When I first started beading in 1996, it seemed like a brave new world.
Now, obviously, beading is an ancient activity. In the United States, it's always been a hobby. However, after a big surge in the sixties, it submerged again, and it just seemed to be re-emerging at that point.
When I first first started beading, I thought that beading was a really great, inexpensive hobby. And it is--as long as you don't mind that your jewelry, in turn, looks inexpensive. I was buying beads at Frank's Nursery and Crafts, and my jewelry looked like Frank's jewelry, quite honestly.
I was ready to give up. And then my mom bought me a little bag of beads from Beads SRO in Royal Oak, and when I opened the bag, I nearly died. The beads she'd bought were worlds away from Frank's beads. I'd never seen any beads like them. I made several necklaces and earrings that week, and from that point on I was hooked. I found more bead stores in metro Detroit, and I began to spend money--lots of money.
I went on vacation to Chicago and found stores there, and bought lots of amazing beads, including recycled glass beads from Hebron. I had such a great time expanding my boundaries.
I began working for a bead store, and devoured books about working with glass and the history of beads.
Working for the bead store was incredibly educational. The store sold Italian handicrafts such as dolls and masks, and sold a lot of glass. The owner imported beads from Italy, and the staff made beaded jewelry for sale in the store, as well as selling the beads.
At this point the mainstream public had no idea about beading as a hobby. A lot of the job entailed explaining to people why a bead would cost $2 (or $200).
Selling the jewelry was much more fulfilling. I learned a lot about style, color, and assembly-line jewelry-making at that point. I made large batches of wire links, wire spirals, and earrings every few weeks, and I did a lot of stringing.
Since then, I've had a lot of different work in the bead industry. I've worked as a sales representative for a large company and done trunk shows, trade shows, and bead society shows; I've worked for myself, doing bead shows with my closeout beads; and I've sold lots and lots of jewelry over the years, both through galleries and art fairs. It's been a lot of work, and a lot of fun.
One of the most fulfilling aspects, though, is seeing someone wear a piece of jewelry that I've made. It still makes me feel all warm and happy.