Question of the Week: What First Attracted You to Beads and Beadwork?

Aug 14, 2011

I can't remember a time when I didn't enjoy using beads and making jewelry. I always say that it's my mother's fault - she was a fabulous knit, crochet and needlepoint designer, and whenever she ordered her supplies she would include a bag of beads or buttons for my sister and me. I found myself completely mesmerized by the beads in the craft stores we visited, and as I grew up I continued to learn how to make my own jewelry. Then once I learned about the amazing history of beads and beaded jewelry, I was completely hooked! I knew there was no going back once I started dreaming about beads and coming up with new designs in my sleep, and I still find myself amazed at how relaxed and meditative I feel after a good session of beading.

I decided to ask our panel of bead artists and experts about their first experiences with beads and beadwork. This week's question of the week is: What first attracted you to beads and beadwork? What is it about beads and beadwork that keeps you coming back for more?

Read on for the answers from this week's panel!

Shelley Nybakke: One of my sister's friends made a jewel-tone Memory Wire bracelet for her.  After requesting that this friend make one for me numerous times, I finally gave up  and went to Hobby Lobby and purchased my first sack of beads.  A small fortune later, I still can't quit buying beads.  Fortunately, I also can't quit beading.  Just the endless endless possibilities keep me going along with my nice stash of beads.  And by the way, I made hundreds of memory wire bracelets when I started out. I often contemplate all the money I might have saved if the friend would have just made me that first memory wire bracelet.

Mikki Ferrugiaro: As a knitwear designer I was attracted to beads as a way to embellish my knitwear but it wasn't until many years later that I discovered bead weaving. I am drawn to making big things out of small things and beadweaving opened up so many options for that, whether it be jewelry or sculpture. The more I work with beads and thread the more possibilities I see, so I'll be coming back for more of these tiny, shiny babies for years and years.

Kelli Burns: I used to be an avid scrapper and while creating a card for my grandmothers' birthday from a scrapping magazine, it listed seed beads as part of the materials list. So I headed off to the local craft store (we didn't have a bead store -which is why I opened one) to find out what seed beads were all about...I immediately fell head over heels in love.

The reason I have stayed with beading, opened a bead store, gotten published, everything I do is because I LOVE beads! The endless variations, the permission I'm granted each time I pick one up to create anything, the colors, the styles, the textures, there is nothing not to love. I still have my scrap supplies but I'm 200% beader now and proud of it.

Beki Haley: I tell this story to my students in class all the Grandmother is who got me attracted to beads when I was about 8 years old.  I spent my summers with her, she was an amazingly artistic woman who dabbled in almost every craft you can think of, knitting, crochet, paper crafts, model cars, even those resin toilet seat covers with seashells embedded in them (I can make a mean toilet seat myself!)  But when she would pick up her beadwork I would notice a calm come over her.  One day I said, "Nana, how come when you play with your beads you are so quiet?"  She called me over to her and pointed my direction down to her beads.  She said, "See that little tiny hole?" I nodded yes.  She said, "When I bead I climb down inside that little hole and there is no room in there for any of life's issues to come and bother me, everything is peaceful and can I just escape."

Her words hold true for me as well.  While I use my beads daily for enjoyment and the calm they bring to me, I also always turn to them during any major crisis in my life for comfort and peace.

That little tiny hole that I can climb into when needed is also what keeps me coming back for more!  I am truly, madly, deeply in love.

Kerri Slade: Beads found me at a very low point in my life and I have since discovered that they have worked this same magic for many people through the years.  The slow methodical nature of beadweaving and the concentration required gave me something other than my troubles to focus on and the awe inspiring feeling of watching something beautiful emerge from my own imagination and fingers brought back my smile.  That was over 10 years ago and now beads and I seem to be inextricably woven together and we wouldn't have it any other way!

Rosanne Andreas: I have a clear memory of the first time I was attracted to beads. I was a baby in diapers. My mother wanted to encourage me to start crawling. I would not budge. One bright sunny day, as I was contently sitting on the floor playing with nearby objects, my mother entered the room with a box in her hand. She smiled at me, and the box had colorful glittering light reflecting out of it. That box had my attention instantly!  Mom placed the box on the floor about 4 feet in front of me. I could not see into the box from that far away. Whatever was in that magic box created streams of colors reflecting out of the box glittering & shimmering movements all over the walls & ceilings. I looked all around the room seeing the magical colors shimmering on the walls & ceilings coming from THAT BOX! I looked back down at that box, and I instantly crawled over to that box to see what was in it. I HAD to see what was in that magical box creating all those delightful loving shimmering colors! To my delight I saw in the box the most beautiful assortment of colorful shimmering stuff!  As an infant I had no idea what these object were, but they were magic to me! I looked into this box with a large smile, looked back at Mom who was smiling at me, looked back into the box, and I dived my hands into it!!! It was a box filled with my mothers collection of crystal, glass & pearl necklaces. My little hands lifted up strings of smooth glass beads, some faceted, some clear, and as I lifted them up to see them better at eye level, and above for the light to catch it more, and see all the glitter, I began to hug them to my face, and drape them all over my body. I heaven! That did it for me.  And I could hear my Mom giggling as I did this.

So what's YOUR bead story? How did you get into beads and beadwork? What did you enjoy the most about beadwork as a beginner? What do you enjoy most about it today? Share your stories here on the blog, and check back next week for another Question of the Week with our panel of bead artists and experts!

Bead Happy,


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cool_moon wrote
on Aug 14, 2011 9:59 AM

Kerry Slade's story sounds like mine!  I was bored, depressed and in need of some comfort.  I found the solution to all of it with beads - and have now turned them into my business, my joy and my passion.  Everyone long ago tried to tell me that beads were 'a fad'.  If so, it's a fad that isn't going to go away any time soon.  In fact, I just keep seeing more and more, and with it more and more creative things being done!   Yay beads!

