Art

Artist finds a painterly approach to beadwork

Questa's Julienne Hadfield pushes time-honored craftwork into fine art realms

By Anna Racicot
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 9/25/19

Julienne Hadfield brings to her necklaces, belt buckles, bracelets and earrings an uncommon approach: beads are her palette and pieces of jewelry are her canvases. Along with her lifelong passion for …

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Art

Artist finds a painterly approach to beadwork

Questa's Julienne Hadfield pushes time-honored craftwork into fine art realms

Posted

Julienne Hadfield brings to her necklaces, belt buckles, bracelets and earrings an uncommon approach: beads are her palette and pieces of jewelry are her canvases. Along with her lifelong passion for beading, Hadfield also works with gold and silver and enjoys painting watercolors as well, participating in Questa's Plein Air Festival earlier this year.

Hadfield and her husband began visiting Questa several years ago to lend a hand in rebuilding St. Anthony's Church and fell in love with the area. She now divides her time between Questa and Mesilla, New Mexico (adjacent to Las Cruces), where she has operated her shop, Julienne's Jewelry, in Old Mesilla for 35 years. She describes their home in Questa, saying, "It's just our little piece of heaven."

Nature is Hadfield's inspiration whether she is beading or painting. She allows herself time to immerse herself in the land, noticing how the light colors the vegetation, for example, before she feels ready to paint. In beading she is likewise interested primarily in colors, how they blend, complement and contrast with each other.

Hadfield has been drawn to beading since childhood and had a bead collection by the time she was in fifth grade. "My aunts were all from Sicily," she explains, "and did tatting and knitting … and they commented that I had good hand-eye coordination. I just transferred it to beading and I just love it."

An entrepreneur at an early age, she says, "In sixth grade I had a tray of maybe 20 necklaces. I had done this real intricate macramé with fine, fine cord and my favorite beads, and I took it to the local pharmacy." The pharmacy bought the entire tray and kept selling her jewelry. Before long Hadfield began to win awards at local fairs.

A native of California, she later graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, with a degree in fine arts and graphics. "One day the light went on and I realized I'd rather do beadwork than the graphic arts. I thought of graphic arts as [just] a way to make a living." In two years, while working at a department store, Hadfield managed to save $2,000 with which she opened her "first little jewelry shop."

She speaks of her need to counterbalance artwork with nature. "You know," she says, "far and above, I love nature. Any time I have off, I'm out in the yard planting or doing something or hiking. I do love being outdoors." For Hadfield, nature inspires painting which in turn inspires beading. "My very first piece was a flower that I did a painting of and I wanted to try to do it in beads."

Hadfield also gets spurred on in her artistic expression by her dreams. Once a friend gave her "a fabulous peacock feather." She says, "I went to sleep and I started dreaming about a beaded peacock feather, so I got up at 2 a.m. and my husband goes, 'What's going on?' and I said, 'I've got to do a drawing,' and I did the drawing because it was just so vivid, this dream."

Hadfield tried to replicate the beadwork she had seen in her dream. After five tries she had invented a new beading technique to obtain the desired effect, one which people often ask her about. "To this day, 20 years later, it's one of my best-selling pieces," she comments.

This drive to accomplish in beading that which at first might seem impossible served her well when she was granted the commission to create Doña Ana County's version of the Painted Pony, a New Mexico Arts Initiative. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 had just occurred and Hadfield wanted a project that would bring her community together. She also wanted a beaded version of the Painted Pony.

"I came up with dipping the seed beads with dental tools into an epoxy, holding it, counting to 30, then doing it again." For a life-size horse replica to be covered in beads, Hadfield needed help. She had "school bus kids coming in, teachers coming in, Girl Scout troops, some retirees coming in." It took two years and over 100 volunteers to decorate the pony with her design.

Hadfield's silver and gold works are almost exclusively commissioned. Her clients, she finds, often carry a vision of the piece they desire. When they are ready to see this vision created, she listens, draws, listens more and then fabricates the silver bracelet or belt buckle.

Hadfield's jewelry is available at Rael's Store, 2430 State Road 522, Questa, and at Jewelry Lady, 100 Main Street, Red River, and, in Mesilla, at Julienne's Jewelry. She also participates in the Questa Farmers Market and Questa Studio Tour. Her website is juliennejewelryonline.com.

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