23 July 2010

Countdown...Inspired by Contrast

Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.
~John W. Gardner

Paying attention to detail is what sets someone who dabbles in art apart from a true artist.

I really believe that the devil is in the details as they say. Details to me are unexpected surprises, finished edges, intriguing materials, making sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed. After I started designing my own jewelry I tended to look at any jewelry piece with a more critical eye. Not that I would criticize it, but that I would see it through the eyes of one who knows better.

My dad spent the past 25 years or so as the Vice President of Sales for one of the largest children's book publishers. He recently retired. But it is not uncommon for him to pick up a book that we might have lying around and open the binding to check the construction, picking up on details that the rest of the world would likely overlook. But he can spot a poorly made book a mile away. I guess that when you become an expert in your field, you can do that.

For my friend Mary Ellen Pollock, it is no surprise the details are what makes her work stand apart from the crowd.

From afar you may see that the pen and ink drawing is a seemingly random cacophony of lines and shapes. But as you move ever closer to her drawings you see that there is a complexity. It blows my mind how intricate they are. One of my very favorite ones that she had in her show earlier this year had all these ants crawling around in it. You couldn't see that from back. You had to be practically breathing on it to see that detail. But that is what sets her works of art apart from the rest.

Mary Ellen's art in her own words:

I have an unending appetite for things linear, patterns repeated and the tactile pleasure of making elegant marks on paper. Usually my pen begins to crawl around a space until composition emerges. Often these drawings have a narrative quality, sometimes as with this piece the outcome is more elemental.

When I was looking for the best artist to pair with Mary Ellen I was really stumped. I knew that the bead artist had to deal in very minute detail but also very graphic. There is a whimsy to Mary Ellen's drawings so I wanted to represent that. And I also set out to be sure to represent as many different mediums of art bead as possible.

I wanted glass.

But I had no idea where to start.

Enter my friend Kerry Bogert. I figured that the glass world would be small, and I was right. Kerry enthusiastically recommended that I check out the work of Dora Schubert who, she told me, was the best at stringer work in the world.

Seeing what Dora does with glass is really extraordinary. Each line on the bead is created by melting thin rods of colored glass onto a base bead. The intricate details were just what I was looking for. I poked around on her Flickr site and then found her Etsy shop, her website and her blog. That is where I read that she had a strict no custom order policy.


But I also found out that she would be at the Bead & Button show. So I took a chance and emailed her. She responded almost immediately, which is wild owing to the fact that she lives in Germany. I explained my proposal and how I found her through Kerry and how her style would be the perfect complement to Mary Ellen's work. Would she like to play?

Dora graciously accepted and told me that she would bring black and white beads for me to choose from at her booth. How cool is that? Out of curiosity she asked to see the drawing when I had a copy.

Well, when I started this whole thing, I knew that Mary Ellen wanted to participate and I knew her style well enough, but I hadn't seen what she was creating just for my show. {Did I mention that getting all these varied artists to play along with my time frame was like herding cats?} So I begged Mary Ellen for a picture. She finally gave me just a portion of what was done. And I sent it off to Dora.

When I went to Dora's booth, she seemed to immediately know who I was {could it be that swell picture of me as my avatar?}. She went in the back and dug out a small, carefully wrapped bundle. Inside were two of the most gorgeous lentil beads I have ever seen. When I placed them on top of the photocopy of Mary Ellen's drawing it looked like a puzzle piece that had been missing. It fit perfectly.

{Close-up detail of 'Elemental Surprise'}

I was stunned. Dora said that she was so inspired by what I was doing that she decided to be flexible and break her ban on custom orders. Did I like them? she wanted to know. I was nearly speechless {completely speechless would be an impossibility for me}. And she asked if she could make more for me when she returned to Germany. Would I want her to do that?

Despite the fact that these are likely the most expensive set of beads I have ever purchased, it was an easy answer.

Yes. A thousand times, yes!

A few weeks later, at the beginning of July, I received the most thoughtfully packaged set of eight round beads perfectly in sync with the first two.

{Thank you, Miss Dora, for making me an exception to your rule!}

{'Delicate Balance'}

The contrast between the stark black and white is my muse for this series. I wanted to go graphic and keep all the elements as simple as possible. And most of all I wanted to honor the tremendous beauty that a simple line and curve can have.

What do you think?


Be~Jeweled by Jana said...

I love love love those beads!

Alice said...

Wow, this post was long in the making! Thanks for all your work to bring us such inspiring, drool-worthy stuff.

I've enjoyed looking at Dora's beads for a long time, but my budget says 'no' to buying these lovlies. Dora is an exceptional bead artist. I love the pieces you made with her beads.

Michelle said...

Everything is so stark and crisp! I love the necklace in the upper right side (i think it's the middle picture too).
You are going to make it! Woo Hoo!
Bead Happy!

Pearl and Pebble said...

Wow Erin - INCREDIBLE!!!! How perfect are these beads with Mary Ellen's drawing!?!?! These beads are gorgeous and your designs are fabulous-very dramatic yet sooo elegant. Thanks for sharing:)

Spirited Earth said...

your black and white creations are beautiful..
dora's beadwork stunning..
mary ellen's drawings amazing.
i had to laugh over the story of your dad examining books..
watch a potter sometime..the first thing they will do is turn over a bowl or plate to view how the bottom was made..it's almost an unconscious thing..we can't help ourselves.

mairedodd said...

seriously gorgeous... kerry certainly was dead on in that recommendation - and as the fates had it, you even got to be in the same physical space... how cool! i follow dora's work on flickr - she creates beautiful work... paired with mary ellen's pen & ink and your imagination and talent, these pieces all sing with joy!

