In the summer of 2004, a small woman came into the gallery at CityArt, where I was working in Point Arena. We talked about dolls and doll making and she said she asked if she could buy just the porcelain parts. A few weeks later Sherrie came to my house with some of her work and a mysterious bag of things that rattled.
Sherrie showed me doll-like creature that she was covering / embroidering with beads. After we picked out dolly parts for her new creation, she showed me how one could make fabric by sewing tiny seed beads together.
I had a few bead but mine were the larger ones I had used for stringing and adding to tassels. I had disliked these smaller beads because it was so hard to get a string to go through the hole that I found them useless.
Sherrie gave me a needle and thread and tried to teach me the peyote stitch. By the time she left, I think she had given up on me. I no longer made the quilts and did the hand-sewing of previous years because it was getting just too hard to see clearly enough and my hand was not steady enough to poke the needle in just the right place.
However something else was going on with the beads. Even though my strings of peyote soon curled because of missed beads, I loved the smooth feel of the glass in my hands and with beading one only had to point the needle to the middle of the bead to ‘sew’ it. I felt I could do it.
Along with a generous stash of beads, needles and thread, Sherrie had left a book on off-loom weaving techniques. In there I found the brick stitch. Ah! with this one I did not need to see the ½ bead difference in size (still a problem for me) but since the needled only had to go under the bridge thread and between two other beads, even I could hit that spot.
Week after week Sherrie would cut short her time at Sea Ranch resting up from her day job to come to my house, laden with beads, new ideas and more books. It worked so well to do beads in the evening after days in my ceramic studio. Beads were clean and could be done in a comfortable chair before the fire. There was no firing, no colors changing, no gray smears on face and hands, and no back-breaking works to lug around.
A year later I entered the work “To Jane From Tarzan” in the Art in the Redwoods Fine Art Show at Gualala Arts and got a Judges’ Award. The ceramic piece went unnoticed and my fate was sealed.
On this, the cover to my bead sketch book, are some of the beads first given to me by Sherrie and her first 'project' for me. I was supposed to make whatever shape I wanted by trying out different beads and different ways of attaching them together.
That thing that looks like two birds dancing was my first freeform piece.
That sketchbook was soon full so the next one I made with a removeable cover. Now when the sketching part is filled I can stick in a new notebook. However the outside continues to fill with my attempts, samples and failures.
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