Friday, February 28, 2014

Echoes of Gee's Bend -- February's She Made/She Made Reveal

Back in October, when I was doing a show in Northport, Alabama, I had the great fortune of reconnecting with the wonderful Therese Frank, who was at the show to visit, shop, and generally spread good cheer. After some shopping, she came back to my booth, handed me a little wrapped bundle, and said, "I just found a bunch of these, and I'm going to open the February She Made/She Made challenge to some extra people.  Wanna play?"  Well, heck yes, I wanna play!

What I found in the little bundle was this lovely, soulful little face, with the most wonderful expression imaginable. Doesn't she just look like she's been around long enough to have the world's wisdom in her heart, and the joy of life bubbling through her smile?

I lived in Alabama for fourteen years, and I got to know and to work with a number of fantastic folk artists from the region.  This little face felt like an embodiment and distillation of some of the African American artists whose work I came to know, particularly the women of Gee's Bend.
Gee's Bend, Alabama is an incredibly remote, tiny little town on a spit of land virtually surrounded by the Alabama River. The town is on land that used to be a cotton plantation, and the 750 or so people who still live there are descendants of the slaves that used to work there. The women of Gee's Bend have, for generations, made quilts from scraps of fabric that they had access to -- old flour sacks, worn out jeans, textiles ends from a nearby factory that upholstered furniture for Sears -- anything they could lay their hands on.

my inspiration quilt
These folk quilts were discovered by collectors and museum curators, and in the past decade or so, collections of the quilts have been shown at major museums around the country.  I saw an exhibition of them here in Louisville several years ago.  The lines are not necessarily straight, and the fabric mix is unorthodox, but the stitching is precise, the patterns are full of energy, and you can almost feel the love and pride each quilter put into a piece radiating from it. Their work is in museums and private collections, and the quilters are still active as the Gee's Bend Collective.

So, in tribute to the incredible ladies of Gee's Bend, I wanted to make my own quilt around the clay face, inspired particularly by the quilt above.

Using Tilas, seed beads, bugles, and a whole lot of improvisation, I created this bracelet, Echoes of Gee's Bend. I tried to mimic the blocks of bordering fabric that surround the squares of colors in the inspiration quilt.  I threw in a little bit of cream just like the quilter did.

I highly recommend that you check out the story and the work of the Pettways, the Youngs, the Bendolfs, and all of the other ladies of Gee's Bend here and here and here.  And you should also check out what the other participants in this She Made/She Made challenge have done with their clay faces.

Bobbie (you're here)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Welcome Taste of Spring - At Least In The Bead Room

The weather here has finally warmed up for a couple of days -- enough to melt the snow off the yard and turn the sheets of ice on the sidewalks to lovely, lurching puddles of slush. Not warm enough to wear shorts (despite what the guy in the grocery store parking lot thought when he got dressed this morning), but enough to see a glimmer of promise that spring will, indeed, come soon.

And another harbinger landed in the mailbox today, when the latest assortment of beautiful beads from ZNet Shows showed up. I'm thrilled to be a member of their design team, and today's delivery was a surprise selection of crystals and sea glass for the next issue of Creative Spark.

I mean, really, how luscious are these? Soft glows and bright sparkles. Fantastic shapes, a wonderful mix of sizes, an inspiring collection of possibilities!

So despite what the weather is like this weekend, I'll be channeling visions of warm breezes, soft spring pastels, and perhaps a Derby hat or two.  Creative Spark will be published in early March, so I've got to get working...

Friday, February 14, 2014

On The Wings Of Love - Revealing the Color Red

In the depths of winter, we often search for anything that brings feelings of warmth.  If you work with color, the warmest thing you can do is work with red.  Of course, red is also the color for Valentine's Day, a day wrapped in red (and chocolate, but beading chocolate just gets messy).

With this in mind, Karen Williams challenged the members of the Facebook Freeform Peyote page to create something with red, and some of us are part of a mini-blog hop to share our creations.

I started with a gorgeous focal from JulsBeads, with a gorgeous deep ruby red background a decorations of other reds, greenish turquoise, and a hint of orange.

As I worked, the freeform took on the shape of wings. So I call this piece "On The Wings of Love".

It's a little lacier and more open than my typical freeform work.  I also took the opportunity to use some tilas and twin beads -- new for me in freeform.

Thanks, Karen, for the idea and inspiration that I needed to push back into freeform.  Lots of folks will be revealing their creations on the Facebook group page.  If you want to see the other participants in the mini blog hop, see here:

Beadsong Jewelry (you're here - thanks!)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Rose's Thorns, or When Donuts Go Punk

Remember these?

These two donuts were how I passed the slow moments at a show over the winter.  Couldn't quite figure out how to finish them, but at the time, I suspected that spikes might be involved in one.

It took a while to mature, but here's the finished version of the rhodonite donut:

Somehow, once the spikes grew on the donut, frilly soft finishing just wouldn't do. So rhodonite, onyx, and gunmetal chain finished it off.  I really like it!

Oh, and I finished off the malachite/lapis donut as well, but it's a completely different, non-spiky style.  And then I completely forgot to take a picture of it before it went into a local gallery. Bad, bad blogger. Maybe I'll go to the gallery and get a picture there.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Okay, I've signed up.  Have you?!?
And though I was going to recommend that Lori Anderson be officially recognized as Wonder Woman, I think it's more appropriate to recognize that Lori could whip Wonder Woman's butt.

Can't wait to see what this BSBP brings!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Lots To Do!

How did it all of a sudden become February?!?

But it is, and along with shivering through the snow and ice (and snow, and ice, and then for good measure, snow), there are a couple of challenges that are percolating on my worktable for reveal in the next few weeks.

First up is a challenge dreamed up by the fabulous Karen Williams on the Facebook Freeform Peyote Beading page.  Called the Color Red Challenge, it's an invitation to create a piece, using shades of red and at least partially using freeform peyote. There will be a mini blog hop as well, and the reveal is February 15. So next Saturday, while you're recuperating from all the Valentine's chocolate, be sure to check it out.  I'll post my piece here, and I'll have links to the other blog hop participants as well.

(By the way, if you haven't already heard, Karen has a kickstarter project running to fund her second book on freeform peyote.  If you're familiar with Karen's skills at teaching and inspiring others to chase their creative muse, check it out.  If you're not familiar with Karen, you owe it to yourself to check it out!)

The second challenge is the February She Made/She Made, which this month has expanded beyond the two usual participants, the lovely Therese Frank and the equally lovely Christine Altmiller, to include a few others who will be working with wonderful clay faces made by an Alabama artist. The reveal for this one is February 28. This face is a bit of a challenge, but I'm so excited about my idea for it I can hardly wait to reveal it (of course, that means I'd better get off my butt and finish it!).

Mark your calendars, and come back to visit for these two reveals.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna pile up on the sofa under a nice warm blanket and watch the Olympics while I work on my creations.