Tag Archives: bead embroidery

Something beautiful for a sad month: bead embroidery!

beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017I made this embroidered beetle to lift my heart and give me the strength that working with color and sparkle does. It was part of my automatic-writing-for-art approach this month, like the Monster doll armada.beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017

I just reached into my textile materials drawer and grabbed some scraps and bits, and told myself, You gotta make something with these.

bead embroidery appliques Suzanne Forbes 2017 1There are four different types of lacework fabric and delicate cotton paper layered on a blue felt base, bits left from the very first materials I bought at my earliest trips to the art store in Berlin.

I used them in my mantis project our first summer here, and in some bug embroideries with sheer wings.

The blue felt undersurface is left over from the backing of the Hearts Afire pieces I made for my Cake Level Patrons in 2016.

beetle embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2017Plus bead overflow from the Green Woman corset I’m working on, which is related to the Green Leaf Crowns I made last summer! I planned that project back in 2013-14 and brought all the materials in the shipping container.

You can see my project kit* for the Green Woman project at the top of these pics; I just raided it for beads and bling! This is the mess on a day I worked for eleven hours straight, just fiending on colors and sparkle.

I learn so much from studying the work of Game of Thrones embroidery artist Michele Carragher.

bead embroidery appliques Suzanne Forbes 2017 She has really radical approaches to layering sheer or lacework materials and doing bead embroidery in three dimensions.

I look forward to exploring ideas I borrowed from her for the mantis, like a wire lattice for sheer wings. Maybe this summer!

I also learned from her to do my bead embroidery in a hoop, whether or not it’s going to remain in the hoop.

Doing bead embroidery on the surface you plan to display it on – especially clothing- is for suckers. It’s like melting chocolate in a double boiler.

Much easier, stronger, safer and neater to embroider or bead embroider on a sheer surface in a hoop. If your threads aren’t meltable you can iron a light interfacing onto the back to protect the finished embroidery, cut around the embroidery design, then sew it onto your clothes or lampshade or corset or whatever.

If your threads are synthetic and meltable, but you’re really worried about the strength/structural integrity of the piece, you can wipe a thin coat of archival gel glue on the back. Like E6000! I touched every knot on the back of this beetle with a bit of Tacky Glue, just to be sure it’s heirloom solid. I have to charge a lot for embroidery pieces, since they take a minimum of 30 hours to make, so I like to be sure they’re for the ages.

*project kit: I have a half dozen project kits still neatly boxed up and waiting in my workshop cabinets. I organize all the materials and supplies I need for a project into a “kit” that makes it easy to bust into and tackle. All those 90% off post-holiday sales at Michaels and JoAnn’s, all those years of saving every scrap of ribbon from a present, every bit of wrapping paper for a shadowbox or decoupage! I’ve been blazing through projects, I’ve finished at least a dozen since I finished building the kitchen/workshop, but I brought a LOT in the container.

Making is my medicine: 40 hours of moth embroidery.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I spent a week of my life this month making this moth.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I don’t know if it was the best use of my time at this frightening time, but I do know I wasn’t capable of going out and protesting.

I’ve been barely able to function, this month.

Making something beautiful was the only thing I could contribute to the world. So I kept doing that.

Doing handwork, “Women’s Work.” Stabbing something 6,000 times.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing what I call “running background processes” this month.

Grey Embroidered Moth by Suzanne Forbes January 2017I’m working on a very hard to write piece about sexual violence, and the words tumble around in my head like stones in a polisher.

I can think about it for tiny snippets at a time, and then I turn to the comfort of sparkle and glimmer and applying tiny hematite crystals one at a time for hours.

Everything about the Cheeto “President” triggers me. I am constantly triggered. It sucks. I can’t sleep during the American news cycle, so I’m up from 6pm to 11am.

I don’t know the name of the woman who made this protest sign for the Women’s March, but she is a hero. A real live art hero.

protest embroidery

Beauty is my medicine: Making pretty things for comfort.

