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Beads and Beadwork

The recent discussion of beading books and supplies has put me in the
mood to start a thread for those of us who would like to talk about
beads, beadwork, and/or the status of same within the creative
community. As Terrie’s post stated, “some purists online consider
beads the bottom of the pit,” which is a crying shame, as lots of
people are doing incredible things with beads. In recent memory,
artists have used beads to express political or cultural
frustrations, push the limits of glass as a medium, create huge
installation pieces, or just make really lovely jewelry.

While a few forums for beadworkers exist, they seem generally suited
to hobbyists and pattern-followers, so I think it’s appropriate to
bring it up on Orchid. There’s clearly a great deal of knowledge and
experience to be tapped here. I know it may lead to some grumbling,
but hey, I’m feeling fractious :wink:

Best to all,

Jessee Smith

Purests bah lol I have some of the most beautiful gemstone beads I
bought from a closeout seller. I love working in beads my mother was
exceptionally talented on a loom. I intend to learn as much as

America’s Only cameo Artist

    The recent discussion of beading books and supplies has put me
in the mood to start a thread for those of us who would like to
talk about beads, beadwork, and/or the status of same within the
creative community. As Terrie's post stated, "some purists online
consider beads the bottom of the pit," which is a crying shame, as
lots of people are doing incredible things with beads. 


I have several times stood up for beaders on this forum, and don’t
consider beadwork to be the bottom of the pit; it’s an art unto

Repeat: unto itself. At risk of being fractious as well, I would
like to see Orchid remain a forum for primarily metalworking and
lapidary. The issues are so different, and at risk of sounding
snotty, I really wouldn’t want to have to plow through even more
emails that are not related to metalworking or stone cutting. The
technical aspects of the latter just don’t compare to the technical
aspects of beading. Bead-making is different, but there are so many
guilds for that already. I think there are plenty of venues for
beaders, although I think there are lots of beader lurkers out

Perhaps you can start your own list with those folks who have very
specific beading questions? Or, perhaps the beaders can set up a fund
to have someone do it if you can’t figure out one of those free
list/group exchange services on the web.

Sorry, but I feel I want to be honest. Years ago I did a lot of
beadwork but now that I’m creating metal and stone jewelry, with
beads only as accents, I would like a forum related to the business
of making such jewelry and marketing it.

   The recent discussion of beading books and supplies has put me
in the mood to start a thread for those of us who would like to
talk about beads, beadwork, and/or the status of same within the
creative community. 

I agree with you that most of the “beading” sites now in existence
are not at the level of the Orchid Digest. This idea sounds good to
me. Although I work mostly in metal, I also do lots of beaded
necklaces. I find the ability to work with color/texture/shape to be
totally relaxing and challenging. I think it would be really neat
to have a “serious” beaders thread. If there is enough interest,
perhaps Hannuman could set up a separate link for those Orchidians
who have a more than casual interest in beading so as not to bore
those who have no interest in it.


    perhaps Hannuman could set up a separate link for those
Orchidians who have a more than casual interest in beading so as
not to bore those who have no interest in it. 

Great idea- But remember it’s a lot of extra work because this is a
moderated forum, so perhaps the BEADERS out there will make sure to
exercise their mouse-click-fingers on the DONATION area of the
Orchid site!! I know I keep meaning to…at least buy an Orchid

Ok ~ my turn to be honest: While “snotty” (your word) may be a bit
over the top if one were to characterize your post, I can manage a
few other adjectives… And you say here that, “at times, you have
stood up for beaders”…

I’ve been a professional jewellery artist for over 22 years. I make
assemblage, component jewellery., that is, I work primarily with
beads. When I got my first computer, a mere 5 1/2 years ago, thanks
to a non-jeweller friend’s alertness and consideration in sending me
the link, I found Orchid. I have been a steady reader ever since.
Much of what I read here is ostensibly irrelevant (directly) to my
production. Much of it, admittedly, due to time constraints, I must
delete unread. But, let me make an argument for what I perceive as
the fundamental purpose of Orchid: Communication, Connection, and
Education. These qualities are not ~repeat: NOT~ exclusionary. We are
here to learn from each other and, hopefully, forge a sense of
community - global, artistic, professional, even, at times,
personal. I may not form ingots or cast my own metals, etc. but let
me tell you - I do read and learn from everyone here. I have
discovered worlds of sources, techniques, philosophy,
history, technical business advice, etc., etc., etc., so
far BEYOND the scope of my erstwhile “limited” activity, I would no
more think of marginalizing anyone’s input or area of expertise here
than I would in my daily newspaper. Reading Orchid, following - or
even just dipping in occasionally - threads which are ostensibly
"Off-Topic " to me, makes me think outside the box. I never know from
where the next inspiration or new - (omg !) “Thought” - may come To
be blunt, I think it presumptuous of you to declare some sort of turf
imperative here, positing that Orchid is - or should be - restricted
to the more "legitimate " arts of metalsmithing and lapidary. I
represent neither of these skills, and, yet, here I am.

