The Beaded Sculptures of Natasha St. Michael

Oct 30, 2007

Meet Bead Artist Natasha St. Michael 

I first learned about Natasha St. Michael's three-dimensional beaded sculptures when looking through back issues of Fiberarts magazine. For those of you not familiar with Fiberarts, this internationally focused magazine covers contemporary textile art, with artist profiles, beautiful photos, competition listings, art collecting, show reviews, and insight into the creative process in every issue. I was blown away by the photos of Natasha's work--I can't imagine how exciting her beaded sculptures must be in person!--Michelle Mach, Beading Daily editor

 Michelle: What have you been working on since the Fiberarts profile in 2004?

Natasha: In 2005, I left Montreal to go traveling, only to return the summer of 2007! I was away for nearly two years, spending most of the time in Australia. I also traveled a few months to Indonesia, Japan, and Hong Kong.

"Sprouting" was started right before I left and I stocked up on enough beads to complete the piece during my travels. I have been working full-time as a professional artist making beadwoven sculptures since 1999, and it came to a point where I needed a change, needed to expand and refresh myself. From the beginning of my career, I had specifically chosen to work with beads because of the portability of the materials--you can beadweave anywhere, and in 2005, I wanted to do it. And I did. "Sprouting" was created everywhere from the rural countryside of South Western Australia to the beaches of Bali. It's a very special piece.

Sprouting by Natasha St. Michael. Glass beads and nylon thread. 2007. 75 x 42 x 12 cm. Photo by Paul Literhland.

Michelle: How did your travels affect your work?

Natasha: Upon my return to Montreal, not only did I have a completed piece, but also fresh ideas and renewed inspiration. In many ways, I felt like my time away enabled me to develop the courage to creatively do things differently and take my ideas and approaches a step further. While I continue to create works that are inspired by organic elements found in nature, I have been trying to further emphasize a physical transformation within the pieces.

At left: A close-up of Sprouting by Natasha St. Michael.

All of my work basically consists of a three-dimensional form that is multiplied over again hundreds of times and then interwoven into a sculptural formation. Earlier works were made up of hundreds of multiplied forms that were always consistent in shape, color, and size. Slowly I was trying to make the transition of changing these multiplied forms within the piece to make it appear as if it is continuing to grow, transform, or even decay, but it always was very subtle, until very recently. My approach to the overall assembly of the pieces has changed as well.  I've been using it as a means to further emphasis an appearance that it is still continuing to exist, grow, or spread.

Transitional by Natasha St. Michael. Glass beads and nylon thread. 2007. 30 x 20 x 11 cm. Photo by Paul Litherland.


Michelle: Tell me about "Transitional." How long did it take?

Natasha: "Transitional" took three months to complete. I actually find doing tubular beadweaving to be the most laborious and quite painstaking. One tube can take over two hours to complete!

Michelle: Why did you choose to name it that?

Natasha: It is titled "Transitional" because it has a living, specimen quality, representing a mid-phase, as if still alive, but not sure if it's going to continue growing upward, multiply outward, or just shrivel back up. "Transitional" is the first piece I completed upon my return to Canada.

Special Beading Daily Bonus! Natasha finished a new piece ("Thriving") this week and we are among the first to see it!

Thriving by Natasha St. Michael. Glass beads and nylon thread. 2007. 51 x 33 x 14 cm. Photo by Paul Litherland.


Natasha St. Michael will be exhibiting at SOFA Chicago 2007 (booth #226), November 1-4, 2007. See more examples of her work at: www.natashastmichael.com. You can also read the original profile of Natasha that first appeared in Fiberarts.

 


 

Halloween Zipper Pull: A Last-Minute Beading Project 

It always snows in Colorado on Halloween. You can't see any costumes as the kids trick-or-treat around the neighborhood, just winter coats, hats, scarves. That is, when the weather is nice enough that their parents let them outside at all!

One quick way to add some Halloween fun to your jacket is to create a beaded zipper pull. I used a ceramic pumpkin bead from Earthenwood Studio, but the sky (and maybe your wallet) is the limit! Think sparkly crystals for The Princess, maybe a futuristic dichroic bead for The Robot. Just string beads on a head pin and use a wrapped loop to attach the beads to a lobster clasp. Or even easier--use a split ring to attach a charm to the clasp. I've also seen variations that use the cell phone lanyards or cords as zipper pulls.