 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017This is the second large embroidery piece I started and finished this month.

I did this one mostly over the Women’s March Weekend.

 Embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017

It’s super pink!

embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progress   embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progress

I really need to make things of beauty at dark times, when I’m not personally depressed but the world is frighteningly fucked up.

embroidered insect by Suzanne Forbes 2017 work in progressI’ve been posting snippets of my works in progress and moments in the life of a working artist, plus kitties, on my new Instagram account. People seem to appreciate seeing art a lot right now.

I hate being in the ecosphere of a Zuck property, but it’s the best place to keep up with my loved ones these days, and an amazing place to connect with what other artists are doing.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

October/November bricolage roundup: More Extreme Gothic Crafting.

Between Halloween and the Orange Catastrophe, I never posted most of the things I made in October.OctNov Bricolage Suzanne Forbes

And of course I’ve been making more in November, because handwork is my safe place.

Suzanne Forbes crazy quilt mantel scarf Halloween 2016I worked on the beaded crazy quilt mantel scarf for quite a while after Halloween, once I finally got my sewing machine working here.Suzanne Forbes crazy quilt mantel scarf Halloween 2016

You need a step-up step-down transformer to operate a US sewing machine in Germany.

However my machine is a computerized one with great automatic thread tensioning and I was terrified that the sheer power of European wall current would fry it. Finally I nerved myself up, plugged in the transformer and it was fine. The transformer gives off a bit of a chemical smell as it heats up, but that kind of thing never bothers me.

I’m still a raging helpless amateur on the sewing machine, anything I sew looks like wombat knitting.

Of course, I’ve spent a lot of time around extraordinary couture seamtresses and costumiéres, and I know I’ll never be even a regular competent sewer. But I don’t care. Using the machine makes me feel powerful and capable and it’s just so magic and fun.

My plan is to take the mantel scarf out before Halloween every year and add more beading, embroidery and quilting.

Halloween mini top hat project Suzanne Forbes

Halloween mini top hat project Suzanne Forbes

 

This hat is one of my “Uplift” projects. I found it in a 75% off bin at Michaels the fall before we left, coming apart, and threw it in the “Halloween Crafts on Arrival” box for the shipping container.

I love to carefully glue crappy things, and fix their carelessly made bits, and then add hours of careful crystal decoration and a vintage jet bead. I had these rooster feathers that precisely matched some scraps of sequin in the sequin trim scrap bag I got at Discount Fabrics for $5 years ago. Isn’t that nuts how they match?

black-horns-suzanne-forbes-2016black-horns-detail-suzanne-forbes-2016

I also spent a lot of time adding Swarovski crystals to a deer skull.

gilt horns Suzanne Forbes 2016And gold leafing another skull. I used this weird star-patterned variegated gold leaf I got at Idée for super cheap; with my usual fingerpainting leafing technique, it didn’t really show.

After I leafed it I varnished it with acrylic glaze, then rubbed the still-tacky glaze with this pure bronze pigment powder. I bought the jar at the art-school art supply store in college in 1990 ’cause it was in a discount bin; I’ve still barely made a dent in it and I have used it for SO MANY THINGS.

Daria thought the black crystal-decorated skull was a little passé. Like, so gothsterday. Ah well, there’s no pleasing the young.

I also cleverly framed this creepy eye I painted back in February in this creepy frame.Eye painting by Suzanne Forbes 2016

passementarie-embroidered-pillow-editedCreepy, right? And I did the first test of using my machine to add passementerie trim to one of my pillows that for some unknown reason, did not already have trim on it.

I had been feeling bad for this poor, undecorated pillow for years.

target-halloween-talking-old-time-radioAlso, I got this incredible animatronic talking vintage radio at Target in the US in September, and carefully brought it home.

halloween-haunted-radioHowever, it needed work; both Daria and I felt that the way the lights flashed around the top was overkill and not so nice.

