Once Jann Spillane explored bead embroidery as a craft, she hasn’t stopped. Creating intricate necklaces inspired by cultural and celestial themes, Jann works on her art every day. Whether displayed in a frame or worn on the neck, Jann’s intricate bead embroidery highlights her attention to the details.
How has your creativity evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new media/kinds of work/ways of working?
I have been a crafter all my adult life and explored many different media. From hot glass, to metalsmithing, enameling, and box and book making to name a few. My interest in each media lasted from a few years to a decade. Each time I found myself looking for something different.
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I wasn’t fully satisfied with what I was creating. Deep down I felt that there was some other media, yet untried, that would enable me to fully express myself and be my perfect fit. My journey with bead embroidery began with my mother.
How did you get started designing bead embroidery? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
My mother crafted beaded flowers in the 1960’s and 70’s and I watched her fashion beautiful and lifelike flowers. The color and texture of the beads drew my eye. Over the years I collected numerous beaded purses and pieces of jewelry. When she passed away in 1988 her leftover beads, about 50 pounds, found their way to me.
I admit it took me 30 years to finally sit down and explore beading as a craft. Once I began began bead embroidery, it didn’t take me long to realize that it was exactly the creative outlet I was always seeking. Now that I am fully retired, I bead embroider every day. Instead of looking for the next new media, I am anxious to start my next new canvas.
Are there recurring themes in your work? What is it about a subject that inspires you to continue exploring it?
I usually bead whatever comes to mind there are a few themes that inspire me. I come back to them often.
Cultural and celestial themes, such as Native American bead work, Egyptian symbols and angels are special interests. I have created pieces, both large and small, depicting aspects of each. This is true of whatever media I have used in the past.
I have a large body of beaded work centered around dragons and the Game of Thrones series, both in wall hangings and wearable art pieces. However, I have an equal amount of interest in bridal jewelry and have enjoyed creating a variety of bridal necklaces.
It is the ease in switching from one focus to another that creates endless possibilities for new art works. It is the ability to explore new techniques and approaches to these that keeps my interest
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I have been beading for 5 years now and I have created over 90 pieces. Staying motivated and interested has not been an issue. There are so many projects in my head that it would take me years to complete.
Each new project provides inspiration for another. Some aspect of one that I want to further explore in another. My challenge is more about reining myself in and not taking a piece so far as to lose my original intent.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing? Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
All my pieces are planned, starting with a hand drawing. That drawing evolves over time. It is not unusual for me to draw 3 to 4 pieces at a time. I set them aside and come back to them in a week or so with a fresh eye.
I have a sketchbook of the final drawing of each piece. It is always interesting to see the changes I’ve made along the way as the piece develops. These changes are part of the creative process and I embrace them.
However, I usually jump right in without a prior plan when I want to develop something new. But these jumps are usually on paper first then I try them with my materials.
My Christmas dioramas are an example of this. I sketched out the idea and then used my Cricut and beaded elements to flesh out the final product. The dioramas were well received at craft shows.
Who or what are your main influences and inspirations?
Most of my art pieces are pictorial. I take a painting approach utilizing color, texture, and space in my execution of each piece. I use varied bead colors, sizes, shapes, and finishes as well as embellishments and different media in bringing my intention to canvas.
In this regard I like to look at books of created works of art no matter what media. I like thinking about the artists creative process and imagination.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I work large in many instances and require a large space so I can spread out and see the components of the piece as I bead. My dedicated bead room has a table and shelves of beads and embellishments. I tend to work on my dining room table as it is a 50” square surface.
A second craft room is where I keep other media such as paint, ribbon, foils, paper, wire, and such, as well as a 4 foot square project table, a printer, my Cricut and boxes of empty frames waiting to be filled.
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
My beading room is organized by bead type, color, and size. Findings are sorted by use and type of finish; backing and foundation by color and type of material. There is storage for scissors, beading thread, plyers, various light sources, and a multitude of accessories.
It’s all very orderly as I find it frustrating to have to hunt for something I know that I have. My house is small with two rooms used for primarily for crafts. I do store additional items in the bead closet, but most of the space is craft related.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
My current piece is an 8” x 10” flower garden. I have redesigned it three times over the last 6 months.
I have finally settled on a design and created the canvas. It starts with a drawing from paper which I transfer to my foundation. It is then colored using both acrylics and ink.
My inspiration for this piece was my backyard garden of lilies. While lilies were the inspiration, my favorite flowers were the final canvas. The piece is a riot of color with many flower and leaf types that will incorporate varied embellishments.
It started off as a square piece. As I worked with it, I felt it needed to be more organic and I sculptured the top. The piece will take at least 3 weeks, beading 6-8 hours a day to complete.
How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additional work?
Since I work from a drawing, I have an idea what the finished piece will look like minus the changes I’ve made along the way. A completed piece has a feel about it, it’s as though another addition would just be too much.
If you could live during a different artistic movement other than now, which one would you choose? Why?
I have always admired art from the 50’s and 60’s. The vivid colors and bold strokes, as well as the artist’s willingness to explore new directions. These artists are viewed (at least in hindsight) as trailblazers and inspired in their approach. I have lots ideas taken from this period awaiting the right canvas to implement them.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
I would like to have met and talked with Louis Comfort Tiffany. His use of color, detail, and design is my main interest. His ability to render a real life “painting” in glass. Beads have the same potential.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
First grade. I drew my first flower that I can remember and then created my own crayon drawings, never using coloring books. I also have a vivid imagination and wrote my own stories. Some in my mind, others on paper. None to be published.
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have as compared to people who are not creative?
I believe that all creative people have 3 things in common.
- The first is the ability to push themselves out of their comfort zones, to try new things.
- The second is the willingness to fail and look at failure as part of the learning/creative process.
- And the third is to a willingness to explore… to push the boundaries. There is no one right way. There are many approaches to achieve one’s goal – whether in a piece of art or in one’s life.
What is on your “someday” creative wish list?
I have dreamed of creating an entirely beaded full size quilt of my own design. There are numerous obstacles to overcome before starting such a venture such as the logistics of beading a piece of such a large size, the overall weight of the completed quilt, and how finally to display it. I have gotten as far as sketching a few quilt designs and making a few smaller quilt squares.
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website (JMSBeadCreations.com) is a gallery of my work, as well as a store to buy my pieces. The gallery profiles my varied interests and demonstrates how I executed the pieces and the store helps fund my craft. Beading is not inexpensive and selling my work, especially the smaller pieces, helps offset the cost of my larger pieces.
I use my blog to introduce readers to the process of bead embroidery sharing with them my individual approach, as well as the varied aspects one needs to take into consideration when bead embroidering.
Overall, I hope my website promotes interest in beading from both a viewer’s/buyer’s perspective, as well as creates interest on the part of new and prospective bead crafters.
Interview posted February 2023
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