Monday, July 17, 2017

For the Love of Animals - Heidi Kummli

We are so fortunate this week to have Heidi share with us some of the techniques she uses to create her unique voice in bead artistry.  Her work is immediately recognizable as her work, yet she shares her techniques so that we may too create similar beauty.    I love how she creates such organic bead scapes with the always perfect touches of embellishment.  Thank you Heidi for sharing our process and your love for the planet and animals.  Marcia

Gorilla in the Mist 2017

The  Howlers 2017

The spiritual practice of shamanism teaches us we are all part of the great web of life. Everything is connected, and every action affects something, somewhere. Every thing has its role in the universe, whether it is an insect, animal, microorganism, rock or even human. Viewing the Earth from space shows that we are all one, we are the Earth. When you understand this, you will learn to honor all life on the planet and beyond.

I try to reflect this in my beadwork; I try to honor all of life and all species. I have always felt my work has a message to tell, a feeling to express. My love of animals is something I am very passionate about. Unfortunately animals can’t speak out about losing the land they call home, polluted water or global warming. They live in the moment, they have to adapt to what ever comes their way. Some species will vanish, and some species will adapt. The Earth gives every living thing what it needs to live upon her, water, air, sunlight, plant medicine, food and so much beauty. Without these valuable resources we will vanish, so please take a moment to think about that before you hop in your car to drive a block away, or water your lawns on a hot summer day, or spray deadly chemicals on a dandelion.

I want to share a simple project (it can be made as a pendant, brooch, or even a bracelet) that will allow you to honor an animal. First, take a moment to just be with yourself and think about an animal that best reflects you. Is it an animal that has always shown up in your life? Perhaps, an animal that you are attracted too? Maybe you have something in common with an animal. 

In this project we will be using a plastic animal that can be found at your local toy store. I like the Schleich animals. You can purchase them at some local stores (Michaels, Target), or online at I feel they all have their own personality.  If you can find them at a store then you can pick the one that speaks to you. 

Once you have the animal you want to work with, you will be cutting the head off. It is best to use a vice to hold the animal while sawing. I feel a coping saw works best. If you cut the head off at an angle it gives the animal a more life like feel to it. After the head is off, use scissors to cut off any rough edges, then smooth out the back with sandpaper. You can use the left over animal and perhaps chop a paw of to use in your designs, or have fun with it by gluing another head onto the body and decorating it.

Suggested Supplies:
Animal head
Ultrasuede or bead embroidery foundation of choice 
2-part epoxy or E6000
Aleene's thick tacky glue
Various size seed beads
Old pieces of jewelry, stone cabochons, fur, sticks or stones you found on a walk. Whatever you have in your bead stash that might work with you center piece.

I like working with the size 9 Czech beads in gold iris and also size 15 in metallic gold. I don’t often use other colored seed beads in my work as I feel it distracts from the components I use. This is your piece, so please use what you want. Play with these pieces like a puzzle, positioning them around the head and seeing what looks good here and there.

Get Started:

I like to use ultra suede for my bead embroidery foundation. But use whatever material you prefer, make sure that it is a material that doesn’t unravel after cutting it, such as leather or felt. Cut a piece that will be big enough for your project to grow on. I use a non-permanent maker and mark centerlines horizontally and vertically to help with placement. You can also add sidelines to help keep your piece balanced. I use a 2-part epoxy to glue my components on. The lion I used is looking upward, this made her look like she was gazing at something. Play with the placement of the head to see how it changes the animal’s mood. After the glue has dried, use the backstitch to add a row or two of beads around your head. The backstitch is explained at the end of this blog.

After your rows of beads are in place, glue your next component in place. I like to add one component at a time, and snug them up to the row of beads. 

Use whatever beads you have available; in the above photo I added some two hole Rizo beads. I backstitched the bottom row next to the lion, and than added a larger bead in-between and along the outside, tacking the Rizo beads down.

Fur adds a wonderful texture and look to your work. When using fur always cut from the back using a utility knife. Also keep the direction of the fur in mind when cutting. Do you want the fur to hang down, up, or opposite? It can be tricky to use especially when you want both sides to be symmetrical. 

