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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Interview with a Beadweaver: Mortira Natasha vanPelt

Last year in June I started a series of Interviews with Etsy Beadweavers. The first interview was with Cindy Caraway (June 9).


I would like to continue this tradition in my Blog.

I asked Mortira Natasha vanPelt /Sagescupboard
to answer a few questions about herself and her work and here is the Interview.

Thank you, Mortira!

Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up on the Canadian prairies, and moved to the West Coast 15 years ago. It took about 12 years to realize that I really like it here, and stopped wondering when I would ever get back ‘home’. Vancouver Island has a really great art culture, and I’m inspired by all of the amazing natural beauty around me.

I share my creative space with my husband and our wonderful son. It’s so strange to imagine my life before he was a part of it. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be than his mom.

When and why did you begin designing jewelry? How were you first inspired to begin designing jewelry?

When I was growing up, I was exposed to a lot of different arts and crafts. My mother taught me how to do bead embroidery, and when she had moved on to other projects, I was lucky enough to inherit her entire stash of Czech seed beads. Ever since then I’ve had an off-and-on obsession with beads.

I didn’t discover off-loom beadwork until 2005. I had purchased a multi-strand necklace kit on clearance, just to get the beads out of it, and soon found myself wanting to turn my entire collection into necklaces. A few days later, I picked up a beading calendar, and started buying beading magazines. I was creating like crazy, and I’ve never looked back.

What materials and methods do you use?

I’m pretty picky about my materials and techniques. Apart from the occasional silver-lined seed bead, I never use metals, so I’ve never even tried stringing. I’ve been gemstone free for a few years now, and I’m very opposed to using threatened species like red coral in my work. I’m actually thinking of going completely vegan - as soon as I’ve used up all of my shell beads, of course.

My favorite techniques are those that use mostly seed beads, and are easy to adapt. I love right angle weave, and I’m always looking for ways to make spiral rope look beautiful. I never go very long without using herringbone weave - with all of it’s variations, it works with just about any type of jewelry you can think of.

Where do your design inspirations come from? What fuels your creative energy?

Like many beaders, I take a lot of inspiration from nature. I particularly like working with floral or aquatic themes. They translate so easily just by using certain colors or shapes. The most valuable inspiration tool I have is my blog. I would have run out of ideas long ago if I wasn’t always looking for ways to share inspiration with other designers.

What is your best working environment/where is your studio? While you are working, is there any type of music that inspires your creativity?

My creative space is a special little corner of our living room. I often dream of living in a big house with my own studio, but I’m not sure that I’d like it. I prefer to work where I can still be in the middle of everything, and interacting with my family. It also helps me stay organized, because I always have to make time to pack up projects and put materials away in my craft cupboard.

When it’s quiet, I love listening to audio books while I’m working. It’s ten times more entertaining than watching a movie, and I never have to look up from my work to see what’s going on. I like being able to catch up on my reading without sacrificing time with my family or my hobby.

How did you learn your skills? Is it from books or are you a self taught artist?

Just about everything I’ve learned about beadwork came from a book or a magazine. I have a pretty good collection of Bead & Button and Beadwork that I still go back to once in awhile for stitch help. I’m slowly working my way through all of the beading books at the library. Each one has something different to offer, even the ones for beginners. Right now I’m reading “Getting Started with Seed Beads” by Dustin Wedekind. It’s an excellent resource.

Great worldwide artists/mentors

I always appreciate thoughts and advice from other beaders like Beverly Ash Gilbert and Margie Deeb. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that there are other people out there who take beads as seriously as you do. Just visiting their blogs is a great way to find inspiration - all that color is contagious!

How many hours a day/a week are spent with your jewelry? With one piece?

I always spend at least one hour doing beadwork every afternoon. If I’m lucky, I’ll get an hour or two more in the evening. I’m still longing for the day when my son will sit at the table with some crayons and tell me about his day while I work. Right now he won’t color unless I draw the pictures for him!

My designs don’t usually take more than 10 days to complete. Although, the bigger the project is, the more effort I put in to finding time to bead.

Where can your products be seen?

I’m selling almost exclusively on Etsy right now. Most of my designs can also be seen on my blog, along with a lot of pieces that never make it into the shop.


Tell us a little about one of your favorite creations (picture, please).

One of my favorite pieces ever is my Tide Pool scarf lariat. I had this image in my head of a necklace captured straight from the beach. It’s one of the few designs that turned out exactly like I imagined it. It was also the start of my obsession with beaded starfish, which have brought me a lot of joy and helped my beadwork to stand out.


Anything else you wish to add?

I always like to encourage everyone to give beadweaving a try. Some people say “I don’t have the patience” or “I’m not creative enough”. The trouble is, we look at amazing, elaborate beadwork and get intimidated. We can’t all create like Laura McCabe overnight!

If you start small and work with materials that you love, you might discover what all beadweavers already know: There is nothing more relaxing than stitching together a beaded treasure.