18 June 2010

Beadwork thoughts

The other day I received a message from my cousin. She wanted help with some projects she wanted to do for herself. I told her I didn't have time to do work for her. The last message I received said she'd found a pattern and would do "trial and error" learning.

I learned how to do beadwork by watching my mother, my aunts and others in the village. I learned by "trial and error" because they couldn't do the work for me. The work takes practice, practice and more practice. Learning how to maintain tension while sewing the beads to the cloth, choosing the colors, deciding on a pattern all take time and patience.

Perfection in any craft doesn't happen overnight. The first couple of years I did beadwork, I felt like quitting because the pieces didn't look like my mentors. I know they got impatient when I whined about it. One day, I decided to put together everything that I had watched and just work the piece. The project that finally made the grade was the start of years of making pieces for myself and others.

Many times, I sat and put beads on cloth and enjoyed watching the colors come together. Whenever I felt stressed, I'd sit and work with beads and let my thoughts wander. As I got into the work, it soothed me and let me relax. I knew that this was something that I alone could do, I alone could make happen, I alone could finish or not. The finished piece was something concrete for me to see and feel good about, especially when everything else was in chaos.

Designing my own patterns is something I look forward to now. Getting the exact colors in the exact places I want them and seeing the design flow within the restrictions of tradition is challenging and fun. All I can do for those who want to learn is the same that was done for me.

I encourage people to keep trying, be patient and learn from what you are doing.

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