Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Beady Beginnings

Thanks to everyone who responded to my first blog post! It is very encouraging. 

One of the comments complimented the beaded mask I pictured in that post and I mentioned that it was inspired by a piece done by bead loom artist Don Pierce that he showed during a three day workshop I took from him. I wanted to write about this today because that workshop was my introduction to the bead world.

I was living in Lakeland, FL with my young family at the time and staying at home with our daughter. My partner had purchased one of those plastic bead loom kits a few years earlier out of nostalgia  (she used one as a kid). That kit moved with us twice unopened.

Out of pity for the thing just sitting in a drawer never used and a lack of cash, I decided to make bead loomed bracelets for all of the women on my x-mas list that year (2000). The instructions in those kits are not exactly great. It came with a small pack of multi-colored beads and a needle but no thread. It did mention that sewing thread would not hold up and that whatever thread you did use could be coated with bees wax. Off to the superstore I went for dental floss and more beads!

That's right - dental floss was what came to mind for strong thread. So there I sat making bead loomed bracelet after bead loomed bracelet with my bagged size 10 beads and dental floss that I was coating with a Burt's Bees salve in place of bees wax. I loved every minute of it!

After the holiday I couldn't stop using the loom and had run out of design space on the small strip of graph paper provided in the kit. My wonderfully attentive and supportive partner, Julie, recognized my passion and discovered a local Bead Society that was coincidentally going to be hosting a bead loom workshop with Don Pierce and encouraged me to sign up for it.

I received a supply list that included the following:
delica beads
nymo thread
large bead loom

My reaction to this list went like this:
Where do you get that? 

This is the very same loom that I still use!
I found a local bead store that explained and supplied the delica beads and nymo thread. They could not provide me with a loom any bigger than the one I had though so Julie decided to make me one. A few scrap pieces of wood, some nails, and a screen door spring and I was all set for the workshop!

I was the youngest person in the workshop and the only beginner. I felt extremely awkward and silly next to all of the experienced and accomplished beadweavers but everyone was so incredibly nice and supportive and concerned with whether I was working under enough light. Mr. Pierce showed us the basics of beading on a loom and I was hooked. So much more I could do with my bead loom than I had ever imagined. We each worked on a piece using a technique that we were not totally confident with yet which for me was anything besides a strip for a bracelet. My design and color choices received some funny looks but no one judged my style - only the technique.

I still have that beadwork that I wore as a bracelet for a little while and I am still as happy with it as I was then. Since that first wonderful eye opening experience in the bead world I have taught myself off loom techniques and more on loom techniques via the internet and numerous books. I now own two large looms (the one made by Julie and one of Mr. Pierce's Larry Looms) and both are always in use....and I live happily ever after in my beautiful bead filled world.


  1. I sat in on a workshop by Don Pierce hosted by The Bead Garden of Sedona back around 2002. It was a lot of fun seeing everyone learn his techniques which seemed so alien to all of us.

    Your second to last photo here looks AWESOME! Is that a current work in progress?

  2. Thank you Jane for the inspiration for this post! Yes it was fun to learn the loom techniques that changed my ideas of what loomwork can be completely.

    That is a work that has been in progress for a long time. I don't really know what the block is that keeps me from getting it ready to pull off the loom but I will definitely share the results when I finally get there.

  3. Hey Jessie,
    I recognize the first loom, I had one of those about 8 years ago when I first got into beading! Eventually I ended up falling in love with bead embroidery and when I moved from NY I gave it away to the kids I used to babysit, I hope someone gets to use it... I never got beyond the basic with loom techniques, and so I admire the things you can make on it. Amazing!
    By the way, great minds think alike. I used to use Burt's bees salve for my nymo thread all the time. Recently I started using fireline for almost everything but fringes, but whenever I use nymo and run out of wax, I still go for the Burt's Bees stuff.
    Your blog is so much fun! Keep the posts coming.

  4. Thanks! I am having fun with it!

    I still have 3 of those small looms. People along the way who found out I loom would just bring them to me! I will use one for a small project every now and then. The original one I used was red and yellow plastic and I snapped it in half (I am more than slightly clumsy).