Classic Interview: Carol Wilcox Wells

October 18, 2010, 16:18 pm  Posted by Lark Jewelry & Beading

[It's Monday: My computer's fritzed, so I can't access my own desktop, and I've shuffled over to commandeer the art intern's station. I'm waiting for several emailed interviews to come back for posting. I can't do a giveaway, because right now the amazing Nathalie Mornu is giving away copies of her book Leather Jewelry on an earlier post. What's a blogger to do?

Steal classic content, of course! Well, steal it from myself right off the old Lark Books site.

So, here's a interview, complete with my geekily written introduction just slightly updated, of the fabulous and not-at-all geeky Carol Wilcox Wells. It's a particularly timely theft of content from just a couple of years back: Carol is now scheduled to be the beading master class teacher at Bead & Button in June 2011.

Now I guess I better make sure the links still work ... and I hope you enjoy!]

Working with renowned beadweaving artist and teacher Carol Wilcox Wells to put together Masters: Beadweaving was one of the most rewarding experiences of my years at Lark. And the work paid off handsomely: The book is simply gorgeous.

The Masters series is one of the favorite projects of the editors here at Lark, marrying fantastic images with commentary and quotes from the featured artists. I’ve been privileged to develop three books in the series thus far: Masters: Art Quilts, Masters: Beadweaving, and Masters: Gold. I’m also lucky to be working on upcoming titles by artists featured in Masters: Beadweaving, including Diane Fitzgerald’s Shaped Beadwork and Marcia DeCoster’s Right Angle Weave [and now also Laura McCabe's Embellished Beadweaving and 2011 titles in the Beadweaving Master Class series coming from Sherry Serafini, Maggie Meister, and Rachel Nelson-Smith -- all of them artists featured in the book Carol curated]. [The following slideshow, somehow still working -- barely -- has images from the book:]

Carol Wilcox Wells is a delight, and she really knows her stuff. She’s the author of Creative Bead Weaving and The Art & Elegance of Beadweaving, both classics from Lark. Carol teaches beginning and advanced beadweaving techniques, and she has created numerous beadwork kits. Her work has been exhibited internationally and featured in Ornament, Lapidary Journal, Bead & Button, and Beadwork magazines. You can learn more about Carol’s work at SchoolofBeadwork.com.

Ray: How and when did you start beadweaving, Carol?

Carol: I can remember playing with beads at my grandmother’s house as a child, but they really began to become a part of my life, in the fullest sense, in 1985. In 1991 I took a class at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, North Carolina, and I haven’t stopped beading since.

Ray: In your experience, do beadweavers have some “typical” personality characteristics?

Carol: They are hermits. They love playing with small, shiny things. They are meditative and steadfast.

Ray: Just three dozen beadweavers are included in Masters: Beadweaving — a fantastically diverse group of artists, to be sure, but one that still just scratches the surface of all the great beadweavers out there. What is it about a beadweaver’s body of work that makes it “masterful” to you?

Carol: All of these artists are true craftspeople. They’re able to take their vision and bring it to the surface to take form. They’re not afraid to try something new to achieve their goals, and they’ll experiment again and again to find the perfect balance in what they’re looking for. They brook no compromise.

Ray: How has beadweaving developed as an artistic medium and the beadweaving community changed since you wrote Creative Bead Weaving in 1996?

Carol: Artists are now willing to push the envelope of the medium and use the beads and techniques in new ways. They are not bound by the status quo.

As far as change in the community, there are now many, many good teachers in the field and an abundance of written information available to students. Whenever a beader has a “eureka moment” and passes it along to others, he or she is adding to the beadweaving collective and growing the awareness about beads.

Ray: Masters: Beadweaving is filled with the work of beadwork luminaries, including Diane Fitzgerald, Marcia DeCoster, Valerie Hector, Joyce Scott, Virginia Blakelock, David Chatt, Sherry Serafini, and Laura McCabe. Of the artists in the book, whose body of work most surprised you when you sat down with all the images?

Carol: Now you’re trying to get me into trouble! All of the artists in the book move and humble me with their creativity. But if I have to choose one artist whose body of work really surprised me, I put Ann Tevepaugh Mitchell at the top of my list.

Ann captures the emotional moments of life, whether they are joyous, desperate, or introspective. Wading In is a personal favorite of mine: I can just imagine the whole outing at the beach, smelling the surf, feeling the waves rush up and the surprise and laughter as balance is thrown off. Ann is able to touch viewers in many ways, and this capability really sets her apart.

Ray: What new directions do you see coming from young beadweavers working today? And what excites you most about the future of the medium?

Carol: There you go again – how does “the hermit” answer that question? And I’m not so old! It’s hard to see into the future, but I’ll give it a try.

While working on this book I really noticed how, collectively, the community is using beads in so many different ways. The medium bends to the will of the artists. You can paint with beads like Laura Willits does, use them as metaphors like Sonya Clark does, or recreate nature in detail like Karen Paust does. Joyce Scott creates large installations, and Jeanette Ahlgren makes exquisite loomed structures. The sculptural works seem to have no limit, and I haven’t even touched on wearables. As each artist brings to life her or his creative visions and then shares the pieces with the world, another person is touched and the reach of the beads grows.

Excited? Oh, yes, I’m excited!

[The photo of me taken by my Mac a couple of years ago ... more hair; nice drawings on my old office's wall by my son, Nicholas. My thanks to Carol for the great interview -- now twice!]

Now, read these great recent Lark Jewelry & Beading interviews with leading jewelers, beaders, and metalsmiths—please click the Facebook “Like” button and leave comments!

Sabine Lippert

Laura McCabe (with free project PDF)

Jamie Cloud Eakin (with bonus project PDF)

Cindy Thomas Pankopf

Joanna Gollberg

Mary Hettmansperger

Lisa Slovis Mandel

Nathalie Mornu (with two free project PDFs)

Plus read our recent Blogger Profiles with Carol Dean Sharpe, Lorelei Eurto, and Andrew Thornton.


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