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

CGB announces the Fellowships & Scholarships Fund

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The UNLAB is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization

2021 / 2022 Recipients: Kathryn Shriver, Sam Norgard

In 2021 and 2022, the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Research team is again breaking new ground by fielding two $60k/year living-wage academic fellowships in sewn beadwork. Our first recipients are recent MFA Kathryn Shriver and professor Sam Norgard.

flying Hypar earrings by Sam Norgard

As beadwork is not yet recognized academically as its own field, we decided to lead the way and recognize it ourselves. We’ve dedicated 100% of the profit from the sales of our upcoming new books to these efforts, and we’re also working to bolster the resources for teaching– we’re making a university-level textbook in geometric beadwork, and preparing several academic papers on energetic surfaces and linkages for peer review.

Perhaps one day in the future we’ll see professors hired to teach and study beads, and graduate coursework will be available. The only artists we know of today who focused on beading to receive an MFA came through other departments; Nico Williams from Sculpture and Kathryn Shriver thorough Painting, and each did their work at Concordia University in Montreal. Do you know of others? Leave a comment.

The Fellowship Awards

Each fellowship award in this first round pays $60,000 per year. We fielded the first one in May of 2021 for Kathryn Shriver, and another will begin this summer for Sam Norgard, professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Kathryn’s fellowship (designed for a new graduate) comes with employment benefits as well, including completely paid health insurance, vacation and paid leave. Sam’s award is designed to recognize a lifetime of service, outreach, generosity, and years of creatively folding geometric beadwork into her curriculum at SCAD, and so while Kathryn’s is designed to allow her to continue to study beads and make a body of work, Sam’s is meant to be like a sabbatical, a recharge year.

To our knowledge, these awards mark the first living-wage fellowship grants in beadwork. We hope to continue this program into the future.

We earn the money to fund these fellowships through the sale of bead assortments (please visit our shop) books, and teaching workshops. Sales of our upcoming new set of books should fund Sam’s fellowship completely; in the meantime proceeds from workshops, bead assortments and digital book sales have funded Kathryn’s, and John Bead , Caravan Beads and Fire Mountain Gems each extended deep discounts to our team so that we could make the most of our beads. We are thankful.

Exploding PodCast exploration with Arrows, Kathryn Shriver 2021

In addition to the two academic fellowships, CGB continues to mentor artists, students, and to donate materials to beaders worldwide. Our technical information is published to all, for free, and we are 100% committed to the free sharing of information and the practical support of artists in our field. We have not sought publicity for our fellowships, but we do seek your support.

The UnLAB is an IRS-certified 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, and many employers will match donations to groups like ours, so if you donate to the UnLAB/CGB, it’s possible that your gift could be doubled. Be sure to ask for a donation receipt for your employer, if so. All of our income goes straight to our giving, and absolutely none of it goes to salary, fees, overhead or administrative expense.

The People

Kathryn Shriver is very close to the heart of beadwork as fiber, and often creates large pieces of loomed beadwork, clothing, and immaculately beautiful strips, garments and cloths. She approached geometric beadwork as a whole endeavor, absorbing our library of technique and then rendering our forms in new and cohesive ways.

Kathryn has experience with many different approaches to beadwork as well. She has worked with bead innovators Nadia Myre and Nico Williams on large projects, loves to experiment with surfaces, and is constantly asking questions about what more can be seen and understood through the framework and connections of beads and thread.

Sam Norgard is someone who has made forward motion her life. Whether she has been renovating warehouses in Philly, building a gathering place in Nova Scotia, teaching foundations of design at SCAD, creating sculptures, beadwork and community, Sam does it with energy, love and care for others. She is an example of what makes our community shine.

Below, Sam sharing ideas with visiting MIT students in Kate’s classroom at MIT, when CGB participated in the January IAP session in 2016. CGB has brought the geometric beadwork project to the MIT campus many times since our first visit in 2015.

Below, Sam (right) and felllow SCAD professor Dawn Peterson working on the layout of a large public art piece, Black And White Together, a portrait in hyperbolic paraboloids (Warped Squares) of the eyes of beader Joyce Scott.

Above, Sam in our studio space resting under the weight of a fabric beaded by Kathryn Shriver (The Big Bead), near the layout on the floor of the large Black and White Together sculpture. Below, Kathryn explaining how the Big Bead was loomed and sewn together.

We love working with kids of all ages. Above, Kate McKinnon at Martin and Marca’s place (DiMarca) in France during a CGB team meeting, chatting with their son Skyler about our science team, morphing surfaces, and energetic structures.

Materials Gifts and Grants

In March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, Daniel John and Carmi Cimicata of John Bead made a stunning gift to our team – a truck delivery of sparkling Delica and other beads to further our research, our museum exhibits, and our own giving. The John Bead team worked extra time before the shutdowns and lockdowns to get this out to us, and the boxes came on two pallets in a giant truck, and this is what it looked like.

We had no idea at that moment what the next two years would bring– all of our exhibits cancelled, and no more gatherings. Paper shortages, bead shortages.

Beads from this gift and from our project have made their way all over the world, traveling out to our own team artists in 10 different countries, to Indigenous beaders around the world, and to others who are pushing beadwork into the future.

Artist Anvi Shah (who visited our team in Savannah in December, 2021) took a big gift box of precision Delicas back with her to Kutch, India, to see what she and her colleagues there in art and craft might make with them– they represent a chance for accomplished artisans to explore a different cut of glass, intensely precise, with deep enough colour selection and quantity to explore a new body of work.

We were dazzled by them, all spread out in the sun. What would we make of a wealth like this, if we suddenly woke up and found ourselves with a year to ourselves and a nice box of needles and thread? And yet we have every piece of this wealth but the time to contemplate, to lie fallow. One of the ideas behind the fellowships and sabbaticals is to give artists is to give people who must work constantly to maintain their practice and pay their bills a breath, a break, a space of time to see what develops.

Meetings, Discovery sessions and Conferences

Our team has also fully sponsored dozens of meetings around the world, paying airfare and lodging to bring our artists to discovery sessions and conferences.

Above, CGB brought a team of 10 to the Bridges Conference in Linz, Austria in 2019, and we participated in a runway show of wearable art. Nico Williams is wearing a giant beaded form on his head, and Kate a Mobius Kaleidocycle Bangle.

Below, two photos from the many visits of the mathematical beadwork research team to MIT.

Above, working at the Cambridge public library, and below, the very first Seed Bead Summit in Tucson, Arizona with Dustin Wedekind and Teresa Sullivan discussing shape and form.

The Future

We are going to keep pushing forward, publishing, creating, giving, doing, and seeing how much energy we can create for the people who love and practice beadwork.

We are deeply grateful to those who have put us forward over the years with their encouragement, their book and bead purchases, their gifts of time and resources, and their attention.

Forward! And onward.

DONATE  or email
The UNLAB is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization

March 2023
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