Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Last night, I attended the preview of the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition.  As soon as I stepped in the door, I purchased an exhibit program, and flipped it randomly open.  I glanced, slammed it shut, and then opened it again slowly, to page 24.  There was a photograph of my piece, with the words, FIRST PLACE.  I was astonished.  I wordlessly showed the book to my wonderful husband, who has been referring to himself as my "possee."

 I have attended this exhibition for over 30 years, and for the last two years, have felt I had something worthy of inclusion.  Last year my piece was not accepted, but really, there was no category for it.  I submitted in the "Textiles and Fibers" category, since it was a beadWEAVING, but the entry was made of pearls, Swarovski jewels, and thread that you could not see... so I didn't feel badly about not being included.  And my goal for this year was just to get into the show, given the addition of a new category, Art Jewelry.

I think winning any competition always depends on who else shows up, what they bring with them, and who's judging.  I think this is true of sporting events and spelling bees and garden shows and ballroom dancing competitions.  So I got lucky this year.  But I must say, it feels really nice.  And winning a blue ribbon in any of the nine categories in this exhibition comes with a $500 prize.  When I read that last night in the program, I was dumbfounded.  I was not expecting to win, and I had not bothered to see what the prize was when I entered.  I HAD been told that my local beading club, the Upper Midwest Bead Society, was sponsoring a $100 award of their own for the best beaded entry, and when I got to my piece, front and center as you walk straight in the door, it had both the blue ribbon and the chartreuse UMBS ribbon attached!

As a costume designer, I work with my clients to try to reveal their personality and character, feature their bodies in the best possible light, and stay within their budgets.  It's a GREAT job, and satisfying, because nearly everyone leaves my studio really happy.  But beading for me is self-expression.  It's my soul getting a chance to make all the decisions, spend whatever money I can justify to myself, and create with my hands something I find beautiful.  It is my art.  I am so, SO pleased to be recognized for it, and to share my impression of the beauty of the Minnesota winter landscape with the residents of my state.

This morning I woke up and lay in my bed smiling.  My husband, showered, shaved and dressed for work, caught that smile.  He smiled back and said to me,  "You know that crown the dentist said you needed last week?  It's half paid for."  Carl is an artist in his own right, and in the earliest stages of our relationship, we drove to a gallery in Ohio together where he won a $3000 prize.  As I recall, that prize bought a new truck.  Good thing he's a pragmatic guy.  I wanted to buy beads.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Backwards in High Heels

Ginger Rogers once said, in reference to Fred Astaire, "I do everything he does, but I do it backwards in high heels."  That's not particularly pertinent to this story, except that what you are looking at is my latest necklace, but Ginger Rogers style; backwards.  Fortunately, I didn't have to wear heels to do the beadweaving.

What I DID have to do was create bezels for some funky new shapes of Swarovski jewels that I got from my friend Doris Coghill at her wonderful website "Beads by Dee."   The two shapes featured here are the #4227 Marque and the #4123 Vintage Faceted Ovals in both sizes offered.  Those ovals are way down the page, but worth the hunt. While you are visiting her site, check out the other great offerings as well.

I had a great time making these bezels.  For this, I must thank Diane Fitzgerald.  When I was a shiny new baby beader with about 4 months of weaving under my belt, I took a Pointed Oval Links class from her, and learned the magic that can be made by combining peyote stitch with herringbone weave to create corners.  She explains this magic in detail in her book "Shaped Beadwork."  It is information I apply every time I need to make a bezel that is other than round.  I think the backs of Swarovski jewels should always be encased, because those pretty anodized finishes are just not forever, and do succumb to perspiration and wear if left exposed.  So, I also had a little fun along the way on the rounds with some occasional netting, and color changes.    I don't have the patience to write instructions, but I love pictures, so here's a glance at one way to create unusual bezels for shapes that include angles and unusual curves.
If you want to see the necklace in the Fred Astaire (forward facing) mode, please visit my Etsy shop and take a look at "Bollywood Beauty," my entry for the Etsy Beadweavers September Challenge.  I hope you'll visit our team blog at and vote for your favorite Bollywood-inspired work between September 9th and 15th.  In the mean time, check out Glenda's (Dax Designs) article on what exactly it means to be a Bollywood beadweaver, also on our EBW blogsite.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Which One?

On January 13th, I pulled out of my garage to drive my son to school and literally gasped when I was dazzled by an orchid sky. The world was aglow with the most amazing "sky-blue-pink" light I have ever seen. And then as I drove, I began to notice the trees were coated with fantastic spikey hoar frost. Hoar frost forms when the air is moist and just a little warmer than the frozen objects in the landscape. Trees, fences, and mailboxes grow fantastic ice crystals as the water in the air condenses, and the phenomonon lasts only until the sun is warm enough to wipe it all away.

 I delivered my son and drove back home for my camera, but the pink light was gone, and the frost only lasted long enough for me to take a few shots.  I vowed to make a necklace to celebrate all that beauty, and began collecting beads and jewels.  When EBW Phenomenon Challenge was announced I started the project in earnest, but did not even come close to finishing in time to enter the challenge.   But now, finally, it's all done and ready for the Minnesota State Fair Fine Art Exhibition jury.

I would just LOVE to get my piece into this show.  Last year over 1,790,000 people attended this fair.  It's one of the largest in the nation (I think only Texas has a bigger one) and the Fine Arts exhibit has it's own building.  Last year 2566 entries to the juried art show were received and only 382 were accepted.  Any living artist in the state may enter ONE piece only. This year for the first time, there is an Art Jewelry category.  And there are great prizes, although of course, winning any competition always depends on who else shows up with what. 

So I ask you. WHICH ONE? Click any image to see it larger, if you like.

On the white form, I really see the little drop beads at the ends of each branch, and the color from the Swarovski Crystal Vitral Light jewels is dazzling, but the texture is really only visible thanks to chiaroscuro, the patterns of light and shadow. On the black, (and yes, I better buy a bigger one quick!) the shapes and negative spaces are featured, and the texture pops, but I am losing the drops completely. The beige form color seems to compete with the delicate and subtle pinks and blues, although the shapes and details are visible. I do not have a perfect solution and need to stop wishing for one to magically appear. Please help me! Which do you think displays the piece in its best light?  Please leave me a comment or vote at the upper right. THANK YOU for your time and input! 

Postscript:  After 21 votes in the poll, with more than 50% going to the white display form, I concur. The strength of this piece is the color and texture, not as much the lines and spatial relationships. The cream velvet form I purchased was even a little better than the white I photographed for your votes, in that it offered a little contrast to the stark white of the beads, and really let the delicate color in the Swarovski crystals shine through. And you all gave me good advice, because January Dawn has been accepted. Again, thank you all so much for your support and thoughtful responses!