Robin Howard

Robin Howard

''Care for some tea?'' Steam Punk Top Hat
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2013 featuring Seed Beads
Gold Medal Prize Winner
Category: Fashion Accessories

Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
I was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. I have lived most of my life in the east; New Hampshire, Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick. I now reside in beautiful Calgary, Alberta.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
I use seed beads like paint and unlike gold or silver (fine arts as well) bead embroidery has no limit to its designs. Every color imaginable is represented and due to the fluid use of very tiny seed beads, anything can be done. My creative process is thus, something inspires me, a time period, a beautiful object, or the focal stone used in the piece. From there I gather my colors and make my initial decisions in terms of layout and design, as I build I make decisions along the way. Quite often, the piece will become something altogether different in the end. Each piece is unique and one of a kind. Frankly, I get bored if I must repeat. Also, I very rarely have all the same beads and stones gathered for a particular project.

What medium do you work with mostly?
My first love is bead embroidery using cabochons, seed beads, crystals and all things vintage. Other methods preferred are brick stitch, peyote and off loom.

Why did you become enchanted with this style of jewelry-making?

I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts; my mother, the daughter of Irish and French immigrants, my father, the son of Italian immigrants. The arts run on both sides of my family. Musicians on both sides, my father played jazz-oriented accordion with a wedding band over 30 years, my mother had a voice like Patsy Cline (I did not inherit this) and played guitar. My grandmother was one of 16, most of whom were acrobats in Vaudeville in New York circa 1920 and 1930s (this I had inherited). My son danced 14 years competitively and was a member of a number of fine dance companies. He danced lyrical, jazz and hip hop. I have a natural ability for drawing and an eye for color, a gift my two children have both inherited.

I had won a scholarship for free art classes at the Worcester Museum of Art, which I took and a scholarship for the Rhode Island School of Design for when I graduated high school which never happened due to overwhelming problems I had as a teenager. I later attended University in my adult years and received 64 college credits at a 3.76 GPA towards a degree in business with a minor in writing. I organized nonprofit events over 15 years. These included an annual four day camping event attracting 4,000 to 5,000 campers, comedy shows, dances, conventions, seminars and state assemblies. I have a gift for organizing, a gift that serves me well when designing beadwork.

I began beading during a difficult transition in my life in 1991. Beading unexpectedly helped me stay centered and strong throughout this time. The meditative qualities and the necessary concentration essential for intricate beading gave me needed respite and focus. I in turn fell in love with the medium. It appeals to every facet of my nature. Color, artistry, imagination, details, organizing and in its own way dancing (abstractly making the beads dance). My mentors came in the form of books. I learned from Beads to Buckskin by Peggy Sue Henry, Sadie Starr presents Beading with Seed Beads, Gemstones and Cabochons, Beading with Cabochons by Jamie Cloud Eakin, magazines Bead and Button® and Beadwork. I have been inspired by these artists, Peggy Sue Henry, Sadie Starr, Jamie Cloud Eakin, Frieda Bates, Sherri Serafini, Heidi Kummli, to name a small few. I have always worked one on one on a commission basis. I have worked very few shows, entered no contests and have never made my presence known online or within the beading world. I recently entered my very first contest, a goal I have wanted to do for a decade. In the early ‘90s I did enter an off-loom necklace into the Deerfield Fair and received two first class ribbons, two because they did not have a class to put my work into and so they made up for that by giving me two ribbons. I opened my Etsy shop October 2012, began doing a few local shows and am now creating this My future endeavors include teaching workshops, presenting at local galleries and entering future contests.

Where and How do you sell your jewelry?
I have an Etsy Shop: Robin Blue Beadworks, I am on Pinterest, use Facebook and just opened my own website with a link to Etsy for works for sale. As mentioned above, I have sold mostly one on one commission sales through the years. At present most of my sales are local, I am building an online presence. I am a proud member of the Etsy Bead Embroider Guild "EBEG."

What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
''Care for some tea?'' Steam Punk Top Hat

What inspired this design?
I initially created this piece for the Etsy Bead Embroidery Guild's Steam Punk Challenge. Up until then I knew nothing about Steam Punk. As I researched I got very excited, it appealed to everything I love, antiques, science fiction and so lush!

How did it come together?
What a treasure hunt I went on for this design. I spent hours, weeks researching the Steam Punk, the Victorian Era and Science Fiction. The Top Hat itself is handmade by the Gypsy Ladies, everything else including the bow on the back is handmade by me. Steam Punk features the style of the Victorian Era mixed with the sciences of that era, pocket watches are signature. The pocket watches included in my piece are authentic 1800s watches. The science theme is Anthropology, and so found within the beadwork are fossils, amber, shark's teeth and minerals. The colors are inspired by the movie "My Fair Lady," specifically Henry Higgins' office and Eliza Doolittle's outfits. After initial decisions in design and components, I then design as I bead.