A note from Jennifer: There are two kinds of beading pattern designers in this world: those who can create gorgeous flat peyote patterns and those who can't. Carol Dean Sharpe, owner of Sand Fibers, is definitely one of those who can. Carole's flat peyote stitch cuff bracelet patterns and finished bracelets have been purchased by bead artists like Marcia DeCoster and Diane Fitzgerald, and her collaborations with artists like Lisa Peters Art and Kristie Roeder of Artisan Clay are stunning in their simplicity and their beauty. Carol's amazing peyote stitch cuff bracelet designs range from fanciful depictions of restroom signs and Scotty dogs to bold abstract graphics and cuff bracelets that use cylinder beads and triangle beads to achieve amazing textures. Read on to see what Carol has to say about her design process, how she got her start in her wildly successful Etsy shop, and why she loves what she does.
In The Beginning: Seven years ago, I was a quilter. A quilter who thought including beads on her smaller art quilts would be a cool idea. At the same time I was toying with that thought, a friend of mine told me about a woman who gave private beading classes. We scheduled a class for ourselves and another friend, and so my first experience with beads was stringing a bracelet using jewelry wire, large glass beads, a metal clasp, and – yes! – crimp beads.
My first beads were gemstone chips, pearls, and a few seed beads to use as spacers. I did a lot of stringing. Because my favorite necklaces had always been multi strands of seed beads, I purchased a box filled with hanks of Czech 11o seed beads from a vendor on eBay. I remember making a bowl of bead soup from all the different purples in that box and stringing (with needle and quilting thread) thousands of those beads onto precut strands.
My first square stitch cuff with hematite chip clasp
What I don't remember is what happened to all those strands, except that they never made it into a finished necklace – I had created my first beading UFO. (Un-Finished Object.) I do know that all the colors and finishes in that box mesmerized me and captured my heart. In researching seed beads online, I found out about off-loom beadweaving. My first beadwoven piece was a narrow square stitch bracelet in bronze metallic seed beads. My clasp consisted of a large hematite "chip" and a beaded loop. How very pleased I was with the results!
The first peyote stitch rope
I was back in my comfort zone using needle, thread and small little bits of color. My next project was a tubular peyote rope in a mix of crystal seeds lined in yellow and coral. (That was also the last peyote rope I made until I took a class with Diane Fitzgerald in 2010.) It was a continuous rope, no clasp required. But it needed something extra, a focal. For that "something extra", I learned flat peyote. I made a rectangle of the yellow and coral mix with a few grey stripes as highlights and "zipped" that up so that I had a slider on the rope. (I ended up cutting that slider off and embellishing the rope with the grey beads instead.)
Everything I know about beadweaving was learned from books and the internet, until I took my first beadweaving class, in right angle weave, from Marcia DeCoster in June 2010.
From Sliders to Cuff Bracelets: That slider was my first flat peyote. Impressed with how much faster peyote worked up than square stitch, I started making simple one-color or bead soup bracelets. A friend's 50th birthday and her love of dragonflies presented me with my first experience reading a peyote graph (a free pattern from the internet…sadly I don't recall the designer).
Carol's ability to graph elegant curves comes through in her Fiddle Dee Dee peyote stitch pattern package
Carol's bold interpretation of the classic houndstooth pattern made into a peyote stitch cuff bracelet
After decades of working from charted cross stitch designs, I thought that following a beading graph would be easy and fun. I must have beaded and unbeaded that first inch of the design five or six times before I finally got the hang of reading the graph from left to right and then from right to left while beading only from right to left. And I did not enjoy the process, but I did love the result of working with cylinder beads for the first time.
After that, I was determined to stick with easy "patterns" for which I did not need a chart, patterns for which the cylinder beads still seemed to work best: triangles, diagonals, stripes. You can get some fun designs using only those. Just let the colors do most of the work for you.
The first cuff I actually charted was a square stitch piece. I created a graphic in PaintShop and then used the counted cross stitch design software I had to translate that graphic into a "pixilated" pattern. Eventually, I purchased software that would let me create the offset graphs for peyote. My designs focused on simple geometric shapes, triangles, circles, often drawing inspiration from textiles.
I don't have a set design process for my peyote stitch patterns. Sometimes I'll see something (a pillow on my favorite soap opera, for instance) that sends me straight to the computer and my software to see if I can achieve a similar result (in the case of that pillow, my Interlock cuff was the result). A wonderful braided chainmaille cuff inspired me to create my Braided Metals design.
At other times, I open either my graphic or beading software and start playing with shapes and/or lines. Sometimes from scratch, sometimes from an old pattern. And since the design process can start with an old design, I guess it doesn't ever really end.
The most difficult part of designing is knowing when a design is or is not ready to be brought into beaded life. Some designs are not meant to be. Recognizing a bomb before I put time and money into beading it, that's hard. I can spend hours fiddling with a pattern only to file it away in the hopes that I can do something better with it at a later date. Sometimes I can; sometimes I can't.
On the other hand, there is nothing quite as satisfying, as exhilarating as having an idea for something and having that idea not only work but work better than I could have hoped for. And then there's the thrill of having other beaders want to bead my designs. That's indescribable!
Inspiration is Everywhere: Ideas come from absolutely everywhere! The world is filled with patterns, with amazing color palettes. Bargello needlepoint inspired my multiple drop peyote patterns that mimic some of the motifs found in those textiles. Houndstooth fabric just screamed to be interpreted in peyote. The corrugated tin roof on our first home inspired the texture of my Corrugated line of cuffs. What if? Could I? How would I? Why not? Those are the questions that guide my design process.
If Time and Money Were No Object, I Would… I would love to learn to work with polymer and precious metal clay, but that would require a greater investment in time, focus, materials, and tools than I can afford. What I already have the materials and tools (and multiple instructions in both book and video format) for is bead crochet. I'm comfortable with beads. I have been crocheting since I was a young girl. One would think that combining the two would be easy for me. Not so. I've tried and failed miserably enough times to have turned bead crochet into a huge beading nemesis, if only in my mind. I will face and master it, one of these days, months, or years.
But I'll Always Come Back to Beadweaving: Beadweaving is home; it is safe. I find comfort and meditation in the actual process of beading, the zen of beadweaving. At the same time, beadweaving provides me with adventure and excitement in the design process. And, over the last few years, beadweaving has also introduced me to an amazing community of beaders via the internet. I have met people who will be my friends for life.
If you want to see more of Carol's lovely peyote stitch designs, you can check out her Etsy shop, Sand Fibers. Carol also blogs about her patterns, her life in New Mexico and her adventures as part of the Artisan Clay Design Team. You can also read about Carol's idea to raise money for Beads of Courage through The Best Little Bead Box.