Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Basics of Bead Stringing

By Debbie Kanan
Bourget Bros., $8.95, 2001
(800) 828-3024 or www.bourgetbros.com

Which book is the best? The most frequently asked question that I hear at bead shows is what would be an ideal introduction for beginners to ease gently into bead stringing? A substantial amount of such books are on the market, each with their own pluses and minuses. However, this 2001 revised edition has my heartfelt thumbs up as the prime candidate and not just because it’s priced less than $10.00. What grabs my attention and approval is the organization from basic techniques, including design fundamentals (a detail after my heart), towards more complex finishing details. A basic strung necklace, ending with simple bead tips, is the first project. A detailed section immediately follows for creating a hand-knotted necklace with either single or double thread techniques. Bead stringing is polished off with the finishing techniques of a continuous necklace or adding clasps with jump rings, French wire, or clam shells. Helpful hints are sprinkled throughout to make the assembly easier; with virtually every step illustrated with neatly rendered drawings. Very nicely done!

Although the book’s title suggests that bead stringing is the only concern, the next chapter leads into wire techniques, beginning with basic earrings composed with head or eye pins to memory wire jewelry to wire-wrapping around baroque stones for pendants. Wire techniques bring the novice into the ever-expanding jewelry potential with multi-stranded necklaces and the wire manipulation required to finish them within metal cones. Subsequent short chapters focus on using leather or satin cord, then touch lightly on seed bead techniques such as daisy chain, brick stitch, and peyote stitch. The grand culmination of this book is a splendid little chapter on materials and tools that describes all the goodies available, their uses and possible drawbacks–including a few items I hadn’t heard of before (the industry keeps growing by leaps and bounds). Again, very nicely done. The book does not have any specific projects, but does feature 8 color pages of inspiration, plus the cover. If you don’t own this book, why not? For a beginner, it is indispensable as a primer; for the experienced artisan, it is invaluable as a reference.

Creating Your Own Antique Jewelry

Inspiration from Great Museums Around the World
By cRis Dupouy
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., $29.95, 2000 (English translation copyright 2001)
(212) 542-8081 or www.abramsbooks.com

cRis Dupouy makes jewelry as her second career. Her favorite themes are archaeology, primitivism and Baroque art. No the name isn’t spelled wrong. That is the way she spells it. Since she lives in Paris, I assume it is a French thing. The photography is wonderful and the process uses Fimo clay.

The supply list is usual with the exception of not including dental tools such as we use in the U. S. The author uses gold, antique gold, and silver paint for patinas. This book does not address using Precious Metal Clay (PMC).

It occurred to me that clay wasn’t the only way to go with these designs that many of the designs could be done with other media as well. That should encourage everyone to look at this book in a new and different light. It also occurred to me that looking in museums for an inspiration is great ways to teach yourself design and to stretch your artistic borders. Since the photography in the book is so wonderful, we are saved a trip to any museum to put this to the test. Each piece is photographed from the original inspirational piece and the interpretation pieces are clear and may well inspire you to a different direction.

The directions are quite clear for each piece. There are written directions and line drawings for using clay, but anyone who strings beads, works with small beads, knows bezels and how to use them or uses precious metals can adapt these directions. Or a clay person could embellish on the directions given and change the end product to her own choices.

I love the idea of taking primitive or archeology finds as being the basis for inspiration. What was considered beautiful and/or valuable in ages past, is a solid platform from which to launch your own jewelry in the present. Many of the pieces in the book are taken from paintings so there is a lot of room for latitude and experimentation in what you do with it. Many times paintings are rendered with the suggestion of a piece and not the details. What you see and interpret into your own rendition is yours.

Using this work as a place to “springboard” from, you can go to our local museums, Denver Art Museum, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Colorado History Museum, the historic houses, and even the lights on Civic Center as design inspiration. That means the world all around you is waiting for your interpretation into design. This book is a good place to start the process. Then onto the world.

The Beading of My Heart 52 Loom Beading Projects

A Beadwork magazine project book
By Mary L. Thompson
Eagle’s View Publishing, $15.95, 2001
Eagle’s View Publishing; A WestWind, Inc. Company,
6756 North Fork Rd., Liberty, UT 84310

This book I picked up because I’m always interested in learning new things about looms and the process of weaving with beads on a loom. The author usually uses a new loom-a mini loom of about 3″ X 4″ and leaves her product on the loom, attaching a hanger of some sort for hanging. The how-to section of her book is very detailed and has lots of good information.

