Since the last blog I have been working on the rock outcrops and beginning to add more depth to the background texture. The beading is beginning to take on a more refined look.  I have begun to leave more space between beads in some areas and am incorporating the French knot embroidery technique.  Working with the two mediums is giving the work a more varied texture.  I delayed fixing the last completed section in place until the next was well underway.  Lining up the “flow” is becoming increasingly important.

I began adding more texture to the background after gluing the last section in place.  As I look at the overall composition I am thinking about refinement and what will be needed to achieve a sense of unity to the piece.  Today I removed the first section at the lower centre of the torso, which had become a representation of the umbilicus/naval.  I felt it was too densely beaded and dark to tie in with the more delicate work recently completed.

I am beginning the shoulder section here that acts as a “sash” extending from the right of the torso over the shoulder.  The silk fibre mould has provided a rounded pocket-like form that I am beginning to visualize as a “breast-like” form.  I am adding in my “antique” buttons and beads to provide more history and depth of meaning to the work.

The top section provided a form that suggested the female breast.  A mixture of embroidered knots, and seed pearl and coloured beads provide the texture of the areola and nipple itself.  I am going to leave the smooth silk casting exposed, which provides another texture and metaphor to the suggested form.  I have added in another of the white lichen forms taking the history of this work further back in time.  Many of these lichens are estimated to be hundreds if not thousands of years old.  Around the perimeter of the lichen I have incorporated some small grey and black beads not only to create the shadowing, but to introduce the darker basalt rock.  I am thinking at this point, more dark beads  will be added to the background/support sculpture itself.  I’m not sure if they will be stitched or strategically placed and glued down.

I have added the photograph of my original Beausoleil rock.  The meaning of this name is “beautiful sun.”  The Island, located in Southern Georgian Bay, is a large rock formation that was home to the Beausoleil First Nation Today it is enjoyed by boaters and campers.  The original people retain some of this land, but the remainder is owned by Parks Canada.

I have worked on the adjacent panel to provide a second breast-like form – a slightly smaller section than the one above.  Working on these representational and distorted female forms is reminiscent of the Pablo Picasso’s later works such as Girl before a Mirror (1932)

Because of its irregularity and the way that I have had to cut and stitch the underlying cotton support for the protruding section, I am seeing this as a surgeon may.  The tiny white seed beads have been applied closely to represent the thickness of scar tissue.

The reading of this section has additionally become map-like.  I see a form that reads like my former home:  the North Island of New Zealand.  It is an elongated island with Auckland towards the north, Wellington at the Southern tip and a protrusion of land to the east and west.  The island is volcanic with a significant range of active volcanoes in the centre.  Together with its South Island, the indigenous people, the Maori, called it Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud.  Go to this site for some spectacular filming

Today I cast some of the last sections for working up.  I have lichens to create and complete, and then the background to work on to tie everything together.  Can I do it in 2 weeks?



Progress on the sculpture is coming along.  I’ve spent many hours on the project, mixed between the physical construction of the armature – my scratches from the wire mesh have almost healed now and my fingers tips no longer hurt from the threaded end of the fine beading needle puncturing them.

Introducing granite colours

I started this morning to incorporate some of the new colours that I found yesterday.  What I have here represents about two and a half hours of work.  This free-form technique is quite mesmerizing and relaxing as there are no guidelines to follow other than a sense of shape and direction.  It is a very fluid process similar to painting.  I use the darks and lights to push and pull the canvas and choose the colours of buttons and beads to represent the stratification of the sedimentary rock formations.  As the word “flashback” is used for this assignment, there are certainly moments of thought that link with the past and to cultures that have traditionally worked with this bead medium.








I have photographed part of the label from a packet of beads – found at one of the Dollar stores.  They incidentally have a useful selection both in the above photograph and in my other supplies.  Chinese women have laboured at the task of producing beaded trade goods as well as the product itself.  I have other beads from Japan.  I think too of the Métis women who produced the most wonderful beaded moccasins and items of clothing, most of which were worked on fine Caribou leather using their own designs – initially from their traditional designs, then later florals from the European cultures who bought the finished work .étis_Cultural_Heritage_to_Rediscover_.html.  The women themselves were a product and a resource of the fur trade.  All of the above is active as an industry today and represents those who labour out of necessity.

I could also visit women of a privileged feudal culture.  Reading any of Philippa Gregory’s novels set in Medieval Britain, it does not take long before the reader is introduced to the pastime of nobility in fine needlework.  A flip of the same coin might also introduce the working class and their labours to provide the fine couture demanded of the aristocracy that continued to the fashionable beadwork of the Victorian era.  There are grim histories of women who laboured at home with this form of “piecework” and others in the “fashion” trade who worked in the formidable conditions of mills and factories with materials that contained toxic dyes and flammable materials.  The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto houses fine examples of these “flashbacks.”

