Wednesday, February 29, 2012

October BJP Finished - Friend with Big Heart!

Stitching beadwork about my long-long-time friend, Liz, for October's BJP piece (see here) felt really great. It developed easily and was warm and fuzzy throughout the process. I've been best friends with Liz for more than half my life; she knows me better than anybody. She lives in Seattle.

When I married and moved away from Seattle to live on an island, Liz and I suffered deep pangs of proximity removal. We still had the phone and later email, but it's not the same as face to face, spur of the moment, let's TALK, which we had always shared. I was so lonely on the island at first. My husband had two jobs at the time; I worked at home, where I sorely missed female companionship. I joined some groups, found a walking partner, tried to be social and get to know folks. But for several years nothing really clicked.

Then I met Christy! Our husbands both served with the volunteer fire department. At social functions I always gravitated toward Christy, because she was so warm and friendly, so comfortable to talk with. She belonged to a quilting group and one day asked if I'd be interested to teach them some beading. The rest is history. Our friendship blossomed over beads at first, because her passion and talent for beading quickly burst forth into full bloom. She joined the BJP and made some touchingly beautiful pieces (see here).

Our friendship grew, and spread into other areas of interest, including quilting. About three years ago, we started meeting every Tuesday afternoon, three of us as the core group, to do our stitching, beading, and quilting together. Christy and our other Tuesday friend, Lunnette, are now my island safe haven, the two hearts to whom I turn for feminine companionship, understanding and support. I am very blessed!

And so, it's no surprise that my October piece is all about my relationship with Christy.  Because bear and dragonfly are two significant totems in her life, I've put them on her arm of the cross. In the center where our paths meet, you can see a crocheted flower that I've adorned with beads. This represents the full bloom of our friendship. The ring of beads surrounding the flower represents, I think, the way our friendship seems to be a safe place for both of us. Christy has a big heart, as you can see.

On my arm of the cross, I added a kitty charm because I am a kitty-lover and especially loved Christy's beautiful old cat. The heart/bird charm is one I've had since 1965. It's a design by Georg Jensen, one that I've hoarded and not even worn (for fear of losing it) all these years. To me, it represents me, my Chinese name, Peacefulbird. I'm so pleased to have found the freedom to place it here in my relationship with Christy!

+ + + + + +
In case you're a new visitor, the Bead Journal Project has been going for 4 years, and we started the 5th year last month. We each make 12 pieces per year. The pieces must have some beads and must all be the same size/shape. The idea is to use beading (and whatever other methods we like) to make a visual journal about the current month.

The piece above is for October of last year. I'm behind because of spending all my time since July writing a book. However, I've also completed November's piece (to be posted soon) and started December's. When I finish them, I'll get started on my 2012 pieces, hopefully catching up by next month.

My pieces for 2011 are intended as quilt blocks; they will be sewn together and quilted to make a wall hanging. The blocks are about 7 inches square. Each represents an important relationship in my life, how my life path intersects with some other path in the universe, how the relationship affects me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Writing Books About Beading - Part 1

Getting Started – One Bead at a Time

Yes, there are several bead artists who are more prolific writers than I am. Still, my zigzag pathway may be of interest to some. So here we go… Part 1…

My first real book, One Bead at a Time, written in 1999 and first released Jan. 2000, practically wrote itself. I'd been loving and teaching improvisational bead embroidery for about 10 years, experiencing how the process released freedom, playfulness and creativity in me and my students, working some kind of magic and making art where there had been constraints.

Two years earlier, I had met my husband and moved to the island where we live now, away from the mainstream of teaching and beady women friends. As my new life took more of my time, mounting pressure to share the magic was building. It erupted into a book-writing frenzy. If I wasn't going to teach in person, at least I could make it available in book form.

I wanted to write a book about the methods and process of improvisational bead embroidery, not so much about techniques and definitely no projects. Fortunately, I knew a little about writing, design, layout, and printing from early days as editor of my college newspaper and from producing catalogs for a theatre supply company in the 80's. But what I didn't know was how to sell such a book, or even IF it would sell.

