Thursday, January 31, 2008

Artist Profile: Susan Shaw

Handmade Beaded Necklace

Artist: Susan Shaw
Business name: yellowplum beads
Location: Belfast, Maine and Parrsboro, Nova Scotia

yellowplum beads
yellowplum etsy shop

Susan, how do you describe your work?
At the moment I’m focused on beadwork. I work primarily in peyote stitch which I love for its versatility. While I use very traditional techniques my work is very contemporary in style, with clean lines and fresh color combinations. Color is definitely the most important aspect of my work, at least as far as I’m concerned.

It’s kind of funny that I’m a jewelry artisan, because I rarely actually wear any myself. I do really love jewelry though, and one of the main reasons is that it can be made out of anything. There’s a basic set of guidelines to consider–a piece has to be durable and wearable–but beyond that you can really get creative as far as materials are concerned, and that’s exciting.

Lately I’ve been playing with paper clay a lot as well. I make molds of various objects, like buttons, for example, and then use them to produce components. I’m just starting out with this and clay is pretty new to me, so I don’t have anything to show you yet, but keep an eye out–it’s coming!

What is your creative process like?
Sometimes designs just appear in my head but mostly I come to them by playing around. I have a series of compartment boxes with every kind of seed bead I own organized by color in an order that only seems to make sense to me. When I first sit down to work on a piece, I select the colors I want to use, and I rarely deviate from them once they’re chosen. I also have a slightly arcane set of rules about where colors should be in relation to one another—especially where repetition of a color is concerned. It’s more of a neurosis than a design principle – but it seems to work for me!

I always design to music, but I have to admit that sometimes I listen to talk radio or watch television when I’m doing production work. I love beadwork but it can get tedious. For that reason I rarely work for more than two hours at a time, unless I’m dealing with a deadline.

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
Well, my academic background is in linguistics and most of my work history has consisted of secretarial positions. I started doing beadwork when I was about fifteen, and as a teenager I did sell my work on the street in New York, where I grew up. It was a lot of fun but it wasn’t until I was about 26 that I actually decided to try and make a real living as a designer/artisan.

I started out in Athens, Georgia (yes – I move around a lot) and it was a great place to be for me in the sense that there were many established artisans who were very supportive of me. I got lots of mentoring and advice from many people, including Melin Foscue, a local fabric/clothing designer, and Charles Pinckney, a local jeweler.

I did juried arts and crafts shows around the eastern U.S. for four years, but now that I’m in Canada so much of the time shows aren’t really practical for me, so I wholesale and I sell retail online as well.

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
I’m not really into tools, but as far as materials go I would have to say seed beads, especially Matsuno. I know they’re not as easy to work with as Miyuki seed beads or delicas, but I think the colors are unparalleled.

What inspires you to create?
Nature—I split my time between mid-coast Maine and rural Nova Scotia, and both are incredibly beautiful. I’m also inspired by other people’s creativity—other artisans and visual artists, but also by great music, books, and films. It also doesn’t hurt that beadwork is by its nature very meditative and centering.

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
That’s a great question. I wish I had some profound, moving answer, but really it’s just the fact that I love this lifestyle. I love that I make my living making things with my hands. And I hate alarm clocks.

What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
I too would like to rise in my level of artistry! I think one of the best things I’ve done is to take classes in other media. Anything different, if only to see what it feels like. The biggest corner I’ve turned so far came after I took a course in jewelry/small object metal fabrication. I was deprived of color and it forced me to think more about form.

What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
Running the business side of things. Right now I’m spending most of my time on promotion. When I have spare time, I watch a lot of movies, and read a lot. I like to get out into nature when I can, and I love to take pictures.

What’s your favorite comfort food?
I just moved to Belfast, Maine, and there’s a restaurant here called Darby’s. They make the best mac ‘n’ cheese ever. They use cheddar and gruyere, and it has this awesome crumbly top…

Susan Shaw

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to make a beaded assemblage

When you’re going to embroider a piece of fabric and then glue it onto a structure, use either ultra-suede or buckram as the foundation, depending upon how heavy the beads and bits are going to be. Here’s how I made this little piece:

1. Create a cabochon by pouring resin over an image inside a bottle cap.

2. Trace around a wood disc onto a piece of ultra-suede.

3. When the cabochon is set, glue it to ultra-suede and bead around it until you’ve reached the borderline. Clip the foundation close to the stitching and add an edging row or two.

