Thursday, February 28, 2008

Artist Profile: Tina Koyama

Transformer 2 Bracelet
Photographer: Greg Mullin

Artist: Tina Koyama
Location: Seattle

Website: Tina Koyama

Tina, your work is obviously very organic. How do you describe it?
My current focus is on self-supported sculptures using off-loom beadweaving stitches. My work is probably most closely related to contemporary basketry: 3-dimensional forms made from flexible materials. I like to keep an open mind about what constitutes a “bead” (technically, anything that has a hole going through it!). I have a series of sculptures made from pasta, which, as anyone who has strung a macaroni necklace knows, makes excellent beads!

What is your creative process like?
My creative process is completely improvisational and intuitive. I never plan or sketch anything – I simply choose some beads, thread a needle and plunge into it. That improvisational process is both the fuel and the outcome of my work. I am as compelled by the challenge of continually asking, “What happens if…?” as I am by the eventual answer, which always surprises me. Ultimately, it is that surprise that motivates me to continue exploring in a way that implementing a planned design never would.

I always listen to music while I’m beading, and my favorite is the improvisational jazz piano of Keith Jarrett. I can listen to one of his CDs a hundred times and always hear something new – some tiny nuance I missed previously. I’m completely inspired by his apparent fearlessness in appearing in concert before thousands of people to play music he has never played before. My artistic goal is to be the Keith Jarrett of beadwork!

As far as my work habits go, that’s where my background in writing comes in handy. I get up every weekday morning at 5 a.m. and bead for a couple of hours before going to work at my various day jobs (when I was a writer, I wrote every morning before work – different medium, same habit). On my days off, I bead for 4-5 hours in the morning. It’s not really about looking for or waiting for inspiration – it’s about showing up every day and being there when inspiration arrives. Sometimes it arrives, and sometimes it doesn’t, but either way, I get a lot of beading done (almost 1,000 hours a year).

Soft & Stone
Photographer: Greg Mullin

So what will be new in your schedule this year?
I will be teaching at BeadExpo in Portland, Oregon, March 27-30, 2008. For information, please visit the BeadExpo web site.

I also have new kits for class projects, including the Phoenix Pendant and the Peacock Bracelet. All of my class projects are shown on my web site on my class page.

And finally, one of my pieces was accepted in the Dairy Barn’s Bead International 2008, an exhibit that will tour various venues through 2010. For more information, visit the Bead International website.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Making a V-pendant necklace

1 mm satin cord, 2 pieces @ 120 inches, 1 piece @ 40 inches
3 soldered sterling silver rings
Sterling silver S-hook
V-Pendant (from New Terra Artifacts)
2 head pins
4 - 2mm silver round beads
2 silver daisy spacers
3-4 accent beads
GS Hypo tube cement

Large tapestry needle
Flat nose pliers
Chain nose pliers
Wire cutters

1. Tie the three pieces of cord together into a loose knot at one end, leaving a few inches for a tail.

2. Use the two long cords to tie half hitches around the shorter central cord.

3. When the one strap is long enough (mine is 9 inches), thread the cords down through one of the holes in the V-pendant.

4. String on one of the silver rings, and thread the cords up through the other hole in the pendant.

5. At the top, resume knotting up the other side.

6. Tie the cords around a ring on each side and use the tapestry needle to work the cords back down into the strap for a few stitches.

7. Glue the cords and clip off close when dry.

8. Create two wrapped loop beaded dangles around the ring on the bottom. Attach the S-hook, and that’s it!

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, February 21, 2008

Artist Profile: Heather Powers

Artist: Heather Powers
Business name: Humblebeads
Location: San Antonio, TX

Website & Blog:
Humblebeads blog
How do you describe your work, Heather? And how did you happen to pick the name “Humblebeads”?
My work is primarly handcrafted art beads inspired by the colors and textures of nature. I love earthy hues and organic designs. I do have a line of one-of-a-kind jewelry that I sell to a local gallery and at holiday shows. I’d say my beads and jewelry could adorn Mother Nature herself.

The name of my business is humblebeads because of the humble status of polymer clay as an artist’s medium.

Monet Beads

What is your creative process like?
My creative process goes in two directions. The first is sketching. My two favorite sources of inspiration are nature and art history. I love looking at paintings from my favorite artists and incorporating their color palette or designs into my beads. After I’ve sketched out some designs I head to my studio. I start by mixing up a custom palette of colors. Sometimes I’ll flip through clothes catalogs or look at color trend charts for new shades. I’ll create a series of canes, which are long skinny tubes of designs that I cut off in paper thin slices and apply to on my beads. The sketches are a jumping off point, but sometimes happy accidents occur at the bead table. I will generally make beads for hours at a time. Each day I like to make beads for at least 4 hours, sometimes it’s more like 8 when the orders are pouring in. When I’m creating jewelry, I sometimes go by a sketch. More often, I’ll just sit down with my beads and see what happens.