It took me about a month to take the pictures (film camera) and design my book using a very early version of MS Publisher on my first computer (a PC), which I had recently bought and was just learning to use. I’m self-taught on Publisher, but to MS’s credit, it was highly intuitive and easy to learn. I formatted the pages to be half of a standard legal-size sheet of paper, so that I could print them on my home printer. I wrote and designed and photographed in spurts, combining the steps and elements as I went along, building the book improvisationally, just like the beading.

Originally it was only 48 pages long, and didn’t include the later-added technique pages. I printed 300 copies on quality 32-pound paper with my ink-jet printer. (LOTS of ink cartridges and paper jams!) I had the covers printed at Kinko’s. Then I took everything to a small, commercial bindery in Seattle where they bound the pages and covers into books. WOW! 300 copies! I was so excited!

I started contacting previous students, members of the Puget Sound Bead Society, and other beady friends. Within one month I’d sold all 300 copies! That was a sufficient market test for me. What I needed then was a publisher. So, I sent letters and copies of my book to the few publishers of craft/art books that I thought might be interested. Nothing. No response. I called. They were not interested. That put me in the position of having to self-publish. But how to market them beyond my little circle of bead associates?

Amazon did not exist at that time. I figured it would be too specialized for the big chains, like Barnes & Noble. So the first thing I did was contact one of the owners of the nation's only wholesale distributor of beading books and supplies. At that time, they offered, oh, maybe 400 titles, selling them to growing numbers of bead shops around the country. If my book were to sell, they were the ones to do it.

To my dismay, the owner told me my book idea was a bust. “It will never sell,” he said. “Beaders want projects. They won’t buy a book unless it has great projects with step-by-step instructions.” I spoke eloquently, trying to convince him of beader’s desire to break away from patterns and projects. Finally, perhaps out of sympathy, he said he’d pre-order 50 copies, IF I would promise to add a few pages of techniques. At least he’d guarantee me that. Motivation enough for me, I began calling printers, soon discovering that very few printers are set up to do books. Eventually I found one located in Sydney, British Columbia.

Printers at that time worked with copy prepared in Quark, the publisher’s software of the last two decades. I didn’t have Quark. The printer agreed to transfer my Publisher files into Quark (using cut and paste methods) for an extra charge. He gave me a bid for printing either 2,500 or 5,000 copies. Eeeek! Scary! I really couldn’t imagine selling that many, and the total dollar amount was staggering, waaaay more than I had in the bank. Finally we settled on 2,000 copies at about $5.75 per copy, plus shipping and transfer charges, just under $12,000 total.

It's a leap of faith to borrow and scrape together that much moola. Good thing for the successful, 300-copy test run... without that, One Bead at a Time (and probably my writing career) would have been dead in its tracks.

Even before the boxes arrived, I set up a website, which was the only way I could think of to reach beaders beyond my little circle of students and friends. That was a good plan. The circle expanded by word of mouth, and the book orders began to arrive. The distributor sold his first 50 copies surprisingly quickly as well, and ordered more, and then more. Perhaps it didn’t sell as well as books with projects, but it did sell.

With 4 separate printings (plus the test run of 300), I sold 9,300 copies, a number I deem fairly respectable for a beginner in self-publishing. When the last copy sold, I decided not to reprint again, rather to make it available on the internet as a free download.

The next book is an entirely different story. Read about working with a "real" publisher in Part 2 of this saga.


Well, I'm almost free. Tomorrow I send a 54,064-word, 597-image book to be published - my baby is launched! Seven months to birth it. We're talking seven months of LABOR. Fun though. And it's a dream come true! I'll be telling you more as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I'll finally have time to do some blog reading and posting!

I've been doing the final checking, burning DVDs, and packaging the beadwork all day long, with only a couple of short meal breaks. So for tonight, the only thing I have to offer you is the picture above, which is a detail from my October Bead Journal Project. November is finished and photographed too. Might have time to post them both tomorrow... this week for sure.

Maybe I'll tell you a little about what it's like to write a beading book. Anybody interested?