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Beadwork artist Carol Holmes

Interview with beadwork artist Carol Holmes

Carol Holmes (Woodbridge, Virginia, USA) is a self-taught beader with a lifetime of exploration in a variety of handcrafts. She grew up in a family of violin-makers and studied violin-making with her father, grandfather and later with the then director of the famous Mittenwald school of violin-making. During her high school and college years and for 10 years after, she worked in her father's violin sales and repair business, the Brobst Violin Shop in Alexandria, Virginia. Her formal education is in violin performance and she was a member of the Richmond (Virginia) Symphony for 13 years. She currently performs in the DC area and east coast as a baroque violinist and violist and maintains a private studio of 35-40 students.

At the age of 9, Carol learned to sew using an old sewing machine from the early 1900's and later took more formal sewing instruction. She also learned embroidery, crocheting, knitting, macrame, and weaving and loved (and still does) to work within any type of fiber. In college along with her music studies, she took courses in textiles and weaving.

Beadweaving by Carol Holmes
click to see gallery

Many years later, Carol discovered beadweaving from a violin student, and started searching in books and magazines as well as Internet for instructions to try out. As she began to learn and create a wonderful "fabric" of beads, Carol built a website to display her creations along with that of fellow beader and musician, harpist, Lynnelle Ediger-Kordzaia of Richmond, Virginia. Now she is running an Etsy Shop, where you can buy Carol's beadwork items and design kits "Three Earring Designs", "Spiral Rope Bracelet and Earring Set" and "Glass Gem Ring", and a few blogs as well.

Her search for display opportunities in formal galleries led her to join the Potomac Craftsmen Gallery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia in 2003. A year later Carol joined another gallery in the small town of Occoquan, Virginia, The Artists' Undertaking Gallery, and she has since been active in the leadership of the two co-operative galleries. Carol enjoys the freedom of a freelance, self-employed lifestyle which allows her to pursue her beadweaving and other fiber art passions. She looks forward to many more years of discovering the intricate beauties of tiny beads and beadweaving and the worldwide friendships that form from sharing her discoveries and creations with fellow beaders.

Beadweaving by Carol Holmes
click to see gallery

1. Carol, when did you start beadweaving?

I started beadweaving not so long ago, in 2000.

2. Tell us, please, what inspired you for that?

One day I was teaching a violin lesson and my student brought me a cute little bee that she had made with beads and wire. I asked her how she learned to make it, and she showed me the book called "Beadlings" in the Klutz book series. Her mom bought me the book and I learned how to make all the bugs and creatures in the book. After giving them all away, I wanted to learn more, and I started searching the internet for tutorials and reading books and magazines to learn the techniques.

3. Why did you decide to do beadweaving, not stringing and so on?

My friend and musical colleague, Lynnelle Ediger-Kordzaia inspired me to try gemstone jewelry. I made many necklaces and earrings but had trouble selling them because "strung" jewelry wasn't being accepted into galleries and shows. I realized that I needed to follow the beadweaving path because it seemed to be more respected as an art form. I still believe that so-called "stringing" should also be given respect. One can definitely tell the difference between an outstanding gemstone necklace and a mediocre one.

Beadweaving by Carol Holmes
click to see gallery

4. What are your favorite materials?

I started out using Czech beads, and in the past few years started adding more pieces with tiny Delica beads.

5. What beading techniques do you like the most?

I taught myself each technique, and am usually good at visualizing the process, but peyote stitch was a big challenge in the beginning. I was anxious to make it work, and with a lot of trial and error, finally figured it out. The same thing happened with herringbone stitch, and after reading a tutorial which advised starting with a row of ladder stitch, I had much better success. One of my favorite easy stitches is spiral rope, and I hope to figure out how to do double spiral rope soon.

6. How do you find the themes for your beadwork?

I guess, my favorite "themes" are geometric shapes, symmetry and monochromatic or simple color schemes. Occasionally, I try to force myself to do a freeform piece, and realize that I've kept the color scheme simple. I just can't use a lot of variety in beads in one piece. Maybe one day.

Beadweaving by Carol Holmes
click to see gallery

7. You are a musician, how does it reflect on your beadwork?

I find that the focus required for the tediousness of beadweaving is exactly the same as is needed to become a highly skilled musician. In fact, one of the most often repeated questions I get is "how can you see all those tiny beads?" I just say that I have been staring at tiny black dots on the page since I was 8 years old, and beads are the same size, just in much prettier colors.

8. Does beadweaving help you in any way?

Beadweaving allows me to use my artistic side in a way that is seen as an art form. Since I don't draw or paint, it's hard to feel like an artist, but I find that I can "paint" and "draw" with beads.

Beadweaving by Carol Holmes
click to see gallery

9. What do you feel when beadweaving?

My usual thoughts while beadweaving are "when can I get this finished so I can try the next idea I have in my head?" and "what's the next piece of music I'm going to give so-and-so student?"

10. Do you plan your items or you do where your boat floats?

I pretty much never do any planning, just start following up an idea I've been carrying around in my head for months or sometimes years! I get a lot of inspiration from members of Potomac Craftsmen Fiber Gallery and also the Etsy Beadweavers online group which I belong to.

11. Do you want to try something new?

Always! I am trying to finish my current projects so I can start experimenting with beadwoven vessels and sculptural pieces. Also, I have never done any bead embroidery even though I grew up embroidering everything I owned.

Thank you, Carol! We wish you success!

Carol Holmes' gallery on

About author:

Carol Holmes, Woodbridge, Virginia, USA

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