Sabine Lippert is becoming well-known globally for her beadweaving and bead embroidery, partly because of her active Internet networking and mostly because her work is excellent and beautiful. She was recently named an Ambassador of Swarovski, and she has authored one book in German (Das Perlenkochbuch). Back in Bonn now after attending the 2010 Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in June, Sabine and I talked about how she got started beading, who some of her favorite beaders are, and what she thinks the differences are between the beading coming out of various parts of the world.
Sabine, tell me a little bit about your life story—the thumbnail version.
My father was an engineer, and I still remember his words: “You can disassemble anything, as long as you remember the steps to reassemble it later on.” He taught me about being curious. My mother, a very talented painter, gave me my creative side.
Besides the rational world of science, I was always fond of creative hobbies like knitting, tatting, crocheting, and cross-stitching. I was less successful with painting and patchwork—the sewing machine is definitely not my best friend. I tried lots of things, always searching for the one that would really tempt me.
I spent nearly all my life around Bonn, the former capital city of Germany. I studied medicine at the University of Bonn and became a urologist, which is still my profession. For 10 years I’ve worked in a doctor’s office in south Bonn.
How did you get started beading? And how did you get really, really good?
One day a bead shop opened here in Bonn. I had some experiences working with low-quality beads, which was no fun for me, but this shop had a range of high-quality beads—and so my story with beading started.
I saw a crochet rope in the shop, and the owner suggested I take a class to learn how to make it. Stubborn as I am, I wanted to try it on my own. It took some days and some nerves, but I managed it.
Three years ago I had my first experiences in off-loom techniques like herringbone and peyote. I became a member of Perlenhaekeln.de, the largest online beading community in Germany. I started developing my own creations and writing instructions, and then I started teaching workshops in the local bead store.
Due to my Try to Be Better blog I started being in contact with a lot of beaders from all over the world. About nine months ago I began selling my beading instructions on my Etsy shop, and this year, I started my own website, www.trytobead.com, which is in both German and English. I published my first book in German, have had several patterns showcased in the magazine Perlen Poesie, and some weeks ago I became an Ambassador of Swarovski, which I am really proud of! Somehow it all keeps growing.
Describe your beadwork and artistic sensibility.
According to some of my fellow beaders, I am really a maniac about beadwork! Some people suspect that I don’t even sleep, but I swear to you, I do! I bead in the early morning before I go to work and get back to it as soon as I come home. I can spend hours and hours beading at my desk when I’m into a project. For me, it is a kind of meditation, and the stress of the day simply drops away.
Usually I have no major plan for my beadwork. Sometimes I have an idea, but often it changes completely during the project. A pendant becomes a bracelet, a bracelet becomes a sphere, and a sphere becomes a necklace. Beadwork is what happens while you make other plans!
One of my latest patterns is called “Let It Grow.” This name really characterizes my beading. I love to let it grow to wherever and whatever the beads suggest next.
Do you have favorite techniques?
There are some techniques I like more than others, but I try them all. For a strong necklace, I prefer a crochet rope. For bezeling stones, I prefer peyote or right angle weave. For a blossom, there is nothing better then herringbone. If I want to “freestyle” some beading, I do embroidery. I try to use the best of every technique for whatever I want to create and whatever my mood is on that day.
What are your favorite things to teach?
As in my work as a doctor, I always try to explain complicated problems in a way that a nonprofessional can understand.
What’s always challenging for me is to create spheres from smaller units, so they are sturdy, easy, and fast to make and so beginners can be successful with them. The projects should look complicated but actually be easy to do.
I also like to bezel stones and crystals in ways in which the maximum area of the stone is still visible.
As you can see, there is no typical “Trytobead” technique for me—I want to play the whole orchestra!
You just came back from the United States, visiting Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the 2010 Bead & Button Show. What impressions did you carry away from the event?
It was my first time at the Bead & Button Show, and it was simply overwhelming. Through the Internet, I’ve been able to have contact with several beaders, but it is something else to meet them in person.