So I painted the white faux-Bakelite strip black, applied varnish, roughly gold-leafed it with the same cheap variegated leaf, then used the bronze powder on it. And then Daria distressed it with more black paint, because she said it was still too glitzy. She was right, of course.

making cupcakes Suzanne Forbes 2016I probably would have made a lot more stuff in October, but I was really busy baking for Halloween.

And in November I was so stressed before the US election and so gutted afterwards that I lost a lot of creative time. And Leonard Cohen died. What the fucking fuck, 2016.

I’m trying to catch up.

At least cats are on hand to supervise.Halloween cupcakes Suzanne Forbes 2016
cat-supervisors

Beadwork in Progress- Halloween crazy quilt mantel scarf and leaf corset.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016When we got back from the US last week I yanked the box marked “Halloween Craft Projects” off the shelf and tore into it.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016I was basically crazed from exposure to American craft store Halloween displays.

The first thing I wanted to work on was beading this mass-market Halloween mantel scarf or banner that I bought at PierOne during an after-Halloween sale for my usual 75-90% off.

This is what I call an “Uplift” project, after the science fiction novels by David Brin.

I have never beaded anything as fast in my life as I did this project.

I love taking commercially made items that I bought for almost nothing and investing hours of meticulous labor in making them more beautiful.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016It’s obviously fraught to buy mass-produced items in the first place; I always think of the person who made them.

I wonder how my buying these items at the end of their retail life, when they have basically become junk in the eyes of the retailer, impacts the commercial production cycle in other countries of Halloween crap for American consumers.

Halloween spider beadwork and beaded leaves by Suzanne Forbes 2016I don’t know the answer, but I do feel a connection when I do this, like my labor and the mystery factory worker’s labor is of equal value.

As if by adding hours of my highly trained privileged-artist love-labor to their object of work, I’m giving it more space in the world. A better chance of lasting.

As you can see I’ve also been working very slowly on the beaded leaf corset project.

I made the perhaps injudicious decision to individually bead some of the velvet leaves. And hand apply glass hotfix rhinestones to them. Heaven only knows how far I’ll go down that rabbithole.

I have an Instagram now, where you can see the delightful loot haul of green beads and crystals I recently obtained for the leaf corset!

WIP: beaded green velvet leaf pagan Mayday corset!

This corset is one of those projects I’ve been planning for years.beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016

beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016I brought all the raw materials for it to Berlin in the shipping container. It took a decade to collect all the velvet leaves, beads and leaf-shaped lace.

I have no idea what I’ll do with it when it’s done. Who cares, it’s the making of it that’s the incredible joy.

Maybe we’ll have a Midsummer dinner party and I’ll wear it, maybe I’ll get a red wig and go to some comic thing as Victorian Gothic Poison Ivy.

.beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016 This is my third heavily beaded/embroidered corset project, and I’ve learned a few things. Such as to do the heavy beading on a sheer fabric on a hoop first, to save wear and tear on my hand/wrist and reduce the amount of crappy random stitchery on the back. (You can see the previous two corsets here. The blue mermaid one is the same corset model as this one.)

I learned this from the generous and amazing website of Games of Thrones textile artist Michele Carragher. She creates the incredible, breathtaking detail of the costumes for GoT and other productions.

If you have never looked at these works in detail I cannot encourage you strongly enough.

I love Michele Carragher’s work and the way she is so generous in sharing her process.

I love her story because although she has a degree from the London College of Fashion she also has had a somewhat meandering career and is suddenly achieving great success well into her professional life. I wonder if she has a helper like I do?beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016 helper

An off-the-rack corset like this one from Orchard Corset has only a 10-12″ difference between waist and hips, so I have to modify it to add an additional four inches at the hips. That will be the next stage, after I finish seasoning it. I don’t usually bother to season corsets, because I’m lazy, I have a very corset-shaped body and I know exactly how to buy an OTR corset that fits me really well. (Don’t be like me! Season your corset!) In this case however I want to make sure changes in the shape happen before there’s additional decorative stitching, so as not to strain it. I started the beading first though, cause I needed its comforting, trancelike pleasure.

