an open source architectural beadwork project from Kate McKinnon and a worldwide team of innovators

CGB Fundamentals: The History of the PodCast Bead

To cover the full history of this exploration we have to go back a long way, to the very first Rick-Racks grown from straight lines. It was around 2010 when I began dreaming of a way to cast Zigged forms to size from a finished edge instead of using the long peyote or MRAW Band starts beaders had been relying on to make them. (Knitters have of course been casting from edges since forever, and I only wish I had come to beading from knitting, and then I doubt I would have had to work so hard to come up with the idea.)

I got my first break in 2014 when I figured out how to lay in an Exploding Round and that started us off on Deconstruction.

After we had that tool to easily separate our beadwork, Karen Beningfield, Dustin Wedekind and I began to make a variety of different Casting Models and workshop them with our colleagues and students. In the photo below there are 8 individual Rick-Racks on here (!) clustered around a tiny tied-up All-Wing Bangle) in the center.

Above: A loaded Casting Pod with 8 Rick-Racks and three ways of Deconstruction,
built by Kate McKinnon, 2016.

Below is an example of what a 24-Point All-Wing Bangle PodCast looks like when it is tied into a PodCast Bead. There are 12 points up, and 12 points down.

The only thing that distinguishes this early casting model from our current incarnation of the PodCast Bead is the start. All-Wings are usually cast off from existing Zigged forms (or started with an MRAW or peyote start), and our current style of PodCast Beads are begun with a sturdy center ring of round beads, and our first round of increase beads are square-stitched onto those round beads. This makes it really easy for the increase lines to find their space, alternating up and down.

All-Wing Bangle beaded by Nico Williams, 2019, and tied into a
PodCast Bead by Kate for this demo, 2021

Below is a photo of the All-Wing Bangle untied. All-Wings are a twisted form, and they are built as all increases on one side, and Rick-Rack on the other side. They are fantastically useful tied into PodCast Form, and they are satisfying to wear on the wrist, as they gently cling and stretch. Peaks can be extended as high as one likes, and side increases can be added for petals, more Wings, or to build Zig-Wings (which were my first Geometric Captures).

The CGB Research Team 2010/2013 (especially Vee Pretorius) plundered the idea of the All-Wing it pretty thoroughly for bangles. (Please see our first two books, Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Volumes I and II, for many examples of All-Wings, Zig-Wings, etc.). Our exploration was powered not by anything we had seen, but instead by questions we had about the implications of increase placements. In particular, I wanted to know why increases were added from raw potential (beads on the tray) and decreases were dragged together as if we didn’t know about beads on the tray.

Engineers often reverse-engineer systems in the hope that once their model is working, they will be able to learn how to spontaneously generate or grow them from a clean start, as Nature does. We tinker to nudge the Universe to reveal her secrets. It took a while to make the progression to the present form, which is started with a center ring of round beads and the square-stitched on increases (notably different than the start of a warped polygon).

The PodCast Bead has design credits post-2017 as well. For the Warped Polygon center-build inspiration I credit Claudia Furthner, who handed me a warpy 12-Gon at one of our research meetings in late 2017.

I recognized its edge instantly, sorted the peaks up and down, and squealed, “PodCast Bead”. It was one of the greatest moments in the project for me, as I recognized the edge from the many bundled Casting Pods we had made. Finally, an elegant answer.

These moments of excited discovery came often during our team meetings; the gatherings have been the heart and soul of our core team since 2009. Over time, people come and go from our open-source team, but the discoveries remain and grow, and they nourish new ideas and new beaders.

That center ring start with the square-stitched increase actually came to me in a dream in January of 2018. It was such a hard problem to solve, how to teach people to make PodCasts with lots of increase lines easily. Even making a Warped Hexagon takes practice and patience – there is no way we were getting people to make warped 16-gons.

I woke up and texted my solve to Karen Beningfield, who has been at the core of CGB since 2011. Karen learned to draw beadwork to illustrate our first two books, she is astonishing. When I texted her about the center ring, she was at that very moment building a PodCast Bead in a coffeeshop in Cape Town, South Africa. It was serendipitous, a fun moment for us both as the answer ended a long quest- the problem was solved. What a feeling.

The final form can sit on a quarter, and be re-used for as long as its threads hold together to birth new beadwork. This is a 12-Point PodCast Bead, with 6 points up and 6 points down. We always make these in even numbers, so the legs will sort up and down neatly.

A Center-Ring Start PodCast Bead with 12 Points. This is still a folded 12-Gon at heart, but not by build. It was begun with a ring of 12 round beads, not a geometric peyote start. If the ring was removed, the form would have an open center, like a tiny bangle.
A modern 24-Point Podcast Bead by Kate McKinnon with a Center Ring Start, hosting an Exploding Set (see this technique on our YouTube Channel, for free). Exploding Sets are the true glory of PodCasting.

Franklin Martin, Jr. built a Two-Drop PodCast in Jan 2019 (he crafted it in the throes of a high fever in the Boston winter, very heroic). The Hybrid Podcasts (mixed counts) sprung up like grass from the CGB Research Team in 2019-2020, surrounding our discovery sessions in Boston and Barcelona in 2019. We just suddenly realized that we could have PodCast Beads with one-drop on one side, and two-drop on the other side (or any other stitch combo we wanted). Dozens of excellent Hybrid PodCast variations have been built since 2019, and I’ll show as many of them as I can in the books. (I forget in which order they came – email me and tell me when you made your first Hybrid.)

Joke Van Biesen made this gorgeous Hybrid Podcast with 1 Drop on one side (orange) and 2-Drop on the other side (grey/purple/blue/black). With it she can cast mixed-edge pieces.

Often what I can show in a technical manual depends on how creators feel about their colour patterns; our technical books must be completely open-source so that people feel free to copy our pieces as they learn the techniques.

Fortunately we have plenty of space to show off one of a kind designs from independent artists in what Charles calls our Cocktail Book, a fine-art collection we are assembling of photos of CGB-inspired pieces. That book has no patterns, just pictures. Our goal is always to highlight the work of others in a way that puts them forward.

Claudia Furthner’s folded 12-Gon PodCast Bead, 2017, with a geometric peyote center start and a rainbow confetti All-Wing growing on the outer edge for later Deconstruction.

Julia Pretl also generously contributed a free, open-source animation of the PodCast Bead built from the center ring, and it can be used in your tutorials, free of charge. When you include it in your published materials, credit should to Kate McKinnon and the CGB Research Team for the architecture, and to Julia Pretl for the animation. Your colourways and the visual patterns you create using the architecture are your own, and you can teach them, publish them, and sell them, with our blessing.

The final PodCast Bead is a marvel, I think, a community masterpiece that grew from a singular obsession: to conquer the long, wiggly, peyote start.

Email me at with your memories of creating or using your first PodCast Beads, or to add to my story of creation. I’d love to see what you have done with them.

A flat view of an All-Wing tied only in the center (yellow and white, from 2013) with a Rainbow Rick-Rack growing on top of it (January, 2017).

The Rick-Rack was snipped off when it was stable.

About katemckinnon

Kate McKinnon has devoted herself to the study of how things are done, and how they could be done better.

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This entry was posted on May 13, 2021 by .
May 2021
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