4. Drill a hole the same size as your dowel into a print block. Make it about 3/4 inch deep. Drill a groove into the back of the disc on the flat side to cradle the dowel.

5. Use wood glue to glue all pieces together. Glue the beadwork onto the front (dome) side of the disc.


Copyright 2008 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Artist Profile: Deborah Kwitney

Artist: Deborah Kwitney
Business name: Art Is Me
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Website: Art is Me

How do you describe your work, Deborah?
For starters, my work is my life. A world without the ability to create art in its many forms is something I could never fathom. I’ve been creating as long as I can remember, actually beginning at a very young age and making mud pies! Presently I design and create jewelry in silver and gold using a cornucopia of materials. I also draw, paint, and sculpt in clay. I chose the name Art Is Me because I believe each human being, is in fact, a work of art!

What is your creative process like?
When I’m creating something, whether it be a piece of jewelry or something on canvas, I usually have an idea before I begin the process. However, many times, an idea comes simply from doodling! And I have hundreds, perhaps thousands of doodle drawings which I’ve kept through the years. If I’m creating a collage, wow, the possibilities are endless which drives me a little crazy because basically, anything can be used in a collage or assemblage. I love creating 3-D images on canvas in which I incorporate figures I sculpt from clay. Once I’ve decided on a theme, I’ll begin laying all the materials out on the table and playing around with them on the canvas until I get something I like.

When designing jewelry, again because the amount of materials available are seemingly endless, sometimes it’s difficult to choose and concentrate on only a few gemstones for a particular design! When I’m working, time just doesn’t exist for me. I’ll wake up in early a.m. begin creating and before I know it, it’s eight or nine in the evening! I really get “lost” in the process of creating…I absolutely love it. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t had that experience yourself. It’s as though I become one with my creation, that’s all that my mind knows as long as I’m working on something. And especially when I’m working on a collage which takes time, I can spend up to a week on one piece.

The amount of time I spend on designing and creating jewelry varies greatly depending on the complexity of the design. It takes time to create a beautiful piece of wearable art because the materials used must support the design itself, all the components of the piece must be in harmony with one another, and of course, the functionality, how it is worn and how comfortable it is when on the body is crucial in deciding whether a piece will “work” or not. So, when creating a new piece of jewelry, it takes time to make the piece materialize. A design might look awesome on paper or in the mind but it may not be a practical piece…trial and error are par for the course! As far as my surroundings or ambience when I’m creating, , I listen to the radio, CD’s, burn scented candles, and of course, I couldn’t do anything without having my very strong cafe!

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I have had training in jewelry making using silversmith techniques, sawing, filing, soldering, and forging metals into incredible art to wear. I also had several art classes in college but aside from that, I’m self-taught. Because creating is my passion, I am always seeking ways in which to improve my skills as an artist.

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
There are several materials I would have to mention…fine tip black markers, gorgeous textured papers, paint, clay, and of course my favorite metal of choice, sterling silver!

What inspires you to create?
Many things inspire me to create such as beauty, life, love, people, animals, our universe, emotions, feeling, and on and on it goes…

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
As much as I don’t care to admit, stubbornness and ego have something to do with how I probably mimic the Energize Bunny when I find things not going the way I like or expect. I refuse to “give up” when I have an idea for a piece of art, whether it be on canvas or jewelry, I will make it happen. Of course, I will put the piece away for a while, ponder other possibilities, try to gain a fresh outlook, and then try again to make “it” happen!

What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Because I believe that creativity is innate in each person, art can be made by anyone. That’s why there exists so many forms of art. Some people excel in the performing arts, others in the graphic world of beauty, while others give us delicious pastries! And even if a person doesn’t display any artistic ability, remember that someone can be creative in the way they raise their children, how they conduct themselves in their profession, and even the way they clean their house! Artistic ability comes in all shapes and forms, sometimes, we just need to look a little closer and we’ll always find it!