Karen M said...

What can I say, beautiful drawing, beautiful beads and stunning jewellery.
Mary Ellen's drawing is very much like what has become the latest craze called"zentangle". I've tried my hand at it but have never seen quite so much detail as Mary Ellen's drawing has.
I think you have inspired me to rethink simple Black and White themes...thank you!!

Unknown said...

You have a gift Erin! You can inspire anyone and pair a team that creates treasures!

I am in awe!

stregata said...

Incredible - absolutely incredible, Erin!
This show is going to knock their socks off!

EmandaJ said...

Oh my gosh! How flippin' fabulous. I am a huge fan of line drawing-black on white. What you have done is amazing and it is so remarkable that you were able to pursuade an artist to collaborate into a custom order. WOW


donna said...

Such fabu-ness!!! They are fantastic!

Riki Schumacher said...

Wow Erin, what a great story! I love the beads, and love your creations. Great job,hugs, Riki

one-eared pig said...

Wow. The stringer work on those beads... Wow.

sandi m said...

I met Dora the first year she came to B&B. She is wonderful; her stringer work is precise; and I still smile when I touch my strand of her beads.
Her interpretation and your design complement Mary Ellen's work magnificently. Great job!!

And yes, worth every penny...

Brandi Hussey said...

Oh.My.Gosh. Erin! Those beads, that piece of artwork, your necklace - everything is just breaktaking! I just love it!

Stacey said...

Oh my Erin - the beads are gorgeous - and your pieces are perfection - stunning work!!!

mepollock said...

Erin!!! Your energy and intention turns ideas into wonder jewels. The first moment you started talking about this project grabbed my attention and has been such a joy. I am always in awe of your vision. This gives new meaning to our effort as a Cooperative. You make me so proud to be a part of Q. Thank you for your kind description of my drawings and for being such an artist. Doing this with you is an honor. MaryEllen

Silver Parrot said...

I'd been seeing some of that amazing black and white stringer work on Dora's site - who knew that YOU were the culprit behind it all? The beads are awesome and I love the jewelry you've created to show them off so well. That stringer work definitely deserves to be the star of its own little show and you've pulled that off perfectly!

Susan Marling said...

You are right - that bead is gorgeous and so detailed. The necklace came out stunning. I would just love to be able to see it all in person.

Anonymous said...


Libby Leuchtman said...

Donna has long been one of my favorite bead artist. Her work is simply amazing. Another favorite is my friend Holly Copper who's work is one of pure joy! Check her out.

Kerry said...

so so beautiful!!

Off the Beadin' Path said...

I agree with all of the above beautifully-stated admirations and exclamations!! Lucky me, I saw that bead at the Bead and Button show up close and personal, but the jewelry is a dream come true, Erin! You have used your gift well. Amazing what 2 artists can do together. And that you found each other, Kerry is a wonderful matchmaker! Just in case Google doesn't like me today, it's Sharon Misuraco, Off the Beadin' Path, speaking out the accolades that you all deserve!

Unknown said...

Those are some really wonderful beads! Alot of work and a skilled Artisan to make them. I so glad you got your hearts desire Erin as you must of really been doing the Happy Dance!

Barbara Lewis said...

These are so great! The first one you show looks like there's a cone projecting from the left side ... but then again, maybe I'm not awake yet. That's my disclaimer for anyone who reads this and says, "What is that crazy lady talking about!"

Jannie Funster said...

Oh, Erin your site design updates are stellar!! Just gorgeous to see that header and the background.

And your photos and beadwork in this post are nothing short of STUNNING!!! Beautiful. I love you sharing your artist heart, hands and eye. Thank you so much.

AND I want to say that I was remiss in not coming over 2 days ago to tell you that you were my featured top-of-sidebar Friend Of The Day... with a button link. You were! But your button will stay in my sidebar, moving down one spot a day until it has been 21 days (or 21 new friends, whichever comes first,) :) It will then drop off, but will reappear in a re-cap post 21 days later!! Capiche? :)

You are awesome and BB loves you.

Hope you and your lovely family are having a great summer.


Regina said...

I am speechless, her beads, your designs, just perfect!

Jeannie said...

I think you're a lucky lady to be given these lovely, expensive beads. The designs are remarkable.

Joann Mannix said...

That is such a stunning work of beauty. Truly.

You did a stellar job, Erin. It all meshes incredibly. You have an incredible eye. Amazing.

Jenners said...

I love how your inspiration project is inspiring others along the way. This particular one is a match made in heaven! Your show is going to be AMAZING!

Pretty Things said...

Dora's beads (and booth!) are nothing short of amazing. That stringer control!

Rebecca said...


Erin Siegel said...

Amazing! Just amazing!

EB Bead and Metal Works, LLC said...

OMG! Those beads are absolutely stunning! I love what you have done with them. Seeing those beads made my heart skip a beat and of course the drooling all over the keyboard too. WOW!!!!


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