5 Questions with Challenge winner Robin Gower

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We’re pleased to spotlight the winner of our SOLSTICE design challenge in the beading category, Robin Gowers, who submitted this evocative bead-embroidered collar featuring a labradorite cabochon surrounded by seed beads and crystals in colors suggesting a mid-winter sunrise. Robin is a retired professor of medieval history who loves to play around with historical styles and motifs in her jewelry designs. We caught up with her to find out a bit about what makes her tick.
robingower

ARE YOU A PROFESSIONAL JEWELRY-MAKER, OR IS THIS A HOBBY? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN CREATING?

I don’t think of myself as a professional or as a hobbyist. If it is not too pretentious a claim, I am an artist, because my first goal is always to push myself to make the most exquisite object I can using the best materials I can find. I am not interested in assessing the cost of materials in comparison to the “market price” of a piece, and I am not interested in adopting less time-consuming beading techniques. I never make any piece twice, and I make no attempt to make pieces in a range of sizes. I finish each piece to my own satisfaction, and then it is done.

I love beads with precious metal coatings, gem quality cabochons and fine freshwater pearls – but I also love to search for vintage, antique and unusual materials in old warehouses, online and especially in my only and favorite bead shop, Bead Dazzle, in Point Pleasant NJ. I learned to bead at Bead Dazzle about five years ago, and now I teach there regularly.

HOW DID YOU LEARN JEWELRY-MAKING?

I had tumbled some quartz and orthoclase beach rocks and wanted to show them off. On an impulse, I wandered into Bead Dazzle and asked how it could be done. They sold me a copy of Bead&Button and told me to read the Basics section at the end. In addition, I enrolled in a basic class. I was hooked! 

I adore bead embroidery, especially by Jamie Cloud Eakin and Sherry Serafini, whose books are models on clarity and ingenuity. And I buy and devour almost every new book on beading and bead embroidery.

The “bead shop ladies” are still my mentors, friends, and teachers (and coffee break pals).  Thanks Jackie, Jean, Liz and Carolyn!

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE THAT YOU EVER GOT FROM A TEACHER OR A MENTOR?

 Try it and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, take it out and start over. A defect will haunt you.

 

robingworkspace

WHAT IS YOUR WORKSPACE LIKE?

Must I confess? My workspace is very cluttered, but my materials are organized and reorganized in plastic bins so that there is a high probability that I can actually find what I need.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MATERIALS TO USE IN YOUR WORK?

This question is easy. I love seed beads (Japanese for structure and gorgeous coatings, Czech for color and pizzazz). I love Swarovski crystals, both new and vintage, because of their clarity, variety, and careful cutting. To my cost, I have fallen in love with hand-finished cabochons – my favorites are Madagascar labradorite and rutilated quartz, but I could list and show you a dozen more – and good quality freshwater pearls with deep luster. I try to use findings of sterling, gold fill, or bronze, because they feel warmer against the skin than lesser metals. I have also bought spools and spools of precious metal threads and have begun to use them in bead embroidery.

See more of Robin’s work:

ourbeadedpast.com

beaddazzlepoint.com

100 American Craftsmen in Lockport, NY (June 2-4)

Sugarloaf Craft Shows in Oakes, PA (Nov. 3-5, 2017) and Edison, NJ (Nov. 10-12, 2017)

FIND MORE: bead weaving , embroidery

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