Virginia Brubaker 
Creating Bead Art
In the spring of 2002 I began thinking about the possibilities for a bead picture of the Egyptian Sky Goddess, Nut (pronounced Noot). I began looking at mythology and archaeology sources for ancient images of Nut. The best of them showed her with stars in her body, which I liked, but the body shape was awkward and unattractive, apparently designed to fill the edges of the space on which it was painted, so she came out pretty rectangular. As I thought about how I wanted to present her, I began thinking of yoga poses, which led me to yoga books, and then to create this sketch.



NNow those of you who know yoga are pointing at her foot and wondering why she is on her toes, which doesn't seem like a very stable way to create the sky. As I looked at the sketch, I realized that I had recreated by own arthritic ankle. I decided that Nut didn't need that, so her heels relaxed down to the ground before I created the full-size sketch with colored pencil.
 
I started planning the types of  beads I wanted to use for each section, and ordered beads to supplement my stash. I etched the surfaces of some beads to get more matte-finish opaque beads for the land portion of the picture. I pulled bags and tubes of beads from my bead stash. I filled a gallon size Ziploc bag for each of the four areas of the picture: Goddess, Sky, Earth, and Chaos. Not all of the beads would make it into the finished product, but they were all likely candidates.


I began the beading by carefulling shaping the goddess in transparent blue beads. I wanted the transparency to express the other-worldly character of her, while opaque yellow and gold borders clearly defined her. Getting just the shape I wanted, using freeform brick stitch, required constantly checking the beadwork against the sketch, a certain amount of grumbling, occasional swearing, and frequesnt tearing-out of portions that were veering off-course. Above you can see the finished goddess lying atop the sketch.

Before I began work on the sky, I did a small study of Nut with bead embroidery to test the other portions of the picture. Here is that small version:
 
I do most of my beading under a magnifying lamp, so I can really get each bead aligned just the way I want it. I search through my beads for one that is just the right size, shape and color to either keep a clear line, or break up a line into a more random-looking pattern, depending on where I am in the piece.

This piece I thought of as four separate areas, each to get its own treatment:
The goddess is transparnet, shaded simply, and outlined definitively.
The earth is mostly matte, mostly opaque, and mostly larger beads, all to emphasize solidity. The colors are muted because it is night.
The sky has many opaque beads, lots of contrast between stars and streams of starlight and the background sky. The sky is darkest at the top and blends down to lighter blues. In the stories about Nut, it is said that the stars streamed from her breats, so I have begun the streaming lines there.
The surrounding gey area I think of as Chaos, with Nut defining and encircling the sky that humans percieve. Originally I thought this area should be transparent and very plain, but after trying a section that way, I wasn't pleased with the effect, so I changed to a grayscale sort of palette and patterns that bear similarity to those in the enclosed night sky but that seem less organized.
 
 
I signed the beadwork by signing a flat two-holed stone bead. Ised a teensy brush and enamel, then coated it signed bead with varnish.

Here is the finished beadwork before being (tediously) stitched to a velcro backing for mounting in a frame. Finihed size of the beadwork is approximately 10" by 7.5". You can see the bead with the signature to the left of Nut's ankle.
 
And here is Nut framed, with the smaller embroidered study next to it. The project was finished in March, 2003.
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