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March 29, 2017

The Bead Weaver

By Debra Jurey

The Bead Weaver

I love bead weaving which uses a variety of stitches to create jewelry with tiny glass beads. Seed beads are about 4mm or less in diameter and are mostly made in Japan, France, India and the Czech Republic. There is a vast array of different colors to choose from. Their appearance may be affected by the type of surface treatment applied and used to create a certain look or style. They might be silver lined, opaque, translucent, metallic, matte, luster, semi matte and so on. This allows for an abundance of creativity.

As an art student going to Cal State Northridge back in the 1970's, my focus was in ceramics and fiber arts. I've always loved working with my hands and both fiber and clay allowed me to do just that. Graduating with a BA in art I realized the definition of 'starving artist' and ended up back in school where I obtained a multiple subject teaching credential. This eventually led to working as a library assistant in the Los Angeles public library system, and when my husband and I moved from the Los Angeles area to San Luis Obispo in the 1990's I became branch manager for 18 years at the Santa Margarita Library. During this time my love for the arts had to take a backseat while I worked for a living.

Then one day about 16 years ago I saw a tiny beaded amulet displayed in a jewelry supply store. "I want to make that!" I told myself, and within the next couple years I sought out and took bead-weaving classes from renowned teachers in the field. Before long I had managed to create my first peyote stitch bag, and from that point on continued to take classes, leading to me creating multi-dimensional jewelry pieces. Soon I was making small bags, and also beaded ropes, flowers, leaves, bugs, incorporating them into 3d pins, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. I was hooked, and as I learned more about the mechanics of the different beads and stitches like right angle weave, I found some combinations created a wonderful organic & fabric like feel and texture. Other stitches such as the herringbone stitch felt like snakeskin. With all the versatility, the many colors and different sizes to choose from the art of bead weaving became my passion.

As my projects take shape I must consider certain elements. What do I want to create and why? Does it have significance in culture today, or does it involve something from the past? And there is the bead itself. Color plays a very big role in my work and tends to set the tone. It's a powerful communicator of emotional states.

I am mostly influenced by color, followed by patterns, shapes, and perfection of the natural world. I love to work outside and spend hours, sometimes all day, working on a piece that begins to evolve as I stay focused. Some pieces take a few days, some weeks, and some months. Once I lose my focus or am interrupted, I need to stop working to keep from sewing a bead in the wrong place or picking up the wrong size or color. I am energized by the natural surroundings, thoughts, colors, lighting, and sound I see and hear as I work. Once I'm in the zone, that energy I feel, think, and breathe becomes embedded in my pieces. I remember listening to a classic book written in the late 1800's, and as I beaded a piece of leather for a bracelet I discovered I was instinctually beading curly vines and scrolls that were found in architecture, furniture and clothing from the time period of the classic. Often I rely on my instincts and intuition when working on a piece. Rarely do I draw up a design before beginning a project.

Native American silver and beadwork also influences me. It is inspired by natural surroundings, displayed by the patterns and skill incorporated in their work. I am often told that my work has a vintage 1920's quality to it. I am drawn to the clothing, architecture, and jewelry designs, along with opaque greens and pinks, bugs and insects, leaves and scroll-like patterns in clothing, furniture, buildings, and other things from that era. So ultimately, there are many areas of influence that make up each one of my pieces. And finally in the end when I finish a piece, I realize I must let go of this friend I've spent hours, days, or months with. My greatest joy comes from seeing my work expressed in the joy and excitement on the faces of those wearing my jewelry.

I have sold my work mostly in shops and galleries throughout the county of San Luis Obispo and I've spent years selling in the Open Studios Art Tour, ARTSFEST in Paso Robles, holiday shows, boutiques, art shows with other artists, and juried shows. I’ve been an Associate Artist for six years and my jewelry has found a happy home and can be purchased at Studios on the Park, in Paso Robles.

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