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I studied fine art in college and took small business courses. I knew when I graduated that I wanted to work for myself. The one class I’m most thankful for would be the color class I took my first year in art school. My beads are all about color. I’m a self-taught bead artist, learning mostly from books and magazines for the basic techniques. I spend a lot of time in my studio experimenting, coming up with my own designs and techniques. When I started to transition from focusing on selling jewelry with my handcrafted beads to selling just the beads I experimented with online auctions to see what customers liked. After a while, I started selling beads in my most popular styles and colors on my website. Sending work into magazines was really the start of my professional career as a bead artist. Also joining a group of professional bead artists and networking with them has been a tremendous help to me. They have been a great source of inspiration and information as my business has grown.

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Definitely my pasta machine. I couldn’t make beads without it!

What inspires you to create?
Creating beautiful objects to share with others is my inspiration to create on a daily basis.

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
A call to my mom, bead artist Beverly Herman, usually does the trick when I’m feeling overwhelmed! Connecting with others and knowing I’m not alone on my creative journey is a great deal of inspiration to me.

What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
I would say discover your own visual language. Find what images and symbols inspire you and let that be the starting point of your own creative process. Never copy, learn from others and translate basic techniques into something new. Also experiment, try new techniques or other mediums, you’ll grow as an artist. Always be willing to take risks and follow your own path.

Klimt Beads

What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
Well, I’m a work-at-home mom with two girls so that takes up a big part of each day! Professionally, when I’m not busy making beads, I’m working on our next bead cruise or pursuing my dream of illustrating for children’s books.

So what’s new for this year?
In March, the Art Bead Scene will be celebrating their one year anniversary! Join us for a month of beady surprises and a challenge with over $500 worth of art bead prizes.
On March 1st, the 3rd annual Bead Cruise will set sail. Joining us this year are instructors Rachel Nelson Smith, Marcia DeCoster, Eni Oken, Beverly Herman and Heather Powers. The Bead Cruise offers innovative classes by nationally know instructors along with the luxury of a Caribbean cruise!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Artist Profile: Margaux Lange


Artist: Margaux Lange
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Website & Blog:
Margaux Lange
Midge’s Mind
Margaux, would you describe your work for us?
My Plastic Body Series is art jewelry made with sterling silver, Barbie dolls and epoxy resin. It is an examination and celebration of my own, as well as our culture’s, relationship with Barbie.

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I was first introduced to jewelry making in my high school (Lake George, NY) which was and still is, very fortunate to offer jewelry courses to its students. I’ve been a studio jeweler for the past six years since graduating college (The Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD May 2001) I was a General Fine Arts major and took a variety of courses in various mediums until I decided to concentrate on jewelry. For me jewelry was a way of getting art off the wall and on to the body so it could be shared, experienced and quite literally felt.

After college I took an epoxy resin workshop with art jeweler Susan Kasson Sloan at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts that forever changed the techniques I utilize in my metalwork and has enabled all sorts of exploration with color.

While it is my fine art background that has given me the foundation necessary for conceptual exploration in my jewelry work, it is personal experience (i.e.: my childhood spent obsessed with Barbie and her miniature world) that I credit for the success of this series. Barbie was immensely important in fueling my creative life as a child, not to mention developing my nimble hands and dexterity, skills imperative to the art of jewelry making. I love that what I adored as a child has become the focus of my career as an adult.

How did you first get the idea to make jewelry out of Barbie dolls?
Barbie made her debut in my artwork in high school. I once did a project where I took a bunch of Barbie dolls and delicately painted on their plastic bodies, transforming each of them to look like something else. One was made into a carrot, another a zebra, etc. I even painted one with a suit and tie, a beard and a moustache to look like a man. Later in college I did a series of drawings: self-portraits of myself holding Barbie dolls, balancing her on my head, sitting her on my shoulder, in a sense wearing her. I was interested in combining alternative materials and/or found objects into my metalwork so it was really only a matter of time before she became a part of my jewelry.

Jewelry seemed the best form for my art in exploring the subjects I was interested in. It made sense to address issues involving women and the body through jewelry, (a form of adornment predominantly associated with females) using Barbie, the ultimate female icon. The queen of accessorizing became the accessory!

