Monday, July 27, 2009

July BJP... all about Dad... I miss him sooooo much

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, I Miss You Dad, detail
My BJP for July is all about my Dad (and me...) Always the optimist and a person who both gave and commanded respect, Dad died July 13, 2006. Every day I think of him… every day I miss him, his quirky sense of humor and our frequent phone conversations… more than I can say. Every year, when July rolls around again, I feel an incredible sadness and loss. It seeps in and out of me more than it does during the other months of the year.

As a child, Dad contracted Pott's disease (also called bovine tuberculosis). As a result his spine collapsed, leaving him with a shortened torso and neck. His lungs were crowded into a smaller than normal space and he wore a brace to support his back/spine. His Doctors would never have predicted he would live to be 88 years old. Yet never once did I hear him complain about his condition, even when breathing got quite difficult or when a stroke paralyzed him from the waist down. He just found things he could do and went right on enjoying his life. He cherished my Mom and his five kids. I am the eldest. My life is enriched beyond words by this man, my Dad. If you're interested, I wrote more about my Dad here and about making spirit dolls in his memory here.

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, I Miss You Dad
The fabrics for this piece are from neckties that I made for Dad years ago (specially altered pattern - thin at the neck). The top layer is the front of one of the ties. I de-constructed the other tie (which was silk patchwork) to make the underlayer of my piece. The bear, birds, dragonfly, beetle, kitty, tree, water and flowers are all symbolic of important memories about my Dad. The tip of the tie lifts to reveal a little “book” of words and pictures.

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, I Miss You Dad, detail showing book under tip of tie
bead journal project, Robin Atkins, I Miss You Dad, detail showing book under tip of tie
You may recall that I did my November BJP about my Mom and that it is also a "book" with a butterfly wing as the cover. See it below and more pictures here.

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, Mom and Me, detail showing book under beaded butterfly wing
My plan for these two pieces is to construct a box (out of book board) covered with quilted fabric in the inside, plain fabric on the outside... and mount these two pieces on the top of the lid. I will use the box to store letters, photos and other special memories of my parents.

I'm in "just do it" mode about this box. I've never made a box before and I want this one to be as special as my Mom and Dad... which, of course, it never could be... so, for a while I was stuck... bogged down by anxiety about making it good enough. Finally, the suggestion I give others came around to my conscious mind...

I do not have to be perfect.
This box does not have to be perfect.
This box does not have to be worthy of my parents.
Perfection is not necessary to memory.

Ha! Back on track, I'm headed to the studio right now to work on the box! I'll post a progress report soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bead Journal Project ~ June Finished!

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, Stay in Touch with the River, detail
Sometimes when life gets too busy and stressful, I forget about my ongoing need to stay in touch with the river, the internal life of my soul, the spiritual flow, the source of love, wisdom and peace. For several months in a row, I hardly touched the river at all and seemed to go through the days on some sort of automatic pilot. When finally I felt the dryness, I knew I needed to make myself another visual reminder to stay in touch with the river.

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, Stay in Touch with the River
So here is my BJP piece for June, Stay In Touch With The River!

I've been grappling with this concept for some time. It shows up in my piece for March (Zero Circle) and again last month as I seek help from tiger (Open the Door). I am thankful to Pat Allen and her book, Art Is a Way of Knowing, for giving me the word river as a metaphor for that deeply honest force flowing within. And right now, a sense of contentment and ease holds me for a moment as I share my work and this immensely important idea with you.

* * * * This and That FYI * * * * *

The shells on this piece are old puka shells from Hawaii. I found a strand of them when I was teaching there years ago and have hoarded them ever since. I got them out to offer some to my brother for his under-water quilt... Ha! Immediately I knew some had to go on my river piece.

The tiny pink flower sequins are from Accessories of Old, a shop full of vintage beads, trims, sequins and buttons, located in Bethesda MD. They sell these flower sequins on line, here. Thanks to Plays With Needles for the discovery of this shop!

You can find new flower sequins (and oooooodles of other new, reasonably-priced sequins) at Cartwright's. Most of the new flower sequins are large, compared to the vintage sequins I used on this piece, which I think are only about 2.5 mm in diameter.

The folded fabrics are strips of loosely-woven cotton which were hand-dyed with indigo by my friend Carol Berry. The top piece had a single indigo bath, the lower piece had two. I pulled the threads to make the holes and fringed edges. You can see these strips and the pile of pulled threads at the bottom of this post.

My finished BJP pieces are 4" x 6" ~ post card size. I haven't decided yet what to do with them and consequently have not finished the edges of any of them yet.

Most of the seed beads on this piece are size 15s.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bead Journal Project - Banner & Box

Trish holding the banner and box
This is Trish! She is a local friend, quilter, beader!

Just when we started the current Bead Journal Project last September, I did a powerpoint "slide show" about it for our Quilt and Fiber Arts Guilds. Trish was there. She got so jazzed about all the fabulous beading and the idea of visual journaling with beads that she decided to be an unofficial participant (already past registration cut off date).

