Thursday, December 23, 2010



I'm celebrating the holidays with a Feng Shui binge. As Feng Shui goes, my place, including my studio and every closet, has deteriorated to a condition I like to call Feng Shit. If clutter drags on your energy, soon I will be found prostrate on the floor,choking on dust bunnies and cat hair. I offer proof:

Storage Closet of Shame

Work Surface of Horror

Discovery of the day: This does not help one function creatively.

 Oh sure, you can push the clutter aside and bead. On the days when you can find your pattern notebook and a pen, you can still jot ideas down. But sit and work? In the studio?

There comes a time (in my life, anyway) when such unbridled slovenliness stops saving you time (as in, I'd rather bead than clean) and starts to eat your time in large, week-long chunks. For a while I manage by transporting my work to the relative cleanliness of the living room because there is no way I can think, let alone work in the rat's nest that is my studio. Eventually, however, the debris begins to take over the living room. I'm running out of rooms. Next it will be beading in the bath tub.

Enough! I will have surfaces. I will find my brown mesh sweater, my glue gun and extra needles.

Of course, I will have to disturb Cat to accomplish this. Currently, he's in his "apartment," a large back closet where once I had neatly stored suitcases and a stack of extra bedding on the floor. He has a nest in there and he's been renovating. A once-folded quilt is oozing out onto the studio floor...a soft suitcase has tumbled down and is sprawling like a victim of crime. Miscellaneous items of clothing have dropped from their hangers - and all this is clearly visible in the doorway. I cannot shut the door of course, because I'm never sure if he's in there - or might like to be in there. So the door is open and what presents as the apparent nest of raccoons or pack rats is in full view.

Welcome to my home. Please come in. Shall we sit on the balcony?

Nope! No more. I raise my fist, Scarlett O'Hara style, and declare I will never be cluttered again!

The moratorium on beading is now in effect. Not one needle will be threaded until I have restored order.

Wish me luck. I'm going in.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Beadworkers Seven Deadly Sins: Sin #5 - Rudeness

Sin #5 - Rudeness: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Thou shalt not flame other designers, sellers, recreational beaders or anyone else online.

Right off, let me say that this will not apply to most of you. My experience online, in social networking, blogging etc.
has overall demonstrated that most people are courteous and decent. However...

The Good:

Recently, Peter Sewell, Beadsage, departed from the Bead Mavens. In his usual style, Peter made a brief, to-the-point announcement. We, the Bead Mavens, posted our regrets at losing an outstanding artist and the only male voice we had. I'm going to miss, particularly,
Peter's wonderful British wit and his way of calling a spade a spade. I know we'll all miss him, but we understood his decision.

However, a small firestorm of whys and wherefores began after his announcement.
Peter extinquished it in short order with an I-am-not-dead blog.
The end.

And as it should end. With respect on both sides. And courtesy. And no soap operas.

Unfortunately - in the Age of Facebook, Twitter, things do not always end so well. And while Beaders seem to be an extraordinarily generous and supportive group, there's always that exception to the rule, isn't there?

The Bad and the Ugly:

This above example of what I consider to be appropriate conduct served to remind me of something that's bothered me for some time...

In particular - and I'm not referring to any one person here because I've seen this a number of times - If you purchase something and are in any way unhappy with your purchase, do NOT leave an abusive comment on the shop's feedback or a nasty remark on a Facebook page. I suggest that you email the seller immediately. Give the seller a chance to address your problem or refund your money - whichever is appropriate. Most sellers are proud of their work and and want you to be happy with your buy. Moreover, they really value their businesses - and business is about keeping customers happy. If you've tried and failed to solve the problem privately (i.e. the seller does not respond), then, by all means, leave a poor review, but be fair. If you don't keep a somewhat civil tongue, I can promise you that you will be taken much less seriously by anyone reading your comment.

Regarding social networking sites in general. Don't you wish that folks who want to have a squabble with someone, emailed them? I mean if they really are at a point where they have a legitimate issue, wouldn't you rather they didn't sour everyone's day by sucker punching someoneone in their status update?

