an open source architectural beadwork project from Kate McKinnon and a worldwide team of innovators
Greetings! This update finds me in Boston, where I’m in the final stages of laying out the CGB Pattern Book and the companion Colouring Book (which is going to be a fantastic toolbook, not to be missed).
The work is exciting; discoveries have come at an incredible rate since we published CGB Volume II, and we have a massive (and interconnected) library of new work to show. Have a drool over this open Kaleidocycle from Marie New, for example. Yum. And it’s a working Machine of math and physics.
If you are interested in these books, don’t miss the pre-order Bundle special. It’s an amazing deal, the two books together for $65. This is at least $20 off the final publication price.
This is one of our first Casting Models from the new books (beaded by Dustin) and one of its little babies. You can make anything from a model like this, really anything at all. Now I’m using an even simpler model, one I can wear like a small beaded bead on a chain, and I show it in the Pattern Book.
I thought we would be finished with the new books by now, but then I always plan for one year, and it always takes longer. I can only shake my head in wonder at the flood of discoveries we’ve had just in the time since I last posted an update.
Three beautiful new paths of Deconstruction have led to completely new ways of making, and they immediately (and dramatically) solved the problems of teaching sizing and starting in one beautiful maneuver. Finding the juiciest one at MIT this January was a game over moment, and we can now teach a complete beginner (and through the making of only one peyote triangle or Warped Square) good solid starts for any beaded bangle or form from either of our books. This is a magnificent thing to be able to do.
Above, Deconstruction and Edge Cloning in action, making a start for Kim Van Antwerp’s Pierced Arrow design. The Arrow will be shown in the new book set, but the complete instructions for this piece (including the deconstructed Flying V slot closure) were also released earlier this year as a stand-alone Pattern Dive in our shop.
So what about these new discoveries?
These new ways of Deconstruction led us rapidly to new ways of studying Edge Cloning, and one day I realized with a shock that even the most intense and variant Rick-Rack (a piece that is very complex to predict sizing for) can be sketched onto anything (even my skirt) and lifted off intact, to size, and in either a flat or bangle format. This was revolutionary; starting zigged pieces has always been a big deal. Not any more.
This is a piece that was easily cloned (and perfectly to size) off of an existing Rick Rack Casting Model, and then, after a few rounds, the Rick-Rack was converted to an All-Wing and bingo, I was off and running with a piece that would evolve, but never really change the basic sizing (unless I changed the architecture). Holy moly.
Nothing is complicated anymore. Can you imagine the rewriting? Basically, almost everything I ever learned about starting and sizing beadwork can be thrown out of the window, except for a few basic truths about hand-sewing with needles and threads.
Happily (and entirely because they weren’t pattern books) the new discoveries didn’t make the technique-based findings in Volumes I and II obsolete – instead, they forged new and more direct paths to the goals. For example, the MRAW Band is still an engineering marvel, it’s just no longer the most efficient start, and now we only make it inline, like any old round, to add potential, lightspace, movement, or easy layering.
Above, you can see an MRAW Band being added inline in a Winged bangle in process by Sarah Loudon. It adds in easily, piece a’cake. So a person writing patterns, well. I don’t want my book to be obsolete in two years. This takes deep thinking about what is really going on when we make complex forms. Recipes for assembled components are always going to be better than twenty-page assembly instructions.
So I figured out how to clone all of our juts and Wings and Horns and shapes and forms in simple elements and components, and how to cast each one of them off of my little Casting Model, the beaded bead that Dustin named the Podcast.
Also, Machines. OMG. Just when we thought we understood our new work well enough to finalize the Pattern Book, what should happen but Susannah Thomson made a Kaleidocycle done with opposing perpendicular hinges, and we loved it, and we began to make all sorts of machines of mathematics and physics. Below, a Kaleidocycle by Kim Van Antwerp.
We made Warped Square contraptions that seemed like the fabric of spacetime, we made Hexaflexagons (<- don’t miss this video by Vi Hart if you don’t know about the first explorations of these forms…) and cycles, kaleido- and otherwise, fit for Feynman. In general, we are using the “flexa” terms for flat forms (usually made of paper) and “cycle” terms for dimensional forms. There are a lot of flexies and cycles; many of them can be expressed in beadwork.
This Warped Square Machine below (made by Kim and I) moves like the Kaleidocycles, but takes up almost zero space in spacetime. Unless it is flexed out. Otherwise, it stores like a stack of bow-ties in your collar drawer, and then, when you need to tesser to Mars, you just unpack it. SPROING.
Things that move take real joinery, and they should be vital and resilient, and we’re here to figure out the best ways to put things together. It took some time to reduce the process, to make things simple. I think we’ve done a good job, and our instructions will be easy and straightforward, with several neat variations.
The piece below by Daria Tittenberger (beading from Canada) uses ten butterfly-like Warped Squares, and is not a machine. But it can be made into a much more complex (and foldable) set of forms; it can have layers that fold up and down, or can be removed or wrapped or wired so it flows down your collarbones and curls around your upper arm.
Really, if we had more time…
So, while I feel confident now to publish our joinery, it will take another month or so to finalize the layouts, and move through peer review. Making things simple takes time. I am frequently reminded, in long-winded updates such as this, of the literary apology from one writer to another. It went something like, “I regret the length of this letter, but I lacked the time to make it shorter.”
I find that most work has its own depth, and its own timespace, and I have been surprised again and again by the sheer scope of each in this project. I feel as if the ideas are infinite, both in time and in number, and that they are deeply related to the structure of our universe. This Many-Wing by Pat Verrier (beading from England, and inspired by Vee Pretorius, beading from Scotland) is a good example: structure, form, technique, and a lovely model of so many kinds of Thing and process in nature and the cosmos.
As a team, we’ve done a really good job solving the handful of fundamental problems that we came to the table with. The weaknesses of the peyote start are solved by Deconstruction, and the unravelly nature of peyote stitch itself is neatly handled by our spiffy Lockstitch. We’ve demystified the zig-zag, sizing, and starting, made layering a snap, and our project now has over 100,000 people beading and following along with us. It’s been amazing.
The three books on our layout table now may be the last three books in the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork series, but these techniques will live on, and be taught forward, and it’s been an amazing privilege to bring these ideas, sparked all over the world and through thousands of hands, to the table. What we publish will last; it will speak for us, and five years of our lives, of our deepest work.
Above, an early Horned Bangle by Laurel Kubby, still a source of study and inspiration.
Thank you again to those of you who have supported our work over the years through your pre-orders, and also to those of you who also supported our open-source approach. The new discoveries never (and I mean never) could have happened in such a tumble otherwise.
By the way, speaking of Warped Squares (and we were) Kim and Dustin did an AMAZING and very fun earring kit. You get two full sets of earring findings (and they are our favorite wires and swivels) and a bunch of patterns, including Erik Demaine’s paper folding instructions for turning our beading templates into origami versions. It’s a beautiful packet, comes from Kim’s studio, and can be found here:
I’ll be back with you soon, with a video on Machine techniques, and a visual update of the new discoveries from the CGB project, and what to expect in the next few months as we move to press with the new books. We plan to release the digital downloads for the new books as soon as we sign the press proofs, and actually hope to do that in App form.
We’ll see how much we can accomplish in the next month.
Please subscribe to this blog if you are the sort of person who likes regular updates on our timeline. The Follow Box is in the right sidebar, up top. Enter your email address, answer the confirming email, and you won’t miss a minute when we hit the press.
Kate and the CGB Team