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!


  1. i think this is one of my favorite pieces of yours, Robin! and to me the pottery seems to symbolize the earth and feeling grounded -- clay is earth! Wonderful Beadwork!

    I have been enjoying my monthly beading too!

  2. What a gorgeous and meaningful piece. I'm glad you were able to channel your feelings into this visual image. The feather is a wonderful focal point, an ethereal feature in a very earthy composition.

  3. This one just pulls me into it. Even though the components are personal to you, I think they have meaning to many of us. This is definitely my favorite so far.


  4. This piece is vibrant and soothing and soulful. Pretty much what I have come to associate with your personality over the past 5+ months. It is definitely my favorite of yours, which is going some because I have loved them all. Thank you for being an inspiration to all of us.

    Kathy V in NM

  5. Anonymous12:29 AM

    Robin, every time I read your blog I want to become a beader. To me the pottery represents a vessel, and the body is a vessel for the soul, so the pottery represents a primal connection to your vessel and the respect it deserves.

    I love all of your pieces, and this one is no exception. One of these days I want to take a class with you.

  6. Oh Robin, I can't stop smiling, thank you so very much!
    You made my day!

  7. absolutely love this page Robin, the colors, the meaning, everything. Thank you so much for sharing....

  8. My heart shimmers with pride and joy of your accomplishment. I'm doing lousy on both committments, but you inspire me. Robert's new blog has made me think of a new idea for December and I too love your page that you've finished. Sometimes things get messed up and then you get straightened up again and it feels good. I see you growing and it makes me happy and joyful to see it. Good going!

  9. To me, your story represents what journaling is all about, with the visual representing feelings of who we are, what we think, how we live our lives. For this project, I think many of us are being influenced by what we are seeing and learning. Go Robin! Go Angela!

  10. There is simply no one like you, Robin. Your work has a dimensionality that continues to astound me...wonderful!

  11. what a perfect piece!!! Everything Belongs!!! i love the bead colors complimenting the bone elements. Really wonderful!!

  12. I am not sure where to start, and someone just stole the word I wanted to use! I saw your page and was moved. I had to walk away and think about all I wanted to say. First, I am on board for next year! But most importantly thank you again for sponsoring this, for taking the time to view all of our pages and commenting on them as you do and thank you for your inspirational work and for sharing the story behind the story on your page. And my word on your page was also perfect. I thought your first picture was a great page and then when I saw the whole piece, I was amazed. As Karen says everything belongs, everything looks great together. Just the right amount of beading. I sometimes feel I don';t know then to stop. The use of the bone pieces and the shards of pottery is just wonderful too.

    Thank you too for sharing your husband's blog, great eye candy as you said.

    I hope you get to come to the SF Bay area for a class really soon! I would love to take your bead improv class.

    Nancy K.

  13. I'm catching up on your blog and loving everything I see but this piece is by far my favorite. The serendipitous way all these peices came together and the message they brought to you is just wonderful. I love the way the vines along the sides seem to be hugging the piece just as we should all be hugging ourselves!

    Now I'm off to check out the eye candy at your hubby's new blog.

  14. OMG, what a stunning piece ! When I saw the teaser on the BJP blog, it gave me an esthetic shock.

    The story that goes with your piece is very moving. Everything about your post seems to ooze energy, happiness and love - it's fantastic and I feel happy for you :o)

  15. Hi Robin,
    This piece is such a wonderful celebration and embrace of your Goddess within. I love everything about it!

  16. Anonymous12:21 PM

    Wow! How fun is that? I love mixing it u[ and this really appeals to me :-)

  17. I read your interview, Robin! It was great, and I love learning more about artists who I admire... Tatiana also asked me to do an interview, and at the time, I asked her who else she asked to do it. When she told me YOU, I was so flattered because you are so accomplished!! Someday, I hope to be able to make a career out of art like you have:)

  18. che meraviglia di colori il tuo "pezzo2, è così passionale. piuma imprigionata da perle rosse... bello bello.
    ho visto anche le foto del sito sulle isole, sono bellissime.
    che voglia di viaggiare, purtroppo ho troppi impegni, per ora.
    un abbraccio forte, matilda.
    ah, dimenticavo sto comunque lavorando al BJP, un po' lenta ma ci sono.

