Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bead Journal Project ~ April Challenges

Lots on my mind today... guess I'm avoiding the teach-in-Denver-checklist. But since I won't be an active blogger for the next two weeks, you get four subjects today. I'll begin with the two short ones:

Two Thimbles & Exciting Gallery Show

fabrics, buttons, ribbon from Two Thimbles Quilt Shop
Two thumbs way up for this chuck-a-block, full-of-great-fabrics-and-more shop! Two Thimbles Quilt Shop is located in Bellingham, WA on Cornwall Ave. If you're into batiks (like me!) or Civil War reproduction fabrics, you will be in heaven there. OMG, what a selection! I only had a half hour to shop, but would have been happy browsing for 2 or 3 hours. Above is a picture of a few things I bought there. These may have to be part of my May BJP. I also bought some interesting batiks that I hadn't seen anywhere else. The shop motto - Fabrics to inspire & delight! - is right on target!

And while you're in Bellingham, don't miss seeing a collaborative show of beads, fiber & photography by Carol Berry (my bead mentor!) and Paul Brower at the One of One Gallery (1418 N. State Street). Carol and Paul are there Friday - Sunday with works in progress to show how they do their magical pieces. The show runs through May 9th. Their work is fascinating, original and unique. I've never seen anything like it and I love it!

Bead Journal Presentation in Denver April 23

If you're in the Denver area, you might want to attend the meeting of the Rocky Mountain Bead Society Thursday evening, April 23rd. I will be giving a Powerpoint presentation about the Bead Journal Project!

Visual Journaling with Beads, Fibers, Threads and Fabric

View over 200 beaded journal pieces by 42 artists participating in the 2007-08 Bead Journal Project! Compelling and inspirational, this unique beadwork tells stories, reveals emotions and follows important events in the lives of the artists who create a visual journal each month during the year-long project. In this presentation, you will see how the first year of the BJP developed into quite an amazing body of art!

April BJP ~ Progress Report & New Challenges

In all my 20 years of bead embroidery, I have never attempted (or been interested in) making a realistic picture of anything. I admire work by artists who do, but it just hasn't been my thing.

Well, here are a couple of pictures of why I'm going to give realistic a try for my April BJP:

waterfall on Three Corner Lake Road, San Juan Island
waterfall on Three Corner Lake Road, San Juan Island, detail
Nearly every day, my neighbor and I take a 2.2 mile walk - up and back down an unpaved, back road starting from her house. It winds through an old-growth forest, undisturbed for many decades. The road criss-crosses a small creek along the way, a creek that runs strong in the spring and nearly dries up, leaving only a few sultry puddles, by the end of summer. Right now it's running strong. At night the sound of millions of frogs is a symphony of volume! And by day, one can spot the sunlit, bright-yellow skunk cabbage blooms from far away. I love this creek! And most of all I love the little waterfall near its headwaters. Every day, in both directions of our walk, we stop for several minutes to pay tribute to this small and wonderous gift of nature.

How could I not proclaim my gratitude by featuring it for my April BJP??? And how could I do it any other way than realistically?

Well for me, that's a challenge for sure!

I began by taking the above photos. Then I studied the light and dark pattern in the photo and cut my fabrics to repeat this pattern. After beading two skunk cabbages, the base of the waterfall and the tree, I began to be bored with realistic and bored looking at my work. For several days, I didn't want to bead on it at all. What to do?

Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project for March, in progress
Texture! Flat just doesn't do it for me. I needed texture! So here are two pictures to compare.

Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project for March, in progress, skunk cabbage detail, flat
Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project for March, in progress, skunk cabbage detail, flat
The first shows my original flat skunk cabbage. The second shows how it looks after I removed one of the leaves and made it three-dimensional. Better, eh? I also made the tree more dimensional and added texture to the moss-covered rocks in the stream. I'm definitely liking it better now and am re-motivated to keep beading it. Next I will start beading the water in the pond, but will save the waterfall for last as it will probably be fringed (a definite tangle-maker if I did it now).

Bead Embroidery ~ Tips

I've been receiving a number of emails lately asking about how to do bead embroidery. (If you're just getting started, I recommend getting my two books, One Bead at a Time and Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery.) Two of the most frequent questions involve what to use as a stabilizer and how to get a design on the surface...

There are many good answers to both of these questions, many different methods that all work very well. What works best in most cases for ME is to use an acid-free paper backing to stabilize my work and keep the stitches from puckering. I use either interleaving paper or Japanese Sumi painting paper. The photo below shows how I get the design on the surface.

Robin Atkins, Bead Journal Project, March, back side
A. I draw the shape of my piece on the paper and pin it to my fabric. Then I baste along my drawn lines in a color of thread that will show on the surface. The basted line becomes my guide, and I stay within it when beading. After I finish my piece, I tear away the paper outside the basted line, fold the fabric edges to the inside and back the piece with Ultrasuede or other backing, which hides the fabric edges and my stitches.

B. To sew two layers of fabric together, as in my April piece, I pin the top layer on the underlayer and, leaving the edges raw, I whip stitch them together. Here on the back side you can see my whip stitches. Look for them on the click-to-enlarge view of the right side above.

C. To transfer design elements, important lines and/or shapes to the fabric side, I first draw the shapes on the paper. (Sometimes I draw them on a different paper until I get what I want, then hold the paper to a window and trace the lines with a soft pencil on the wrong side. I put that side down on my paper stabilizer and re-draw the lines, which transfers the traced pencil marks to the stabilizer paper.) Then, I baste along these lines using a color of thread that I'll be able to see on the right side. Look for the basted lines of a second skunk cabbage to the left of the first in the click-to-enlarge view of the right side above.

