Thursday, June 28, 2012

Birth of a Beader

Brigitte of Unfettered Ink has a blog hop running on how storytelling impacts one's business.  I love this idea, as I'm all about the story.  I read and follow blogs for the stories - of artists lives, of inspirations for their designs, for their individual take on the world and how that affects their art.  And, yeah.  Lots of time the pictures are inspiring as well.
Dale Chihuly display, Columbus Art Institute

It's not often that an artist shares their beginning - how they started doing what they're doing.  It's not like I was a beader from birth.  (Oh, if I were, the stash I would have!)  While I grew up with grandmas that crocheted and knitted, I was more drawn to embroidery.  The colors, the textures, the freedom to stitch outside the lines.  

In my late twenties, someone handed me a statue and said, "Here.  Paint this.  Turn it into something."  I had so much fun with paint and detail!  For months, I obsessively painted statues, turning ordinary statues into Goddesses and Gods from myths around the world.  I quickly needed to add "more" - fabric, leather, feathers, and beads.  

The statues sold well but were a pain to transport to shows and to ship.  But the beads.  Oh, the beads!  Especially the gemstone beads.  And seed beads!  Color.  Texture.  And I loved that the gemstones had magical properties, useful for healing and comfort and energy.  I studied for hours, learning which stones were harmonious, which colors worked well together.  I just couldn't get enough.
One of my first big gemstone purchases.  
I worked at a Las Vegas casino at the time.  All my tips went to bead purchases.  My weekends and evenings were spent beading.  When the casino downsized and I was given the choice of working the graveyard shift or becoming a supervisor, I quit.  I was making decent money making beaded ankle bracelets (used a lace pattern mixed with tinkly bells).  Plus, I'd just discovered bead collaged necklaces.  Taking bits and pieces of old jewelry, gifted rhinestone jewelry and stone cabs, I made collars and simple necklaces, earrings and bracelets.  I sold these to friends who worked on the Vegas strip, who needed/wanted flashy jewelry that was different.  I made beaded bras and thongs, which I sold to strippers.  I beaded ceremonial robes and leather jackets.  I fixed old old old Native American ceremonial necklaces.  I bought a van and started traveling to shows all over the US.  Living the dream.  I loved what I was doing and it seemed like my creativity was endless, even when other things in my life were falling apart.
And then this guy was elected.  And the economy went to hell.  And I ended up in my hometown, near a family I didn't really know, working at a job that left me with little energy for creativity.

Throughout it all, the beads remained the center of my art.  Especially embroidery.  As long as I had a little table, felt, glue, scraps of ultra suede and a collection of beads, I could create something beautiful.  Generous friends continued to supply me with beads throughout the years when new goodies just weren't in my budget.  I look at my stash now and am amazed!  There's some breath-taking inspiration on those shelves.

I hope in my life as a  beader, I can do the beads justice.


  1. How cool that you worked in Vegas! And that you traveled all over the country! That's the kind of adventurous thing I'd love to do one of these days.

    I think so far, you're doing a great job of doing those beads justice. Your work is awesome!

    (Isn't it amazing when friends give beads as presents? My massage therapist gave me a whole box of things she hadn't used in decades.)

  2. I'm glad I had the Vegas experience before it became so corporate. Lots of fun and really great friends!

  3. Skylar,
    Just found you on Jennifer Crusie's Argh. I see we are also on Etsy, also! Wanted you to know Jenny inspired me to steampunk (a long way out of my rut. You can see my posting at:
    I, too, bead to unwind my writing mind.
    \o/ Jane

    1. Hi Jane!
      I so love Jenny's blog and community. Definitely my favorite writer. And teacher.
      I love what you're doing with the stuffed animals. What a great idea! The pelican... so much personality. I've been wanting to branch out on the embroidery, try some art quilt pieces. Or some dolls. I love your wild embellishments!
      Oh beads... and books! And writing.

  4. I must say, this is probably the best introductory post I've seen. EVER! Along with artist and jewelry designer, you are definitely quite the story teller :)

    I had to laugh at a few points in the story; Sold handmade thongs to strippers, huh? LOL That is something you don't hear everyday!

    These bits and pieces are what make you unique and the person you are today :)

    1. Thanks, Kayla. Good money in the stripper business :) And the brothel business (Pahrump, but that was only a few sales). It really was one of the most creative times in my life. I'd walk in with my little picnic basket full of beady things and walk out with cash. Lots of $1 and $5.

      Beads. They'll take you anywhere. :)

  5. Wow, what a very interesting and cool beginning! I love your work! Just discovered you. Hope you don't mind if I follow you. --Diane

  6. whoah this weblog is great i really like reading your articles.
    Keep up the good work! You understand, lots of persons are searching round
    for this info, you could help them greatly.

    Also visit my webpage: tucson medical weightloss

  7. I've just installed iStripper, so I can have the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.