an open source architectural beadwork project from Kate McKinnon and a worldwide team of innovators
Excitingly, I’m releasing the entire Basics section of Volume II this week. It will be published here, for free, on the Book Blog. I’m told that some people find this shocking, so I am moved to try to explain.
The short story is that this is a work of love, not made for profit. It radiates generosity from the inside out; almost every person who has contributed to this book has done so for free. I’ve given more of myself than I ever expected; I’ve received more joy from the project than I could ever have dreamed. This isn’t business. It’s something deeper, something beautiful, something we want to share with you. But we are businesslike about accomplishing it; I’ve never worked harder or enjoyed work more.
The Basics section is an important part of the book; it presents, in the simplest and most direct ways we have been able to find, the basic ideas, threadpaths, and structures behind our pieces. Those pages (and the free videos that accompany them) are the key to the entire project, the heart of the work. That part isn’t what I want to sell, it’s what I mean to contribute.
Also: so much of everything has been given to the work; how could it not give back in kind?
CGB hasn’t been a project designed for profit, it’s just been done for the love of learning. This is ordinary in the arts and sciences, but pretty unusual in the world of publishing. And, admittedly, in the current world of beading, most professional work is made to generate patterns, which are then considered the saleable product. To understand why I’m doing my project differently, you’d need to understand me, I guess.
I’m a writer who lives hand-to-mouth, on purpose. Like most writers, I only work on publishing advances. But a publisher would never have allowed me to do these books my way. I know this, because I’ve done several books the usual way. So the people who pre-order are my publishers, advancing me the living expense to make the work, and my fellow beaders and innovators have given of their time, for free, contributing content and forming Edit teams. We’re doing it because we love the work, each other, and we love you too. It’s that simple. We’re not after your money, but I deeply appreciate your support, because a girl’s gotta eat. And pay press bills.
I sell books instead of ideas; it’s what I’m most comfortable with. My ideas can always be had for free; I will tell them to you until you ask for a nap. Only people who want books should buy them, and only people who know that they will absolutely buy them when they come out, no matter when that is, should pre-order them. I make that clear on my order form, but the problem with too many words is that people only read a tenth of them.
This post will fall to the same fate, but I still must write it, so I have something to link to.
After all, I’m busy. I have a set of books to finish!
Volume II, which is about halfway through a very careful and deep edit, is a collection of almost a thousand glittering, full-colour images, almost every one of them lovingly taken, processed, and presented by me. The photography was very intense; each final photograph taken represents an entire process of creation; the person, from somewhere in the world, finding our ideas, crafting original works, and sending their precious pieces to me. They have come from over 100 countries. Then there was me, opening, cataloguing, collecting information, shooting (sometimes multiple shoots per piece) and then processing, labeling, color-separating and cataloguing the images and the bead colour numbers, and then returning the pieces safely to their makers, who trusted me, and paid their own outbound postage.
It’s a crazed but very engaging amount of work, and honestly nothing like a pattern book shoot, which is usually completed in a day or two by someone who is ambivalent to the work. My shoot has gone on constantly, for three years, and I expect that it will be ongoing, into the future, as the project grows exponentially with the new work that will come in from 100 more countries, tens of thousands of new beaders. I can think of nothing more thrilling. And I’m filled with awe and gratitude for everyone who has been a part of the project.
Speaking of photographs, you might notice right away that ours are very different from the usual “beauty shots” done for commercial books. It took about six months of work to figure out how to shoot the pieces so as to have no props, no complications, and, most importantly, to get every bead in focus. Kyle Cassidy, my friend and a professional photographer, taught me to do it with a simple white photo tent and my IPhone on a tripod. He gave me his time, for free, because he is full of love and likes to help people improve their skills.
Learning to do the shots properly has been extremely rewarding. I’ve personally never been happy with what the mags and the project books do- I always want to see more beads and fewer props. And the dramatic slide-format shots on black glass are pretty, but they are meant to wow, not to teach. I really love our photographs, because I learn from them every time I study them.
People have been very supportive. I’ve had people send me chocolate, beading needles, beads, stuffed animals, findings, a travel beading tray, and about a thousand love letters, thanking us all profusely for the web sites, the photographs, the free videos. Some of our most cherished contributors (and people who have actually ended up giving many hours to the project) only arrived because of something free, on the Internets. People have interpreted my ideas beyond the horizons that I could have explored; they have added their own ideas, the concepts have stuck together and grown huge, and then (the hard part) they had to be once again reduced to a series of very simple words and pictures. And pictures are better than words, you know the old adage; 1:1000.
This page, for example, has much to communicate, and although it seems very simple, has huge ideas, waiting, to be discovered at the convenience of the reader, who is able to concentrate on the threadpath without a lot of obvious distraction. It took a long time to get big things this small, but keep them potentially huge, because our minds had to follow the same trajectory.
It took me some time to correctly see the relationships, to simplify, to smallerize, and each time I was ready to proclaim, “Huzzah! I understand this!”, a new piece came in, or a new realization hit, and I understood that I did not yet understand. Each time I sent pages to Edit, I thought they were good, and every time, they came back with the best suggestions, the most difficult questions, the most insanely alluring ideas…. and the work stood up and barked; and I will tell you: it will not be published until it is in the right order, with the fewest words. It’s become completely obvious when something is finally the best it can be. Some pages in Basics were worked on for six months; in reality, it could be said that each page has a lifetime of work behind it.
I keep saying, “This is NOT A PATTERN BOOK!” and by that I mean this is a dissertation, a celebration of what is possible, not a set of duplication charts. The ideas are not what I want to sell; ideas (at least my ideas) belong to everyone. Duplication charts are lovely, but they are so aside from the spirit of this project that I’ve decided to give them away for free for all of my own pieces, and from anyone who also chooses to contribute them to the soon-to-open Pattern Library. (The whole book will not be in the Library. Just the Basics, the charts, and the extras. No one’s work will be stepped out and given away unless they themselves want it to be.)
The most important surprise (although I can’t think of why it was surprising) has been that the work itself is dictating the presentation; deep things take deep time, and the work tells me loud and clear when it’s ready; our Edit Team tells me even more clearly when it isn’t.
It won’t be long now.