The Wooden Landscape
||Meet the Designer-Artist
Always a craft aficionado, Robin, a beaded tapestry artist sits in a booth inside a local cafe where people are in constant awe of her work. From the tiniest of beads from Japan to the most intricate details that go into her work, people of all ages are amazed at this lady's patience as well as talent. With her large bead loom, Robin sits in the middle of the cafe working on what she told me was one of 3 Tiffany style beaded tapestries. This, she states, "was inspired by the beauty of the stained glass window called The Wooden Landscape.
Robin has been a beaded tapestry artist since 2011 when she started her first work entitled Mother's Peacock, a dedication to her mother whom she lost earlier that same year. She never imagined that it would reach out to people all over the world, let alone the internet and YouTube. This dedication piece, as she likes to put it, was what started Robin out on her beaded journey. It was Robin's way of honoring her late mother with whom Robin had a very special relationship and whom was lost to her very suddenly in April 2011.
After returning from New York to Boynton Beach Florida with her father in 2011, after saying their final goodbyes, to such a special and loving person as Robin's mother Evelyn, Robin decided that she had to find a way to honor her mother's memory and life. After going into a local Barnes and Noble store in Boca, and rummaging the magazine racks for more cross stitch magazines; something she routinely did, it suddenly came to her when on the front cover of a magazine stood a Peacock. This is Robin's story of her journey into the art of beaded tapestry:
"There was a cross stitch magazine with the most beautiful colored peacock on its cover that just blew my mind." Robin explained to me, "I mean it just hit me that I saw my mom in the beauty of artist Joan Elliot's Peacock, maybe it was the amazing colors. Its sweetness, I can't explain it at all; I knew I had to figure out a way to make this something really special for my mom. I grabbed this magazine and on my way home, all I could think about was: wow this is it!"
After returning home with the magazine in hand she had to decide just what medium form this undertaking would be. Always into cross stitching and the love of beads this just seemed to be the best form for this undertaking, and her love of beadwork began. She had to do a lot of research into the way this should be made and even reached out to the artist of the original Peacock Joan Elliot to decide how she should proceed with her vision. Not only did her vision begin to take shape, it also forged a genuine friendship with the artist.
Later as she worked on her tapestry of what she named Mother's Peacock we met as she worked her gigantic loom bead by bead while wearing her magnifying goggles. This is very tedious work and each bead had to go onto the loom to be woven by hand. Only a labor of love could keep something of this magnitude going. It was apparent to all who viewed this artist in action, that Robin had the dedication and endurance to persevere.
When Robin and my paths crossed while she was working on her Mother's Peacock tapestry I asked her about the colors, which were very vibrant. Robin explained that she taught herself how to work a large loom as there aren't many bead artists who work such a large loom and even had to create a loom to fit her needs. Robin had to figure out how to use a counted cross stitch pattern and change it over to a beaded tapestry. "After being told over and over again that by using a counted cross stitch pattern my pattern would look distorted I just knew that I could make this work and was determined to prove all the nay sayers wrong."
Therefore her journey continued, as she explained to me "While working with Joan Elliot, I took all of her peacock pattern colors changed a few of them, converted the colors, researched how to warp a loom (meaning to thread a loom), and picked my bead colors (28 beautiful colors). My bead journey and my goal was to have this beautiful memorial dedication piece not only in memory of my mom but also as a tribute for her first birthday in heaven. It was now November 2011 and I wanted this to be done by her birthday the following year in December 2012. This was a huge undertaking for me, but one in which I determined that one way or another I was going to meet."
"So many people followed my work, waiting to see the finished piece. When it was finally complete, it took me over 26,550 beads including the crystals used in the peacock's crown, and approximately 10 months to complete.
"When it was taken to my framers in Boca, Gallery Framers, it was extremely emotional for me because I put so much love into this piece. Being it was my first tapestry I was very nervous, but when it was safely removed almost a year later, I couldn't believe it. This was a bitter sweet moment for me; such a sense of accomplishment and warmth. I knew this was it; something that was for mom.
"When I went back to pick up the framed piece I was so touched at that point I knew there was a reason for this without a doubt in my mind ... this story was not just about a beaded tapestry for me. This was the entire reason and its purpose it was my gift to my mom. It would become a special memorial piece of her every time I looked at it and it has been, and will always continue to be a comfort to me. While my mother is no longer with us, a bit of her lives on inside this piece. It is truly a memorial to my mother and other's lives I've touched through this piece too. As I worked on this and it has been showcased even on YouTube, people have said how it gives them comfort of their own lives and times with their own mothers. This too is very comforting to know, how through my own art, I've helped others through their own pain of losing someone near and dear to them.
"Beading has been such an amazing way of expression for me. Literally hundreds of people of all ages come up to me, while I'm working on my loom. People are always asking me so many questions, or are often commenting on my work. Some of the typical comments and questions I've encountered in my journey to date are things like: 'Wow you have unbelievable patience', 'Your work is amazing,' 'How long does it take you to complete a piece,' 'Do you sell your pieces,' etc. However the thing that means the most to me is when an innocent child comes over and shows an interest in my work. Any child who wants to learn this amazing art really touches my heart and I always take the time to teach them how to bead, it's the one way we as artists can give back.
"I never imagined that my Mother's Peacock, which came out of the love of a daughter for her mother, would bring so much notoriety. My story has been written up in major magazines such as Bead and Buttons, Bead magazine, Florida's Palm Beach Post, and for me beading brings me a sense of accomplishment. I'm known to always choose larger and harder pieces such as my latest completed tapestries this past December of 2014 that took me a year and over 58,000 tiny Delica® Japanese seed beads thus making the 3 separate beaded tapestry panels I was inspired by the beauty again of the famous Tiffany stained glass windows called The Wooden Landscape.
Robin's success has been nothing shy of her passion. As she told me, "It's not just about the beading, it's the people." The people she's touched around the country and around the world via the internet and YouTube. She's so humbled and yet so thrilled to see her work in major publications. This year she has been chosen by Fire Mountain Gems to do a Jewelry Artist Success Story. While she awaits her last panel (which is still on her loom in order that we could take her last panel picture for our article) as seen here, we could only use one photo so her other two panels I've seen are just as amazing and beautiful as this one she has on her loom. Robin has done this in order to show you how her tapestries are made. As she sits with her magnifying goggles on top of her head, along with her headphones which are playing Michael Buble she educates me as to how her pieces are created: "Beads are with a needle row by row thousands of beads sewn what is called across the Warp threads with the Weft thread that is the thread that holds the actual beads that are woven across." It's a very time consuming talent but one that is highly satisfying. For Robin, it's the best of all worlds, her talent, her music and her people.
"It's all about the Journey" she told me, and Robin plans on entering her pieces both Mother's Peacock, and her Tiffany windows into this year's well known up and coming Artist in the South Florida's Jury artist competition for a chance to have her work shown at the Boca Museum of Art which is truly her ultimate dream ...
She is only too happy when children or anyone asks her if she teaches her work. Robin is only too happy to give free Indian bead looms, as well as her own beads, in order to take a few minutes out of her time to teach a fast class, because for her, "it's just passing on the passion of beading on a loom."
Robin has already gotten her next project on her other loom. She's ready to begin. She wastes no time at all. This piece will be the largest to date, and she did tell me that one day, on her huge loom she will undergo the real challenge of doing one of her inspired Monét Water Lilly ... but that's for many rainy days down the road in her future.