Honoring those who have served and sacrificed
Through the unique artistry of beaded tapestries
Meet a true American hero, my Uncle Arthur. Arthur Swanson served as a radio man with E Company, 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division. Fighting in the European theater in December 1944, he was seriously injured when an artillery shell hit a tree just over his fox hole, shrapnel severely shredding his legs. He was evacuated on the back of a tank, ultimately endured 74 operations, and was in the hospital for 4 years and 9 months. Pictured with his parents on the day of his discharge from Rhodes General Hospital in April of 1946, he survived his injuries and went on to marry my Aunt Diane with whom he had four children, my cousins Ann, Aileen, Arthur and Alan. Uncle Arthur passed away in 2007, at the age of 83. Only on rare occasions during my childhood did we see my fathers' extended family, because of our frequent moves with the Air Force. However, in the summer of 1972, at a memorable family reunion in Massachusetts, the whole family gathered for a beach party and barbeque. My uncle was there, a kind and quiet man as I recall. The family group photo has Uncle Arthur and I standing together ... I was in the presence of a true American hero, and I didn't even know what that meant. I was nine years old and totally oblivious.
The bead pattern I created adds up to 36,195 beads that capture the photographic image of Uncle Arthur during basic training in the 1940's as pictured above. A monumental undertaking indeed, this project took nearly eight months to complete. As his boots, then the legs, hands and shirt emerged, I was excited to see how well the tapestry was coming together. Yet when the face was getting closer, I realized that my color scheme was entirely too dark and his face would not show well. I mocked up the face on a smaller loom (see photo) to see how the colors worked and confirmed my hunch that it was too dark. After this, I had to go back to the BeadTool software, re-work the face with lighter colors, and literally cut and paste the new face pattern on the old pattern in order to finish the piece. I also realized while making this piece that the tapestry was slightly wider than the photograph, most noticeably in the face. It occurred to me that I needed to make a slight adjustment to the actual photograph before I transposed it into a bead pattern. In other words, I reduced the width of the picture by 10% so that when beaded the dimensions would appear more like the actual picture.I have actually created four tapestries: the original full length tapestry, a repeat of face to determine how dark the face would be (too dark, so I had to change the color palette "on the fly"), and two smaller ones in 2022. The closer-in tapestries of just his face were created simultaneously on two separate looms in 2022 ... hopefully you can see my techniques have improved over the years.