If you spend any time in the sneak attack forums, you will notice a certain poster who darts in and out, always between places and activities, stealing a few minutes of time in hallways and cafeterias to chat until her laptop battery starts to go. She’ll probably make you laugh, and I guarantee you won’t be able to guess what she will turn her energy to next. Her name is Beqi, and she runs LaBeq and LaceSuppliesbyLaBeq. I bought a couple of hand turned hair sticks from her and she was kind enough to let me interview her.
By day Beqi is a mild mannered graduate student in Manufacturing Systems, having gotten her bachelor’s degree in Manufacturing Engineering Technology with a minor in Statistics: Quality Science. She is currently working on her thesis research, which “involves sticking together dissimilar metals that can’t normally be welded, then breaking them apart again.”
When not breaking metal, Beqi can be found doing water aerobics, human puppetry, trying out for parts in community theater, and creating masterpieces like the Sneak Attack Musical FAQ. This is of course in addition to the bobbin lace making and lathe work she does for her etsy shop!
Celeste: I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you in the sneak attack threads. You really seem to be a “Jill of all Trades.” Of your many hobbies and pursuits, which is your favorite and why?
Beqi:“Jill of All Trades”…yeah, that’s one way to describe me. Of course, the complete phrase is jack of all trades, master of none. Sometimes that seems pretty apt, as well. Maybe we’ll call me a renaissance woman instead. That also implies a desire for knowledge and abilities in a wide variety of areas! I really don’t think I have a favorite. I tend to talk most about the lace, because it’s the most unusual, or the acting, because I want everyone to tell me how great I am. But the reason I do so many things is because I find them all equally intriguing and/or satisfying. When I learn to make shoes, that will be my favorite for a while until I move onto something new, or decide to go back I’ve done and loved for years.
Celeste: Both Bobbin lace making and lathe work are unusual crafts–I haven’t seen too many people on etsy doing it, and I don’t know anyone offline who does. How did you get started in them?
Beqi: Well, the lacemaking actually led directly to the lathe work. One of the reasons I have learned to do so many things is my constant desire to understand how things are made. Early on in college, I started wondering how lace was made in the old days before machines. I could understand crocheted lace and knitted lace (even though I really don’t knit), but looking at other kinds of lace, I couldn’t understand them. At the time, my parents were living in Cheltenham, England. I went to the town library and found a book on old lace. That was when I first came across the term “bobbin lace”. After that, I saw a brief demonstration in person, and wanted to know more. That Christmas, Santa gave me a very basic bobbin lace kit with a styrofoam pillow. I have long since worn out that pillow, made myself a longer-lasting straw pillow, and accumulated many more bobbins (you wind each thread on it’s own bobbin, so the more bobbins you have, the larger and more intricate lace you can make).
On my Christmas/birthday wishlist that I send to my family every year, I asked for additional lacemaking stuff, like new books and fancy bobbins, either old or antique. One year, being a little silly (as tends to happen with that list), I added “or just give me a little wood lathe so I can make my own bobbins.” Very much to my surprise…I got a lathe for my birthday. Up to that point, I had only used engine lathes for machining metal, and wood lathes are very different. Metal is machined by turning cranks to move the cutting tool, but the woodturner holds the chisels directly. I slowly taught myself to use my lathe. I mostly do spindlework–long, skinny, decorative pieces–rather than bowls, since bobbins are spindles in woodturning terms, so that’s what I learned first. I almost never plan a piece ahead of time, other than deciding what I want its function to be. I let the wood and chisels decide, and that always turns out looking better than when I start with a plan.
Celeste: What do you think the importance of arts and crafts is in our society?
Beqi: As you can probably tell, I am a very hands-on sort of person. I particularly think that hands-on, creative activities are important for developing and maintaining the mind. Computers and the like are very useful, and can provide creative outlets, but I get a little sad when I hear about people, particularly children and students, who spend all their time in front of screens and don’t know how to physically DO stuff–MAKE stuff–in real life. I love it when people are impressed that I sew my own clothes or whatever, but I wish that I could make them understand that it’s not that hard, and that it’s a skill worth gaining. Arts and crafts should not just be a relaxing hobby for those who have time. Making things, whether it be craftwork or fine arts including music, dance, and acting, develop the brain and abilities in more ways than I think we can really understand.
Celeste: Where do you go for inspiration when you are experiencing crafter’s block?
Beqi: I don’t know if I’ve ever really experienced crafter’s block. Sometimes I do get tired of working at something, or annoyed at something not coming out the way I want. But when that happens, I either just go to sleep, work on something else for a while, or read. I read lots of murder mysteries. I get ideas from my reference books or from friends, as well. But I can’t think of a time where I’ve thought “I need to make SOMEthing, but I don’t have any ideas!” Of course, if I ever get to the point where I’m making things full-time, that may happen more frequently…