Thursday, August 20, 2015

a celebration of small - with Julie of Uglibeads!

Hello everyone! I'm back from my lovely oceanside holiday, and it was absolutely wonderful. So much beautiful inspiration, so many amazing people to share special moments with, and a lot of food for thought. We all need that sometimes - to find a way to plug in, to feel more alive, to get deep into what our hearts need to be happy. 

At the moment, my creativity is in one of those 'ebb' phases. Not so much 'flow'. And frankly, I'm ok with that. I've really enjoyed taking the time to reflect. When you're caught up in filling orders, or dreaming up the next best thing, it can be hard to remember to do that. The creative spirit needs time to breathe.

So I've been spending some quality time thinking about the 'little things'. About how crucial those tiny, unassuming, easily overlooked details of life and the world really are. And I think that's what artists do. It's our job to bring attention to the beauty, wonder, and importance of things that are easy to miss... if you look without seeing.

It seems a tad poetic that in my beadmaking life, I've been feeling the most grateful for and inspired by and connected to others by beads that are... little.

I've made thousands of these tiny beads now (my beloved weenie beads!), and I keep coming back to them. During times when I'm feeling a bit untethered, I can always steady myself against the calming repetition of making these simple, tiny beads. One at a time. One after another. Like tying knots between pearls, passing a needle back and forth through tiny seed beads, or soldering links of chain together. 

Creative meditation.

In the beginning, I struggled with the fact that I enjoyed making these beads SO much. Shouldn't I be spending my time making 'important' beads? Big, fancy beads? Really-super-beautiful, technically difficult beads? It was a bit agonizing, really.

But as I started to send the weenie beads off into the universe, I very quickly realized that I needed to rethink my ideas about what makes a handmade bead 'important'. I saw people using them in the most beautiful, clever, creative ways, and I'm so happy (and proud!) that I get to play a part in that.

Karin Grosset-Grange of Ginkgo et Coquelicot created these beautifully serene earrings - "inspired by the hidden treasures of the sea, a ship at the bottom of the ocean, maybe..." using two pairs of my tiny weenie beads, along with gorgeous headpins from Genea Beads:

Angela Gruenke of Contents Jewelry does the most amazing things with metal, and here, she used a tiny etched pair of grey weenie beads to create these fantastical earrings, full of movement and energy:

As I'm sure you are guessing, I could share weenie bead creations with you all day, but just one more - from Sarah Ostriyznick of Sarah O Creations. Timelessly elegant, these feel so perfect for fall! She used a pair of etched transparent olive weenie beads, perfectly complementing the stunning ceramic disks by Mari Carmen of Majoyoal:

I've absolutely fallen in love with the fact that there are so many wonderfully tiny handmade beads out there, and I'm willing to bet that you already have a few in your collection that could use some attention! Perhaps you'll be inspired to have a dig through the bead stash (or do some shopping) a bit later...

In celebration of small, here are some of my favorites. First, these 'Mini Round' ceramic beads by Robyn Cove of Ragged Robyn. The colors and the textures of these beads... the lovely hand-formed, organic shapes... Just absolutely bursting with life, aren't they?

As I was putting my thoughts together about this whole 'tiny but mighty' bead thing, I discovered via her Facebook page that Robyn had been working on listing a whole pile of new work, including this set. I managed to borrow a moment of her time during a busy update day to get her take on things. Robyn said,

"Small beads are what make the more elaborate designs blend and work with other components, especially with my work; the painted surfaces seem to really need a smaller bead with a similar finish elsewhere on the piece. I adore making the small ones because they continue to change throughout the making process. It's the small beads that absorb me into the jewellery making because they can look so different when paired with other colors or textures. I gather them around me in bowls and baskets when making jewellery and scatter them out next to the big pendants to see what ones highlight the more subtle aspects of the work. They are ever changing."

Let's hear it for small beads!!

How about these gorgeous ceramic 'Seed Beads' from Bulgarian art bead maker Nadia Karapencheva of NadiaTerra

The beautiful, soft, subtle surface treatment is engobe (a white or colored slip / liquid clay - and YES, I definitely had to Google that!) fired at 1200 degrees Celcius. Nadia says, "The material is timeless, is not affected by sunlight, water, heat..." and perhaps that is part of the reason that these beads have such a grounded, soothing quality about them. As a glass beadmaker, I'm so drawn to their warmth!

