Your Weaving Story: Maureen Kenney
Click here to read our customer feature of Maureen from 2015.
Faded 1940’s photographs of uniformed men and women – just one second captured in time. It was a tense and disturbing time in our history that moves farther away in our collective memories every year that passes. Maybe some would like to forget, but I’d like to remember, if only to say thank you.
My way of saying thanks is different than most. I find expression through my artwork as a Bead artist. By creating beaded tapestries of real people who served in the military, with every bead I pick up on my needle I express my personal thanks. I capture that moment in time in a format that I hope makes people pause, and maybe reflect and discuss what they think. That’s what the Thankful Generations project is intended to do.
My mission is to ask people to never forget the sacrifices of our brave military men and women and their families, past and present. My message is to spread heartfelt gratitude from the "thankful generations" who benefit from these sacrifices.
I am hoping this project will promote new dialogue across generations, and most urgently with the generation of brave men and women who participated in the Second World War. So many veterans are in their 90's, and I feel compelled to do this project before their collective voices are lost forever. Nearly every day I read an article about the passing of yet another WWII veteran. Will you help me say thanks by passing this message along?
What is the Process for Creating Beaded Tapestries?
When people see my artwork, they often ask HOW I can make these beautiful beaded tapestries. So here is an overview of the tools and basic steps I’ve used in creating this special Thankful Generations project.
Step 1. PHOTOGRAPHS - I start with a vintage photograph that has strong black, gray and white contrasts, which can be enhanced with the use of a photo editor for things such as lighting, shading, contrast, edges, sharpness. In addition, the horizontal “aspect ratio” of the photograph has to be reduced to 90%, while retaining the 100% vertical ratio. This is done to account for the size of the Miyuki Delica precision cut beads I prefer relative to the pattern. Left unadjusted, the finished tapestry will make the persons face seem shorter and wider than the photograph.
Step 2. SOFTWARE - I use BeadTool4 software to transpose the photograph into the bead pattern (www.beadtool.net). I have experimented with different bead pattern software applications, and this one works best for me. I print out the full pattern and tape it together into a large pattern.
Step 3. BEADS - I use precision cut Miyuki Delica Beads and a nice ceramic bead holder helps me keep them organized, with each color sorted by a letter that matches the pattern. Over time I have selected a bead palette of standard colors for the black and white tapestries. NOTE ON BEAD SIZE: I normally use size 11, though I have created several using the slightly larger size 10. Word of caution, however, that though the difference between size 11 and size 10 looks small, there is definitely a distinct pixilation that comes from using the larger beads.
Step 4. My first bead weaving projects were done on small table top looms. When I got serious about doing a large project, I did more research and bought my first professional Mirrix loom, the 12” Little Guy. In addition to my Little Guy, I now also own the 8” Lani, the 5” Loreli and the 32” Joni Mirrix looms. These looms are sturdy, portable, versatile, and produced with precision engineering and attention to detail that I truly admire.
Step 5. Let’s not forget the essential materials - for a finished Thankful Generations tapestry I use my amazing 12” Little Guy Mirrix Loom; BeadTool4 Software; AA Cream Silk Thread & needles; Size 11/0 Miyuki Delica Beads, Ruler, Scissors and lots of LIGHT! Normally the finished size is 7” across and between 8 – 18” in length.
Step 6. Then there is the investment of many hours, working a little bit every day. For a tapestry that is 125 beads across, it typically takes 10 minutes to complete one row. It used to take me longer (12-15 minutes per row), but my time has improved with experience. That means that a tapestry with 200 rows will take approximately 33 hours to complete, spread over months. And that’s only for the beading! The upfront planning can take weeks, including the pursuit of the perfect picture, transposing the picture to a workable bead pattern, selection of the color palette, finding and purchasing the beads, setting up the warp threads on the loom, and so on! Finishing a piece can take longer than the bead work. Definitely a labor of love.
Some bead weavers do their weaving in several vertical sections, then piece these strips together into a single tapestry. I prefer to pick up all beads for a single row at one time and weave them in with one weft thread. Miscounting is a real PAIN, so I pick up five beads at a time, do a visual inspection of the five beads just in case a rogue bead gets into the mix, and proceed counting and picking up five beads at a time through the end of the row. Then I push all 125 beads through the back of the warp threads at the same time and run the weft thread in front of the warp threads to hold the beads in place. If you are a weaver this probably makes sense. If not, the process is to end up with the weft thread in back of the vertical threads, then back through the beads in front of the vertical threads so the beads are held in place on both sides.
There are too many nuances to my process to cover in this article, including my use of “tabs” at the top and bottom of my tapestries to provide stability and a way to hang the tapestries when completed. Those who are interested in learning more, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com, and please do visit my website about this project at www.thankfulgenerations.com.
Gratitude is the basis for my "Thankful Generations" project. Having grown up in a military family, my deep appreciation for those who have performed military service is unquestionable, and the sacrifices of their families also needs to be emphasized. With over a dozen tapestries created thus far, I continue my journey to give HONOR AND RESPECT TO ALL WHO SERVE … MJK