Beaded bezels and oh, so much more!


If you think you might have trouble being taught some beading skills
by a fella ...
or if you have any sort of allergic reaction to  C O L O R 
then do not and I repeat, DO NOT
take a beading workshop with Thom Atkins ...
for a fella he certainly is, and he is most definitely
not afraid of color.
Not one little bit.

Every year the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum, WA,  holds a fantabulous Quilt Festival,
a week-long event that includes special workshops by visiting textile & embellishment artists.
Thom was part of this year's talented contingent ~
and so was his very talented and beadiful sister, Robin Atkins!
You may like to revisit my January post where I wrote about them during Thom's one-person exhibit,
"Ten Year's of Beaded Quilts" to see more examples of his work.

For our "Beaded Bezels & Borders" workshop we were given
design kits filled with fun fabric by Laurel Burch and multiple baggies
filled with coordinating beads ...
I enjoyed this approach a great deal for it pushes you away from your comfy spot
and tweaks your thinking into a whole new realm.
It's always good to visit new & unexplored places.

Here's a couple examples from my yet-to-be-finished sampler ...
a "fence" with a lacy edge and a
peyote stitched bezel around a flat-backed cabochon.

Here's my shisha mirror *loudmouth* bezel ...
I can see myself there on occasion.

Thom is looking very serious, but in actuality our workshop was filled with loads of laughter.
Here he's clarifying one of his methods,
patiently answering the dozens of questions we fired at him.

The demo table was covered with examples of his own samplers ....
be prepared to swoon.

Shisha mirror cab at the top, flat-backed cab on the bottom.
We learned how to stitch the rope edging as well ...

This detail was from his cat piece ... 
I loved the flouncy effect of all those beads around that cab.
Fearless with color, that's how I'd describe Thom's work.

And this is the sampler that almost disappeared  into the bottom of my bag.
Isn't she a BEAUT?!

If you ever have the opportunity to learn firsthand from Thom,
oh, I do hope you'll take it.
In the meantime, his bountifully beautiful new book has just hit the streets,
Check it out.  Many more samples of Thom's work are viewable online.

And then there's this ...
included in his bio, a most interesting excerpt:

"Some 30 years ago, his sister, Robin Atkins, taught him the basics of bead embroidery
on fabrics.  He's been fascinated with beads ever since, but sewing beads onto fabric and
making stained glass didn't produce a decent living.  He was also tired of the fragility of glass,
so he went back to college, where he learned about welding, forging, silversmithing, and
bronze casting.  Bronze casting gave him back the tactile surfaces and the subtleties of
three-dimensional curves and negative space.

A car accident terminated his career in sculpting in bronze.
While recovering from the surgery to repair his wrists and thumbs, 
he thought about sewing beads onto cloth in such a way
that the beads and the fabric both had a say in the design.
He's been working with the delicate balance between beads and fabric in his designs ever since."

Making the most of our human condition.
Isn't that the best of what we can all hope for?

: : :

Thank you for visiting today ... I hope you have enjoyed all the 


  1. magnificent...the color and the beading. i'll have to come back to this post when i take all my beads out one day. i have a large collection and have taken a couple of beading classes but i never stick with it. looks like a great book.

    1. It doesn't surprise me at all that you've previously set your hands to beading, deanna. Do come back & visit if you pull out those sparklies again ;>]]

  2. I really like the loudmouth one. : )

    1. Thanks for visiting, Susan, and I do, too! I have a mental block towards working on faces with beads, so this ended up being my humorous compromise.

  3. i've been to robin's weekend workshop on bead embroidery and know her well...she is amazing. i have always been in awe of thom's work, too. his quilts are amazing! i love the beadwork shown here. the colors and choices in beads are so bold. you're a really lucky girl to get to learn from such a master!

    1. ...I felt that way, too, Lisa and that's why I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I knew very little about applying bezels, not to mention beading around them so I thought this was perfect timing. Although I am not a quilter, Thom's beading techniques transfer over to embellishing on any cloth. Thanks for stopping by, I miss you in bead-land.

  4. so much beautiful bright colour and such fantastic beading, just incredible...


    1. Thom's work is a bit mind-blowing. I think I'm still trying to absorb everything from the day. But I've been re-energized and that is so important....especially heading into autumn when there will be much more time for beadwork ;>]] Happy spring in your end of the world!

  5. Looks like there's some lovely Laurel Burch fabric around here too!

    I've become a fan....and think the beading really enhances the beautiful imagery. :-)

    1. Oh Chris, I could SOOOOOOOO see you jumping on some LB fabrics...look out, so much fun!

  6. Absolutely lovely laugh out loud happy colors!! I've always both Robin and Thom's work.

    1. They are siblings cut from one stupendous beady cloth, that's for sure! Yet so different in their approaches. I really enjoyed being taught by a *fella*...although Robin's softer, gentler ways & style will hold my heart closest. I'm grateful to have learned/keep learning from both...

  7. I've never been drawn to beads but I do love 'yer fella's' way with them.
    Decidedly Mexican in colour methinks!
    Colour in our northern climate makes so. much. sense.
    While we are currently enveloped in Mother Nature's autumnal show, the prospect of greys and browns and colour.less makes these confections all the brighter.

    1. ...oh yeah, the ** need ** for color, that is ever so true. I find myself craving it although I am not as brave/bold with it as Mr. Atkins and probably never will be. Nicknaming beads "sparklies" is part of that coloring-a-grey-world need, for when the work lights are blazing & the bead table is full, it can be an absolute black howler outside and I'm content in my pretty little made up world, stitching beads onto cloth....
      Lovely to have you stop by, Jen ~ the fall colors must be splendid where you are right now!

  8. Amazing, this post gives a wish to try beading, beautiful pictures!

  9. This is a little eerie, reading your post and all the comments, being the sister who just returned from teaching at the very same Quilt Festival... and wasn't it grand?!!! Did you get a chance to see the quilts in Maple Hall, or did you have to rush back for the ferry after class?

    Talk about softer, gentler ways and style... that's YOU Ms. Sweetpea! I admire you so much for having the humility to take a workshop from Thom (or me), when you yourself are already such an accomplished beader and artist. And I love it that you learn things, which you're promptly able to bend to your own passions.

    Thanks for the high praise and the plug for Thom's book. I agree, it's "bountifully beautiful"... so many gorgeous beads and fabrics paired so exquisitely!

    1. ...was able to see the Ainu embroidery in the main museum & also the work across the street (Garden Club building?) ~ exquisite FELT pieces in there, oh my. And then I had to race to the ferry dock. You'll have to tell me all about it!

      As for your very kind & generous compliments, dear Robin, a heartfelt "Thank You." If it were not for masterful teachers who graciously share their expertise & hard-won knowledge of their mediums ~ like you & Mr. Thom & some treasured others I've had the pleasure to cross paths with ~ my world of making things would be much poorer indeed.

  10. this post and all the comments makes life even more difficult than it already was (haha)

    I love them both so very much...2 projects on my hands

    coloured feltpatches

    ecocoloured silk/coton patches

    (ot. You're comment elswhere was so out of my heart)

    1. I know just what you mean, yvette, the pulls are strong.
      We'll the rides with it, shall we?

  11. Your 'loudmouth" gave me a laughter burst!
    And I think being "stuck" in one color zone
    is less liberating. Earthy is lovely, so is brashish,
    brave and bold. Looks to have been great fun...to tackle
    the edge we resist!

    1. I am going to think of you the next time I detour on *brashish* street, Nancy, that sounds a good road to try next. And YES, so good to push back against my own resistance and visit other edges ;>]]