I'll leave you for today with these incredibly beautiful, tiny ceramic beads from Kylie Parry of Kylie Parry Studios, who will surely be familiar to many of you. She made these after returning from an inspiring trip to Costa Rica. Reading her blog post about this series of work absolutely took my breath away - I could nearly smell the earth and the trees and the forest as I looked at her beautiful photographs...

Before I go, a confession. 

Most artists wouldn't choose the 'in hand' photo as their favorite way to show off their work. Typically, it's meant to be useful - a way of communicating the size of the object(s). Of course I chose these photos, in part, to show that these are some seriously beautiful, seriously SMALL beads! Our eyes need a sense of scale so our brains can process these things.

But there's more to it than that. So much more. When I look at these beads - in my hand, Robyn's hand, Nadia's hand, Kylie's hand - I'm reminded of what is SO special about them, and I get a little excited about it.

So yes. A ruler does the job. Or a coin, that works too. But I'm in favor of showing off your stained, dry, scarred, bashed up, wrinkly, paint-covered hands. Because - they're beautiful.

They made something.



f a c e b o o k :
i n s t a g r a m : @jules_sontag


Gale said...

I love all those small beads, including yours, and I absolutely agree about photographing them in hand!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Julie for promoting small ceramic beads - something I am always on the search of, not many beadmakers make. Robyn puts it so well why we need them - to balance out the design.
And re the hand-pictures - so valuable for me as a buyer - and yes, hands that create ARE beautiful!

Claire Lockwood said...

Great post - and you'll know why it resonates for me!

Karin G said...

I totally agree with Claire, this is all so true! It is the tiny elements in life, in art, in jewelry and everything that make the whole come together, without them you can't even see the bigger piece.

Unknown said...

What a special and insightful post! I love your statement about our hands being scarred, and showing the obviious signs ooof our craft. I use my hand to show size but I defenitely do not haave pretty hands and it is nice to hear someone saaay how beautiful working hands are!

PyxeeStyx said...

I've always gone for the large chunky focal beads, but this post has made me see those tiny little handmade beads in a whole new way. I have a new understanding and appreciation of them now. Thank you. 😊

Honey from the Bee said...

Learning something new will stir up those creative juices again! I love taking classes..and thought maybe a little too much, but after a break I took a couple this summer that got me even more excited with the possibilities in metal. I guess that's why I'm doing so much more with it.

I love that you highlighted those little beads, because I'm not always sure what to do with them even though I hoard them like the fancier showcase ones.

I also love that first photo. It speaks volumes I think to the personalities of you both. Turned towards each other to fit in where you sync and make something new and beautiful where you don't.

Astra said...

I won't be original, I'll just quote words known by majority of theater workers this side of the ocean: "There are no big and small parts, only big and small actors". Period :)

Unknown said...

You know how I feel about tiny beads! Really enjoyed the post and seeing other people's tiny beads. I loved the part about hands. I know I should try and sell more of my jewelry but for me it's about making. I love the idea that I can make something with my hands. No matter what I do with the jewelry, it feels special that I made it :)

Nicola said...

Julie, another wonderfully written blog post! I love the way you view things ☺️

sharon said...

When I was in college I had a professor that used to say sarcastically, "If you can't do it good do it big!" , so I'd say that you are all doing a damn fine job! Looove the weenies! Love your work Julie, and we all know that good things come in small packages!

Terri said...

Beautiful creations..Lovin' the teenie weenie beads!

Julie Wong Sontag said...

I do! :) Thank you Claire!! xo

Unknown said...

Such a great post, Julie. Besides making fabulous beads you have a real talent for communicating by writing. I want to read more!

Anonymous said...

Like Nan; I want to read more, too! :-)

Unknown said...

Well what a lovely post Julie, I love the way you write it was very interesting as I always find it difficult to make the small beads. So I tend to make big bold beads, but I agree with the food for thought and every now and then I can make the small beads and thats when I should just go with the flow!!!!

Also very true about the hands its great to see those working hands and lets not forget, where do beads sit when in jewellery, of course, on the skin!! It is a very good base for showcasing those gorgeous beads xx :)

Heather Wynn Millican said...

I just love your ending :)
Great post!

Julie Wong Sontag said...

Oh, how lovely to enjoy all your thoughts on 'small'! I'm reading your comments with such gratitude and excitement! And, also glad that the idea about 'working hands' resonated with a few - I nearly scrapped that section for fear that my observations were too odd ;) Follow your gut and be yourself, always. xoxo -- Julie