Being human...


The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~
 13th Century

(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)


Resist * Stitch * Bead


Have you ever signed up for a workshop when you weren't quite sure it would offer what you need to know, or if that direction is where you want to go?

And then when the workshop is over, you head home with your mind swimming with new inspiration and you realize you made a darn good decision - for once, that month...?!

Resist dyeing on hand felted wool was something I knew nothing about but I did know that at this juncture in my beading life I was keen to explore different textiles on which to sew all those tiny beads.  I had been working primarily with Indonesian batiks so when a friend suggested this workshop, the first thing I did was to Google the instructor's name (I Google everything so that was nothing new) and whoa, not only did this gal seem like a barrel of  FUN, she also created very beautiful work with felt.  I figured if all else failed and this wasn't going to be a medium for me, at least I would have lots of laughs and view a whole bunch of really wonderful felt art.  

Workshop photos courtesy Molly Green
If you haven't heard of Chad Alice Hagen, let it be known she is a whirling dervish felt dyer extraordinaire.  For five days she had us kneading, pounding and squeezing merino batts.  We then clamped, pinched and folded the felted wool around the weirdest objects you can imagine - like tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, office clips, clothespins of varied sizes, rusty bits of this & that and lots of stained whatyamacallits.  Then into the dye pots they all went, while we danced - yes, that's right, danced.  Warning: Chad makes you do a "dye dance" - it's tradition - although no dance skills are required on the paperwork you fill out before attending one of her workshops.  It was a hoot!

The dancing must have worked because we watched while the dye pots transformed our little swatches of felt into quite remarkable something-elses...

The Pacific Northwest Art School on Whidbey Island, WA, was the site for our workshop.  They have an excellent workspace for these kinds of textile shenanigans - a table for each participant with power access for a task light, several sinks and easy access to outdoors, which is where the dye pots lived.

You have no idea what you're going to get until you unfold that felt.  There is a lot of big B.O.L.D. color with this type of dyeing and by placing your bundles into successive pots of color, the variations in design, color overlays, are endless.

This red one was rolled on the diagonal around a metal tube, then tied with rubber bands

Those yellowish stripes on the bottom?  Tongue depressors!

And all those half circle shapes?  Big 'ole office clips.  Who knew?!

I'm especially fond of the subtleties that happened, like this filigree in the corner...
When it came time to begin stitching and beading, we each had about 35+ pieces to choose from.  Out came the threads, the stashes of beads.  Our work tables started to look like this:

Glorious mayhem...

...and bead coveting galore!
After deciding to cut up & then stitch together three different felts (is that a word?), I finally put my beading needle through that first bead, through my first felt, and oh la la, little did I know that sewing beads onto felt was gonna be like sewing through butter.  There is no better word than YUM.

On this cold & chilly winter solstice eve,
I wish for each of you
the warmth of what you love,
the fine colors of vivid imaginings,
good & true companions,
the many blessings of laughter
dancing when you least expect it.


The cure for f.r.o.z.e.n. paws...


Dry, cold weather is upon us but there's no stopping Isla when she's decked out in her winter coat.  This look she's giving me says something like, "Try and catch me if you can!"  Ahhh, nothing like a dawg with the happiness zoomies to warm your heart...


Bead Journal Project ~ November fog


Just a tiny bit of backtracking...  

I am working on the completion of my Bead Journal Project for 2007-08. Yes, you read that correctly...07-08. I am a tad behind, shall we say? Those of you like me, who still haven't finished, you are not alone - let us stand proudly together as the official "behinders"!

About a year ago, before I took the big gulp and jumped into this blog pond, my beady mentor (and now good friend) Robin Atkins wrote about my BJP theme, photographed the pages that were complete at the time and then posted the whole lot over on her blog, Beadlust.  She is ALWAYS doing this for people who don't have a web presence - how special is that?!  If you'd like to read her post, click here for 'A Sense of Place'.

Recently I was reviewing what needed to be done to finish this taking-so-long project.  Not too much more to go, I can happily say!  But I realized that I needed to post an updated photo of my completed page for November since that page was still "in progress" at the time of Robin's post .  So here it is:

One of my goals for this 12-page project (a page a month for a year) has been that each page has to contain a new bead embroidery technique - something new to me that I've never done before.  For November 'Fog' that technique was a bezel, so I surrounded my beach stone with a delicate cage of beads to hold it in place.  There is no glue involved since the stone is initially basted down with ordinary sewing thread.  When the bezel is complete and you've reached the top row, that last row holds your object tight.  Remove the basting threads and voila.  Oh, to be so caged...!

