Snippets from a bead artist.

1.09.2011

Mistakes, Self Doubt and the Ah-HAH Moment of the Week



I make mistakes. LOTS of them. And lots of them in beadwork, too. I once read of a beading artist who said something along the lines of ‘I won’t sell it unless it’s perfect.’ And I went ‘Huh??’ because I haven’t made one single thing that I think qualifies as perfect. Starting out, I made even more mistakes...tension mistakes, bead choice mistakes, color mistakes, you name it. And I was determined that my piece WOULD be perfect, darn it, or it would go in the mass of tangled bead remains that I keep in case I should ever need that particular bead again. Needless to say, the outcomes were not perfect. I was just starting to learn!! High expectations, indeed. And that set me up for the inevitable self doubt, where one starts to wonder if one can, in fact, make anything at all. I would sit there, sulkily picking at my very visible knots, and think myself into inaction. I had lovely visions of all the things I wanted to create. Ah...but they wouldn’t materialize! Ok, then, I couldn’t come up with a design on my own. Well, then, I better get to practicing.


So then bead books, bead magazines, bead-related web sites, pattern sales, ANYTHING that was published was fair game (as long as it was ethical - I learned quickly that I didn’t care for myself too much if I strayed across that line). I made projects. I messed them up. I made them again. I did one project in Beadwork magazine no less than TEN TIMES over until I was pleased that I had finally figured out the directions. (Um, that one’s actually pretty funny, as it turned out that they had meant to print one direction differently and made a correction/apology in the next issue - by which time my TEN TIMES over project had already revealed the mistake to me...)


I was obsessed with learning to increase and decrease peyote until I could make something 3 dimensional that was self-supporting. I did tutorials and book projects until they were coming out of my ears. Tokia Bridges, Julia Pretl, anything and everything I could find. (Proof is in my Vessel gallery on my website - almost none of them are my own design.) I made Christmas ornaments from patterns bought on Paula Adams’ site. (They were all gifts.) I made beaded beads. Many many vessels and ornaments and beads later, it finally clicked and I understood that a bead placed HERE would not only make it smaller, but would either pooch the beadwork out, or pull it in. Big huge sigh of accomplishment, and I happily made three or four of my very own designs. And then, of course, once it was thoroughly learned, I got bored.


This happened with most stitches. I would obsess, do a few hundred projects, finally get to making my own designs, and get bored. And through every single one of my little rabid stitch obsessions, I made mistakes. It took me years to finally stop cussing and start paying attention to the fact that every mistake taught me something else; pay more attention to where your thread path leads and exits; break the darn bead if it’s ten miles back from where you are currently instead of ripping out YARDS of beadwork (and go back and add the proper bead later); make a knot when you’ve completed a bit you’re particularly happy with; slow down; try a different bead, etc etc.


At some point, I stopped doing the projects, although I continue to get the books and magazines. I read through the projects now to understand how the artist got the effect that they created, and I pay the most attention to the bits that are labeled “NOTE” or “Artist’s Tip.” And I love what artists are making; but now I just want to make something that their project inspired, or make something completely different... Although I must confess, I am still obsessing - over freeform peyote, which has me bamboozled. I’ve made two bracelets (my own designs) and I am still voracious for more technique information, more hints, more tips. I look at freeform peyote and fondly wonder if it came about from a mistake: “Crap! Look at that! I used the wrong color for at least an INCH while I was watching that TV show.... wait, what if I add this? And then maybe this other size?? Hey! That’s COOOOOOLLLLL...”


And I still make mistakes. Nowadays, I hide them better, that’s all. Or I manage to incorporate them into the design (I LOVE bead embroidery!!!!), or, as a last resort, I go back and fix ‘em. And I finally LIKE them a little. It’s OK with me that I make the mistakes, I don’t mind learning from them, or having to go back and try again. I can take up some beads, make a complete mess, and go ahead and start again without the level of frustration I had before. Because now, by some magic, and a lot of practice, I can at long last create what I see in my mind. And to me, that is amazing and thrilling and, to quote my Mom, ‘the cat’s ASS!!!!!!’ (By which she meant awesomely incredible.) So that was my ah-HAH moment of the week. It took forever, but I’ve learned enough to feel comfortable trying things and not having them work every time. Wow. This made some of that horrible self-doubt recede into the background, at least for now. Freedom!!


In particular, I was so happy with my newest bracelet design, Black Ice. I had this vision kind of floating around happily in my head...not very well defined (my muse doesn’t work that way - I don’t get detailed schemata, I get fuzzy visuals with no details), but just THERE. It wouldn’t go away. I worked two whole other projects (maybe three) while it drifted around... and then I found my faceted laborodite stones and knew what I wanted to achieve, because I have desperately been wanting to play with my Swarovski 8mm chatons, but was so uncertain I would be able to make it come to life. I had never before tried to come up with a bezel out of my head, I had always bezeled according to directions from others’ projects. So I played around, and played around some more, and finally decided to turn to the stitch I have been working with the most lately, herringbone. And wow!! There they were! And off I went. When it was finished, I was over the moon happy with it. “I saw that in my head!! Look!! Now it’s sitting there on the table!!”


While I was working on Black Ice, another idea came along and hit me upside the head, and now I am working on a piece with Right Angle Weave. And it’s working!! It may come out just the way I saw it... can you tell I’m grinning??!

14 comments:

  1. OMG I LOVE THIS POST!!! I'm going to print it out and hang on my wall... Had to laugh at the free form part,you should check out Linda Roberts Tea Pot that started out as free form!!! I too am a frustrated, (and much less disciplined) beader... which might explain my limited knowledge and ability. However I do love the medium, and these words are so very encouraging to me!!! Thank you...

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  2. I LOVE Linda's Teapot!!!! I hope she makes more!!! And I hope it makes you hopeful - it did me!!

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  3. Wonderful bracelet! Happy beading.

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  5. As one who is still working on the perfect closure for my bracelet that was to be an Ice Queen entry, I understand and celebrate your victory.

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  6. So now you're not obsessed any more but possessed... lol. Honestly, you make such wonders. I think you have found your own style and design since quite a while. Your bracelet is AWESOME. I am looking forward to seeing your next perfection ;-)

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  7. Thank you Nancy for sharing so much of yourself and the process by which you explore and turn out such "soulfull" works!

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  8. Your work is so fabulous. Thanks for sharing your strengths and weaknesses, It helps those of us who are starting out in bead embroidery and bead weaving.

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  9. Beautiful work! Happy beading.

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  10. Yes, a marvelous post and timely for me, because I've been wrestling with just this issue ALL DAY! The Black Ice bracelet is gorgeous, and I only hope the pieces that cause me to bite my nails would turn out so well. Thanks for putting the angst we all endure on occasion into such a wonderful perspective!

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  11. Thank you, ladies! I'm so glad when I am able to say something that means something to others as well! The best part of beading is sharing, and it always will be. I look forward to seeing what all of you make next, too!!

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  12. es la pulsera mas bonita que he visto en mucho tiempo. Me encanta. me gustaría saber si tienes tutoriales.

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