“A shoebox of materials interests me more than an entire store.” –Nancy Miler


Nancy Miller tinkers with all types of fiber arts. And she’s a button collector, too. Over her thirty year enjoyment of quilting, weaving, knitting, spinning and crochet (just to name the top categories), Nancy has discovered her biggest pleasure is to take small bits and bobs and repurpose them into something completely different.

In fact, Nancy loves the challenge of being given a limited amount of materials and being forced to use her creativity to make them into something beautiful. There isn’t a fiber artist out there who doesn’t want to make a beautiful piece and yes, there are group ‘challenges’ that require the use of certain materials for a project. But not many people actually prefer the ‘test’ of Creative Wits v. a Limited Amount of Given Materials. Nancy is one of the few people I know who doesn’t require a stash reach SABLE proportions. (SABLE means Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy).


Her curiosity drives her to jump in and start to make a piece. Nancy loves the design process and tends to bypass formal classes and teach herself the techniques. she says not every design is successful so she chalks her experience up to learning and moves on. Which I think is a valuable lesson to remember as we’ve all been there—more than once! One of the reasons she enjoys beading so much is that it can be combined with different fiber mediums to enhance and embellish.


Her small accessory pieces are wonderful examples of mixed media. This cuff is one of several that are a part of a series called ‘Suitable Accessories’.  She and a friend who is well known quilter, Maxine Rosenthal are putting their creative energy together to make accessories that fit a corporate wardrobe. The base is a man’s suiting fabric. Tailored and buttoned-up, the suiting material is an optimal canvas to highlight the beads. When asked about the composition and placement of beads and buttons on the fabric, Nancy said she doesn’t start off with a finished plan in mind, but selects key elements that give direction to the overall look.


The composition of each piece is built around a button. The brooch is a study in contrasts. It feminizes the mens’ suiting fabric without losing fabric’s depth and structure. The small fabric pieces and their positioning reflect the mini-check weave of the fabric itself. The vintage rhinestone button in the center adds sparkle but is reined in by the four small plastic buttons underneath it. The seed bead outline the shape of the structure of the brooch; both softening the edge and embellishing it. Nancy builds the layers up from the fabric; using a mix of beads that reflect and absorb light.

Nancy is currently the President of the Upper Midwest Bead Society; a vibrant group of 150 members who celebrate their 25th Anniversary this coming October.  Nancy exhibits her work in the Textile Members Annual show, Common Thread, in the St. Paul Art Crawl and in various local Holiday sales.


Upper Midwest Bead Society events are listed in Happenings! The above bead is available for $60 plus $3 shipping. It can be shipped anywhere in the US and will arrive in a little padded box. Click here for the Commemorative Bead order form. The bead is made by local glass artist Jeff Barber.



Upper Midwest Bead Society

Bead and Button Show