Huib Petersen did not grow up in a family of artists let alone beaders. He is from the very small town of Doom in Holland, basically an area of farmers. He never took an art class and could not afford to get into fancy schools. Learning local crafts at the knees of the women in his family, he developed his own style of domestic arts. As a youngster, a close friend drove him into Amsterdam where he displayed his hand made puppets, paintings, jewelry, and hand designed clothes… and promptly got shot down. This was not a great way to start…. In Holland, the government gives out money to “play” to learn what you want to do, but when Huib arrived in America, he found that this type of artistic grant money was not available. He really had to concentrate on what he wanted to create and do a better job of it if he was going to be successful and make money.
Once he arrived in San Francisco he got into a studio. He once more started to design and sew his “soft sculptures” ~ along the same line as his puppets. He also painted a self-portrait and put these items in the window display of his new home. Almost every day the same lady would walk her dog by his studio and she would stare at this display. One day the dog entered the studio, she followed, and his history evolved. She commissioned him to bead a wedding dress and the train. His work was exquisite and the word started to get around. He had discovered “Beading”… He found the famous white Russian Bead Book and even though not reading Russian, began to follow the graphs and taught himself more and more techniques, one of which was the Russian Leaf. The first effort took him two hours, but when he put it into the display window, they sold! Hey, he could actually make money playing with these little glass beads!
He enrolled in his first beading class. He was a total novice and the thirtystudents there were mostly advanced ~ totally out of his league. He picked the techniques up, started to develop his own style, and then started to teach others what he was doing. “People call me an artist. I consider myself a craftsman. I am a creative and accidental artist”. A good artist first must be a good craftsman, with a strong basis in the basics. He needs to know the basics first before he steps forward and goes down his own pathway. An artist makes people “think” when they look at his pieces, what he has designed, what is he trying to convey, and how did he do it. “If 15 years after I die, if my work is still out there and still makes people think, maybe then what I have created may be considered ART.”
One of the members asked what inspired Huib’s art work. “Lots of reasons and no reasons at all”. As a child, he started into the hand crafts of embroidery, crochet, tatting, bobbin lace…all intricate needle work. He joined the local theater troupe and quickly developed his artistry into making the costumes. His father was a stone mason which is all about building structures. Huib realized that beading was very similar. You start with a strong base and expand from there. As one of seven children, by the time he came around he was allowed to do anything he wanted. At his young age, WWII was on the minds of everyone ~ there was no money and certainly no toys ~ so Huib’s creative mind developed his own. In Holland, the school teachers give you an awareness of the world and how you might fit into it. Developing a sense of “self” through inspirations into sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
Once in America and delving into the bead world, Huib carefully studied the Bead Masters: such as David Chatt and NanC Meinhardt. He worked at copying their work to learn how it was done. He stresses to copy the experts; and then take it further, adding your own SELF. Don’t worry about the unlawfulness of copying what has been copywritten, as you are not selling their work, but learning from it. You need to perfect what they have done in order to gobeyond them and become your own artist. If you can figure out a technique just from a picture in a magazine or book, you may surprise yourself in your abilities, as that becomes more interesting than simply following step-by-step tutorials. Look at the experts, steal something from each of them and then do something ELSE with it. It took Huib years to develop each technique. Most of the time, he didn’t have reference books or tutorials or classes, but figured each one out from a picture of the beadwork. He learned something new each time this happened, and he took each success and moved it forward. He often spent time in museums looking at what was in the displays. Now his “Dance of Monarchs” is on display in the Arts & Crafts Museum in New York. This piece features an explosion of his beaded Monarch Butterflies and will leave you wide eyed and with an open admiration to his creativity.
“The world has changed. It is not safe anymore, not as in his childhood years. The joyful beading (Huib has) done in the past, the child within me is in danger.” Now he collects pretty stones, crystals, stuff tucked into drawers in his San Francisco home. He loves mice. This statement may seem strange coming from the gentle giant speaking in front of us that night. He has chosen to be an American and is now trying to unite his neighborhood. He crochets animals and creatures and places them high into trees around his home and into those of the neighbors as well. This is developing into making the childinside him happy once more. The neighbors have also changed as they come out to see his work, to chat among themselves, and to meet and greet each other. A few pieces have disappeared, but Huib feels no remorse as he is sure those pieces needed to go to a special home to make someone in need happy. His efforts have now been featured in the Huffington Post.
As new techniques are developed, Huib figures them out and incorporates them into his pieces. Often meditating for 6-8 hours a day, the ideas and images form into new creations. “Learn the rules so you can break them”. He has a box full of things that didn’t work, but when inspiration has taken a holiday, he will go through this box and try to rework those techniques into something that becomes new and exciting.
When asked how he prices his pieces for sale, Huib ventured this formula. “Granted, we seed beaders will NEVER be paid for the HOURS we spend on our pieces. (a) The lowest I will allow is $10 per/hour for just the time with needle in hand. He keeps numerous books where he tracks each piece as it is developed. Sometimes he is working on numerous pieces at the same time as he gets stumped or bored with one, he will move on to another, but each piece has its own log of time and efforts. (b) I price all materials used times 2 at the wholesale price. (c) When the piece is finished and ready to sell, the total price is increased by 100%. (d) When you find your market, weather in a gallery or among friends, add 60-70%. **If there are pieces that he really doesn’t want to sell, he literally adds $2,000 more.
He was asked what resources he uses. BEADS: “Miyuki and Toho” are his mainstay. Matsuno used to be a great company in league with Miyuki, but has been bought out by Fire Mountain Gems and sadly the quality has tanked. People are not buying as many beads as in past years causing many bead stores to close, and most beading is done by older women who have more patience and more hours to spend. Bead companies are developing new bead shapes but he feels that this is a novelty and will soon disappear back to the basic bead shapes. As to THREAD: Fireline is great if you are sewing in a straight line and don’t need tension. For that, you need a nylon thread such as OneG, Toho, Miyuki, Sono, etc., as they all work pretty much the same, and the choice is a personal one. He likes to work with SpiderWire™ which is a clear nylon fishing line. It is fun to use as you can custom dye the line with coffee, ink dyes, and even Sharpee™ pens.
For inspiration: “I walk, I see, I make”. Beaders are encouraged to keep notebooks as well as to bring their cell phones everywhere and take pictures of what they see while going on walks. Also use day-to-day occurrences ~ Huib’s watch band broke so he developed a pattern and beaded a new one, then the watch itself died.
One of the commissions he received years ago was to make a pair of shoes. He dove head first into every aspect of making shoes, how to dye and cut leather, how to make the patterns of each part, how to sew the leather onto the sole, etc. The local shoe store thought he had a shoe fetish the way he would pick up and study every style they had in stock. At that time, Barbie came out with a red shoe which he bought to study in miniature. He even went so far as to Google Dorothy’s Red Shoes from The Wizard of Oz. Now when he beads tiny shoes for his creations, they look like real shoes !!
Look at the world around you. The shopping cart at Safeway’s looks like a honeycomb, 5 butterfly tails become a starfish…the world around us is without limit….just free your mind.
To follow Huib: www.petersenarts.com
by marilyn peters