You're A Liar
You're A Liar
by Rose Rushbrooke
“You’re a liar!” says Marilyn as she marches around the row of fold-up tables and up the other side. Oh, for heaven’s sake, she’s headed toward me.
“You told us you were a beginner. You told us you’d only been beading for a few months”, she says. She’s closing in. I’m preparing to spring out of my chair and race from the room. Then a huge grin plasters itself all over her face and I relax. She’s teasing me.
Marilyn supervised an active bunch of women who like to bead. Skill levels were high. The group met at a community room in Tampa, Florida. Marilyn saw my online message begging for beading companionship and proffered an invitation to join. Over several months, every one of those women in that clique taught me something different, wonderful, and useful. Their feedback was precious.
Scattered on the board in front of me were the elements of a necklace I was designing. Having discovered geometric shapes, I put together a string of peyote-stitched three-dimensional squares and triangles. This was sophisticated work for a ‘beginner’, and I could see why Marilyn would question my statement.
Triangles and Squares
For fun, I sent a photo of the finished necklace to Bead & Button magazine. A day later, I received an email asking if I would write the pattern for the magazine. They would test the instructions and edit my words. And they would pay me! They published my Triangles and Squares necklace in February 2012.
Marilyn was both right and wrong when she called me a liar. I was a beginner beader; I wasn’t fibbing. But I am a professional artist and can call on years of high-quality artistry. It makes it easy for me to pick up a new skill. Before I learned to bead, I worked as a textile artist with artwork in galleries, museums, and traveling exhibitions.
Before that, I painted and sold gouache pictures from my Caribbean studio.
Fish and Fern
How did it all begin? My husband David and I were visiting his parent’s apartment in Florida. After we had done our initial meet and greet, I wandered down the corridor to the ‘magic’ room. This room known as Pearl’s Closet was sometimes cavernous, and other times stuffed to the gills with exciting treasures. Folks used the space for giveaway items. You don’t want fifteen flower vases anymore?—put the extras in Pearl’s Closet. Bored with your summer dresses?—swap ‘em out at Pearl’s Closet. Too many magazines?—uh, oh!
And there you have it. The pivotal moment. A heap of beading magazines sprang out in my direction. Of course, I found a melon baller, and a stack of brand new taco shell makers too, but these were peripheral to the bounty. Seriously, this was as though I’d found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Those magazines were glowing!
When you watch or read a tutorial for the first time, you hit a barrier. Because you don’t know how to use the techniques being described, you cannot understand how to deploy the instructions. The words or actions are meaningless. The instructions make sense once you gain the knowledge. But to gain the knowledge you need to understand the instructions. It’s a circular problem.
At last, the moment comes when you realize you’ve stitched around several rows of the pattern and didn’t notice the peyote step up. The weaving technique soon becomes natural and you can pick up the pattern where you left off … Without swearing.
Copper & Crystal needlecase
I struggled through peyote amulet bags and covered needle cases. I reached a basic competency stage after much profanity and a few months. Then followed up with other bead-weaving stitches until I could switch from one to the other. The learning curve became shorter as I built on each step. During this time I spent far more money than I should have on bead books, beads (naturally!), supplies, online tutorials, and classes. From Judy Walker’s Boot Camp to Master classes with other top bead artists at the annual Bead & Button show in Milwaukee, WI. Judy Walker was nice enough to ask why I bothered to take her boot camp as I apparently knew it all already!
Challenges and experiments followed. I hybridized my medium. Why not try putting art quilts and beads together? A series of crossover pieces resulted.
It was time to take the bull by the horns. We moved to Portland, Oregon and I immediately joined the Portland Bead Society. We rented an apartment close to where the group met. This meant I could walk to the meetings. I had traveled several thousand miles to be part of one of the smaller jewels in the hierarchy of the arts and crafts world.
I filled the next few years with challenging advanced tutorials, including a fabulous retreat with Jean Power in the UK. As I am English born, it was fun to spend three days together talking in the King’s English. What? You don’t think it’s another language? Well, let me tell you, after almost three decades of living in the States, my American husband and I still need a translator.
Jean was working on her book, Geometric Beadwork. She showed us how to make a continuous bangle of triangles; she showed us how to peyote rick-rack. She opened my eyes to other dimensions. She included my fractal bracelet, Rabbit Hole, in her book, which was jolly nice!
Rabbit Hole bangle
The Portland Bead Society holds an annual retreat on the Oregon coast. A beading challenge is part of the entertainment. The Society encourages retreat attendees to create a piece according to a set theme. The first time I entered, I won an Honorable Mention, the second time—Second Place, and the third time—First Place. The 4th—total wipeout, nada. This production stirred up my creativity. Competitions and challenges abounded online and in real life.
Taking a deep breath, I filled in the entry form for Bead Dreams 2018. I did not tell a soul, not even my husband. If the jury did not accept me, then nobody would know how ridiculous I was to think I could line up with the elite of the beaders’ world.
The email came. “We are pleased to let you know - yada, yada, yada.” Gads - I was in! My shriek of delight, when I read those words, may have caused hearing damage to my poor husband! When the time came, we packed up my beaded alien flower and sent it off to Milwaukee, WI.
Covid arrived. We struggled with the black fog rolling over the world. A friend asked if I was sending a ‘square’ to the Museum of Beadwork. Absolutely not, I replied. I’m not in the mood for anything, anything at all.
Each individual beaded piece--a six-inch square, would be stitched together into a ‘quilt’.“The project highlights the shared experiences of isolation, quarantine, and the many societal changes that occurred during 2020,” declared the Museum of Beadwork’s webpage. The call went out and participants produced 541 pieces to commemorate this moment in history.
I designed, constructed, and mailed my White Rose square. Maybe I was in the mood after all.
Covid 19 - White Rose
I’ve come a long way since my first peyote amulet bag. For my latest Big Thing, I entered the Museum of Beadwork’s Wings and Stings competition and was ecstatic to get an acceptance email.
My Queen Bee and Swarm will be shown at their opening reception.
Queen Bee and Swarm
Rose Rushbrooke is a serial artist. Everything that goes around comes around. She wrote her first published piece when at school nearly sixty years ago. She is writing again. Along the way, she mastered more than one creative medium. From painting gouache pictures in her Caribbean studio to designing and stitching textiles, to weaving tiny glass beads together here in America. She was born in London, England, lived in the Caribbean for fifteen years of her life, and her American husband imported her to the USA in 1996. She is a serial traveler.
- Heather Kahn