I realize my tone is not as diplomatic as I would have it be, if I
took a day or so to think about my answer before writing, but ,
frankly, I need to respond to this thread now, while my thoughts and
emotions are vivid… I don’t intend to make this personal. But, that
said, I have to say that I do take personally the idea that my
fundamental concerns are somehow “different” from that of what too
many in this profession consider their exclusive domain; I have been
standing up for respect for my niche in this business for over 2
long decades. Before the bead shops and Saturday afternoon stringing
classes. Before the flood of artsy-craftsy beading magazines. And
SOME of us make a living at this. Full time. No “fall back”, no
"second income" status. And from what I read, clearly, not even all
of you metal smiths and lapidaries can say the same. I am in no mood
to hear about self-deprecating “bottom of the pit” this - and having
to "plow through more “irrelevant” posts that - and “unto itself”
(?!) the third thing -!

So, maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’m being overly optimistic and
ecumenical, but here is how I see it: Orchid is a forum limited only
by the imagination and/or experience of its contributors for the
discussion of ALL things pertaining to the creation, promotion, and
appreciation of the Jewellery Arts - including some of their
"messier", more nonlinear, less “high tech”, more offbeat aspects -
like - oh - mine, for example… It’s fine to propose a second thread
or forum; hey - in my view, all avenues of communication are valid -
it’s all good. But I will not quietly suborn any more of this
attitude -not here! - especially here - on this forum of
professionals and (not so professionals) - that my work - my time,
my materials, my years’ of perfected skills, my artistry, my long
hours, my anxieties, my broken back - is somehow less valuable, or
less valid for inclusion in the communal discussion, than yours.

And if subject matter happens to come up, occasionally, that is
annoyingly irrelevant for you, then, just like me - you have a
"delete" button. You can even delete this post.

Respectfully and Wearily,
Margery Epstein

Bravo! Very well put Margery! And I did go out on the web and look
at your website - absolutely beautiful creations. To die for! And
let those who question know - to create such things is definitely
not easy. It was I who suggested the separate link - and I who sit
with feet in two camps. As I said, I love working with beads
because I so adore color, texture and shape (I was a fine artist for
years before I morphed over to jewelry). Most of my bead work has
been self taught and I must say, I have learned lots even from the
hobbyist’s beading sites. And I would love having a very serious
bead discussion. And yes, lots of what I read on orchid is not
relevant to my work - I do not cast - I am not a stone setter - I do
not work in gold or platinum- I do not have a store front - I am not
a trades jeweler - I have never done bench work in another’s shop -
I have only taken workshops with some very erudite jewelers and have
learned “on the job”. I don’t make my living from jewelry, but I
still read orchid daily, even lots of the posts on subjects I know
nothing about CAD/CAM etc. but I have learned things I never even
knew I didn’t know. I think Orchid is marvelous and I think more
"bead oriented issues" discussion could be fantastic. In fact it
would be interesting to know how many Orchid members are also
beaders - speak up where ever you are. Thank you Margery for
setting the record straight.


It’s okay Margery, calmense. - I couldn’t agree more about the
overarching reason for Orchid. But someone asked for opinions on
adding more threads on beading and I gave my legitimate response, as
an Orchid member, vis a vis Communication-Connection-and-Education
regarding what I consider to be a metalworking and lapidary forum.
Others have different views - fancy that! It’s just my opinion after
all, and no more or less worthy than anyone else’s. I just put it
out there because it was asked for and I hoped it would be taken as
such, without anyone attacking me personally rather than just
addressing an issue calmly and diplomatically. I suggest in future we
all take care not to personalize stuff here. Deleting is certainly
something I do and will continue to do! Consider it done! [And funny
that SO MANY metalsmiths out there contacted me offline to thank me
for my post because they were afraid - apparently rightly so! - of
being personally attacked for voicing a legitimate diplomatically
phrased OPINION.]

