Meet the Designer-Artist
Mixing various seed bead techniques with free-hand design and ''found'' fossils, jewelry artist Tatiana Van Iten created the fascinating cover piece for the 2005-2006 Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Best Sellers Catalog.
Tatiana's intricate neckpiece, Daughter of Genghis Khan, was inspired by a fossilized mammoth tusk she found while visiting Siberia. ''The people in Siberia make fences out of the mammoth tusks,'' she says, ''but I found this little piece and carved it myself,'' and turned it into the focal point for this creation.
Traveling the world with her paleontologist and Hanover College geology professor husband, Heyo Van Iten, Tatiana uses photography to capture the scenery and native people she encounters. She uses the images as the inspiration for her beadwork. ''I try to elicit the same feeling in my jewelry that one gets from looking at the photograph," she says.
The fossil specimens Tatiana finds through these fossil explorations help to create her signature style, along with original stitching designs she's developed from combining multiple techniques learned over the years. "You won't see anyone else in the world doing this, which has allowed my jewelry to become easily recognizable in the beading world," she says.
Russian-born and raised, Tatiana began learning the art of seed beading at a very young age from her grandmother. "She sat me down at a table before I was even old enough to go to school and taught me how to make bead embroidery," she says. "My grandmother repaired small religious objects for an underground church in the former Soviet Union, but her fingers were too large to feel such tiny beads. The old seed beads were so small and delicate that I would have to make a stitch, unthread the needle, thread the bead onto the thread, and then rethread the needle to complete the stitch."
Tatiana is a graduate of Leningrad State University with a Master of Arts degree in photojournalism and now resides in Hanover, Indiana. She utilizes her photography skills when she travels with her husband. "While he lectures, I photograph and collect fossils for my jewelry. The unique fossils pick up the right colors that evoke feeling and send a message to people."
Some of the fossil specimens Tatiana collects range from 150 to 400 million years old. Her ability to merge art and nature into distinct jewelry designs has made international headlines in the beading world. Over the past few years, Tatiana's designs have won more than a dozen gold medals and first place awards, including a gold and silver medal in Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Beading Contests in 2003 and 2004.
In the 2006 Treasures of TOHO International Competition, Tatiana won the grand prize in the Wearable Art category for her Forest Dragon's Tears necklace. She was awarded a week-long visit to Japan as a guest of the Japanese TOHO Beads Company. "That necklace comes with a very sad story," says Tatiana, whose inspiration to enter the competition came from her mother-in-law. "When I started beading the necklace, I received word that my mother had died in Russia. I was not allowed a visa to attend her funeral. I cried so many tears while I was working on the necklace that I had to use my tongue to lap them up so I wouldn't have to stop what I was doing. While so many designs are created from happiness, this one was filled with so much sadness." She believes the judges sensed her emotion in the piece, which led to winning the grand prize.
Today, her extensive collection of beadwork can be found in exhibits and galleries across the country. Some of her award-winning jewelry collections and photographs are also on permanent display in the science museum at Hanover College, as well as featured in the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Gallery of Designs.
As Tatiana continues to gain recognition for her artistry, more of her beadwork appears on the covers of leading beading magazines and in back-cover advertisements for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, and requests have increased for teaching at major bead festivals throughout the United States. And soon, Sterling Publishing will publish Tatiana's first book--128 pages of 20 projects with instructions.
"I always keep in mind the words of the famous Russian writer, V. Tokareva, about the three levels of creativity," she says. "At the first or lowest level, your work is very primitive, owing to insufficient imagination and poor execution. At the second level, your work is very complex because you can do a lot of things and you really want to show people what you can do. At the third, or highest level, your work again is simple. But now, because your idea is pure and elegant, your execution of it is excellent. Hopefully, I will soon be working at the third level."
View more of her amazing beadwork in the Gallery of Designs.