.

Robin Atkins, 1943
67. If our family could have afforded it, I would have loved to take ice skating lessons. I was a fearless skater.
68. My ballet teacher told my parents (in my hearing) that I was too large to be a dancer… that male dancers wouldn’t be able to lift me…. and that they were wasting their money paying for ballet classes for me. Scum bag.
69. The jury is out on zoos… some good, some bad things about them. But always, my first impulse is to find the tigers. This is Olivia; she's in a rescue shelter located in Idaho.

Olivia, a Siberian tiger at a wild animal rescue shelter in Idaho, photo by Robin Atkins
70. I’ve traveled alone in Hungary, Romania, East Germany and the Czech Republic when they were Communist countries. Someday it might be fun to write about my travel adventures.
71. Hungary is in my blood. I feel at home there, even though I have no Hungarian ancestry that I know of. And, did I mention before that I adore Hungarian folk music?
72. Part of me appreciates and values being an American, especially after traveling in Eastern block countries and China. Part of me is embarrassed to be American. Yet, our basic rights, our freedom, should not be taken for granted.
73. One place I’ve always wanted to visit is "down under" – both Australia and New Zealand.
74. Another place I’d like to see is the Andes, the mountains of South America, especially in Peru.
75. And while we’re on the subject of travel, let’s add southern China, especially Yunan Province.
76. Really, the truth is I’m a little worn out with travel. At first I think the idea sounds great; then I get discouraged by the effort and cost involved.
77. Miniature things fascinate me.
78. A stuffed tiger (white with black stripes), stuffed chicken (white with black polka dots) and an itty-bitty figurine of a Dalmatian puppy (white with black ears and spots) are sitting on the top of my computer.
79. My favorite postage stamp is of a samurai rabbit – 1986 –Korean.
80. During my college years, I considered myself to be a card shark, especially bridge. I played duplicate bridge for a while (and did fairly well at it), but didn’t really enjoy being around other sharks. Besides playing solitaire and hearts on the computer, I haven’t played cards for ages and ages.
81. Beads, paper, scissors, glue, needles, thread, paint, crayons, rubber stamps, stencils, fabrics, yarns, ribbons, lace, cameras and computers are blessings in my life.
82. Digital cameras save me a HEAP of money, because I like to take a LOT of pictures.
83. I’m hardly shy at all when I get in front of an audience, even a really big one.
84. But, at a party or any social gathering, I’m painfully shy. Go figure.
85. I can write HTML, and enjoy it.
86. I do not like to cook… not at all.
87. Baking is OK, especially making bread.
88. House cleaning is another chore that becomes a millstone around my neck, although the results (when I finally get around to doing it) make me feel really good.
89. Sorry, my thumbs are NOT green either, although I love to arrange flowers.
90. I’m the eldest of 5 – three brothers and one sister. Roxanna, the youngest, is 16 years my junior.
91. Mostly I vote Democrat.
92. I’m nearly omnivorous, although in my 50’s I developed intolerance for the entire onion-garlic family and for lactose.
93. For a while I was a volunteer reader for the blind. I read text books on tape for use by blind students. It made me feel a bit guilty to have so much fun volunteering.
94. My best woman friend and I volunteered for oiled bird rescue for a couple of weeks. It would have been unbearably sad had not a few of the birds been returned safely to the wild. The good part was that so many concerned and kind-hearted people gave of their time and energies trying to save some of these poor creatures.
95. I’d like to do more volunteer work, and look forward to that during the next ten years or so as I wind down traveling to teach.
96. My husband says this "100 things" was too easy… I should go for 200. HA!
97. My husband wants me to make a moss angel in the wet soggy moss during our spring rains. Maybe I’ll surprise him one of these days and actually do it!
98. Right now I have an urge to knit some wild and wacky socks.
99. Wildflowers, sunshine, rain, mountains, Orcas, Kingfishers, Wren Tits, Quails, trails, Madrona trees, foxes, deer, rocks, pebbles and oceans are among the many blessings in my life. I took this pictures of Orcas swimming off the west side of San Juan Island, where I live.

Orcas swimming off the shore of San Juan Island
100. I am richly blessed by a loving husband, close family, solid friendships, questioning students and creative colleagues. Life is good!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Glorious, Glorious
Green Glass Beads!

From the start of my beady career, I've always loved green glass beads. This is a necklace I made in 1990, featuring green and copper colored beads.

Beaded necklace by Robin Atkins, bead artist
And here is a detail of the hand I fabricated with copper and sterling, stamping my motto of the day, "Bead Lust - Critical Mass" on the fingers and thumb. Ever since then, beadlust is my constant companion... hence the name of this blog.

detail, beaded necklace with fabricated metal hand by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Have you ever noticed in the bead shops that there are more color variations among the green glass beads than any other color? Once this was even more pronounced than it is today.

