Fearlessly Creative: An Interview with Kristal Wick

Kristal Wick is one of those folks who sparkle with creativity– just take a look at her colorful new book, Fabulous Fabric Beads!  I was lucky enough to catch a few minutes with Kristal before she took off to the International Quilt Show in Houston.  I asked her about her signature beads, her love of color, making mistakes, and current projects.  I loved her advice about creating fearlessly and listening to yourself–and your customers!–Michelle Mach, Beading Daily editor

Michelle:  I love the story about how you started making silk beads in response to customers who wanted lighter beads for earrings.  How did you move from dichroic jewelry to silk beads?  What drew you to fabric?   

Kristal:  I had a love affair with dichroic glass, the vibrant colors and possibilities of mixing them were endless. I made and sold dichro jewelry for about five years. I even did trunk shows for the Jimmy Buffett band and all the girls wore my jewelry on stage. I even helped them dress and coordinate their jewelry backstage. (That was a surreal life changing moment sitting in the 13th row of the stadium watching the concert and there as big as a house were the girls wearing my jewelry on the big screen as well as Good Morning America!) Those girls would wear five bracelets per arm and even then I was a bit concerned about the weight. (Of course, they worked out a ton so it wasn’t an issue for them to dance and sing with 5-pound weights on each arm!) I believe my aesthetic was really shaped those years by that vibrant color pallet; dichro jewelry is not for the meek.

At that time, I was also very influenced by Sherrill Kahn and her fabric painting. I bought her first book, Creating With Paint, and that book is responsible for guiding me through my first touch of a brush to fabric. It was the opposite of cutting and fusing glass, so soft and forgiving. I loved the balance of creating both! So I started painting fabric dolls, then moved to silk and made lampshades and pillows.

By this time, I was hearing my customers request for a lighter material. They were suffering from what I call “earlobe abuse,” years of carelessly dangling those heavy glam earrings from delicate lobes. Now, they could only wear lightweight earrings. I always listen to my customers and their desires and went out on a mission to find a lighter weight material on the market. I found wood, shell, etc., but all of them were missing the vibrant color pallet of my dichro jewelry. So one day as I was sitting in my studio pondering, a thought popped into my head, “I wonder if I could create beads out of my hand painted silks?” Impossible, hasn’t been done, blah, blah, blah . . . so I did it anyway. It took me awhile in R&P (Research & Play) mode to perfect the technique, as fabric is soft and I wanted those beads to be hard.  I just kept at it and eventually Sassy Silkies were born! You can literally blow them off your hand so they filled the need to be lightweight, colorful yet very durable, as silk is quite strong. My customers were very pleased! The only problem was what to do with all that dichro?! 

Michelle:  In your book Fabulous Fabric Beads, you write about not fearing mistakes.  "Many times a 'mistake' has turned out to be hugely successful in ways I'd never imagined or showed me a better way to do something."  Can you give us an example?

Kristal:  My favorite “mistake” success occurred while in a panic filling orders. I sell my handpainted silk sheets for quilters, mixed media artists, and beaders. I had just returned from the International Quilt Market & Festival with hundreds of orders to do in a very short time frame. I had ordered a bolt of silk and in my haste ordered the wrong kind! I was not a happy camper and the day just got worse.

I do most of my painting outside year round in lovely Colorado.  I set up my painting station on the patio on this windy day. No matter how I would set up the silk to dry once painted, the wind would blow it and the sheets would stick together leaving creases, etc. in the paint.  This was not my desired effect, thus a “mistake.” (I believe all artists need to examine their definition of mistake. It’s simply an unexpected outcome!) After dozens of these occurrences, I got so frustrated I wadded up a sheet of painted silk in a ball and threw it across the patio, stormed inside and distracted myself by doing something else. Later, I came back outside to clean up and as I unfolded that wadded up silk, it had the most beautiful patterns, completely random ones that looked like cracked ice.  Thus, my new line “ICE” was born and it’s one of my most popular silks! I describe this scrunching process in the book and I’m so grateful for this “mistake”.

Many mistakes simply show you what not to do or a fascinating new outcome.  I encourage my students and readers to remember just because the outcome isn’t what you desired, doesn’t mean it has no value. If we as artists detach from the desired outcome and play with the creative process, magic can happen. We need to let go of that tightly clenched fist of an image in our minds of what success really means. After playing with this process, I now call it FEARLESSS CREATIVITY and practice it daily. Now, that mistake didn’t help me fill all those orders, but isn’t that what creativity is all about? The miracles of the unexpected keep us hooked, do they not?!

