…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren S. Feld

Excerpts From This Ever-Evolving Tale.....

I don’t mean to drag a poor Elephant by its tail, kicking and screaming, into our bead world against its wishes. Nor do I perceive the elephant to be a threat, like you might see an Elephant in the boudoir, or the fine china store. And I don’t want you to shut your eyes and pretend not to notice that this Elephant is here, standing shoulder to shoulder with every beader and jewelry maker around.

The Elephant is not a joke. And the fact that it is “Rogue” makes it more important than ever to figure out why it’s here, among size #10 English beading needles, and Czech size 11/0 seed beads, and Austrian crystal beads. It seems so worldly, yet other-worldly, our Elephant. It’s not our muse. It’s not our Cassandra. It has no secret plan or strategy. It does not depend on its size to make its point. It does not hesitate to stomp and chomp and clomp because the beads before it are raku or glass or gemstone or crystal or metal or plastic. But a Rogue Elephant in the middle of our craft room forces upon us a completely different logic, so that we can make sense of it all.|


Stitch of the Month

One of our advisory group members and teachers – Tammy – came up with a very clever idea for teaching bead weaving to beginners. She called this Stitch of the Month. It was a package. It was fun. We could subtly build in our learning objectives. Its eventual success, however, came in fits and starts.

Our Stitch of the Month bead-weaving curriculum was designed to teach 12 major bead-weaving stitches/techniques in a comparative context. This is perhaps one of the best ways to learn bead weaving. You get a clearer understanding of what each stitch is, how to manage and control it, how to do variations with the stitch, and what your project and design options are, when you learn them comparatively, rather than in isolation from each other. Imagine that! Learning how to Do stitches, not just following instructions. We are very proud of our Stitch of the Month program and its design.

Each class is devoted to explaining a little of the history of the stitch and the how-to basics of doing the stitch. Students then practice with variations on the stitch, such as increasing/decreasing, flat vs. tubular vs. circular, and the like. Students are guided in creating a bracelet, where they practice what they’ve learned about using the stitch, and usually one or more variations of that stitch.

The student will typically cover this information in each class:
1. The history of the stitch
2. Learning the basic stitch
a) How to start the stitch-project
b) How to implement the basic stitch throughout the project
c) The most appropriate kinds of materials (beads, findings,
stringing materials) for this stitch
d) The most appropriate kinds of projects for this stitch
3. Increasing and Decreasing using the stitch
4. Finishing off the piece (clasps, edges, embellishment, fringes, and the like)
5. How to read a pattern for this stitch
6. An introduction to other variations using this stitch
7. Making a bracelet, using this stitch

Each class is "in and of itself". Students may join the Stitch of the Month at any point in the 12-month cycle. You may do all of the classes, or only one or some of them, as you desire. If you miss a class, it will be repeated in the next cycle.

We teach bead weaving differently, (and I believe much more effectively), than most other places. At other places, you typically take a class and learn to do a set of steps to create a very specific project. You don't learn how to apply these steps in other situations. And you probably forget how to do the project.

In our Stitch of the Month, we take a developmental and design approach. You learn about the stitch and how to make choices about the stitch. You learn about how to choose materials (clasps, beads, stringing materials and the like) appropriate to that stitch. Then you practice what you learn by creating a bracelet. By taking more than 1 stitch over the year, you also begin to learn in a comparative way, which reinforces what you have learned.

The Twelve Sessions

1. June: BEADWEAVING PRIMER, and Introduction to the SQUARE STITCH.

2. July: NETTING

3. August: NDBELE STITCH (also known as Herringbone)

4. September: PEYOTE STITCH

5. October: LOOM

6. November: BRICK STITCH

7. December: SPIRAL ROPE

8. January: FRINGE





Stitch of the Month – The Fits and Starts

The first teacher – Tammy – originated the idea. She didn’t execute it well. For each stitch, she had her students make a sampler. At the end of the 12 classes, she had them put the samplers together in a fancy, well-designed shadow box. As we found out, students preferred making something to wear, so this sampler box wasn’t the best project.

She deviated from the content, and ended up teaching very little technique or history, and using the class time for students to work on their samplers. She refused to teach with less than 3 students. I was canceling a lot of her classes. And because many classes ended up canceled, fewer students were willing to register for these. At one point, I told her I’d guarantee payment for two students, even if only one registered. She agreed to this. And I guess she decided she would curtail even more of her instruction and effort, to make up for the monetary difference of 3 vs 2 students. She refused to do any kind of self-promotion.

It came the time to let Tammy go. She was a brilliant bead-weaver herself. She was capable of teaching. But “capability” was not enough.

The next instructor was Caren. Much better. She re-worked all 12 classes, and had students make wearable jewelry in each. The jewelry varied a lot in type, look, and sophistication. All students did not like all the projects, so there was resistance to taking certain classes. Students focused on the projects; we focused on skills. There was not a great meeting of the minds.

Caren provided a LOT more instruction for our students, but she did not delve much into design issues. Her students did not cover much about variations in stitches, and the why’s and how’s underlying these variations.

Caren preferred not to do a lot of self-promotion. She too would only teach with 2 or more students. For her Stitch of the Month classes, I guaranteed payment for 2 students, even if there was only one. Caren moved away after her first year and a half.

We hired Kathleen. Kathleen was perfect. She’s both artist and designer. She re-worked these classes, so that each project would be an attractive bracelet that students would want to wear. Within each bracelet’s design, were incorporated the variations in stitches that were getting taught. She emphasized the types of across-each-stitch skills, such as managing thread tension, embellishing, and finishing off.

She believes in self-promotion. She was willing to teach with one student, but for the Stitch of the Month classes, I also guaranteed a 2-student minimum payment. She added those extra and intangible “personality” and “leadership” qualities that the curriculum required.



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