Off-loom beadweaving techniques are incredibly versatile when it comes to incorporating found objects into jewelry and art work. The application of thread and beads allows interesting objects to be captured and displayed in many gorgeous ways.
Although using found objects in bead embroidery can be more of a challenge, the amazing shapes and textures that are created by sewing beads and stones onto fabric are often awe-inspiring. Some of the most beautiful embroidery pieces contain treasures such as sea creatures, photographs, and even pottery shards.
The designs of Heather from Owl and Oak are wonderful examples of how one can transform ordinary things into extraordinary jewelry. Her intricate bead embroidery designs feature some of the best “beads” that nature has to offer.
Inspirational Beading: How did you first discover beading?
Heather: I don't remember when I first worked with beads. I know I still have beads that my Mom gave me when I was young, and I used them in the crocheting and cross-stitching I did back then. I've occasionally tried different bead projects I've liked from magazines, and I've almost always included beads in anything I was making - crocheting, knitting, art dolls, clothing, etc. But until I bought a copy of the The Art of Bead Embroidery by Heidi Kummli and Sherry Serafini, I never found anything that just clicked - beadwork or otherwise. Since I got the book 2 years ago, bead embroidery is pretty much all I do.
Inspirational Beading: Where do your inspirations come from?
Heather: I love color. I love flowing lines. I've always loved the little details I see in plants, rocks, tree bark, and leaves. So much inspires me I can't pin one thing down. I find something I like - a focal piece, a shape to a leaf, or just a bead color in my stash that strikes me at the moment - and I just start going.
Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite color to work with?
Heather: My husband and I were just talking about this. My favorite colors have always been greens, blues and purples, but in my beadwork pieces I seem to be drawn mostly to browns and golds, with reds and greens thrown in. I found a neat stone focal piece at a recent bead show, and it's gold and brown; of course the colors I picked to go with it are golds and browns, with a little green/turquoise thrown in. It seams to be working though, so until something shifts I'll keep going with what's working for me.
Inspirational Beading: What is the most unique material you have ever used?
Heather: So far the sand dollars I've used in a lot of my pieces. I have a small box of them that my Mom gave me a few years ago, and they were the first thing I thought of when I needed a focal piece for my first embroidery project. Sometime soon I'm going to try using what I call a “tree limb-ring” as a focal piece. When a tree looses a branch close to the trunk, new growth forms around the area and starts growing inward, forming a smooth, burled ridge. My Father has a small lumber mill, and he usually cuts them off to prepare the log for milling. The centers rot out, leaving a really pretty ring. It should be an interesting experiment.
Inspirational Beading: Who do you hope to inspire with your work?
Heather: I really hope to inspire the people who are looking for something that inspires their creative passion. I've spent 30 years dabbling with this and that, never quite finding something that really spoke to me, something I didn't want to put down because I got bored with it and wanted to move on to the next thing. Keep trying new things, keep being excited about learning new techniques, and have fun.
Heather creates her wonderful collars and necklaces from her home in Maine. She and her husband Glenn are currently building a small off-grid cabin there. In addition to jewelry design, Heather is also passionate about martial-arts, particularly Tae Kwon Do. Right now she is working towards a Brown Belt and a national certification in women’s self-defense.