What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
When I’m not immersed in creating something, I spend my time with my beautiful children, my incredible son, sweet daughter-in-law, and one of the most precious gifts I could ever have imagined receiving, my awe-inspiring three year old granddaughter! And I have two little Yorkies, Teddy and Pebbles. I really think women have this need to nurture and my canine children allow me to spoil them and have no problem being a mama’s boy and girl! :-)

What’s your favorite comfort food?
My favorite comfort food would be something salty, followed by something sweet! :-) And when I have time to spare, I love picking up a book on spirituality, the workings of our universe, and art books. Also I have a degree in writing so I’ll write a poem every now and then. Basically, I’m just one person always trying to understand our world!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Vintage bead suppliers

My favorites:
Estate Beads
Unique stylish beads, in glass, Lucite, and even Bakelite!

Talisman Associates
Vintage German glass beads, arranged by color.
A huge selection of vintage glass, arranged by color and size.

The Beadin’ Path
Lots of vintage glass and Lucite.

Costume Jewelry Supplies
Unique beads and pieces that you won’t find elsewhere.

Splendor in the Glass
Some of the most beautiful and unusual beads available anywhere.

Vintage Beads from Europe
Fabulous selection of vintage plastic beads

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Artist Profile: Rebecca Brown


Artist: Rebecca Brown
Website: RBrown Designs

How do I describe my work….
Nature orientated, detailed, realistic and fun. I don’t like “serious” art, people should enjoy it not be depressed by it. With beads it is pretty hard to do something depressing anyway but I have seen it done. I picked my business name so that it could be used with both my painting and my beading work. Not terribly imaginative but when you are creating two diverse forms of art it is hard to find the right word and logo that will fit both.


My creative process….
Well I don’t know that I have one. Since I basically work for myself I find the best way to go about making my next piece is to give myself an assignment and then find out ways to complete it. This gives me focus and keeps me from being overwhelmed with all the possible things I could paint or bead by just walking out the door and into the garden. It is the same thing I do with my botanicals. I generally focus on either plants that are endangered, have medicinal uses or I just like the plant family. That way I am not overwhelmed by all the possible plants that I could draw which in the end causes paralysis, the symptoms of which are you end up doing nothing.

Keeping My Eye on You

So I start with an idea and then try to recreate it. In the case of the eye cup I actually had made the felted form by accident and it was so cute I didn’t want to waste it so I thought I would see what I could bead on it and go from there. That piece is one of the rare ones I did where it was not planed. I have only done that twice and for me it is a very uncomfortable process but at the same time a liberating way to work (when it turns out okay).

Normally for all my bead embroidery pieces they are all drawn out in detailed drawings on the piece so that I have guidelines. (All that is explained in my book by the way, so there are no secrets on how I do it.) Then the whole range of colors are picked out but they will usually shift as I go along. For the three dimensional pieces I make paper or clay models of what I want to do so that I can visualise how it is all going to fit together. My greatest weakness is the mechanics of getting a heavy piece of beadwork to hang properly. Sometimes it has worked and other times not. Which is why I am shifting to more sculptural forms. Well one of the reasons, the other more compelling one is since I don’t wear jewellery myself (and never any of my pieces), I was wondering why am I making this stuff… hence the shift away from that.

Blue Choker

Beading I normally do in front of the TV at night. Now that it is summer in New Zealand I spend my days painting while the light is good and my nights beading. Beading I think is actually a rather boring process and tedious once you have all the designs and stitches worked out so I watch, or rather listen, to a lot of movies while doing it. Moving out of the studio into the family area also allows me to be in the same room with the family so that I don’t alienate them completely. Depending on how tired I am I will work 4 to 5 hours at night on the beading but than another 5 hours during the day on painting… or all day on the beading when I am not painting. We have a huge video library so I have lots to listen to. It has to be mindless listening though; anything that would require me to actually think about what is being said would be too much as I still have to concentrate on my work. As dull as it is, it still surprisingly needs a fair amount of concentration. I can paint in silence but not bead.

What kind of training…
I have an art background and dual degree in Horticulture and art. I supplemented that with scientific illustrating workshops and other related courses. I picked up other painting workshops as I went along. When I wanted to learn beading I sought out the people who could teach me. When I was looking for a particular style of beading I kept taking workshops until l found the one technique that I liked the best and then once I got good at that I looked for ways to expand that technique. It doesn’t matter how good you are you can always learn something. I have taken workshops from David Chatt and Virginia Blakelock and even though I am at their level (and some of my own techniques have gone beyond them) you can always learn something no matter how good you think you are. If for no other reason it is reassuring that you are on the right track. In this day and age art is a solitary pursuit so it is nice to interact with other people that you feel are your peers and it is a definite energy boost being around other creative people at the same time beginners or advanced.

