Saturday, February 14, 2009

Beads, Buttons, Hearts...

Happy Valentine's Day!

bead embroidery, Bead Journal Project, by Robin Atkins
Last year for my February Bead Journal Project, I made a Valentine for Little Robin. If you'd like to read more about it, see this post.

This year, guess what I'm doing... a Valentine for Big Robin! I got a late start this month and haven't gotten much done yet. This is how it looks so far.

bead embroidery by Robin Atkins, bead journal project, Feb. in progress
I'm inspired to write this post by visiting Pat's Bird Nest on the Ground blog and seeing her lovely heart quilt in today's Valentine post and a charming heart-shaped door decoration in an earlier post. Like Pat, I frequently use hearts in my work. I doodle hearts... always have.

Below is a little wall quilt, Grandpa's Gifts, I made about 15 years ago. It's a tribute to my grandfather, who was a collector of many things including buttons. A favorite childhood memory is of watching him compare, sort and label items in his collections... especially the buttons.

patchwork quilt by Robin Atkins
My brother and I inherited his button collection (which was actually started by HIS great aunt in England in the mid 1800's). Some of the buttons were on cards, carefully labeled in my grandmother's distinct penmanship. Others were strung on a long wire, maybe 20 feet of buttons, many of which are pretty awesome!

I can't recall now what sparked me to make a quilt using some of the buttons. While making it, I remember thinking a lot about my grandfather and his personality. He was a superintendent of schools (Amador County in California) and before that a math teacher. He placed a high value on education and knowledge. A little gruff-seeming, he did not let us talk or play near him when he was working. He would, however, allow me to stand quietly next to his desk and watch. Despite his exterior reserve, I always felt cherished by him... and loved him in return. You might think of this quilt as an abstract portrait of him... cool exterior, warm inside.

Charles H Atkins
This is a picture of him. Charles H. Atkins. Maybe later today I'll find, scan and post a picture of him and my grandmother, Martha Tompkin, taken when they were courting. They're so cute and the photo is so appropriate for Valentine's Day. [3 pm note: I looked for that picture for three hours and didn't find it. I give up for now... rats]

I've been thinking about the heart shape as a symbol. Here is a brief, but fairly good description of it. I want to know more about this symbol and why I am so drawn to it... a subject for further research and contemplation.

In the meantime, may we all have a wonderful Valentine's Day... May we be well-loved... May we open ourselves to as much love as possible!


  1. Happy Valentine's Day, although it is probably my least favourite 'holiday'.

  2. Happy Valentines Day to you and I hope it is a blessed one. The heart is beautiful and I adore the birds. The tribute quilt is awesome and I would love to see the buttons - you have quite a wonderful collection it sounds like. Now to check out Pat's post.

  3. I'm not romantic at all, but I hope you have a great day for lover's today and for many moons. Nice post!

  4. Thanks, Robin, for the lovely Valentine's post. Your little Robin Valentine is so beautiful as are you! I look forward to your Big Robin heart as well...

    I like the referral to the heart as a representation of the soul in your referral to definitions...

    People whose hearts and souls we connect to can sometimes have crusty appearances on the outside and glowing hearts and love for us on the your grandfather!

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    Love, Camilla

  5. Thank you Robin, for this post. Your posts are always enjoyable and thought provoking. Your perseptions of your grandfather are interesting. Todays kids need hugs and kisses to feel loved, it seems. Yet you felt that from your grandfather, even while he was teaching you to respect his personal space.

    I love your Little Robin and your tribute quilt. More food for thought!

    Happy Valentine's Day.

  6. Your work always just about takes my breath away - and these beauties are no exception. Oh! To have just a pinch of your talent! Happy Valentine's day to the little and the big Robin!

  7. Oh, those old gruff but, loving in their own way, relatives. YOu must be very intuitive and perceptive -- to figure out and love your Grandfather on his terms. It takes patience and a sixth sense that not many kids have. Good job little Robin.

    I think it's great that you have a quilt where his buttons are on display rather than stuck in a drawer somewhere.

