Sharl G. Smith is a Jamaican-Canadian artist specializing in sculptural seed bead art objects and jewellery. We had the pleasure of interviewing Sharl about the inspiration behind her stunning work.
What inspired you to include elements of geometry in your work?
Geometry fills me with this childlike sense of wonder. I am still not sure why. My 5th year architectural thesis project was a study in triangles. I love the creation of shapes by simply connecting lines, and then taking that framing of space from the two dimensional to the three dimensional. It’s magic! I am more drawn to regular shapes. Elemental regular geometry already exists in nature, flowers, fruits, crystals right down to certain molecular structures. I find that fascinating. There is also the symbolical meaning imbued in certain shapes across cultures and throughout human history. I could spend a lifetime on the elemental shapes alone and never be bored.
I am just beginning my geometrical studies using seed beads and the art of bead-stitching. I began learning this technique by making jewellery. All of the bead-stitching books are on jewellery-making but I have visions of making large sculptural pieces with beadwork. I am beginning by studying the Platonic and Archimedean solids. There is a deep history to these 18 solids that is a rich source of inspiration. Also, I have a strong desire to experience these shapes three-dimensionally. I am still honing my technique and experimenting with seed beads as a medium and so I play with the traditional shapes, adding even more dimension and texture to the objects.
How long does it take to create a geometric piece?
Days, weeks. Depends on the object and the sizes of beads. The miniature boxes take about two weeks. The dodecahedron took four weeks including pattern design, each pentagon took 9 hours of pure stitching. In contrast, the large white icosahedron, similar in size to the dodecahedron, took 6 days because I used larger beads.
Can you describe your process when planning a particular piece?
That too depends on the project. For the dodecahedron, it took me 3 days just to choose the colour palette including making small tests. Working with seed beads is just like pointillism, when each colour is right it flows and looks effortless but just one colour in the wrong tone of white or with the wrong finish affects the whole thing. So I spend a lot of time choosing my colours. I designed the dodecahedron pattern on the computer using AutoCAD and Photoshop. The patterns for the pyramids I drew by hand. That was fun. In general, I start with a feeling, a desire or sometimes I have visions. For instance, right now, I love the pentagons and icosahedrons and the fact that I am creating them with triangles. I couldn’t tell you why. So I choose my beads, experiment with the sizes from the selection that I currently have available and the frustration of creating something that matches my heart’s desire and/or my mind’s eye begins, one bead at a time.
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