5 questions with Laura McCabe

Laura McCabe pattern 2

As a college student studying historical costume, Laura McCabe was particularly interested in the Victorian and 1920s eras, whose silhouettes are vastly different. But they have one important thing in common: beads. Laura has been beading since childhood, and one of her many accomplishments is being named U.S. Ambassador for the UK’s National Beading Week, July 30-Aug. 7, 2016. Now living in Old Mystic, CT, Laura is active as a bead-weaving designer and teacher and runs a business called Just Let Me Bead. To mark National Beading Week, she took time out to answer a few Facet questions.

PeepShowBD 2013

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGN ESTHETIC FOR US? WE’RE PARTICULARLY CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR FASCINATION WITH EYEBALLS!

My esthetic is always evolving. Earlier on I tended to do embroidered work, then highly detailed organic work, then for a while I worked quite heavily with vintage rhinestones to create a modern bent on historical costume jewelry.

Then, in search of something a little different and even a bit shocking, my work took a surrealist turn and I started working with glass animal eyes as well as antique human prosthetics and doll eyes. It’s sort of this ongoing pet project of mine . . . an anthropological study in how people react to eyes in jewelry, a practice that dates back at least as far as ancient Sumerian cultures. I love watching the reactions. It seems that people either love the image or are absolutely appalled by it. I’m still not quite sure why. 

After the eyeball (although I do still use them often), was the punk elegance phase. I worked a lot with traditionally punk styling (spikes, studs, etcetera) but used very delicate beadwork to pull it all together, for an interesting dichotomy of edgy and elegant. These days I’ve been focusing on the Deco Era, which lends itself well to my geometric beadwork.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MATERIALS?

Hmmm ... there are many.  Seed beads of course – the smaller the better – but I also like to include interesting focal elements. Among these my favorites would be glass eyes of all sorts, exquisite lapidary pieces (I’ve always been a rock collector!), and anything that’s a bit unconventional (such as beetle wings, hardware, etcetera). When it comes to embroidery work, I very much like working with leather.

ExpandyourmemoryApril03

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER GOT?

It was from one of my employers when I was working in retail. It was the last job I had before flying solo with my own business. My boss had owned her shop for 30 years at that point, and I asked for her best piece of advice for someone starting their own business. She told me, “It never gets easier. Just remember that and you’ll be fine.”

It really is true. Owning your own business and working full time as an artist is always challenging in one way or another. If you can accept this, then you won’t get too frustrated when these challenges arise, nor will you give up on the cause.

WHAT’S THE GOOFIEST OR MOST EMBARRASSING MISTAKE YOU EVER MADE?

I do remember one of my first jobs was to teach some quilters how to do bead embroidery on fabric. When I first started working with them I hadn’t really seen much of their work. I remember telling them that they needed to have patience with the beading. Bead embroidery in particular can be quite time consuming, I told them, and that was something they needed to keep in mind. 

A couple hours later they started pulling out their hand-embroidered, hand-quilted creations, some of which had taken years and years to complete. I remember feeling a little foolish.  If anybody understood patience it was these folks. Far more so than even I did.

WHAT IS YOUR WORK SPACE LIKE?

It looks like a bomb went off. I work in total disorder. Usually all my beads are mixed together in one big pile on my bead board.  My work is highly structured and often very regimented and I love how that order emerges out of total chaos. I think a lot of the time the creative process works that way. I always say a tidy studio means that not enough work is getting done. 

FIND MORE: bead weaving , seed beads

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