Science and Math: Unique Inspiration from Bead Artist Nancy Cain
Inspiration can come from just about anywhere. No one knows that better than bead artist Nancy Cain, Beadwork Designer of the Year 2010. She teaches classes all over the world on structural beading, finding her inspiration from the color palettes in nature and in science and mathematical occurrences. In this interview, learn more about her unique inspiration and her beading process and check out her website for more information and classes.
Q: Can you please describe yourself and your work?
A: I am a bead artist. To me that means I express myself through the medium of beads and thread. I have used other mediums: photography, pen and ink, pencil, graphic arts, clay etc., but have found that beads give me the most joy. I am a process-based teacher and use a specific project to explore a new technique. I think my style is rather eclectic given I follow structure rather than aesthetic. I like to engineer with beads in regards to strength, structure and direction. My favorite style right now is very clean and contemporary with minimalist embellishment. I like the structure to shine through.
Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: I bead because I love it.
Q: What would you consider your specialty as far as your process goes?
A: Structure and technique.
Q: Can you please describe a real life experience that inspired you?
A: The aurora borealis inspired me to create palettes for a project that I taught on an Alaskan Cruise. I made four of them from a kp9 scale, which is the strongest. The red, orange, purple one was the strangest palette to pull. I would never have pulled it in a million years. Once I made it, I discovered it was beautiful. Out of curiosity, I looked at my color wheel and discovered they were all two steps away from each other around the wheel. Science is fabulous.
Another one was a fascination with Fibonacci sequence. It is a mathematical summative series:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… etc. every number after the first two is the sum of the two preceding ones. It is the Golden ratio. I had heard that there are knitters that use Fibonacci sequences in their work so I decided to see what Fibonacci was to me and how I could express myself through beads. To me, 1, 1, 2, 5, and 8 means: Peyote, peyote, herringbone, netting, netting, (One bead stitch, One bead stitch, two bead herringbone, 3 bead netting, and 5 bead netting.) I made a spiral like a conch bead shell. That was fabulous and fun!
Q: What is your favorite part of your work and why?
A: Thinking is my favorite. I meditate on designs and structure. Once I have a design, I can produce it from there. Sometimes, I don’t have as much time to think a design through so I will start with a partial and enjoy following the beads instead. Beading is generally a Zen process. There are pressure days of course, but I can put my head down and make a sample in a day or two.
Thinking about how Stitch-in-the-Ditch creates a 90% angle in peyote made me curious and I wanted to create a 45% angle off a flat surface of peyote. I studied it and figured out how to do that. I call it Pinch-in-the-Ditch.
Q: What part of your job as a jewelry artist is your least favorite and why?
A: I detest the office work and filing.
Q: Can you please describe what failure means to you?
A: Failure as a teacher is the inability to communicate effectively with a student. Kit failure is a fact of life. It happens because we are not perfect no matter how hard we try.
Q: What does success mean to you?
A: My Bead & Button Master Class was so gratifying to me and it made me feel successful as a teacher. The students did amazing work. They came to me with open hearts and minds and were willing to risk failure. An analogy would be like cooking. One starts with the basics of salt and pepper, after years of experimenting with different spices and methods, we can look through our spice cabinets and create anything from Mexican to French and everything in-between. I loaded their Technique Cabinets with a ton of stuff and from there they created fabulous vessel of their own creation.
Q: What is something we may not know about you?
A: I love to read science magazines.
Q: What is the best piece of advice someone has ever given you? This does not have to be work related.
A: This too shall pass.
Q: What career project do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?
A: Bead & Button Master Class took me a year to build the curriculum.
Q: What is one key thing you do every workday that helps you be successful?
A: Think positive and be aware.
Q: What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your career as a jewelry artist?
A: I’ve accepted the risk of putting your heart on your sleeve every time you release a new design. Some people like to steal your stuff and then finding the time to remake said piece. I get my feelings hurt when people steal. It is disrespectful. One thing early on was that as soon as you finish one piece, you are asked, “What else is new?”
Q: What were some of the unexpected benefits in your career as jewelry artist?
A: Travel is the best! Japan, the Baltic Region including Russia! My family has joined me on trips to Alaska, California, the East Coast, the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Australia. Finding fabulous people all over the world!
Q: What valuable piece of advice can you give to our readers that are aspiring to make a living off their jewelry making?
A: Be brave, take risks and make To Do Lists and bead lots and lots of stuff… the good, the bad, and the ugly. From that you will discover what makes you, YOU.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: Life is short so do what you love. If you love what you do, then it will show. Dive in headfirst.
Find your own inspiration at the Interweave Store.