What is your creative process like? How do you go about designing a piece?
Sometimes there’s a storyline to my pieces and I’ll have a particular idea I wish to explore (depending on the doll parts being used) and that will serve as the concept that shapes the piece. Other times it’s purely about design and arranging shapes and patterns within multiple elements. And sometimes it’s both, where I start out with a pattern or design in mind and by the end a concept has evolved. My design process varies a lot from piece to piece.

I usually tend to work in smaller time segments throughout the week but aim for at least 15-20 studio hours total per week. The business end of my jewelry ends up requiring a lot more time away from my studio than I ever imagined it would: spending time on the computer with emails, my website, blog, etc.

I also currently have part-time outside employment as well to help make ends meet. Unfortunately at this point in my career it’s a necessity but I’m confident that it won’t always be. That’s what I’m working towards: successfully making a living off my art!

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Barbie and Ken!

What inspires you to create?
Humans are especially what inspire me to create. Bodies. Faces. Popular culture. Barbie. And other artists and art jewelers who make fabulous work. I’m drawn to art that employs multiples of something, patterns, work that plays with our sense of scale and art made out of found, unexpected or unusual materials.

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
The people who appreciate and support my work are what keep me going through the tough times. It’s important to have a support system. I’m very fortunate to have a few amazingly supportive artist friends. Also, when I get emails from people saying how much they love my jewelry or share stories of their Barbie experiences, I feel such a sense of accomplishment and it reminds me of what I love about art: it’s ability to connect on a personal level.

One of the biggest joys for me has been the way others receive my jewelry. It continues to amaze me the range of responses I get regarding what I do with Barbie. Some people respond to its humor and wit and think it’s pure fun, or it feeds a sense of nostalgia for them. Others weigh in on the feminist edge and relate to its statement. Some are creeped out and think it’s dark and disturbing to see “body parts” cut up. Others think it’s just simply bizarre. I love that everyone brings his or her own baggage and reaction to the work, indicative of their own relationship with, or feelings about, the iconic plastic princess as well as what defines “wearable jewelry.” One of my biggest goals has been to create art that people can relate to. I believe I’ve been successful with this.

What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Pay attention to your “voice.” Everyone has one that is uniquely their own and it’s hard to uncover at times. (Especially with the influence of teachers, mentors, fellow artists, friends, or family who sometimes offer resistance or persuade you away from your own true voice or vision.) Strive to unearth not only your personal strengths and talents but also that which gives you a deep sense of satisfaction and you will find yourself excelling naturally.

Also, and this is hugely important, surround yourself with positive people: those who support and encourage you to do what you love. It can be painful and difficult to weed out those who bring you down, but sometimes it’s crucial to your personal and professional growth.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Czech glass bead suppliers

Best Beads
Direct from the Czech Republic

Exclusive Imports
All shapes of Czech beads ~ pressed, lampworked, firepolished, and rhinestone

Czech Beads
Lots of handmade beads as well as molded and machine cut

Wild Things
Many hard-to-find specialty shapes

Arranged by color and sold in lots for good prices. Helpful articles too!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Artist Profile: Mary Tafoya


Artist: Mary Tafoya
Location: Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Websites & Blogs:
Mary Tafoya’s Seriousbeadin’ (Etsy shop)
Mary Tafoya’s Seriousbeadin’ (blog)
Mary’s Flickr Photos

Mary, how do you describe your beadwork?
I think of my work as graphic. I worked as a graphic designer and taught graphic arts for several years, and I think that has greatly influenced my compositions, which I try to keep clear and readable. I think a lot about rhythm and unity in my work, as well as various forms of balance, which have all come to me through my graphic arts training.

Recently, Beadwork Magazine’s Marlene Blessing used the work “iconic” in relation to my work, and I like that too. I often rely on myth, dreams and folklore for subject matter, as well as personal stories. I am also a fan of Jungian psychology (think “Women Who Run with the Wolves”), and the idea that archetypes are more or less universal and make for powerful subject matter that lots of people can connect with. Icons are also spiritual symbols, and although I’m not patently religious, I do strive to convey that deeper stuff in my work. Heck, if I’m going to spend 100+ hours on a piece, I want it to be more than just a rant or an abstract concept.

Other than that, my beadwork is obviously textural and detailed. I’m doing other work now too, such as polymer clay and painting, partly because I wanted to learn to get contrasting surface textures in my work. Beadwork is slow – so I tend to work more deeply in it. Polymer clay is so tactile, it’s very satisfying in a physical sense. Painting – that’s like sticking my finger into an electrical outlet! It is so immediate compared to beadwork, I find I can access my current state of being very quickly, whereas in the beadwork I tend to work with ideas that are more integrated, digested.