A Sad Story about Green Glass

In the 1990's, when I used to travel to the Czech Republic to buy beads, I met a man whose family had been in the glass making business for several generations. During the 1940's his family's busniness was closed by the government because they weren't "politically correct" (ie. Communist-friendly).

He told me that prior to WWII, there were several small family businesses making glass in Bohemia (in what is now southwestern Czech Republic, an area renouned for production of glasswear). These small businesses were highly competitive, each striving to develop more interesting color variations. The chemicals and colorants used in making green glass were available and comparatively inexpensive. By slightly altering the formula, say by adding a small amount of piss from the family donkey, one could produce a new variation of green. But if the donkey died or the formula was lost, that specific color could no longer be produced.

He showed me a sample book of glass that was the pride and joy of his family. His parents had managed to hide it when their business was taken over. I was totally blown away by pages and pages and pages of glass samples (in the form of pressed glass buttons), each page with 54 samples, every one a slightly different color. And, oh my goodness, the greens! Pages of them - maybe 120 hues in all! Below is a picture, taken with my film camera with flash, of one of the pages in his sample book; this one shows only the transparent colors of green glass available at the time.

page from Czech glass sample book from 1938, photograph by Robin Atkins
But when all the small businesses were consolodated into a single factory, there was no more competition and no need to produce so many different colors. Also, most of the color formulas were destroyed or kept secret by the originators. As you can see below, the modern sample card from the single remaining glass factory shows only 10 variations of transparent green.

page from Czech glass sample book from post WWII era, photograph by Robin Atkins
In the pictures below, you can get an idea of the range of green seed beads available between the late 1800's and WWII.

a vast selection of green seed beads were available prior to WWII
a vast selection of green seed beads were available prior to WWII
Modern Green Glass Beads

For a while after WWII, the production of colored glass for making household glassware and beads was dismal indeed. There was one glass-making factory in Germany and one in the Czech Republic. Demand was relatively low at the time, and neither factory attempted to develop their range of colors.

The sample cards for the seed bead manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic were changed to show only a basic range of colors. Gone was the extensive range of colors that we notice when we look closely at a Victorian beaded bag such as the one below (or see this book).
Example showing many seed bead colors used in vintage beaded purses
But then the Japanese started producing seed beads. As the demand from the American bead renaissance (late 1980's) picked up, the Japanese began developing more colors and more finishes, with more variations on the market all the time. The Czech pressed glass bead and seed bead manufacturers were aware of this, and soon began to request more colors from the European glass makers in order to be competitive with the Japanese.

We're still not close to the variety of glass colors available before WWII, but at least today German and Czech glass manufacturers are trying to replicate some of the colors of the past. Also some stashes of old glass, hidden away when family business were shut down, have been found and used, especially to make pressed glass beads (shapes such as leaves, flowers, lentils, etc.) with new molds replicating old bead molds.

The sory of producing glass rods used for lampworking (winding glass beads on a mandrel in the flame of a torch) is similar. When making lampworked beads first began in the USA (around 1985), the only available glass was made by Moretti in Italy. Again, the Japanese developed a competitive line (Satake), and finally small European (for example, Lauscha in Germany) and American businesses began to produce glass rods for lampworking. If you'd like to know more about lampworking, here is an article about the history of this art.

Lichen beads by lampwork artist Terri Budrow-Nelson
My Personal Lust for Green Glass Beads

Before green glass beads, I had a marginal appreciation for green, definitley NOT as a color to wear, but a color of spring and lushness of nature. But the day I saw and fingered all the lovely sample buttons of green glass mentioned above, the color green and I found a new relationship! I gravitated toward green beads in the shops, checking to see if I could identify old hues among the vintage beads, looking for new variations in the Japanese seed beads, buying green lampwork beads. I still don't wear much green, but my green bead stash exceeds even the limits of a beadlust gal.

Now I notice green everywhere I go - the spines of books in the library, bolts of fabric and skeins of yarn, candles and marbles, cat collars, rubber stamp inks, roofing materials and... well, you get the idea. In the spring, I admire every variation of green moss on our property, as you can see in my improvisational bead embroidery piece entitled "Moss and Wildflowers".
Recently I picked up a small branch with various types of lichen growing on it (posted here), and admired the subtle variations in color, from pale grey-green to vibrant lime green. Apparently, I'm not alone. One of my favorite lampwork beadmakers, Terri Budrow-Nelson, saw my lichen pictures and used them as inspiration for this set of beads recently listed in one of her eBay auctions.