If you don't celebrate Halloween, this is an easy project to modify with the beads of your choice. And for those of you lucky enough to live in tropical places that don't require anything warmer than a T-shirt, consider adding some sparkle to your purse, shoes, or anything else with a zipper.


Michelle Mach is the editor of Beading Daily. She is not giving out beads to trick-or-treaters tonight, but believe me, she thought about it!



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Comments

NanciW2 wrote
on Oct 31, 2007 2:14 PM
question for Natasha St Michael-- in creating "Thriving" did you make the pieces separately and then put them together, or did you build it, attaching as you proceeded?
MaureenR@13 wrote
on Oct 31, 2007 4:23 PM
Natasha,
What stitches do you use and which do you like best? Do you find that some work best for certain things, like flexibility, stiffness, etc.? Maureen Redmond-Scura, Concord, NH
absolutfeli wrote
on Oct 31, 2007 7:37 PM
I am amazed by what you can do with beads!!
Mrswtownsend wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 7:32 PM
WOW Natasha! What a talent and what a way to look outside the box! What are the kinds of inspirations that drive your creativity? When I look at the pieces featured in the Beading Daily article, I tend to associate a similarity to natural communities of plant and sea life...
Your work is absolutely amazing and beautiful!
Gina in AZ, USA
KathleenC@20 wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 11:09 PM
Such beautiful works!
Where do you start with your pieces? Do you sketch or in any way work out what you want to achieve before hand? Or is it a more organic process that grows in it's own way?
Have you ever had a piece that you planned to take one direction only to have it change it's mind as it took form, and surprise you?
Thanks!
Kathleen
on Nov 7, 2007 9:36 AM
Natasha’s Response

Kathleen:
I pretty much make small bead woven models or samplers before I start a piece. I have what I call my 'bag of fun' which is a bag full of hundreds of small models of many different ideas I've come up with over the years... a lot of bad stuff actually. But I find this process to be the most important, trying different forms, colors, etc. Most importantly, as bad as most of these models and experiments appear, I never throw them away. I keep them all, and a few times a year I go through this bag because sometimes something that didn't seem to work years ago, may in fact give me ideas for future works. I do some small sketches as well, usually when I have an idea but don't have time to make a small model and I need to document the idea so I don't forget.

So with starting any piece, I make a bead woven model, make sure I know exactly what I want to do, have a clear vision as to what I want the piece to become, and then once I am certain, I order the beads and get onto production. I like to start each piece with 100% clarity and confidence (there would be nothing worse than making a piece for a few months and then realizing that it’s terrible!!) It has happened many times where I do reach that point of anxiety where after months of production a piece isn't going the way I planned, and in fact there are big changes the piece halfway through or at the end during assembly of the finished piece. 'Thriving' turned out completely different to my initial idea. When I was weaving 'Thriving' together, I wasn't happy with what I was seeing, the piece wasn't working, I went through major panic and in fact that moment of uncertainty eventually turned into a breaking point where I took the step to try something different and allowed my work to evolve.
on Nov 7, 2007 9:37 AM
Natasha’s Response

Gina:
I am mostly inspired by microbiology and organic formations found in nature-- anything from cellular structures of disease to natural life growing at the bottom of the sea. I find myself drawn to natural elements that at first glance may repel us or make us uneasy, but when you look more closely, it’s absolutely amazing. In many ways my objective is to emphasize the beauty of something that we otherwise think is not.
on Nov 7, 2007 9:38 AM
Natasha's Response:

Nanci:
With all my works, including 'Thriving' I make the multiplied pieces separately and then weave them together--it's much easier production-wise to do the same thing over and over again. Because the art works take so long to complete (averaging 2-4 months), at times I do start to weave the pieces together either at the beginning, or half-way through in order to get an idea as to where the piece is going and also to see the progress.
on Nov 7, 2007 9:39 AM
Natasha's Response:

Maureen:
The main stitch I use is circular peyote stitch. I'm a self-taught bead weaver and in all honesty I don't really know any other stitch! I find already there is so much more I want to do with this one stitch that I'm not yet ready to move onto another. I am also more drawn to circular forms, rather than linear, that this technique is perfect!! I do like to experiment with different tensions of the weaving process and also have used straight peyote stitch and various other embellishment/interweaving techniques to further elaborate the forms.
JenniferL@73 wrote
on Nov 7, 2007 4:15 PM
Natasha, thank you so much for your answers to the questions. I live on the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland, Australia, so your artworks had much meaning for me. They are incredible.