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Karen McCormick




Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2011 featuring Seed Beads, Glass or Acrylic
Category: Home Décor and Doll
Bronze Medal Prize Winner
Meet the Designer-Artist


Where do you live?
Birmingham, Michigan

Describe your artistic style.
Whimsical and nature inspired.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
The world around me is an inspiration! It might be color, a person, nature, an object or a funny situation. One just needs to remain open to making the connection between life and art. I believe it is this connection that makes my work appealing to others. Often there is a story behind the piece that others can see and relate to.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Just about anything can become an artistic material. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to use a particular object or simply allowing it to inspire a creation. Seed beads, gemstones, found objects, sheet metal, and fibers are among my favorite items.

What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
Ginkgo Fish

What inspired this design?
Ginkgo Fish was a labor of love. One day my husband was watching me bead ginkgo leaves when he proclaimed that they looked like fish scales to him. Being the prolific fisherman that he is, I decided that I could indeed take on the mega-project to turn ginkgo leaves into fish scales so that he too could receive and enjoy one of my beaded creations.

How did it come together?
The fish started with an overall vision and ideas on how it might be accomplished. Once I got started I found it easier to work on and solve challenges one section at a time. I began with basic drawings to determine the stitch types to use for each part of the fish. Next came prototype fish scales that helped determine the size the fish would have to be. Then I fabricated the stuffed fabric form to support the shape. Each scale, fin, head section, gills and tail section were beaded separately and sewn together at the end. Finding the perfect piece of driftwood right on top of the brush pile at the cottage was amazing. The Lake Superior agates were added to solve the 'tipping over' problem.

Share Your Background


When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
My bead journey began when I was in high school, when seed bead and Native American loomed chokers were all the rage. Learning to make them with my friends was great fun! We had chokers to go with every outfit.

Who introduced you to beading?
Native American jewelry inspired me to seek information in the library. I was able to find the basic knowledge I needed to get started.

Do you have an artistic background?
My artistic background is completely informal and based on my love of visual stimulation and the process of creating art and craft of any kind. As a child, my Mother provided a variety of creative options for me to explore...painting, knitting, crochet, and crafts of all kinds. I've continued to learn and grow in these areas by trying out new ideas and techniques.

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
I discovered Fire Mountain through the terrific, inspiring advertisements. I've been hooked since the arrival of that first catalog.

What other hobbies do you have?
Traveling, skiing and enjoying the beautiful lakes of Michigan.

Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
I belong to the AWESOME Great Lakes Beadworkers Guild!

Beading Success


What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
Beadwork is the key to bringing peace and balance to my life. My days are filled with the left brain activities of Information Technology. My right brain is satisfied in my spare time by the creative process--visions and ideas meld with the technical aspect of beadwork to take shape and evolve to become a completed project. (When I'm stressed (i.e. crabby) my husband and daughter encourage me to spend time with my beads!)

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
My sales are limited to what I sell to those that admire what I am wearing and by word of mouth.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I regularly donate jewelry items for auction to support fundraisers benefiting local hospital and church programs. Top of the list each year is support for the St. John Open Arms program that provides support and resources for grieving children and teens. I have also participated in Jeanette Shanigan's 'Bead it Forward' bead quilts to raise money to fight breast cancer.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Advancing your creativity is a process. Start by learning as many techniques as possible and become proficient in them by following the patterns of others. Once that knowledge and understanding is built you will be well equipped to determine the technique and process to use to create your own designs. You might begin exploring your creativity by adding your own variations to existing patterns and work your way up to a complete design of your own. Oh, and remember...we all un-bead (take apart work) and start over. That is part of the learning process :) Best wishes to you!

View all of Karen's designs in the Gallery of Designs.

Products sold by Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® are intended for experienced jewelry-makers and designer-artists;
children 14 years of age or younger should use these products with adult direction.

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, Inc. - One Fire Mountain Way, Grants Pass, OR USA 97526-2373
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