Our February 18 Speaker: Virginia Blakelock
Topic: “A Career of Firsts”
Virginia Blakelock’s career in beads has been one filled with many “firsts.” Her work was first published in Threads magazine in 1988, generating the most reader letters of any article in that magazine’s history. Her book Those Bad Bad Beads was the first modern treatise on beadweaving techniques that was not from a Native American or craft point of view. In that book, she was the first to describe flat Ndebele herringbone stitch and quadruple helix. In 1991, she was the first American to contact private Czech pressed glass bead makers and contract with them to produce beads for the American bead market. Remember Tiny Tim drops? Dagger pendants? Leaves and flowers? Her company Beadcats, Inc. first brought them to market in the 90’s.
Blakelock and her business partner Carol Perrenoud were the first bead teachers at Penland School, and they taught at Surface Design, Convergence, and for embroidery and quilt guilds across the country, touring in a 1975 Cadillac six-door black limousine. Many of the luminaries in the bead world today were Virginia’s and Carol’s students, including Diane Fitzgerald and Carol Wilcox Wells.
She and Carol have taught at every Bead & Button Show since it originated as Embellishments in Texas more than fifteen years ago, and they were the first to teach the Master Class in 2000.
Trained as a painter (she was featured in the Portland Art Museum’s Oregon Biennial show at the age of 23) and having spent four of her teenage years in Karachi, Pakistan, in the late 1960’s also shaped Blakelock’s unique aesthetic, which combines intricate technique with skillful use of color. Even though she teaches projects that often use kits, she encourages her students to think “outside the kit” and use her designs to kickstart their own creativity. She says, “I can’t possibly discover and realize all the possibilities of my designs. I teach them in the hopes that some of my students will do that exploring.”
Virginia’s talk will cover highlights of her artwork, and will also include candid photos of the rest of her life, including some highlights of her Czech travels. As you can see, Virginia is an artist of “firsts,” and her presentation will give you a glimpse into her creative life.
If you’d like to learn more about Virginia and her work before her presentation, please visit her website at: