Boys Who Bead – The Bead-weaving Of Patrick Duggan

Australian bead-weaving artist Patrick Duggan

He may live on the other side of the world from me, but I can't get enough of the beautiful bead-weaving designs created by Australian beader Patrick Duggan. I was first introduced to Patrick's work when he was a competitor in the first Battle of the Beadsmith in 2012. His cubic right-angle weave necklace, Davinia, was one of my favorite entries in the competition. I asked Patrick if he could share a little bit about his early artistic endeavors, where he gets his inspiration, and what he'd like to accomplish with his bead-weaving.

Fluoro Flower necklace

I remember being pre-school age and sitting on my grandfather's front porch playing with the coloured tiles that were loose arranging them in patterns. When I was about 8 years old, I remember doing a drawing. My sisters accused my of tracing — I hadn't, so I guess it was good. At ten, I was knitting beanies (hats). As a teenager I remember watching a woman crochet whilst sitting on a railway station. I went home, asked my mother if she had any crochet hooks, and started to crochet. In the 1970s I taught myself macrame and tatting, I wrote my own knitting patterns — I was great at cable designs — and I sold some of my work. In my mid 30's I eventually moved away from thread work as I found I wasn't completing anything and I had lost interest. I did art in high school but never thought I was any good at it and destroyed what I made. I continued to knit until throughout my early 30's, but it was in my mid 40's that my creativity started to truly manifest.

Davinia, 2012 Battle of the Beadsmith entry by Patrick Duggan

In my mid 40's I went in search of other creative pursuits. I did some bonsai plantings, began drawing and painting and then went into sculpting in clay — successfully exhibiting and selling my art. I also studied and had a career change and started my own business, working part time as a Remedial Massage Therapist, which I did successfully for 15 years, retiring from that in 2010.

I had been creative painting and drawing and sculpting for a number of years. A friend of mine went to Bangkok for a holiday and returned wearing these braided wooden men's wrist bands. I hoped he would give me one but no such luck. I had done macrame in the 1970s so I decided to try and make my own. Well that lead me into making jewellery and it was 2007 I met a man named Hector Vera at a bead show. He lived in the country (New South Wales) and was doing bead-weaving, having taken some workshops. When he came to Sydney, he would taught me what he had learned, how to make a spiral weave rope. I made everything in sight go into a spiral weave, and I found that I couldn't get enough of this bead-weaving art!

My favorite part of the creative process is the engineering of a new design. I have the idea, I know how it should look, and I start to work on it. Often what I see in my mind morphs into something else entirely as it comes out, and for me, that's the exciting part. I recently saw a piece of jewelery in a movie and thought, "I wonder if I can translate that into beads?" That's how it all starts for me.


I wake around 3:00 a.m. every day. I worried about this for a time, then decided that worrying about it was probably worse for my health than just accepting it. I usually start beading around 3:30 a.m., and I'll bead for four or five hours, or longer,  almost every day. I like the absolute quiet of that early-morning time when I can totally focus on my design without any interruptions. If I am making something that I am excited about (which is often) I cannot wait to go to bed at night so I can get up and bead. It is rare for me to bead in the afternoons. I usually retire by 9:00 p.m., so I get about five or six hours of sleep a night. Needless to say I nap often.

My inspiration comes from different places. Making one design may lead me to an idea for another variation, and another, and another. The work of other jewelry and bead-weaving artists inspires me, as well. When I made Davinia for the Battle Of The Beadsmith competition, some inspiration came from an old 1980's brooch. Flowers inspire me a lot — one day I intend to do a design with lots of flowers. Architecture, looking at the lines of a building, can inspire me. Periods of art inspire me. I also get fascinated by new beads and will play with that bead and see what I can make. Recently Twins, Superduos and glass spikes have taken up some of my time. Small polymer clay roses have also appeared in a number of my  bead-weaving creations.

