Artist Spotlight: Cindy Holsclaw

We interviewed Cindy Holsclaw for the February/March 2016 issue of Beadwork. We had to cut some of the interview in the print magazine, for space; here’s the full interview.


Cindy Holsclaw


February/March 2016 Beadwork

In Cindy Holsclaw’s latest video series, she dives headlong into structural beadweaving. She uses math and geometry to create intricate geometric beaded beads, and she uses a peyote stitch variation with two-hole beads to weave beaded beads that can be incorporated into multiple jewelry designs. In addition, Cindy stitches some fun beaded molecule earrings, and she uses a variation of prismatic right-angle weave to form dainty flower charms that can be used to make a necklace, bracelet, or earrings.We recently sat down with Cindy to talk about her new videos.

Q: How did you get started beading?
A: I’ve been playing with beads off and on since I was very young. My great-grandmother did crochet, sewing, and painting, and she was a master at French beaded flowers. I followed in her footsteps by trying not only beading but also crafts such as origami. I got into off-loom beading techniques in 2006 after helping a family friend with her Czech-glass bead business at a local show. That experience inspired me to do some online research about beading; I found the work of Gwen Fisher and Florence Turnour, who were pioneering work in geometric beaded beads. When I realized that the same geometric forms I was using in origami could be constructed in beads, I was immediately hooked.

paper cranes

Paper cranes; courtesy of Cindy Holsclaw

Q: How does your background in math and science play into your beadwork?
A: I’ve always been a fan of geometry and art based on mathematical principles. I’ve had years of experience creating modular geometric origami, in which several pieces of paper are folded into separate modules and then joined to create a finished object. Creating such objects gave me a lot of practice constructing, for example, six-sided cubes and twelve-sided dodecahedrons, which made it much easier for me to pick up dimensional techniques such as cubic right-angle weave (CRAW) and creating geometric beaded beads. These defined, symmetrical structures continue to influence my beadwork; most of my designs are based on a geometric form such as a dodecahedron or a set of geometric shapes such as triangles or pentagons.

flower cube

Flower cube; courtesy of Cindy Holsclaw

In 2010, I earned a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology from UC Davis, where I analyzed molecules that are made by the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. As with my interest in beadwork, in my studies I was most drawn to interesting chemical forms and structures—and I enjoy creating the same forms with beads (once a science geek, always a science geek!). I’ve explored a couple of different ways of rendering beaded molecules; one method uses a straightforward collection of seed beads to create flat, easy-to-make representations of small molecules such as caffeine, serotonin, and vitamin C. I’ve also created more complicated three-dimensional versions of ethanol, oxytocin, and endorphin molecules using a branched method with seed beads and crystals.


Caffeine molecule pendant; courtesy of Cindy Holsclaw

Q: Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you just let the creativity flow?
A: I do a bit of both. Often I’ll approach a new design with an idea in my head, but I rarely have a finished project in mind before I sit down to bead (unless it’s a specific chemical structure). More often it’s a “what if?” idea such as “What would SuperDuos look like in a dodecahedron?” or “What would happen if I embellished twisted CRAW?” or “What if I created tons of beaded triangles and put them together?”

Q: How do you approach the use of color in your designs?
I’ve found color selection to be a constant balance between similar and contrasting colors and finishes. Although I like the overall project to have a pleasing color theme that doesn’t look like its colors are clashing, a colorway also needs to have contrast in tone and hue to add interest. A great solution is to use both matte and shiny finishes in the same project to emphasize some areas and de-emphasize others.

Q: How do you get out of a creative rut?
A: I find that my creativity comes in waves, and I sometimes experience periods of several months when I’m not satisfied with what I’m creating. During those times I find it helpful to get out of my own head; I’ll purchase patterns from another bead artist or take a class to learn a new approach or perspective on beading, or I’ll dive into an origami book and fold paper for a while. I’ve also found that I need to allow for enough creative time in my travel schedule.


Immortelle; courtesy of Cindy Holsclaw

Q: How do you recover from a beading catastrophe?
A: Whether it’s a frustrating design that won’t work or a cat-induced bead dispersal catastrophe, I often find that time and space provide the best recovery. I like to get out of the studio and do something non-bead related for the rest of the day and tackle the problem anew the next day.

Q: What’s the benefit of using shaped beads in your designs?
A: Shaped beads can provide new engineering solutions and challenges to beading designs. I’ve found that the multi-hole beads offer new opportunities to create dimensional beadwork. For example, you can use two-hole beads to create a top layer with one set of holes and a bottom layer with the other. Petal, drop-shaped, and other top-drilled beads allow you to create different kinds of beaded flowers, in which the beads themselves do the job of creating the flower petals. Other projects work fine with just regular seed beads; it all depends on how the bead can best support the design.

Q: Do you have an all-time favorite project?
A: My Endorphin necklace will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s my first full-length piece that accurately depicts a three-dimensional beaded molecule. But I really like the Highland Garden Necklace, which features flowery dodecahedron beaded beads. It’s one of my most successful attempts to combine a mathematical form with a traditionally beautiful organic element, and I think students who take this class learn a lot about both of these approaches to beaded art.


Endorphin necklace; courtesy of Cindy Holsclaw


Highland Garden Necklace; courtesy of Cindy Holsclaw

Q: What was the inspiration for your recent videos?
A: For these videos, I wanted to focus on four areas of beading in which I can offer unique ideas or specialized expertise. My backgrounds in chemistry and beading mesh perfectly in the beaded molecules video. In the geometric beaded beads video, I wanted to offer a fundamental lesson on cube and dodecahedron beaded beads, which will give students the tools to explore more complicated geometric beaded beads from not only me but also many other talented beading designers. In another video, I explore how to make beaded beads from two-hole beads, which not only offers a quick beaded-bead project but also provides insight into working with multi-hole beads. In the prismatic right-angle weave (PRAW) video, I present the mathematical principles behind the technique, and I show how to use PRAW with shaped beads and seed beads to create dainty little flower charms.

For more of Cindy’s designs, visit her website, Bead Origami.

For the print version of our interview with Cindy, see the February/March 2016 issue of Beadwork magazine.

—Lavon Peters, managing editor, Beadwork

New Videos from Cindy Holsclaw
Join Cindy in her latest video series; each video is available as a download or DVD.

  • Geometric Beaded Beads: From Cubes to Dodecahedrons
  • Dainty Prismatic Right-Angle Weave Flower Charms
  • Weaving Beaded Beads with Two-Hole Beads
  • Stitching Beaded Molecules
15BD17_1-geometric-beaded-beads 15BD18_1-flower-charms 15BD19_1-two-hole-beads 15BD20_1-beaded-molecules

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