Behind the Scenes With Bead Weaving Artist Penny Dixon
In Penny Dixon’s latest video series, she explains how to easily incorporate shaped beads into your bead weaving designs. She also explores combining wire and beads to create unique pieces that go beyond traditional bead weaving. We recently sat down with Penny to talk about her new video series.
Q: How did you get started beading?
A: I started beading because I needed an indoor “girly” hobby. I’d always loved gardening, but when my family moved to southeastern Idaho I realized that the short growing season and constant wind just weren’t for me. In addition, being the only female in my family and homeschooling my two boys brought out the need to get in touch with my feminine side. Finally, I love to give little gifts to the important people in my life—but I could never find manufactured jewelry that fully reflected my loved ones’ personalities or tastes. Beading makes gift giving more fun and fulfilling because the little details make each piece unique and special to the recipient.
Q: What was the inspiration for your recent bead weaving and wire videos?
A: People seem to either love or hate working with multiple-hole beads. I wanted to do a series that shows how to use these beads as foundations for building unique and interesting textures without having to use difficult stitching techniques. In addition, I wanted to highlight the fact that using multiple-hole beads as foundations can decrease the time necessary to create dimensional beadwork simply because these beads are larger than regular beads. And I wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to use wire even if you aren’t an experienced wireworker. The two wirework projects in my video series use simple wrapping and bending techniques to create the structure, whereas the beads provide the shapes and textures.
Q: Where do you get your design ideas? What inspires your creativity?
A: Sometimes I get my design ideas from the beads that I want to be the focus in a piece. I look at a bead’s shape and try to think of unexpected ways to use the bead. I’m also more creative when I don’t have much to work with. My bead stash is intentionally contained in a 5×4′ hutch—because I don’t have an unlimited bead supply, I’m forced to think of unconventional ways to use beads and I end up combining colors and finishes in ways I might not have otherwise. What really inspires my creativity is people. I get the greatest joy and fulfillment from creating a piece that showcases a loved one’s personality, inspires a friend to create something of her own, or just brings a smile to someone’s face.
Q: Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you just let the creativity flow?
A: Most of the time I have a framework or silhouette in mind, but that’s about as far as my planning goes. The rest of the process is all about playing with the beads—but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Designing is frequently an exercise in problem solving, determination, and perseverance to create something I love rather than something I just like.
Q: How do you get out of a creative rut?
A: For me, a creative rut is like quicksand; the more I try to struggle and get myself free, the deeper I sink. Instead, I have to stop seeking a way to get myself out of the rut and just let my mind be still. When I’m not so caught up in my own struggle, it’s easier to remember what inspires me to design in the first place: people. Then I can let my inspiration take over to design something for a special person in my life.
Q: How do you approach the use of color in your designs?
A: I’ve always been intrigued by how color affects every aspect of life — how nature uses it to create attraction, warn of danger, and evoke comfort and familiarity. I approach the use of color similarly: to achieve a sense of order and understanding. Choosing colors doesn’t come naturally to me, so I spend a lot of time learning about the effects of color on our moods, studying the role of color in different cultures, and looking at and testing different color combinations. Finally, I try to create color palettes that stay true to the design aesthetic but also have a sense of harmony.
Q: What’s the benefit of using shaped beads in your designs?
A: Shaped beads add so much textural interest to a design. They can be used as transitional pieces to create dimension, or they can be used to create strong yet flexible foundations from which to build upon. I think of shaped beads like Lego or K’NEX pieces that can be used in many different ways to build out or up.
Q: Do you have an all-time favorite project?
A: The Yafa Petal Earrings are my all-time favorite project. I’d only been beading about a year when I came up with that design. Some of the stitches were new to me, so it was exciting to just have an idea and then learn everything necessary to bring my idea to fruition.
New Videos from Penny Dixon
Join Penny as she provides tips and techniques for using shaped beads in your bead weaving designs! Video downloads are available separately for Penny’s Statement Earrings and ThreeDee Bracelet, or you can purchase both videos in the DVD Shaped Bead Explorations with Penny Dixon.
Expand your horizons as Penny demonstrates how to combine wire and beads! Video downloads are available separately for Penny’s Interchange Wire Cuff and Wire Lace Ensemble, or you can purchase both videos in the DVD Combining Wire and Beads with Penny Dixon.
For another great bead weaving project from Penny, see her Waxing Crescent Moon Earrings in December 2016/January 2017 Beadwork.
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine