Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bead Journal Project for January ~ Fini!

detail, bead embroidery on felt by Robin Atkins, bead journal project
I'm trying some new things this year...

1. Beading on felt
2. Using fibers, paper, multi-media approach
3. Learning collage
4. Using some of the papers I've painted
5. Including words
6. Making a hand-bound book with my 12 pages

It all started on Jan. 1, when I impulsively wrote 6 words that seemed important to me. They are:


Then from those six words, I chose the one which seemed the most compelling to me at that moment. The word was walk. Why not use these words as the underlying theme for my BJP piece for January? In fact, why not write 6 words at the beginning of each month and use them as the basis for that month's piece? Well, OK, that's just what I'll do!

So with the six words for January in the back of my mind, I quickly flipped through my stash of painted papers (acrylic paint on 90 pound drawing paper) and found one that appealed to me. Same process with my felt stash. Purple felt! I basted it to a piece of interleaving paper to stabilize it, got out some beads and started stitching. Obviously, the word walk showed up in my beading. Here's how it looks:

bead embroidery on felt by Robin Atkins, bead journal project
That part was pretty easy.

Since I'm going to make a book, I wanted the page size to be larger than the bead embroidery (which is only 2.5 x 2.5 inches). I have some sheets of deep black paper (heavy-weight, with a deckle edge) which will be luscious for a book. I decided to make the book pages 8.5 x 11 and cut the painted papers to a 7" square. So now, I'm defining my BJP page as a 7 inch square, which will include some beading on felt of any size I wish for that page.

Now we get to the difficult (er, I mean challenging) part for me. What to do with the painted paper and the beading??? How to put them together??? How to add elements of collage??? How to add the words??? Yikes! Suddenly I'm all tense and don't know what I want to do or how to do it.

"Calm down," I remind myself... "It doesn't have to be perfect. Just do it. Think improvisationally." That works for about 5 minutes and I glue some wrapped fibers on the paper to extend the idea of walking from my bugle bead pathway onto the paper. Then I'm stuck again. I worry that the fibers aren't the right color. I worry about what to do next. I write some words on the page and worry that they look amateur... And so on...

Worrying about my art isn't the normal me. I worry about that too...

Finally, Marty's post "Editing and Improvisation," about ripping out beads in parts we don't like, rescued me from all the angst I was feeling about my piece. Somehow reading her words created a turning point in my mind. My self-talk changed to "This is a learning experience. I'm trying something new. I'll get better at it as the year goes by. It's a journey of discovery and everything I make is simply a marker along the path."

bead embroidery on felt collaged on painted paper by Robin Atkins, bead journal project
So here you have it... The first marker! Fini! Tomorrow I get to write 6 new words and continue the journey into February!

BTW, some of you readers are excellent at collage... all suggestions for the next piece are welcome!


  1. Ann S.6:04 PM

    No matter how wonderful all your work is, you keep challenging yourself. That is why you inspire me to reach. The beadwork on my piece is finished but I haven't done the backing and finishing. So I will start February behind. I will be in Tucson Feb 2-7. It's my first time!

  2. Hi Ann! I just finished this post and already you're commenting! Thanks! Did you receive your book (World Beading)? Hope it got there without further damage to the spine. Have a wonderful time in Tucson!!!! Hugs, R

  3. Robin,
    It's a beautiful page with such lush colors. One of the best things about the BJP is that it gives us the opportunity to grow--even those of us who are older than Barbie. Thanks for all your kind and thoughtful comments.
    Marty S
    Crackpot Beader

  4. robin, i think your page is wonderful. the colors have such depth, the words on your page, i like how the buttons carry from the paper to the beading. reading about how you go through your process, stumble, overcome and "just do" is very inspiring to me. i'm a newbie and have problems of self-doubt, but it's good to know that even the experienced ones go through it too and it's just part of the process sometimes. and when it's done it is very rewarding! you've done a wonderful job, and i can't wait to see more and how they develop.

  5. WOW! What more can I say but that. It's wonderful. And the words work perfectly with your collage.

    You inspire me!

  6. Oh, the colors are spectacular! I love the idea of new words each month and the book of words and collages at the end of the year. Yes, I agree with the other, you are a true artist! - Marlene

  7. Your page looks good to me so far, but if it's any help, i heard recently that Picasso struggled with enormous self doubt.
    I find that the 'walk' component is where i head to when i have a design challenge. I clear my head and walk for 30 minutes and somewhere in that time design choices and potential solutions start to magically arrive.
    Cheeky Question: are your spirals heading inwards or outwards? Kaite

  8. To All ~ Thanks! I appreciate your support, especially this time, when my feelings about this piece are a bit dubious.

    To Lisa ~ All part of the process... you're so right! That's a good way to think about it.

    To Kaite ~ Answer to cheeky Q is: outward. If you click to enclarge, you can see the word cherish beginning at the center of each spiral. I've read a number of artist's biographies or autobiographies, and yes... many struggle with self doubt. Good to know we're in "good company" on that issue!