While watching my presentation, she began to think about her son, Casey, who was just starting his senior year in HS. Trish and Casey are like-minded, close friends and companions... She wished to celebrate his life and his place in their family as he was going through the transition from boy-at-home to man-on-his-own. This would be the theme for her BJP pieces and she would make them into something for him to keep.

bead journal project, box with beading on lid
To have the project finished to give him as a graduation gift and still do one per month, means she has two pieces yet unfinished. These will be for her, to keep as a permanent connection with her son. Her ten finished pieces and how she made them into a banner & box are the subjects of this post!

bead journal project, banner folded into the box
bead journal project, box showing beading in bottom
First, this is the box she made to hold the banner. One of her pages is glued to the top of the box and a second piece is glued inside the bottom of the box.

bead journal project, banner hanging from tree
Above is the full banner, shown hanging from a tree. The banner is made with black Ultrasuede wrapped around a copper tube at the top. Each bead-embroidered piece is sewn to a square backing of black Ultrasuede, cut about 1/4 inch bigger than the piece on all sides.

Trish then sewed these units (beaded piece + Ultrasuede backing) to the banner, but only on three sides (top, left and bottom), leaving the right side open so she could insert a card with a message to Casey explaining the meaning of each piece and her thoughts about him. So each piece has a card that can be removed from the right side.

bead journal project, Who He Is
Who he is - aspects of Casey's personality - uses refrigerator poetry magnates - rainbow celebrates part of who he is.

bead journal project, Let's Bake!
Let's Bake! - represents his creativity with baking and having fun in the kitchen since he was a young boy.

bead journal project, Maturity
Maturity - represents growth, maturity and the development of roots for the foundation of his life.

bead journal project, Sweden
Sweden - represents the time he spent in Sweden as a foreign exchange student.

bead journal project, Strengths
Strengths - inspired by a package of rings with words stamped on them - these represent both his strengths and areas where growth is needed (he knows which are which).

bead journal project, Ferry Boats
Ferry Boats - celebrates our beautiful water and all the sunsets shared as a family.

bead journal project, South Africa
South Africa - honors the time we spent together in South Africa as global volunteers and his strong interest in human rights.

bead journal project, Heart Floating Free
Heart Floating Free - inspired by Hug Nation - Casey is a hugger - the heart is a metaphor for him.

Can you imagine Casey opening the graduation present from his Mom? Do you think there may have been some tears shed?

Personally, I just love this whole idea! Thanks, Trish, for letting me share this with my readers.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Beaded Quilt in Process

Thom Atkins, Robin Atkins studio
This is my little (16 months younger than I) big (6'4") brother, Thom, with his wife, Jennifer, and me in my studio in 2006. In front of us is one of his beaded quilts, Blue Miranda, and you can see more of it on Thom's website, here. He was also in the first year of the Bead Journal Project and you can see his 12 beaded mini-quilts here.

Thom is making a name for himself in the quilting world, bringing both his art/painting training and his passion for embellishing with beads to his quilts. Thom and I are beading buddies, frequently spending hours on the phone talking about our latest projects, bead sources, techniques, etc. It's a blessing for both of us and has deepened our friendship with each passing year.

We also totally enjoy getting together when we can (he lives in central California, whereas I live in northern Washington state). We just had a great week together, beading and sharing in my studio (same place as picture above). What was really FUN for me was to see his process as he went to work on the very beginning stages of a new quilt!!!

Finding himself inspired by two things (1. a strand of stone, disc-shaped beads, dyed to look like turquoise and 2. a funny technique with organza), Thom's mind went to an under water look, with anemones made with the discs and some sort of puff creature made with the organza.

Global Warming, bead-embellished quilt by Thom Atkins, detail showing anemone
Here's how the discs look, made up as sea anemones. See how he circled the discs with dagger and claw-shaped, glass beads.

Global Warming, bead-embellished quilt by Thom Atkins, detail showing puffs
Here are the puff creatures.

The puff technique uses polyester organza (Thom uses two layers of different colors stitched together with a contrasting thread color) wrapped around small stones or pebbles and fastened with rubber bands. After fastening a bunch of them, throw the whole thing in a pot of boiling watter and let it boil for 10 minutes. After cooling and removing the pebbles, the polyester is permanently bubbled in the shape of the pebbles. You can crush it (like those cute tops you can buy at shows), but it always comes back to shape when released.

But I'm getting ahead of myself with the pictures... Knowing he would use the puffs and the disc beads, Thom gathered some fabrics from his stash (a blue-brown, blended stripe, which he could use for wooden posts, a blue-aqua batik for water, a brown batik suitable for rocks, a purple batik that might work for the sea bottom , a navy-blue tulle netting to layer over fabrics and some angelina for sparkle). He's been doing a series of quilts 18" x 52" and wanted this one to be in the series. Spreading things out on the table, he began cutting and laying out the pieces.

Soon it took shape! Two posts and some cross bars, angelina used to add a sense of movement to the water, purple sea floor and brown rocks. He used permanent marking pens to create the illusion of depth and texture on the rocks and wood. Then he added 1 to 4 layers of tulle netting to hold everything in place and to give the appearance of depth. Next came a whole lot of stitching, hand-quilting everything in place! By the time he returned home, the quilt looked like this (except for the seaweed).

