Sunday, October 5, 2008

I Have Been Changed For Good

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
I love this song from Wicked the Musical. It speaks to me and reminds me of all the wonderful people I have met who have left handprints on my heart. Those who, having met them, have changed me..for good.

Robin Atkins is one of those people. It wasn't the fact that she taught me bead embroidery techniques that I didn't know. It wasn't the fact that she is a kind and gentle soul and a delight to learn from. It wasn't even the fact that she brought beautiful examples of her work and sold us vintage beads from her personal stash.

What changed me the most by taking Robin's course was her way of journaling improvisationally through her beadwork. The idea that we can sit down to embroider without a plan and allow our emotions and spirit to flow through our hands and into our work. The most compelling technique we "practiced" occurred in the afternoon of the second day and was not an embroidery technique at all...and it came as a complete surprise and a wonderful discovery. But I'm jumping ahead of myself.

The first day of Robin's workshop was spent teaching us the beading techniques demonstrated in her books. We all practiced these techniques on a sampler. Here's mine...

After completing our sampler, we moved on to working our own improvisational piece of bead embroidery. We had each been asked to bring a few different fabrics to class and so we chose a fabric that spoke to us that day and began to bead.

Robin said, "Don't think, just pick up something you love and place it on the fabric. Or, if you are too overwhelmed by a big space, start with a bugle bead trail." So that's what I did. I started with a bugle-bead trail.

Here are class examples of student's work at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day...

After we had been working on our pieces for a few hours, Robin asked us to put our needles down in order to do an exercise. OK, here's the part that affected me most...I'll take you through it and I urge you to try it for yourself.
  1. Sit down with your materials and look at them. Reflect on what you see and what they mean to you.
  2. Right a list of words that come to mind when you think of your embroidery. Don't edit yourself. Just write.
  3. Once you've finished your list. Pick one word that speaks to you more than all the others and circle it.
  4. Turn the page over. Take the circled word and place it at the end of this sentence..."I am ____________ .
  5. Now, write a poem that begins with your sentence, "I am __________ ." Note: (I forgot to tell you in my original post...) You must use all of the words from your list in step 2 in your poem.
Well, the poems that resulted from this exercise were unbelievably personal, inspirational and moving. Everyone had already brought so much emotion and energy to their work. The poem just revealed it. I wasn't aware of that energy within myself, so close to the surface. I wasn't aware that this energy could drive my work and that it could be trusted. Intellectually, I always knew that my work was "me" but it made all the difference in the world to journal my feelings as they related to my piece of embroidery.

After this experience, I felt like my work took on a different significance. My thoughts were focused and my piece began to come alive. It was really quite special and I'll never forget this gift that Robin has given me. I believe I will adopt this idea of journaling about my work as I move forward.

Robin journals about all of her pieces. Upon completion, some of her embroideries will have multiple poems each. She says it doesn't matter if you know the process, the resulting poems are different each time. If you do decide to try this technique, I'd love to know what you think.

In addition to Robin, we were also lucky to have Robin's cyber-friend and artist Angela Plager with us.

Angela participated in the 2007-08 Bead Journal Project bringing all of her beaded pieces for show-and-tell. Her work is exquisite. She also brought a piece of artwork in progress that she will use as a framework for her bead journals in 2008-09. I was so very impressed with her vision and skill. Her process for painting her backgrounds and beading her pieces can all be found on her bead journal blog, AKP Bead Journal Project. Here is a picture of her first bead journal piece for September titled Honu in Beads. You can read about it's story here.

Tomorrow Robin is giving a lecture on the 2007-08 Bead Journal Project and then a half-day Beaded Buttons workshop. I'm off to get my beauty rest.


Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing this - a very powerful exercise. nice beading too :)

Barbara C said...

This sounds like a fabulous experience. Thanks for sharing some of the highlights.

Debra Dixon said...

It's always so much more meaningful when you can connect with the spirit of a class.

I have a feeling that as I watch and read what you are doing in all of your projects that you are going through the grief process much like I went through the grief process for my son. For more than a year everything I touched had such strong emotional impact to me that I found myself crying & emotions bubbling up that I couldn't explain. Everything I made had some link to him. It was a very turbulent time for me and I still think some of my best work came from that time.

Marty52 said...

It sounds like a wonderful class, she does beautiful work and sounds like a great teacher.

Have fun!

allie aller said...

Debra is definitely on to something here...and also, I think you received so much because you were so receptive. The open and willing attitude of the student opens the floodgates for a great teacherto come through....
Very happy for you!

Denise Felton said...

What a wonderful article. I'm so jealous that you got to take a class from Robin Atkins! I've scheduled a link to this post to go live on my blog mid-day (Central USA time) on October 8. I hope it brings you a few extra clicks.


Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I am so happy that I have found your blog. Your posts have been inspiration to be. Robin is my absolute favorite. In this post you have given me focus. I am going to try this excercise. It is the direction that had planned my BJP to take this year of exploring the inner me.

Robin said...

Wow! I am nearly speachless... to open your blog and find all of this! What a great pleasure to see the early and later pictures of many of the pieces from the class. As days pass after I teach a class, I begin to forget the names of my students... but for months, even years sometimes, I can place a face with the beadwork each student did. Your post is a precious memory for me! Thank you!

By the way, in case you're interested, I've written several posts on my blog about writing poems from bead embroidery... Here is one that gives the steps... and here are some that show examples.

I notice that you didn't share your poem in your blog. That's OK, of course, but it was a very moving and wonderful poem. I'm glad Angela encouraged me to do the writing thing with your group, because all of them were special.

Thanks, Suz... It was totally delightful getting to meet you and see your Sept. BJP piece in person! Big hugs, Robin A.

Padparadscha said...

I love the song you quote at the beginning of your post. And I love your post too.

It is very nice to see all these special beaded pieces, and it is very generous of you to host them on your blog.

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