  9. As soon as I saw the Scotties, I thought of the walks you've mentioned, before I even read the words! With this as a start, I can't wait to see where your new path takes you!

  10. Oooh! What luscious colors! I like this new direction of yours. I especially like the word "Simplify", something I'm always telling myself to do in life. XD You're able to get through all your doubts, and I can identify with those, and get to the end, so it's win, win, win! Speaking only for myself, I go through all kinds of doubts and even dislike of any given piece I'm working on, and I keep going on anyway. Pushing through to completion is sometimes very hard. If I'm trying out a new technique or direction... well, that's even more challenging. I always have to remember that the beads themselves are beautiful, so the piece will turn out just fine, even if I don't think it will.

    This is very inspirational to me, and I can't wait to see the next 6 words and where they will take you.

  11. Your angst paid off-it's unusual and beautiful. The background has given me ideas for painting paste papers with a friend. The yarn path ties the pieces together. The buttons join the words and the beading. The dogs-my favorite animal-are so cute going for a walk. It certainly worked well.

  12. Super cute! I love y our work, Robin! :)

  13. Robin, I love your piece and especially the step by step journey that you took us through in order to complete it. I can't wait to see February. Gita

  14. I find it interesting that you struggle as much with the "exploration" as all of us do! :) I guess that's what makes you such a wonderful teacher - that you struggle along beside us!
    I think the results are great (as usual) and I'll be interested to see where all this takes you through the year!

  15. Inspirational, Robin. I think the idea of a book calls to me more than the idea of the beading. Maybe next year...

  16. I like the fact that everything is at an angle to each other which seems to reinforce the idea of going on a walk

    Exciting to see you trying out something different and out of your comfort range. It will most definitely be an interesting walk through the year.

  17. Once again, you have shared with us and let us know that it's okay to have doubts about our work. Sticking to it is sometimes the hardest thing to do. I'm working on a piece like that right now. Don't know how I'll like it when finished, but we'll see.

  18. Everyone's comments are so right on that I can't find anything more to say except thanks for the story (in both words and beads)!
    Holly B

  19. I just *love* how the pathway extends the beading image across the page. That's one of the great things about incorporating beading into collage...the finished piece is so much more than simply the sum of its parts.

  20. I love the idea of putting your piece on paper. I know what a challenge that can be as I am making my bead journal into a book this year. The actual beading part is easy but how to put it on a page so that it will look as if it belongs there is something else. Glad to hear am not the only one who worries. Did you paint your paper? It is so beautiful and with your great beading it just fits. LOVE IT!!! Lise

  21. Fabulous - the process, the piece, your sharing your thoughts - you're very inspiring! Not only am I looking forward to your next piece, I'm delighted to hear your monthly 6 words. Thank you!

  22. Anonymous5:58 PM

    I always love your work, and the word "walk" might have been my choice as well. The pathway through the entire piece carries that theme well, and those Scotty dogs are perfect -- I once had a Scotty. I could go on and on about your piece, but everyone else has said it all, so I'll just say DITTO!

  23. ahhhh, Robin. lighten...walk...cherish's just beautiful because of your own just listen to yourself. Much love, Susan

    P.S. love love LOVE the doggies and the path and the paper and the challenge and the idea of a book with paper and beading

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. I love reading your posts and looking at your pictures, they are so inspiring. Each time you tell us something you have learned, but each time I learn something. No wonder you teach others how to bead and create, it is such a natural part of who you are. In addition I love the colors and whimsy in your piece this month. Thank you for sharing!

  26. Anonymous5:01 AM

    Oh my. You are so very creative, with persistance and patience thrown in for good measure - the outcome and combination of this talented mix is simply stunning.Congratulations on this and the other beautiful works you have featured lately. I always scroll back to see the treasure box when I visit.It never ceases to amaze me.

  27. “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end”
    Ursula LeGuin

    One of my favorite quotes that becomes more meaningful the older I get...

    I love the story of your journey, robin.

  28. My dear Robin, oh my, I sure can relate to this piece...kinship with walking, as you know...and the path... :>]]

    You are really on to something with mixing media, I think, and although I totally understand your angst about how to proceed with combining them, you are well on your way to figuring it out. It sounds like many of us this year are struggling with the mental tangles of *new* materials, myself included. It's going to be great fun watching us all figure it out!

    I absolutely LOVE the written words everywhere, creating their own movement, walking all over that darn page! I can imagine that over the course of this year, it will be a delight to turn your pages and follow all those words - or see IF you've followed them? I'm especially fond of the way you wrote the word if to say, "Listen LOUDER."

    A delightful beginning! And thank you for sharing all your trepidations.

  29. Ah, walk and lighten... Yes, this is just what is needed right now. And I love the energy and fun that radiates from your piece - you take a very profound subject and make it bubble with smiles . Thank you !

