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 www.msmaddiesbeads.com."  

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.

16 comments:

  1. Very well written Marsha. Thank you for sharing. I am sure this woman will be smiling at your work even if it was created before you knew anything about her. You put a lot of thought and creativity in your work and it is always of great quality and craftsmanship. I look forward to when you will share photos with us.

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    1. Naan, thank you so much for reading and your kind comment. Most of my beadwork is inspired by nature, especially flowers, and I really enjoyed learning about this kindred spirit, and seeing her lovely work.

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  2. I love that you care. I love the effort and the digging. And now matter how extravagantly gorgeous and amazing your piece is (and I have no doubt but that it is indeed), I couldn't love it more than I already love your caring, Marsha. It's one of your defining points, something that shines throughout your posts, your work, your business. Many many hugs and best luck with the judges, too.

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    1. OH, Nancy. You brought me to tears. We are all our own flawed beings, and we do what we do and then are sometimes left to pick up the pieces of our neglectful behaviours. I feel so badly for the friends of Merle, people who knew her, and created work very much in her style for this event and did not become finalists. I really so want to honor this woman, who I feel like I have just met. And I so appreciate your understanding and super kind words!!!

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  3. Very happy your piece was accepted and I'm looking forward to seeing it. I only know Merle through Suzanne but to hear Suzanne speak of her you just know she was someone extremely special....and like you I wish I'd had a chance to know her too.

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    1. MIkki, thank you. I was just shocked to see that Suzanne was not even aware of the existence of this event. I wonder how many other of her dear friends did not know. I appreciate everyone who plows through all these words. I didn't want to steal photos and risk any copyright infringement, but i hope the links allow others to see all of her beautiful work.

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  4. I love this unique Blog entry, Marsha! You are not only a very talented creator of fantastic beaded jewelry, but also a generous person.Thank you for showing so much thoughtfulness while introducing Merle to us. I enjoyed the journey throughout all the sites, with the links you provided. (I revisited World Artisan Gems where there is a 2008 Enchanted Beads feature I have forgotten about, I thank you for that).

    And now I remember I've met Merle and her wonderful work at a Holiday Show here in NYC, about a decade or so. I was very impressed by the large array of colors in her vast Collection. How wonderful Bead Dreams created this new category on Ms. Maddie's name!

    I am so happy your piece passed the first threshold. As hard as the odds are I am sure your work will be noticed a way or another this time again. I wish you good luck! ~Ileana

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    1. Ileana, thank you so much, and how nice to know some of my friends knew Merle! I an always envious of your New York City connections! Hugs...

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  5. I really enjoyed reading your Blog Marsha. I never heard about Merle either. I visited the sites you linked and now I feel I know more of who she was and the beautiful jewelry she created. Thank you for sharing this! I can't wait to see yours and all the other entries. I love this online beading community! I have learned so much and it is such a joy to "meet" so many people like yourself. I hope someday to actually meet in person! Have a fantastic day!

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    1. Thanks so much Lisa! I love the beading community too. Generally very kind, helpful and supportive, and often just FUN! I hope to go to the B&B show this year, and maybe I will see you there!

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  6. I am looking forward to seeing your creation. I enjoyed learning about Merle and seeing her creations. The memorial contest is a worthy tribute.

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  7. Marsha, I'm re-reading your post from earlier this month on your Bead Dreams entry and Ms. Maddie. I never met Merle but did know of her work - the teddy bears' picnic is one of my favorites! When I think of life before the internet and not having 'search' available, I marvel at how we can be lifetime learners so easily. As a former history major, using internet research when I have a question is super! Glad to see you do the same. Thanks for a great article, Jeanne Evans

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    1. Jeanne, I was really lgad to be able to find all this information online as well. It does make the world so much smaller and more accessible. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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  8. You really are one of my favorite persons out there in the beading world, and beyond, Marsha. You are so caring, and so attentive to detail. You inspire me a lot. It is my very priviledge to call you a friend, and I love to read an follow you.

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    1. Cath, you (and so many other of my fB friends) are just so exceptional. I can do something stupid, confess in detail, and still be embraced. Thank you!

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