Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Linda Lehman, Dimensional Bead Crochet Designer

The first book I ever bought on bead crochet was Bead Crochet Jewelry: Tools, Tips, and 15 Beautiful Projects, by Linda Lehman and Shelley Grant. The projects are fascinating in their use of color and because of the dimensionality of many of the ropes. They were the inspiration for me to learn to do bead crochet.

Linda Lehman has published many designs in magazines such as Bead and Button and has taught many students to do bead crochet at various bead trade shows and guild meetings. She recently opened an Etsy shop called Wearable Art Emporium. It's there that I met her, and after a number of conversations, Linda agreed to be interviewed here.

Double Drops by Linda Lehman

How did you get started working with bead crochet? What inspired you to focus on this area?

I began working with bead crochet as a result of my students in other areas of bead weaving. They all wanted to learn how to do it, and were having no success in trying it for themselves. I found a very old book on it while browsing in an antique (out of print) bookstore, from about the 1920’s. Actually, it was more of a pamphlet, but it did have a decent description of how to do slip stitch bead crochet. I bought it, took it home, and tried. When I found I had difficulty starting with size #11 seed beads and size #20 yarn, I took some size #8 beads and size #5 crochet cotton. Everything I did with the smaller one, I did with the larger one, so I could see how I made my mistakes. After that, it came very easily for me, and within hours I was bead crocheting.

Your dimensional bead crochet designs have a lot of visual impact. How does the process of creating a new design begin for you? What are your methods of visualization?   

Almost immediately after teaching myself to bead crochet, I wanted to add dimension. I started fairly simply with a one row pattern of increasingly larger and smaller beads. I was much happier with the result than when I was using a single size of beads.  I couldn’t find a graph paper that really worked, so I asked my son to make me one on the computer, and I began to figure out how to make the beads go in two different directions at once. And that was the start of designing dimensional bead crochet.  Because I was born with inductive reasoning powers (rather than the usual deductive ones) I usually just see a design in my head and let it “roll” around in there for a while, and then pull out the graph paper. From there I swatch my design. I need to swatch because bead crochet doesn’t completely follow either plain or solid geometry rules, because the rope/tube is more like a spiral staircase, and never “meets” itself evenly. So often, everything looks perfect on the graph paper, but won’t translate into a rope.

Zig Zag by Linda Lehman

Do you have a special creative routine when you are designing or making a project, like listening to your favorite music or working in a special spot?  

No, ideas come to me at no particular time. I could be driving, or even riding my bike. I might even be knitting something where I didn’t have to count. In short, any time where my mind isn’t fully engaged in what I’m doing. And, my favorite music is always on…in my house, my car…every where that I am, and at all times, so I don’t really know if it’s a contributing factor. If it is, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen get an awful lot of credit for my bead crochet.

What part of the process do you enjoy most—the designing, the making, or the pattern writing? 

I enjoy the designing the most, but find the pattern writing the most challenging, and I do love a challenge.

What other types of handwork interest you? 

I like a lot of crafts. I love to knit and crochet, enjoy sewing, decoupage, and have even made little houses out of rocks and had fun with that. I’m currently on a sock kick with my knitting, and an amigurumi kick with my non-beaded crochet.

Multistrand by Linda Lehman

Your book, Bead Crochet Jewelry, was published in 2004 and is still selling well. Do you have plans for another book? 

No, not on Bead Crochet Jewelry. I am working on an e-book that is craft related. I’m hoping to have it finished and for sale on my Etsy site by the end of the year, at the latest.

What do you do when you are feeling "stuck" creatively?  What helps you get back into the creative mode? 

I know this sounds strange, as I’ve been asked that question a lot…it’s never happened to me. I just never get stuck creatively. I’m pretty sure that’s a product of having inductive reasoning. Since it’s more of a gestalt type reasoning, I’m always getting pictures in my head, and then it’s a matter of can I turn those “pictures” into objects d’art.

What are you planning for the coming year that most excites you? 

Again, I guess I have a different answer than most. I love “winging it” and seeing what happens…I tend not to plan a lot, and have learned just to follow where life leads me. It tends to work out the best for me.

What is something you think people would be surprised to know about you? 

In my “previous” career life, I was a financier and owned multiple investment companies.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to learn bead crochet? 

If you learn well from books, buy several and jump from one to another when you get stuck. There aren’t many good ones, but the ones that are good each have their own particular strengths. Buy them used if you can, and then take advantage of each. If you learn better visually, try this animated website.

If classes are your thing, look for a good one in your local bead store, or hire an individual instructor. If you just can’t seem to get it, get a light weight fingering yarn, like Lorna’s Laces sock yarn, stick to size #8 beads, and try it with that.  I think you’ll find your mistakes easily if you use those materials, and then you can move back to something smaller. It’s really the size of the yarn/thread that makes it easier to learn, not the size of the beads. If you attempt to use pony beads, or the equivalent, I think you’ll find that they flop around too much to make it easy to learn, so stick to size #8, and increase your thread size. If necessary, use a slightly heavier fingering weight yarn.

A recent photo of Linda with her new grandbaby, Sonny
Linda, thanks for the great interview and the advice you have shared with us!

Readers, be sure to check out Linda's shop because it contains a lot of exciting dimensional bead crochet patterns and some kits. You can also find some bead weaving instructions and kits, and knitters can find a few excellent knitting patterns, too.

1 comment:

CrochetBlogger said...

Great interview! Comprehensive, interesting, inspiring!