Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Inspired Beader: Weaverbird Beads

Beaded Ornament Silver-Grey-Clear_08

No matter what we use our beads to create throughout the year, the lure of making ornaments and decorative objects with lots of sparkle often calls out during the holidays. One of the most popular designs is the bead embellished ornament - bulbs of glass covered with nets and swags of beautiful beads. The colorful beaded ornaments at Weaverbird Beads provide plenty of holiday cheer.

Inspirational Beading: How did you first become interested in creating with beads?

Weaverbird: When I was quite young - before I turned ten – someone gave me a bead loom and a few tubes of seed beads. The loom was the simple wire-frame model that is still sold in craft stores today. Back then (we are talking 50 years ago) it was called an "Indian Bead Loom" and the instruction leaflet included a Thunderbird pattern. I was fascinated!

The beads drew me – so tiny and brilliantly colored. I spent many hours absorbed in messing with that loom. Along the way I learned to work from a charted pattern, and got comfortable with the beads. It planted the seed, which then lay dormant for a while.


Fast forward 30-some years (years filled with other interests: weaving, photography, sewing, reading, spinning, cars, computers, and a long etcetera). I got interested in beads again when a beading magazine caught my eye. The infinite possibilities of off-loom beading grabbed me and I was hooked. It's been nearly 15 years since then and beads have gradually edged out all the competition to become my main creative focus.

Inspirational Beading: Beaded ornaments are a highly coveted art form, but we don’t often see them for sale. How did you discover a passion for creating these designs?

Weaverbird: My mother made many ornaments that seemed magically beautiful to me. She started with glass or Styrofoam balls and applied velvet ribbon, sequins, glitter and gold paper lace to create ornate little masterpieces.

Beaded ornament in Gold-White-Red

So, having grown up with handmade ornaments, it was natural for me to add beads to mine. Ten or twelve years ago, I saw a picture of a stone donut in a net of beads and had a lightbulb moment. What if I could do that with an ornament?

Theme and variation is a passion of mine, and ornaments are the perfect vehicle for an endless series of variations. My ornaments consist of two basic elements: the underlying net, which doesn't change, and the embellishments – the swags, loops, dangles and so forth – which do. There is no end to the possibilities for dressing up that simple netted foundation.

But it took quite a bit of experimentation before I got a basic net pattern that worked the way I envisioned. My earliest nets were sewn in place on the ball. The flaw is that if the ball breaks or discolors there is no way to salvage the beadwork.

Eventually I settled on the design I use now. The net fits the ball securely, no matter how elaborate or heavy the embellishments, but can be transferred to another ball quickly and easily.

I've been making ornaments ever since, mostly as gifts for friends and family, and I don't plan to stop any time soon. Hard to imagine ever growing bored with them!

Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite holiday color palette?

Weaverbird: I love the classics – red, green, gold, silver, plus deep blue. There's something about deep jewel tones and metallics that feels festive to me.

Beaded rainbow ornament

Shiny gold beads paired with red or green evoke firelight and candlelight glinting off polished surfaces. They are the indoor colors of the holiday - all about warm, cozy spaces polished and decorated for the occasion. While silver paired with deep blue reminds me of a winter night - the sky full of stars and the moonlight striking sparks off the snow.

Those are my favorite combinations, but I like to mix them up, too. And really, you can't go wrong pairing either silver or gold with any of those hues. I also like to throw in a bit of amber and purple now and again. And, of course, rainbows – there are always rainbows.

Inspirational Beading: Any plans to sell ornament tutorials in the future?

Weaverbird: I hadn't thought about it until you asked, but yes, I would like to do that! In fact, I have the beginnings of a tutorial already done. Last year I wrote and illustrated a set of instructions for the basic net for my brother in law, who has asked me to teach him. With a little tweaking it might be ready for a wider audience.

Beaded Ornament in Silver-White-Green_02

Inspirational Beading: Who do you hope to inspire with your work?

Weaverbird: Oh, good question. I'd love to inspire anyone who has looked at a beadwoven piece and wondered if they could learn the craft. I hope my work will be the little extra nudge they need to try it for themselves. Beadwork requires patience and concentration (and good light!) to do well, and there's no denying it's very time consuming, but the first steps are not hard to master.

The basic stitches - netting, peyote, herringbone, etc. - are just that: basic. And so much can be done with them! It's thrilling to discover the variety and beauty one can create with just a needle and thread plus a selection of seed beads! There speaks my love of theme and variation again, but it's true; you don't need much to get started.

And the payoff is a double helping of satisfaction. The act of creating is enormously satisfying in itself and the finished item adds to that feeling by giving you a long-lasting reminder of the skill and passion you put into your work. On top of the satisfaction, you will have a wonderful work of art to give as a gift or sell or keep for yourself. It doesn't get better than that!

More About Weaverbird:

Gretchen describes herself as a dreamer, a beader, a maker and a reader. As inquisitive as the Elephant's Child, she is fascinated with how things are made and how they work. This curiosity has led her to sample many handcrafts, and to delve deeply into some. In addition to her passion for beading, she is a weaver of cloth and handspinner. She loves to sew. She has tired macramé, paper-making, cross-stitch, crewel, origami, and more. She has magpie tendencies; she finds shiny, pretty things (beads, stone cabochons and donuts, gadgets, and toys) irresistible.

Cellini spiral earrings

She grew up on a small farm and retains a close connection with nature, delighting in the changing of the seasons and in observing the plants and animals around her. She enjoys landscape photography as a way of recording the natural world.

You can see more fantastic ornament designs, along with beadwork jewelry and accessories, and a fantastic handmade blog at Weaverbird Beads on Artfire. To learn more about Gretchen’s work and get the latest news, you can find her on Twitter and Facebook. You can also see some great examples of her designs and how to create your own with: Cellini Spirals - Themes and Variations.

Copyright 2010 Inspirational Beading and Weaverbird Beads


  1. I just love her beaded ornaments - they have the Russian Romanov look about them! Pearl

  2. Lindo trabalhos, porque voce não ensina fazer.


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