Work in Progress: Fungus Bowl
More vines, leaves, and whatnot to come!

I never considered myself a hobbyist. My wish was to do scientific illustrating which is what I did but never was able to work for anybody so I had to develop the discipline of working for myself. Beading was just another outlet that came at a time when I didn’t think the illustrating was going to go anywhere but I always considered it as a serious art form and treated it as such.

Tools I can’t live without….
My eyes and hands. If I lose my eyesight I will be the most depressed person in the world.
Oh also my golf clubs….


What inspires me to create…
Everything in nature. Art is all I know how to do and recreating the bits of nature that most people don’t see or care about is what keeps me going.

How do I keep going…
Well I want to see what it looks like when it is done. It is easier for me to keep going with the bead work than the painting. I have been known to restart a painting 2 or 3 times before I go on to complete it. With the beading sometimes I will rip out whole sections after I have worked hours on it because I know “it isn’t right and isn’t ever going to right so stop working and do over”. When I do that I have to put it away for a few days so I can forget about the time I just wasted and then pull it out and finish it.

I think it is just my personality not to leave things undone. Genetics, good parental models.

What is the best piece of advice…
l like what Sir Edmund Hilary , who just passed away, said, “It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.” He is right, and I would have to add to that you need to be willing to go backwards before you can go forwards. You have to say right I want to learn how to do something new, while at the same time you have to realize that when you embark on changing your style or technique or are trying to learn anything other than what you are currently doing than you are going to struggle and you are going to go backwards before you can master it. It is those that can stick with it even though it is difficult who will move forward.

This a particular pet peeve of mine in this day and age of the instant everything, people want it right away, they want to be perfect right away, yet they are not willing to go through the steps it takes to achieve that. Nobody wants to feel like they are failures after working so hard to get to where they are but the truth is there is a learning curve one has to go through with anything you do and in order to move forward to your objective you have to be willing to go through those learning steps as they are presented to you. Some things you will pick up easier than others but overall you have to crawl before you walk and that is true of anything you do whether it be sport, school, anything , to beading.

Hu-Hu Beetle Felted Purse
The very first felted piece of wool I ever did

The craft stores and the bead magazines have been dumbing down the crafts for some time now and I personally think that is the wrong way to go but than I am looking at the industry from a professional standpoint rather than a hobbyist. However, regardless of who you are you should always want to do take your work to the highest level and that requires patience and a belief in your abilities and seeking out those people that can help you get there. And then ultimately in the end you simply have to have the drive to just do it .

Sorry for the speech…I just hate to see the direction art is going and would like to see the value on craftsmanship raised and appreciated. For some reason art is being poorly taught in the schools. My argument is if you want to learn to swim you aren’t just thrown into the pool to swim, you start from the beginning and work up to the strokes. If you want to get better at your art than go back to the beginning. Learn how to draw, learn how use colors, learn design…all these things you need for every aspect of art you do whether it be beading or painting or sculpting, to computer graphics…Unless you are an art prodigy which very few of us are (even though the art galleries keep saying so) , you simply will struggle with your work until you learn the most basic art concepts.

Oops, my speech went on a little longer. I don’t mean to put people off. I have taught people with no previous drawing experience who end up doing very good work when they follow the basics. I had one person who was capable of doing great work but didn’t because she was bypassing some of the more basic lessons. She could not see the value of black and white drawings and jumped into painting before she was ready; however, she has realized that if she wants to move forward she is now going to have to backtrack and learn what she didn’t think was important. It will set her back some but in the end make her a better painter. We all do it, I did it with sketchbooks. I didn’t think they were important to do and struggled with my art, but now I keep a sketchbook of all my trips and forays into the field and I have become a much better painter and seeing more tones. The important thing is to realize your weaknesses and then don’t be afraid to go back and relearn what you thought you didn’t need. You can’t be in a hurry.

You can also turn those lessons into works of art while you are learning. Ie, if you need to learn shading or how to get depth in your bead pieces than work only with white, grey and black beads and see what you can do with limited colors.. There are endless little pieces you can make while learning at the same time.

