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  • Writer's pictureCynthia Bleil

My Life in Beads, Part Three

The Last 30 years

Self-taught

In addition to the fringe earrings class, I took another class to learn how to make beaded crystal rings at a lovely bead shop called Beads of Paradise which has since closed.  Otherwise, I am a self-taught bead artist.  I learned by attempting projects in Bead and Button magazine, Beadwork magazine, and a few others.  I learned by reading books on the craft.  In addition to beads, my studio is filled with stacks of magazines and shelves of books.   I learned from these books and magazines by trying, frequently failing, and having a modicum of success.  In this way I have gained proficient skills in numerous stitches including peyote, brick, herringbone, and right-angle weave.  Bead embroidery, Russian and other spiral techniques, stringing, bead crochet, and loom work are other techniques that I am skilled in and use in my work.  As I learned, I made jewelry for myself and my loved ones.  My mother got some of my best pieces over the years.


Selling my art

About 15 years ago, I began to sell my work.  I was unemployed during a recession and work was hard to find.  I attended a job seekers support group and there I met some wonderful crafters. Some of us began gathering outside of the group and we talked about bringing in some money by having little craft fairs in our homes.  We recruited other artists, made flyers, and invited everyone we knew to attend.

Three years ago (12/2020), my wife bought me my website (mtcynthos.com) and I have had success selling my work there.


Currently Learning

The business

I am learning and doing bookkeeping, marketing, and other aspects of a microbusiness selling handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry.  I have learned how to design and edit a website through Wix.com.  My wife, Kristina Bleil (Kristina Bleil Photo), and I do all the product photography for the site.  I have a tabletop studio that is very helpful. Plus, Kristina is adept at photo editing. 


About beads

One of the things that I do to feed my artist soul is to go on artist dates with myself or others.  This practice was recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, (1992).  For example, in 2008, I went to an exhibit at the Smith College Museum of Art featuring beaded art from Africa.  I bought the companion book: African Beaded Art: Power and Adornment, Pemberton III, J.  Both the book and the exhibit were amazing.  More recently, I attended a lecture via Zoom by Jolene Rickard, Ph.D., on Tuscarora beadwork, in the Erie PA area, and the role it plays in community identity.  I highly recommend this practice of a weekly artist date.

Not only do I have how-to books in my studio, I also have books about beads and beadwork.  (I’d recommend The Universal Bead by Joan M. Erikson.  In this book, she discusses the appeal of beads from a sociological perspective.) I have books both scientific and metaphysical on stones, gems, crystals, and minerals that I refer to when writing product descriptions.

I also have books on other crafts that interest me like crochet, watercolor painting, colored pencils, kaleidoscopes, and origami. 


Conclusion

For the last thirty years, I have been learning new beadwork techniques, how to run a small business, and how to design and edit a website.

This is the final installment in a series of three.  Many events influenced who I am as a beadwork artist today from admiring stained glass windows as a child, to fringe earrings at Grateful Dead shows, to selling my work on my website.  I have learned much over the years about many aspects of creativity, beadwork, and running a business.

In the future, I want to experiment more with combining crochet threads and beads in cuffs.  I have some ideas for loom work.  To feed my soul, I hope to visit the Museum of Beadwork in Portland, Maine.  Also, the world’s largest kaleidoscope is in upstate New York, and I think that would make a fantastic artist’s date.

I am interested in your story.  What childhood events got you to where you are today as an artist? What have you learned along the way?  What do you make and why?  Where would you like to go on an artist’s date?

 

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