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My name is Melissa Diane Ingram, known to many as either Mel, Melly or Molly. My family is of British descent; my parents briefly lived in Darwin, Australia in the late 60s where I was born. We returned to England soon after my arrival, but at the tender age of 7 we left everything I knew and immigrated to Australia.
As a 2 year old I could be found placing fabric scraps together to make appealing collages to the delight of my mother. At the age of 5 I can remember being taken by the hand to the few classrooms we had at the village school, so that the Principal could show the other students a drawing I had done of a Japanese lady in a kimono. I had drawn and colored the piece so well that he was quite taken with it. I still remember his excitement introducing me to the classes and handing around the drawing.
I have been an artistic soul for as long as I can remember. I have drawn, painted, dabbled in photography, fashion design and mosaics. In 1994 I was wandering down a windy street in Fremantle, Western Australia and came across a bead store. Curious, I went inside and stared lovingly into the many jars and containers housing millions of beautiful beads. I bought some gold bugle beads that day. I had no clue what to do with them, but they were just so pretty I had to have them; I still have them to this day.
My first attempt at working with beads was clumsy, using sewing threads and needles. I drew a design onto a piece of calico and sewed the bugle beads onto it. The beads soon sawed through the thread and started falling off. Not deterred I started experimenting with different types of beads, threads and needles and began making appliques. After a few years I tired of this and put the beads away.
It was not until 2004 that I came across a piece of beadwork (artist unknown) created using a stitch called "peyote" immediately I knew I had to learn how to do it (I had to learn how to pronounce it too!). At this time there were no Youtube videos and only one international beading magazine, "Bead & Button" was available in Australia.
Beading supplies were limited and expensive in those days; but despite this hurdle I began teaching myself and experimenting with off loom beadweaving stitches. Bead and soutache embroidery research and sampling came next. My design journey has now embraced shibori silk ribbon as a design element within bead embroidery.
Right angle weave was my last stitch to master and I did this after meeting Marcia DeCoster in 2010 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Cubic right angle weave is currently a stitch I am most passionate about as it allows me the raw challenge of dimensional construction and engineering; an aspect I thrive on. I can visualize thread paths and create my ideas in 3D in my minds eyes well before I even pick up a bead. I can generally understand if a design will or will not work due to engineering limitations, this saves lots of time.
My style of beadwork has been an evolutionary process, a collective of the influences on my life combined with a deep understanding of the off loom beadweaving stitches, their profound capabilities and their limitations. Understanding color and selecting color ways for my beadwork has become almost a separate art form in itself. In the early days I was afraid of color and really did not understand how to use color effectively.
Since discovering beadwork I have not looked back, beading is my passion, my quiet time, my "to be with myself and center" time. I work out of a home studio that is literally wall to wall beads. I have two tall "towers" of 64 shelves that house most of my Swarovski crystal collection which contains both modern and vintage Swarovski crystal beads, stones and pendants that I have sourced globally.
I have a wonderful collection of vintage and antique beads, buckles, buttons, West German and Czech glass cabochons, French limoges, Japanese baroque glass pearls from the 1940's that are still on their original hank, sea glass, mammoth tusk beads, vintage bakelite dominoes and mahjong pieces and other assorted bits and pieces that I have been gathering for many years.
A turning point in my beading journey was submitting two of my beadwork pieces (Melbournian and Magic Carpet Ride) to the call for entries to the 500 Beaded Jewelry by Ray Hemachandra (Lark Publishing). To my utter astonishment both my entries were juried into the publication. Since then my work (Arabesque Armour) was juried into 500 Necklaces by Chungi Choo (Lark Publishing).
Anneta Valious invited me to submit a select piece of my soutache jewelry for inclusion in her new book Soutache Embroidery by Anneta Valious (Lark Publishing). Then came the invitation for submissions of beadwork for Beads in Motion by Marcia DeCoster (Lark Publishing) and Marcia DeCoster Presents 30 Beaders on Inspiration and Technique by Marcia DeCoster (Lark Publishing).
Last but not least, Margie Deeb sought permission to include an already published piece of my beadwork into her new book Designing Beaded Jewelry by Margie Deeb (to be released June 2014). My designs, patterns and tutorials have been published in more than 30 national and international magazines.
A highlight of my beading journey was entering the prestigious international Bead Dreams contest in 2012. I entered two pieces of work - Melbournian and Tequila Sunrise. Both pieces were accepted as finalists and then to my delight were awarded 3rd place in two categories. 2013 I again entered two pieces of work (Arabesque Armour and The Jewelled Net of Indra) which were both finalists.
Inspiration for my beadwork arrives from everywhere at any time of the day or night. I keep a journal next to my bed just for those instances when I simply must jot down my thoughts. I have a smaller journal which I carry with me if I need to leave the house. Architecture, textures, patterns, shapes, nature, paintings, broderie d'art all play a role in what my muse delivers as design ideas.
The most difficult part of the free fall of ideas is deciding which one to go with and make it a reality. The second most difficult part is turning off my muse so that I can focus, it gets mentally exhausting.
I am grateful to have Patrick Duggan, a fellow Australian beader and dear friend in my life as we regularly discuss our beading projects or thoughts. We share new designs of beadwork that no other eyes have seen and offer our respective thoughts on the design. Patrick is a gifted beadwork designer and is enjoying success with illustrating his patterns and writing tutorials.
I see jewelry as an accessory of expression of thyself and not just an adornment. I am inspired to create heirloom quality beadwoven and textile jewelry, jewelry that has meaning and value for the wearer. The addition of vintage or antique beads to a jewelry creation adds elements from the past, that when combined with new elements will ensure a unique and treasured piece of wearable art that will be adored.
I do have a difficult time finding a balance with my beading commitments and with my busy family daily life. What was once a fiddle with beads on the dining room table has grown into an obsession with a dedicated bead room in our home. Beading and producing unique beadwork is so utterly satisfying. I just never want to stop.
|Melissa Ingram, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia|