Bead Shopping in New York City, Day One: Inspiration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dec 7, 2011

Me and one of my best friends in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This past weekend, I decided I needed to get out of town for a while. That's just something that happens when you work from home - eventually, you need to get out of the house for more than just a run to the grocery store or the post office.

Thankfully, I have two very good friends who live just outside of New York City. A few years ago, they introduced me to the part of Manhattan that's known as the Fashion District along Seventh Avenue and with it a whole slew of beautiful bead shops!

So what better way to spend a long weekend with friends than shopping for beads in New York City?

Our first day in Manhattan, we decided to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is a truly beautiful museum, and I've been going there for years for inspiration. Before I discovered beads, I wrote a lot of fiction and poetry, and I would go spend a day at the Met to observe and jot down my ideas. Now, however, my ideas are mostly for jewelry - with a few poems thrown in for fun.

When we arrived at the Met, we started our visit in the Egyptian wing of the museum. My eagle-eyed friends spotted a case full of ancient Egyptian beads that had me "oohing" and "aahing" over their shapes and intricacy. The fact that these beads were still around after thousands of years gave me pause, and I enjoyed the feeling that I was a part of the story of beads and humans.

Next, we decided to spend some time in the Asian wing of the museum, taking in the art and culture of China, Japan, India, Tibet, and Bhutan.

The Empire State Building from Herald Square. The people and energy of New York City have always been tremendous sources of inspiration for me!
There is a room in the Met that is filled with larger-than-life statues of the Buddha in all of his many embodiments. The statues come from all parts of Asia including India, China, Japan, and parts of the Middle East. Some of them are wood with the paint worn away by the centuries. Others are made from solid metal such as bronze. And my favorites are made from ceramics, with their pearly finishes and lustrous smiles gazing down on you as you sit on the wooden benches in the center of the gallery.

That room (I've always called it "The Buddha Room") is my favorite place in the entire museum. It's quiet in there, and I could sit and sketch those Buddhas all day. I look to them for inspiration in color, form, and materials for my beading projects.

We found some wonderful inspiration for a whole new series of right-angle-weave patterns in the beautiful Chinese artwork, and I found myself breathless in front of a beautiful sixteenth-century Japanese kimono that had been embroidered with hundreds of thousands of tiny silk stitches.

I left the museum that day with a head full of ideas and a notebook full of new sketches for bead designs. I needed to get my rest for the next day and our bead-shopping trip all around the island of Manhattan!

Have you ever gone on a bead-shopping trip to a special destination? Tell me about it here on the blog!

Bead Happy,


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chrisaccount wrote
on Dec 10, 2011 9:39 AM

I used to go up to the NY/NJ Metro area every few months on business and while up there I hit the bead shops on Sixth Ave about 3 blocks north of Herald Square and on many of the side streets,  I never returned home disappointed.  If you are into seed beading, there is a huge Toho store on Sixth.  Best way to find many of the shops is to Google:  bead shops in Manhattan.  In fact whenever I go anywhere I do a Google search to find bead shops near my destination. No two shops are alike and I will usually find something that I haven't seen anywhere else.

beaderbubbe wrote
on Dec 10, 2011 11:04 AM

I just started shopping around (other than internet) for beads and every spring find myself going to the Whole Bead Show - - here in never ceases to amaze me what is in my own back if I only had as much time as I do beads   :)

elanowolf wrote
on Dec 10, 2011 11:28 AM

I had two surgeries in NYC and have to go back to see doctor (wonderful neurosurgeon at MT SINAI by the way). I live in CT about 2 hrs from NYC.

Often I will catch the train in. Then, I will go to the Fashion District, (I call it

the Bead District). Shop after shop after shop full of almost any bead, finding,

etc you could want. So inspiring!

judyl54 wrote
on Dec 13, 2011 10:48 AM

It's so fantastic to be able to have these great stores to shop in!!