Happy spring, everybody!!!

shooting star wildflowers, photo by Robert Demar
The first of our native wildflowers is heavily budded now! In a day or two, there will be a riot of purple and yellow shooting stars to delight our senses!!!! Above is one of my husband's pictures of these beautiful harolds of spring...

See you in a couple of weeks..... or maybe in Denver???!!!


  1. Wow, I sure wish we could make it up to Denver but it just isn't going to happen. This should be a most lovely event for you, Robin.

    Those fabric finds are to die for!

    Kathy V in NM

  2. What a luscious post, Robin! Thanks so much. This is food for the eyes and for thought to last us two weeks and longer.

    I am very much looking forward to seeing your finished April piece. It will be special because of the new territory you are entering. I suppose it takes a lot of discipline not to wander from the realistic path. A fringe-waterfall should be perfect.

    Wishing you a happy time in Denver,


  3. Robin thank you for sharing your work. This realistic beaded picture is going to be wonderful. As someone who can't draw, I love to print out photos on fabric and bead the photo. Have a wonderful trip to Denver and take lots of pictures.

  4. I have a question: Skunk cabbage is a very pretty plant, but ... does it stink? Or do skunks like to eat it?


  5. Love what you have started with your BJP. Look forward to seeing the progress. And what a great source for the inspriation.

  6. How wonderful for you to get to share the projects from last year's BJP with the Denver group. I know they'll love it. Wish I lived closer so I could see all the beautiful art work together.

    I had to laugh at your April piece. I just can't bead flat either! I'm always experimenting on how to make a piece look better & TEXTURE is the way to go. Isn't it fun to run your fingers over the multi layered piece of art? I'm jealous that I don't have a lovely place to hike to every day, but I do know the song of the Frogs. Every night when I drive to work (2.9 miles), I get to drive by a Metro Park & the frogs are in full throated love songs. I smile all the way to work thinking Spring has finally come.


  7. Wonderful post and sure wish I could hear your presentation in denver, but you know how that goes! I hope you have a safe and lovely trip, robin.

  8. To all ~ Thanks for your comments... I wish you could all be in Denver!

    To Sabine ~ Yes, Skunk cabbage has a mildly unpleasant, foul odor. You definitely would NOT want to put a boquet of them in your home!

    Robin A.

  9. oh Robin, this page is going to be beautiful! An absolutely gorgeous place in our great outdoors! I've always admired the artistry when using photos in beading... but that seems technically beyond me.
    Have a great time in Denver and enjoy yourself!

  10. This landscape BJP is going to be so wonderful! Love the 3 D skunk cabbage leaves...

    Hope you have fun in Denver... ;-)
    I took a two needle applique class from David Dean at the bead festival in Santa Fe last month. I think he'll be in Denver...what a fine man!
    Maybe your paths will cross.

  11. Robin, I love the reworked skunk cabbage and moss-covered rocks! Texture has completely changed the piece. Can't wait to see what you do with the rest of the scene and the water.

    We live in a more suburban PNW area, but have a large backyard pond. I love to hear Spring's first "songbirds," the Pacific tree toad. Such a huge sound from a teeny, tiny body -- usually ranges from 2-3cm.

    Have fun in Denver!

  12. Hi Robin!

    Thanks for the info on your talk on Thursday night as well. I will plan to be there!

    You are brave to approach beading realism. I do understand that adding texture can be stimulating. It will be interesting to watch your tribute to that beautiful stream unfold!

    See you next week!

    Love, Camilla

  13. What a jam packed psot!! Every time I read your posts I miss the Pacific Northwest!! the pictures of your stream are wonderful - I can just smell the skunk cabbage!! i love the added texture of your beaded piece- I was thinking that there was NO WAY that you could do a totally flat piece!! You will make it sing! Have a terrific time in Denver! I wish I could be there- what a show that will be!! Perhaps you should market a DVD!!! I know, selling books is ahrd enough!!
    Big Hugs! happy and safe travels!!!

  14. I am very anxious to see more! At first I thought you were doing great ~ perfect beaded lines and all, but once I got further down and saw the textured beading ~ I knew you were on the right tract. I tried texture (my last page) but that was nothing compared to this. How do you do it?
    Really looking forward to seeing more of this. Have fun in Denver!


  15. Love your taste! Perfect chosen colors together with the fabric, nicely done! :) /

  16. Hi Robin...what a wonderful post. The quilt shop sounds wonderful and what you purchased is yummy!

    Wish I could have seen the presentation on the BJP, I can imagine how inspiring it was to all who participated. And, oh, how I would have loved to take your classes. So envious that Camilla had the honor to meet you and do so...what a thrill!

    What a beautiful walk and creek for you to live by. It may not be your thing to bead a realistic picture, but I *know* it will be stunning! What a lovely tribute and page you will have when you are done. It will always hold those special memories of your walks and that beautiful creek. Your page will speak volumes of the gifts mom nature shares with us all. I'm looking forward to seeing it when you are done.

    Thank you for sharing all you are always so inspiring!


    P.S. The wildflower photo is just beautiful!

  17. It was so fun to see and talk with you at Bead Bazzar festivities this last week, Robin. I loved the BJP 2007 that you showed in power point. What a great bunch of stuff was done.

    I'm anxious to see the rest of the year and now I have my new glasses I'll get to beading April and finish up on my eyes for the 2008!

  18. To be able to take walks by running water sounds like heaven. Will love to see your finished page with the texture you are working on adding. It can be realistic looking without being flat stitching. In fact I bet it looks more real because of the texture you add.

  19. Congratulations! Robin Atkins has received a blogging award at .

    Thank you for always brightening my day!



Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!