Stephanie Burnham has always sewn
even as a small child at home with her mother. Like so may beaders
her creative life started in another textile discipline. For her own
enjoyment she liked to work on counted thread techniques. She
decided to enrol for an Adult Education course entitled Art &
Design in Embroidery and it was the inspirational tutor - Helen
Price who gave Stephanie the confidence to believe in her own
achievements and work. By the end of the one-year course she had
gained the courage and confidence to produce her own work. Stephanie
stayed on to take her City and Guilds in Embroidery and clearly
remembers sitting through many daunting 'design' days, which in
retrospect she realises were so important! Stephanie believed that
if this course achieves anything it is to make participants aware of
colour, shapes and patterns, giving you a thirst for inspirational
ideas to base work on. Stephanie was invited to teach at The Country
Cross Stitcher by the proprietor Rosemary Sharman and they are now
in the 9th year of workshops for The Woburn School of Needlework.
Here she teaches classes in both embroidery and beadwork from
beginners to innovative and challenging techniques.
Stephanie started beading quite
unexpectedly, where have we heard this before? Whilst attending an
Embroiderers Guild meeting in Letchworth and one afternoon the
speaker, Sue Maguire, gave a taster session on beading with peyote
stitch. Stephanie recalls, "I went along with my size 11 sees
beads and beading needle, not knowing what the heck peyote stitch
was! Well, after about half an hour I was hooked. Sue enthused so
much and showed us her beautiful work. I needed more beads, (lots of
beads) and some good instruction books to learn from!"
From this small beginning came bigger
things. Stephanie's students saw her beadwork and wanted her to
teach them, so she started to evolve her own designs both in
embroidery and beadwork, many of which were featured in Classic
Stephanie was thrilled to be chosen
to teach as the Great British Bead Show held in Coventry last year.
She felt it was one of the best experiences of her life and hopes to
be able to repeat the experience someday.
Although her work does reflect her
love of peyote stitch, Stephanie has other favourites, which include
netting and right angle weave. Currently she has been exploring the
possibilities of beading around and encasing Agate slices and
shells. These are great fun to make but challenging to design since
she didn't want to use suede backing to bead up form the base as
this would dull down the colours of the slice and not let any
natural light through. This problem was overcome by working flat
circular peyote and keeping the tension very loose at the back until
you have worked two or three rows beyond the edge of the slice,
then, you start to pull up the tension in order to enclose the slice
whilst working peyote stitch decreasing where necessary.
Stephanie has also been exploring and
developing spiral peyote, taking it almost to a freeform state. She
says, "I love to include lots of texture in my work and
particularly enjoy two and three dimensional work, which would also
explain my love of Stumpwork embroidery. I never know which project
is next, what form or shape it will take, that is why I am not so
good at working to a design brief. I just collect unusual beads,
threads and fibres then look through my stash for inspiration."
This review was published in The
Beadworkers Guild Journal (No. 13, June 2002). Please click here
to visit the Guild's web site.