an open source architectural beadwork project from Kate McKinnon and a worldwide team of innovators
I just wanted to drop a personal note into the stream this morning to acknowledge the nature of this project, which is the questing light and life force of the people who have contributed to it, beaded with us, and especially those who have wished us well. When we struck out on this journey it was without a map, and all we had for power were our fundamental questions. When we started asking those questions with beads online, beadworked answers began to stream into our mailbox, and so it went.
I was trying again this morning to write the introduction to our Pattern Book, and there is too much to say. So I thought I’d say some of it here, to help order my heart and my mental files, and because well-organized gratitude is good food for the soul.
I was influenced to begin these studies by seeing the work of genius English beader Jean Power. At the time I was unaware of how the ideas in Geometric Peyote developed and it was a great pleasure over time to get to know people like Julia Pretl and Diane Fitzgerald, each of whom helped me understand the Beginning Times. (Did you know the first published geometric peyote triangle started from the outside and decreased inward?). Each of them came to team meetings, and Julia animated a suite of pieces for our library. Diane continues to share her ideas and has opened her formidable filing cabinet for me time and again. She is a wealth of knowledge.
Dustin Wedekind and I sharing a house together in Tucson in the 2010s was really what made CGB happen, though, and our connection to fundamental questions was so profound that there was a place we could stand together in the back kitchen that was like a waterfall of the Universe where answers poured through, but only when we stood there together. It was in that spot that D drew the map of five characters that would signify we had reached our goal, but neither of us knew exactly what they stood for.
The photo above is Dustin wearing big Warped Square earrings by Kim Van Antwerp, from around the time we three went to MIT to teach a workshop and while we were there (!) Kim discovered Snipping. What a time. Below, the Magical Spot.
Some people working with CGB today have been here since the beginning (and a decade ago Karen Beningfield learned bead illustration from scratch to help us complete Vol II) but many other people who have contributed hugely to our knowledge base (like planets from another system) rotated through and out of our team, leaving behind ideas (and experiences) that influence us today. Some people have feared open source publication and pulled their work, and others have participated or (like John Bead and Caravan beads) donated materials only because that was what we were doing and who we were. Some have been annoyed with me for refusing to publish until I understood what I was seeing. To those who fear open source, I say that it’s true that some people behave disrespectfully with published work, but this is normal and there are already rules in place in society about that. Ces’t la vie, we just keep moving forward, not looking back.
In the way of many neurodivergent people, I do my work only for the love of questions and not for personal gain. Although I didn’t have a way to articulate it back in the early days of the project, CGB has always been what it officially is now, a non-profit organization. I have drawn no funds from the project since 2016, in fact all of our income has gone back directly to those who participated, in the form of stipends, materials, travel costs and accommodations for our many retreats and research team meetings. When possible, we returned speaking fees to the bead societies, threw parties for the people who came, or brought professional photographers to celebrate the participants and people in the audience.
Above, Trillian Stars wearing a big flower I made, photographed in the Green Room at the Fashion Institute of Technology, back when one of the New York bead societies used to meet there. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.
After a particularly difficult set of moments for me (and for our team) in 2020, I re-dedicated myself to the concept of describing our work in less personal terms in general (this is so important) and to that end I raised funds for a true living-wage Fellowship for a bead artist, someone we could offer practical real-world support to and who could dedicate themselves to interpreting our team discoveries with the same open-hearted goals that we held. Kathryn Shriver came to us through Nico Williams, and it was a natural fit. In 2022, after having re-spun the golden straw of our catalogue through her hands, and through her own discoveries, we now have a series of interconnected works to describe our team’s discovery work in a natural and meaningful way.
For example, Kathryn’s take on the PodCast bead with Kim Van Antwerp’s Arrows growing naturally off of each point as a colour and pattern study incorporates a suite of original finds into an organized study of architecture, colour and texture.
One unexpected result of Kathryn’s fellowship is that my starting questions have really all been answered, which is restful, but answered in ways that lead to better questions (which transcend beadwork) and that is energizing. I’m so grateful to everyone who has contributed to this journey. It’s been a tough six years in society for many of us (and things are very hard out there right now for many people) and to be able to focus on the nature of the geometry of the Universe has been a lifesaver.
Because of the scope of the work we are managing (which has its own pace of consorting and consolidating) Kathryn and I expect that we will be working through next summer to complete all of our releases and all four of our books, and we will be happy to speak at length about that after we get the first one out of the door and onto the press.
Adding the Superstars chapter was a huge delay, but I think it was the missing step (and in fact it helped us answer a lot of outstanding questions) and so to impatient people, all we can say is “soon” and along the way we will be releasing many more beautiful free patterns to bring you all along with us on the path we have taken to discovery, questioning, and resolution.
The next up is the Casting Spine (Joy Davison) to create the incredible Star Spiral (Susannah Thomson).
The real joy of sharing these patterns is getting your input. We love your interpretations, questions, proofreading, participation and of course I want to photograph your pieces (in Spring) for our fine art hardcover Cocktail Book (Charles named it, and we think he meant “coffee-table book” but it stuck). So be sure to let us know what you made. We’ll be collecting photos a bit later.
I wish that I could mention every person who has helped us, worked with me, fed me, helped me see, or helped anyone, but there is a character limit to how much space anyone should take up in the day of another, and I have exceeded it. I will just have to continue later.
With excitement for each new day, and wishing you peace at the end of the year,