I’m a Professional Childbirth Attendant. Almost 40 years so hundreds of births now.
But my photos are not about that kind of labor.
This is called Zen Bead Embroidery.
You start with a color theme, or maybe a single button or charm or bead.
Next, collect and collect and collect some more, beads, buttons, rocks, shells, charms, tiny trinkets of any kind, until you have a gathered a bowl or box or pile full of the colors you want to use.
Then, settling as much as you can into a Zen mood, you simply start sewing things onto whatever size canvas/cloth you have chosen. No plan necessary. This is a moment to moment experience. No rhyme or reason. The only patterns will be those that occur to you or that simply emerge as you labor. There is no right, no wrong, and there are no mistakes.
You will spend however many minutes or hours you wish in each stitching session…until you know you are done.
Don’t worry if you cannot muster that Zen feeling. The stitching will assist you.
Or, if you have ever sat through someone’s labor and childbirth, you will already know how.
Frame, if you wish.
If you figure out that you actually like doing this, you can even choose an image, and let yourself fill it in, Zen Bead Embroidery style.
And then, you can frame it, or keep it, or give it to your son, your original, 10 pound “labor of love” and tell him it is a “once in his life time” gift!!!
Of course, the BLUE is what caught my eye but the whole thing inspired me to write up the short version of a wonderful art experience I had a few years back.
My long-time friend invited me to join a yearlong project, along with seven artists. (Please notice I did not say seven other artists, as I am maybe an interesting craft person, at best. But I was honored to be in the company of these true artists!!)
The project was rotating Altered Books.
An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning. Wikipedia
This was our assignment. Choose a color theme. And then find a book to “alter”…. meaning just that…a book to change in any way you want.
We informed each other of our chosen colors (blue, red, green, orange, pink, brown, purple, yellow) and set off on our 12 month journey with each other.
Our procedure was to start our own book, work on it for a month or so, and then mail or take it to the next person on the list. Then they would work on our book, in our color, and we would work on the book we received, using that color. The process is brilliant because you are thinking about all your co-artists throughout the year, watching for. and gathering, ideas and supplies for each of the others’ color themed books. (It was cool that our particular group also knew each other so the ideas we had for each book could have personal meaning, as well as working in that person’s color.)
After a month or so, working with the new color, we would mail or take that book to the next person in our rotation, and so on until we had each worked on every other book.
The thing I loved most was as each new book arrived, it was like opening a birthday gift. Discovering the current month’s color and seeing what the last person had done with it was so exciting. And of course, as we neared the end, we got to see the project almost completed, with many different interpretations of that color and of each person’s style of “altering”.
Sometimes the words on particular pages were used as a focus for the altering.
Other times, it was the actual structure of the book (pages glued together and cut out in shapes).
And there were even some very clever “pop-outs” so when you turned a page, something surprising would happen.
Since BEADS and BUTTONS are my primary craft addiction, I used a lot of those. But because we were emailing like crazy, sharing tips and checking in, we were learning new techniques from each other along the way (photo transferring, different washes, newly discovered glues, cool sticker sources, Exacto knife methods, etc.).
With each book we signed, left a book mark, or in some way identified our contribution.
We didn’t return the last book we worked on to its owner. Instead, we brought it to a gathering on a previously planned weekend. We met at a cabin on Hood Canal, so we could open our own books in front of each other. Every book got hours of attention, each page turned, a new gift! We got to talk about what we had done and why, how we had altered, what each color meant to us, etc.
And of course, this was a celebration, so there was food and wine and music too!!!
All in all, it was a memorable experience, one I would love to do again in my life. What a fun way it would be to get to know other Bloggers!
I just had another great idea! What if we did a rotating altered photo album. I know, I know, it would be easier online but what if we each found an actual photo album or scrap book, each picked a theme, (trees, babies, sunsets, politics, whatever!!) and then rotated our albums, sharing our own photography in that theme.
Think of the great coffee table book we could each end up with!
When my son was about 20, he picked up an old Porsche to rebuild. He worked on it for years, including finally finishing major parts of the body work while it was parked in his grandmother’s driveway. She forgot it was there, drove into her driveway late one night and totalled the car. He is 43 now and has hauled it around with him to every place he has lived…Nebraska, Arizona, and several places in Washington state.
At one point, in support of his project, I told him that though I didn’t much want to work on the car with him, I had a supportive parallel project going that was just about as time consuming, so I challenged him….a race to the finish line.
I won and I gave him MY project a few years ago.
That car now lives HERE at my home, along with my son and his two sons. He plans on the three of them finishing it together. I really hope so as now it has become a symbolic “principle” of the whole thing.
But I am thinking maybe I start a new parallel project and re-challenge him. What do you think?
Made with beads and my son’s great-grandmother’s mostly glass buttons.