BEHIND THE BRAND

Artist and Designer Becky Cheston

I’ve been designing and looming seed beads for more than a decade. A few years ago, I began selling my creations under the label BeadLoomery.

 

I've always incorporated some type of art into my life. Painting furniture, mirrors, and little wooden boxes . . . glazing pottery . . . Through it all, I discovered a love of the small. The tiny. I'd spend hours etching intricate designs on pottery or using the teensiest brushes to paint details on wood. So, when it comes to beads, the smaller the better.

 

After experimenting with various beading techniques, I tried a loom—and never put it down. I love the meditative feel of weaving back and forth across the warp threads and the satisfaction of seeing a pattern emerge as the rows add up. Especially rewarding is the “fabric” feel of each piece—evidence that I’ve assembled thousands of tiny specks into a swatch of glass material that drapes like silk.

Looming seed beads is like weaving little drops of paint. I love color, and the seed bead makers of Japan and Czechoslovakia provide plenty of it. They also create various shapes—from rocailles (beads with rounded edges) to cubes to facets and more. I work a lot with delicas—tiny tubes manufactured so that they are uniform, fitting together in a precise way that allows the creation of curves. Of course, the curves are an illusion, because patterns are laid out in grids and squares. But everything is on such a small scale, the beads work together like brushstrokes.

I make all my patterns by hand, sketching within a given space on grid paper that encompasses the size and shape of the piece I'm designing. Then I transform the lines within my sketch into grids. The key to any design is color selection, though you can't see the final effect until the colors interweave on the loom. So, it's not unheard of for me to unravel rows of weaving because a certain color doesn't look quite the way I envisioned. Often, the key to a design is not simply the right combination of color, but a mix of finishes, weaving flashes of transparency or hints of gold among the mattes and opaques.

 

Nature is my muse. At any given time, I find myself inspired by a single facet—fantastical mushrooms, mermaid scales, molluscks, humming birds—exploring the subject in different styles and color palettes.

I work in my Norway, Maine studio, and exhibit throughout Western Maine in towns including Bethel, Norway, and Paris, where in 2017, my Tumbled Swirls Necklace won Best in Show. My work has been displayed at Norway’s Nomad Café and the Matolcsy Art Center.


Bead looming is not difficult to learn. I teach classes for both adults and children in venues such as the Folk Art Series at Fiber and Vine, Oxford County’s summer L.O.O.K program, and in my own studio.

 

My cat Reina likes to sun herself in my studio and is, thankfully, uninterested in my looms. We are visited most days by Tabby, a feral tom who enjoys Reina’s food and in winter, a cozy closet. My children live too far away—Mia, a songwriter, in Los Angeles and Marco, an attorney, in New York. They remain the best two things I’ve ever created.

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© BeadLoomery. Design by Aranka Matolcsy, Monarch Consulting, Paris, Maine USA