Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bead Journal Project ~ Sept and Oct Finished!

Finally, yesterday was OK weather for photography! I've been waiting for slightly overcast skies to photograph my finished Sept and Oct. BJP pieces...

Bead Journal Project, September, Robin Atkins, in process
Above is the start of October's BJP.

Before starting it, I had spent a fabulous day at the Quilt Museum and Quilt Festival in LaConner, WA. It's a show I try to see every year, because they exhibit the "best of the best." Only ribbon/prize winners from other shows around the country are eligible. The word "stimulating" comes to mine, but is inadequate for the amazing, creative and technically excellent work I saw! Also, be still my heart, they have vendors! One was Peacock & Periwinkle, an online fabric/ribbon/bead/button vendor with a lovely assortment of Dupioni silks.

I didn't have my camera with me, so you'll have to imagine a huge punch bowl filled with vibrant silks in all colors. Each piece was a 9" x 12" rectangle, folded in to a triangular-shaped puff. I pawed through them, selecting a few favorite colors, but not wanting to spend money that day, I put them back. Then my friend decided to buy some and I learned they were only $1.00 each. Wow! Can you see me diving back into that bowl? Yup! 22 pieces immediately jumped into my hands.

OK, so I chose three that appealed to me and layered them on my backing paper, as shown above. The picture was taken near the end of the first day of my Improv Bead Embroidery class taught in Baltimore, Oct. 3 & 4.

I beaded quite a lot in Baltimore, as I had a couple of "free" days (see here). By the time I got home, it only took a couple more days to finish. Here it is... Love in Delicate Balance.

Bead Journal Project, September, Robin Atkins, Love in Delicate Balance
When I started this piece, it was all about three fabrics that appealed to me. As I began to bead, I seemed to be making a "fence post" of sorts. When I put a heart on the cross-rail of the post, it looked like it could tip over, and I began to think about what a balancing act love and marriage can be sometimes.

Several years ago, my husband had an accident lifting a heavy object on his job of 17 years in the maintenance department at the Port of Friday Harbor. For months and months, he worked nearly every day with constant back pain. Several different types of treatments failed to improve the situation. He was on Dr. prescribed pain meds. About a year after the accident he had spinal fusion surgery. The pain levels were still very high 3 months later, different than before, but still high. With the help of pain meds, he continued to work at the Port.

Then at work about a year ago, he was on an aluminum extension-ladder which was balanced on a float leaning against a pier, when suddenly the bottom of the ladder disintegrated. Down he fell into the water, grabbing and tearing out many feet of electrical conduit on the way down. The incident resulted in more pain and increased levels of pain meds to compensate. However, this time, he found that he could not manage to work as he had previously and the Port didn't have (or wouldn't create) a less physically demanding position, so he became unemployed.

Not a pretty picture... a formerly active, able-bodied man, now with back pain, on pain meds and unable to work. Do you think he got kinda depressed? Yup, he did. So what happens to a marriage when suddenly he's home every day, sleepy from the meds and too depressed to do much? It gets challenging, really challenging. Maybe not for everyone, but for me it's been what I call character-building.

There is one possibility for which we both hold hope. His surgeon thinks the pain may be caused by the hardware (pins) holding the two fused vertebrae in place. Wanting to have the hardware removed, my husband had a bone scan to determine if the fusion was complete. It was not... far from it. So, since then he's been wearing a "bone growth stimulator" every day. Next month there will be another bone scan. If the fusion is complete, there will be surgery to remove the hardware. And maybe, hopefully, that will relieve the pain.

Meanwhile, try as I may to be a good, understanding wife and partner... I sometimes feel that our love is in delicate balance. You can see how that looks in my Oct. BJP.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I showed you a picture of my incomplete, September BJP, Depression Lifting, here. Below is a picture of it completed.

Bead Journal Project, September, Robin Atkins, Depression Lifting
I haven't decided yet what I want to do with this year's BJP pieces. Last year, I turned the edges and put picot edge stitch around them immediately after finishing each piece. At the end of the year those finished edges seemed to limit my options as I considered what to do with my work. So, this year I'm going to leave the edges unfinished until I decide.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Meeting 2 Wonderful BJPers in Baltimore

I have a bunch of posts to write and pictures to show, hopefully in the next couple of days!!!

Today, I'm thrilled to write about meeting Angela Plager, BJP member for both years, and Susan Elliott, new BJP member this year! Both live in MD but not in the same area. The three of us met for the first time while I was in Baltimore teaching Improvisational Bead Embroidery and Beaded Button workshops for the Baltimore Needlework Guild.

Bead Journal Project members in Baltimore
Angela (on the right) has been beading for a long time. She teaches various weaving and jewelry techniques for local bead shops. She also enters her work and has won awards in various beading competitions. She came (and stayed in a hotel) for the whole week I was in Baltimore and took my classes, but also helped me a great deal by managing my little "shop" area and by displaying her BJP work for both years!

I am totally in LOVE with her ideas and work for this year's BJP!!! It is so amazing, I don't even have words for it. You can read about it and see pictures on her blog, but they only begin to give you an idea of how fab her work is!!!! She also had her BJP pieces from last year with her, and it was grand to see/meet them in person.... way wonderful to see and touch the real things!!! The pictures especially do not show all the thread embroidery details she works into her pieces.

Because Angela has been stitching beads for a long time, I was worried that she would drive to Baltimore and sustain the hotel expense only to find that she already knew everything I had to teach. Fortunately for both of us, she learned some new-to-her techniques, including her favorites the bugle bead pathway and using tall stacks to make a beaded bezel. Also, the improvisational approach was new and fun for her to try.

Since her husband, Wayne, will be returning home in a few days after a second deployment to Iraq, she decided to spend her time in Baltimore working on a vessel/box for him. She used her new techniques and practiced working improvisationally on this piece... saying it was really freeing and fun to work this way!! Here are two views of Wayne's Box in progress. I'm sure you will see it finished on her blog soon.

bead embroidery by Angela Plager, Wayne's Box
bead embroidery by Angela Plager, Wayne's Box
Besides beading in the classroom, I had two days off while I was there. Naturally Angela, my wonderful hostess, Carolyn Everly, and I spent both days beading... except when we took time to drive into the Baltimore city center and visit Beadazzled. I finished my September BJP and got a good start on Oct. You'll see them in my next post.

The Baltimore classes were a blast! I love teaching needleworkers, who are used to slow, meditative progress, detail and stitching in general. They were ALL quick studies! Some of them are totally excited about bead embroidery... One even decided to be an un-official BJP participant! I feel a tad guilty for being paid to have so much fun!

Susan Elliott, top picture on the left, was responsible for their interest in getting me all the way across the country to teach... and it took almost 2 years from their first contact to make it happen. We were very blessed in class because Susan brought her September BJP piece, Returning Home, shown below, so we could all see it in person. It is such a touchingly beautiful piece. If you haven't read about it on her blog, please go here.

bead journal project, Returning Home, by Susan Elliott
Susan and other Guild movers and shakers took Angela and me to dinner one night at a fabulous French restaurant in the little historical town of Ellicott City. Other than the fact that I was on the second day of a nasty head cold, it was really fun to be pampered and fed as only the French can, to spend a couple of hours entertained by Susan's travel stories and to be in the good company of such impressively talented women!

Meeting, beading and being with Angela and Susan was a great pleasure, a gift! We connect on the internet, realize how much we have in common, get to know and like each other... That's a very special part of the BJP. Then, later, to meet in person is so easy. It's like we already know each other... the shyness and formalities of meeting evaporate into instant bonds. I love it!!!