    My BJP this month is a heart too and a big one too just like yours -- in fact, I was surprised by the likenesses though, of course, they will be very different. But, I've got the heart on the brain this month as well. Hope you did something today that you love. xo Susan

  8. The quilt is wonderful, as will be the project piece. It is important to love and be loved.

  9. Your button quilt is soooo gorgeous, it literally made me gasp when I saw it! The rays extending outwards are so evocative. What a wonderful way to treasure your grandfather's buttons!

  10. Robin, I enjoyed seeing your hearts...Love'em! I especially like that little beaded scallop inside the pink heart. My friend Sharon, at also has a "little Robin" she calls norah. They get into some messes, those two. Bet you and Little Robin are the same. What fun! (My daughter will be emailing you sometime tomorrow with that information you wanted!!!) You have a great Valentine's Day!! Pat

  11. Hey, I came back to visit again after you sent me that sweet comment...and I just noticed that your heart extends beyond the border of your piece...just wanted you to know that I noticed...

  12. Anonymous3:55 AM

    How did your brother and you go about sharing the button collection? On the photo your grandfather does not look gruff, but relaxed and kind.

    On Valentines Day, i.e. yesterday, I went to a big sales exhibition of precious stones and spent nearly four hours there, seeing many beautiful things. I bought some small stuff, but refrained from buying a heart, because I have so many already.

    Otherwise, I am not a fan of Valentines Day. On that day, now fifteen years ago, I got the message that my husband had died of a heart attack the day before.


  13. Oh Robin,your posts are always so thought provoking, I love that, and the way all of your work has such a history behind it.
    Never was one much for hearts, they seemed too "frivolous" to me, but I find I am doodling them too more often these days... wonder why that is? Do matters of the "heart" take on new meanings as we get older? Do we become more appreciative of the love we have had over the years since we were children?
    As far as children needing hugs and kisses to feel loved these days, I don't necessarily agree... I think they are appreciated as a token of love, but I think if a child is loved, he or she knows instinctively.
    Your button quilt is fabulous, and can't wait to see your finished Valentine!

  14. Robin, your beaded tribute of your grandfather is right on the mark. Love the way the heart is angular and rigid, just like you describe his demeanor. you are a wonder!

  15. I love seeing your Valentine for Big Robin in its early stages. Equally, I think it is wonderful that you are sending yourself one.
    We all need to do that more often!

    A very fine picture this is of your grandfather, too. Funny...I was looking for a long time at my grandfather's picture last night....
    What a fine generation they were from!

  16. To PamT ~ I think maybe you're on to something important about the "heart" taking on more meaning as we get older. Thanks!

    To Sabine ~ Yes, I agree about this particular picture of my grandfather. It's an unusual one, because generally he's looking straight ahead and barely smiling. I cherish this picture of him, because it's more my real sense of who he was.

    To All ~ Love these comments!!!! Thank you so much!

    Robin A.

  17. Luscious colors both on your BJP piece and that gorgeous quilt!

    Kathy V in NM

  18. Oh I love all of these pieces and cna't wait to see the valentine for Big Robin!! I notice that you did not say Grwon up!!! LOL!!!!! We don't really have to do we??????
    The button Quilt and stroy of your granddadis wonderful. What an amazing and smart man!!!! the Button quilt isa lovely tribute and what a treasure to have his button collection!!

  19. Happy Belated Valentine's Day to you! I like that you're doing a heart for Big Robin this year, last year's was so special, it was nice to see it again. I'm looking forward to seeing this one done. I like the lower left with the flowers. Your Grandfather's heart quilt radiates love! What a special thing to do with you inherited buttons. Hope all is well with you and yours....It's snowing again here. Maybe our last of the season, we can only hope.

  20. Wishing oyu Belated Valentine's Day. Your hearts are so beautiful. I loved what you did with all those inherited buttons. thanks so much for sharing, I enjoy so much to visit your blog.
    Rengin, in Istanbul

  21. Beautiful valentine! I really like your heart quilt also. Very neat that you inherited buttons! I have a bunch of old DMC thread from my grandmother that I use for special projects. It's nice to have remembrances like that!

  22. Great story about you grandfather. The Valentine for Big Robin looks wonderful.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!