Snippets from a bead artist.


Rocks! And on Color

Good morning,  I hope everyone is having a good start to the day!  Yesterday I finished and photographed my latest beady rock.  I was calling it the Rainbow Well Rock, as it is a rock that came from digging up our water pump last year, but it has morphed into Standing Stones rock because of the finished beady 'rocks' sitting on top.  We have a brook nearby where folks have stacked many standing stones, and I love to visit them even if it's only passing by in the car on our way somewhere. They always make me think of magic and peace and fairy folk.

When I went to place Standing Stones with my other beady rocks, I had a bit of an eye opener!  My husband has been insisting that although my beady block has been painful and scary for me, the art journaling and art classes I am taking would eventually impact my beading and bring me back to it, too, and that the break wasn't all bad.  This was really hard for me to hear, especially during those times when I completely despaired and thought that I would never be able to bead again...  but I think that he was right; the art has made me approach my color choices in a very different way, one that I like a lot!  So I am posting photos in order, of beady rocks I have made from past to present, just as I saw them in my studio this morning, to show you what I saw.  :)

Below is a photo of my very first ever beady rock - it doesn't even have a name, so we'll just call it Rock #1 - and I made it using freeform peyote stitch and a bead soup that someone had given me as a gift.  This was years and years and years ago now...over twelve or thirteen years, I think.

Next is Woodland Whimsy... the first photo shows it encased and the second (horrible!) photo shows what it looks like with the flower embellishment added.

Then came the Jelly Mill Rock...

And Turtle Cove, which is three rocks woven separately and then woven together to form a sort of reef, with lots of little surprises hidden in it, turtles and shells and a fish based on Karen William's fishies.

Then Froggie Knoll, a freeform peyote rock made specifically for a short tutorial on covering rocks in Karen's Explorations in Freeform Peyote Beading book...

Then a rock I made for my dear friend Julie Cowan, which has a tiny bit of bead embroidery on it to hold the little mushroom house securely...

My Totem Rock, which I made with freeform right angle weave and fibers added in just to see if I could...

And finally, Standing Stones.  Do you see what I see?

I have always been comfortable and easy with darker, more subdued shades and almost monochromatic soups, but I'm getting better with color!  I can't take the credit for this bead soup at all, the soup was a gift from my wonderful friend Marcia DeCoster, and so it uses all her glorious color ways together  - but I have put the colors in patches that really make me happy, and even though it's random, it is nothing like the kind of chaotic randomness I started from with Rock #1.   And these days I can even work with Orange a little bit without freaking out!! (Someone who knows me pretty well knows that orange and I don't get along - we make each other very anxious and sometimes even panicky.)  In the past I have used some brighter colors, but always tentatively and never with abandon.  I greatly envied people such as Suzanne Golden and Betty Cox, who effortlessly use color in joyously wide swathes which make their pieces sing and dance, and not just dance but BOOGIE.  My 'style' has always been antique-ish and quiet, which is also nice and quite classic, but not as exciting or startling.

My own exploration into more colorful beading started from Beverly Ash Gilbert's wonderful book and her outstanding bead soups (which she is destashing and will no longer be making - if you see some in her shop, GRAB THEM, cause when they're gone, they're gone for good).  Using Beverly's instructions on soup making and how to add low lights and dark lights, I started making some of my own soups up and luuuuuuuuuurved it!  Then along came a lot of sadness, and a block which made it so that all of a sudden, I just could not bead.  I would stand and stare at my bead mat, and it would sit and stare back at me.  Nothing.  I kept it out, and I kept beads on it, and sometimes I would put those beads away and get out a new set of beads to see if they would be happier... and put out mixes and beautiful beads that friends sent to me to help inspire me, and it would still sit and stare at me.  Last month I stood and stared at it and desperately wondered if I should just put it away, not just the beads but the mat and all the tools, too.

During the mute, staring time of the last seven months, I began taking art classes and doing art journaling, dipping my toes into the Mixed Media community (I have more craft/scrapbooking supplies than any human should, and it made sense to me to go for something arty that kind of encompassed everything at once)...  and discovered that I am MUCH braver with color when it comes in the form of paints or pencils or pens or paper.  As with beads, the mixed media art started off as a form of therapy, to try to help me with my grief.  Like beads, I started to immerse myself more and more... and would get scared and back away because I didn't want it to take the place of the beads.  And my husband would tell me (and my therapist, and my friends) that it was a bridge, not a destination.  And that there was room for both.    And I kept on happily/anxiously/desperately/depressedly/hopefully slopping paint and texture paste and taking more classes and making more journals... and one day I looked at Marcia's soup, and the well rock that was sitting there, and picked them both up and it worked.  Standing Stones makes me grin, and it says COLOR - POW!! all over it, and I love it!!!!  I am hoping I will eventually be able to bring some of my new color bravery into some jewelry pieces, but that is thinking ahead too far, and right now I am concentrating on right NOW and just making some rocks while my beads are being friendly.

A friend commenting on Standing Stones said that it looked like a visiting rock from a rainbow universe... and so now my brain is wondering what a 'nebula' rock might look like...  :)


  1. I can't tell you how happy your rock makes me! It really does sing. I hope it's the bridge your creative soul needs, and helps you step back and to from one art to another. Sending you a giant hug, you brilliant, beautiful, artistic woman! :)

    1. Thank you so much, Becs!! You always encourage me and support me, and I love you a ton. <3

  2. I totally adore your Standing Stones/Rainbow rock. You write with such an easy fluid style and that reflects in your beadwork too. I am glad you are fining your way back to the beads. It has been a 'rocky' road and now I too want to bead a rock. As for a nebula rock WOW far out man. x

  3. So pleased you're back playing with your beads! I love this pretty rock and feel inspired to try one myself !

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  5. YES! I see a journey from beads that have been blended to create an impression of a single color to a rock that owns its color choices and lets them stand on their own. All are beautiful, but this new one stands out. It's blooming!

  6. Absolutely adore your beaded rocks!

  7. Absolutely adore your beaded rocks!

  8. Happiness that your muse has brought you back to beads, I'm sure the experiments in colour in whatever medium will help you create more wonders!

  9. I would like to own your gift with darker richness myself, but I love the new rock and the color separation, and beautiful merges and blends. It looks cheerful, and you seem the same. It's been a while, Nancy Dale. Welcome back!

  10. What a cool concept; beaded rocks!! Puts a twist on the Zen garden and Pet rock themes

  11. What a cool concept; beaded rocks!! Puts a twist on the Zen garden and Pet rock themes

  12. I loved reading this post and loved scrolling through the amazing photos of these beaded rocks. They are really something special. What a great way to explore color, and shape, and freeform beading. Also - I loved Beverly Ash Gilbert's book, it was a game changer for me!

  13. What a beautiful diamond beads!!!! I love all designs, truly beautiful.

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  15. I really love your turtle cove rocks ! It is making me want to learn to make it so I could put it on my desk at work which is a bit bleak. I love the colors and the "theme" is really delightful ! I love happy colors so I also like the last one standing stones - such a wonderful array of colors.Keep going on the path you are - I am enjoying it a lot.

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  17. I loved reading your journey of rocks and adore Standing Stones. It's so good to know you're happier with your bead colours now and I'm looking forward to seeing a Nebula rock in the future. xxx

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