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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Do We Do This Thing?

Dear heaven, another post, with only words, and no pictures.  I may climb the walls, or tear my thinning hair from my head entirely, from wanting to SHARE PICTURES!

Someone asked, a few weeks ago on Facebook, how people who created pieces for Bead Dreams did it.  Was it component driven?  And now, that question arises again, as hundreds of artists worldwide prepare work for "Battle of the Beadsmith".

I thought the question was a very good one, and I said so.  I have been thinking about it ever since.  For me, design IS a component driven process in some respects.  I usually start my work by creating components and then I arrange and assemble them.  But I don't think the right question is "how", when it comes to taking on a leviathan project for competition.  I think it is "why?" 

Probably every artist has their own answer, but I think it is my WHY that gets me through to the end of the process, and provides whatever success I achieve.  And usually my why is three-pronged. 

FIRST, something moves me. Something takes my breath away, or makes my knees weak, or actually brings tears to my eyes!  And I want to express, or maybe re-create, that amazing thing in beads.  It is this inspiration that makes all my decisions for me.  What colors to use, what shapes I need, what textures, which beads, which stitches; everything comes back to the inspiration.  I think beautiful jewelry can be made by arranging components, but I need more.  I need a purpose, and a goal.  My target changes and develops as I go, but it is essential that I have one, and that it be one with emotional meaning to me.

And SECOND, and even more important, I want to see if I can do it, or to figure out how to do it.  There is a quote attributed to Picasso, although I understand that Vincent Van Gogh wrote this sentiment in a letter to a friend when Picasso would have been 4 years old.  I think it is maybe a truism of all creative endeavor.  

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."  

Usually, what I imagine as my end result is something I have not done or seen before, so there is no path to follow.  There is not even a guarantee that I can find a means to my end.  And sometimes, the backing up, reconfiguration, and the eureka of "that is what I should have done!", stops the process entirely. It's hard to do on a schedule, and to a deadline.  And once you figure out how to make it happen, some motivational thing deflates.  A knitter friend of mine says, once she has figured out how to make what she imagined, it gets harder to keep going.  I agree.  After all that exploration and excitement of "how will I do this" is resolved, the rest is just work.

So I need the THIRD part of the why; a desire and a means to share the work.  I love to share the inspiration, and the process, and the final product. It is why I write this blog. And LORDY, LORDY... that desire-to-share thing that gets me through the end of the creative process makes waiting to share REALLY hard for me.  I go completely insane waiting to share my Bead Dreams and Battle of the Beadsmith work.  Does anyone else feel that way????? 

How do you create your competition work?  And why?   

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Honor of Merle Berelowitz and Ms. Maddie's Fabulous Florals

When my son was in grade school, one thing I tried to impress upon him, with respect to success in school and in life was to understand the goal, before you begin the work.  It seems to be a very hard thing to learn, to read the assignment in it's entirity, before you set out on whatever mission you have been given.  He seems to have learned this lesson, and recently won himself a paid internship for the the summer at Amazon.  In his interview group, he was the only one not wearing a suit.  But the e-mail invitation had stressed the casual attire of the corporate environment.  He wore a jeans, a deep blue t-shirt, and a long-sleeved blue and white cotton striped shirt.  He read, and understood the assignment.  I am so proud of him.

I, on the other hand, am apparently still struggling to learn this very important lesson.

I raced along pretty frantically to finish my Bead Dreams piece this year, putting on the final touches and doing the photography on the last Sunday before the Tuesday deadline.  A few weeks earlier, I had checked out the application and rules for the event, to make sure I knew the deadline, and was working effectively toward it.  At that check point, I noticed a special category for this year, in honor of one Merle Berelowitz, who I did not recognize.  The design criteria, to quote the paragraph I read was:

"To be considered for this category, your piece must prominently feature flower beads, Merle's signature supply, or a floral motif.  Nature should serve as the guiding influence, as it did for Merle throughout her career as a beading artist.  She personally crafted Blooms, her own unique garden of hand painted acrylic flowers.  You can view merle's Blooms at"  

Hmmm, I thought. And I took a quick peek at the Blooms, which were the epitome of pretty; colorful, bright, and happy creations.  What I was working on (which I thought might either go in Crystal or Finished Jewelry) seemed to meet the criteria expected in this memorial category.  My piece was covered with Czech flower beads, and handwoven leaves.  Plus the work was initially inspired by a trip to Yellowstone National Park.  Nature at it's most magical!  

