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Little boxes, on a hillside…

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The final assignment for my writing class was to do a book review. I opted to review a beading book – a choice that was strongly influenced by the fact that I haven’t had very much time to play with my beads since school began, and I’m really starting to miss them!

Despite my interest (ok, obsession) with beads and beadwork, I don’t own very many bead books. I think that’s because most of the beading books I’ve seen are pattern oriented, and I typically work freeform or design my own patterns. Because of this, most “how to” bead books hold little appeal for me. One exception to this is Little Boxes by Julia S. Pretl, which is one of my all time favorite beading books.

I’ll admit that I am probably somewhat biased, because the author is my friend (full disclosure here, people!). I’ve had the pleasure of watching her go from a nervous first time author, publishing – and printing, and binding – out of her basement, to a full time/professional author and illustrator with several successful books under her belt. However, I would love this book even if I didn’t love Julia. Here’s why:

Julia S. Pretl published her first book, “Little Boxes” in 2002. The book showcases her original methods for creating beaded boxes using variations of “peyote stitch”, a traditional bead weaving technique which utilizes only beads, needle and thread. She features a variety of projects for three dimensional vessels, ranging from simple squares and triangles to more advanced polygonal shapes. The detailed directions include excellent diagrams, pattern graphs and beautiful color photos to guide crafters of all skill levels through the process of creating these adorable boxes.

One of the most notable aspects of this book is the high quality diagrams. I have often fumbled to understand clumsy illustrations that don’t convey where the needle goes or how the project should look during construction. Thankfully, Pretl’s ample diagrams are distinct and easy to read. The large 3-D images provide optimal clarity, the bead rows are well marked to help you keep your place as you follow along, and the thread path is always visible. It is no wonder that the author has been commissioned to illustrate so many popular beading books since writing this one!

The written instructions are equally clear. While the methods used are somewhat advanced, and working knowledge of peyote stitch is advised, the directions are so precise that a beginner could follow them. The intricate projects are broken down into simple steps, with the text placed adjacent to the corresponding diagram. This easy reference makes these techniques very comprehensive, despite their complexity.


Following these thorough instructions are a series of color graphs which will enable readers to duplicate the color schemes shown in the samples. For those who prefer to design their own patterns, there are blank graphs for each box shape. This is yet another example of how the author makes this book interesting and accessible to beginners and advanced bead workers alike.

If you bought the first edition of the book, you may be disappointed by the lack of color photos. In fact, the only photos included in the original printing are the samples on the cover. This is understandable, given that the first edition books were published, printed and bound by the author. Still, it was a sad omission as Julia Pretl is an award winning bead artist, and her work is exceptionally beautiful. Fortunately, this book was republished by Creative Publishing in 2006 under the title “Little Bead Boxes”. The second edition includes additional box designs, updated techniques and gorgeous color photos for each project.

This classic book has taught bead enthusiasts around the world how to create these adorable little boxes. It has also served as a springboard for some of the more advanced geometric bead designs taught by nationally known designers. Whether you consider yourself an amateur or professional beader, it is a must-have for your collection! It is competitively priced at $21.95, and is available at most major book retailers or at the author’s website.

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Happy day

Robb’s been on my case lately about being a workaholic (I think that loving my job makes this ok) so I gave in and took a rare day off. It worked out fabulously, as yesterday was a gorgeous day for a road trip! We took a leisurely drive up through the Cascade mountains, stopping at antique stores and art galleries along the way. Many were closed, but we did get to see some cool art, and met some odd and interesting folks while we soaked in the beautiful weather and great scenery.

It was a really nice day, spent with one of my favorite people in the world.
When we got home, I discovered that Imaginestudio included my work in an Etsy treasury :

this is my first time in a treasury, and Imaginestudio does exquisite work, so I was all kinds of flattered and happy. It was a lovely ending to an already sweet day.
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Remembering September 11th

My travels with The Bead Quilt Project have introduced me to some of the most inspiring people. At the top of that list are the families and rescue workers of 9/11, who remain resilient, hopeful and proactive in the face of tremendous loss. I’ve learned (and grown) so much from knowing them.
We weren’t able to bring the quilts to New York this year for the annual Voices of September 11th memorial… but I’m thinking of all those people, and holding them in my heart today.
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Long lost box of beadwork unearthed!

