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Artist profile: Denise Perreault

 Tara’s Tiles, 2007. Glass curtain of 1/2″ square glass tiles in 26 colors, with crystals and seed beads. 28″ deep and 81″ wide. View from my master bath.

Artist: Denise Perreault
Location: Boulder, Colorado

Denise Perreault
Denise also has a number of articles and two covers published in Beadwork Magazine since 1999, (Interweave Press).

Denise, how do you describe your work?
I’d describe my work as contemporary folk art, since I strive for a hand-crafted, vintage appearance. That’s why I use size 11 Czech seed beads almost exclusively: those imperfect little donuts are an excellent medium for conveying a sense of naivete and humanity in my beadwork, as good folk art often does. Our home has a growing collection of contemporary and antique folk art that my husband David and 10 year-old son Dustin have been collecting on our world travels. I’m honored if my artwork brings as much delight to others as our folk art collection gives to us.

In Prince Krak’s Time, 2003. Glass curtain, 25″ long x 48″ wide. Glass seed beads and crystals on antique train ram rod.

What is your creative process like?
I do plan, but I’ll contemplate a piece for months before I put anything on paper, especially the large curtains or sculptures that can take over a year to complete. Once I have a solid idea, I’ll bead a sample, often around a small bottle, to make sure the idea is viable in beads. Then I’ll use regular and/or beading graph paper or a bead software program to create a cartoon.

Motherhood and a husband who travels for business forces me to work in spurts, often late into the night, when it’s just me and the raccoons and owls trilling outside my window near the foothills of the Rockies.

I’m fortunate that my husband is a true patron of the arts (if you get my drift), so I never mind how long a piece takes to finish — it’s all satisfying time spent beading. Perhaps this is what sets me apart from many beaders: most of us are impatient or need to complete a piece so we can jump onto the next project, but I prefer to create one big fabulous piece of beadwork, instead of many less-inspired pieces, speaking strictly for myself. That’s also what shifted my work from craftsperson to artist: when my signature pieces, the glass curtains, began to receive national exposure and recognition. I’m the only bead artist I know of creating these large beaded pictorial fabrics for windows, and it’s SO nice to finally have found my niche, after 24 years in the fiber arts world.

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
My mom taught me to sew and encouraged my craftiness as a child, but I was not allowed to skitter away precious college tuition on something “frivolous” like art. So I got a journalism degree from Boston University in 1982. While new to Boulder in 1984 and working at the Boulder Daily Camera, I found a small loom at a garage sale, and immediately became hooked on the fiber arts. I took a few weaving classes and one beading class, so I guess I’m mostly self-taught. However, my son and I are constant visitors to museums and art galleries, and being exposed to many different artists and mediums keeps my mind stirring with fresh ideas.

Butchering ‘La Boheme’, 2005. Beaded sculpture over martini glass armature

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Nymo size B beading thread, a halogen-bulb desk lamp, my large 8-shaft loom, and a pair of 3X reading glasses. Music is also a must.

What inspires you to create?
Inspirations include medieval art and architecture, historical costumes, international folk art and textiles, foreign travel, refracted light/prisms, and of course color and texture. In the end I can’t NOT create! My fingers MUST thread needles and looms — it’s my meditation, my pride and joy. A day without creativity is like a day without sunshine!

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
Tenacity serves me well in my art because it compels me to view problem-solving as a fun challenge. And when something gets too intimidating or maddening, I know that if I walk away from the problem for a time, patience, an open mind, and a fresh perspective will find a solution. Consequently, unfinished projects are rare.

Tunisian Carpet, 1999. Glass curtain(tm) made of seed beads and findings. This is the one that took 2,600 hours to complete! 14″ long x 62″ wide. Each band is a motif from the Berber carpets woven in my Tunisian village, where I served in the Peace Corps from 1992-1994.

What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Rudolph Steiner, founder of the Waldorf Schools, has guided me through questionable bouts of creativity with the following quote: (he used the word “man” but I don’t think he’d mind if we change that to “woman” for now):

“The woman who works with her hands is a laborer.
The woman who works with her hands and head is a craftsperson.
The woman who works with her hands and head and heart is an artist.”

What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
Motherhood, gardening, writing, weaving, reading, and volunteering for a wild animal sanctuary, my large local fiber arts guild, and Dustin’s fourth-grade class. I also have a large gaggle of girlfriends who gather regularly for picnics, skiing, hiking, happy hours, and art events.

Tara’s Tiles, 2007. Night-view of tiled curtain in my master bath.

What’s your favorite books and foods?
Favorite foods: bagels and fruit
Favorite books: ooh, that’s tough because I’m a voracious reader and love so many authors. I’ve even worked my way through Radcliff University’s list of “100 Most Important Books of the 20th Century”, (though it took me almost three years to do it!) Some favorites are: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, Notre Dame of Paris by Victor Hugo, Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger, Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Baltisar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago, and everything by Willa Cather, Anais Nin, and Thomas Wolfe.

Aspen Alley Basket, 2004. My husband found basket without wooden handles. I “repaired” with glass, wood, and plastic beads, beads from old Christmas garland, and Jamaican seeds. 11″ high x 12″ high.

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