Marsha van Rijssen / Marsha Elliott DesignsI have been called a squirrel by fellow hikers. I love foraging for unique twigs, nuts, and leaves in perfect...
Media: FiberI see beads as my palette and sculpting tools. I use them as a painter would use paint or a sculptor would use clay. With them I create one of a kind wearable art and sculptural pieces as well as jewelry.
My background is in painting and fiber art. My work has, for most of my career, involved the lifelong interest in fiber that I inherited from my maternal grandmother, a seamstress from north Georgia, who taught me a love of color, the persistence to keep working at something until I got it the way I envisioned it and a deep respect for the importance of “women’s work” in the fabric of society. I began working with beads in the early 90s as an offshoot of my interest in soft sculpture dolls. In the beginning I was interested in how beads could enhance my dolls but very quickly I found myself completely captivated by them. I loved the process of stitching them together and I was awed at the way their appearance changed when different colors and finishes were combined. I was fascinated with their ability to become anything I could imagine. My early art school background in painting has given me the ability to see beads as a medium of color and to blend them in a way that allows the eye to see a suggestion of wholeness from separate points of light and color. My background in sewing and needlework gives me the ability to understand the creation of three dimensions out of two. I prefer using very small beads, the smaller the better. I feel that tiny beads allow a greater resolution of color and design. I am challenged by the finite shapes and colors of the beads and I feel a sense of adventure as I constantly seek new ways to scale the walls of these boundaries. My themes are varied. I am inspired by dreams, things people say to me, music, nature, my ancestral heritage and the spiral dance that is our journey through life and beyond. Some pieces become jewelry or wearable art and some become sculptures or vessels. I prefer to work by hand without the use of a loom. I am attracted to the tactile intimacy of the work in my hands as it progresses and to the creative meditation of stitching the beads together one or two at a time. Beads were the first religious objects. Creating with beads, wearing them, touching them invokes within me a connection to that ancient sense of wonder. I hope my work conveys to those who see and touch it a sense of that connection to humanity’s past and an essence of the spiritual which is too often missing in our lives today.