Say It with Beaded Flowers

This week, more work from Beading Yoda.  Lovely beaded flowers.

 

Colorful Herringbone

 

And bracelets inspired by Contemporary Geometric Beadwork.

 

I’ve started beading again after a long absence.  I dug out my Delicas and treated myself to copies of  Kate McKinnon’s Contemporary Geometric Beadwork, Vol. I and II.  Then a friend gave me a copy of Jean Power’s  Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Volume 2.  I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

My Beading Yoda

Everyone needs a Yoda.    Jeri Schatz  is my beading Yoda.    But let me digress.   Jeri Schatz arrived in New York City in the 1950’s  fresh out of college to embark on a career as a dancer.  She found a day job at the Wall Street Journal in the press clipping department and after work would sometimes meet friends at a neighborhood typewriter repair shop in Greenwich Village to discuss art and the social issues of the day.  I jokingly tell Jeri she was a Beatnick.  “No,” she gently corrects me, “I was a Bohemian.” 

Along the way, an injury put Jeri’s dreams of dancing to rest, and she married and had a son.  She trained as a goldsmith with some of the best teachers New York City had to offer and created a line of fabulous jewelry.  When she came to Philadelphia, she decided to get away from the fire, fumes and chemicals  of metal work and took up off loom bead weaving.  Since her husband  Sig died a few years ago, Jeri has thrown herself into beading with the tenacity of a Jedi in training.

Which brings me back to Yoda.  Everyone who is trying to master an art or a craft can use a good Yoda.  That means someone who  inspires you to make your  mediocre work good,  and your good work better.   I think it is more difficult to give good criticism than it is to take it.  That is, if you’re open to it.  Jeri gives good criticism, is full of ideas for making designs better,  and notices every hanging thread, rough edge and uneven stitch.  And  she encouraged me to improve my work by  making my own findings  based on the intended piece instead of buying something as an afterthought.

Jeri is primarily a teacher and has regular classes at the  United Federation of Teachers in Manhattan and the Fashion Institute of Technology.  She also teaches at The Bead Cellar, in Pennsauken, NJ,  The Bead Garden in Havertown, PA,  Bucks County Beads  in Newtown, PA and any other place she can reach by plane, train or Megabus.  She is  a card carrying member of the Bead Society of Greater New York  and the Main Line Bead Society.    And she is totally radical about beads.

 Here are some of her recent designs.


Speaking of criticism,  Jane Dunnewold wrote an excellent essay of effective critique of artwork.   I suggest you take a few minutes to read it.

The Story of Nomge


One theme I try to address in this blog is how  the history of world events (think of the history taught in schools) and personal and family history affect the creative process. The story of Nomge’s creation is an example of world events and personal  history converging into art.  In Nomge’s case, however, the world history is  African-American history which is still not uniformly taught in schools as the integral part of American history  that it truly  is.

Nomge is the work of Philadelphia artist, teacher and activist Maisha Sullivan-Ongaza, who first traveled to the African continent to visit  Nigeria and Kenya more than thirty years ago.  That trip was the first of  a regular series of travels to countries throughout Africa that  she continues to this day.  Along the way,  she developed a vast expertise in African culture and history that she used as host of a local radio program,  “Fertile Ground.”  But sometimes the most important journeys we make are the inner ones.   I think that’s what led Maisha to create Nomge.

Most artists have  the itch create.  Sometimes this urge kicks into overdrive:  ideas that might have laid dormant within the artist for years start to resonate and insights seem to come from nowhere.  Materials such as fabric, metal or beads might start  “talking” and telling the artist how to use them.  The experience  often makes the artist feel like an  external force has taken control of  her and that she is more instrument than artist.  The process can seem almost religious, but I think  it is  a result of ideas, memories  and emotions lurking in the subconscious and spewing forth almost uncontrollably at the point when the artist is ready to give them a voice or form.  I don’t think my rationale makes this process any less miraculous.

Four years ago,  Maisha  decided to have her DNA tested  to learn  about her African forebears.  She found out that her that her maternal ancestors were Bamileke people who came from Cameroon, a little country tucked next to Nigeria on the West coast of Africa.   Knowing the country your  ancestors came from is something many people take for granted.   But for those  who have lived all their lives with a with a hole in their family histories,  the discovery can generate powerful emotions and, for those who have the courage, an invitation to embark on a path of self discovery.   Art can help the process because it is a constructive,  therapeutic way to express feelings.  And all over the world, it is a traditional method of paying homage to an ancestral legacy.

From what Maisha told me, I can’t help but believe that at least some of  these elements came together and compelled her to  create the Cameroon-inspired Nomge who is named after one of the more than 250 ethnic groups who live there.

 Maisha started with a “T” shaped wood armature and anchored it in an old Gullah  basket she lined and filled with plaster.   She sculpted Nomge’s head and arms with  Ultralite Sculpey colored with pigment.  Nomge’s hair is a combination of cocoanut shells, heishi, bauxite shells, and strands of Maisha’s own hair. Maisha  obtained the vertebrae beads on her first trip to Nigeria.  She does not remember what animal they are from-possibly a snake. She stained them with walnut ink.  Nomge’s necklace is made from African trade beads.

