About the Artist/Designer - Brenda Whitehead

The gift of working with my hands comes from both sides of my family. I started to learn needlework at an early age. I remember watching my grandmother and my mother making a quilt and wanting to help. I was taught basic embroidery and crochet and my aunt taught me to knit. When I got older, I began to pursue the needlearts on my own.

Fabrics have always fascinated me so I learned to weave and spin to better understand the relationships between different fibers. Weaving lies at the base of all my artwork, for I believe that at the start of all fabric is the woven cloth made of threads, upon which the artistic twinings and crossings of more threads and other embellishments create beauty. Specializing in fine beadwork, fine embroidery and handmade lace, I have based my business, Heirlooms & Treasures on these techniques.

Needlepoint, cross stitch, knitting, crochet and loom beadwork got me through high school and after marrying and was expecting my first child, I took up quilting. I love to explore new things and take classes whenever I can. I like to try everything at least once so I know how to do it even if I do not continue the type of work. This learning process helps me with designing. Having some idea of what might work can speed up the experimentation stage. Managing a needlework shop taught me a lot about everything! Relationships between all the needlework techniques I knew became clearer to me, especially when teaching others.

Bobbin lace, needle lace and tatting are the lacemaking forms I like best and gifts of heirloom hanky bonnets to newborn babies of special friends are fun! Beadwork is one form of weaving I particularly love. I got back into beading seriously in 1993 and taught myself the peyote stitch. The first thing I tried to make and design was an amulet bag. I had seen one years before, but having two young boys was not able to pursue it at the time.

My first bag a success, I went on to designing more and more and discovered Japanese Delica beads! I use these and size 14's almost exclusively now. The peyote stitch is my favorite and I have told my cat not to sit still too long, I might peyote his tail!

Interview by Copper Coyote Beads:

(Posted with permission)


Brenda Whitehead

How did you first get interested in beads?

I've always been into beads! I remember playing with my mom's necklaces!

What was your first bead project?

If you mean my very first - I don't remember. In high school I taught myself looming and made a belt - which promptly fell apart! It was made of round lavender glass beads. I think I still have a piece of that belt somewhere!

How long have you been beading?

Beading seriously - since 1993. Off and on before that since high school. In 1993 I learned the peyote stitch! Bingo!

When did you start designing, and why?

I always design for everything! Ever since teaching myself needlepoint when I was 14, I have designed for every needlework technique I have ever tried. I have a stack of small samples/small projects that I want to make into individual little pillows and place them all into a basket. I have a vision of myself handing the basket to anyone that asks "What ELSE do you do?" ;} I get asked that a lot!

What types of projects do you design?

Everything from amulet bags to wall tapestries. In techniques as varied - from fiber to glass!

What type of project is your favorite?

No one thing. Usually the one that I'm working out at the time.

What is your favorite type of bead?

Delicas! They make my beaded tapestries look like tapestries! Wonderful little beauties!

What is your favorite bead color?

There again, no one favorite. I tend toward the Victorian colors lately, wine, burgundy, mauve, blue and forest green.

What is your favorite stitch, and why?

Peyote is my absolute favorite! I love the diagonals you can get! I'm working on combining peyote with fiber weaving and macrame. Fascinating!

What is your least favorite stitch and why?

Hmmm.... this is a difficult question. I don't dislike any stitches! They all can be useful!

How do you get your inspirations for your designs?

They are just there. Where they come from is a mystery! I can look at a color, or somebody's hair or a chair or.... well, just anything could spark an idea!

How do you design? (Graph paper, bead design program)

I usually start with a sketch or drawing and then go into a bead program. I use more than one, because sometimes one does something the other won't do.

Why did you decide to offer your designs to the public?

People kept asking!

Are your patterns/books self-published?

Yes, they are.

Do you teach? What classes? Do you have a regular store/setting where you teach? Are you available to travel to teach? Any shows/educational events you do on a regular basis?

Yes, but I would like to teach more. Beginning peyote, etc... I don't teach in a store (I live in a bead-store-poor area) and am planning classes in my home. I am available to travel and teach. I limit the shows I do to 1 or 2 a year to have more time for designing, writing and beading.

Are you planning a new book? What's it called? What's it about?

Several! As to which one will be done first - I have no idea! I am also planning to offer individual patterns.

Do you belong to a bead society in your area? Which one?

Yes, the Austin Bead Society.

Any thing else you want to tell us about yourself? Your family, pets, education, travel, other hobbies, future plans, etc?

I like to keep busy, almost never sit without something to do in my hands and always have paper and pencil handy! Thank goodness for post-it notes! I enjoy doing a variety of needle and handwork techniques, among them - counted cross stitch and embroidery, bobbin lace, needle lace and tatting. More recently - pine needle baskets (miniature) and micro macrame. I like the small stuff!

I enjoy Sci-Fi (reading and watching), medieval role playing, old movies (especially with great costumes!), beef jerky, jaw breakers and chocolate! In my immediate future - more designing and sword fighting lessons!

© Brenda Whitehead 1995-2002 *** http://www.bwhitehead.com