I am going to get my mind off such negative thoughts by working in my studio.  I have more background texturing to work on that will provide a setting for the “stone” beadwork and lichens.

February 1 update.

I continue with the rock outcrops, with a slightly different perspective.  As with most artists and artisans I know, I have saved and collected “items” for most of my life.  I have opened my treasures with a renewed sense of history and am excited about incorporating them.

I have also introduced small French knots worked with 6 x stranded Metallic (polyester fibre), Silk (rayon fibre) and Pearl (cotton fiber) threads.  Each has its own challenges.  The technique is easier worked with a single strand.

I have now worked toward the largest and most sculpted section of the outcrops.  On the top left of the base above is the section that represents a “shoulder.”  Earlier the silk fibres were laid across this section in 4 layers, each crossing the previous to provide strength.  Wallpaper paste was used to bond each layer.  Now dry, it has retained the sculpture’s form and with a backing of cotton quilt backing, the combined layers will provide sufficient strength and thickness to hold the beads.

As I work each outcrop with beads and embroidery, I must envision a continuum from once section into another.  As I work up toward the top of the sculpture I am thinking “lighter”, in weight and colour, and “smoother” in texture.

I am also departing, in some respects, from the original source of inspiration (the Beausoleil rock) and imagining the sculpture as a separate and new entity.  However, I must continually revisit this source to ensure that the sensibility of the piece remains intact.

When I next blog, you will see how this process in unfolding.

Thank you for visiting and hope you can take time to comment.  I will respond.



The last several days have been exciting as I begin the surface texture and embellishment.  More and more this work is speaking to me as a human metaphor.  I’m also thinking of a title and wondered about “Beausoleil Saracen“. Beausoleil Island is where the inspirational stone was found; however Saracen seems to be specific to the British Isles where the silicified sandstone of Stonehenge is found.  But my Pre Cambrian megaliths were intended to play off the Stonehenge photograph that we took when visiting these prehistoric standing stones (dated at 4-5,000 years old).  Our Georgian bay, Canadian Sheild rocks are said to be 570 million years old.  Are there any responses to the title?  Could it be interpreted as my version of a Stonehenge Saracen?


I am now indulging in the surface of the sculpture and have the stratified, Pre Cambrian bedrock to capture.  This rock consists of igneous:  granite (the pinks), dolomite (limestone), basalt (the dark volcanic sections) and metamorphic:  schists (quartz) and marbles.  Here are my supplies:

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I will be using raw mulberry silk dyed in 3 tones to pick up on the overall granite.  I have used silk dyes.  This raw silk comes with little bumps (noils) which I hope will provide the texture of the granite.  In the second photograph I have an assortment of beads and linen cloth from which I will form the lichens.

First, however, I must work on the defined sections of the sculpture that will contain the limestones, marbles and quart components.  For these areas I am using a finer processed silk fibre over the white areas of the sculpture.  Plastic food wrap works well as a barrier that is simply taped in place.  The fibres are attenuated (stretched out) and wallpaper paste is used to adhere the layers (4 layers, each worked against the other (as in crosshatching), provides a good thickness).  It takes about 12 hours to dry enough to be able to peel off in a sheet.

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I will be working on the “background” granite and the featured quartz, marble, limestone areas simultaneously.

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The silk fibre, feature sections are first backed with thin cotton, quilt batting to provide a heavier cloth to work on.  I am beginning here to work with the shell buttons and various beads to provide texture and monochromatic colour.  I work, by hand, with the rock in front of me as a continual reference.

The first section is completed and attached to the sculpture with fabric glue.  The silk edges will be integrated into the background.  I am working first with the lightest colour of my dyed silk noil.  Once this is dry I can begin to build the texture and colour density.  Note that the black charcoal of the foundation layer is strategically left to show through.

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I am ready to begin the lichens.  They are flat and intricate.  The actual lichen below (one of the 3 varieties that I will be depicting) is identified at a white lichen, specifically, Diploicia Canescens.  My research tells me that this species is also found in the British Isles.  Could it therefore be growing on the Stonehenge Saracens?


I back my linen with cotton quilt batting, then take it to the sewing machine.  Machine quilting is very acceptable today among textile and fibre artists.  The motifs are cut, pinned in place, stitched/quilted (this process involves puckering the motif to create a three-dimensional formation). The “fingers” of the lichen are worked up with my acquarelle watercolour pencils to enhance the forms and push back the background rock areas.  These are completed with a scattering of black, grey and reddish glass beads to create a rock background and to tie the plant form into the beaded rock formation.

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Here I am now with the second beaded section completed.


I found some interesting beads today that I may incorporate in my next section.  They are much like granite, in colour and are dull, as the unpolished stone.

Please feel welcome to comment and to ask any questions about what you have seen or read.  I hope you enjoy this process as much as I do.  Thanks for participating.