In late December, I won a copy of Marcia DeCoster's Beaded Opulence from The Lone Beader. (The Lone Beader, by the way, is an extraordinary beader; just take a look at some of her detailed bead embroidery pieces. I especially love her beaded dogs—they look real enough to bark!)
My Initial Reaction
Some people think right-angle weave (RAW), the subject of Beaded Opulence, is difficult. One beader I know, for example, has only two words for RAW: "Never again!" But
honestly, unlike peyote, RAW was a stitch that
made sense to me immediately. My knowledge of it is pretty basic, so I was excited
when I learned I'd won a copy of this book. I knew the author, Marcia DeCoster, was an expert at this stitch. She was recently one of Beadwork's
"Designers of the Year" and she regularly teaches at shows.
She clearly knows her stuff and she's generous about sharing that
I had two immediate reactions to the book cover:
1. Wow, that necklace is amazing!
2. The projects in this book will be too difficult for me.
Based on the cover, I fully expected an "eye candy" book, the kind where I'd enjoy flipping through the pages and admiring the pretty pictures, but not actually doing much else with it.
I was delighted to be proven wrong.
My Earring Project
In reviewing project books, it's ideal to be able to try one of the projects. Something that can make sense while skimming a book can be confusing with actual beads and thread in hand. I would have loved to have made something a bit more complicated, but I ran into an immediate problem. I did not have on hand all types and quantity of beads needed for a large project. (Many of the projects require size 15 seed beads and 2-3mm crystals.) I could have ordered beads, but I wanted to make something immediately. So I chose Medici Drops, which required minimal supplies.
Marcia's version of these earrings are State Dinner; mine (pictured here) are Senior Prom. The major change (besides the colors) was the length of the crystal dangles. Mine are 12mm; the originals were 36mm. I felt the instructions and drawings were clear and easy to follow. Supplies, however, aren't listed in the book, nor are exact amounts of thread used for the project. This didn't bother me since the supplies for most of the projects are the kind that are easy to find in lots of places. (Plus, Marcia has a list of stores on her website if you have trouble finding anything.) And as for thread length, well, maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I generally use the amount of thread that's most comfortable for me to work with and add or cut as I work. I assume that most intermediate/advanced beaders do the same.
What I Liked Best
What I like best about this book is something that you might not consider if you didn't have an editorial background: the book's organization. The chapter arrangement takes this book beyond a mere "project" book, where you learn to do just the exact projects included. The arrangement by technique, plus the project variations, let you take what you've learned and apply it to your own original designs. So, for example, if you've always loved curved or layered beadwork, you'll find chapters devoted to those topics. This makes it an ideal reference book. I know I'll be referring to it again and again when I want to explore RAW layers or other variations.
Smaller & Easier Projects
I also liked that there were a few smaller projects (earrings, ring) included. These let you experiment with technique without too much of a commitment. Some beadweaving books will only include large, labor-intensive projects which are fine for the committed beadweaver. For someone new to the technique (or on a very tight budget), it's nice to have the option of a few smaller projects.
You'll Like This Book If . . .
While some of the Amazon reviews suggest that a beginner could use this book, I wouldn't recommend it for an absolute beginner. There is a nice technique section at the beginning which is helpful if understand the basic concept of beadweaving already. If you're not sure what a seed bead looks like or how to thread a needle, you may want to first ease into beadweaving with class at your local bead shop or a basic beginner's book like Getting Started with Seed Beads by Dustin Wedekind. But I'm certainly proof that you don't have to have your Ph.D. in Beadweaving to enjoy this book. If you're an advanced beginner or intermediate/advanced beader who has already created one or two (or more) projects in RAW or has a strong comfort level with another beadweaving stitch, you'll find that Beaded Opulence opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It's the kind of book you'll reach for again and again and always find something new. Who knows? Instead of saying "never again," you just might end up declaring right-angle weave your new BBF.
1/30/10 Update: Read what Marcia had to say about this review.