What impressed me most was the warm atmosphere. Somehow you felt like you’re at a family meeting. I really plan to come back next year!
Thanks largely to the Internet, as you mentioned, I think the beading community is global now, with shared trends and influences. Do you agree? Are there distinguishing characteristics of the beadwork—and beaders—in different parts of the world?
Although the beading world seems to be international, it’s interesting to note the differences.
Everything I say now is only my very subjective view, but I think in the States there is a long history of bead embroidery. I remember some time ago reading discussions on German Web spaces saying that this kind of beadwork was way too opulent.
Today we Germans seem to have switched to more opulent pieces, while American beaders have discovered more of the traditional European (e.g., sampler pieces from beaded beads) and Japanese (e.g., right angle weave with crystals) styles. As I say, never say never!
When I met women at Bead & Button who wore fabulous pieces, I noticed that they usually made the pieces using one technique (for example, embroidery but not peyote). It seems as if many beaders tend to specialize and discover each and every possibility of one technique these days.
I think the pioneers of modern beadwork had to start with a small palette of shapes and colors. My generation of beaders is in the lucky situation of having bead plenty, which makes it much easier. Even just three or four years ago it was nearly impossible to get high-quality beads here in Germany, and this has changed completely. The more options, the more creativity!
To make a long story short, though: Beadwork in America is opulence, in France and Hungary it is twinkling elegance, in Japan it is playfulness, and in Russia the beadwork is pompous.
Who are some of your favorite beaders, and what makes their work special to you?
There are plenty of such people, so many that I cannot mention them all, of course. I am a huge fan of Sherry Serafini. Her combinations and arrangements of beads, stones, and materials are simply breathtaking. Marcia DeCoster and Rachel Nelson-Smith have shown me how variable right angle weave can be. I had the opportunity to meet all three of them at the Bead & Button Show. Laura McCabe attracted me to spheres made from bezeled parts, and I really love her sometimes strange ideas.
My friend Martina Nagele is the most analytic beader I know. She constructs her projects completely in her mind, before she touches the first bead! That’s absolutely the opposite from me, but nearly everything I’ve learned about basic techniques and materials, I’ve learned from her.
Carol Dean Sharpe makes the most beautiful and stylish peyote patterns, and she also is a great example of a beader who offers mutual support and encouragement on the Internet. One day we figured out that in the late 1970s we lived only 5 miles away from each other. Just for fun I sent her some German marzipan that she was daydreaming about on her blog. In return she sent me some cabochons from Lisa Peters and MAKUstudio’s Marianne Kasparian. She also made me sign up on Facebook, where I have come to know so many talented beaders and artists from all over the world. I met her in person at Bead and Button, and we promised each other that we’d both come back next year. As Lisa Peters says: “Carol is the glue that keeps us all together!”
In what direction is your beadwork going?
My beadwork is not going in any special direction right now. But, as I said, I’m bezeling a lot of different shapes and structures, like this one and this one. I recently built some spheres (see here and here) inspired by a scientific webpage. And this bracelet is a typical result of me playing with beads on a Sunday afternoon.
- The best advice is to get in contact with other beaders through the Internet. Also, sometimes you have to drive a long way to meet them in person, but the inspiration is priceless!
- See if you can take classes in your area. The beading community (especially here in Germany) is getting larger and larger.
- Be stubborn, and don’t give up. But some projects have to wait until you’re more experienced. Don’t demand too much of yourself.
- There are more expensive and less expensive beads. Don’t save in the wrong places. It’s better to make one piece of good quality than 10 pieces of poor quality.
- Buy a fishing pole for your significant other, so he is busy, too, and doesn’t distract you from your beads!
*We invite you to read other recent Lark Jewelry & Beading interviews with leading beaders, jewelers, and metalsmiths — please leave comments and let us know what you think about the artists and their work:
Laura McCabe (with project PDF)
Jamie Cloud Eakin (with project PDF)
Nathalie Mornu (with two project PDFs)