Friday 29 January 2021

Books and Beads

I have always loved books and are still buying them. Regrettably they can be heavy, cumbersome things that present challenges to store. Consequently over decades I’ve had to have several library purges to weed out the ones I can live without...a few regrets there, sigh... Since the digital era my book buying habits have been re-assessed so that nowadays I only buy fiction/non-fiction on Kindle or audio and no longer any magazines.

I still buy real art and craft books. I tried Kindle editions but haven’t been able to get comfortable reading onscreen. Onscreen means going to the laptop instead settling down with the book where I want to read it. Sometimes that is outside and paper pages can be read without the issue of screen glare. I also really like the physicality of books, it seems so much more practical and convenient to be able to flick forward and back in the pages virtually instantaneously. As a person who frequently reads the footnotes, bibliography and index it's considerably more practical. Also living in a country with third rate internet I can take books on holiday and/or read them in the car without the internet dropping out due to “blackspots” – or as it should be more truthfully described “places inadequately serviced due to being too hard (expensive)”

This is one of my bookcases with about a third of the art and craft books I own.

Heres pictures of beaded earrings I’ve made lately. Actually the 2 tubular pieces on the upper right are sections being worked that will eventually be collaged together into a neck piece. The earring in the middle is still an orphan.

About a year ago I bought 2 out of print books by my favourite bead artist Diane Fitzgerald which were published in 2007 and 1997 (left to right). The earrings next to the books I made learned from a technique in her “Zulu Beaded Chain” booklet. They have an amazing tri-pedal structure. They are more clearly shown in the picture above on the left. The book describes the basic beading technique, not any specific projects, so I adapted it to make these earrings and chose the colours. There are 10 techniques described in the book and I’ve learned 3 of them recently.

Yesterday these books I'd ordered about Seminole and Miccosukee patchwork arrived. Published 1982 and 1995 they're also out of print and not available on Kindle. I feel ambivalent whether I should draw on any inspiration from these techniques as some critics might suggest it is an appropriation! Until a few months ago I had been completely oblivious to this tradition of patchworking, which was adopted then developed from English and European traditions starting around the mid 18thC. I'm only a few chapters into the book but intrigued that the Indian tribes had a close relationship to a large group of Highland Scots who emigrated to their territory in 1736 (my ancestors are Scots - McDonalds).They traded with the colonisers for beads, cotton and woolen textiles. The tribal women learned patchwork from the coloniser women and gradually evolved it into their own distinctive patterns and interpretation. Fortunately, in that era the Creek women were untroubled by concepts of cultural appropriation.

Next week an order for books from Japan is due. One is about traditional sashiko stitching patterns and the other is contemporary clothing patterns.

The art and craft books in my collection are from all over the world. For example, just eyeballing the bookshelves - India, South America (Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil), North America (American Indian, Inuit) Middle East (Turkey, Lebanon, Israel) numerous African countries and quite a few from England and Europe. Every country and culture in the world has a tradition of beading and textile art and I find them all intriguing.

From my early teens I’ve always been attracted to abstract patterns and bright colours. I didn’t know I wanted to be an artist in 1974 when I made my first attempt at age 15 to paint in oil colours a picture of the Indian Queen Mumtaz Mahal sitting on a Turkish rug (she of the Taj Mahal mausoleum in Agra). That painting was lost long ago but I’m often bemused that that very first attempt at a serious artwork remains very definitive of the art I still do 45 years later. First - the subject was a charismatic female figure, #2 - it was about clothes and jewellery, #3 –  and it was about textiles and patterns, as in the clothes and carpet. The picture below isn't the actual picture I tried to copy, just similar. 

I like that she is holding a book.