Betsy Youngquist

When I was a little over one year of age my mother accidentally left a marker uncapped. I grabbed the marker and started drawing on a marble table in our home when my mom wasn't looking. Apparently there was something aesthetically pleasing about my scribbles. That's when this crazy life of being an artist started. It's a journey I continue to this day at age 51.

Often filled with doubt at my life choice, I have to remember that the early child in me knew what I was here to do….. As I aged, I dreamed of being a veterinarian and then a marine biologist. I was actually a biology major when I entered college. Art was something I loved to do, but not a viable option as a career. There was no path for that. In graduate school I remember being in a class with MFA students.

I was pursing a degree in Art Education with a Museum Emphasis at the time. The class was an art critique class that included a group critique of each student’s work. When it came my time to have the work critiqued by the group, I remember a young woman who made very classical human figurative sculpture say she couldn’t embrace my work as art because I used materials that could be purchased at a craft store (beads).

There is that struggle with using beads as an art medium. I feel like more and more artists are pushing the boundaries of beads as a material and that is a beautiful thing. Creating art is an intention and a need. Getting caught up on what materials make art relevant is ridiculous.

During the past 20 years. When I was finishing up college my water color paintings began to feel incomplete even though I was done painting them. I started glueing small bits of colored foil paper to the surface of these watercolors.

Within a short span of time I went from foil paper to beads. The detail and texture afforded by beads allowed me to resolve the unfinished component I felt in my creative process. Years later I was teaching teenagers how to make mosaics for a Summer program with the Rockford (IL) Park District. This inspired me to try the mosaic process with beads.

The first object I beaded was a knife from my mother’s silverware drawer. Then in 2004 I ordered a rabbit taxidermy form and covered it in beads. I was upset about not being accepted into a show I had applied to, and decided to make something just for myself without the goal or expectation of selling it.


That rabbit was my leap from 2 to 3 dimensional work. It ended up being on the cover of American Style Magazine and was used in the publicity for the Smithsonian Craft Show in 2005. There is much to be said about following your bliss. Words that I strive to live by from mythologist Joseph Campbell:


"Beads are prehistoric and powerful. They are ubiquitous within human culture. Like all powerful things, they have been used for good and for evil. There is something so primordially appealing about beads."

We live in a world made of energy, and I believe objects can absorb and retain that energy. I like using old materials for this reason. Old doll parts, old glass eyes, old glass jewelry components, old beads. These materials come with their own narrative of experience that add to the narrative of each piece.

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