DAZ52 wrote
on Aug 14, 2011 11:12 AM

BEADWORK magazine...that is what got me started :)

b.barth wrote
on Aug 14, 2011 5:42 PM

My dad drove trucks all over the country, when I was very he brought me a small Indian doll with beadwork, I was facinated and hooked.

b.barth wrote
on Aug 14, 2011 5:51 PM


My dad drove trucks all over the country, when I was very young he brought me a small Indian doll with beadwork, I was facinated and hooked. Also my grandmothers Jewelry drawer, loveley beaded necklaces oh so pretty!

mary7117 wrote
on Aug 15, 2011 8:45 AM

Like Kerri Slade, I was going through a bad time when I wandered into a bead store and that was that.  Playing with the colors and textures and possible arrangements helped me keep my sanity through a trying time.  I went from stringing to bead weaving and now do almost every kind of beading you can imagine.  The endless variety of beads, textures and colors super fires my imagination and I know I'll live long because there are just too many projects that I have to do before I can die!

Viva la beads!

mary7117 wrote
on Aug 15, 2011 8:46 AM

Like Kerri Slade, I was going through a bad time when I wandered into a bead store and that was that.  Playing with the colors and textures and possible arrangements helped me keep my sanity through a trying time.  I went from stringing to bead weaving and now do almost every kind of beading you can imagine.  The endless variety of beads, textures and colors super fires my imagination and I know I'll live long because there are just too many projects that I have to do before I can die!

Viva la beads!

katsommers wrote
on Aug 15, 2011 1:36 PM

My Mom said that I have always played with beads - from the "Snap Pop" kind as a toddler to date... I started in earnest when I rearranged a necklace my Grandma gave me in sixth grade because I didn't like the balance. I wanted sooooo badly to go and work with my Great Grand Aunt, who did jewelry-making with aurora boralis beads and crystals but she chose my sister, Lynda, instead... Lynda ended up a sculptor in ceramics, glass and bronze and did not go into jewelry...  particularly like the bead and fiber concept and am currently doing macrame' with seed "beady beads"....

barbaraw1949 wrote
on Aug 20, 2011 6:34 AM

I started beading earrings in Native American patterns. During my bout with chemo I found the same place Beki's grandmother had found. It is still my sanctuary. And all the colors, shapes, relaxing.

on Aug 20, 2011 7:46 AM

I took a class on how to make those fringe earrings back in th 80's! Then years later I saw a freeform peyote bracelet and the rest is history!

Lauretta1214 wrote
on Aug 20, 2011 3:01 PM

I have been a quilter for years, and a scrapbooker, but it was the evolution into crazy quilting that first drew me to beads.  I would embelish my crazy quilts with all those wonderful seed beads, but it still hadn't occurred to me to make jewelry with them.  About the same time my mother-in-law who had been beading for awhile, really started doing these amazing bead embroidery cuffs and collars and three dimensional work and I was just struck!  It was like discovering a new country!  I began purchasing bead magazines and books and now while I still quilt and embroider and scrap, I can firmly call myself a dedicated beader, too.

Dragonstar wrote
on Aug 21, 2011 1:49 AM

Found Beadwork Magazine on a newstand back in 2003 I think is was (beaded spice bottles on the front).  Had already been beading since 1991 and was just drooling over the cover of that magazine and have been hooked since then. Just can't get enough! I have a dedicated blank book just to write ideas and color combos into. What I love about Beadwork magazine are the clear pictures and instructions. I am dyxlexic and have problems at times with written instructions.  Your magazine has been very helpful due to the clarity and research you do with all the instructions you produce.  Yours projects were the first written patterns I could reproduce an item from. Your magazine is also a great source of inspiration and product knowlage, I use it as a resource tool as well. Thank you for such a fine publication.

WendyH@49 wrote
on Aug 22, 2011 2:23 PM

I've sewn and done various fabric-related crafts since childhood, but for some reason never paid attention to beads.  Then in 2004, I was browsing through craft and sewing books at Barnes & Noble while waiting for my husband.  The texture and vivid color of Robin Atkins' "Rosie the Uncaged Hen" on the cover of Lark Books "500 Beaded Objects" immediately caught my attention.  My husband eventually had to track ME down, saying, "Let's just buy the book and go home."

I joke with him that it's THE most expensive book he ever bought!  I've been hooked on beads ever since.  It was a thrill to actually meet and bead with Robin Atkins a few months after buying the book, and thank her for her contribution to my favorite new passion.  Her book "One Bead at a Time" was a huge inspiration to me, too.

I've tried and learned all sorts of beading techniques, but really seem to favor improvisational bead embroidery...the thing that started it all for me.

lcoppinger wrote
on Aug 31, 2011 8:30 AM

I am a plus size woman and most of the necklaces and bracelets I liked  were not made for me or women like me. I looked at a necklace one day and thought "I can make something like this."  I live in the country so no bead stores anywhere nearby. I got on ebay and WOW did I find beads. So then I started researching beading sites, magazines, catalogs and through lots of trial and error, I started making jewelry. My teenage daughter wore some to school and her teachers wanted to buy it. So now I make jewelry in all sizes for all women and have a blast doing it. I still keep a book of interesting designs I find and adapt them when I'm stuck for a project. I love beading. Currently working on learning Chain Maille and multi-media projects. I love that the same beads can make something totally different each time they are put together. Most of my projects are one of a kind, I only make repeats if a customer asks for one. I keep a photo log of my pieces, sorted by bead color and metal color. I love looking at my early pieces and thinking "I thought this was good?" Learning never stops and I love that about beading.