Maisha made Nomge’s body soft so she could bead on it, and she used beads from her travels  collected over the years. The bronze pieces are from Nigeria. The coin on the front with the hole in the center  (see top picture) is from 1957 when Nigeria was still a British colony. 

    

The leather shoulder  pouches are inspired by Gri Gri from West African culture.  Gri Gris are talismans normally filled with prayers and protecting, healing herbs like Echinacea and golden seal. The Gri Gris on  Nomge’s shoulders contain the names of Maisha’s ancestors and children. There is an African saying, Maisha told me,  “Thanks are due to the shoulders who hold the head high.”  The Gri gris are meant to honor her ancestors without whom she and her children would not be here to contribute to the world.

The smaller Gri Gris on Nomge’s sides contain the names of the children Maisha works with in her program along with  lemon rind and honey, because life can be bitter  and it can be sweet.

The various bone pendants and amulets belonged to Maisha’s late husband.  The red leather ( stained to age it) comes from a jacket that Luther Vandross owned and wore on his “Power of Love” tour.    Maisha’s friend Dzinga was Luther’s first cousin and gave Maisha the jacket after he died. It has found new life in Nomge.

Maisha didn’t buy any new materials to make Nomge. “She wouldn’t let me,” Maisha laughed, ” Every single time I went and  tried to get new beads for her, she wouldn’t let me!  I would get lost or have car trouble or something else would happen. It was her way of saying ‘You don’t have to go all over to find me. Whatever you need in life is already here. Everything you need is right here. ‘”

Nomge’s final instruction to Maisha was that she would be finished in 2010, and she was.  Maisha put the last bead on her on New Years’ Eve, 2010.

I suspect that Maisha  carried Nomge inside for years until the series of events she related to me ended with Nomge’s  arrival in her house on New Years Eve, 2010.  It must have been a joyful event when Maisha welcomed Nomge home.




You can be a Bead Star

Enter the second annual Bead Star challenge—an exciting competition with more than ten thousand dollars in prizes!  Here’s how it works:

The editors of Bead Star, Stringing, and Beadwork magazines sift through the entries and pick  20 finalists in nine categories.  Then, from May 15 to May 30, 2009, people from around the world  log on to BeadStar.com   and  pick the winners.  Then,  Fire Mountain Gems picks the Grand Prize winner  from the first-place category winners.  This lucky and talented  person gets  a trip for two to Santa Fe for Bead Expo 2010, $1,000 in cool beading stuff, and his or her design on the cover of Bead Star magazine.  Last years’ winner was  Valeri Ahroni. Hey! I know her!  This year, it could be you.

It’s easy to enter.  The entry deadline is May 1, 2009 there’s no entry fee. If you enter before April 24th, you’ll be entered for an Early Bird Prize that will be drawn at random. Click here to enter.

Wanna see last years finalists? Click here.

Loops, Loops and More Loops

sbs-cvr-220I have a new beading project in the latest issue of Step By Step Beads called the Loop De Loop necklace. It’s an easy way to use up your bead soup and project leftovers.  I hope you give it a try.

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Beading From Budapest

I bought these necklaces and lariats in Budapest. I had never seen netting around beads, tubular netting, or so many variations on flat netting. I wanted to try some of the stitches myself, but I couldn’t find good netting instructions anywhere.

When Diane Fitzgerald’s wonderful book Netted Beadwork came out, the mysteries of the netting stitch were revealed along with the tale of its rich history. I recommend the book for anyone interested in learning this versatile stitch.nb

Here’s a picture of the beautiful blue Danube. Go to Budapest if you have the chance. It’s a charming city.

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Beading from Las Cruces to Cape Town

It’s a long way from Las Cruces, New Mexico to Philadelphia where I live, and an even longer trip from Philadelphia to Cape Town, South Africa. I like to bead on long plane rides, so I started a bracelet on the Las Cruces trip, making a base then starting to embellish it with beads of many colors, shapes and sizes. I finished the bracelet on the trip to Cape Town. Then I submitted it to the Bead-A-Day Beading Calendar for 2009 and it was accepted! You’ll have to wait until the calendar comes out to get the instructions for making the “Las Cruces to Cape Town Bracelet.” You’ll also find many other beautiful beading projects in the calendar-one for every day of the year.

Here is a slide show of some of the things I saw in Las Cruces and Cape Town.

Mixing My Media

My latest offering is a necklace  made with my handmade beads  and beads from my stash. I put it together last year, but never liked it.  After rethinking my design, I took it apart, laid it out, and restrung it three times. I think I finally got it right.

I made the lampworked beads from Moretti glass and  etched most of them in acid to get a matte finish. The round  glass bead is hollow. I beaded around wooden beads in peyote stitch using size 11/0 seed beads in harmonizing colors. The long bicone-ish looking beads and some 16mm round beads are polymer clay, made with the Mokume Gane technique, sanded and polished. The natural stones are coral, bone, turquoise, tiger eye, freshwater pearls. red hearts and horn. The findings and Balinese-style spacer beads are vermeil and gold filled. The longest strand of the necklace is about 24 inches. The short part in the back is a counterweight which hangs down the wearer’s back.

To see some more detailed images, press
Here.