Beadweaving Artist Q&A with Cynthia Newcomer Daniel
Cynthia Newcomer Daniel’s Modern Beaded Lace
In Modern Beaded Lace, beadweaving artist extraordinaire Cynthia Newcomer Daniel translates her love for lace into exquisite beaded creations. Using basic beadweaving stitches, she transforms delicate seed beads and sparkling crystals into flowers, leaves, and scrolls, which become stunning necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, and rings.
Beadweaving From the Beginning
We recently asked Cynthia about her new book, including how she got started beading, why she decided to create “lace” from beads, and what inspired this book. Learn more about Cynthia here, then get your own copy of Modern Beaded Lace (available in print or digital format) and learn how to make gorgeous beaded lace jewelry.
Q: How did you get started crafting and beading?
A: I honestly can’t remember not crafting. My grandmothers and parents were my first teachers. There was nothing that my grandmothers and mother couldn’t make with needle and thread; I learned sewing, crochet, and beadwork from them. I grew up with craft materials always on hand, and I was encouraged to play and experiment with them. My parents were also lapidaries, and they taught me to make jewelry from the stones they cut and faceted, using the lost-wax method of casting. I was lucky to grow up in a home where making things was a high priority.
Q: Why did you decide to create “lace” from beads?
A: When I could no longer see well enough to make traditional needle lace with thread, I decided to substitute beads for the knots and was very pleased with the results. It works up a lot faster, and I love the fact that different types of beads can be used to add texture and color. It’s something that I think can be explored a lot further; I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible.
Beadweaving and Lace
Q: How does the technique for beaded lace differ from traditional lacemaking?
A: My approach is very different. Most traditional laces are made from either knotting or weaving threads; my favorite lace, needle lace, can require hundreds of hours to make a square inch of lace. Although making beaded lace is arguably a time- and labor-intensive process, beaded lace works up a lot faster than traditional lace. In most cases, I design beaded lace the same way I design traditional lace: I make the structural elements first, then add the figures and filling afterward. However, the actual construction methods are quite different.
I think of each bead as a knot or group of knots, and I use regular beadweaving stitches to give the impression of lace instead of adding beads to traditional lacemaking methods. It could certainly be done the other way, but I decided early on that I wanted the beadwork to dominate.
The Creative Process
Q: Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you just let the creativity flow?
A: I just let it flow. I like to have a general idea of what I want to make, but once I start beading, I’ve discovered that holding on too tightly to my original idea is more trouble than it’s worth. The beads never seem to do what I imagined they would do, and I’m constantly making corrections to my original plan based on the reality of the beads. Sometimes things come out fairly close to what I envisioned, but other times the work has a life of its own.
I’ve learned that the beads and I are both happier when they’re in charge. When I remember that I’m here to serve them, we get along well; when I try to bend the beads to my will, they rebel and won’t let me hear the end of it.
Q: What inspires your creativity?
A: Everything! I might see a patterned shadow cast on the wall by a vine and think, “That’s lace.” Or perhaps it’s a design on a ceramic mug, or a painting, or a sculpture; sometimes a bead or a cabochon inspires me. Sometimes it’s even an actual piece of lace. Music inspires me — a sweeping classical piece can make me think of great arcs and swirls; a bouncy pop song makes me think of a series of repeated motifs. Inspiration is everywhere!
Q: How do you get out of a creative rut?
A: I put away all the beads that are already out (most of my ruts happen because I just keep using the beads that are already out!), and I pull out colors that are very different from the ones I’ve been using. I look around at the world, take a walk, go for a drive, or play music. I go out and work in the garden, or I cook a big meal. As a last resort, I do housework. That’s usually enough to drive me straight back to the beads!
Color and Beads
Q: How do you approach the use of color in your designs?
A: I usually start with my main color, often a metallic. My early metalworking years left me with a tendency to think of metallics as the base note of jewelry; they show up in nearly all of my work. Then I pick out the other colors. I tend to go for contrasting colors, but recently I’ve been trying to challenge myself to use analogous color schemes; I love them when others use them, but it’s not something I do naturally. I usually pull out more beads than I end up using — I like to have a few shades and tints of each color I’m using at hand, just in case.
As I work, I evaluate how the colors look against each other, and I make changes as needed. I tend to like subtle color relationships best. I admire great pops of color in others’ work, but it’s another thing that doesn’t come naturally to me.
Q: What was the inspiration for your book?
A: Two of my great passions are beadweaving and lacemaking. Making beaded lace seemed to resonate with a lot of beaders, and putting my process into a book was a wonderful opportunity to share my love for lace and beads. I can’t wait to see what others do with the basic concepts I’ve shared in my book; I’m looking forward to seeing my readers come up with designs that go beyond what I’ve imagined. That’s what inspires me!
For more of Cynthia’s designs, visit her website, Tutorials by Jewelry Tales.
For a look on what’s inside Modern Beaded Lace, check out Modern Beaded Lace: New Techniques and Designs with Cynthia Newcomer Daniel.
Modern Beaded Lace and more from Cynthia