Nancy opened her talk at the Minnesota Textile Center by saying that she has always done needlework, and listed many different kinds. She said typically, she’d spend two years on a particular form, and then move on. Her first introduction to beads was actually at the Mall of America and the now-closed Bead It — though it wasn’t the beads that drew her in, but the free cheese at the cheese shop next door. (I always combined free cheese with beads too!) Bead It had a display of Finnish beadwork, and Nancy enjoyed the diversity of what you can do with those tiny glass pixels.
She started with needlewoven beadwork, and had on a necklace similar to the second one in this gallery on her webpage, in her aliens collection. Nancy noticed that beads and fabric weren’t being used together much, and that started her on her current path. She’s self-published four books, the most recent is Bead creative like crazy: Beading inspired by crazy quilts. This was just completed this past December, and Nancy described her publishing process, complete with sample pages and beadwork.
First Nancy estimates and stitches a sample of a particular stitch — say buttonhole stitch in a circle. Then she sends it to her professional illustrator. Amy, the illustrator, sets everything in place in black and white and sends it back to Nancy. Nancy makes corrections, then Amy creates a computer-generated color version. Nancy again makes corrections, sends it back, and the next version back is a color version in low-resolution. This is the last shot at corrections; the next version back is a signature. She had a one-sided signature for us to see as well. I have never seen one — it’s 8 pages together on one large sheet, 4 pages on each long side, side-by-side, with the bottoms of the pages on the long edges. Then there’s a press check for color.
Nancy chooses to self-publish mostly so she can keep her books available. If you were to work with a publisher, and that publisher decided that they weren’t going to continue to distribute and sell your book, you would have to buy the print run to be able to keep your book. The self-publishing option means you pay to have your book published, rather than the publisher paying, and perhaps giving you an advance against your royalties as you’re writing. And as the writer, you have to work the business end, marketing your book as well.
In Bead creative like crazy, Nancy has adapted the thread stitch, and developed a series of patterns to bead over to create the crazy quilt stitches she has refined for beadwork. You can photocopy the stitches onto vellum, stitch over it, and tear the paper off. There are modifications to some stitches due to bead choice — like using a bugle in a chain stitch. Sample pages can be seen on her website. This book is in full color with ample examples and illustrations. I really enjoy her use of color, so appreciated the full color.
Nancy also talked some about her preferred tools of the trade, Japanese beads and silamide and size 12 sharps. She works with doubled thread — and Fireline if working with crystals or metal beads. Nancy beads through the top layer and the batting, then will typically fuse on the backing to hide and protect the stitches. She has kits and supplies available on her website. For example, if you want the beautiful dragonfly wings to make a dragonfly, she has digitzed the wings on her Bernina, so has those available for sale.
You can find Nancy teaching across the country, listings are on her workshop page. Often, she’s teaching at art quilt-type events. Cyn Lavin, a friend of mine, took her kalidoscope class (from her previous book), and loved it! Nancy has a reputation as an excellent teacher.
I really enjoyed my lunch with Nancy, and getting to know her a little. I’m pleased I was able to go.