Well said, much better than I could have vocalized! And I am only
and ART EDUCATOR that happens to like to dabble in a lot of
things!!! I am currently a Stay At Home Mom, and I have used Orchid
many times for ideas and knowledge. Keep up the good work everyone!

Christina Sizemore

Simple Charms

Well put. I for one mix metalsmithing, chain making, PMC and other
fabrications with beads. I find many posts interesting and have yet
to forget my delete key when needed.

Eve Welts

Hi All

I have been a beader for seven years. It has become obvious that
beaders don’t get any respect. My work is unique–as unique as any
metal work. I am so angry about the attitude of some show
promoters–there is a middle ground between making every finding and
bead yourself and buy and sell. In my plans are promoting a show
consisting of all beaders.

Sally Pataky
Sungem Design

Ok ~ my turn to be honest: While "snotty"  (your word) may be a
bit over the top if one were to characterize  your post, I can
manage  a few other adjectives... And you say here that, "at times,
you have stood up for beaders"... 

I think that Roseann was admirably tactful in her response,
something which should be taken as an example on this newsgroup.

Orchid is a newsgroup about gems and jewelry, and beaded jewelry is
jewelry by definition. Given this, those who work with beaded
jewelry have as much place posting here as does anyone else. I don’t
know that beaders need their own Orchid forum, or a "beaders only"
thread. Imagine what would happen if we all decided to separate
ourselves in this newsgroup by discipline. We could easily have 30
or more different groups, from enamelers to faceters to art jewelers
to bench jewelers to stonesetters to cabbers to… well, you get
it, I’m sure. The outcome would be the fragmentation and
impoverishment of the group, as the best insights sometimes come
from those who are schooled in a different discipline and thus don’t
share the same set of assumptions.

I have to say that while the characterization of beading as the
bottom of the pit is stereotypical and unfair, it is in some
individual cases richly deserved. There are artists who do unusual
and beautiful things with beads, introducing new approaches,
sometimes combining beads with other materials and techniques in
order to take things to a new level. They deserve the respect for
the skill and the vision which they demonstrate. There are also
many who simply array bought beads on a string with no inventiveness
whatsoever. For such to characterize themselves as artists or even
craftspeople is IMO somewhat disingenuous, as what they do displays
neither artistic vision nor technical skill.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

I wonder how many people who now are jewellery makers (be they
professional, hobbyist or second job) began their interest with
beading? My beaded pieces are all made using gold and/or
silver and are well-made - hardly gimcrack.

No, beaders do not get any respect, despite having skills that many
metalsmiths do not have, and which they can incorporate into their

I hate it when people assume that my beaded bracelets consist
entirely of a few plastic beads strung on a piece of elastic with the
ends knotted together.


I am an example of one who combines different techniques. At this
point, I mainly do silver wire work using a weaving technique called
Viking Knitting. I have also started using PMC3 (silver Precious
Metal Clay). With many of those pieces, I have combined both vintage
and contemporary beads. I enjoy being a part of this group; even
though much of what is discussed is beyond my own experience. I
haven’t done any casting, stone setting, or many other techniques as
well. I would love to branch out in the future; but it is great that
all facets of jewelry making can be read about in this one forum. If
a separate group was formed that dealt mainly with beading
techniques, I would love to join a group like that as well; but I
will also value this group for the diversity and expertise that can
be found in the Orchid posts.

If any of you would like to see some examples of Viking Knitting;
and also some examples of my combining beads and other components
with that work, you are welcome to visit Vintage Treasures at Ruby

Jeanne M. Bellone

It’s funny: since I don’t have a torch and I’m currently interested
in materials you wouldn’t use a torch with anyway, I’m interested in
cold connections. Sometimes my cold connections thoughts spill over
into materials that you would use a torch with. And to me, a stone
with a hole in it just provides another way to cold-connect the
stone. Ah, those are BEADS!