I don't mean bitching in a general way (we all have off days) - I mean naming names.

Recently, I posted this quote of Carlos Castenada's on Facebook:(From The Fire Within)
"Think about it: what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellow men. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone."

In this sometimes graceless time, we are fortunate to be able to meet people from all over the world online. A click and a few words can give us the privilege of seeing a little into someone's world in Turkey or Indonesia or anywhere at all. At the same time, physical distance and the privacy settings can give us anonimity. Anonimity is no excuse for rudeness, for venting angry feelings.Whenever I feel offended by something of less magnitude than poverty or war or cruelty - I check my self-importance level. How much ego is in your complaint? It's saved me a lot of strife and regret.

And if someone flames you. Disconnect. Leave it unanswered. Don't give it attention it doesn't deserve.

Have a good day, everyone. Do onto others...

Sunday, August 22, 2010


(In which she thieves the excellent advice of Bead Maven, Mikki Ferrugiaro, with a completely clean conscience and passes the advice on to you!)

Rule: When critically stuck, bogged, blocked and creatively brain-dead, do NOT under any circumstances look at bead work, saith The Mikki.

There comes a time in the lives of designers (any medium) when the flow of inspiration dries to a trickle and then stops. Or at least that happens in the life of this particular designer. It's not that Brenda, my Muse, has gone AWOL (although she is prone to doing whatever the hell she likes) - It's plain, ordinary, exhaustion. The dark side of the Superwoman syndrome. All work and no recreation or rest for a very long time.

I hit the wall about a month ago. With my face.

There's a lot of daytime TV in the vicinity of the wall. I developed the habit of watching strangely afflicted people on "reality" TV and I hate reality TV.   I would wonder, in a kind of half-hearted way, about my odd behavioral changes and then, because wondering was an effort, I would shamble into the kitchen for potato chips and cake to keep my energy up. It wasn't pretty. Or slimming. And I left the cake plate in the sink, unwashed.

Of course, there were fitful, doomed efforts to goad Brenda the Dysfunctional Muse into producing at least a glimmer of artistic ambition. I had a September deadline for a gallery show. I turned to my stack of beading magazines and books and spent hours imploring Brenda to look at 500 Beaded Objects and back issues of Bead & Button with me. Brenda wasn't having it. In the end, as Mikki later pointed out to me, the only conclusion I could possibly draw was that everything has been done. At least twice and by more talented people than me.

I fell back into the television during an episode of reality TV concerning a woman with a chalk-eating addiction.

Fortunately, Mikki dropped an email my way before I succumbed to the urge to take my Etsy shop off vacation mode and set up selling every last bead and finding I owned.  Instead, I shamelessly wailed my plight out. Apparently (although she seems to create with blinding speed and steady enthusiasm), Mikki has been to the wall, herself.

Her advice was to look at the new runway fashions or to watch a movie set in Victorian times.
To do anything, anything but look at beadwork. And suddenly I remembered that my best inspirations have never come from looking at actual beadwork - but from Fiber magazines, pictures of flowers, patterns in shadows, ceramics, paintings, wearable art clothing, books of wallpaper samples. Random sources that range from National Geographic to Popular Mechanics, basically.

Dress by LeMuse on Etsy

So I did. And I have a plan! And I have just enough time to make my September 15th deadline for the Wearable Art show at The Moorings. I'm doing a neckpiece that would work with any of the pieces shown here.

Take it from Mikki and me - When tempted to burn your beads, put the beading magazine down!

And by the way, life is nicer when you stop long enough to smell the roses or make sure you have clean underwear.

Sunday, May 23, 2010



According to that impeccable source, Wikipedia, in AD 590, Pope Gregory revised the list of the Seven Deadly sins, adding "luxuria" (extravagance) to the list.

Gula (gluttony)and Avaritia (avarice/greed) were in there too. It was hard to decide where to place the 3rd Beaders' sin - but somehow, for we beauty-pigs, Luxuria sounds just right.

