Hi! My name is Lisa, and I’ve recently moved back to the U.S. after living on the island of Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands, for the past 7 years. Kwajalein is about half-way between Hawaii and Australia in the middle of the Pacific, not really “close to” anything. It’s so small (only 2-1/2 by ½ miles!) that private vehicles aren’t allowed . We ride our bicycles everywhere, rain or shine. It’s a very unique way of life, a very small mostly American community on a remote US Army base.
My very good friend, Marilyn, introduced me to beading in 2003. My family had just moved back to Kwaj for a second tour and Marilyn came out for a visit. At my request, she brought a few hundred dollars' worth of beading supplies and tools and taught me how to string and make simple loops. After I became reasonably competent, I started selling my jewelry at our local biannual craft fair. Over the years I've subscribed to BeadStyle and Bead&Button and always read every step in nearly every project, carefully comparing the text with the diagrams. In this manner, I've learned and eventually practiced other beading techniques. My first love these days is stitching, especially a new-to-me stitch or a new twist on a classic. I discovered African helix stitch last year from Beadwork magazine and had fun making a cobalt blue and lime green necklace with a clasp worn in the front. I'm wild for Phyllis Dintenfass' techniques of blending peyote and herringbone to make triangles. And my new favorite books are Carol Huber Cypher's "Mastering Beadwork" and Valerie Hector's "The Art of Beadwork".
Although I call myself a self-taught beader, that's not really correct considering I've really learned from the projects in magazines and books. Unfortunately, I had zero access to beading classes on Kwaj. And wouldn't you know, about few years ago, some friends convinced me to teach a class myself. From that point on, my designing and teaching business grew to include a small bead shop, which took over my dining room.
In May 2009, a very limited amount of commercial space became available to small business owners on Kwaj. I was thrilled to open my shop, Tropic Jewelry & Beads! I continued to teach classes and loved every minute of running my shop.
It is now September 25, 2010. The past few months have been one upheaval after another. In order to live on Kwajalein, you have to either have a contract to work there, or you have to be a dependent of someone with a contract to work there. Since 2005, I have been my husband’s dependent. Unfortunately, we were divorced in July (not my choice). I was unable to find a job with a contract on Kwaj (they recently had lay-offs), so I was forced to move back to the U.S.
Which meant I was also forced to sell my beloved bead and jewelry shop. It had grown considerably in the 15 months it was open. Fortunately, the owner of the jewelry business located next to mine in downtown Kwaj, Juliet, purchased my shop from me. So thankfully, my Kwaj friends still have a place they can go to get their bead fix.
My youngest, Christine, graduated as the valedictorian of Kwajalein High School in June. She began her freshman year at Johns Hopkins last month. I’m missing her dreadfully – not only is she my baby, but she and I are very close, so it’s been hard without her.
I’m currently staying with my parents in Orlando and job-hunting. My son, Ryan, is also here with me. His first year of college last year was pretty rocky, so he’s kindof treading water until we know where we’re going to live on a somewhat permanent basis. Then he’ll start back, taking classes at a local community college and living at home with me.
I have 11 years of experience as a programmer geek (specializing in Oracle), but haven’t been working in the field for the past 5 years. I’m having a difficult time finding a job because prospective employers are concerned that my technical skills are stale. So I’m super-busy studying for recertification, which will prove that I’m up to date technically.
I’m also enjoying setting up my online shops on ArtFire and Shop Handmade. I left all of my handmade jewelry with Juliet (who bought my shop from me) on consignment, which means I have to start from scratch in building an inventory for sale online. I don’t mind, though, when my eyes go numb from studying, I just switch over to the bead table for a bit of therapy. Here are links to my ArtFire and Shop Handmade shops (both have the same inventory):
Artfire Shop: http://www.artfire.com/users/Tropic_Jewelry_and_Beads
Shop Handmade Shop: http://www.shophandmade.com/Store/Tropic
Thank you to everyone who’s been praying for me lately – Lord knows I’ve needed it! You’re all close to my heart – I love being a part of the BD family. Have a very beadiful day!