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Virginia Blakelock

Virginia Blakelock Virginia Blakelock’s career in beads has been one of 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 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. You have her to thank for the renaissance in that area! Remember Tiny Tim drops? Dagger pendants? Leaves and Flowers? Her company Beadcats, Inc. first brought them to market in the 90s. Blakelock and her business partner Carol Perrenoud were the first bead teachers at Penland School, and taught at Surface Design, Convergence, and for embroidery and quilt guilds across the country, touring in a 1975 Cadillac 6-door black limousine. Many of the luminaries in the beadworld today were Virginia’s and Carol’s students: Diane Fitzgerald and Carol Wilcox Wells to name but two. She and Carol have taught at every Bead&Button Show since it originated as Embellishments in Texas more than 15 years ago, and they were the first to teach the Master Class, in 2000. In those days, techniques were taught. However, times have changed, and Blakelock has turned her unique design sense to projects that can be turned into kits and taught. Training as a painter (she was featured in the Portland Art Museum’s Oregon Biennial show at the age of 23) and spending 4 teenage years in Karachi, Pakistan in the late 1960s shaped Blakelock’s unique aesthetic which combines intricate technique with skillful use of color. Even though she teaches projects and supplies kits, she encourages her students to think “outside the kit” and use her designs to kick start 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.” Blakelock combines a relaxed class atmosphere with excellent written instructions and lots of personal attention.

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