Although my daytime PTSD symptoms are much better now that the anniversary of Rob’s death and San Diego has passed, I’m still having sleep trouble. I have been kicking my husband awake fighting off nightmare assailants. I have to be very careful about how much I embroider since the tendonitis problems of 2013, but I’m clocking as much as I can.

I am so grateful I can work on this wonderful, soothing project. Hope you like it so far!

Is this prettiest creepy thing I’ve ever made? I think so!

Suzanne Forbes beaded beetle August 2016I’ve been pretty much reeling with exhaustion after the sprint to finish (95%!) the house for the party, so I haven’t done that much art this month.

Suzanne Forbes beaded beetle August 2016I opted to ease back in with bead embroidery, which is the most pleasurable creative work imaginable to me.

Painting a portrait for me feels like a mix of a final exam you’re decently prepared for, a job interview ( I like job interviews though), a workout-to-exhaustion with weights, and learning to rollerskate (which I have not succeeded in).

Making a drawing varies from feeling like going to the office midway through a tough project that you have a good handle on, with co-workers you like, to going to the gym for aerobic exercise (which I hate doing but never regret having done).

Bead embroidery is like a cross between eating a delicious black-currant mousse cake and getting a back rub.

Suzanne Forbes beaded beetle August 2016I’d say it’s my version of smoking pot, except I quit smoking pot when I was fourteen because it did NOT agree with me- I fall in the very paranoid from thc camp. After the very, very bad month I had in July with PTSD and nightmares, I needed soothing art-making, and this project delivered.

I’m thrilled with how the flourishes of beadwork on the sides came out- I foresee quite a foray in this direction.

This one is not for sale, as I chose the colors specially for the salon, using the very last scrap of lime velvet from Aimee‘s grandma’s garage, but I could easily (and pleasurably) make similar ones, in the color themes of your choice.

This month’s bricolage roundup.

I mostly think of myself as a horribly lazy person who keeps terrible hours, sleeps a lot and wastes huge swathes of time every day.Suzanne Forbes May Bricolage Collage

But sometimes I think of myself as a highly effective person whose productivity is just really weirdly distributed.

Here are the various bricolage projects I did this month, in between building the workshop, unpacking my mixed media materials, teaching a new class, starting a new painting, and drawing.

These flies are what I call “Uplift Projects”, after David Brin’s “Uplift” series.

They’re commercially produced decorative items I bought somewhere for almost nothing and am “improving” (according to my weird personal lights). I got these awesome glitter flies for 90% off at Cost Plus after Halloween. WIP Uplift Fly on the left, completed one, with beading, Swarovski crystals, more shades of glitter and micropearls on the right.

Mixed Media Suzanne Forbes 2016Mixed Media Suzanne Forbes 2016

 

 

This decoupage table originally came from Ross.

Insect and roses Decoupage Table Suzanne Forbes 2016I made them give me 10% off because it had a chipped corner. I repaired the corner with epoxy clay and spraypainted the whole thing with matt fuchsia acrylic from Dupli-Color, the German spray paint company that has a special line for graffiti artists.

Then I cut out all these amazing German decoupage pieces.

Insect and roses Decoupage Table Suzanne Forbes 2016Insect and roses Decoupage Table Suzanne Forbes 2016These are reproductions of the decoupage elements that have been produced here since the Victorian era.decoupage stag beetles

I used acrylic varnish to attach them in my weird little bug-infested way, painted the trim on the table with artist’s acrylic, and covered the decoupage with twelve coats of acrylic varnish. That actually was a pain in the ass. But worth it, I think. I’ve had the Alphonse Mucha coaster you see on top of the table since I was fourteen years old.

