Q&A with Bead Weaving Expert and Beadwork Designer of the Year Agnieszka Watts
Agnieszka Watts is one of our 2017 Designers of the Year. Her Desert Rose Bracelet is featured in February/March 2017 Beadwork. This bracelet consists of a netted base that showcases simple, eye-catching components. We recently asked Agnieszka how she got started beading, how she selects colors for her designs, and what advice she has for other beaders.
Q: How did you get started beading?
A: I started beading by accident. I was making a project and wanted to include a round crystal that didn’t have a hole in it and that was impossible to glue to anything. After many trials and errors, I finally decided to stitch a net around the crystal. However, my adventures with beading actually began a long time ago. When I was in kindergarten, I used to collect red rowan berries in the fall and string them on a piece of plain sewing thread to create necklaces and bracelets. I wore this “regal jewelry” when I played make-believe and pretended to be a princess.
Q: Where do you get your design ideas? What inspires your creativity?
A: The flash of inspiration comes to me as soon as I see the colors of the beads. Later, I create an architectural layout of the design in my imagination, trying to use familiar stitches and techniques. Estimating the correct spaces between beads takes time but is necessary. I love nature, and most of my inspiration comes from it. Conversely, the cold beauty and order of geometrical shapes also captures me entirely from time to time.
Who or What Is Your Muse?
Q: Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you just let the creativity flow?
A: I plan in advance whenever I can find a moment of mental free time. Any time my mind can roam free, I think about the colors of beads that I currently have in my stash and I imagine future projects. Later, I adjust some of the colors. I put aside any designs that don’t work. Whenever I need a new component and don’t have time to design something from the beginning, I always have some pieces waiting for me. This “speedy creativity” makes good use of all my extra bits and pieces.
Q: How do you get out of a creative rut?
A: I try not to get into a rut. One of the ways I do this is to have a few projects I’m working on at the same time. Then when I get tired or bored with one project, I can switch. This strategy has a refreshing effect on my creativity and allows my eyes to rest from the same colors or technique.
Color and All Its Splendor
Q: How do you approach the use of color in your designs?
A: I use one color as the focal point, around which I build the rest of the project. This color has to pop out — you wouldn’t necessarily put my color selections together at first sight. Most of my design time is spent selecting the right color mix, because I have to find beads, put them together, and see how it works. I have a lot of colors and finishes, so finding the correct ones isn’t an easy task. I compare them until they create a nice visual harmony. Then, I literally put my hands on the beads to feel the colors. Color can make a simple piece extraordinary. I love golds and oranges because they are warm and joyful, like sunshine.
Bead Weaving Choice Du Jour
Q: What’s your favorite stitch or technique, and why?
A: My favorite is peyote stitch. This outstanding stitch and its many variations allow you to create a beautiful, flexible fabric that you can shape in many ways. You can fold it, twist it, make it softer or more sturdy, and even “cut” it the same way as you would do with fabric used to create clothing (which I used to design professionally). I also can’t resist the temptation to encapsulate any cabochon or crystal I can find. Finally, I enjoy stitching components on top of one another to create multiple layers.
Q: What was the inspiration for your 2017 DOY projects?
A: I wanted to explore some new techniques and stitches, as well as experiment with colors. I had so many ideas that I found it hard to decide what to do. I tried to design pieces that are easy to make and that can be modified in many ways, so everyone will be able to find something interesting in each project. The criteria I always have in mind is that pieces must be doable and wearable.
Q: What advice do you have for beaders?
A: Don’t be discouraged when you start. With practice, you can master all the stitches and techniques, as well as develop your own tricks and shortcuts. Every mistake you make will improve your skills. In addition, a “mistake” can often result in a new technique. I recommend making templates of various stitches, using different sizes or shapes of beads. These templates can be very handy when you design future projects.
See more of Agnieszka’s work at her website, Agnesse Artistry, and peek inside her studio in part two of our Q&A with her. See more of Agnieszka’s Designer of the Year projects in the 2017 issues of Beadwork magazine. Also, see Agnieszka’s work in Quick + Easy Beadwork.
Can’t get enough of Agnieszka’s designs? Plan your trip to Bead Fest and take exciting classes with her in person!