Thom Atkins, a man who beads...


and...stitches THE MOST exquisite art quilts.
Breathtaking, literally.

To see his jeweled handwork in person was an enormous pleasure.  If you are
anywhere near the area, I hope you'll visit the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum
and see these beauties for yourself.  
Thom Atkin's one-person exhibit, 'Ten Years of Beaded Quilts,' will be up until March 25th.

This piece is comprised of five panels, the large center one shown here.
You can see more of 'Byzantine Bezels and Borders, Oh My!' over on Thom's website,
but believe me,
there are no pictures that can come close to capturing what they look like 
when they are a few inches from your face...get there if you can.

what happens when you pile four bead-smitten, textile-smitten gals into one vehicle
and head off to see an exhibit such as the likes of this?
Nothing short of a totally splendid & inspiring time, that's what!

I'll show you a few things that really knocked my socks off.

At the helm of our merry band was my dear bead friend, Robin Atkins...
Thom Atkins is Robin's brother.  Can you believe that all this beadiness is in ONE family?!
She's posted about Thom's exhibit over on her blog, Beadlust...go check it out, it's a lovely read.
Needless to say, she is one proud sister.

A special thrill for me was to see an entire wall filled with Thom's pieces from
the Bead Journal Project, 2007.  That was one of the years that I participated
 and I remember watching his pieces show up on the BJP website...
oh, how wonderful to see them in person, at last!

But before I go on, I hope you will all bear with me in regards to the color & quality
of the photos here.  Geesh, it was tough shooting in there...low, tungsten light
which cast a yellow glow on everything...camera's ISO pushed to the max....so I've opted for
just getting these images up here (rather than spending hours & hours tweaking in PE).
The beauty of Thom's work will come through, even if the photography fell short...

9" x 13"

January was one of my favorites from the BJP (click on the name above to see it on Thom's website)
...I love his beaded interpretation of the feeling of sideways rain...

and the way that bottom edge is beaded...those rain drops are hand carved Labradorite beads.

Here is some more beautiful rain...

It was easy to be swept up in the details.  Many of the quilts were quite large, like this one
which hangs in two panels...I kept moving up for a closer look.

50" x 53"

Click on the photos to see the details better.

If you go, plan on lots of time for staring.  I was spellbound by the iguana in The Lotus Eater...
his back is entirely covered with tortoiseshell dagger beads...splendid!

detail from The Lotus Eater
31.5" x 37"

detail from Monterey Seascape
27" x 36"

I think Robin and I were not alone swooning over this underwater habitat...truly incredible.
Can you tell this was an exhibit filled with viewers' expletives?!  That central branching
plant is constructed of triangular seed beads...must be one of finest uses of that shaped bead
that I have ever seen, so expressive of that plant's jointed structure...

detail from Coral

Although not a quilter myself per se, I have great appreciation for the skill involved in letting
fabric dictate line & motion, for taking traditional methods and making one's own marks with them...
for embellishing personal stories in one's own particular voice...

detail from Australian Aboriginal meets American Indian

For me, Thom's creations are as bold, and strong and as expressive as a very fine opera,
filled to the brim with his very distinctive voice!

Here's Robin with her "little" brother, Thom.
I'd say they are both beaming, wouldn't you?

: :  :

Thom has a book coming out in the fall, on quilting with beads.
Stay tuned for that one...I'll write a reminder when it hits the streets.
And if you can't wait to learn more about his methods, rumor has it that Thom will be teaching soon-ish
right there at the La Conner Quilt Museum...
news to be posted about this ~ and the link to sign up ~ on the museum's website 
starting on January 18th.
Ok...I'm going to spill some more beans and let you know that Robin has agreed to teach
two half-day workshops there herself...

it's all too, too beadiful indeed!

: : :

February UPDATE!  Registration is now open for the Quilt Fest Workshops (happening in early October, 2012) to be held at the La Conner Quilt Museum, WA, where both Thom and Robin will be teaching their extraordinary techniques and sharing their talent.  Thom's workshops include, "Bead Embroidery for Quilters," "Beaded Bezels & Borders," and "Improvisational Bead Embroidery."  Robin will be teaching "Beaded Buttons" and "Beaded Fringe Techniques."  Click on this direct link for the workshop descriptions and registration.


  1. How fun to see it again through your eyes, Christi! It was a day to remember, wasn't it!

    Your pictures are great for recall of the details in a few of the pieces, but as you said, they fall short of the real thing. Cute picture of Thom and me... wow, ear to ear grins, huh...

    No problem with "spilling the beans..." Jan. 18th will be here in a flash.

    1. I just love how you & your bro are beaming! And oh my yes, what a fine day out!! Thanks so much for making it all happen ♥

  2. Goodness, those pieces are astonishing. I love the January quilt with the beaded raindrops.

    1. Me too, K, I had never thought of beading rain in quite this way. Wish you could take a fast flight over here & see his work in person...

  3. I am without words, such beautiful pieces. I wish I could visit the exhibition and attend the teaching.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  4. Love those pieces just so full of joy. I suppose he lives out there on those wonderful islands too?

    1. Alas, Chadley, Mr. Thom is based down in Santa Cruz, CA. Happy you enjoyed!

  5. Thank you for sharing the amazing photographs! That is an amazingly talented pair.

    The work is just breathtaking!!! So glad we all got to see it through your lens :)


    1. You're very welcome.
      That is a pair, indeed...fine work from the both of them.
      A milepost marker for Thom, this exhibit...

  6. OMG - those are totally amazing! My students sometimes complain about how long a drawing takes... I just smile and say - well, art takes a lot of skill, for sure, but mostly it takes and ENORMOUS amount of commitment. THESE will blow their socks off! Maybe they'll really GET what I mean by commitment.

    1. Oh, this is swell that you are taking Thom's work to your students, Valerianna!
      Commitment is such an important word, one that takes a long, long time for some of us to come to...

  7. I am totally awestruck!! Even via computer the beauty, the design, the colors and of course the beautiful stitchery and beading are just incredible (and that seems such a small word to use for all this beauty).

    1. Penny, it was an exhibit to spend HOURS with nose-five-inches-away, looking, studying, wondering "how in the world did he do that?"

  8. this was just such a gift to see.
    i bought Robin's books a while back, thinking i would learn to bead, but alas...not.
    the books, however, grace the shelves at the public library here, now. someone else will learn.
    again...thank you for this

    1. A generous gesture, Grace...one that will lead some others down the beady path.
      Robin's books are so clearly written & illustrated with wonderful "how-to" photos, that's a good place for them!

  9. Breathtaking, indeed!

  10. Fabulous Post thank you so much for the great pictures and commentary!! I do so wish that I lived on that wonderful part of the country!! glad that you got there before the snow!!:)

    1. It was a pleasure to post about Thom's wonderful work - I wish you all could see it!
      Happy to see you 'round these parts again, Elizabeth.

  11. I am speechless.. your up close images are fabulous.. such small beading and such detail and such colors.. thanks for letting me know about a wonderful show that is close to me to visit... once all this SNOW melts!

    1. ooooh Donna, you MUST go, you will not be disappointed!

  12. Oh, how I wish I could see this...thanks for giving me the next best thing. And a book? That will be nice. I'll pray for good photography...

    1. It was a little mind blowing...I still feel like I am digesting everything I saw. Am looking forward to the book myself. Sure wish you could see it *live*, Susan!