Global Warming, bead embellished quilt by Thom Atkins, in process 1
Remember my previous post about silk ribbons and Nancy's Sewing basket???? Well, Thom and I had a glorious time shopping at Nancy's just prior to his flying out of Seattle. In the ribbon room, Thom immediately spied a large basket filled with hand-dyed China-silk, bias-cut "Hanah Silk ribbons." Gorgeous! Drop-dead gorgeous (and reasonably priced from $.75-5.00/yard, depending on width - up to 4 inches) these could be used in many ways, including quilt bindings. Thom instantly saw them as seaweed for his quilt. Since it's cut on the bias and therefore doesn't fray much, he could re-cut strips of it in seaweed shapes and apply them to the quilt with tulle. Here's how the seaweed looks pinned down.

ribbon seaweed pinned in place, Thom Atkins quilt
And here's how it looks hand-stitched in place.

ribbon seaweed on Global Warming quilt by Thom Atkins
Here's how the quilt looks now after he's worked on it at home during the week since he was visiting me. (Be sure to click to enlarge and see details.)

Global Warming, bead embellished quilt by Thom Atkins, in process 2
Are you curious about the fish and the sign? Have aquarium, have some old wood and marking pens, have camera, have photo-editing program, have printer, have ink-jet-printable fabric... and yipppeee... soon you have fish and a sign ready to sew on a quilt. Neat, huh!

Thom Atkins, no fish sign made for Global Warming quilt
Oh, yes, I forgot to mention above... somewhere along the line, it came to Thom that this piece seems to say something about global warming and rising sea levels. Although it's not even half way finished yet, he's named it Global Warming.

I'll post a picture of it when it's finished. Hope you are having fun seeing the process.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ribbon Question + MOP buttons!

silk ribbons from Nancy's Sewing Basket, Seattle
Click on the picture to really see the lush colors of these silk ribbons. Aren't they just the yummiest?!

45 yards in all... 25 different colors!!!!! I bought them at Nancy's Sewing Basket on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle (WA) a couple of weeks ago. Nancy's is a fabric store that's been in business for about 30 years selling fancy fabrics. If you are in the area and love silk, it's a must... They may not have as many different bolts as some shops, but oh my, every one of them is simply luscious.

The other two main attractions at Nancy's are their their button wall (I go NUTS looking at so many beautiful buttons) and ribbon room (a whole, large room devoted entirely to ribbons of all kinds, including I'd estimate about 80-100 colors of silk ribbons... Akkkkk, be still my beating heart... I go NUTS in there too)!

Below are some mother of pearl buttons I bought at the same time as the ribbons. Again, click to see details. You'll be noticing them on my beading soon, that's for sure.

MOP buttons from Nancy's Sewing Basket in Seattle
These ribbons and buttons make me happy! They are paint on my palette!

My only question is this... Does anybody have a good method for storing the ribbons???? They're all relatively short pieces of 1-3 yards. I thought of winding them on floss bobbin-cards, but I don't want creases in them.

My next post will be about my brother, Thom's recent visit and the beaded piece he's currently making. He found some hand-dyed silk ribbons at Nancy's that make perfect seaweed. I'll show you in my next post soon!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Bead Journal Project ~ May ~ Open the Door

Ahhh, back to improvisational bead embroidery for me!!!! Here is my finished May BJP page...

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, Open the Door, May '09
Here is the poem I wrote from the piece after it was finished.
Open the Door

I am old and rusty.
Yet still I am a key.
Yet still I hold power
to open the door.

I am old and rusty.
Yet still fierce tiger waits.
Yet still I find courage
to open my heart.

I am old and rusty and empty.
Yet still red blood courses.
Yet still I have strength
to open the door.

I am old and rusty and afraid.
Yet still I want to know.
Yet still the river flows
and tiger takes me there.

Are you wondering about the tiger? It's machine sewn. Fabulous, isn't it?! Karen L. Cohen, BJP participant, gifted it to me after I asked her how she stitched the elephant for her April BJP (here). My old sewing machine doesn't do this type of thing, but apparently one can buy programs for newer machines that create images for you. Here is the program Karen used to stitch both her elephant and my tiger.

Karen offered me a choice of animals and colors. Since Tiger is one of my totem animals, I was immediately drawn to it. Saturated colors were calling me, strong and true... red, yellow, blue! Karen picked the background fabric and determined which of my suggested colors to use for the different parts. I'm so pleased with red as the main color!!! Red, the color of blood and love and energy and protection! Thank you, Karen!

The beading fell together easily on this piece. But the meaning of it wasn't clear until the last 15 minutes of working on it. I seemed to be inside looking at Tiger through a window or a door. I felt a strong urge to get through the door, to open it. At the last minute, I realized I needed a key.

Odd thing... I've been suggesting to several BJPers and to my brother, Thom, (who was just here for a week) that they/he add a key to their work. HA! Duh... It was I who needed a key all along!
Right after finishing this piece, I began my June BJP. Below you can see the fabrics I selected. Do you think maybe this could be the river??? Did Tiger take me to the river? We shall see.

bead journal project, Robin Atkins, ready to bead, June '09