Amee K. "Runs With Scissors" Sweet-McNamara is the author of this delightful book. To say she knocks this one right out of the box is an understatement.
She combines the grand elegance and the classic history of soutache (a form of fabric jewelry art derived from the French tradition of embellishing uniforms with "passmenterie") with a great big dash of her own extraordinary personality, The end result is an irresistible new take on soutache which even a beginner to this at times daunting seeming technique can embrace with ease and pleasure.
This is not to say that Soutache & Bead Embroidery is just a book for newbies. You can know how to create this glorious type of fabric and bead jewelry from way back, but there is still so much you have to learn available here! Why? Because this designer will become your best friend as soon as you open the book, color wise! But that is not all! She has a sense of vivaciousness evidenced by her nickname and fun which changes up the very nature of soutache. You haven't seen soutache until you have seen it done by Ms. Sweet-McNamara! It has an appealing sort of charm and an inventiveness which is disarming.
There isn't one project in here that this reviewer didn't want to really dive into immediately. I studied all of them carefully, not knowing what to admire about each one first! They are all so different and it isn't just the great sense of color, which is fascinating . The way the author approaches color is very unique, but not in the least bit odd. It is purely beautiful. If you take a look at the intricacies of the colors on the cover of the book above, you can see how remarkably suited to this amazing technique the author is.
So there's her great ability with color...but wait, there is more! The other really marvelous talent exhibited by the designer is her marvelous way with beads! This is such a great addition to the soutache pieces. Ms. Amee K. Sweet-McNamara was at one time an interior designer. I conclude that she is able to use her expertise with color and can also use her knowledge of dimensions and balance which she acquired when she was a designer. Most beaders do not have this sort of training.
I have no wish to tell everyone who designs jewelry to go out and study interior design and I am not trying to say she is better than everyone else at what she does. I am simply noting that it is possible that this is partially what makes this soutache instruction book so great.
The book opens with a great foreword and and wonderful introduction and then heads into the basics the reader will need to have on hand supply-wise and technique-wise to try the upcoming projects.
Then there are three chapters which build on each other. The first is "Creating Basic Shapes".
Following that is Chapter Two:"Adding Elements". The third and final chapter has the most challenging and intriguing title: "Layers and Light". This concept is basic to understanding why the author is so good at embroidering with soutache and beads. It isn't just her background, or her great sense of color, it isn't just the soutache or just the beads, it is all of that and more. Here is where I learned the most. I expect that you will as well.
There is also a gallery of the authors pieces to enjoy at the end for further inspiration.
I would like to share a little more incentive to add this book to your jewelry designing library by mentioning a few of my favorite projects. How about, from the most basic chapter, THE VERY FIRST PROJECT?
Yes, you have that right! You barely need to wet your toes before you find a project which is breathtakingly beautiful. The "Princess Earrings", which comprise project one, do indeed present with basic shapes, the graceful....well, the author calls it the "lollipop shape", combined with the "Eskimo slipper"! And if you don't want to get going on these so that you can sport them on your own ears faster than I can say "Wow, did you really make those?", I would be very surprised. The shape is beautiful and accented with a lovely drop of vitrail crystal below each earring. The colors of the soutache are jawdropping and incredibly feminine: mint, chartreuse and mauve. There is also silver, lime green, apricot, coral, palace green opal, and fuchsia in the color mix. As these are seed beads and/or other types of glass beads, it isn't an overwhelming test of your skills. It is just a presentation of extraordinary balance and grace which is suitable for the fanciest appearance you will ever need jewelry for, or just for hanging out in your jeans with a glass of iced tea, feeling really glamorous!
You do get the perqs of being a princess while wearing these earrings. I would buy this book for this project alone.
But that isn't all! As an aside, in chapter one, the author designs a tour de force using the, at times, difficult-to-impress-with (when embroidering) color of black, along with some tones which do not veer far from black. And watch as you note that the impact and stylishness of this project could rival anything found on the cover of Vogue right now or in any year.
Another project I would like to mention is from chapter two, "Adding Elements". This one is called the "Shebangin' Shield necklace". I wish to point out here that information about the projects is posted above each one. The focus of each project from an educational standpoint is clearly spelled out. For example, when you start to learn about this great triple polymer clay shield soutache and bead necklace, you discover that you are working on learning how to use cabochons, with a "bonus skill" of working with domestic soutache. Meanwhile, this reviewer would like to add that if you have ever seen anything like this necklace before, then you are hanging out with an incredibly hip and fun group of innovators. You will adore the golds and oranges with bronzes. The soutache is comprised of colors of merlot, ivy, and ruby glint. No one would have to ask me twice to wear this beauty to my next event -- I would invent an event, in order to make and wear this!
That is the effect this lively and accessible author maintains, as you learn more and more from her through your journey with this book, Soutache & Bead Embroidery.
When the reader arrives at "Layers and Light", the author states, "Having mastered the basics, as well as incorporating various elements, one is inclined to go--well--a little nuts." However, she then expands on what might happen if you do that and explains further: "This chapter introduces techniques that you can use to break up the volume of your work, adding depth-enhancing textures and allowing light to penetrate negative spaces and translucent elements.
Bead toward the light."
How brilliant that sentence is.
And how equally brilliant is this master of her craft. Ms. Sweet-McNamara has given us every tool we need in order to be great at this jewelry technique. Now we will learn to refine it, until we get as good as we possibly could be, just from a book. Just from THIS book.
I am struck dumb by her designs in every chapter. and the one I love the most here is the "Lady Josephine bracelet". You will be focusing on capturing a crystal with the "bonus skill" of using Lac jewelry elements. I cannot describe to my satisfaction how lovely this bracelet is.You simply have to try to imagine a swirl of marine,ivy,cream and gold, with turquoise and gold Lac Jewelry elements and rainbow gold, violet, seafoam, powder blue and fern colors. Can you see that? It is totally divine!
If you have any interest at all in learning a new skill, any interest in fabric arts or embroidery, any interest in learning a new way of seeing color, or using textures when you design with beads or fabric, or even if you just love to look at art jewelry, this book is possibly going to ignite your creativity and get you psyched up and ready for a new love. The effort of learning this skill will definitely be worth it.
If you decide soutache and bead embroidery isn't for you (even after you see the author's gallery, which is fantastic), well...you just absorbed a top notch education in the basics of any other creative pursuit you could possibly imagine. And I will be so surprised I might eat my own copy if you don't love yours!
Soutache & Bead Embroidery by Amee K. Sweet-McNamara is a really great book!