I just had an enjoyable lunch listening to Diane Fitzgerald speak at the Textile Center. Diane is the author of eleven books, and from a family of women all adept with a needle. She spoke of how she would admire other beautiful things in different techniques, think of perhaps trying them, and just as quickly acknowledging that “what I really like is to pick up beads one at a time with needle and thread.”
Several things influenced this beadwork path. Diane joined a friend taking a class in Chicago with Helen Baines, and it changed her life — she was hooked. Diane has a background in journalism, and suggested to Helen that they write a book together, Helen teaching what she knows with Diane’s words. Beads and Thread was her first book.
One of her first teachers was Horace Goodhue, whose book she picked up and then realized that he lived in the same metro area. She took classes with him and learned technique — and also appreciated how he gave credit to the beaders who used the stitches, and also traded stitches. Diane emulates that spirit, most evident in her Zulu books.
Diane gives credit to classes in one- and two-dimensional design and color theory from the University of Minnesota. She enjoyed painting swatches and combining them.
Another influence is the beads themselves, the variety available from all over the world.
After Beads and Thread, Diane self-published four books, published four of the “How-to” series with Interweave, and her latest book, Shaped Beadwork, with Lark. She has been honored for her books, both by high sales rankings on Amazon and awards from the beadwork publishing field. Diane has been acknowledged as one of the top beading teachers — she has taught her ginkgo leaves necklace every year at Bead and Button since 1996, amazing longevity for a single project. She attests that to the combination of a pleasing shape and color blending learned in the course of the project.
For her newest book, Shaped Beadwork, she begins with four basic shapes: triangle, square, pentagon and hexagon. Most of the triangles have two sides for shape and substance. These basic shapes are manipulated or combined to form isosceles triangles, ovals, rectangles, diamonds and teardrops to add more possibilities. Shapes then progress to being open, so can be used for toggles, earrings, pendants, and more. Shapes are also used to make bezels, with the edges of the shapes wrapped around the top of the cabochon or other item. Combining flat shapes can make a myriad of dimensional shapes. Adding patterns to all these shapes opens up unlimited design potentials.
Diane spoke about some of the inspirations for her shapes. A postcard of simple-to-complex dimensional geometric shapes started her exploration of beaded shapes. A box of Zulu beadwork that she studied for her Zulu stitch books. The veil weight used by the Tuareg translates into a pendant. The Sydney Opera House becomes a combination of her open pointed ovals. The trefoil was a particularly satisfying project, as it starts with a knotted and pretzeled loop of beads, and after a few thread passes appears as the beginning of the interwoven trefoil knot.
Beading has led Diane to travel in the Czech Republic, Germany, England, Japan, and South Africa. She shared some of her travel stories, from the picture of a young Zulu girl covered in beadwork, to how she came to be trying on luxurious kimonos in Japan. Traveling has taught her about economics, and made her more aware of cultural subtleties.
Where will you find Diane? Check the classes page of her website. Or, three hours every morning, and three hours every evening, on her bead-filled couch, beading. “There are a whole lot of things I have not yet begun to explore with shapes.”