Meet Michelle Gowland, a Full-Time RVer, 2-Hole Bead Junkie, and Bead Fondler
Michelle Gowland lives a nomadic beading life as a full-time RVer. Her Pharaoh’s Finery Bracelet graced the cover of June/July 2015 Beadwork, and her customizable Caliente Bracelet is in October/November 2017 Beadwork. Learn how Michelle started beading as a teen, and find out how she recovered from a serious health-induced beading block.
Beading from a Young Age
Q: How did you get started beading?
A: After my folks divorced, some of my mom’s old craft stuff was left stored under the stairway. I was cleaning it out a couple of years later, and I came across a 5-gallon ice cream tub filled with seed beads, fishing line, and an unfinished daisy chain. I was immediately taken with the beads. I studied the daisy chain closely, teaching myself how it went together. I was a sophomore in high school at the time, and by the time I was a senior, I was selling necklaces to my classmates. The movie The Doors with Val Kilmer came out around then, and after I beaded up my own version of Jim Morrison’s iconic strung seed bead necklace from The Best of The Doors album cover, I had requests for many more. Things sort of snowballed from that point.
Q: What’s your favorite stitch or technique, and why?
A: I really like peyote stitch because it lends itself extremely well to 2-hole bead designs. I also like bead embroidery a lot. But I’m so in love with 2-hole beads!
Q: Where do you get your design ideas? What inspires your creativity?
A: My fiancé and I live full-time in an RV, and we travel a lot for my fiancé’s job. So we’re outside a lot, often near water. He was in the Navy, and I lived on the coast for 15 years, so we’re both water lovers. Nature is my biggest inspiration, especially being on or near the water. I’m also inspired by history and archaeology. And of course 2-hole beads! I’ve been a bona fide 2-hole bead junkie since these beads began appearing on the market. I’m still constantly amazed as new shapes continue to emerge. The possibilities with them are endless!
Q: Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you just let the creativity flow?
A: Sometimes I plan what things look like. Other times, a project springs out of an idea that rattles around loosely in my brain while I’m fooling around with supplies or shopping for them. Every project is different. Some designs come to me as I’m checking out a new bead store, others while I’m asleep, and others when I’m just sitting around! I believe that creativity is like a flowing river of knowledge and creative energy that’s all around us. I “dip a ladle” into this river, and I’m never 100% sure what I’ll pull out of it. I just go where the beads and ideas take me as they roll along!
Lost Beading Mojo
Q: How do you get out of a creative rut?
A: I went through a bad rut back in 2015-2016. My fiancé and I both got formaldehyde poisoning from some flooring we put into the house. We didn’t know for a year what was happening. But we were both as sick as dogs. I couldn’t remember anything, and I came down with chickenpox/shingles and had to have two major surgeries during that time.
But worse, I was struggling to finish or even start beading projects because at times I couldn’t remember HOW to bead. For someone who beads as naturally as she breathes, this was devastating and pretty scary! When we finally figured out what was wrong, we basically fled the house in our RV. We’ve been full time RVers ever since. But my creativity didn’t immediately return; it took months to get it back.
I’m a notorious “supply fondler.” This is when you just play with beads without stitching, for the sheer enjoyment of touching them and seeing their colors and feeling their weight and texture. When I’m stuck, just playing with my beads and supplies usually gets my brain going again.
While I was recovering from the formaldehyde incident, I had a hard time getting back to creating new patterns. Along with frequent bead shopping trips and constant “supply fondling,” I also turned to artists’ coloring books to help break out of my rut. Even though I couldn’t create, I felt the need to express myself with color in some way. The creative imperative doesn’t go away just because you can’t physically accomplish it!
Not being able to bead made me feel like I would explode. I had to retrain the artistic part of my brain. I had to relearn how to translate what I visualized in my head into a finished piece of jewelry. Now, I never take my creativity for granted. I know how quickly it can be taken away and how hard it can be to get it back.
Designing with Color
Q: How do you approach the use of color in your designs?
A: Painters can make any color they want or need by just mixing it. Beaders, unfortunately, don’t have that luxury! I think my color approach is different for each project. As a bead artist, I find that the best way to maximize my creative ability and potential is to have many different bead shapes and sizes in the same colors. This allows me to have the right color and the right size and shape at the right time, so there’s no obstacle to completing my artistic vision.
Have you ever been making something late at night and had the perfect color to finish your project, only to discover that the perfect color doesn’t fit because your beads are too big or small? I sure have, and I hate it! I’ve discovered that the best way to prevent this problem is to have my all favorite colors in as many shapes and sizes as possible.
A good example is the iris metallic green color that I love and use often. I have iris metallic green beads in size 15, 11, and 8; matte and shiny versions; Tilas and Half Tilas; bar beads; SuperDuos; Es-o beads; crystal rondelles. I think you get the idea! Likewise for all the colors in my natural-inspired color stash.
Creating Sizeable Components
Q: What was the inspiration for your Caliente Bracelet project?
A: RounDuos! These beads have really captivated me. They add so much design flexibility to everything I use them in. Pairing them with SuperDuos helped create Caliente’s amazing medallion shapes.
Around the time I made Caliente, I had also acquired some O beads and Es-o beads. I wanted to find a way to use all my new favorite beads in one project — and Caliente was born.
I really liked the original design, but I somehow felt like I wasn’t completely done. I kept playing around, making medallions in different color combinations. That’s how I came up with the “magic” (sizeable) medallions technique in Caliente. Late one night after I put my beads away, I had the idea to vary the size of the medallions by changing how many beads you put around the center bead — which would let you customize the bracelet size. The next day, I pulled my beads back out and stitched a bunch of medallions, varying the bead counts. Being able to change the medallion size let me use whatever bracelet clasp I wanted.
[Editor’s Note: To learn how to size the medallions for Michelle’s Caliente Bracelet, see Beadwork Medallion Sizing for Michelle Gowland’s Caliente Bracelet Pattern.]
Final Beading Wisdom
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: Supply fondling is a real problem. The first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is not caring if people stare at you in the bead store while you do it. What a simple solution!
To learn more about Michelle or to see more of her work, visit her website, The Rolling Beadweaver; follow her on Facebook at Rolling Beadweaver; on Instagram @the_rolling_beadweaver_; or contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine
Find Michelle’s designs in Beadwork magazine!