Snippets from a bead artist.



Good morning, all! I feel rather pretentious as I sit down to write this: I don't normally think of a theme or have a specific intent while beading away, the beads just put themselves where they want to be. And while that did apply a little with my new cuff, not as much as usual... so it happened like this;

Whilst browsing online (I should NEVER be allowed to do this while I have money in the bank, NEVER), I came across Beverly Ash Gilberts' site with her glorious bead soups. I could not possibly leave the site without buying something. The soups are just mesmerizing, and I had to pick more than one, too, of course. But this one in particular struck me, called Cafe Au Lait. HAD to have it. Yet, it didn't remind me at all of the name she chose for it. I sat down with it spread out on my bead mat when it came and stared at it for awhile, because the colors were just amazing to me.

What to do with it? I know her mixes are just perfect for freeform work, but I wasn't in the mood.... the more I stared the more I wanted to embroider with it, but I couldn't think of how it would look laid out. I went to The Stash and combed through my cabochons, looking for one that perfectly matched the teal in the accent beads and actually FOUND one (I was so excited, I had been sure I would need to shop more - such a hideous trial that would have been, too, lol). I took my lovely cab (I don't know what the mystery stone is, I am only positive it isn't turquoise) and plopped it down in the middle of the soup and then used my hands to scoop the beads around it until it looked like it was half buried. And that was it; all of the luscious shades of brown looked like fertile dark earth in layers of strata to me, and the accents of moonstone and teal were like jewels found on an archeology expedition. My whole focus on the cuff became the intention of 'burying' these beautiful beads in such a way that people would be able to see these as unearthed treasures half buried in the ground of some ancient site. And so it became Unearthed, before I was even fully begun.

About a day later, as I was happily excavating, I saw Andrew Thornton's blog post for his word of the week: this week's word is Ancient. So I am going to post this to Andrew's comments for that post, I can't resist. It feels like everything worked in conjunction for this cuff to happen, and that I wasn't alone while making it, it's kind of incredible. I know it may not be the most gorgeous or sparkly of my cuffs, but I think it's my favorite, because of how it came together.

Being a sneaky, teasing sort of person, I posted my cuff to Facebook last night without announcing the name, because I really wanted to see if I had succeeded, if anyone else would see what I had seen while making it. I really love all the different interpretations I got in response, some of them were just wonderful, and gave me the opportunity to look at it from different perspectives. Some of my favorites were:

‎"...late autumn... when there is but a hint of color left in the leaves..." - Robynne

"It is similar to Hopi Indian beadwork that is very spiritual. In Navajo rugs with similar patterns, there is a beginning and a physical outlet within the design for the spirits within the pattern." - David McKinney

"Sort of reminds me of treasures in wet sand. That matte brown along the edge and in the cabs is great." - Kim Spooner

"Tamed Wilderness.. I think.. Its raw, and beautiful and you tamed it..." - Diana Curtis

"My gut response to it was something like 'Dream Path'. I think it looks like the paths that some people walk in China for natural reflexology." - Jeri Kennedy

"...beach with pebbles and blue sea." - Jan Fly

And I was amazed at how many people included the earth in all of it's variations in their interpretations, I am thrilled!! It is really touching to me that I was able to conjure part of what I had intended. I know, I know it's just a cuff - but it was more than a cuff while I was making it. Thanks to all of my friends for responding with your reactions to it!! And now, off to start the next Super Secret Project, lol!!

Have a great day!


  1. You have outdone yourself, Nancy. Everything about it is stunning~ the colors, the design, the blend of components. And the name is perfect.

    The cab looks like it could be chrysophase.

  2. Totally amazing! I am in awe....So want to learn how to do this!!

    The colors are beautiful, and the patterns you embroidered show them off to perfection!

  3. Ancient Unearthing ...yes, perfect name ...but I still see a box of chocolates!!! hehe :) I love the matte colors and subtle tones ...truly gorgeous!!!!

  4. It's beautiful and has a perfect name.

  5. I Love it! Your work is amazing!
    Susy from Italy

  6. Thank you SO much, ladies!!! Juls - thanks to you especially, cause I couldn't think of the name of that stone to save my life, lol!!!

  7. I immediately thought calm, spiritual, mother earth when I saw this cuff just now.

    I really like that you shared your thought process while you were creating. I'm always intrigued by what the artist was thinking during creating and how the final piece comes about.

  8. I just bought Gilbert's Book - Beaded Colorways! Your cuff is fantastic - the cab is perfect. Don't you love it when you go excavating through your stash and unearth the perfect treasure? Now I'm off to look at some bead soup.....

  9. Love this cuff Nancy!!! the word ancient seems to come up quite a bit in things I make, so no surprise I love this design of yours. I was thinking santa fe when I first saw your cuff..all the natural earth colors just like New Mexico...

  10. Wow - this cuff leaves me speechless! What a stunning work of art!
    Have a wonderful afternoon!

  11. Great work and great story!
    Thank you so much for sharing!
    Very inspiring!

  12. I too loved Beverly's soups, but they are a little difficult to work with embroidery. Yet you have done one marvelous job of taking all those beads & making something lovely. And yes! The name you chose matches the piece perfectly

  13. Oh I so need to try this sometime! I love your cuff! Well you sort of knew I would though didn't you! I love the name too!

  14. Hey! I just found you through Andrew Thornton's word of the week post. :D This is gorgeous! I worked as an archaeologist for a few years and yes, this looks just like half-emerged artifacts in the earth. Wonderful effect! I agree with the person who mentioned the Navajo; this seems to have some sacred qualities to it. Beverly must be so honored to have one of her soups be turned into this gorgeous piece! Not sure what that stone is, but it's perfect. Kudos. :)

  15. It is fabulous! I too think of Native American artwork and Mother Nature..just beautiful!!

  16. It is so inspiring! I never think at a bead soup for an embroidered piece. But now.....
    Thank you!

  17. Truly 'Unearthed'- from the bead soup mix to its final form, from the furthest reaches of your mind and Muse to what it became, from Ancient Days to Modern Times...this is Unearthed!

  18. Your work is stunning. Found you via Juls- love that cuff you gave her. I am now a follower!!

  19. Thank you so much!!
    @Heather - I'm so happy you found me, especially through Juls! Thanks so much for your kind words, I'm happy to meet you!

  20. Wonderful story about bringing a piece to life -the essence of the beader's journey. And the cuff is absolutely gorgeous!

  21. Absolutely beautiful. The colours are just gorgeous. Other than the cabs did you have to add many other beads? I am thinking the soup mix is a great way to create a cuff as I always tend to plan out my beads so pedantically - this might force me to just pick the beads at random!!

    Great work!


  22. Thank you, Karyn! I had to pick out the very largest of her beads, as they would have been too high in profile, and so I added in just a few of my own crystals and pearls, and the cab and side moonstones were mine, as well....


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