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There has always been a creative drive, a desire to see how things go together.
I'm Ralonda Patterson, I live in Decatur, Texas, USA. Having grown up watching my grandmother sew quilts and clothing, it seemed natural to have started there. It took many years to satisfy my need to improve and I became a very speedy sewer, making garments in as little as a day. It was time for something that took a little longer, something that would engage a broader range of improvisational problem solving, a challenge. I began by adding beads to clothing, but it just wasn't practical with the longevity of the garment always in question. It didn't match the time it took to carefully secure each bead. Of all the things I had created, making dolls captured my attention the most. Then I found an online challenge that led me to add beads, lots of beads, to a doll. This single discovery sent me down a path of creativity that I could never return or recover from, not that I would ever want to.
Just before discovering the competition that changed my life, the work of Sherry Serafini on the cover of a Bead and Button magazine sent my heart racing. Her technique was just the approach to art I wanted to take. Bead embroidery was the beginning of my very first beaded art doll, Nite. We all make our first few pieces of jewelry with inferior materials and supplies and in the process learn a lot about beading from them, but he was the first real artwork. After entering Nite in the Land of Odds competition and taking second place, I was encouraged.
Beads were a medium that could be used to incorporate all the knowledge I had accumulated about sewing, paper crafts and even painting. I have since created several beaded art dolls, two of which were also entered into the same art doll competition. Azure also finished as runner-up in 2007. Surprisingly, the most recent doll Willow made it to the semi-finals but did not place. She did, however, make it to the finals of Bead Dreams 2010. She is my most involved piece of beadwork to date. Almost every bead stitch I know was used to create her and the message she expresses is very personal.
Competitions were the catalysts for me to finish such large pieces of work, so I am very grateful to those who host them and all the work they do. Some competitions really capture my attention with a challenge that needs to be met by quality and precision work. A dear beading companion of mine, Mandi Ainsworth, posted on her website, Beadcircle.com, the link to this challenge. My art was beginning to move into a different phase of my beading path and the Fashion Colorworks 2010 Beading Contest was just the nudge to begin moving forward.
This contest was hosted by My Lovely Beads and the challenge consisted of 3 triad colorways, which were chosen from the Pantone color report for spring 2010. One triad contained the colors Amparo Blue, Turquoise, and Pink Champagne while another consisted of Tomato Puree, Fusion Coral, and Violet. The triad that seemed to be the most popular among the finalist and the one I chose as well contained Dried Herb, Eucalyptus, and Aurora. The beaders had to make a piece of jewelry and limit themselves to the 3 colors contained in only one of the triads.
The colorway I selected was chosen before I ever saw the competition. I had already pulled two of the three colors in the triad before seeing the link Miss Mandi had posted. I had been searching for something to pair them with; finding it here meant that I had to enter into this contest. Having chosen two already that matched one of the triads, the third color was aurora; it was my own personal challenge to use this bold color in conjunction with the other two. Designing jewelry was also a new challenge to me. Most of the time we make pieces that vary from given instructions or from a universal stitch and add a new spin on it to make it unique, but this was different.
The Beaded Cogs Necklace was my very first original jewelry design, not a rendition of something done before by someone else. The components can be configured in a dizzying array of possibilities to create any piece of jewelry or even appliques for garments. To be named one of the ten finalists was an honor and it confirmed that I was on the right path. Don't get me wrong, you don't have to be recognized by or win a competition to be validated as an artist, but favor with God and with man has its fruit and often it is in the form of such success.
As with all art, it really reflects every decision the artist makes to reach the end result. All of my pieces are part of a spiritual journey. That is, my decisions are based on a love for my Creator who created me for His pleasure. Many of the things I make carry a message from Him either to me or to others as well. Other things I create are to bless others with whether it is as a purchase or a gift. For this reason, I have named my business (I prefer to call it a ministry) Beaded 2 Bless. It is from this foundation everything I make begins to take shape and they all begin with a vision. For example, my entry, The Steampunk Style Beaded Cogs started with a vision of Marcia DeCoster's Ringlets and metal cogs. Looking at the shape, I thought that is cool, but can we make a ringlet look like those metal cogs that icons for my new fashion style?
How do you make rings that work up quickly and easily? It didn't take long to come up with something pretty awesome. The elegance of beadweaving as opposed to the hard mechanical metal cogs one could purchase ready made was the most important feature. The stitch used is my least favorite- brick stitch, but we are quickly becoming frenemies. I have designed a few pieces using the cogs and my favorite incorporates both sewing and pattern drafting skills. Pulling on more than just beading knowledge allowed me to create Victoria by using a neck corset as a foundation upon which to sew the various cogs.
The size of a piece, the proposed deadlines, and creative convictions dictate the amount of time consumed by each one. The beaded dolls took at least a year from conception to completion. There is a lot of time in which life manages to create circumstances under which it is at best difficult to create. As an artist, you have to learn to work thru those blocks and continue on - it is all part of the journey. I had lost two family members while creating two of my dolls, and it could be counted as odd that each one was a depiction of what must be done anyhow.
Willow is a depiction of an earthen mother, and I was set on completing her when my own mother passed suddenly. If it were not for a deadline and the creative convictions, she would still be lying in a box as a dreaded UFO. The point I am making here is simple, we are always asked "How long did it take to make that?" What our answer should be is how far we came to complete it. You may sound as if you are avoiding a direct question when you answer but you will change how the other person looks at it. You will encourage them to see it as a process instead of a product and increase its value and their knowledge.
I am a part of a very talented and encouraging group of ladies who are members of the Dallas Bead Society. My bead home is Bead Heaven on HWY 377 in Watauga, Texas. All of my larger dolls are displayed there. There are other great bead stores in the area too, Artful in Carrolton and Wild Beads in Arlington. Some of the DBS girls are also members of another bead society that meets at Wild Beads called the Wild West Bead Society. If you have a group around you, I would encourage you to attend, be inspired and encouraged by others with your same passion for beads. These ladies are the very reason I began teaching my designs and submitting class proposals to large beading venues. I enjoy sharing with them but most of all I love to learn from them!
I hope you find inspiration and a blessing or two from my artwork.
|Ralonda Patterson, Decatur, Texas, USA|