What is your creative process like?
Well the main ingredient is to just sit down and start working. I am so busy these days with a full-time job and graduate school that it’s not practical to take on those larger wall pieces right now. But there are many ways to be creative, to make things. I remember in a documentary about Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party project, one of the women said the most important thing she learned was to keep her butt in the chair. That is my motto now! The housework can wait (it always has). I need to make something or I start feeling funny. I have been making stuff with my hands nearly every day for probably thirty years now. A fair amount of it is crap, but every once in awhile I hit a home run. You kind of have to be there every day on the off chance it’ll be a blue moon masterpiece. I learned that in the book Art and Fear.

So these days, I allow myself to make earrings if that’s all I have time to make. I’m not entering shows like I used to, not until I’m out of school. If I’m tired or if I’m helping my kid with homework, I’ll cut up metal tins, gesso a few wooden boxes, or wrap a bunch of pearls into jewelry charms. My favorite creative times are weekends. I jump up as early as I can and head toward my work table. I do try to make a list, even if it’s just a mental list, of what I want to finish each week. It’s just as important to finish as it is to start! I learned that from polymer clay artist Victoria Hughes. She sometimes has weekend workshops where you bring your unfinished projects and finish them up.

Depending on the piece, I might do a whole lot of thinking before I start to work. A complex beadwork project has to be engineered. For example, in Shepherdess Angel, I quilted the silk, then stuffed it more in certain places (via the trapunto technique). To incorporate the shepherd’s crook, I had to first make it, and then stitch it down, and then I beaded a little swatch of right angle weave to cover it. I stitched that down, then positioned the crook at the proper angle, and then I injected watchtip cement underneath the right angle weave to anchor the crook in place. After beading the entire surface and before backing it, I had to attach the metal figure eights that would connect the beaded straps to the angel. I also made the bead embroidered connectors for the clasp. And since I wanted her head to hang higher than her feet, I couldn’t make symmetrical straps. I think I made each of the six strands at least three times before they came out right. And I used a heavy counterbalance. All of this required a lot of pre-planning! My Medusa mirror practically hurt my head by the time I’d figured out how to make it. But good ideas are worth the trouble, I think. Believe me, it’s disappointing when a good idea doesn’t turn out that well. I’ve got a few of those lying around, too.

So it’s nice to balance out all that cognitive stuff with some painting, assemblage, and, especially, my first love, earrings. I laugh when people comment that my mixed media work must have taken a long time. Nothing takes as long as beadwork!

I get ideas in the morning, when I first wake up, when looking at other people’s work, and sometimes, I just get a feeling of unrest inside, and then eventually explore it to find something I care about that needs expressing. Dreams are a great source for original ideas. Most of all, I make a commitment to bead what I love, and to follow my inspiration. It’s very easy, especially when you’ve been published or awarded or whatever, to think you have to hit one out of the park every time you’re up to bat. It’s also very easy to be influenced by what’s going on around us. This happens to me in subtle and insidious ways. For instance, I see that someone is oxidizing their findings and I think I’m supposed to be doing that, too. Or I see that Charla Khanna is selling her work for thousands of dollars and I feel like a doofus with my $16 earrings. It’s extremely difficult to turn away from non-authentic influences (by authentic I mean the ones that come from inside us). But you do have to turn off the computer and put your books and magazines away, and have your most important conversations with your materials.

I used to find it impossible to work in classes. I was too self-conscious and then, AC (After Children), I was too chatty. I was used to working alone. I still am, but now, when I go to a class or a workshop gathering, I work my butt off. I work until I’m ready to drop. I go to an annual private craft retreat in Northern New Mexico, and if possible I only leave to sleep at night and go to the bathroom! It’s very intense, but it’s the only time I have to work uninterrupted, except occasionally on the weekends.

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I earned my B.A. in Studio Art, but art school wasn’t a good environment for me. I found it to be rather soulless, and because I come from Kentucky, and have my roots in traditional craft, it was hard being in a place where that wasn’t acknowledged or cultivated. I do love being in New Mexico, though. I remember ditching art history class to go to a Joan Miro exhibit in Santa Fe, and the professor let me enter my response to the show in my journal rather than on the class topic. I studied Medieval woodcuts when I was supposed to be looking at 20th century printmaking. I played with African sculptures at a flea market that would cost a small fortune today. It wasn’t until I started taking Art Education classes as electives that I started to see what my path could be like after school. I learned to make prints from cut up tire treads, and to make natural dyes and spin yarn. A few years later I started teaching graphic arts at a community college for Native American students. That’s when I got interested in beadwork.