Her charts are done in what I consider a difficult to read format. She uses rows of numbers that stand for colors of beads without the benefit of bead ovals or squares. Some people might find this easier to read than the usual charts. Her charts are also done in black and white, and while there are pictures of her finished work in color, it would involve a lot of page flipping to see it for reference. I didn’t care for that arrangement of finished work and charts although I can understand her reason for doing that.

Her designs are somewhat primitive in nature, using basic colors in an arrangement that has a simplistic or primitive feel. Most of the designs seem to be North American Indian inspired so that feel fits the structure of the loom as hanger and choice of beads. There are some innovative techniques in using designs inspired by Two Grey Hills rugs. These are well executed and faithful to the colors used by this area. Another was making the design hang horizontally when it had been executed vertically. That was very effective.

There is a lot of good information in this book and I’d like to say nothing but positive things about it, but I was disappointed before I’d reached the end. Most of the book is devoted to charts and not to creativity. The information is sound though and the techniques have the advantage of being clearly understood. This book assumes the reader will use Czech beads and has formulas for figuring out how much to buy of certain colors. Most books won’t touch such an issue and this one does. I think this is a good book for someone just beginning to do beading with a loom. It isn’t intimidating as many others can be. There are graphs of different sizes and for different bead sizes. It is a good, non intimidating book for beginners.

Beading with Herringbone Stitch

A Beadwork How-To Book
By Vicki Star
Interweave Press, $21.95, 2001
(800) 272-2193 or www.interweave.com

The arrangement of the book is the usual format with an introduction by the author that is really interesting. Vicki Star gives us an insight into how she looks at beadwork. For her beadwork evolves and I take liberty to say that is similar to process. So much of beadworking is seen as project oriented. By this I mean, classes are generally featuring a project to finish in a certain time, that should look like a set example, rather than a process of learning the stitch or combing several processes. I really like that Vicki states in her introduction that she has, “a drawer full of what I call false startsÑbeadwork that didn’t go quite the way I wanted. I always learn from these false starts . . . ” Reading the beginning of the book can be an eye opener for what follows. Vicki is willing to share her exploration of the herringbone stitch. What more could we ask her to do?

There follows a brief beading history and overview of the Ndebele tribes, beaders, and some meanings that the colors have for the beaders in the tribes. There are some wonderful pictures of the type of decoration used in Botshebelo. There is a short section on what came from the introduction of such things as safety razor blades.

The next section is the how-to section of the book. This part of any book has a supply list. I thought the pictures and explanation of what Vicki has in her beading box was really interesting and well thought out. I appreciated this section more than usual in a book. Under techniques there is a nice explanation of the structure of the stitch and how to get started. In fact there is more than one way to start and to turn. This was very good as different starts can produce different results and different turns are the same in producing different results. Techniques covered are Flat, Tubular, Increases within the work and at the edges, Decreases the same, Circular and Arc Herringbone, as well as finishing the work.

The next section of the book contains projects, which include a card case, kaleidoscope, mini vessels and Fuchsia Earrings. The projects cover the techniques and can be reproduced as seen or even embellish with your own way of doing something.

There is a gallery of wonderful work by various artists, graphs and resource guides. This is a nicely written book, well presented and makes me want to learn and add Ndebele or Herringbone Stitch to my repertoire when I’ve never wanted to before. I like this book a lot.

Introduction to Beadwork Bracelets

By Jill Devon and Liz Thornton, Editors
The Beadworkers Guild, £16.50 (including overseas p&p), 2000
The Beadworkers Guild, P.O.Box 24922, London, SE23 3WS, or www.beadworkersguild.org.uk

I’ve mulled and gone back and forth over this book many times and after much reversionary thinking, I still don’t know if I like this book or not. I have a hard time reviewing it because there are some things I like and yet . . . This book just leaves me feeling that way.

To be more factual about it, here is the thinking of the moment. This book is particularly good for beginners and has some ideas that might spark a few intermediate beaders. The tip page is okay, addressing some items it would never occur to me to think of doing, but I’m sure someone somewhere did or those things wouldn’t be included. It never occurred to me to reuse thread, for example. Maybe it is because my heart has too much Irish whimsy to ever go there. Whatever the reason, it is one of the tips. I found most of the bracelets rather common, but again some that I thought, “Oh, good idea to combine those beads with that technique.” It is a book that I think I’m glad I’ve added to my library, but I would suggest that you check it out of the RMBS library first to see if you really want and need this book.

