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Bead jewelry artist Peter Sewell

How it began

From my 1950s childhood in the industrial north of England the idea of "being artistic" was not encouraged in a boy. This may have been different had my mother, who was a fashion designer at the turn of the decade, lived. She became a victim of tuberculosis - a common illness of the time. My father was a draughtsman, specializing in design of machine tools for lathes etc.

Although fairly gritty, my formative years were dotted with creativity and artistry, mainly because I spent the long summer holidays with my maternal grandmother's family on a farm in North Yorkshire - halcyon days indeed! As the teens approached it all became a poor second to the lure of motorcycles and leather jackets! This led to a much needed 12 year stint in the Army, and a lot of other extremely manly pursuits followed... until I had a motorcycle accident which managed to slow me down a bit - after which I began to change my perception of what was really important in my life. With no intention of getting back on a motorcycle, and little physical chance of serious manual work again, I had to change my lifestyle rather quickly!

Sparkling elegance by Peter Sewell
click to see gallery

My wife Nina saw the art bubbling underneath my brash exterior, and encouraged me to enroll on a local college Art course, from which I gained a reasonable qualification and the self awareness to continue along the aesthetic path of color, proportion, and texture. Large canvasses full of oil paints and artificial floral displays somehow miniaturized into jewelry making, which - probably due to my technical upbringing and background - progressed toward the intricacies of seed beading.

My work is precise and detailed, if it doesn't stand up to close scrutiny it won't be photographed, and the beadweaving styles closest to my aspirations have been gleaned from the historic beadwork of Eastern Europe and Russia. I love the Tsarist "imperialism" style, with its opulence and pomp - I have reached a point now where, even if I don't try to make it so, my work begins to take on the richness of imperial Russia!

Sparkling elegance by Peter Sewell
click to see gallery

I name all my work now, and although I do have a list of Russian girls names, I try to let the piece speak to me - the name has to match how I feel about the piece, and what it portrays, otherwise it would not do justice to many hours of passionate beadweaving!

The progression!

I made my first peyote square on the 11th January 2007. I still have it.

I became fascinated by the design and techniques involved in close worked seed beading, and set out to learn as many stitches as I could find, keeping the one's I liked, and filing the one's I didn't! Sixteen stitches later, I made my first piece - a netted Egyptian collar from a design by Varvara Konstantinova. This attracted me to the historic style of Russian and Eastern European Beadweaving, and I discovered my passion for technicality and precision in beadwork.

Sparkling elegance by Peter Sewell
click to see gallery

As I spent most of my time transposing unintelligible instructions and diagrams downloaded from the internet, I decided to have a go at writing my own. With as many photographs as possible, and text to appeal to any level of aspiring beadweaver, I began making kits, and subsequently branched out into teaching workshops.

I set up a program of regular monthly workshops in the local library which began in August 2008. We have since changed venue to a friendly Art shop, and the workshops have become a fortnightly event. We have now "evolved" into an organized Beadweaving Group! We have around 9 - 12 members, and the ladies have graciously kept me on as "consultant tutor"! Modules taught have included Russian Leaves, Tubular Herringbone, Coraling, Jabot stitch, Tubular Peyote, Beaded beads, and Two needle RAW.

In February 2009 I was invited to teach three 6-hour workshops at The Bead Shop Scotland, the success of which led to a further visit in April, this time with two workshops in the Edinburgh area for The Bead Shop Scotland, and one workshop at The Potomac Bead Company in Glasgow.

Sparkling elegance by Peter Sewell
click to see gallery

I have made the decision to concentrate on teaching my work in beadweaving workshops, with kits released of the designs taught. The original "novelty value" of being a male seedbeader still helps, and I seem to be gaining a reputation for clear and easy instruction sheets and teaching methods which is bringing repeat bookings.

My work

I try to make pieces of jewelry with the intention of using the design as a kit or a workshop for the beadweaver with a little experience. This involves using very classic but simple stitches, usually 3 or 4 different stitches in each design, with the emphasis on beading technique rather than on complicated weaves.

A lot of beadweaving designs seem to be complicated for the sake of looking difficult - I believe that by using the best materials and taking the time to develop beadweaving techniques, stunning and classical designs can be made by almost anyone.

Sparkling elegance by Peter Sewell
click to see gallery

One of the most difficult things to get across to my students is how hard they can actually pull a thread to tighten the work - I tell them it can only break, and the practice will do them good! Nobody achieves perfection without a few tears!

Unusually, for a man, I love "sparkle", which is why most of my pieces involve Swarovski crystals in some shape or form! I relish the challenge of finding a Swarovski shape and trying to design a way to bead around it - sometimes it works, and when it does that is the piece I will put on display!

I am often asked why I do this, and I still have no answer better than "It's what I do".

My gallery on

About author:

Peter Sewell, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England

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