Zoya Gutina has a lot on her bead tray: she hosts a popular website (www.mylovelybeads.com), a bilingual monthly illustrated newsletter with more than 7,700 international subscribers, and an annual juried online bead contest, the International Fashion Colorworks Beading Contest.
Zoya grew up in the USSR and has lived in the United States for more than 15 years—first in NYC and now in Alexandria, VA. She has a studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (www.torpedofactory.org), artist studios and galleries in the D.C. suburbs, and she is the only beaded jewelry artist who’s had a studio there in 38 years.
In January 2007, Zoya started www.mylovelybeads.com, and that June, she began sending out her English and Russian newsletter. The content of Zoya’s newsletters (you can find the archive here) ranges from features on certain gemstones and minerals, interviews with bead artists, upcoming events, coverage of bead fests and fairs, and much more.
In 2010, My Lovely Beads began hosting an annual juried online bead contest, Fashion Colorworks. This year, 125 bead artists from 28 countries competed, submitting 191 pieces. You can view the full gallery of entries here and see the winners here.
What inspired you to launch Fashion Colorworks?
I noticed that among the few bead competitions, there are no truly international contests accessible to artists around the world. I love working with color, and I saw that for many artists, choosing color combinations is quite a challenge. That’s why I decided to launch the Fashion Colorworks Beading Contest, which has a qualified jury, online coverage, and nice prizes. As an organizer, my favorite stage of the contest is the preliminary round when I get submissions. It’s so exciting to see how different artists bring their design ideas to life and solve problems associated with the specified color triads!
You and your husband moved to Alexandria in 2006. You said you chose it partly because it’s “a city rich in arts and history, and it has an amazing artist venue: TFAC” What are your favorite places to visit for inspiration?
I love Alexandria. It’s a very vibrant city with an abundance of flowers and colors. I don’t have to look far for inspiration; an abundance of ideas comes to me on the fly from the world around me and overwhelms me. I sometimes share my ideas, images, and color combinations with my artist friends, and they use them in their works too. I love all of nature and the whole world surrounding me—it helps me a lot in my work, an endless source of inspiration.
How does it feel to be the only bead jewelry artist in the TFAC in 38 years? How do TFAC visitors react to your work?
Beading is traditionally considered a type of craft, and I understand that in 2008 the authoritative jury granted me a great credit and I had the honor to be juried into the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association. Of course, this is a great responsibility and I need to confirm by my creativity and designs that the selection of the judges was correct. I take this with calm but with pride.
Every day I hear many pleasant words and compliments from visitors. Visitors often bring their family members into my studio just to show my jewelry. It’s a great honor for me. They leave fantastic reviews in my guestbook, ask many different questions, and just stand and watch me work. It is especially touching to see men or young boys stay in the studio for a long time, thoroughly looking at the details and expressing admiration of my work.
Very often I hear, “This jewelry should be worn only by the queens or Hollywood stars!” and I gratefully smile and tell them that I would be glad if this ever happens. I consider myself a very lucky person because wonderful people for whom I create my work surround me.
Describe your beadwork’s style and aesthetic.
My bead artwork is romantic in style, and my main theme is nature. I’m getting closer and closer to the aesthetics of art nouveau. I’m moving in that direction.
What are your favorite materials to use?
Some of my favorite materials are seed beads from 11/0 and smaller (especially the Czech charlotte beads), as well as all Swarovski elements, including pearls; I’d also list Czech fire-polished glass beads. I like experimenting and I try to use various materials in my work—from wood and metal to silk and brocade.
What is one of your favorite pieces that you’ve created?
A work of art for the artist is like a child to the mother, so I hope I do not hurt my other work if I say that I have at least two I distinguish from the others and that visitors show a special interest in. They are Art Nouveau Restored and Poppy Field. When I was granted membership to the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association, the first artist who shared a studio with me was the well-known Nancy Reinke, who passed away two years ago.
A short time before her death, Nancy made a priceless and beloved gift for me—a few samples of antique passementeries [ornamental trimming made of cord, braid, etc.] she found in her trunk. The sparkling passementeries were made using original antique Czech charlotte beads that were more than 100 years old, and the idea of my future beadwork came to me immediately: it should feature the fashion and art trends of that time—art nouveau. So, I dedicated the Art Nouveau Restored Necklace to the beloved memory of Nancy Reinke.