Dimensional Flowers, Leaves and Vines

By Barbara L. Grainger
Barbara L. Grainger Ent., $24.95 (plus $3.50 s&h), 2000
Barbara L. Grainger Enterprises,
PO Box1902, Oregon City, OR 97045

I have to tell you I love this book. I’ve always like Barbara’s method of teaching (from articles and the like) and her ideas of fun things to bead. This book is full of both. That’s a good part of why I love it. The next part of why I like this is that her brain must be organized to function in the same or similar way mine is. Her book is arranged in a way most books aren’t and that works for me. She begins with brick stitch techniques, then netted techniques, then miscellaneous techniques. Then the focus shifts to project overviews, more miscellaneous techniques and finally peyote techniques with the last thing being basic techniques to remember. For some people this may be a hard way to do bead work, but the techniques in all sections and the projects too, are all cross referenced and that is what makes it so workable for me.

I forgot to mention that this book has a lot of unique techniques with ideas of how to mix and match and encouragement to do just that make them your own unique projects. I usually don’t care too much for netting techniques but I think I’ll try some of the netting ideas with some of the other dimensional techniques.

Barbara, in her acknowledgements section tells us that Joyce Scott got her into the dimensional idea with the words: (spoken about a piece that Barbara had done) “It’s beautiful, but it’s soooo flat!” How many times have you thought the same of a lovely amulet or loom work. I know I have. It doesn’t have to be. With the techniques Barbara encourages and shows you, too, can become the dimension queen of your bead world. Come and play. Good book worth the money.

The Art & Elegance of Beadweaving – New Jewelry Design with Classic Stitches

By Carol Wilcox Wells
Lark Books, Asheville, NC, $27.95, 2002
(800) 284-3388 or www.larkbooks.com

Carol Wilcox Wells has done it again. This is indeed a wonderful book, just as her first hardcover book was wonderful, although I like this one even better. Why is that, you might ask. I think it has to do with the arrangement of the book and the photos included with the directions and examples. Even the introduction was wonderful. I am one of those people who read Introductions and Forewords and learn a great deal of color and background by doing so. I would urge you to do the same with this book. The book begins with the Introduction and a material, tools and tips section then jumps into the heart of the book–things you might want to make.

The making things part of the book is nicely divided into types of techniques. For example, the first section is beaded beads. This is not a technique that has ever appealed to me personally, but after going over this section, I can see where some people are fascinated by it and can even understand that fascination. It isn’t mine yet, but who knows, at least I understand it more.

The next section is the Chevron Chain. Now, many a small bead person is using this technique, but may not know it. When I read portions of this section I was struck with how this is related to African, Native American, and now the Russian beadwork. All of these methods are related to my eye and I hadn’t seen it before. Now, that I see it collected in one area it makes perfect sense to me that this is a technique that many cultures would have begun with in beads.

Crocheted ropes are popular right now. I learned a lot with the computerized Ôdrawings’ of technique that in this section and how color and pattern can be unique for this technique.

Herringbone stitch has raced through the beading community in the last year. The section on this technique is quite thorough and wonderful. I particularly liked the photography of samples that were included in this section.

Our old favorite peyote stitch is given new sizzle and zing in this section and on page 128 is a project that appeals to the Gypsy in me. I have to make it. The last section is about spiral ropes. These are a wonderful, although somewhat tedious, to my mind, way of making the strap for an amulet purse. In this section, learn how to make the spiral ropes and variations that make them a stand-alone necklace. It gave me new insight on this technique. While I probably won’t make a stand-alone necklace for myself, it is a good idea for something to use as a springboard idea for a sale or to use with your own modifications, for a strap for a tropical or fruit or flower theme amulet bag.

I love Carol Wilcox Wells’ friendly and informative style, the wonderful graphic text, the glossy and lovely photos. Really, I just love this book.

Beads in Bloom The Art of Making French Beaded Flowers

A Beadwork How-To Book
By Arlene Baker
Interweave Press, $21.95, 2002
(800) 272-2193 or www.interweave.com

This Beads In Bloom book is about the art of making French Beaded Flowers. Why it is called that is lost in the mists of the past. There is a lot of contradictory and conflicting information as to the reasons for the name “French beading” and is one of the areas covered lightly by this book.

This is really a how-to book. From about page 8 to the beginnings of page 62 the writing is all about techniques that are used in making the French beaded flowers and stems. It is amazing to me, as one who has never done this technique, that there is so much to learn. It all begins with, ” . . . the counting and measuring of beads.” There is quite a bit more to it than that, but the steps begin at the very beginning and gradually get more involved until you have made a flower with loops, covering the stems in a variety of methods and gone on to more advanced techniques. In this process you’ve learned to always twist your wire in the same direction at certain steps in the process, to not cut your wire from the spool until you’ve finished with that loop, to leave your wire stems long enough, since generosity at this step saves problems later. Further along in the book you learn about dome centers, lacing, and elongating flowers. Like eating an elephant, learning to do French beading is done one step at a time.

