SparkleSwap is pleased to introduce our featured ‘Artist of the Month’ for January 2020: Paul Ricks!
Paul was born and raised in Nashville, TN. After graduation from high school, he joined the U.S. Army, where he was trained as a petroleum laboratory technician. He spent the first two years of his hitch in Germany. Upon returning to the U.S. he was stationed at Ft. Carson, Colorado (near Colorado Springs). After his discharge he elected to remain in Colorado Springs and make his home there. After living in the Colorado Springs area for over 50 years, he and his wife elected to move to Arizona where they currently live.
Paul had worked as a semi-professional musician (drummer) since he was about 14 years old. After making his home in Colorado Springs, he embarked on a career as a professional musician, playing in many venues throughout the western states.
He then graduated from Regis University with a Business Management major and Criminal Justice minor.
In 1968, he discovered that the life of a traveling musician was not a good way to go and returned to Colorado Springs and joined the Colorado Springs Police Department. It was during this time that he met my wife of 43 yrs. He and Charlene continued to make their home in the Colorado Springs area.
While he spent the largest part of my adult life as a police officer (27 years) retiring as Deputy Chief of Police, Chief of Detectives, for the Colorado Springs Police Department in Colorado Springs Colorado, he retired from the police department in 1994 and has continued to be involved in arts and crafts since that time.
Paul and his wife have traveled extensively in a recreational vehicle, spending the winters in southern Arizona. In 2017 they sold the RV and purchased a winter home in the mountains of northern Arizona near the city of Prescott and a summer home in the warmer climes of southern Arizona in Casa Grande, about 30 miles southeast of Phoenix.
I had the pleasure of meeting Paul at the Tucson Gem Show about 5 years ago, where he was demonstrating his brilliant Ricks Beading Loom. He had a big, welcoming smile on his face and a great passion for sharing his craft with the many people who came to visit his booth. I was excited to come home and learn more about weaving on a loom. Anyone who is interested in this technique (or is already passionate about this technique), I would encourage to join Paul’s Facebook group: The Ricks Loomatiks. They are a friendly and encouraging group. Thank you Paul, for sharing yourself and your wonderful creations with us!
SparkleSwap: Please describe your artistic style and medium?
Paul: My first love was woodworking, primarily doing Scroll Saw artwork, displaying and selling my work in a variety of locations.
Once I suffered a bit of an illness and was on the road to recovery, but not yet able to return to work. My wife got tired of hearing me complain about being bored and she bought me a counted cross stitch kit. I did that kit and was hooked for several years, making many small and large (some very large) projects. Whenever we went into a craft shop to purchase embroidery floss or patterns, the clerks would always ask my wife if they could help her. She would point to me and say “he’s the stitcher, not me”. They would then try to discourage me from purchasing the more difficult patterns and would lead me to the beginner section. I would purchase a difficult level pattern and generally returned to show them my completed projects.
SparkleSwap: How did you get started in your craft?
Paul: One time when Charlene and I were camping at Blue Mesa Reservoir near Grand Junction, Colorado for two weeks, the fish weren’t biting and I became bored once again (are you beginning to see a theme here?). I went to the clubhouse at the RV park where we were staying and perused the activity schedule. I saw that a lady was presenting a beading class and thought “why not?” I do counted cross stitch, maybe this would be a way to pass the afternoon. I took that class and was, once again, hooked (on beads this time!) This was in 1995.
Within a month I had purchased about three hundred dollars worth of beads and was busily learning to master peyote stitch (does anyone really master a stitch?) I spent several years learning different stitches/techniques and making many beautiful jewelry projects. All of the females in my family knew what they were going to get for birthday and Christmas gifts — beaded jewelry.
I began teaching beading techniques in numerous venues as my wife and I traveled in our Recreational Vehicle throughout the United States.
One technique eluded me however, and that technique was looming. Instead of taking the traditional route of taking lessons on “how to loom” or buying books or searching the internet, I thought “how tough could this be?” (After all, I’m a man, I don’t need directions! Right?). I’m now very glad that I took this route instead of learning “This is way it’s done, don’t bother trying any other way.”
I first purchased a very inexpensive wire loom, followed the instructions and made my first project. I felt I must have been doing something wrong, because when my project was finished, I had all these threads hanging down on each end of my project. Surely this couldn’t be right!
I purchased a loom that was a bit more expensive, with the same result, all those threads! I must be a slow learner, because I then purchased a much more expensive loom and confidently began my first project on that beauty. When I waded through the set up and warping instructions, I knew that I was doomed, once again, to dealing with all those threads! I knew there had to be a better way.
I returned to one of first loves, woodworking, and stood staring at an oak board laying on my workbench all summer long trying to figure out how to loom without all those warp threads hanging down at the end. One night as I lay sleeping about three o’clock in the morning, I sat straight up in bed — I knew what that “better way” was and how to do it. I jumped out of bed and quickly drew a sketch of how to loom without all those threads being left over at the end. The next day, The Ricks Beading Loom ™ was born. All of the attached project photos were made on The Ricks Beading Loom.
