I remember reading that quote from Georgia O'keefe in a biography about her. I underlined it and marked the page. For over a decade I was pushing the scale of what I could create in Bead Embroidery. I wanted it big enough that you couldn't ignore the beauty of the medium and image. I thought scale would reduce the way people often trivialize the medium as "crafty." The above diptych took a full year to create. Yes a year of working 3-4 days a week, 8 hours a day and with an assistant on two of those days. You do the math, that is a lot of work.
Red Hot and Blue
44" x 50"
Bead Embroidery and Sequins on Silk
Photo Credit: Larry Sanders
This was the largest I was able to get. I could have gone longer but not any wider as my arms couldn't easily reach the middle of the stretched fabric. They were tough on the body to make.
As I get ready for a new collection that I am now fondly calling Patterns of Life, scale again became a factor. But this time, I scaled down. I needed to work smarter not harder, so I scaled down. I am now working on tiny 8x12 inch panels of embroidery. I love them as I can quickly work through technique, color, texture and composition ideas. One panel only takes 30-40 hours to create as opposed to approximately 1,600 hours. In bead time, 40 hours is quick.
While i frequently sketch in gouache, the beads talk to me as I work. You can't mix color while working in bead embroidery. I have to see one bead next to another to see if the colors optically blend to the shade I want. I have to see if the beads finish changes the read too. So yes, the beads talk to me.
Working at a much smaller scale is very freeing. I don't fight the work as much. I sketch out my idea in water soluble pen straight onto the silk. I begin and sometimes I don't follow my own drawn lines as the color intensity of the beads affects the overall composition. It's a dance in a away.
Even though I am working on a smaller scale, I am still pushing the limits with my, ahem, middle aged body. I recently met with a physical therapist who gave me exercises to strengthen my upper back to take the workload off of my shoulders and neck. A wrist brace has relieved pain I've endured for years. I evidently had a badly inflamed a nerve. I also meet weekly with a chiropractor who untwists me and gets me feeling better. TMI? Well maybe, but I want you to know what artists go through to create their passion. I love what I do and have a great physical therapist who took the time to watch me work and then figure out what I needed to do to keep making my work long into and past retirement. Do artists really ever retire??????
Want to see more of my art in progress? I post daily over on Instagram. Join the party!