Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bead Journal Project for January ~ Finished!

With a couple of unexpected free hours this morning, I finished January's BJP page! Here's a peek...

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, bead journal project for January, detail
Dancing! I've always loved it... I love to dance... to watch others dance... to imagine and dream dancing... I love all types of dance!!! I also love that dancing is an obvious metaphor for love and partnering relationships. So, of course, I've hoarded a set of copper, dance-figure charms forever.... for so long that I don't even recall where or how I got them.

I photographed some of these charms on a picture of the aurora borealis from a wonderful photography book called Northern Lights. (BTW, this book is a great source for inspiration for beading and stitching designs/colors.) Have any of you ever seen any charms like these before? Do you have similar charms (in different dance positions) to trade for duplicates in my stash?

copper charms, dance figures
Back to beading... On the day I started to work on January's BJP, I looked through some of my charm stash for an idea. Voila!!!! There they were, my long-hoarded dancing charms, just waiting to be used... What to do with them? I don't know, what about a moon? Dancing in the moon light... hmmm, hmmmm... yes! With that, the page instantly fell into place... I would have a waxing, full and waining moon. Here is the finished page.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, bead journal project for January
What does it say? I'm really unsure. Notice that the man and the woman are facing each other in the waxing moon in the lower right. They are tight together in the full moon. In the waining moon, they are apart again, this time not facing each other, but still sharing the light of the moon in their dance. One possible name for this piece is Lunar Marriage Dance... Any other suggestions?

On one level of meaning, the man is my husband, Robert, and I am the woman. What does this say about our relationship right now in January of 2009? Is it about our evolving path as a couple? Does it suggest our partnership is diminishing? Does it speak to the cyclical nature of a couple's interactions? Does it suggest a maturing of our partnership to the point where we are able to be together, yet be our own persons at the same time?

I don't know what it means. The only thing I do know is this... Today, as I stitched the last bead and looked at it, I had a sense that the dance between us is good and that it passes naturally through phases, yet remains and will continue to remain a good dance. So, today I'm optimistic.

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A couple of days ago, I posted here about the hardware removed from Robert's back. In the comments section, a couple of you mentioned using all or some of it in a bead embroidery piece. While that's a very intriguing idea, I think it won't happen for a while. Seems Robert claims it for himself! However, I have started a bead embroidery piece that will be for him... maybe for that he'll give up some of his infamous hardware.

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I'm trying to think of ways to promote my books, especially the most recent one, Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery. Can you think of any way to help me? I'd like to get away from retail sales and increase wholesale orders to distributors. Right now my primary distributor has been very, very quiet.

Robert and I tried Amazon with our book, Nautical Highways. It did not go well. Maybe, however, I should look to them to sell my books (with links to Amazon on my website book descriptions). What do you think?

Certainly the slow sales must be related to the sagging economy. Two of the bead shops in my general area have gone out of business in the past 6 months. (Yikes!) Yet, one would almost think that the economy would drive more people into beading...

OK, I'm not complaining here... simply looking for any help I can get!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Double Whammy

Inauguration Day, for us, was also Surgery Day....

Inauguration Day, 2009
On Tuesday, January 20th, we got up at 5 am, dragged our weary bodies to the car, drove V-e-r-y---S-l-o-w-l-y on thickly-frosted, slippery roads to the ferry landing in town... slept on the 1 hr. 15 min. ferry ride to the mainland... repeated the slow driving on roads and freeway, which were white with frost and black with ice, to an out-patient surgical clinic in Bellingham, WA. We arrived at 9:05 am just prior to the swearing-in of VP Biden. Fortunately, the scare of driving was lessened because we were so drawn into the radio coverage of the Inaugural events on the way.

Robert, bless him, never seems to get anxious or nervous about surgery. And this one, anticipated for a whole year, he actually seemed to greet with pleasure.

I've posted (and beaded) some about his back surgery, problems with the fusion not taking, his chronic pain and the ways it affects our relationship here.

