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Beadwork artist Kerrie Slade

My name is Kerrie Slade and I am a beadwork designer and maker living in Nottinghamshire, England. I discovered beads and beading about five years ago, when during a long period of illness and depression I was searching for something to focus on, something to inspire me, in fact something to make life feel worth living. I dabbled in cross-stitch, card making, silk painting, glass painting and then I found beads - or did they find me?

My first projects were simple square stitch bracelets and netted necklaces from patterns in books and magazines. However, I soon knew that I wanted to create my own designs and set about learning various stitches and experimenting with stitches and beads to learn what they will and won't do for me. I have a real love of nature and have spent many hours carefully selecting colors and working with stitches to try and recreate my favorite flowers in beadwork.

Beadwoven jewelry by Kerrie Slade
click to see gallery

I remember when I first started out, I would gaze at the designs in the popular bead magazines and think that they were completely beyond my reach. I loved looking at them and admired them greatly, but it never occurred to me that I would ever be able to make such complicated things. I used to think that only "real artists" with a background in art and design, and possibly a degree, would be able to make such things. Gradually though, with much trial and error, determination, patience and drive, my skills developed and now I too have my work in those magazines! I think my message to anyone that is just starting out and feels the way I felt, would be "Don't take no for an answer - not even from yourself".

I think when it comes to designing, you have to be prepared to make and remake a piece. Of course, you may be lucky and get it right first time. But for me, more often than not, it takes days, sometimes even weeks of stitching, unpicking and re-stitching until the finished item either looks like the image I had in my minds eye, (which sometimes turns out to be impractical) or a design that I am happy with. My "Spanish Winter Lily" necklace for example, went though several metamorphoses before I was content with it's size, shape and the way it "cupped" - and then after all the samples had been done in green and white, I decided to change the color of it to orange!

"Spanish Winter Lily" necklace in process
click to enlarge

One of my pet hates is to see thread showing in my work. Sometimes this is inevitable, as the beads are after all held together with thread, but I try and hide my thread as much as possible and always hold the work up to a bright light when it is finished to inspect it. I have often been called 'a perfectionist', but when it comes to my work, I don't consider this to be a bad thing!

Of course, I still have a great deal to learn and my work is constantly evolving. In the early days, I only ever worked with cylinder beads. I was very "exact" about everything and loved the precise way they locked together, but I have learned to relax into my beadwork and now use lots of seed beads and often combine both seeds and cylinders in one piece. I am also experimenting with mixing both different stitches and variations of stitches in my designs.

Beadwoven jewelry by Kerrie Slade
click to see gallery

One thing I have always struggled to come to terms with is my use of color. Once I entered a beadwork competition when I had only been beading for a year or two, and whilst my work wasn't placed, I got a review from the judges, saying that although my entry was "technically superb", they would have liked to see me use more colors. I felt deflated at first, but tried to use it as constructive criticism and went out and bought a color wheel and books on color theory. However much I tried though, time and time again, I kept using a limited palette of maybe two or three colors in closely matching shades. Now I think I have finally come to realize that this is my style (for the present at least) and I don't need to feel guilty or inadequate if I only use just a few colors. In fact, looking at some of my work, I think maybe this limited use of colors in each piece makes my work recognizable and could even be regarded as my "trademark".

I have said already that my inspiration comes mainly from nature, but often I will also see a particular color of beads that will inspire me, or sometimes an unusual clasp will spark an idea - I created my "Hibiscus Twist" necklace wholly around a pretty silver butterfly shaped clasp that caught my eye.

"Double Dragon Torque" necklace in process
click to enlarge

These days, I never follow a pattern, but rather try to create something as I go along. As I sell so many of my designs to magazines, I have to be very disciplined and make sure I write notes as I go, even if they don't work out first time, to save endless hours of thinking afterwards "How did I do that?" My "Double Dragon Torque" for example, uses over 15 metres of thread and the features are built up gradually using a variety of techniques. If I hadn't kept notes originally, I doubt I would ever have been able to recreate it exactly!

I am passionate about beads and beadwork and I hope that comes across in my work. Please take the time to look at both my gallery of work and my website, or read my blog and feel free to send me your comment.

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Kerrie Slade, Nottinghamshire, England

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