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Artist Focus: Suzanne Cooper
When I first started beading, it was because I saw amulet bag I really wanted. It was netted, and way out of my price range. So I made myself one and swore I would never bead again, it took so long!
That's not exactly how it worked out though. I found myself buying more and more books, buying the proper needles and better quality beads and thread which made it much easier.
There was this book called Uniquely Yours out that I wanted very much, but I had to justify it to myself. I didn't get it until I finished my first peyote stitched amulet bag.
I was entranced with that book, the incredibly detailed and beautiful patterns, the rich use of fringe and adornments.
It's Suzanne Cooper's second book. Her books are full of magical and detailed patterns, and a sense of whimsy, humor, and elegance.
She also does stained glass books, and her site features several tutorials for beadwork, a very funny section of links for night owls, and free patterns for both stained glass and beadwork.
I'm absolutely thrilled she agreed to be interviewed.
How/When did you start beading
I started beading in 1984. My husband and I were visiting Santa Fe and I saw some wonderful amulet purses for sale. I immediately thought about doing one..... just one.... with the design from the cover of one of my stained glass books. I visited a bead store and fell totally in love with beads! My story sounds like that of every beader I have ever met! Beads are simply the most addictive things in the world. They first thrill our eyes with their beauty. They challenge our minds learning various techniques. They awaken our tactile sense with their feel. They link us with people all over the world and through the ages. What more could one ask from a teensy little bead?
Has beading inspired any other types of crafts for you?
It's the other way around for me! Other arts and crafts have inspired my beading!
Did you do many crafts before beading? What kinds?
I took art classes for years in almost every medium from oil paints to precious metals jewelry. I was a happy stained glass artist/author until I met beads. After I became a beadaholic I sold my stained glass supplies and my brushes and paints are all dried up. I am learning to use silver clay now so my jewelry classes will come in handy!
What's your favorite stitch?
Peyote! I can do almost anything with Peyote stitch from jewelry to sculptural pieces.
What inspires you as a beader?
At this time I am very inspired by the southwest art and jewelry in Santa Fe. Moving here a year ago has really changed my beading. I still love to do flowers, art deco, etc but I keep going back to the southwest motifs.
Who inspires you?
I love Marcus Amerman's beadwork. I bought one of his wonderful "portrait" bracelets a few years ago and have spent a lot of time studying it. Marcus is a master!
If you were going to recommend one of your books, which one is your personal favorite?
That's like asking which of my two daughters is my favorite! If I have to choose one book as my favorite I guess it would be "Far Away Places" because of all the trips I've taken and trips I hope to take. Wait..... maybe it's "Second Looks" because I love split loom necklaces and did designs resembling them done in Peyote stitch. Or is it "Then & Again" because of my antique purse collection? I give up. I can't choose a favorite!
Copyright is a huge issue on the internet. How do you feel about people stitching up your designs for pin money?
I give permission in all my books for the beader to make and sell their work. I hope each and every one sells a lot of beadwork so they can buy more beads..... and books!
Do you bead while watching tv, or while listening to music? What shows or type of music?
When I have music playing it is most likely "Phantom Of The Opera" or my new favorite "Josh Groban." I often listen to TV while I'm beading. It could be anything from a murder mystery to a shopping channel! I often bead while my husband watches some sports event and say "Mmmmmm." every now and then so he doesn't know I'm really not paying attention.
What time of the day do you bead?
I love to bead at night. I'm a night owl and the wee hours of the morning is my most creative time.
What cultural influences do you think have the strongest influence on your designs?
It changes all the time. Two or three years ago it was the Ancient Egyptian culture. After my first trip to Ireland it was the Celtic culture. At this time it's definitely the Native American culture. I'm enjoying researching the Anasazi designs found on pottery and in cave paintings.
Do you have a strong aversion to any colors? Colors that are hard for you to design with?
I really, really, really don't like yellow or orange. I'm slowly learning to tolerate orange when combined with turquoise. I think yellow should be reserved for daisies or rubber duckies.
A strong preference?
Purple! I love any shade of purple. I also love black.
Do you wear your own beadwork?
Absolutely! The only time I don't wear beadwork is if I really don't want to talk with people. When I wear beadwork people stop me to ask about the piece and we get into a long conversation. I also wear other artists' beadwork. Basically I just love wearing beadwork!
What do you do when a design doesn't work out the way you expected?
Would you like to see my "UFO" drawer? It is packed full of experiments. I keep the pieces and many times I can go back and see where the design went wrong. Occasionally I run out of a color and I'll steal some beads from an experiment.
How do you deal with being "bead blocked"?
I don't remember ever being seriously bead blocked. There are times when life gets in the way of my beadwork but I'm always ready to pick up a needle and start beading. I keep several projects going at one time so I don't get tired of one item. OK, I'll admit it; I'm simply obsessed with beads.
Thank you Suzanne!
If your interested in seeing some of Marcus Amerman's work, check out this site.
Interweave Press has a poster for sale here that is designed and beaded by him, a past Beadwork magazine cover. Just incredible.
Suzanne Cooper's site carries her books, patterns and kits for sale, and you should be able to find her book at any good beadstore.
They are all beautiful and unique. Wonderful use of color and so detailed.
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