by Jean Yates, guest editor for ABS, June 2008
Kim Miles is a lampwork bead artist who currently lives in Taos, New Mexico. She and her husband Rick have lived there for 7 years. Kim's work, the way I imagine it, seems strongly affected by her surroundings, by the beauty of nature, by life as it unfolds around her, and by her inner "thinking and feeling world" as well. You never know what to expect from Kim when she throws open the doors each week to her website and Etsy bead shops!
For me, as a jewelry designer, this delightfully challenging variety which Kim offers has always been a great part of her appeal. I could collect and design with "Kim" beads until the cows (or goats! -- some of you may know Kim and Rick had goats last year!) come home!
I love her work for its extraordinary playfulness, for her phenomenal use of color and how she mixes it, for her unique imagination, and also for her ability to come up with incredibly massive focals. Some of these giant beads might be expensive if you want to look at it that way, but each will be well worth the money if you are a designer or collector. The reason is, if you are a true "Beadist" (a word coined by Kim) as well, you will recognize that what you are holding in your hand is a one of a kind piece of art work by Kim Miles, and now it belongs to you alone!
Kim Miles, Beadist
Hi Kim! As you know I am an avid collector of your beads. I also love to design with them. They make it so easy for me to look good! Because I love your beads so much, I have tons of them, and tons of questions for you, too! I hope you will be willing to share with Art Bead Scene, through this interview, some of your thoughts and your responses to the questions I ask.
I know that a lot of people already know how you got started, but would you mind telling again the story behind your business and also how long you have been creating your amazing beads?
Buddha Moon face bead
"I started making beads in 1996, in Seattle, after my husband, Rick, fired me from the family pizza shop. I'd been Pizza Queen there for four years, and because I wasn't happy in my work, I was also miserable to work with. I was sent out to "find something I'd enjoy", which was truly terrifying. But after a few weeks of flapping around in a panic, I met someone who made glass beads in her house, and that's when something clicked for me. I took a two hour beginner class, and then ran home to order a torch. Building a business was slow going. I spent the first five years learning little by little, and selling my early beads at farmers markets, crafts fairs, larger juried shows, and bead shows. It wasn't until 2001, soon after we'd moved to Taos, that Alice Korach asked me to do the commemorative bead for the next Bead & Button show."
Kim with her bowl of Bead and Button commemorative beads! That is a lot of beads! Wow!
"That changed everything. Suddenly people knew who I was, and wanted my beads. Business has been good ever since. Now I'm able to do most of my sales online, but I kind of miss the more personal nature of shows, so I'm thinking about going back to doing one or two a year."
How do you get your inspiration? You have had through the years so many different styles! You blow me away!
"Everything in life is inspiring. I rarely feel stuck, and I think that's because I always allow myself to try anything that pops into my head. I know that as long as I let the inspiration flow, there will always be more. Creativity has limitless possibilities. When I need something new, I just sit down with a pile of glass and start playing. One thing leads to another, and it usually doesn't take long for something interesting to emerge. The key is to not force it, but to get out of the way and let it come through on its own."
Above, a favorite of mine, a Taos Window bead
A Wave bead
A Mitzi Painting inspired bead
Do you have any particular favorite styles, from the past or the present, which you would like to tell us about? Why are these your favorites?
"The Lotus would have to be my all time favorite. That bead has been evolving since the very beginning. I'll stop making it for a while, and then pick it back up to see where it wants to go next. As with everything else, I can't take credit for anything but letting the beads come through me. The Lotus beads, more than any of the others, seem to me to be channeled from some higher place. That sounds sort of woo-woo, I know. Maybe I've been living in Taos too long."
Lotus beads, a green and a purple. Layer upon layer of glass is involved--quite amazing--jeanWhat is a "Beadist", and what does it mean to you to be one? How did you come up with that term?
"An Artist makes art, but more than that, an Artist lives and breathes art. It's not a job that one goes to in the morning and forgets about in the evening. It's a way of life. A Beadist is the same thing, only it's all about beads and how they connect us to the world. For me, beads are not just how I make my living. I live with beads as part of my day to day life. After all this time, I continue to enjoy their company, and even more, I enjoy sharing them. And I really believe it when I say "beads for a better world". Beads have allowed me to be helpful to other people in ways I never imagined in the beginning. And I know that it's a big part of my job to send my beads out into the world where they can make people feel better. On my best days, I think the beads are more than just little blobs of glass. I think they hold something of a higher consciousness that can be sensed by the people who eventually own them."Flaming Heart
Do you prefer making your beautiful, incredible and gigantic focals or the smaller, gem-like beads, like the "diamond cupcakes" or the hand made silver lined troll-sized "word beads" which you are also known for? Does it depend upon your mood?
"Let's face it. The economy has really put a squeeze on artists of all kinds. Selling creative work these days is a huge challenge, and it's doubly hard because for many of us, our costs keep going up, while sales go down. It's like working overtime and taking a cut in pay at a regular job. So, to adjust to that reality, and to keep a roof over my head, I pay close attention to what my customers seem to want. These days, smaller, less expensive beads are easier to sell than the large focal beads. So right now, those are what I'm concentrating on. I like a balance of making both, and it's important to me to keep stretching what I can do with the big beads. Their time will come again. But for now, I'm also enjoying the challenge of smaller beads that are still beautiful and interesting. The new Talking Beads are a lot of fun, and they sell well. A girl's gotta make a living, and it pays to be adaptable."
smaller bead, based upon the Lotus. It sure looks amazing in its way too!!!--jean (see next question I have for Kim)
Do you feel you can capture in a tiny bead the same beautiful impact you are able to convey in your eloquently and adeptly worked large beads? I love both sorts of your beads! Just wondering!
"No, I can't fit the same depth and life into a smaller bead. Physical space is limiting, and there's no way of putting as much into a small bead. With a large focal bead, the whole story is right there in one place. With the smaller beads, it's more about the sum of the parts. A whole strand of relatively simple beads packs at least as much punch as a single big bead. Sometimes more."
Dancing people bead, larger focal, lotus influence
We would all love some photos of your studio where you create these wonders!
(I want to live here--jean!)
You have two stores now, right? Wow! Great job! I don't know how you do it! May we have your contact info and your blog address? I love your blog, too, and read it faithfully!
Thank you for a lovely interview, Kim!
Kim's contact info, in her words. Go visit this amazing Beadist and remarkable person!
"My Website: http://www.kimmiles.com/ You can get to all the other links from there. I really enjoy the blogging. I've been writing since I was in high school. I even hoped to make a living at it at one point, but thankfully, beads stepped into that spot.
"My BeadShop": http://shop.kimmiles.com/main.sc
"My Etsy Shop": http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5112074
"My Blog": http://greetingsfromtaos.blogspot.com/
note: all photos with a black background taken by Thomas Buckley. Thank you, Thomas!--Jean