Once the vertebral fusion was finally complete, thanks to faithfully wearing his bone growth stimulator (it DOES work!!) for 6 months, we looked forward to the possibility that removing the hardware would relieve pressure on a nerve somewhere and lessen or (dare we hope?) eliminate his back pain... and the need for pain meds... and the forced inactivity... and the depression....

The day of the surgery, double whammy day, I watched Obama's wonderful acceptance speech in the waiting room while Robert went under the knife. I have to admit, Obama held my attention, even though part of me was in prayer mode for Robert.

I especially loved that our new President, Barack Hussein Obama, included and honored the whole world community in his acceptance speech! Everything about it rang true, authentic and respectful to my ears as I stood watching with my heart so very open to hope!

Two and one half hours later, I joined Robert in the recovery room and told him all that I could remember of the speech, of the beautiful poem, of Aretha's hat, of the unbelievable crowds and of the joy and hope I felt.

Later the nurse brought us a zip bag filled with the hardware they had removed from his spine. What do you think of this?

spinal fusion hardware
Eeeegad... it was nearly a weight-reduction surgery! I'm happy to report that he's recovering nicely. We're back home and he's getting around well, even doing the dishes and some of the lighter chores around the house. We won't know how successful this will be until the wounds heal... 3 to 5 weeks, the surgeon told us.

Both of us agree... it was a day to remember!

PS... I thoroughly enjoy reading various posts about the inauguration. My favorite is here... Susan's selection of pictures and interesting findings about fashion and fibers is amazing!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Teaching Bead Embroidery ~ More from Baltimore Students!

bead embroidery by Barbara Meger, detail
Don't you just love it when we help each other to have a web presence?! The above detail and full picture below were taken by Susan Elliott (Plays With Needles)... so we have her to thank for being able to see this lovely work by Barbara Meger!

This is a continuation of my previous post with a few thoughts about teaching bead embroidery along with some more of the beautiful work by students from my class in Baltimore. I think it might be fun to try to list 7 things I love most about teaching bead embroidery... so here goes...
  1. Watching students get excited as they experience the connections between improvisational beading and their own creativity.
  2. Helping those who are blocked to take baby steps toward more confidence.
  3. Getting questions from students that help me to cover techniques and tips I might otherwise have forgotten to mention.
  4. Being stimulated by student work, by the endless ways they make the techniques, stitches, colors and beads their own.
  5. The challenge of providing a lot of new material in a short time in a clear way that most students can follow without getting behind or feeling frustrated.
  6. Seeing little light bulbs go off as students get it.
  7. Receiving pictures of finished work, especially projects that were started in class.

Yes, receiving pictures is a huge reward for teaching... better than the pay! My students in Baltimore have really taken to bead embroidery and now I have pictures from two more of them to show you.

As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic (here), several students chose to use the pattern for a little pouch that I call Emese's Bag. This is my original version of it, shown closed.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins,front of small beaded bag
The top flap opens to reveal a little pocket inside for keeping treasures safe.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, inside of beaded pouch
Here is Bobbi Pohl's version, started in class last fall.

beaded bag by Bobbi Pohl
Here is the pocket inside.

beaded bag by Bobbi Pohl, inside pocket
Here is how it looks on the beaded side when it is opened.

beaded bag by Bobbi Pohl, outside opened
Bobbi took to bead embroidery in a big way! Here is her next project, an evening bag. Isn't it scrumptious?!

Beaded evening bag by Bobbi Pohl
Here's a detail of the beaded flap (all pictures are click-to-enlarge)!

Beaded evening bag by Bobbi Pohl, detail of flap
bead embroidery by Barbara Meger
And you saw the teaser at the top of this post? Well here's the finished square of bead embroidery (above) by Barbara Meger. One thing that thrills me about this piece is that Barbara used it to practice and try out all of the techniques I covered in class, including couched-down twisted fringe, ruffles, beaded bezel, fans, surface fringes, bugle bead pathways and all the basic stitches!

bead embroidery by Carolyn Everley, Blue Crab
One more for your viewing pleasure! This is Blue Crab by Carolyn Everley. This is her second piece since the class. I'm guessing there's a lot more texture than is evident in the picture... but you can see the crab shell in the lower left corner, his/her blue arms with coral pinchers extending into exotic, undersea plantlife and his/her beady black eyes.

