Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Power of a Smile

It's been a stressful few days.  The end of semester, of a school year, always is.  I failed my French translation exam for the second time, something that's required to do my MA thesis.  Required, not exactly necessary, as all my research is US based.  Since I didn't pass, I'll have to do an MA exam, which requires paperwork.  Of course.  All while I'm trying to grade my students final papers.  And have life-stuff going on.  Just a  busy, stressful time.  And since I don't handle things well until I have a Plan, I was spending my time frowning. And grumbling about having a degree in academic hoop-jumping.

Driving home from my mad dash to campus, the german shepard that a woman was walking on the street, swerved into the middle of the road, to chase a squirrel.  I was far enough away where all I had to do was slow down.  But seeing how silly the dog was, how excited to chase that squirrel, well, it made me smile.
And, once I smiled, I remembered how good it felt.  How a smile can change my attitude.  How a smile often leads to laughter.  How a smile is the best defense against rules that seem ridiculous.  And how grateful I am to have the life I have.  And that my hoop-jumping doesn't look like this:
Though it does look like there's alcohol involved in this hoop-jumping... hmmm.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Do I Bead?

I ran across these interview questions when clearing out my computer a few weeks ago.  They're based on questions from a bead group I was briefly involved with.  Thought I'd share here, instead.
Berkana, circa 1998

Please introduce yourself to the readers:
 Hi, all.  My name is Skylar and I’m a bead addict.  I recently taught my roommate J how to do bead embroidery.  Now, we no longer have a living room.  The beads have taken over every available space.

I’m also a graduate student, working on an MA in History, and starting my PhD studies in Fall, 2012.  My History research focuses on women and gender, looking primarily at how women create communities for activism purposes.  I also have an MA in Gender & Women’s Studies.  Beading is a nice break from all of the academic stuff I have to do!  If I can teach Gender & Women’s Studies, write, and do beadwork for the rest of my life, I’ll be very happy.  (Although these aren't my only goals!)

How long have you been beading?
 I’ve been beading almost 20 years.  I started out by doing ceramics.  When I wanted beads to use for embellishment, one thing led to another.  I’ve always been a rockhound, so beading with gemstones is a big attraction.

I taught myself how to do bead embroidery.  I had done embroidery with my Grandma as a girl and loved making up my own designs.  A friend gave me a box of broken rhinestone pieces.  With these, I made my first collage collar piece.  (I think Ronnie still has this, all done up in its pink splendor.)  I loved the flexibility of the medium - how portable it was, how reasonably priced the beads were.  Granted, there wasn't nearly the selection that there is NOW!

I also had early support for the jewelry I made.  Friends in Vegas loved the designs and wore them often during rituals.  When Katlyn of Mermade Magickal Arts called me an "artist," I began to believe.  Then I met Sally, the BeadLady, at a festival, and through her joyous reaction, I was inspired to try new things, play with new materials.  I doubt I would have continued beading for so long without Sally's early and sustained support!

Or Ronnie, with her "wall o' BrisingBeads."  :)

You have to have people that believe in you! 

When did you first try bead embroidery as a technique?
 Twenty years ago.  I made hundreds (groan) of pairs of beaded bell ankle bracelets for a shop in Vegas before a friend handed me an early Jamie Cloud Eakin book and said, “Try this!”  Immediately, I was hooked.  It gave me a way to play with rocks, as well as beads.

Why do you like bead embroidery?
 I love the creative opportunity of bead embroidery.  I am continually amazed at what can be done with a needle, some thread, a bit of backing and ultra suede and some beads!  I get bored very easily, but with bead embroidery, I can always create something different.
The embroidery also reminds me of my grandmothers, who both did handwork – knitting, crocheting, some thread embroidery.  Even though they have both been gone for many years, I feel close to them when I’m being creative.

What are your inspirations and influences?
 I’m inspired by nature – gardens in particular.  I’m inspired by paintings and other artwork.  I love quotes and I’m working on putting more of these in my work.  I’m also inspired by women.  I love when a woman puts on a gorgeous piece of jewelry and it completely changes how she views herself.  For me, this is accessing the Goddess within.  This is a major influence in my work.  With teaching Women’s Studies, maybe I’m hyper aware of the struggles and negative messages that women receive.  So, I’m always working to circumvent that in some way.  Jewelry does this very effectively.

What are your favorite materials?
 I don’t think I could live without seed beads.  Or rocks.  Rocks!  Or focal pieces, or lampwork.  Sigh.  Do I have to pick a favorite?

What defines your style?
 My style?  I’m pretty eclectic.  I blame it on being a Gemini – I can’t be held to one experience of something.  I work for a bit with an Art Deco feel, then switch to Southwestern, then go very bohemian.  I love to do collage pieces!  Taking bits and pieces and making them work together. 

What are your future goals with beading?
My future goals with beading include learning to do more beadweaving stitches.  Want to learn right-angle weave.  Currently, I’m obsessed with making art quilts.  I don’t have any started yet.  I’m in the “hunting and gathering” phase.  J  But, oh, such gorgeous materials.

Usually, I have so many ideas for embroidery that there’s no time to practice other forms of beadwork. 

I also have a milestone birthday coming up in a few months.  In honor of this, I’m going to gift 50 women a piece of my jewelry.  This is a way to honor what they mean to me and to spread a little more bead embroidery love out into the world.