Lichen beads by lampwork artist Terri Budrow-Nelson
Overheard On A Saltmarsh ~ a poem on the subject of green glass beads, written in 1913 by Harold Monro (1879-1932).

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds
Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars on water
Better than voices of winds that sing
Better than any man's fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads; I desire them.


I will howl in a deep lagoon for your green glass beads,
I love them so. Give them me. Give them me.


Overheard on the Saltmarsh in Beads

And here you have Monro's poem again, this time represented in beads. This fascinating necklace is a collaboration piece between jeweler/bead artist Carol Berry and lampworker Brian Kerkvliet. Isn't this a necklace to seriously lie in the mud and howl over?

Overheard on a Saltmarsh, necklace by Carol Berry and Brian Kerkvliet
Overheard on a Saltmarsh, necklace by Carol Berry and Brian Kerkvliet, detail
Overheard on a Saltmarsh, necklace by Carol Berry and Brian Kerkvliet, detail
Please let me know...
I'm concerned about the length of this post. It's taken me hours and hours to prepare. Please give me your honest opinion... Is it too long? Should I have done one section of it per day over a period of time, or do you prefer to view it all at once, as in this post?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Native Alaskan beaded barrette, collection of Kathy Hinkle
Native American Beadwork

I love almost all Native American beadwork. It was what drew me toward beads in the first place. I've been thinking about why I like it so much. Perhaps it's because it offers honest simplicity, down-to-earth practicality, and intent stemming from the heart rather than the intellect. Maybe it's the colors and the repetitiveness of design. The excellence of craftsmanship is part of it too. When I touch a bag, belt, moccasins, doll or other significant item made by a Native American, it seems to voice the essence of the artist, emitting a feeling of energy and life.

Emphasizing different colors, motifs and techniques, each tribe has its own recognized style. The barrette above and the ones following were made by Northern Alaskan Natives, beaded on hide. They are part of a collection owned by Kathy Hinkle, whose beadwork dolls and improvisational bead embroidery were featured in my previous post here.

Native Alaskan beaded barrette, collection of Kathy Hinkle
Native Alaskan beaded barrette, collection of Kathy Hinkle
Native Alaskan beaded barrette, collection of Kathy Hinkle

An often overlooked, but fantastic place to see and buy Native Alaskan beadwork (and baskets) is at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. The current facility, built in the late 1990's, replaces a much older hospital. The gift shop offers very high quality Native arts and crafts. The auxilliary volunteers who ran the shop in the old (and now in the new) facility purchased the best work that came through the shop, establishing a hospital collection, which is displayed in large, beautifully designed cases on each floor of the hospital and in small cases along the grand spiral staircases between the levels. In my opinion, the work in these cases, equals or exceeds any I've seen in a museum; and the work in the gift shop is better than most Anchorage or Sitka galleries or shops offer.

Here is something I bought at this wonderful gift shop.

Native Alaskan beaded amulet bag, collection of Robin Atkins

Made by Thelma Claffey of Huslia AK, this amulet bag of moosehide features caribou tufting, quill work and beads of ivory and amber. It's one of my most prised treasures!

Native Alaskan beaded amulet bag, detail, collection of Robin Atkins

Since I'm on a roll, here are a few sketches from my note book, and a little information about places to see Native American beadwork on the East Coast.

sketch by Robin Atkins of Native American doll

Above is a sketch of the head of a Northern Plains Indian doll from around 1900 seen at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich CT. She has a leather face, bits of leather couched on for ears, a triangle of leather folded and sewn into the shaping seam for her nose. Her cheeks and mouth are painted, but her eyes are glass seed beads.

sketch by Robin Atkins of Native American doll

This is a sketch of another doll I saw and loved, but couldn't afford to buy in the gift shop of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. Although she was modern, she had an old-world look and feel. The designs were painted on coarse cloth, and then accented with the traditional colors of opaque and white-heart seed beads. The seams of the doll were embellished with a stitch I'd never seen before and haven't seen since. Made with very tiny seed beads (perhaps size 16), it was dense, like a wrapped seam, but appeared to be woven in a cross-hatch pattern. I spent a whole day in this museum, and wished I had time to return the next day. The exhibitions were supurb.

sketch by Robin Atkins of Native American amulet

Here is one other sketch I made while there. It's a Lakota turtle amulet, approximately 7 inches long by 6 inches wide, all done in lazy stitch on hide.

Notes about sketching

I totally admire artists who keep sketch books, many of which are works of art in themselves. Cynthia Toops is a polymer clay artist, who is always sketching her ideas in little hand-bound books, later to be realized as miniature masterpieces. Inspired by Cynthia, I made a book and vowed to sketch every time something pleased me or caught my eye. That was in April of 1998, and there are still many blank pages in the book. The filled pages infuse my heart with joy and inspiration. What happened? Why haven't I kept it up? This doesn't make sense at all. Do I need to make a blogmittment?

