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I'm Katherina Kostinskaya (Kathy Kostinsky); I was born in 1974 in Moscow, Russia in a family of geologists. My Granny, Mum's Mum, has been literally golden-handed: she has sewed, knitted, embroidered and woven with beads. She had taught my Mum and then my Mum has taught me all crafts. Mum had a few twisted motley threads of Czech beads, and we used those beads to weave simple flowers (one thread, one needle, a loop of 9-10 beads and one or two beads of different color in the center).
Later, when I was about ten, my oldest sister was in a paleontological expedition in Yakutia and brought me a priceless gift: three 50-gram bags of Czech beads of scarlet, cherry red and dark cherry red colors. In the middle of the 1980th it was really hard to buy quality beads in Soviet Russia; only one sort of beads was sold in shops - crooked and easily fading beads made at the Klin ski factory. Only eight colors were available: red, black, white, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. I still do not know how glass beads could be connected with wooden skis and why beads were made at the same factory with skis.
So, a new era started in our life, the era of twisted bracelets. Mum and I made them this way: we cut about a meter of thin wire taken from some broken electrical appliances bobbins and thread beads of one color. Then we wound such a string around a thick knitting needle; the needle was pulled off and we got a sort of thick and pretty beaded spiral. The only trouble was that such a spiral straightened being even slightly pulled.
I remember when making beadworks we were listening to a few-day-long audio play on the radio. It was a mystery with a sort of Soviet Miss Marple, a very attentive old lady who helped the young detective and called him "my anDgel". And even now, a quarter of century later, when I think of our twisted bracelets I hear this "my anDgel". And I must say, it became one of my habits to listen to something like music or reading aloud while beading. Later on when I see finished beaded stuff, I hear what I heard during weaving.
When I was 16, my Mum took me to bead weaving classes in the Moscow Central Artists' House. It was immensely interesting there but during six months I hardly ever made anything, I just copied all the necessary patterns and tried to leave as early as possible. The fact was that the pass to the classes also gave permissions to visit all exhibitions in the Artists' House for free. The classes have finished almost at the House closing time and I escaped them earlier. The exhibitions were so different, multiple and interesting! How could I miss them?
My slight carelessness at the classes turned me out badly. About a month and a half after graduating the classes I decided to weave a magnificent collar for my Mum using golden seed and bugle beads. The collar should have looked like an ancient Egyptian one. Weaving it I was very proud of myself and inspired: it was my first absolutely self-designed beadwork! My sister and I have been sitting many hot summer nights in a tiny vacation home. She was reading "The Lord of the Rings" to me and I have imagined the scenes from it while weaving.
But... But I didn't consider one important moment: every time the thread became too short for weaving I pulled it from the needle eye, took another piece of thread and continued weaving starting a few beads before - without tying the threads together! And so, the grand day came, Mum came to see us and I worn the shining golden collar around her neck, and it slowly and solemnly tore in several places and ran out to the grass... It was a serious shock for me. Since then I don't forget to secure the threads properly.
The most interesting technique at the classes was loomwork. During the first year after classes I made a couple of bead looms by myself. The first one was small and flimsy; the second one was much better, larger and stronger. Sometimes I use it even now. First of all I created the ethnic necklace called herdan (a long ribbon with two ends put together) with roses motif which pattern was given at the classes. I have worked it six times in five different color combinations. Then I began to design the ornaments myself. My main inspirations came to me from "Beads and Bugles in Russia" and "Traditional Ornaments in Russian Folk Embroidery" books.
I was very lucky to meet a great bead embroiderer Boris Melnikov. When I visited his flat first I was actually amazed; there were huge bead embroidered icons (up to two meters height!) everywhere and they exactly replicated Russian original ancient icons. There were three-liter jars full of beads; but most of all I was impressed by a small (I don't remember, loomworked or embroidered) picture of a very true looking rooster. I realized that I wanted to make pictures where animals look like live ones.
In 2000 I wove a tiger, a flamingo and two peacocks. A bit later in summer my daughter and I went for vacation to the Crimea. Just in case I took two packets of black and golden beads with me. One late night when I didn't want to sleep and all the interesting books have already been read, I decided to try to weave a butterfly in peyote stitch. I had only a general idea of butterflies and nothing else special. So, my first butterfly designed and woven during that night was a sort imaginary swallowtail.
