Approaching art one bead at a time

Auburn artist finds passion in beadwork
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Features Editor
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Dorene Kidd believes in the beauty of beads. The Auburn artist finds inspiration working with seed beads, and she used them to create everything from bracelets and pendants to intricately designed portraits. “They are like treasures,” Kidd said. “They’re so little and sparkly.” Kidd is a founding member of the Auburn Old Town Gallery, which was established in 1995. She’s one of the gallery’s three featured artists for the month of June, along with Sonja Hamilton and Gary Freeman. “This gallery, it’s just a wonderful opportunity for artists and for customers,” she said. “It’s like buying something at a street fair. A co-op gallery is a really great thing. Everyone benefits.” Kidd has had an interest in art for as long as she can remember. “Growing up, I knew I wanted to be an artist,” she said. “I’ve always drawn. My grandmother saved pictures that I did when I was 2, 3. I drew a lot of angels.” Kidd fondly remembers a cabinet at her grandmother’s home stocked with paper, scissors, glue and other art supplies. “I could do anything as long as I cleaned up my mess,” she said. Kidd works with colored pencil but started dabbling in beadwork a few years ago. Her current favorite art form is bead embroidery. After sketching out a design on paper and connecting it to fabric using an embroidery hoop. She then meticulously stitches seeds beads, up to five at a time in all sorts of colors, to slowly fill in the pattern. “I’d like to say there’s a rhyme and reason to it, but there isn’t,” she said. “It’s sort of how I’m feeling that day.” “My New Swim Fins,” a portrait of one of Kidd’s granddaughters, took more than 24,000 beads. She’s also created “An Angel When She Sleeps” based on a photo of another granddaughter. Kidd said she likes the idea of being commissioned for portraits. “The bead portraits right now are my passion. It’s like a portrait — it’s there forever,” she said. “When someone buys something like this, you put it in your will.” Kidd said she shops local when possible, buying her beads, thread, needles and other supplies at places like Gypsy Wind Beads and Altamont Beads and Treasures. Bead work is a labor of love, but Kidd wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s like working with little pieces of sparkly glass, one little fraction of glass at a time, and I love to see it materialize before my eyes,” she said. Elaine Rothwell has known Kidd since 2001, when Rothwell joined the Auburn Old Town Gallery. “We’re all so surprised by her newest work,” Rothwell said of Kidd’s bead portraits. “She seems to be so happy with what she’s doing.” Rothwell is impressed by Kidd’s dedication to such a time-consuming creative process. “The end result is a kind of art that nobody does,” she said. “It’s an art form that’s so unusual, I don’t know of anyone else who does portraits like that.” Rothwell owns a couple of Kidd’s pieces, and can’t wait to see what she creates next. “They’re beautiful pieces and she’s a beautiful person,” Rothwell said.