I tucked the information away, and returned to my breakneck beading.  When it came time to fill out the entry form, I re-read the requirement paragraph and debated the merits of trying this new category.  Then I noticed there was a cash prize.  Most of the prizes come in the form of beady supplies from generous sponsors, which is wonderful.  I loved my great new tools and threads from Beadalon last year!  But this was a very generous cash prize, and my mind ran to materials I would love to buy.  "Why not give it a go?", I thought.  

So without further consideration, research, or information, I entered "Ms. Maddie's Fabulous Florals." But not without a qualifier.  At the end the description of my work I wrote, in my entry submission, "While I did not design with this memorial event in mind, my fairy tale forest does seem to fit the criteria, although in a darker, more magical and menacing way than Merle's pretty flowers.  If you chose to include the work, and think it belongs in a different category, please do not hesitate to move it."

Had my son been watching me, he would have been frowning.  

Now, I had no reason to think I had a better than 50/50 chance of even becoming a finalist in this magnificent show of beaded wonders.  Winning any competition depends entirely on who is judging, what they are looking for, and who else shows up to be judged.  Last year I was delighted to be accepted, and shocked to find I had won a second place ribbon in the Seed Bead catogory with my "Picnic in May on Lilac Way."

Once the dust settled, and I received an acceptance notice (!) for my work, "From the Forest of Fairy Tales", I began to think more about what I had done.  

Then, I hunted until I found the category criteria paragraph, and discovered another paragraph that came BEFORE the one I had read so carefully.  "We have a special category in 2014, Ms. Maddie's Fabulous Florals, created in honor of world renown beader, Merle Berelowitz, who passed away last year.  Bead & Button readers have the opportunity to judge the finalists in this category and grant prizes totalling $5,000 to the top pieces."

So, I had scanned this info, but failed to understand it fully.  (My son is now shaking his head.)  There was a world renowned beader who passed away last year, and this catogory was created in her honor.  I got that part, although I didn't know who she was.  But the next bit had not registered at all.  Bead & Button readers would be judging the event.

I began to notice fB comments from other beaders who had entered the Fabulous Florals event, who had clearly known and loved Merle Berelowitz.  They were chatting about imagining Merle looking over their shoulder and whispering in their ear as they worked.  I decided it was time to find out about this bead artist.

And there was lots to read and see!  My first impression, from just looking at the photo of her (clearly wearing one of her own necklaces on the Bead Dreams page) was that of a happy, cheerful individual.  I think often, you get a sense of who an aritist is by the tone and aesthetic in their work.  And the more I looked, the more that seemed to be the truth.  Her colorways are bright and joyful.  And she loved flowers of every ilk and stripe, the more the merrier.
But more important, people loved her.  First I found a post on Facebook, from International Jewelry and Accessory Designers, Manufacturers and Suppliers.  This post talked about Merles passing in July of last year, and voiced the original idea of the memorial competition, the "first annual Ms. Maddie's Blooms Beadwork Prize to be awarded to the most creative form of stitched, beaded jewelry incorporating flowering plants and blossoms."  

Memorial events are not created for every beader who passes on.  This artist was special.  I began to read blog posts about her passing.

I read several beader's words, soaking in their sadness and loss, along with bits and hints about Merle.  On Adele Recklies Rogers blog, I found she was a great friend of Suzanne Golden's, and bits about her family and life.  On the Saturday Sequins blog, I discovered a shared delight in sequins and beautiful representations of Merle's work.  Jean Power showed me an awesome pair of yellow boots, and the sunshine Merle must have carried with her.
I found an interview on World Artisan Gems with photos of two bracelets I just loved, one, an undersea theme, and the other a teddy bear picnic that was adorable, based on a cake she a created for her daughter.  I can use a pastry bag too, and I have always thought there was a relationship betweed beading and cake decoration.

There is huge list of publications of Merle's work on her own website.  One of my favorite bits of her work was in Bead Unique, a delightful bracelet with tiny cherry beads, called "Summer's Bounty."  

I also found in my current issue of Bead&Button, a bracelet, "Pinkalicious" by Adele Recklies Rogers, created in honor of Merle, which I loved.

I finally discovered that both select pieces of Merle's work and flower beads of her own design and creation are being sold to help to endow this event, sponsored by her family and CJS Sales.  Please have a look at her beautiful work!  I need to chose something to wear to Bead Dreams, I think.

After all of this hunting and research, I felt like I might be beginning to know something about the woman in whose honor my work has been accepted to Bead Dreams.  I wish I had taken the time to look her up earlier, or better yet, had the opportunity to know her.  Given the public voting nature of this event, I will keep my entry to myself until the time is right for it to be presented to you in Merle's memory.

I hope she would feel that my work honors her memory.  And I hope late is better than never, with respect to discovering Merle Berelowitz and her bead art.