I have yet to meet an artist of any description who can resist supplies. And more supplies. A sculptor friend of mine hits the steel yard so often that the guys there know him by name. The vicious junk yard guard dog greats him with doggy kisses. He lives in the country on acres of land and he needs them. His studio is a scrap yard. "A man needs his steel," he tells me. Well, a beader needs....

Oh my. Those vintage Rivolis in a shape and shade they don't make anymore. And look at those new Miyuki colors for Spring and we won't even mention the raku and polymer clay and stone focals we spotted on Tuesday or that shop with the fabulous nail head beads. Our favorite artist has a new book coming out and there's a sale of craft supply cabinets. Oh no! We're out of 18 gauge silver wire and those really classy little headpins and...DAMN IT, we need 40 grams of that greyish-pink bead and there's.. what? 5 grams on the shelf? And let's face it - those crystals we just bought are just not the right shade. Maybe we're going to have to buy 3mm rose quartz. Wait. Too pink. Swarovski pearls maybe? Do we have any? WHERE DID WE PUT THE SWAROVSKI PEARLS?

If you stopped answering your phone 3 days ago because you're working on a tricky pattern or you bead in your dreams... If you are replacing the lace in your running shoes with fireline and flossing with Nymo, if no one can walk barefoot in your house without enduring random acupuncture via beads you recently spilled on the floor,if the bathroom is officially the only room in which there are no beads, if "studio" is a euphemism for your entire house and you now need five extra rooms - you are committing luxuria. Say five Hail Valerie Hectors and three Our Bead & Buttons. Go my child. And sin no more.


Fat chance.

Forgive me sisters and brothers for I have sinned. It has not been long since my last confession but I have continued to sin. No matter how good my intentions are, I will sin again in the near future.

Do the math.
197 drawers containing beads. Tiny drawers. Large drawers. Six compartmentalized boxes. Eight shelves, two desks, kilos and kilos of seed beads, stones, polymer clay, glass and then there's the random...felt balls, silk cocoons, squares of felt, print-on-silk sheets, paints, inks, thread, yarn, wall paper paste, every resin known to man or woman, 20 YARDS of bead backing. And a partridge in a pear tree.

My name is Linda and I'm a Supplyaholic. I am guilty of Luxuria. I will buy  triple A-grade amethyst beads when I have no bread.

I have no advice for you. No wisdom to impart. Perhaps we all need a twelve step program. I mean honestly, have you ever heard of a bead artist who bought only what was needed for a project? One project at a time?

Go on! Next you'll tell me there's an Easter Bunny.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Envy and the dangers of competition

If human beings were not competitive, the Olympics would have packed up its' togas and doused its' torches hundreds of years ago. To greater and lesser degrees, the urge to compete is bred in the bone and often produces improvements - whether it is faster runners, or Jim Dyson persisting until he achieves his perfect vacuum cleaner. Many of us thrive on a challenge, a deadline - on pushing ourselves to another level. Nothing wrong with that.

However, we live in a society in which competition, walking hand-in-hand with the need for that drug, recognition, often crosses a line lethal to creativity.

Think about it.

There is a virtual Renaissance going on in the beading world. In 1985, I made my living doing beadwork. There wasn't, to my knowledge, a single book readily available on the subject that wasn't related to North American Native beadwork. I had virtually no competition. In 2010, my fellow beadworkers number in the hundreds or thousands - and thanks to the Internet, I see new and original work on a daily basis.
It's a potluck feast of inspiration.

After consuming this daily feast, is there anyone out there who has not had days of indigestion? Days when they suspected their contribution to the potluck was boiled eggs sitting next to foie gras? Is there anyone out there who, once in a while, has not felt more bludgeoned and overwhelmed than inspired by the feast?

To the Hanging Judge who lives in my over-crowded mind, who is quick to whisper poisonous thoughts about my place (or lack of it) in the hierarchy of bead artists, I have the following answers...

Envy is toxic. Admiration is motivating. And I can choose which attitude to take. So shut up.

