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"Art for me is about visual communication."
Robin Atkins, bead artist
Most of my work is improvisational, which means I work without a plan or preconceived idea of how I want the piece to look when finished. I trust that all the art awareness and knowledge collected during my life time will show up in my work subconsciously. Often I start embroidering beads on a piece of fabric without even knowing what I want to do with it. As my work progresses, one bead at a time, it may start to take on meaning or recognizable form.
For example, Rosie, The Uncaged Hen, began as a "show and tell" demonstration piece at one of the Embellishment Conferences years ago. I had no idea she would become a plump little chicken. I simply picked up beads that appealed to me and sewed them on a piece of fabric also chosen because "I just liked it." After working on the piece at several intervals over a month's time, I picked it up one day and happened to turn it diagonally. Suddenly it "looked like a chicken." And that's what it became.
For a person who works improvisationally most of the time, it may surprise you to know that art for me is about visual communication. The odd thing is that the communication is first and foremost from my heart to me. It's my inner, hidden self which speaks through the work of my hands. The less I try to control the outcome; the less I fuss with "getting it right," the less I'm concerned about making art, the more of my truth is revealed. And when my truth comes out in the open, conveyed in my beadwork, I feel a great sense of wholeness, connection, and satisfaction.
Whether or not my work also communicates the same or similar truth to other viewers is not so important to me. However it is certainly gratifying when it happens. For example, a psychologist recently bought a print of one of my spirit dolls, Grieving with Precious Tears, because she believed it brings to light the serenity and healing that is possible through grief and tears. Wanting to share this visual communication with her clients, she hung the print on her office wall.
As an artist, I am very fortunate to be able to earn my living primarily by teaching and writing, which frees me to do my art without having to be concerned about selling it. However, when I am making beaded jewelry, the combined issues of being able to wear it and sell it, seem to require that I work more from my head than from my heart. I feel the need to pay greater attention to the principles of design, especially a pleasing balance of variety and unity.
In all my art, whether bead embroidery, book making, or creating jewelry, it's very important to me that I strive for technical excellence and the highest quality of workmanship. I choose the best tools and materials I can afford, because I believe they are well justified by the time and creative energy I put into my art.
In conclusion, I am grateful to all the wonderful mentoring people in my life who have encouraged and supported me in my artistic path. Without them, I wouldn't be writing this today. Thank you.
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