Q:  Color is very important to you, judging by the color palettes included in the book.  Is there any advice you can give readers who may not be comfortable mixing colors?

Kristal:  Colors are tricky. This is the most challenging area for my students and readers. I do believe you are born with the gift or not. Of course, it can be taught to anyone (if not colorblind), but it’s just innately easier for some than others. I have had no formal training in colors, but have been playing games with them my whole life! I remember as a 6-year-old, my dad bringing me home a box of “jewels.” I opened it and gasped at the brilliance of all the colors and sizes and made a game of picking out the jewels I thought would “go together.” They didn’t match, but complimented each other. I treasured those jewels and hid them for years so nobody would steal them as they were priceless to me! Years later, I discovered they were simply reject glass pieces from high school class rings worth a quarter or two! My dad’s friend was a jeweler and he gave them to my dad. When we look back, it’s always the simple things.
In my teaching experience, I’ve found many of us were not encouraged to mix colors but match the “right” colors. So the early training squashed that “muscle” in a sense and now as grown-up artists, they’re afraid to flex that muscle. I suggest a simple and inexpensive method that may seem silly but works! Buy a big box of Crayola crayons (or colored pencils, but they don’t smell the same!) and color different colors on white paper. Just bars of lines will do, and use colors next to each other that you would not normally use, just to see what they look like together. Create these little “families” of lines. Remember NO FEAR! Some palettes will clash and some you will be sure won’t work, but they will! Then take this paper with you to shop. Pick out beads, fabrics, papers–whatever your project components are–in these colors. I intentionally created the color palettes in my book to help artists “see” what is actually happening with a particular palette. The main color is obvious, but it’s the layers and shading of the secondary colors that bring a piece alive! Anyone can take my book to the store, pick out their components matching the different colors in their favorite palette, and end up with a spectacular piece with richly layered shades.

Kristal:  Do you have a favorite technique or project in the book?  Why is it your favorite? 

Asking if I have a favorite project or technique in the book is like asking which of my children I like best (or in my case, dogs!). They are all so unique and have such interesting stories. I really like the leather eyelet beads. They have quite a different look than the silk beads; very young and edgy, whereas the silk beads are more elegant and refined. I also giggle every time I make my ribbon beads! I use a lot of Martha Stewart ribbons for these beads because I enjoy her subtle, classy color palette and once finished, you simply cannot believe these beads are made out of ribbons! It’s like a little secret! They’re even appropriate for wedding jewelry for a sophisticated look.

It’s a tie between fabric foiling and paintstiks as my favorite surface design techniques. I love that any beginner can take small swatches or scrap fabrics and create beads right off the bat!
One of my favorite projects is “Wire Whimsy." It combines simple wire techniques even a beginner can do with batik fabric beads. I am in love with batiks and also used them in the “Batik Beauty” project, encasing the batik fabric in glass as well as making matching beads. My other favorite project would have to be “Picture Resin Beads” because I used pictures of my dogs! Resin is such a fun medium to play with; I had to put it in the book. Now I’m fully addicted! 

Michelle:  What are you working on?  What's next? 

Kristal:  What’s next? Depends on the day! So many exciting projects in the works as well as a busy workshop schedule. I’ll be launching a new line this winter.  Shhhhhhhhhhhh it’s a secret right now. I’m also working on a couple of new books with some pretty innovative ideas. Gotta keep pushing the envelope, coloring outside the lines, expanding the box!

My personal goal is to inspire creativity in others through my books, workshops, and products. My intention is to be a catalyst, a creativity tour guide helping others to reach deep down into their creative abyss, perhaps forgotten long ago. To remind them of the joy and passion they feel with a crayon, fabric, paint brush, or bead in their hand.

I believe during these intensely challenging days, creativity doesn’t have to cost a lot and it’s even more important for us to tap into this inner joy every day, even for a few minutes. It’s critical for us and our children to encourage this inner excitement and play with the creative process. It feeds our soul.

Kristal Wick is the creator of Sassy Silkies beads and her art jewelry is available in galleries around the world.  She teaches and designs for Swarovski and at national beading and fiber arts conferences like Bead Fest Santa Fe.  She's also been featured on the Beads, Baubles, and Jewels TV show and in Stringing, Beadwork, and Jewelry Artist magazines.  For more information about Kristal Wick, visit her website and blog at www.KristalWick.com.

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