If someone is more skilled than me, they have worked harder or longer at the craft. So, I'll keep working.

Competition helps push me - whether I win or not. Winning is a great bonus, but it only lasts a moment. I will remember I started this because the process is gives me joy.

I didn't win (or my pattern wasn't accepted etc.). That doesn't mean I won't be accepted next time,
I will not base my self-worth on whether my work is accepted.

I will embrace my community of fellow-artisans and share freely with them. They are my support system.

I will suspend work when envy creeps in and the joy goes away. My Muse needs the odd day off and there are five loads of laundry in the closet.

Finally - I do this because it engages me, because I love to learn more, because I love the community of creators, and so when the going gets rough, I will persist. One bead at a time.

What does your Hanging Judge tell you? And what is your answer?

**On a related note, I recommend this entry on Mikki Ferrugiaro's blog: The Beaded Carpet
and an entry of Smadar Grossman's at Smadar's Treasures .
There is also a book no artist or artisan should be without: Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking - David Bayles & Ted Orlando, Capra Press1993.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Sin #1: Breech of copyright

Years ago, my father showed original watercolors in an exhibition of paintings done by Ontario Provincial Government employees. I was outraged to see the above painting by Gustav Klimpt copied, brush stroke for brush stroke and signed as an original by the impostor who painted it.

We bead artists know this issue is a bit of a snake's nest - tangled and difficult. So let's take a look at it from a couple of different angles....

"The secret of creativity is hiding your sources." For anyone who hasn't encountered this quote before, it is attributed to no less a luminary than Albert Einstein, a man known for originality and genius.

There should be no shame in admitting right out loud that we all have "sources." For me, the list is endless. It includes paintings, fiber, ceramics, nature etc. Last, but certainly not least, I have a growing library of beading books and stacks of magazines and daily view the inspirational work of my many fellow-artisans online.

Anyone who says they haven't done derivative work is doing a stitch I've never heard of or beading in a studio on the moon in my humble opinion.

That's okay. Peyote, right angle weave, African helix, netting, square, brick and herringbone stitches belong to all of us. And we are all inspired by something, by someone.

But when someone combines stitches and materials in a new way or creates an excitingly original pattern or design - make no mistake, they own the copyright.

Seems straightforward, doesn't it? But really, there is so much out there that even the best of us goof. A while back, a famous beading magazine featured an article on copyright and a pattern for a beaded bead identical to one I'd learned several years earlier. And the designer credit was not for the designer in the book where I'd found the pattern. I emailed the editor and she replied that she hadn't known that and, "No one complained." So if the pros can get lost, it's not that difficult for the rest of us to retain something and later make an item forgetting that there was a specific source. No crime there.

But there are instances where black is black and white is white. If your intent is to copy a design in it's entirety, and you do not have permission to do so, you are contravening copyright law. If you buy a pattern and then reproduce it for sale without permission, unless the seller states it is for commercial use, you are breaking the law.

Carol Dean Sharpe of Sandfibers has given me permission to use a photograph of one of her signature peyote cuffs. Now, Carol does not own the right to peyote stitch or toggle cuffs. But her works are like paintings. Copy a design of hers, whether you buy the pattern or not, if you offer it for sale - you are literally taking food off her table when she clearly states that commercial use is forbidden. You're good to go, IF you've bought one of her patterns designated for commercial use. Very straightforward.

On the other hand, back in the gray area, we learn from others. Our original work at least stems from work that was done before. And how do we deal with that?

I'd like to talk about permission. Perhaps most of you saw the special issue of Bead & Button devoted to using lampwork focals? One design featured a juicy innovation on Celini spiral - which reversed the spiral at mid-point. I wrote the designer and told her that I'd love to use that variation in my work, giving credit to her as the originator of the stitch. She generously granted me permission - and added that she appreciated my contacting her. "Most people don't ask," she said.

