Well, it’s almost the end of week one of the Battle and I have to confess to being totally hooked. All I want to be doing is working on my battle piece, so I’m having to be strict with myself to make sure that I also do the things I need to be doing (sleeping, eating…)! I’ve actually just read my Beading Daily blog for today and found it strongly echoed a lot of my own feelings, so thank you to Jennifer van Benschoten for sharing that. I think I spoke in earlier blogs about coming to see the ME not so much as a curse, but as something of a blessing that has pushed me to grow as a person and I’m finding some of the hard lessons I’ve learnt are coming in very handy right now. Jennifer’s blog drew interesting parallels between yoga and beading, both loves of mine too. She talked about getting into the right state of mind to enjoy beading: not comparing yourself to other beaders, living in the moment, so enjoying the things that go well, but also retaining the humility to recognise that there will always be more to learn and different challenges to overcome.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a competitive person, but I’ve also come to realise that competition, drive and ambition are most productive when they are tempered. I would love to get beyond round 1 of the Battle, but that ambition isn’t what is driving me. I was itching to get started as I had spent a long time designing the focal section for my piece. I’ve been staying well within my comfort zone in using my favourite Peyote stitch, mixed with some brick stitch, and working with the Delica beads that I love. However, I also set myself a challenge, following detailed patterning and creating a shape that is irregular and involved angling sections of straight Peyote together. There was a limit to how much of this I could design on my trusty Peyote graph paper, so I started Monday with the delicious anticipation of discovering whether or not my idea was actually going to work out. I realise that the idea of getting that excited about a pile of beads is probably some indication of madness, but I really haven’t noticed the hours passing as I’ve been beading. I have had to stop and force myself to go to bed because I have been so excited to see each new section growing and working out as I had planned! It has been a constant mixture of trepidation that something was about to go horribly wrong and I would discover I needed to start over or abandon my plan altogether, then tentative excitement at finding that the plan does actually work.
I’m playing my cards very close to my chest, but I will give you a couple of clues…the piece is going to be completely reversible, so I not only had to make a front to the focal section, but an equally spectacular (and different) back. By Wednesday I had a complete front, but rather than dwell on that success, I had to face the challenge of beading the back. This is why Jennifer’s words about living in the moment rang so true! I am now sitting looking at my focal section and, yes, quietly patting myself on the back because I’m pleased with my work – I know how much it has challenged me and how satisfied I feel at meeting that challenge and growing as a beader. I also know that it is only a tiny part of the finished piece and I still have huge challenges ahead of me if I am to bring the idea in my head to life. There is still a huge potential for many things to go wrong and I am facing the risk that the elements surrounding the focal will not work out as well. So my next decision is whether I make the clasp which should be relatively straightforward (although not totally risk free – that would be no fun!) or whether I move onto the fun of experimenting with another section where I have a vague idea for which I am relying on the beads to take me to a concrete reality.
I promised you two clues, so here’s the second…the piece will definitely be in my own style, but it doesn’t involve any cakes (yet…none planned, but you never know!). Again, this goes back to the idea of working with and for oneself, not in comparison with others. I follow the Battle pages on Facebook and am bowled over by the pieces that are posted on there. I especially love the intricate patterns and colours that come through in the pieces involving a lot of bead embroidery and Soutache. Then there are the crystal combinations: bezelled rivolis or stones that are incorporated into complex designs that are a joy to behold. All this work is very different from my own and it can be tempting to view ‘different’ as ‘better’. That being the case, this is a battle, so in the interests of winning, it would be tempting to think that I need to create something that is more akin to the pieces that I’m seeing on the battle pages, both from last year’s battle and new work from the designers battling this year. I could have a go at creating something more in that vein, but if I do, it’s not going to be a reflection of me. I began beading for myself, to escape the difficulties of being ill. My illness forced a lot of isolation on me, so I created to express myself, unaware of what other people were doing. Seeing so much of the work of other amazing designers is inspiring me, making me reflect on my own work and helping me to grow as a result, but I still have a strong sense of my own style. The battle is giving me the opportunity to create a piece that has been bubbling around in my head for a few years now. I’m just loving the opportunity to create that and the biggest competition of all is with myself, to push myself to extend my own abilities. I’ve just spent a week doing that and taken a familiar stitch and familiar beads to a new personal level. I’m proud of myself because I know what I put into that endeavour, so however else anyone judges it, I have already won because I’m just gaining so much enjoyment and finding that I can reach new levels. I hope everyone else who is hard at work bending needles, breaking beads, depriving themselves of sleep and drawing blood from those beading needles, not to mention the shoulder strain resulting from getting lost in beads for hours at a time, is having just as much fun as me!