Looming is now my passion, my favorite technique. Of course, I still do many projects and teach classes using other off-loom techniques, but looming is so fast and easy now using The Ricks Beading Loom ™. Without having to deal with all those threads at the end and you can do many things that aren’t possible with traditional looms.
Beads are traditionally defined as anything with a hole in it that can be strung or woven in combination with other beads to create a piece of wearable art. This leaves the field wide open for the artist.
Using The Ricks Beading Loom, you can loom with basically anything that has a hole in it — in other words — with any bead. Instead of having to stick with one type/size of bead for a project, using The Ricks Beading Loom you can combine many different types of beads in one project. You can loom with Japanese cylinder beads, seed beads of any size (and mix sizes if you wish). You can loom with two-hole flat beads, bi-cone or fire polished crystals. All without making any changes or installing any adaptors on your loom. You’re finally free to create, to do what the artist inside of you dictates.
I obtained a U.S. Patent (#7762284) for my loom and began producing them in my home woodshop/studio. I soon found myself with over a 400 loom backlog and working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week in an attempt to catch up. I knew I either had to quit making/selling the looms or find someone who could mass produce and distribute them. I engaged the services of a marketing agent (Ms. Marilyn Bever of Boston, MA) who approached Mr. Larry Weiss, President/CEO of The BeadSmith in Carteret, NJ. I traveled to the headquarters of The BeadSmith and demonstrated my loom to him and his staff. Within 30 minutes we had concluded a deal where I would license my patent to his firm and he would have the exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute The Ricks Beading Loom. The loom is now sold in over 20 different countries. I have enjoyed a very happy relationship with The BeadSmith since that time. It is a VERY good company.
SparkleSwap: From where do you draw your inspiration?
Paul: Most of the inspiration for the projects I design comes from the general environment around me. I recall one time sitting in a restaurant in Idaho and noticing the booth upholtery and thinking “Hmm…I could make a bracelet using this.” Basically anything I see is capable of providing an inspiration for a project.
In addition to creating contemporary designs, I do draw a lot of inspiration from the art of the many Indian tribes indigenous to our great nation. I have studied the artistic style of many of these tribes. I will NOT duplicate any of these designs, they belong to the tribes, but instead I create my own designs in the artistic style of the particular tribe. There are a couple of exceptions to my rule, and that is when I find a design that is that of an ancient, extinct group of people (i.e. the Anasazi). These designs are in danger of being lost, therefore I do copy those designs as closely as possible in my own feeble attempt to keep them from being lost to the ages.
SparkleSwap: What new trends are you excited about these days?
Paul: I’m excited by the new resurgence of the art of bead looming, it has really taken off in the last few years. There was a time when everyone thought the only thing you could make on a loom were southwestern and American Indian designs. This is no longer true since The Ricks Beading Loom came on the market. With the RBL you can use many different types of beads, single hole or two hole, and mix and match bead sizes and types. This enables the artist to make all kinds of contemporary jewelry items.
SparkleSwap: What are some of your "go-to" places to learn new techniques?
Paul: Well, obviously one of my “go-to” places is the internet and the many beading groups out there, one of my favorites is hosted by my friend Jill Wiseman on facebook (www.facebook.com/jillwisemandesignsbeaders. I also learn many new techniques from the wonderful artists in the BeadSmith Inspiration Squad.
SparkleSwap: Do you have any tips or recommendations for new and aspiring artists?
Paul: My biggest recommendation would be to jump right in there and don’t give up on something because it doesn’t work out the first time. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had a project that seemed like a good idea but just didn’t work out I’d be rich! That’s the nice thing about beads, you can use them over and over!
SparkleSwap: Do you have any other hobbies?
Paul: HA! So many my wife says I collect hobbies! Beading, Woodworking, counted cross stitch, and coin collecting.
SparkleSwap: How can we contact you if we are interested in purchasing your products or would like additional information?
Paul: I do not personally sell any products. All of the products (The Ricks Beading Loom, The Little Ricky, and some kits (Loomakits) featuring some of my original designs) are distributed by The BeadSmith and are available in nearly any local bead shop as well as through most on-line dealers.
I do have an Etsy shop (www.etsy.com/shop/RicksBeadingLoom) where many of my original designs are available in downloadable tutorial form.
There is also a facebook users group called The Ricks Loomatiks where owners/users of the RBL can post photos of their projects, ask questions and generally chat about The Ricks Beading Loom. While this is a closed group, persons who own or use the RBL can apply for membership by going to: www.facebook.com/groups/ricksbeadingloom and clicking on “Join”, the next time I log on (several times daily) I will approve their membership. There are about 600 loomatiks (I call myself the Loomatik-in-Chief) who are happy to answer questions and provide help of any kind.
I can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org