Way to go Bobbi, Barbara and Carolyn! I'm so proud of your accomplishments!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Teaching Bead Embroidery

You'll see more of this luscious bead embroidery further down in the post...

bead embroidery by Mary Tod
For twenty-one years I've been doing beads for a living, as my only income. Who would have thought back in 1990, when I taught my first Improvisational Bead Embroidery workshop, that I would still be teaching the same basic class and still loving it????

It seems that I've taught bead embroidery (directly, face-to-face) to more than 3,000 women and a hand full of men! The class has changed a little as I've experimented with different ways to get things across, learned or invented more stitches and made more samples. Yet the basics are the same and still really fun to teach.

For the first four years of teaching, I taught mostly small classes in my studio. Mostly the classes were two-days, at the end of which we all knew each other pretty well. Even after a year or so, I could remember each of my students and the work they did in class. By 1994 I began traveling to teach at national conferences and for various guilds, which often have 20-25 students in each class. Now, it's not so easy... only a few students stand out enough for me to recall their work, face and name as the months pass.

For many of my students, my primary method of working (improvisationally from the heart) is new and challenging. In my 2-day workshop, students learn techniques, make a sampler and get started on their own unique project. Only one student ever finished their project in class. Some barely get started. Thus one of the most gratifying things about teaching bead embroidery is receiving pictures of finished work!!!!

Most recently I taught the members of an embroidery guild in Baltimore (see here). It was a memorable class because all of the students were both eager and quick to learn! Plus they were experienced with thread embroidery, which requires the same coordination, attention to detail and patience. I've kept in touch with a few of them and learned that the art of bead embroidery is flourishing among them now!!!!

When I teach this class, I give students optional patterns for five different beaded pouches/bags. The pattern is just for the shape, not the beaded design. If I recall correctly, four students in Baltimore chose to use a cute, little, double-sided pouch pattern for their class piece. Two of them have finished and sent pictures to me, which I will share below.

bead embroidery pouch by Carolyn Everly, shown closed
This is Carolyn Everly's pouch. It's folded/closed here. If you open it, there's a little place inside to tuck special items.

bead embroidery pouch by Carolyn Everly, shown open
This is how the outside looks when the pouch is opened. Carolyn got hooked on size 15 beads... can you tell? I'm not surprised because she's very talented at fine, detailed Japanese thread embroidery. She writes that she's accumulating a stash... anybody familiar with that stage of learning to bead?

Mary Tod holding pear ornament
This is Mary Tod. Mary really took to beading quickly, although I think I remember her saying she had not worked with beads before taking the class. She was a diligent worker and had a good start on her pouch by the end of the second day of class.

bead embroidery pouch by Mary Tod, shown open
Here is how her pouch looks opened up.

Here are a couple of detail shots.

bead embroidery pouch by Mary Tod, detail
bead embroidery pouch by Mary Tod, detail
I always like it when I hear that a student likes beading well enough to make more than one piece. Mary obviously did, because she made this adorable pear-shaped Christmas ornament.

bead embroidery, pear ornament by Mary Tod, detail
Thank you Mary and Carolyn for sending me these pictures... you and your beautiful beading make my day!!! I bet my readers will agree that your work is exceptional for beginning beaders! I hope to see many more pieces of your bead embroidery in the future!

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As some of you know, I'm not teaching so many classes now, mostly because I want to be able to travel to MN at a moment's notice to be with my 92-year old (today!!!) Mom. It's been difficult to turn down the teaching invitations.

The only one I've accepted for 2009 is in Denver, CO. The Rocky Mt. Bead Society sponsors a Bazaar in the spring, which includes a comprehensive bead market and workshops. I will be teaching Techniques of Bead Embroidery on Saturday, April 25th and Woven Treasure Bracelet (or Tassel) on Sunday, April 26th. I believe the Bazaar is open to the public with advance registration available for the classes.