We recently cleaned out a storage unit that had been untouched for some time. I was psyched to find a box of beadwork that I thought had been lost in a move years prior!
I’m guessing this work is circa 1997-2001, and it’s in various stages of completion. There are some pieces I’d still like to finish … like these two necklaces in the upper right:

They’re from a “goddesses and angels” phase I went through. In 1999, a dear friend of mine died. I can’t help thinking that if she’d nurtured herself as much as she did everyone else, she might still be around. It became really important to me to remind my women friends that they’re amazing — divine, even — and to honor that. These necklaces (and brooches) were the result. It’s nearly 10 years later, and this sentiment still resonates with me.

Besides, they’re almost done! The bright blue one below is worked in microbeads (mostly 16/o to 18/o) and features firey opal and rainbow moonstone cabochons. I have her pictured above her big sister there for a sense of scale. All she needs now is some arms (or wings) and to have the neckline polished off:

Other pieces will probably remain unfinished, like the multitude of amulet bags. Below are just a few. Some are pretty cool — but it’s been more than a decade since my big amulet craze, and I’m still burnt out on making them! 
I think the little dove amulet is the most recent work in this box. It was a sample for a pattern Julia created as a Bead Quilt fundraiser in 2002. At that point, the quilt kind of took over my creative/beady energy and I didn’t bead again for quite awhile.
This box runs the gambit from “wow, I need to explore that idea more!” to “OMG, what was I thinking?”. Some pieces will be finished, sold or gifted, while others will stay as they are. All of these pieces are special, they represent a piece of my past — of myself — that I thought I’d lost long ago!
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2007 BJP – June page

This is a picture of my June 2007 bead journal project page.

It’s about 3 & 3/4″ round, and it’s about my daughter. It uses her colors (which are SO opposite from mine!) and the words describe some of the traits I enjoy and admire most about her: compassionate, brave, curious, silly, resilient, insightful & wise.

It incorporates Czech glass flowers and firepolish, 2mm Swarovski crystals, and seed beads ranging from size 15/o to size 18/o. The colors look washed out in the pic — it’s much louder & brighter IRL.
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2008 BJP musings…

I’ve been assembling my 2007 BJP pages, and thinking more on what I’d like to try with my 2008 journal. My primary goal with last year’s journal was simply to get back into beading regularly. Beyond that, my “rules” were pretty flexible … try to work outside of my comfort zone in terms of color & technique, explore negative space (I always want to fill the page!) and give myself room to play. I opted not to look at other artists work along the way, so that I could reintegrate beadwork into my life without too much outside influence.
This year I think I’d like a bit more continuity from page to page, so I’ve chosen a reoccuring image/theme. No funky shapes this time (last year’s pages were round) but I’ll work a bit larger at 5″ x 7″. The “empty spaces” idea was challenging for me last year, so I think I’ll keep working on that one.
These are my ideas right now, but they’re flexible. I’m not going to start my new journal till I’ve made more headway in finishing the first one … but I think once I start the first page, it will set the groundwork/tone for the year to come.
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Diamonds on the soles of her shoes…

My to do list is trying to swallow me whole this week, so no long rambles today … Instead, I offer this pic of some lovely mocs we saw on a recent road trip.
They’re antiques, done in “lazy” stitch (LOL, what a misnomer!) and a sweet example of traditional beadwork. Not sure if these are plateau or plains work? Either way, I love these old time colors — check out that greasy green & the Cheyenne pink. IIRC, the red beads are old Venetian whitehearts as well
I’m intrigued by the fact that the soles are completely beaded. I wonder what it would feel like to walk in these shoes?
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Peeking out from my cave…

At one time, I was very active in the internet beading community. The various bead forums introduced me to many talented artists and ideas. I formed treasured friendships, and took part in some really special projects. Being so “plugged in” kept me up on all the latest stuff, and for many years it was very inspiring.
Somewhere along the way, I hit a state of — oversaturation. As much as I enjoyed the many groups I’d become a part of, I found myself spending more time talking about art than creating it. I needed to step back and reconnect with my own creative voice. 
Today, I tend to be somewhat of a hermit. This isn’t entirely bad — solitude can be conducive to creative work — but I think it’s time to balance that out a bit. It’s easy to get lost in all that quiet thought, and I really miss connecting with other creative folk. Hence, this blog. My hope is that it will provide a positive means to:
* chronicle my creative pursuits and mishaps.
* reach out & learn what other artists are up to
To start, my goal is to update this thing (at least)bi-weekly bi-monthly. I hope to share my own work, as well as some of the people and things that inspire me.

Wish me luck! 🙂