  19. Always the symbolism strikes a chord within me. Clay is malleable and at the foot of your piece, in shards seems to suggest that we can reshape what used to be one thing into another. We can break the form that no longer serves us and stand upon the shards as a new foundation.

    Totally love the piece.

  20. Another stunning piece. We are all growing with the help of this project. Isn't it great? You work really well with color. This piece isn't as bright as some of your others but a beautiful version of the colors toned down a bit.

    My version of your pottery shards is that pottery is of the earth, being grounded which is also humility, knowing who you are and what you are from. Your body is yours as you said, from the beginning; you can make the most of it and love it or not- it's still the body you have and it has been this way for everyone since "ancient" times. It's good you are learning to love and respect it as it is part of you just as your art sense and sharing personality.

    The idea of a second year is such a good one. We can change our formats and move on to more learning and sharing.

  21. Robin this is an amazing page. I wish I could get closer to it to see all the green beads that feather out on the edges. I know that I will be thinking about your page and how you have honored loving your body. I have been very inspired by your last journal page with the tiger and 100.00 bill. This gave me a lot of courage to use beads to make a Cheshire Cat. I thought about the money issue a lot since viewing it last month. I think that money is one thing but credit is a totally different beast that even a tiger can't tame.

  22. As always, learning the story behind the piece adds a different dimension for me. It doesn't change my emotional response to the visual part but it sure adds to the mental hit!

  23. On the pottery shards, it reminds me a story I read recently about Grandmother Spider who came to taught women how to weave and make pots - I think it's a mayan myth which is told in the wonderful book "The Woman in the Shaman's Body" by Barbara Tedlock. Weaving, making pots, beading, midwifing are all empowering paths for women, says Tedlock. I feel that there is a primal fee to your wonderful piece, as if you'd reached very deep archetypal roots.

  24. oops I meant a primal feel :o)

  25. Robin,
    I don't know what to say, you continue to inspire me and your piece is such a wonderful representation of the journey. I am so glad that you asked me to join me on the path even if we are far apart, part of you is always with me.

    Love, Angie

  26. absolutely beautiful piece! i think it's wonderful what you're doing too! be good to yourself!
    also, your husbands photography is gorgeous!

  27. Anonymous9:14 PM

    From Layne:

    Oh my goodness Robin, October is STUNNING!!! I have no problem saying it is my favorite. I will try and take it for what it is worth for you and love my body as well. Talk to you soon!


  28. Wow that piece took my breathe away. Gorgeous.

  29. Anonymous1:00 PM

    Oh, oh, oh - here I was, sitting in front of the computer with a freshly bought bar of chocolate, half eaten, loving the choc, hating myself!

    In theory, it's all inside me of course, but the practical execution is lagging far behind ... Angela Pager couldn't have expressed it better, and thank you, Robin, for taking up the theme and journaling and writing about it. The second half of the chocolate bar immediately found its way into the waste bin. How's that for a start?

    Congratulations on your October page and poem. Lovely and heart-warming.


  30. Dear, Robin!
    It is so wonderful bead embroidery! I add it in my favorites:

    My favorites Beaded Jewelry links

  31. I hope it's ok, I finally posted this piece on my blog so I can remember it! I have thought and thought about's the most wonderful composition I've seen in a long time. No idea what struck me, but I love it.

    Ok enough groupie like adoration.:-)

  32. This peice is absolutely breathtaking!! I have read your blog for awhile and I love your work. I am just begining to explore bead embroidery and I can't wait for your new book to come out!
    You are such an amazing inspiration!!!!!

    Now I am off to visit your husbands blog- I do lots of photography myself- mostly of my garden!!

  33. I am slow getting around to reading this, lost my father in November and have had to move Mom into assisted housing near me and look after her and her affairs, but so glad I got here, finally. I always love your work and the thoughtful dialogues you start and now I'm pleased to find Robert's blog and his wonderful photography. I have fallen for the Madrona Moments Series.

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