By the way, here is a fun book about art journaling and sketching by Lynne Perrella.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kathy Hinkle with her bead embroidery, photo by Robin Atkins
Improvisational Bead Embroidery
and Beaded Dolls
by Kathy Hinkle

Kathy Hinkle doesn't have a website and isn't known in the beading community. She's a PA (physician's assistant) in a small medical clinic in the northern outpost town of Nome, Alaska. Previously she served as the only source of medical help in remote Alaskan Native American villages.

Kathy also happens to be the sister of one of my quilting/beading "sisters" here on San Juan Island, WA. That's how I've gotten to know her. The first time we met, she was instantly curious about my bead embroidery, telling me she has a collection of beaded barrettes made by Native Alaskans, which she loves and frequently wears. She wanted to learn to sew beads on cloth. We only had time for one very brief lesson, but she bought my books, One Bead at a Time and Spirit Dolls, to serve as guides when she returned home.

A year later, visiting her sister over Christmas, Kathy brought some of her work to show me. I'm so proud of her! She made beaded Christmas presents for everyone in her family. Here are some of them:

spirit doll by Kathy Hinkle, photo by Robin Atkins
spirit doll by Kathy Hinkle, photo by Robin Atkins
spirit doll by Kathy Hinkle, photo by Robin Atkins

She made the top doll for her sister, the middle one for her young niece, and the bottom one for her nephew, who favors the color orange above all others.

beaded star by Kathy Hinkle, photo by Robin Atkins
beaded star by Kathy Hinkle, photo by Robin Atkins
beaded star by Kathy Hinkle, photo by Robin Atkins

For her Dad, brother-in-law, and other members of the family, Kathy created a star pattern, which she stuffed and beaded in a similar way as the dolls.

improvisational bead embroidery by Kathy Hinkle, photo by Robin Atkins

During the long, dark hours of fall and early winter in Nome, Kathy began a piece of improvisational bead embroidery. She told me she started with the flower form in the lower right side of the piece. Without any clear plan for the piece, yet recognizing her emotional state which longed for summer sun and bright colors, she continued to add beads. As the piece increased in size, she was warmed by the garden-like quality she saw in it. Finishing it just before her trip south, she decided to showcase it on black velvet in a shadow box frame. This was Kathy's gift for her lucky Mom!

Be sure to click on the above image of Kathy's bead embroidery, as the details and colors are lovely in the full sized version. The same is true for the dolls.

In case you didn't already figure this out, Kathy is solidly hooked on beading. Before returning to Alaska, she bought many more beads, storage containers, zip-lock bags, needles, and even some beads for a friend. I can't wait to see what she brings to show me next Christmas!

For my next post, you can look forward to pictures of some of the barrettes made by Native Alaskans in Kathy's collection!

Update on Storm Damage

If you have followed my November and December posts, you know that we've had some unusually harsh weather, with lots of trees and branches downed by heavy snow accumulations and high winds. Two days ago we had our third huge burn pile. At 8 AM, our burn area looked like this.

storm damage, burn pile, photo by Robin Atkins
Actually, this is only about a third of what we had to burn, as the piled circled the burn pit and my camera doesn't take 360s. All of it was wet - mighty wet, as we've had record rain fall. Since Robert has nearly 20 years of experience with burn piles, he had no trouble getting it started.

storm damage, burning branches, photo by Robin Atkins
This is how it looked at 5 PM, after constantly adding branches all day long. Today it is snowing again, but I bet there are still glowing embers in the fire pit. Amazing how fire continues to burn once started.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

lichen on madrona branch, photo by Robin Atkins
Lichens as Inspiration
for Art

This morning another big wind passed over our island, blowing more branches to the ground, including one from a Madrona tree that had six or more different varieties of lichen growing on it. I picked it up, thinking to throw it off the trail. But on closer inspection realized it was a treasure - inspiration for beading or painting - with supurb colors and form!

Although the weather was drizzling, cold and dismal, I did my best with my camera to record these beauties.

lichen on madrona branch, photo by Robin Atkins
lichen on madrona branch, photo by Robin Atkins
lichen on madrona branch, photo by Robin Atkins
lichen on madrona branch, photo by Robin Atkins

The final image, below, shows that all the different types of lichen can mingle together on the same small twig.

lichen on madrona branch, photo by Robin Atkins

I encourage you to go to this website to see more pictures of lichen and learn a little about it. I had no idea it was such a fascinating organism.