Behind the Scenes of Karen Parker’s Outdoor Inspiration
It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together, and Karen Parker, a biologist and bead weaver, has certainly accomplished this. Combining these two worlds, Karen transforms her knowledge of butterflies into beautiful brick-stitch creations.
Q: How did you get started beading butterflies?
A: I loved the idea of creating something substantial using a simple bead weaving stitch, tiny glass beads, and thread. As a biologist, I was inspired by microscopic views of butterfly wings. Butterfly wings are composed of tiny scales, which reminded me of cylinder and seed beads.
Sources of Inspiration
Q: Are your beaded butterfly models of real butterfly species?
A: The butterflies are all based on real butterfly species. I like to look at a variety of different specimens because there can be a lot of color variation. I often re-create each butterfly pattern with subtly different colors to mimic the typical variation found in nature. I also like to enlarge each image while studying it. What looks like a mostly brown butterfly at first glance will, when enlarged, actually contain a lot of different colors that I like to include in my patterns.
Q: Where do you do your research on butterflies?
A: I am addicted to an amazing website called Butterflies of America that my husband, who is also a biologist, introduced me to. Since I make the butterflies into jewelry, I choose butterflies based on shape, color, and pattern. I also like to study pinned specimens of butterflies, so I can see all the details of the wings.
The Beading Process
Q: What stitch do you use to bead these butterflies, and why?
A: I use brick stitch to create the butterflies. The first off-loom stitch I learned was peyote stitch, which I love. However, it turned out that brick stitch is ideal for creating the irregular edges of butterfly wings, and brick stitch makes a firmer piece than peyote stitch does, so I taught myself brick stitch.
Q: What is the process of creating structural patterns for these pieces?
A: At first, I tried using graph paper and colored pencils, but I disliked having to start over each time I wanted to change a detail. Now, I graph each pattern using Microsoft Excel. I merge and outline cells to create a brick-stitch graph. This way, I can click on each cell to color it in and save multiple variations of each pattern. I also sell some of these patterns in my Etsy shop, Wizard Island Designs, and it’s easy to export Excel files to PDFs.
Find out more about Karen Parker’s Beaded Butterflies at the Interweave Store