Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm
I'm Barbara Klein. Beadwork has a long history as an art form practiced by
American Indians and other cultures around the world. Today millions of people
enjoy making -- and in some cases selling -- their own beaded jewelry. This
week on our program, we meet some of these beaders.
We begin in New Mexico in the American Southwest at a
show called Interweave Bead Fest Santa Fe. Interweave Press is a major
publisher in the craft media industry. The company also produces events around
the country including Bead Fests.
For example, this
August in Pennsylvania is Bead Fest Philadelphia. Then, in September, beaders will
gather in Oregon for Bead Fest Portland.
This year's show in Santa Fe took place over four days
in March at the city's convention center and nearby hotels. Karen Keegan, the
event manager, estimated the attendance at about three thousand people.
More than four hundred fifty of them took jewelry
making classes. The others just came to buy from the one hundred twenty-seven
vendors at the show. Vendors sell their own jewelry as well as jewelry making supplies.
Visitors to the showrooms could find everything
they needed to produce one-of-a kind rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings.
There were low-priced beads and high-priced beads. Beads made of glass, of wood,
of clay and of crystal. Round beads, square beads and beads in a riot of other
shapes, sizes and colors.
Why make jewelry? For one thing, it can
save a lot of money. Retired Special English writer Paul Thompson once saw a crystal
bracelet in a store. The price was two hundred fifty dollars.
Paul examined the
bracelet and decided that he could make the same thing -- for much less. It
took him several weeks to learn how to string the crystals, and how to separate
them so they would look nice. He also had to learn how to attach a clasp for
opening and closing the bracelet.
In the end, he was able to produce a very similar
crystal bracelet for less than twenty dollars. Later, as his skills improved,
he made earrings and a necklace in the same color and design. That was about
four years ago.
he makes jewelry as gifts for friends and family members. They always ask if he
plans to sell any. He says no, then making jewelry would become a job. But others
have turned their jewelry making hobby into a money making career.
Jeannette Cook has been beading since
the nineteen sixties. The Southern California artist started by making "love
bead" necklaces. Today, she says she earns about sixty thousand dollars a
year through her company called Beady Eyed Women.
Jeannette Cook says she attends
four or five jewelry shows a year where she teaches workshops and sells her
products. And she has produced six books about beading in a series called "The
Beady Eyed Women's Guide."
She says beading not only looks good, it feels good. In
times of stress she will go bead for an hour, she says, and that calms her
Another successful jewelry designer is Karen Lewis, also
known as KLEW, spelled K-L-E-W. She started out more than twenty years ago
working with polymer clay. She liked the way she could easily form this plastic
modeling material into different shapes. And she liked how she could twist
together pieces in different colors.
Karen Lewis says she works seven days a week, but loves what she does. She says
she earns more than one hundred thousand dollars a year as a bead designer. She
owns two stores in California. She also sells her beads to other stores and online.
And she sells at bead shows like the one in Santa Fe.
Jill Wiseman of
Austin, Texas, left her job at a high-tech company four years ago to do beading
full time. She works with extremely small beads known as seed beads.
JILL WISEMAN: "Tiny, tiny, tiny. I always
say the smaller the better."
also teaches classes on making bracelets and other jewelry. She says one reason
she enjoys the jewelry making business is the people she meets. She says people
who do seed beading share a great sense of community. They develop friendships
just like people who get together to make quilts or do other crafts.
she loves bringing people together. For example, she says a group of students
who met in her classes now get together two times a week to talk and to bead.
Lewis makes and sells beaded jewelry but not as a full time job. She is a
retired California state employee who lives in Sacramento, the state capital.
She enjoys choosing beads in a variety of colors and
shapes, then putting them together. The most difficult part, she says, is
creating a good design. That takes the most time.
decides which colors to work with, then places each bead on a board covered
with cloth. She changes colors, shapes, sizes and placement of beads on the
board until the design pleases her.
Lewis and other jewelry makers say combining the materials into a finished
piece generally takes less time than the design process. But the design process
is what she really loves.
Press did a State of Beading Survey in two thousand four. The survey found that
the United States had at least five hundred fifty thousand active beaders. They
spent an average of about eight hundred dollars a year on supplies. More than half
of them sold their work or gave it away to family and friends.
The survey in two thousand four also found that the United
States had about two thousand independent bead supply stores. That was an
increase of more than forty percent from nineteen ninety-seven. And that did
not include large craft store chains.
the jewelry makers we spoke to in March at Bead Fest Santa Fe agreed that the
recession had affected their businesses. They reported fewer orders and fewer
offers to teach classes over the past year.
Lewis -- KLEW -- said her business was down about twenty percent. That was
mostly when fuel prices were so high last year that people in California were
not driving to her stores.
are plenty of free videos on the Internet for people who want to learn how to
do beading and make jewelry. Just go to a site like YouTube and type in
"beading techniques" or even just "beading." We leave you
now with some examples, which we have strung together like beads of sound.
NARRATOR, beadbee.com: "Welcome to Beadbee's basic
beading video series. This video will demonstrate how to use wire wrapping
technique to create a beaded link. The supplies you will need are sterling
silver wire, round-nosed pliers, flat-nosed pliers, flat-nosed pliers with a
tip, and flush cutters."
SONIA DAMERON, beadbar.com: "Welcome to the Bead
Bar, Orlando Florida. My name is Sonia and on this segment for Expert Village
we are going to show you how to do a multiple strand necklace. A lot of people
are intimidated by multiple strand necklaces, but it's actually very easy to
LEONARDO MARTINEZ, legendarybeadsaustin.com:
"Hello, my name is Leonardo Martinez from Legendary Beads here in Austin,
Texas. Today we're going to talk about how to be a beaded jewelry designer. For
me, I walked into a bead store and the girl showed me how to put bead and chain
together, worked a few wire techniques. I never knew I was going to be a beaded
jewelry designer until the day I was actually doing it."
SONIA DAMERON: "Now when it comes to wire there's
lots of different sizes. And the sizes in the wire are by gauge. And how that
works is, as your number increases, the diameter gets smaller and
LEONARDO MARTINEZ: "I think the most important
thing being a beaded jewelry designer is having patience."
TERESA METCALFE-JOHNSON, refinedwithfire.com: "All
right, what we're going to do now is take this basic round bead and we're going
to apply some frit. Remember, frit is crushed up pieces of glass. The glass
that I have is a neon green and a bright orange. What you want to do is heat
your base bead until it's that honey-like consistency. You want to keep
spinning your mandrel so that it doesn't melt off the rod and you're going to
heat your bead so that it's tacky enough to roll onto the frit and pick up
pieces of the glass."
LEONARDO MARTINEZ: "It's a lot of trial and error.
It's a process. And that's something that you have to be willing to put up
Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach, who we
should say is married to our former colleague Paul Thompson. Our producer was Caty
Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Steve Ember. Transcripts, MP3s
and podcasts of our programs are at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow
us on Twitter at twitter.com/voalearenglish. We hope you join us again next
week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.