A couple of really good books have helped me with techniques along the way: one is Robin's book, "Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery, Fresh Ideas and Techniques for Creating Art with Beads" (bezels, page 52), and the other is Larkin Jean Van Horn's book, "Beading on Fabric: Encyclopedia of Bead Stitch Techniques" (stacked cage, page 92). 

Only a slight detour to the past.  I haven't forgotten the textiles post I promised...


The warp and the woof


This is an illustration from "The Project Gutenberg EBook of a Study of the Textile Art in It's Relation to the Development of Form and Ornament", by William H. Holmes.  This page has examples of the warp and woof in mending and darning and they are quite beautiful in their simplicity.  The one shown here is of linen darning, "drawing in the woof threads".

I love the metaphorical images that spring to mind from the phrase "the warp and the woof" (or weft, as it's also called).  For me, these are the images of interrelatedness, the interlacing of directional opposites, collaboration, compositional texture, the strength of many to support and sustain the structure when one thread is removed...

I am not a weaver, nor do I know much about stitching or even sewing for that matter.  My grandmother taught me to darn socks (long forgotten) and I do have a rather rustic knowledge of how to mend.  During the 70's, I machine sewed several pairs of those simple, wide-legged hippie pants, the style with the drawstring closure around the waist (remember those? yikes!) because sewing a zipper would have been akin to building a space rocket.  Or almost.  It's been enough to get by and these days, well, I mainly return wayward buttons to their rightful spots or steady a falling hem.

That is, until that fateful day I jumped off the deep end into visual journaling with beads on fabric.  Suddenly my learning curve went intensely vertical.  The need to learn the language of fabrics and the techniques of stitching all those tiny beads onto a surface catapulted me elsewhere - elsewhere, away from the comfort of a simple running stitch and cotton muslin for my hippie pants. 

Back to my metaphor.  These days I feel like I am truly pulling together the warp and the woof of my work with beads and textiles.  As the upcoming Bead Journal Project approaches, I find that I am contemplating fabric use almost more than any other part of the project.  The beads - they almost always speak for themselves and direct themselves, they do not worry me.  The surface I will sew on is another matter altogether. 

Which makes me ponder on this blustery afternoon, what sort of weaver will I be?

I welcome your thoughts on this subject.  In my next post, I'll show you some textiles I've fallen for.


Dawg days of autumn...


...what a glorious time of year here in the Pacific Northwest!

It is the perfect season to begin a blog and it seems only fitting to start my first entry with a photo of my soulmutt, Isla, enjoying a gorgeous day, watching leaves fall and probably wishing they were birds she could chase instead. She'll be with me a lot on Sweetpea Path, since she generally follows me everywhere and wants to be part of everything. Try and stop her.

The idea for this blog has been percolating in my brain (and heart) for some time. Although active in the blog world through the participation and enjoyment of the blogs of others, I have been hesitant to create one of my own. That learning curve stuff, I guess. But the time has come. And I am blaming all of this on the BEADS...

Back in 2007, I joined the Bead Journal Project and I have not been the same since. Really. Ask my friends. If you are unfamiliar and would like to read all about this amazing project, you can do it here and you can visit their blog here.

Like many gals smitten with beads, I had been hoarding them and playing with them and from time to time, even making the odd wearable object with them. Yet it wasn't until I happened upon something called "improvisational bead embroidery" that my course was changed forever. The BJP project was founded by Robin Atkins - bead artist, teacher, writer & mentor - who, in her own words has "developed an incurable case of Beadlust..." (Robin, do you know how many lives you've changed?! thank you.)

My love of beadwork has jettisoned me towards a new and dare I say, very exciting path. In 2010, another BJP begins and I'll be taking part. I hope to meet many more beady pals and best of all, partake and contribute to this sharing and generous community of talented and creative bloggers. I am so happy to be here at last.

When I'm not swooning about beads, I'll probably be yacking about plants, gardens, native critters, stuff that's happening, rain that's falling (duh!) or anything else that catches my fancy. Oh, and life-with-dawg. Cuz it's my blog - and I can. Nuff said.

Please come back and visit again! Comments are always welcome. I'll hit "Post" now and see what happens...