Since then it went on... That year I made seven more butterflies. One of them was inspired by a magazine photo of a piece of jewelry featuring butterfly brooch made using sapphires and diamonds, the others were imitations of real lepidopteras. The further - the more! Weaving butterflies become my very serious hobby and when I was pregnant with my third child I designed and wove 50 butterflies of the world as I planned to write a book about weaving beaded butterflies. The collection is growing and now there are 111 butterflies of 74 species and 3 imaginary ones woven. Many of these beaded insects have flown around the globe from Norilsk in the Siberian North to the Crimea and from Mexico to France.
I have been always interested in trying new types of beadwork and new techniques; I make armorial bearings and different pictures. Nine years ago I created the first portrait and now there are 16 portraits made and I suppose I still have a lot to learn. As to adornments, I make brooches, hair pins, rings, earrings, collars, pendants, necklaces and belts. Just recently when writing a beadwork textbook I discovered for myself peyote weaving with different size beads. Likely, I'll be able to stop only when I realize the technique is entirely clear for me and I can do everything I want. I suppose, it won't happen soon.
Besides adornments I make beaded bags and purses and bead around mugs and bottles, I also worked out two canes for my Mum. The first cane was netted around using golden beads and bugles. It looked gorgeous, shined and sparkled in the sun, but alas! Bugle beads cut the thread very soon and the cane badly spoiled. For the second stick I loomed a cover featuring light and dark red flowers against silver background. This cane has been used daily for more than five years.
The first beaded bag bearing a proud name of "Basset Hound" was made according a pattern from the book "Beads and Bugles in Russia". The original picture showed a dachshund. It was the first and the last time in my life when I decided to pinch somebody else's pattern. I sat up all night with a magnifier copying out the pattern from a tiny picture to paper bead by bead.
One thing was left out of account, the pattern was for embroidery on canvas and beads should have been turned 45 degrees. I drew my pattern for loomwork where all the beads laid straight. So the doggy became stretched out from the bottom to the top. So I had to rename it from the dachshund to the basset. Since then I make all the patterns myself.
In 2006 due to an advice of the wonderful artist Bella Levin I gave the try to make New Year tree decorations from seed and bugle beads stars and different 3D toys. This idea engrossed me. Just before the Year of Mouse my oldest daughter and I have made about 70 mice for a fortnight!
In 2003 I gave birth to my second daughter and the happy father made a great present for me, he developed a website about my beadwork. At the same time he taught me searching Internet and showed the diversity and plenty of bead designers in the world. Most of all I have been impressed by beadworks of Margie Deeb, David Chatt, Rebecca Brown and Karen Paust. It has been an endless happiness; shining prospects of my own development opened to me.
As to my favorite motifs in my beading, they are nature (including human faces) and stones (especially malachite) and traditional folk ornaments of different peoples. Most often I turn to Russian folk art. There are ancient, deep-sensed embroidery and wood cutting motifs. It takes your breath away when you start seriously studying them and realize the mighty creating magic filling in the primitive at the first blush figures. And how they influence those who make and wear them!
As soon as I made a few Birth Giving Women ancient Slavic talismans helping to get pregnant, carry the baby easily and give birth safely, I moved to another state of blissful expectation. And I must say I'm not a pagan at all, I belong to a very monotheistic confession. Thus, as I see, such talismans work to everyone with no dependence on their belief. Also I like to use more decorative Russian folk ornaments such as Khokhloma (red, golden and black wood painting), Gzhel (white and blue porcelain with floral and sometimes animalistic motifs), Zhostovo (very much multicolored floral painting on metal trays and dishes) and Dymka (bright painted clay toys). Celtic knots also fascinate me, but it is more difficult for me to study their meanings, maybe I haven't searched enough diligently for the sources. And one day I hope I'll get to other peoples' ornaments, especially Asian ones.
In 2009 I began cooperation with Bead-Patterns.com and Sova-Entrprises.com making bead patterns for sale. Learning these websites I came across a short video clip showing some beading technique. The beauty of the idea fascinated me. Almost at once I animated two of my simplest patterns and then I came up to a thought of making animated lessons of all basic beading techniques. By now I've made a dozen of bead animated tutorials, ten of them can be seen on my web site in Live Lessons section. I hope with the lapse of time I'll really make animated tutorials on all the techniques I know. I'm very much pleased that my tutorials can help beginners to learn beading.
|Katherina Kostinskaya, Moscow, Russia|