This dresser is a piece I got on Amazon.de through their repacking program.

dresser by Suzanne Forbes 2016You can often buy things that are brand new and perfectly good but have been returned and repacked at the warehouse for a fraction (20% in this case) of the original cost. It was stuffed all higgledy-piggledy into the box but all the (many, many) pieces were there, so I carefully assembled it.

Then I stained it with ten coats of Hazelnuss dunkelbraun stain (the equivalent of  the exploding-on-Pinterest General Finishes Java Gel stain). Ten coats may sound like a lot but with water-based gel stain, the coats go on and dry so fast it’s really no hardship.

perry gargano knobThe knobs are ones I’ve been collecting for years, like the brass verdigris tentacles from Perry Gargano for Anthropologie. (Of course I got mine all on clearance!). I’d learned from my research before we moved that German apartments have ZERO closets or built-in storage. BlueBayer Bat knobsSo I planned for buying a lot of furniture, and even splurged on four bat skull knobs from Blue Bayer on Etsy two weeks before we left.

 

Buying handmade items directly from an artist is the one time I’m happy to pay full price.

ombre table Suzanne ForbesI’ve had this table for almost twenty years- I got it at the Berkeley flea market.

It’s been spray-painted black, then pink, then black again. But this is the first time I tried making it ombré. I’m pretty thrilled with the results.

I used a deep sapphire blue, a dark forest green, and a pale celadon, all gloss finish from Dupli-Color. I built a sorta cheapass spray booth on the balcony out of boxes to paint it in.

ombre table1

 

Don’t spray paint indoors, dude. You don’t want to get what we used to call Technicolor Phlegm.

shadowbox Suzanne Forbes 2016I made this little shadow box out of some ribbon roses I made for my first wedding, hoarded velvet leaves and a frame I got at the Berkeley Flea, also like 20 years ago.

I got this plaster deer head from a German eBay dealer who specializes in vintage hunting lodge taxidermy.

deerhead

Taxidermy is so cheap here, Williamsburg craft beer bar owners would lose their minds. My dealer has been very kind about accepting my “Best Offers” for the most weird, kinda messed up pieces he lists.

I repaired the big chunk of missing plaster with epoxy clay, and repainted it. I left the rest of the damage ’cause I like it. deerheadebay

Now I’m waiting til the next time our handyman James comes over with his magic SuperStudFinder, which can detect metal and electrical wiring in the walls. Our walls have a LOT of janky old wiring in them so I like to check before I drill a great big hole for an anchor.

I think that’s all my bricolage this month.

Oh, and I decorated the frame for the octopus!Octopus Mixed Media Suzanne Forbes May 2016

Beaded Beetle!

embroidered beetle Suzanne Forbes 2016I was just started to mess around with adding beads and fabric to my embroidered works when we left the States, as seen in my mermaid pinup piece. In the interregnum between then and our stuff arriving, I really started to experiment with materials like plastic wrap and Swarovski crystals.embroidered_beetle_Suzanne_Forbes_2016

Now I’m unpacking my lifetime stash of beads and crystals and ribbon, and this beetle is just the beginning!

lagniappe: I use gold paint to freehand sketch the outline of the works on black felt. I wanted the gold to show through here and there with this one, and it didn’t quite work out, so I’m going to try it again with maybe another subject.

Works in Progress, 2D and 3D.

S-Bahn_WIP_Suzanne_Forbes_2015 - EditedI started this drawing on the S-Bahn and haven’t had occasion to ride the S again for a bit, so it’s on hold til I do! I thought the amount of correction and adjustment that goes into any drawing might be of interest.

I’m almost done with the mantis- her feet turned out to want to look like a ballerina in toe shoes, and I’m rolling with it. Her wings are made of two kinds of patterned sheer green organza and one kind of green fibrous paper, layered in an embroidery hoop and stitched together with fine wire.mantis WIP Suzanne Forbes