Virginia Brubaker

Temple of Poseidon at Sounion

Virginia Brubaker

Faerie Goblet
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Contest 2010 featuring Seed Beads

Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
Champaign, Illinois

Describe your artistic style.
My main work is beaded pictures and a few sculptural objects. I am fascinated by the nuances of color and light in a landscape or a face.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Seed beads are my main interest.

What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
Temple of Poseidon at Sounion

What inspired this design?
I based this on a favorite snapshot from a Greek vacation.

How did it come together? For example, did you plan it out or did it define itself once you began working?
For this picture, I used Joanne Strehle Bast's method of making a torn-paper collage based on the photo. This helped to simplify the elements. I started with the most dominant lines of the pillars and worked my way out from there. I used several bowls of "bead soup" in different color ranges and selected each bead for its size, shape, and color as I went.

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I received some finely crafted fringed seed bead earrings as a gift in the late 1980's and, clever as I am, I could not figure out how they were made. I experimented, but my attempts were not pretty. Then I found a book with a variety of bead projects, and my earrings had a name (brick stitch) and instructions. As I began making some of those earrings, it became pretty clear that uneven beads made wiggly fringe (and not in a good way). But I loved working with seed beads and tried more things.

Who introduced you to beading?
My love for beading pictures was spurred on by a class I took from Joanne Strehle Bast on making pictures with freeform brick stitch. I was thrilled to get off the strict grid of weaving and peyote so that I could get great lines in my work where I wanted them. Eventually I figured out that I could do similar things with bead embroidery, and now do most of my pictorial work that way.

Do you have an artistic background?
I come from a family of artists. My grandmother, Mary Brubaker painted in watercolor and oil. My bother, Jack Brubaker, is a printmaker and artist-blacksmith. My sister, M'lou Brubaker is a jeweler.

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®?
I think I first saw an ad for Fire Mountain in one of the beading magazines, and I have been a customer ever since.

Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
I belonged to the Bead Society of Greater Chicago for about 10 years, and they were incredibly supportive in helping me both find my way in beads, and also in getting my work out in the world.

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
My beading is a part-time passion, and a great way to spend my evenings. It is calming to focus intently on getting each carefully selected bead in place. And it's great fun to see a drawing or photo turn into a beaded surface.

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I have sold my work through art fairs, open houses, websites, and galleries. I have entered contests (Bead Dreams, Bead International, Fire Mountain). I have participated in Bead Challenges through the bead society and online. I have submitted my work and had it published in Bead and Button, Beadwork, 500 Beaded Objects, and show catalogs.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I participated in a bead quilt project to raise money for breast cancer causes. I have donated items to church fundraisers. One fall I taught an afterschool program for local girls; we made tons of jewelry together.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Get your work out into the world. Don't be afraid to submit your work to contests or juried shows.