  30. Love the colors and the thought process behind your work.

  31. dearest robin!
    haven't blogged in ages and haven't visited your blog in ages. been super duper busy. with our play therapy mentor we've just put up a Philippine Association for Child and Play Therapists and we just finished running our first (as an official org) basic play therapy workshop. it's very satisfying and very tiring work. :)

    it was great to see this entry. "walk" is one of my resolutions this year, to take a meditative walk daily. i found it gives my day a beautiful pause to breathe. :) i still need to be more consistent about it, though!

    my other resolution is to do some creative work myself, i feel a great hunger for it. maybe something as simple as handsewing, just so i have a chance to see lovely fabrics and colors :) let's see.

    it's great to see you continue your journey of life and beauty robin.

    thank you for always sharing :)

  32. As others have said, it's nice to know even experienced beaders have their moments of doubt. I love how you've challenged yourself to learn new things to work with your beading, fantastic idea and execution all the way around. Wonderful story, piece, colors, and expression... it feels happy.

  33. This is wonderful! I love the way you've used the words with the beading. Lovely colors too. And the scottie dogs are adorable!

  34. Oh, Robin, it's wonderful. And it's such an honor to share in your process and thoughts. As women, we can sometimes doubt ourselves more than we doubt others. But your words reminded me of what my mother told me when I was young: you have to be Limber, Loving and a Little Looney. I remind myself of the looney part so I don't second guess myself too much.

  35. I haven't taken the time to read all the other comments so I may be repeating something someone else has already said. I just find it so encouraging when someone of your experience and years of teaching (and calming) others shares the fact that you still have times of self doubt. You show us the way to work through it by sharing your process. Marty's post was very insightful too. What a terrific experience this whole BJP can be!

  36. I'm primarily an assemblage artist, so I can really see the challenges you're dealing with here. Mixing such different media is always tough -- hard & soft together, delicate and durable -- and so many practical questions in terms of backing and binding and glues... I admire your spirit of adventure!

    The beadwork is wonderful, and the paper is totally cool, and I love the "Listen" text. I'm not sure the "Lighten" and "Walk" text works as well -- it seems more a command than an amble, if that makes any sense, and it competes with the paper & beadwork for attention. The intensity and amount of text also competes with the "Simplify" in the upper left corner, and makes it ironic, which I'm not sure you were after.

    When I'm playing with text and collage/assemblage, what I do is to print or write it first on clear acetate and then lay the acetate over the spots on the canvas where I think I want it to appear -- this is a no-risk way of trying it out the way it will look on the final product...

    Looking forward to seeing the next page!

  37. Robin, This is simply wonderful, from the finished piece to the journey you took creating it. Thanks for letting us come along on your walk. I look forward to your next 6-word-inpired page. Beading and working on these BJPs has enriched my creativity -- even if I am perpetually behind the pack!

    2 questions: is the felt textured in someway? where do you find such luscious colors of felt?

    I do look forward to your next step ...

  38. To Cathy W ~ The felt is just plain purple and is almost completely covered with beads except at the very edges. The other background is painted-stenciled-stamped paper. I use heavy drawing paper and paint it with acrylics. Wouldn't it be GRAND to find felt like that?!!!

    To Kali ~ Your comments are RIGHT ON... exactly what bothers me about the piece. I so appreciate your insights and tip for playing with text!

    To Abbie ~ Nice to find your "calling card" here again. It has been a while. I checked your blog a couple of times and thought you had abandonded it. I'll try again now!

    To All ~ I appreciate your understanding sooooooo much! Where else could I talk about angst and have so many people fully comprehend what I'm experiencing?

  39. Sherwin5:31 AM

    Hello. I stumbled into your blog ( and was wondering if you'd be open to a blogroll links exchange seeing as our blogs are somewhat related and I believe that it would be of benefit to us in the long run if we linked up. If you find this suitable kindly drop me a note at

    Thanks and hope to hear back soon.


  40. Robin, you truly are amazing! I love your book idea, the finished piece is stunning and I loved walking along with you as you explained your creative process. As usual, when looking at one of your new pieces, my creative juices are again flowing full speed ahead. Thanks, too, for taking the time to stop by my blog and comment.

  41. hello again robin :)
    i'm afraid you won't find anything new on my blog! :) i'm reassessing if its the right blog content for me, it doesn't seem to be working for me right now :) maybe i'll revamp it or just make an entirely new one. will let you know. in the meantime, thank you for continuing to inspire! :)

  42. Robin this is a beautiful piece. I love the idea of the words each month. I love all the elements of your piece. You have your own style, it is lovely. I love the little dogs. Sweet. Julie C

  43. I love everything you do Robin! I am new to beaded and fabric "books".. You are so inspiring....if I only had the time to start something totally new, I would love to put a book together. Are there any instructions available? You are THE BEAD GODDESS!

  44. Thanks for this wonderful post. I really liked it. Its nice to read your post. Its really good for me i got some new thinks to learn from your post. Thanks for that.

    Acai Berry
    Acai Berry

  45. The yarn path ties the pieces together. The buttons join the words and the beading. The dogs-my favorite animal-are so cute going for a walk. It certainly worked well.

  46. The buttons join the words and the beading. The dogs-my favorite animal-are so cute going for a walk. It certainly worked well.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!