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.


  1. Wow, I really love art dolls, and the stars are a cool idea. I love the idea of improv bead embroidery, and Kathy's piece is gorgeous! Just enough motivation to start a project like that :)

  2. Kathy looks like a really sweet person...and it is wonderful to see her work!
    That just must have been so much fun playing with a bonfire all day...;-)

  3. I like the idea of improvisational bead embroidery. I should try that sometime... Thanks for the inspiration=:)

  4. She has definitely learned to sew beads on fabric!! The art dolls, stars and the piece for her mom are all amazing! I would say she's hooked!
    Your burn pile must have been huge. Did you roast any marshmallows? :-)

  5. Woweeeee! Kathy's improv piece is yummy! I have had your book One Bead At A Time for quite some time, and I started an improv piece. I got a circle done about two inches in dia, then gave up. Why did I give up? Dunno. I think I have a problem with the fabric I am trying to bead on. I need something more firm. Maybe I should try it in an embroidery loop.

  6. Those dolls are gorgeous! As for the bonfire... I'm also thinking of marshmallows. Of course then you need chocolate bars and graham crackers!

  7. Robin, I love the photo of the burning burn pile! It captures the movement, mysterious beauty, the alure of fire. I am sad that you have lost so many trees.

  8. Hi Robin,

    I love Kathy's idea of the stars! Those are a neat little difference that appeals strongly to me. I also really like her improv piece. It is lovely, beautiful and lucious.

    What a great time of the year for a burn pile. I like that too.

  9. Thank you for sharing Kathy's lovely works with us.
    Truly great eye candy (and I'm off candy of the sugar sort for a while LOL) so eye candy is a special treat.

  10. To All ~ Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    To Lone Beader ~ I'd love to see what you did!

    To Allison ~ Actually the bonfire was smoke-burned eyes and ash-caked hair... beautiful, exciting and sad all at the same time.

    To Janet and Teantae ~ Didn't have any marshmallows, chocolate or graham crackers on hand. Will be SURE to get some for the next fire.

    To Mandi and Judie ~ Welcome! Judie, are you using paper backing? I always baste my fabric onto a piece of acid-free paper, and sew through both layers. The paper stabilizes the cloth so it doesn't pucker. Also, consider this: the puckers may be there for a reason...

    Liz & Mary ~ Thanks for always being here for me. Hugs!

    To Gram ~ Congratulations! You are an inspiration to me, and it's such a good thing to look for eye candy rather than use candy to cheer myself through the winter.

  11. Anonymous5:16 AM

    hi robin!

    just came by to visit & thank you for your lovely comment on my blog!!!

    i've always admire those who can do such amazing things with could say that i have a bit of "bead envy" than lust, lol! i love the beautiful dolls & star & that fire pix>>>hypnotic!

    i think i'll be adding you to my blogroll so that i may come back & visit *smile*!

    :) mary ann

  12. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Hello Robin,

    having moved from one town to another, sitting in total chaos in my new flat, having returned to my old one for a few days to get screw holes plastered etc., being tired and dirty ... I came to the internet café to have a look at your blog for relaxation, beauty and happiness. A full success!! Thank you for another lovely post.

    Kathy must be delighted to get so much admiration for her imaginative way of "sewing beads on cloth". I am getting in line with her fans and sending her many regards all the way to Alaska.

    What an excellent photo of a fire! It not only has a visual quality, but seems to include all the noises and smells of twigs burning.

    Thank you, and blessings,

  13. I've recently become interested in needlework and my mind is busting with the possibilities of what I could make with what little skill that I have so far. I really liked your blog and I hope that you don't mind if I link to you. I don't have a blog about my hobby yet, but I'm considering starting one.

  14. Those beaded pieces are scrumptious, especially her improv embroidered piece. I am going to have to get your "One Bead at a Time" and try this since I am so attracted to them.
    Sorry you had so much damage, but that fire would translate to a gorgeous beaded embroidery.

  15. Thank you for showing us your friend's spirit dolls and bead work.
    To think we are havinf unusual warm weather, and over there the reverse!
    Sending you some of our gentle sunshine!

  16. Hi Robin, What a beautiful craft...tiny jewels! So inspiring, I really glad you stopped by my blog. I hope you don't mind, I'm going to add you to my favourite blogs. I see you've also had your share of storms! CJ


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!