Learning something new every darn day,

Christine in Littleton, Massachusetts

I am not particularly a “beader” but I’ve been known to string them
when I feel like it. I even knot strands of pearls from time to
time, but beading is far removed from my real passion, which is
lapidary, fabrication and casting. I even let my Lapidary Journal
subscription expire due to the many articles on beads and beading,
and Merle White’s apathy to my request to drop them after asking the
members of this forum for input to that publication.

That said, I went to the index page of to read the
description of the Orchid Forum, and this is what it says:

  "Orchid - The popular Orchid Forums. Orchid is dedicated to
  the exchange of substantive technical content, covering the
  full range of requirements. With list members from
  all over the world, speaking from a wide range of technical
  and aesthetic experiences, this lively forum addresses
  questions about every aspect of jewelry making today." 

The last half-dozen words say it all: “…every aspect of jewelry
making today.” Beading is certainly an aspect of jewelry making
today, isn’t it? My bet is that the majority of Orchid subscribers
read each and every post, whether or not the subject falls into
their own personal sensibilities. The reason I believe this is
because I also believe that we are all here to learn, and to help. I
know I’m not alone in wanting to learn about anything that anyone
who contributes to this forum has to offer. And, like most of us,
when I come across one that doesn’t interest me I delete it…after
reading it.

Limiting the subject matter of a thread (or the thread, itself)
because it doesn’t fit someone’s personal idea of jewelry making
would be not unlike refusing to post some newbie’s question simply
because it has been discussed in the past. If the intolerant among
us don’t want to answer posts about beading, we should delete and
forget. If we don’t want to keep answering the same sophomoric
questions over and over, don’t.

But also don’t deny the rest of us the opportunity to help others,
even though their passions aren’t exactly the same as ours.

Thank you for your time, all of you.
James in SoFl

Oh, no, please, cool it! If I were an ace professional fabricator, I
could be bored to death by all the posts on casting and CAD/CAM. (And
even if I’m not.) Likewise, those Orchidians who think "jewelry art"
means carving wax could ask that there be a separate forum for all
those soldering questions that seems to arise over and over (and
over). And what about the manufacturers? Need I go on?

Plus, what are we talking about here? How many fabricators or wax
carvers or even wire and/or PMC folks (those of us the next rung up
from the bottom of that ladder?) string beads to accompany our other
work? Will we no longer be able to post questions about those beads,
or are we just not allowed to use the word “Delica”?

I recently looked at Leah’s web site ( and
discovered that the “herringbone” beadwork technique can be done with
wire, to great effect. What happens to cross-fertilization if we
break up this community?

No, please!
Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments

In fact it would be interesting to know how many Orchid members
are also beaders - speak up where ever you are. 

And I do so unapologetically. I started out with beads and then
added metalsmithing, glass fusing, PMC, all sorts of interesting
techniques, including some I learned right here. In fact, I made
silver beads using instructions that someone posted on Orchid.

As a beader, a lot of the discussions don’t apply to what I’m doing,
but I never fail to learn something new, interesting, and
potentially useful because, while I am a beader now, who knows what
I will become inspired to do next?


Beginning with beads, I quickly realized to personalize my designs I
needed to learn to fabricate using metals. Learning to silver and
goldsmith, I soon found out I did not enjoy calibrated stones, so
next step was into lapidary. Buying slabs and free form cutting and
polishing them led me to want to find my own, so I began to

Along the way I found “Elitists” in all categories, surprise! In the
past I took the time to let those bad mouthing beads know, they were
little different as they were made by combining elements of the
minerals of the earth, sand, mica, pigments, and fired into bead
shapes, ditto for Fimo and other brands of PMC.

Now purist silver instructors argue that clay containing silver does
not add up to the noble act of alloying, torching, molding, rolling,

It seems there must always be a put down, no matter what, a clear
"Holier than Thou" attitude put out, chest full of air and
appropriately huffing in the indignancy of it all.

I value and treasure and use all I have learned and continue to
learn. All too often I know from where the put down will come from.
I am amused to see these Emperors continue to preen publicly and
fail to realize the image they have created.

Enjoy and continue to share, be certain some out there will know and
understand and breathe a “thank you” to you for enlightening that
which you were trying to work through. It happens many times with
each Orchid message posted. Anyone fearful of posting should rest
assured, if there is an attack, there will be many defenders.

I love you all,