Thursday, 30 August 2012

Review: One Bead at a Time

Earlier this summer I began thinking about posting my book reviews not just on Manekis Pärlblogg, but also here. In English. So here you are, my book reviews -- now also available in English. First book to be reviewed is Robin Atkins' One Bead at a Time. And as usual when I start writing, it never ends. I don't do short reviews.

Title: One Bead at a Time. Exploring Creativity with Bead Embroidery
Author: Robin Atkins
Publisher and year: Tiger Press, 1997
No. of pages: 56
Summary: Book on improvised embroidery and the positive effects of creativity.
Pros: Unique approach compared to other books on the subject. Encouraging and full of food for thought.
Recommended for: Those interested in the liberating and healing process of creating with your own hands. 

In 1997, american bead artist Robin Atkins wrote her first book, One Bead at a Time. After several printings, she decided not to print any new editions but instead publish it as a e-book (pdf format), available for free at her website. To download you own copy, click here.

One Bead at a Time is a different kind of bead book. It doesn't focus on techniques and projects -- even if a stitch guide and practical advice on supplies are included -- but on the creative process and also the therapeutical properties that can be found in creative arts and crafts. It might sound lofty or spaced out when I put it like that, but this is very much a down-to-earth , practical guide. A perfect little book for those interested in exploring their creativity and feeling by creating art using beads, needle and thread. Even if you prefer other beading or jewellery-making techniques than bead embroidery, the thoughts on how to overcome creative blocks and freeing your creativity could be inspiring and useful.

The book has two pervasive themes. The first part of the book is all about finding your own creativity and start creating. Atkins wants to fill you with a "just do it" attitude, encouraging the reader so he or she can break through that all too common wall of self-critisism, doubts and negative thoughts that keeps us from indulging in creativity and creating art. The permissive approach is important in the book: it's ok to hoard beads that won't be used, it's ok to just look at the treasures, it's ok not to plan ahead, it's ok not to feel pressured into selling, it's ok to stitch however you want. There is no wrong way to bead. The author wants creativty beading to be without demands or rules: don't overthink it as it can create blocks and self-critisism, just sit down with some beads, a scrap of fabric and needle and thread -- and start beading. Now. Focus on the process, not the result -- that will come by itself.

Atkins encourage a unbridled creativity and freedom to dare create freely, without limitations as ideas of right or wrong in the choice of materials, techniques or colour combinations -- controlling the work can suffocate the inspiration. Dare is an important word as it's very much about daring to go outside the safe but narrow framework that's been building up around us as we grow up. It's about following impulses instead of rules on what's appropriate, correct, tasteful or safe. For what comes uncensored from the heart is always beautiful as it's inspired and by focusing on the heart's voice we can break through negativities that block our creativity.

The second theme of the book is healing, meditative and therapeutical effects of the spontaneous or improvised beading. How the not preplanned work that lets the heart and soul decide can create a harmonious flow or release emotions. How the creative process can be used to work through difficult events in life. Examples mentioned in the book are transitions in life, the death of a family member, depressions and more. The book doesn't claim this is an easy process and it is sometimes about recognizing blocks and working through them. It might sound very theoretical or spaced out, but it's not -- many,who began to bead (or crochet, embroider, knit, paint etc) during a tough period in life, can tell about how the hobby became a life line.

The book contains many photos or improvised beadwork, made by the author herself or by her students. A number of the works are mentioned in the text, discussing the origin and process behind them. There are stories about students who were helped by this creative process and Atkins also dare to expose herself, telling personal stories from her own life and how the improvised beading process helped her. These concrete examples makes the book an encouraging, practical guide to the creative process. The book is based on real experiences and a genuine wish to spread the ideas of the ability to, through beads, express yourself directly from the heart and soul -- and the positive, healing power that can be found in such beading -- to beaders of all skill levels. The book wants to inspire and it does.


  1. Thank you for this review, Maneki! It is a wonderful book. I hope it will help you to heal and create after the loss of your kittens! I love the idea of book reviews. Milka

  2. I'm glad you like the review.

    Must say that one thing this book has really done (I read it the first time when blogging about my bead embroidery book wishlist) is to show that everyone has blocks, that it doesn't mean you are uncreative or an inferior artist/crafter. Of cause I knew that, but it's so easy to look at others and see how they just have ideas all the time and seem sooo creative while I just sit there feeling tired, passive and uncreative. It's easy to preach the "work through it" mantra to others and suggest ways to regain the creative flow and sense of fun, but not always easy to address yourself. Losing one of my creative outlets, it's become much more important for me to try and work through it with beads and thread instead of the camera as I use to. It's either creating or not creating, not create or do something else that's easy and creative to get some instant satisfaction in the meantime. (Also I haven't participated in any challenges or contests in ages, which used to be another way to work through it, push myself to start a new project.)

    Rereading this book was useful, but to be honest I'm not sure I've wholly adopted the "just do it" attitude she tried to give the reader right now. Need some excerise and iron to fuel the body before I can fuel the creativity, probably.

    1. I'd suggest you to test "Just do it" on something else than those things you mention. Like baking some yummy "new" cakes for tea with your sister, when it is raining. Cooking your family a surprise dinner and decorating the table in a nice way. Knitting a simple but gorgeous scarf to your sis, enjoying the yarns. Making a piece of jewellery and donating it for charity. (There are lots of homeless cats out there...and the organisations taking care of them always need money. Well, you are short of money, but you could always use what you do have, your talent and your materials...those people often love to receive things to sell.) Last but nor least, try those free of charge or cheap courses in Mindfulness on the Internet. And "you" is not just Maneki. It's myself, and all those beaders lacking energy, ideas, feeling blue. I gave Mindfulness a chanche, and it made my life better in a situation when I was miserable due to health issues. Hugs, A.N.

    2. Thanks for your thoughts and ideas! I did some embroidery this weekend. It was a simple stitch for last week's TAST challenge (sheaf stitch), one I already knew how to do and one that's so easy to vary, to create various patterns and shapes with. That was pretty helpful as you don't have to think to make the stitch and once you make a variation, you can't help seeing possibilities for another pattern or shape in it so you just have to test that too, which plants a seed for another variation. And so on.

      Have heard of mindfulness, but never really looked into it. Maybe I should. Thanks for the suggestion!


A few words can mean so much. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

PS! Feel free to email me if you don't want to comment publicly -- look under Contact (under the header)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...