What else takes up my time…
Sports. I am a golf addict I admit it. If I could play everyday I would be out there doing so. I could have gone the sport route in school had it been as profitable then as it is now for women, and my confidence was as good as it is now…but alas it was not to be… I used to play soccer and rode horses and jogged and you name it I did it. All of that, however, has taken it’s toll on my back so now I spent most my mornings either swimming or golfing. I also did the martial arts for years and do Tai Chi now so I guess as long as I can stand I will continue to be active.

Dicksonnia Squarrosa

One of the reasons I love doing the botanical paintings is that it is an excuse for me to go tramping in the mountains to find the plants since I usually draw them all in the field. Anyway my excuse for the golf is that I work all day at close vision so the golf is a way for me to use the long vision It creates a nice balance. Plus so many beaders sit hunched over for so many hours that their posture starts to show it and I don’t think that is healthy, so doing all my sports actually keeps me strong so that I can sit for long hours at a time and it doesn’t bother me.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Making Pink Bubble earrings

I used 22 gauge Artistic Wire to wire these up. Cut a piece that’s longer than you think you’ll need to wrap your first bead. I started with a 10 inch piece, and found that I only needed a bit over 8 inches. It’s better to have a bit too much than to end up short! The size of your bead will determine the length you need, so I really can’t tell you about this one. You’ll also need 2 sets of lightweight recycled beads from old necklaces (mine are recycled Lucite), two small round gold beads (mine are recycled plastic beads), and ear wires, whatever style you like. The tools you’ll need are the standards: wire cutters, flat nose pliers, and round nose pliers.

1. Create a wrapped loop with only one or two twists around the loop of your earwire. Thread the wire down through the larger of your two beads.

2. Create a small wrapped loop at the bottom of the large bead. Instead of cutting off the wire, wrap it upwards around the bead in several large loops.

3. At the top, wrap the end firmly around the wrapped loop that you already made and clip off the wire end.

4. With another shorter piece of wire, create a very small simple loop at the end. Thread on a small gold bead and the smaller of your two lucite beads. Create a wrapped loop around the wrapped loop of the larger bead.

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Copyright 2008 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Making leaf earrings

Ok, enough of a break already! It’s time to get those pliers and wire cutters back out and to MAKE SOMETHING!! We can start out easy if you want, sort of ease ourselves back into the groove. The important thing is simply to make something…anything.

How about a really simple pair of earrings? All you need are two matching focal beads and a few smaller accent beads, a couple of crimps, two headpins, and some ear wires. How easy is that? I really like the large kidney wires like these, because you can add a few extra beads for some panache, but feel free to skip that part if you don’t have that style of wires handy.

1. Slip a pretty focal bead and a smaller round metal bead onto a headpin. Create a wrapped loop. See? You’re already half done!

2. Slip a crimp bead, a few accent beads, and another crimp bead onto the kidney wire. You might have to straighten out the bend in the end of the wire to do this. Just rebend it gently when you’re finished.

3. Flatten the crimps to hold the other beads in place. Slip the wrapped loop into the ear wire loop and tighten it slightly with your pliers. That’s it. You’re done.

4. Really. You’re done. There’s nothing else to do. You can wear them now :-)

Copyright 2008 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Online color training and tools

Color is important to every artist, but as a bead or jewelry artist, you probably haven’t been classically trained like a painter would be. Not to fear! There are a plethora of wonderful online sources to help you learn the terminology on your own and to teach you how to train your eye. Here are some of the best:

Informational Articles on Color:
The Color Wheel and Itten’s Color Theory
Brown University’s Color Theory Course
Margie Deeb’s Color Articles
Online Graphic Design
Best Books on Color

Color Scheme Tools:
Tool is designed primarily for web designers but useful for anyone. 
A fun to use tool with sliders.
Daily Color Scheme
For a bit of serendipity!
An entire community just for color lovers.
Color Picker from Adobe
Pick your own or examine what others have done.
Color Schemer Online
Picks a group of colors that compliment your original color choice.
Creates a color palette from any image that you feed into it.
Eni Oken’s color scheme software
You can download her software free!
Big Huge Labs
Run your image through the palette generator to get html swatches

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