I took a lot of classes from Margo Field, and I can see her techniques in just about everything I make. I also enjoyed my classes with Keith LoBue and Susan Lenart Kazmer – I learned a lot of techniques from them, but also ways of approaching art making that have proven very useful, especially now that my art time is limited. I spend time when I can at OFFCenter Community Arts Studio near my home, which is a free, open studio. It’s where I go to restore the joy and freedom of just being, it’s a nice refuge when I’ve put myself under too much pressure to teach or write. I tend to get a lot of good work done there. I also took an amazing class with Holly Roberts, a local photographer and painter who is probably the best art teacher I’ve ever had. I complain a lot about being in school, but the truth is, it’s just another place to tap into creativity. I feel very acknowledged, alive and deeply mentored by two professors in particular – my Educational Leadership advisor and my distance learning instructor. Currently, one of my class projects is writing about being an artist. Imagine that – getting graduate credit for writing about what I love.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book Review: The Complete Book of Glass Beadmaking

I still love Cindy Jenkins’s book called Making Glass Beads, because it was the first lampworking book that I bought. But I have to say that if you are just beginning the artform now, I’d have to recommend Kimberley Adams's book. There have been some changes in availability of different tools, torches, kilns, and glass since Cindy’s wonderful book was published, and Kimberley writes of her gratitude to her early teachers.

I found this book to be a wonderful refresher on the basics, plus it had intermediate and advanced sections with techniques that I’ve not tried before. If you think that making your own glass beads is beyond your reach, think again! This drool-worthy full color book will have you running for the phone to order supplies.

Although I think it’s certainly possible to teach yourself to do lampwork from a book that has great information and pictures like this one, I still am glad that I did a weekend course from a qualified instructor first. For one thing, a good torch set-up and a kiln are not inexpensive, so it’s nice to try it out before you make the commitment to buy the equipment.

Warning ~ glass is addictive in and of itself, and melting it is even moreso. There. You’ve been warned!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How to make Fun in the Sun

The piece is now for sale at this link!

I made this necklace for the Stringing Magazine quarterly challenge. The deadline for this challenge was Feb 4, so if you missed it, be on the lookout for the next one!

I used C-Lon cord so that this would be a very light weight and breezy necklace. Here’s how I made it:

3 pieces of C-Lon cord, 80” each
2 pieces of 20 gauge brass wire, 2 1/2″ each
2 brass cones
2 brass jump rings and a hook
Fray check
GS Hypo cement
10-20 each of several different kinds of beads in colors of your choice, including some metal
Charms and jump rings
8/0 seed beads

Measuring tape

1 Turn loops on the ends of your two pieces of wire. Turn them a bit past a full loop so that they will be secure.

2 Fold each of the long stands of C-Lon in half and string each through one of the loops. Knot each doubled strand and slide the knot up tight against the loop with your tweezers. Dot each knot with cement.

3 Add the beads randomly to each strand, aiming for a pleasing mix of colors and sizes. Stagger the placement, and leave about an inch to an inch and a half between each bead, knotting before and after each to hold them in place. For large holed beads, use 8/0 seed beads of each side to keep them from slipping through. Spread the metal throughout the piece as accents.

3 At the end, thread the cords by pairs through the loop on the other piece of wire. Tie a knot around the necklace strands and pull snugly. Glue your knots with the cement, and trim them when the cement has thoroughly dried.

4 Slide the cones down over the wires, hiding the knots. Add a bead to the wire end and make a wrapped loop. Add a large jump ring to each loop and attach a hook to one.

This post contains affiliate links

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, February 05, 2008

How to make Crackling Copper

Crackling Copper uses a central strand on beading wire, with a chain and clasp set at each end. It’s a pretty simple necklace to put together, it just needs a certain amount of preparation before the stringing actually starts.

1. Stamp some copper discs with a crackle pattern, using permanent black ink. I used the Staz-On brand with good results. Spray the discs with a matte varnish if you’d like.

2. Slide some 6mm turquoise glass beads onto head pins, and turn simple loops for each.

3. String your beading wire with 4mm and 6mm turquoise glass beads, alternating with copper beads. I used copper open hex beads with 6mm turquoise beads inside them, and alternated with copper rondelles. Put the smaller 4mm beads inside the hexes that will have copper discs hanging from them so that there will be room for a jump ring.

4. Crimp the ends to a lobster claw clasp and a chain. Add a couple of beads on head pins to the end of the chain.

5. Attach a jump ring around a hex bead with a 4mm bead inside, and add a copper disc and a beaded head pin.

6. To each of those jump rings, attach another jump ring with another beaded head pin.

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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