I’ve always been drawn to the beaded creations of Betsy Youngquist. When I read that Youngquists Art Education had had a museum emphasis this seemed to make sense. Her creations would fit well in a museum of oddities. I was also disappointed to read that one of her peers at art school struggled to recognise her work as fine art because it used beads from a craft store. I believe that, just like Grayson Perry has elevated the craft of the potter to fine art, Betsy Youngquist has elevated the humble bead to a fine art object. Wouldn’t this make a great debate in class? Is it art?
I asked Youngquist the following questions the last of which is particularly useful for your students.
Were you interested in art at school?
Yes. It was my favorite subject throughout my school years.
Was your art teacher an influence on you?
Yes. Art teachers who encouraged my creative exploration were my favorites. There was a certain freedom in the creation process that I loved.
Do you make any other kind of art?
I make mosaics and I paint. I also love to doodle when I’m on the phone. Faces and eyes mostly. I’ll draw on any scrap of paper I can get my hands on.
What advice would you give students who were trying to make work like yours?
Break the face into shapes and play with positioning those shapes to change the emotional message of the face. I suppose you could take a drawing of a face and cut it out, and then cut that face into shapes. Through playing with the shapes you can discover different feelings and emotional messages. Art is play at its best. I play with broken doll heads. I move the pieces around like a puzzle until I connect with the position of the pieces as a personality that I like. The first piece I did this with had been accidentally dropped and broken. I re-postioned the fragmented porcelain pieces of the face and made a new personality. That piece was called Humpty Dumpty Day. Sometimes when something is broken or cut apart it gives you an opportunity to see that “something” in a new way.
You can see more of Youngquists work on Etsy.