…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren S. Feld

Excerpts From This Ever-Evolving Tale.....

I don’t mean to drag a poor Elephant by its tail, kicking and screaming, into our bead world against its wishes. Nor do I perceive the elephant to be a threat, like you might see an Elephant in the boudoir, or the fine china store. And I don’t want you to shut your eyes and pretend not to notice that this Elephant is here, standing shoulder to shoulder with every beader and jewelry maker around.

The Elephant is not a joke. And the fact that it is “Rogue” makes it more important than ever to figure out why it’s here, among size #10 English beading needles, and Czech size 11/0 seed beads, and Austrian crystal beads. It seems so worldly, yet other-worldly, our Elephant. It’s not our muse. It’s not our Cassandra. It has no secret plan or strategy. It does not depend on its size to make its point. It does not hesitate to stomp and chomp and clomp because the beads before it are raku or glass or gemstone or crystal or metal or plastic. But a Rogue Elephant in the middle of our craft room forces upon us a completely different logic, so that we can make sense of it all.|




Getting Started

Everyone has a Getting-Started story. Some people were always crafty, and beading was a natural extension to what they were doing. Others were driven by the allure of beads and jewelry. They saw fabulous earrings and necklaces and bracelets in magazines, department stores and boutiques at prices out of reach, and they said to themselves: I can do this – and for less. And still others were drawn by the beads themselves – beautiful objects to be adorned. And played with. And fondled.

Vanessa told me how she got started. She had bought a strand of beads. She possessed them. They possessed her. She kept them with her at all times. In her pocket. In her purse. Between her hands. Inside a zip-lock bag. Then outside the zip-lock bag. And back into the zip-lock bag. After weeks of taking them out, putting them away, and then taking them out again, she sat herself down at her kitchen table. She lay the strand of beads on the table, ever-so-gently. She reached for the sharpened scissors. And cut the strand.

The beads rolled all over the table. Vaness’s eyes got wide. She told me she couldn’t stop looking at them and touching them and playing with them. The look on her face was sinful, almost pornographic.

Vanessa returned to the local bead store. And bought some more beads.

Terry had been crafty her whole life, ever since she was a little girl. She didn’t remember when she first started making jewelry. But she did remember when she was lucky enough to get paid for it. She made more jewelry. She sold more jewelry. And made more. And sold more.

Hessie loved to watch the jewelry home shopping network. She imagined herself modeling the jewelry on TV, and telling her audience how wonderful the beads and the colors and the stones and the designers all were. She began watching the craft shows on cable, and studying the instructors and every little thing they said and did. She started bead stringing jewelry and learning some wirework.

If you had walked into Renee’s bedroom, you would have seen boxes and boxes of jewelry – all in need of repair. She kept meaning to fix each piece, but the cost and inconvenience were too high. Finally, she convinced herself, “I can do this myself.”

I always find myself asking our customers and students how they got started. Here’s how some of them finished the sentence, “When I started beading…”“… I needed jewelry for my prom.”
“… My neighbor made me do it.”
“… A friend wanted a pair of earrings.”
“… I visited my first bead shop.”
“… I needed someone to repair a necklace, and couldn’t find anyone to do it.”
“… I needed to make some extra money.”
“… I was thinking about what to do after I retired.”
“… I ordered a kit on-line.”
“… I dreamed about beads and designed in my sleep.”
“… My dad brought me a beaded Indian doll, and I had to learn how to make something so similar.”
“… I was recuperating in the hospital from some surgery, and the volunteer brought me some beadwork to keep me busy.”
“… I begged a friend of mine to make me a bracelet like hers, but she never did. So I made one for myself.”
“… I decorated a scrapbook with some beads, and suddenly found myself switching craft careers.”
“… I needed an escape, something relaxing, something meditative.”
“… I was a baby in diapers learning to walk by following my mother holding some big beads dangling from a string.”

When I started beading in the late 1980’s, there were no major bead magazines – like Bead & Button or Beadwork. There were very few stringing material options, and in fact, many people used dental floss or sewing thread or fishing line. There were few choices of clasps and other findings – especially for stringing on thicker cords like leather or waxed cotton. I had to go to hardware stores and sewing notion stores and antique stores and flea markets to find things, and make them work. I cannibalized a lot of old jewelry for their parts.

I was in Nashville, Tennessee, at the time. There wasn’t much of a beading culture here. It was difficult to find advice and direction. This was pre-Internet. I mostly strung beads, and got hooked early on. Probably because I sold so much of what I made. Selling your stuff gets you addicted very fast.



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