I also wrote Rachel Nelson-Smith to ask if I could use her "bump" stitch (from her fabulous book, "Seed Bead Fusion").
She said:
"When that information goes out into the world with instructions, it really belongs to the world at that point. Where would we be if anyone who ever wrote a textbook, refused to let anyone use that knowledge in their own work?"

The point is - many designers - and especially those who teach, are generous. It never hurts to ask. And it certainly does not hurt your credibility as an artisan or artist to give credit where it is due. Be honored to state your sources. It's a classy thing to do and maybe someone will do the same for you some day.

The truth is that since the advent of the internet and the enormous surge of interest in our craft, if you publish a picture - someone will copy. I guarantee it. This can be a bitter experience for someone who has spent many hours developing a design and who has plainly stated his or her copyright. So don't.
I promise you that you can take that "source" and hide it by challenging yourself to do something original and just as good.

And to those teachers who allow we students to use their innovations - a grateful and heartfelt thank you. To the hundreds of beaders out there who inspire me every day, my sincere gratitude.

Meanwhile - pay it forward.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Back in the age of dinosaurs, when I beaded my first bracelet on a child-sized hobby shop loom, the selection was Czech-made beads - opaque, in primary and secondary colors. When I got my first whacking spool of nylon beading thread, I was in heaven. It didn't break! Of course, it split when you tried to get it through the needle and it stretched. It stretched, and at one outdoor craft fair, when I had a table with no shade, I found out about heat and shrinkage. Long rows of fringe, fried in the summer sun, buckled and warped. I spent an evening breaking beads with pliers to fix that disaster.

Centuries later, we all had electric lights, computers and cell phones and thread quality was a hundred times improved.  Japanese beads became the first choice of most beaders, including me. No more uneven sizes, no more fat beads with almost non-existent holes.

Over the years, like most fanatical beaders, the cash equivalent of my supplies equals the national debt of many small countries. First it was Toho beads. Lately, I've been buying Delicas. And there are fire polished beads, Swarovski crystals and Rivolis - not to mention findings and my passion for good semi-precious stones and handmade lampwork. Let's not leave books and magazines off the list either. And how about the price of Fireline, folks?

Here we all are, in the middle of a financial "downturn." If the word, "downturn" can be used to describe the monetary system being chucked off the top of The Empire State building. I find myself rethinking what I tell students about supplies: "Buy the very best you can afford. Do not use cheap findings." Maybe, for the beginning beader on a tight budget, that's a discouraging thing to say. So....

I confess that I still love Czech beads - in the old primaries and secondaries - but also in the hundreds of other colors now available. The holes are not so small. The sizes are more regular. And Thor's hammer! They are certainly economically feasible and there are brands that have taken a step up in quality, like Ornel. While I prefer Japanese beads and Delicas for peyote stitch, both pieces in the top picture were done with vintage (35 year old) Czech beads. Lumpy as they are, I was pleased with the result. And there are many stitches (Chevron comes to mind) that are ever so forgiving and allow for a variation of bead sizes in the same piece.

Thread is NOT negotiable. I don't even have to explain that.

And focals. I have a weakness for really fine semi-precious stones. I've paid the price and don't regret it. But if you look at the second picture, you'll see stones that I think will look just lovely with beaded bezels, on a piece of embroidery - and they were bargain basement.

We're an ingenious lot: straws and tubing from the hardware store to line necklaces or short beads that require support, a little Polymer Clay added to the lumpy flip-side of a beautiful ammonite fossil makes it sit properly in a bezel, and rough scoring helps E-6000 adhere to it.
An inexpensive mold and a little Polymer Clay and pigment make a focal. Until Fusion Beads sent me a little "prize" - a triangular bead scoop, I used a matchbook creased to make a kind of funnel to scoop beads.

I'm going to try designing a bargain basement bead class. A project using Czech beads and perhaps incorporating found objects or buys from the hardware store.

I have perfect faith that all of you are hiding some common, everyday, inexpensive thing beneath a layer of gorgeous beadwork - or that you've come up with a cost-effect tool on your own.

I'd love to hear how you've economized and what dollar store/hardware store solutions you've discovered.