My style, as I see it, is very eclectic. I make something that looks very Art Deco one day, and then the very next design can look like something Marie Antoinette would wear and the one after that be very contemporary. Another item I love making is beaded beads. I find them fascinating to figure out and to create. I enjoy doing them all. I recently looked at Romanticism in art and realized that most of my work falls under Romanticism – i.e. "Defining the nature of Romanticism is the primary importance of the free expression of the feelings of the artist. In order to truly express these feelings the content of the art must come from the imagination of the artist, with as little interference as possible from "artificial" rules dictating what a work should consist of. The concept of the genius, or artist who was able to produce his own original work through this process of "creation from nothingness", is key to Romanticism." I definitely fall in this category.

Fluoro Series by Patrick Duggan

I love size 11 Czech seed beads. I just love how they look and how they feel when used in bead-weaving instead of the cylinder beads. When I'm making a geometrically precise pattern, I'll use the Miyuki Delica cylinder beads. I also use a lot of Swarovski crystals — I can always find a place to put a crystal in a design. I sometimes challenge myself to make a piece without crystals! I've been won over by the Twin two-holed seed beads, as they allow me to experiment with two-layered designs. I'm fond of Czech spike beads, and I think they're great fun, but I'm of the opinion that they will be a passing fashion trend and will fizzle out eventually.

I'm grateful for the support I've found in the bead-weaving community. My friend Neva Brown taught me the graphics for illustrating my designs. Neva has been a tireless support in getting my patterns for the magazines done and I am truly grateful to her.

My other support is Melissa Ingram of Social Butterfly Jewellery. Melissa and I formed a Facebook friendship, eventually we telephoned each other and last year I flew to Brisbane to meet her. We sometimes share images of works-in-progress. It is nice to have friends you can do this with. I met Marcia deCoster in 2010 when she was in Australia. She spoke to me about a winning design I had in The Bead Society of Victoria's competition. Since then Marcia has supported me by inviting me to submit a design for her book 'Beads in Motion' and more recently for featuring me in her latest book, Marcia DeCoster Presents, where I am one of thirty beading artists from around the world who she interviewed about their inspirations and technique. I am very grateful to Marcia for these opportunities.

My latest big support has come from Mikki Ferrugiaro. Mikki is the originator of The Bead Mavens, along with the late Linda Jones. Last year, Mikki asked me to join as a new crop of Mavens, as a way of encouraging me to write my own beading tutorials. Mikki knew I was struggling with the idea of being dragged away from beading to sit and write tutorials. I didn't even know what a 'maven' was so I had to look it up in the dictionary.  Mikki has now been mentoring me since I released my first tutorial last August, and every time I am uncertain of the best way to go about something, I can turn to her and I know that she'll provide me with guidance. She's provided me with ideas on so many things, including ways to promote myself, have sales, reward loyal customers, give discounts on designs, and best practices for my ArtFire store. I really like how she thinks "outside the box" on so many things! I have been helped enormously by a lot of people on this journey and I have a lot of gratitude to them all. I am going to the Bead & Button Show for the first time this year, and the first person I am meeting is Mikki, so I can thank her in person. There will also be many more amazing beaders that I will have the chance to meet when I get to the show this year, as well.

Where do I go from here? I'd love to write and publish a book of my own designs — keep your fingers crossed for me! I would also like to teach at the Bead & Button Show in 2015, and travel more as an international bead artist, teaching along the way. Most of all I want to continue to be a passionate beader until I am no longer able to.

Feeling inspired to make some fantastic bead-weaving projects? The February/March 2014 issue of Beadwork magazine is full of challenging beading projects and designs, using some of today's most popular new bead shapes and beading supplies! See what the new Designers Of the Year have in store for us (crystals and two-holed Czech glass beads, anyone?), and find out more about new beading tools, books, and supplies. Subscribe to Beadwork magazine for six issues full of some of the best bead-weaving projects you'll find anywhere!

Bead Happy,


You can find more of Patrick's tutorials at Patrick Duggan Designs on ArtFire, and read more about Patrick's latest designs and his creative musings on his blog.

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