The illustrations are phenomenal. This is an off shoot of the beading craft that has taken a back seat for a long time and is coming into its own again. The gallery of photos of work, some by the author or of items in her private collection is wonderful. Each technique has a color photo that demonstrates that technique, sometimes combined with other techniques, would look like in either a finished new or antique product. It is like having history sitting on the pages while you are learning.

For anyone interested in French beading or making beautiful objects with beads, I would recommend this book most highly. It is a paper bound book that can be taken to most print shops where it can be wire or plastic ring bound. I always do that with how-to books when possible as they lay flat much easier that way. It helps me when I’m learning a new technique to not have to fight the book. The fee is quite reasonable and publishers and booksellers have a fit with books that have these bindings before they are bought. I appreciate that Interweave Press leaves a nice border that makes this possible for their paperbound books to go through this process.

Our RMBS library is richer for having this book from Interweave.

Bead It with Beadwork

A Beadwork magazine project book
Jean Campbell, Editor, Beadwork Magazine
Interweave Press, $9.95, 2002
(800) 272-2193 or www.interweave.com

First of all this is definitely a project book. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else and shouldn’t be expected to be anything else. But it has a nice variety of projects. Some use big beads, bones, metal working, and small bead weaving to create a total of 16 projects to help you get a gift, or something you might want to wear for a special occasion, done, finished, ready to wear.

In the first of the book are some important information sections. I think the one about findings is crucial for beginners–and I count myself a rank beginner in the realm of stringing and wire working. The renderings of basic findings are good, as are the short definitions.

On pages 4 and 5 are some lovely spiral earrings done in 18-gauge wire with some nice drawings showing how to make the spiral, the 24-gauge wire wrap, and finishing the earrings. It is simple, a little challenging and uses three techniques that the beginning stringer would feel good about completing.

The techniques covered are variedÑfrom bead embroidery, strings of multiple stands, making a small bag and many others. There is even one titled “Pennington’s Kilty Brooch” that would look great at the Highland Games taking place in various locations this summer and fall. Of course there are brick and peyote stitch projects for those who like working with small beads.

This book is available for checkout from the RMBS library. This is a wonderful increase to our library Not only is this a worthwhile book with varied projects that anyone can do, but the directions are clear and well presented. This is a great book for making those small items for friends.

Beading in the Native American Tradition

By David Dean
Interweave Press, $24.95, 2002
(800) 272-2193 or www.interweave.com

Whenever I’ve seen work by David Dean, I’ve always admired what he has done. From this book I’ve learned a lot about the tradition he admires and is a part of. David Dean is Choctaw by birth and educated in Kiowa ways. This new book is a wonderful epitome of bringing together many links to different Native American bead working techniques.

The usual format is followed, with history, materials needed for beadwork, but one really interesting chapter dealt with collecting Native American Beadwork. This isn’t a chapter that most books have and this subject Chapter contains such practical advice. I love loom work and the chapter devoted to loom work was my favorite. Several historic looms are covered, such as Tension loom, Bow loom and Box loom. Then he gets to the heart of matter–for me at least–with the heddle used in conjunction with the loom. There are even directions for making the heddle.

Bead Embroidery has a chapter, although it is called Appliqué Beadwork. Beautiful designs and examples are shown. I love the examples and drawings of the Crow Running Stitch, the Return Stitch and the design possibilities suggested by this chapter.

Further along the Gourd Stitch and Comanche Brick Stitch are given a chapter. These stitches are known in the Anglo/European world as brick stitch and peyote stitch. The Native American adapted these stitches to fit onto rounded, solid objects.

The last chapter that covers stitches is grouped as Uncommon Beadwork Techniques. There is an embossed stitch and Winnebego Side-Stitch, which looks really interesting to try. The very last chapter of the books ties up those finishing questions, has Native American designs, patterns, graphs, outlines and even the side-stitch graphs and suggestions.

The single thing I liked about best about this book is not a single thing. It is twofold. I really enjoyed the photos of new and old beadwork. They are just smashing. Then I was so pleased to find philosophical quotes and practical hints inset and delineated by color and design scattered through the chapters. I found these charming, informative, and wonderfully serendipitous. This is wonderful book. It is hard to send the copy from Interweave Press onto the library, but I’m sure I’ll buy my own copy soon.