Why work with beads?

“My goodness, that must take a lot of patience!”

I think all of us bead weavers have heard that at some point from one of our friends or loved ones… or even each other. This statement is always a head-scratcher to me. When we do what we love, it doesn’t feel like it takes a lot of patience or work.  It’s like saying to a golfer, “It must take a lot of patience to swing your club for several hours each day you go to the course!” That isn’t to say the road to creating a project isn’t without its speed bumps and doesn’t have tedious moments, but the reason we bead is because we love it.

We each began beading for our own reasons. For me it was part of my physical therapy/rehabilitation after losing use of my hands for several years.  But why did I stick with it? Why does anyone continue to bead? What is the draw of beads?

I was studying privately with the amazing David Chatt, and the first thing he asked me when I sat down with him was “Why do you work with beads?” He continued, “There are so many other mediums you could work in that get results faster and are less tedious.”

His question inspired me to introspect. I realized that each piece I made was an opportunity of self-expression, a chance to meditate on a subject or feeling or idea that I was dealing with in my life, a gift for others to let them know how I felt about them, or any number of other things.

A few months later, I was teaching for a bead society and I posed the same question to the group I was with, “Why do you work with beads?” For some, it was just because they really like beads and the look of them (That is an awesome and totally valid reason to work with beads). For others they were carrying on family or cultural traditions. Others had similar reason for beading as I do.

One of the latest pieces I’ve made is “Ancres Au Soleil.” The inspiration for it came when I saw a Facebook ad for an Hermés bracelet that was a series of anchor chains linked together. My friend, who had spent time as a sailor, recently died from an asthma attack and the jewelry in the ad made me think of her. As I sat beading my interpretation of the piece, I reflected on my memories of her. At times I would just meditate on her smile; in some moments, her sense of humor; and still others, occasions we got to spend together. When the first link was done, I started crying, something I hadn’t been able to do since she parted. The whole process was cathartic and healing. I’m currently working on a necklace for myself, using those same techniques and the same anchor links.

This might be a long way of responding to a person who states, “That must take a lot of patience!” but for me it isn’t about patience at all. Beading is worthwhile to me because it not only gave me use of my hands again, but it continues to give me a healthy way to heal and share a piece of myself with the world. Even if you are beading because “beads are just pretty,” take a moment to notice your thoughts as you bead and how creating things of beauty feeds your spirit. And for those who haven’t considered, I ask you, “Why do you work with beads?”

Spirit House

People’s Choice Award, Bead Dreams 2018


Inspired by the Japanese Tea Garden of San Francisco, as well as the Chi Lin Nunnery in Hong Kong, Spirit House is a tribute to the stone structures within these gardens that “house” the spirits of those who tend to them and of love ones who have passed on. This cuff-and-slave-bracelet highlights several elements of the gardens, including koi fish, dragonflies, bamboo thickets, bridges, and cherry blossom trees. To represent the connection to the spirit world, the fish and dragonfly each have one bezeled eye and are symbolic of some of my family members who were killed by a drunk driver in 2002. A technique common to the gardens, “hide and reveal,” is present throughout each angle of the bracelet: with every turn, a new scene emerges, yet one seamlessly transitions into the next. The top of the piece represents rigid, man-made structures, pristine in their execution. Working toward the bottom, the components become more freeform and organic, allowing bead movement and thread color/exposure to display the natural arrangement, sacred geometry, and flow of nature.

In order to stay with the organic nature of the piece, only natural stones were used in combination with the glass beads. That is why the piece avoids using Swarovski or Preciosa elements. After nearly 250-300 hours of planning/experimenting and another 400+ hours of stitching over 45,000 beads, “Spirit House,” was born.

Materials Used

Round gem cut Morganite (center of cherry blossoms), Sphene (deep center of the lotus), and Garnet (roof ornament); gem beads and semi-precious beads Arizona Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, pearls (round and keshi), red coral, Sapphires (pink and yellow), Ruby, Onyxe, Fire Opal, and Jade; Handblown glass eyes; Beads used: Aiko, Delica, Miyuki and Toho 15/0 and 11/0 round beads, 15/0 Czech Charlottes (24kt gold and Marcasite), 15/0 Japanese Charlottes. solid 14kt gold multi-strand tube clasp, 14kt gold hand-formed hairpin clasp



Peyote (flat, tubular, diagonal, two-drop, freeform, and round), Ndebele (flat, tubular, flat-spiral and tubular-spiral), CRAW, PRAW, MRAW, RAW, brick stitch, ladder, square stitch, stitch in the ditch, fringe, and bezeling. Hairpin clasp fabrication includes rolling mill, hammering, grinding and polishing. Invented 3 new CGB shapes including Stacked half horns, beams and wave splashes.