People often ask me if I feel good about using fur in my pieces. If I love animals how could I support using fur? I don’t kill animals for fur; I use fur that would otherwise be thrown away. I feel that if an animal is killed every part of it should be honored and used. Every time I use a piece of fur I thank the animals whose fur I am using. A small piece of fur goes along way, so it doesn’t take much. I use Aleene’s Thick Tacky Glue to glue the fur down. In some applications I also stitch the fur down, with Nymo size B thread. I have noticed that some thread pulls the fur through the foundation, making it hard to use. You will need to keep an eye on your thread to make sure it doesn’t tack the fur down. You can use your needle to pull the fur back up on top.

Once the fur was glued into place, I stitched a metal component between the fur. I didn’t use a stone or component that would be glued on top of the fur, because I felt it would be flopping around rather than firmly in place. By using a component that had holes I could stitch it down. If I wanted a stone I would have glued it to suede, beaded around it, trimmed it, then glued and stitched it into place. Next, I sometimes add additional beading or components, before trimming the foundation.

Many people are afraid to trim the foundation because they might cut a thread. Don't panic! You can always sew the beads back down. I trim my foundation even with the outside edge of the beadwork. You need enough foundation to work with when beading the edging.

Cut a backing for your piece to add some stiffness. Trace your work on a piece of cardboard (such as a cereal box). Cut the cardboard about 3mm smaller than your piece, so you don't have to bead through the cardboard. Glue the cardboard lining to the back of your foundation and beadwork using Aleene’s Thick Tacky Glue. Next, glue this to your suede backing and trim the excess suede. 

Edge your piece using the simple edging as described at the end of this blog. The edging holds the piece together by stitching the foundation and the backing together. If your piece is to be a pendant, attach a bail to the top. If you want a brooch, glue a pin back to the back. You may also want to add some fringe or a stone dangle. Maybe talk to the animal and see what they want to have hanging off of them. You can also add a gemstone on the back of your piece to bring you healing. 

Wear this with pride and gratitude, feel the power and love it brings you and all of life. May it remind you that we are only a small part of the whole, we can change the world, and we can make it a better place for all generations to enjoy. For the love of animals, try not to get pulled into the unconscious thought process of ego and greed. Take a moment in your day to realize how lucky we are to be able to experience this amazing planet and that it is our duty to care for all species.

Arctic Cuff a project for Bead and Button magazine June 2010

Stitch Guide.

Backstitch: Come up through the base where you want to begin the backstitch. String 4 beads; lay them against a cabochon, or line of beads, and pass down through the foundation next to the last bead added. Pass up through the base between the 2nd and 3rd beads just added, then pass through the last 2 beads. Repeat around the cabochon, or until the desired length. When you have completely encircled the cabochon, with your needle and thread go back through the whole row of beads to pull the beads nice and snug to the cab, this also helps to make the row nice and straight. Pass through the base next to the bead you are currently exiting.

Simple Edging: With the thread coming out the front and close to the edge, string 4 size 15 beads; pass up through the base, from back to front, about 2 beads width away. Pass up through the 4th bead. String 3 beads; pass up through the base about 2 bead's width away, and pass back up through the last bead (Photo 17). Repeat all around the edge. For the last bead, you may only string 1-2 beads, and then go down through the first bead added in this round, and out the back.


Laurey said...

Thank you for sharing, Heidi!

Just Beady Jules said...

I saw Heidi's magnificent cuff in 2010 when it was posted in Bead and Button. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that: (1) I would be in her presence and (2) to have the opportunity to be in her class. (Thank You, Betcey!) I love her spirit, her love for the earth, her kindness and gentle spirit, her sharing and giving of herself to her art and her spirit, did I mention her spirit. (LOL) Love you, Spirit Sister Heidi and all that you are and all that you do. <3 Thanks Marcia, for your L-O-V-E of all things good and beady.

Laura said...

What a wonderful post! Not having had the opportunity to take a class with Heidi (yet), it was really good to sample some of her technique here.

Thanks also for the giggle! The idea of cutting the animals head off just struck me the right way at an odd moment. Ok, you can say it. I already know. I'm weird.