Tree of Life
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2011 featuring Seed Beads, Glass or Acrylic
Grand Prize Silver Medal Winner
Meet the Designer-Artist
Where do you live?
Describe your artistic style.
I search for the uncommon, unique and unusual, always looking for elegance with attention to detail. I feel most rewarded when my pieces give aesthetic pleasure, evoke surprise or even provoke. Combining traditional techniques with my own stitches, I strive for balance and proportion in my often, asymmetric pieces.
What inspires you as a designer-artist?
Everything. I frequently write fictional or non-fictional work and literally ''see'' characters, places and events as if they were happening before my eyes. Similarly, I've already ''seen'' my beadwork as a finished product when it is only a few colorful beads, stones or crystals that have attracted my attention. In fact, my writing and beading lead a parallel life. Often my beadwork is the material projection of a chapter I have been working on. Being a professional pianist and a music educator, I am naturally inspired by music and the emotion each composition evokes in me. Other times just a feeling or a beautiful view opens a myriad of beading possibilities. I have deep respect for other cultures, their customs, tradition, mythology, folklore and history and occasionally incorporate ethnic elements in my beading. Furthermore, looking at other beadwork artists' designs is always a pleasure and a stimulus. It is inspiring to see what others have created and how limitless human imagination can be. This challenges one to dig even further into one's own resourcefulness and to stay on the crest of the wave.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
I most enjoy working with Swarovski crystals, organic pearls, semi-precious stones, seed and fire-polished beads. Sometimes I incorporate materials like genuine fossils, shells, wood and metal.
What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
Tree of Life
What inspired this design?
I've always been fascinated by the philosophy and symbolism associated with the Tree of Life. Represented in the tradition of nearly every culture, it shapes and is being shaped by the diversity of discourses, often seen as a cosmic connection between heaven, terrestrial world and the world below; as a source of wisdom, abundance, creation, fertility and growth. On a personal level, to me the Tree of Life also symbolizes a connection between past, present and future, spiritual evolvement, rejuvenation and redemption. This feeling of eternity is perpetually manifested in the healing power and the energy of the Californian sun, the beautiful beaches and vistas of the state where I currently live. As a result, the essence of the multifaceted concept of the Tree of Life crystallized in my idea for the beadwork design of the same name. As with all of my jewelry projects, I had already envisioned how I wanted the future Tree of Life to look like. I drew a rough sketch of it and started by stitching the trunk, using a lot of gold shades. Even though I worked only with a FireLine® beading thread, it became coarse and sturdy as if I had used a beading wire, probably because I extensively stitched with silver-lined seed beads. In its initial stage, the piece looked like a very ugly and distorted tube. Nevertheless, knowing what I was going for, its early appearance did not worry me much. Still, it meant a lot to me when my husband told me that ''no matter how it looked at the moment, he knew it would become a beautiful piece of jewelry since it was I who had had imagined it.'' When finally the branches and the crown began to take shape, in every bezelled glass cabochon, I stitched a baby tree, ready to grow and blossom, thus symbolizing humanity's everlasting strive for excellence and progress.
Share Your Background
When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
As a child I loved playing with beads and paid close attention to shape and color. I was captivated by the delicate flower petals or elegant leaves of the clover for instance and would study them with genuine curiosity. One day at the kindergarten, I was enchanted by the intricate patterns of the new carpet and in my adoration I started jumping from one pattern to another. Later, I overheard the teacher assuring my mom that she was certain I wanted to become a ballerina! No matter how hard I tried to persuade the teacher it wasn't the case, she was convinced otherwise. For my next kindergarten art project I drew a picture of a necklace, using the patterns from the carpet. This was my rebellion and my first attempt at jewelry design. My next, more serious attempts began in 2009.
Do you have an artistic background?
My education has always been closely associated with arts or with subjects that somehow have worked hand in hand with my artistic expressions. I have a Master's degree in English Philology, majoring in American and British literature and culture, a BA in Music, majoring in piano performance, a BS in Economics, majoring in tourism, and a qualification in pedagogy (an art on its own). Most of my adult life I've traveled extensively over the world as a pianist and vocalist, being a solo performer of classical music, as well as a member of various classical orchestras and popular/jazz bands. I love to think of myself as a ''working tourist,'' fortunate to have seen wonderful, exotic and remote places--the pyramids of Giza, the Suez canal, the Holy Land of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the beautiful beaches of Greece, Cyprus, Tunisia, Turkey, Dubai and Montenegro, the exceptional landmarks of Rome, the monuments of Macedonia, the modern marvels of Germany, the mighty Alps in Switzerland, the historic and cultural heritage of my home country, Bulgaria and the greatness and diversity of my second home country, the United States. Each place, with its uniqueness, has inscribed its own mark in my perception of the world, vividly influencing my imagination and creativity. On a certain level my jewelry carries the flavor, the soul of those places. My traveling experience, the interaction with various peoples and cultures, as well as my growing up in an artistic atmosphere, has helped me to see the world through imaginative, adventurer's eyes.
How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
While I was experimenting with wire jewelry and looking for supplies and instructions online, I found a website in which a jewelry artist was talking fondly of seed beading. She warmly recommended Fire Mountain Gems and Beads as her first choice for beading supplies. At first I was skeptical about seed beads. I was convinced one could only make beautiful jewelry with precious or semi-precious stones and nothing else. Then out of curiosity I opened the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads website that she recommended and was astonished by the variety and affordability they provided for their customers. Certainly, I was hooked but still did not believe in seed beading. Soon after, I received my first Fire Mountain Gems and Beads catalogue and looked at the pages for hours. This experience changed my whole perspective on the subject forever. Ideas simply started to overwhelm me - how many designs one could create with the materials photographed!
Everything afterward is just an auspicious sequence of synchronicities. Through magazines, various books, videos and Internet sources I am constantly educating myself, considering myself primarily a self-taught artist. When I found out that Fire Mountain Gems and Beads gives the opportunity to enter their contests, I was extremely eager to apply. So, in 2011 I applied for the beading contest (Seed Beads, Glass or Acrylic) for the first time. Becoming the Grand Prize Silver medallist was one of the happiest moments in my life!
What other hobbies do you have?
Fortunately, the distinction between my work and my hobbies is blurry, so apart from beading, I indulge in piano performances and composing, writing, reading, needlework, painting and drawing, cooking, scenic photography, hiking, traveling and swimming.
What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
To me, jewelry-making is a vocation and passion. Challenging and rewarding, it is gymnastics for the mind and pleasure for the soul. It nourishes my expressive cravings. My day simply feels incomplete if I haven't done any beading at all. I hope that one day my newborn daughter will share the same interest in beading
Since my experience with Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Seed beads contest 2011, my projects have been showcased in the FMGB comprehensive catalog, as well as on the back covers of Belle Armoire magazine, and the Ukrainian magazine "Fashion Magazine." Most recently one of my project articles, Butterfly Garden, has appeared in Bead and Button magazine (April 2013).
If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I sell my jewelry at local boutiques, jewelry parties and on-line through my website: www.dessislavavaughan.com and through my Etsy store: www.etsy.com/shop/JewelryByDessie
Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Never cease experimenting. Follow your artistic impulse, even if it means working on 3 or 4 projects at a time. Stay truthful to yourself and have fun!
View all of Dessislava's designs in the Gallery of Designs.
What inspired you to donate your bead(s) to Circle of Hope?
This is a noble cause that helps save lives.