Friday, June 15, 2012


A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post titled Seeing More.

It was about a shell seeking trip that Jim and I took to the Naples beach just after a thunderstorm and what I discovered there.  To this day, it is still one of my favorite blog posts.

Just after publishing that post, my brother John sent me this book in the mail.

The author, Dr. Gary Greenberg, took sand samples from different beaches all over the world and looked at them under a microscope.  And he was shocked at what he saw.  When his brother sent him a sample vial from Maui, he put it under the microscope and expected to see a bunch of tiny brown rocks.  What he saw instead amazed him.  

Spectacular colors, shapes and textures...remnants of rock, yes...but also lots of bits of dead flora and fauna.  Under the microscope, they all looked like jewels...and they told a story. (You can see more of his photos on his website here.)

Re-reading this book in light of my current project made me very curious to know more about the components that make up the sand on my Dad's beach in Naples, Florida.

Though the author didn't specifically photograph any of Florida's sand, he does mention that most sand is the product of eroded rock.  Continental beaches like those in Florida are most likely made up of quartz and feldspar that results from the erosion of the local granite bedrock.  I did a little research on the internet and found this post on the beach sands of the Gulf of Mexico.  Given the number of shells that land on my Dad's beach, I predict that his sand is likely made up of biological components of sea creatures and shells together with quartz.  I would love to put some under a microscope and see for myself.

In ordet to get a sense for the colors that make up the Naples beach, I used the color picker tool in Photoshop to create a palette...

And I was surprised yet again by what the color picker reveals.  Inevitably, there are colors involved in a tree trunk, a sea star...even sand...that I wouldn't have chosen if left to my own naked eye.  Like the author, I expected the color to be off white.  So I was surprised to see mostly taupes and grays show up.

Ever since I heard a radio interview with Betty Edwards, author of Color:  A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Color, my whole understanding of color has made a continental shift.  She felt that our schools had done a tremendous disservice to young children when teaching them that skies are blue and that trees have green leaves and brown trunks.  In reality, they are many colors, hues and shades that make up the trees and sky that we see.  I've never forgotten that....and have been using the color picker to help select color ever since.

And isn't it interesting that when Dr. Greenberg looks at sand under a microscope...he sees sooo many different colors?

Somehow, I wanted to give the appearance of sand on my that you would know that the sea star is resting on the beach.

Here's my problem.  The sea star was stitched with size 15 seed beads.  In order to give the appearance of sand, I would need to use a bead that was significantly smaller.  So I went back to my antique seed beads (I get them from Beadcats) and found the closest colors I could find to my palette...old ivory and old silver lined 22 degree seed beads.

There's no way to stitch size 22 beads without using a size 16 beading needle and 00 nymo thread, both of which I have to order online because no local bead shop carries anything that small.

Now, there's no way I can stitch a whole beach worth of sand on my block.  I just wanted to give the impression of suggesting it.

And my little mix of beads I hope will do the trick.

That being said, it's still a lot of stitching to attach a random pattern of tiny sand beads onto my block.  So that's my job this weekend.

Of course, I'm laughing at myself thinking I would be done today.

I should know myself by now.  I take too many side trips and tangents to ever get me to the goal in a straight line.

Have a great weekend everyone!  I'm off to stitch sand, one grain at a time...

P.S. I found this great close up pic of the nine-armed sea star. Don't those scales on his legs look like beads?


Nana said...

To me this is a perfekt sand!!!!


Wendy said...

The illusion of sand is going to be perfect for this block. Those are really small beads, but they will do a nice job looking like sand.

Teresa in Music City said...

I always enjoy your posts so much! Imagine, all of that in a little grain of sand!!! You work will be well worth the effort I think :*)

Oriel said...

After reading your blog "Seeing More" it makes me want to go out and look at the shells on our beach, next time there is a big storm I will take the opportunity and go and see what comes up on the beach!! Look forward to next week to see your finished masterpiece.

Rachel said...

Random scatters are the hardest of all effects to achieve, but at the same time, as you've already discovered, you don't need to encrust the piece completely to create the illusion of a sandy beach!

elmsley rose said...

This is your opportunity of a lifetime to count the number of grains of sand on a 'beach'!

Kathy said...

You might also enjoy this blogpost regarding colors and their names.
It never really occurred to me that different cultures "see" color differently.

I'm enjoying watching your beachscape grow.

Sandy said...

Your work (hobby, passion) is just phenomenal!

gracie said...

This block is going to be so beautiful...well, all yur blocks are!

Gerry Krueger said...

I also love using the color picker and am as often as not amazed at what appears... I need to get some of the itty bitty beads... Great star fish... Ger

Sandie said...

Great post! Ilove it when a post gets me thinking differently about something we take for granted or as just so.
Thank you!
I'm looking forward to seeing the finished project too.
Have a great stitching weekend,

Sandie xx

Suztats said...

Love that pic of the 9-armed sea star! I've never heard of this creature before.
Your beading has captured not only the look of sand with its colours, but also the texture of the sand--it looks wonderfully grainy! I can remember how coarse they felt between my toes, and yet some of the grains would sparkle like tiny bits of glass. Perfect.

Jane said...

You block is looking beautiful Susan. And what great links, I've been thinking a lot about colour myself recently. So I'll read all the links later. I didn't know about colour picker either, I use photoshop elements I feel a bit of research coming on to find it in there!

Catherine said...

That book sounds so very interesting! Makes one wonder how much beauty we miss in the world. The beads you've cisen look perfect for your piece ~ looking forward to seeing your piece of paradise!

Createology said...

Once again you have amazed me with the detail of research you do to get the authenticity into your projects. Yes, Yes, Yes!!! Your illusion of sand is brilliant. Happy Father's Day weekend and enjoy your celebrations dear...

Saturday Sequins said...

I think it's all the tangents and side trips that make you such an awesome artist! :)

Sand interests me, too. When I was 14 I went to the Bahamas, and I spent hours looking through the sand and finding teeny tiny little shells. It was so relaxing!

Mosaic Magpie said...

Simply amazing the stuff we learn on our visits with you. What an interesting post, now I am off to click on all those links you have nicely shared.

verobirdie said...

Hi Susan
I'm sending you an award...

Elizabeth said...

I love how you have added the cheese cloth threads over the sea star- great effect of the fine whispy sea weed that is always about the beach!! those tiny beads are amazing! And you wonder about your eyes- well maybe you don't !!HA!! Hope that you had a wonderful Father's Day with the family!! Wasn't the weather spectacular?? I sat out on our deck, under the umbrella of course, working on gallery projects and getting ready for a book class that I am teaching tomorrow!!

Miriam said...

I am amazed by your stunning starfish! Beautiful work.
The lace looks just like froth on waves on the beach!
I admire your level of research into each of your pieces.
Have fun creating sand! :)

Your journey along tangents is far more interesting than one along a straight line.

coral-seas said...

You always manage to capture the essence of what ever you are depicting, wether in your stitching or in your photography. You are a true observer. The sand is perfect.

As well as the gorgeous eye candy and inspiration, I love all the additional information you give us.

Cheryl said...

I really enjoy reading your blog and watching you make such beautiful work !! It just amazes me that you always manage to find something to represent whatever it is you need to make the theme work.
I have seen and worked with tiny beads on wedding dresses, so I know the needles have to be really small. I cannot wait to see this one finished as I love the ocean themes! Great work !

vicki said...

Susan-- if anybody can stitch sand-- you can-- and you did-- it looks fabulous!! This may be one of my faborites!!

Related Posts with Thumbnails