(Very) Occasional Wednesday Salon

I’m not a big fan of beading as embellishment.  All too often it looks like the maker upended her bead collection on the quilt and started sewing the beads down where they landed.  I get irked at the bead count reported at quilt shows (“I used 14,573 Swarovski crystals and 9,425 seed beads on this quilt.”) Folks, it’s placement, not quantity, that enhances a quilt.


All the above is by way of explaining why I’m surprised the work of Thom Atkins really appeals to me. After examining his work online, I decided it’s because he uses beads (and their relatives) the way a jeweler uses precious stones. Atkins was a sculptor and also made jewelry, but switched to quilts and beads after an accident made sculpture impossible for him.

And maybe the reason I like his work is that he:

wanted to see beads as an integral part of the design, not just sitting on the surface. Beads and fabric complementing one another, neither one predominating, balanced. These quilts are the results of my explorations to find that balance. Recently I’ve been looking at the textures created when I sew the beads thru the quilt to the back and adding that element into the over all design of the quilts.

And balance and complementarity are what draw me to his work. Here’s a closeup of rocks covered with lichens in his “Serenity.”

Serenity_close-up_Thom_AtkinsThis closeup of “Tenuous Membrane” shows the slabs of turquoise which were the original inspiration.


Dec_Unconditional-love-495px_Thom_AtkinsAtkins used tumbling blocks as boxes from which to spill gems in his December small calendar piece.

If you’re interested in learning Atkins’ techniques you can browse his book, “Beading Artistry for Quilts.”

And go to his website if you just want to learn more about the sources of his inspiration and the materials he used for each piece featured there.  I’m grateful he included that information as it rounds out his work for me.


Filed under Art quilts

6 responses to “(Very) Occasional Wednesday Salon

  1. Judy

    Oh wow!! Thanks for this goodie! His pieces look more like jewelry. I can definitely see the influence. I have shied away from integrating embellishments with traditional patterns, but he has set me free. Those tumbling blocks…

  2. jennyklyon

    I agree-I’m a fan of Thom’s work, all his beads are there for a reason. I too am turned off by the I-puked-beads-on-my-quilt work that judges reward. I have started using beads myself, very modestly. Maybe we’ll see beads in your work too?

    • Well…I used beads once, sparingly, but found the process of sewing them on to be daunting and slow. One downside of getting older is some arthritis in my hands that makes fine detail work frustrating.

  3. “Serenity” rocks! 🙂 Really beautiful way to use beading as another medium, rather than, as you say, dumped onto the surface. Thanks for sharing his work.

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