Customer Story – Emily’s Seed Bead Masterpieces

We love hearing from our customers about the success they have had turning their passion for jewelry making into a successful business. When Emily K. sent us pictures of her amazing seed bead artwork, I knew we needed to share her talent. In an Artbeads Blog for Beaders interview, Emily shares her journey of working with seed beads:

When did you first become interested in working with seed beads?

I first became interested in working with seed beads about 3 years ago. At the time I was working as a camp counselor and was teaching a class on how to make felt puppets. I had made a few puppets for my class as examples and was trying to figure out how best to execute certain details such as jewelry. I made the decision to create the details out of beads.

A few months passed, and the beginning of my senior year of college began. I was attending Mills College in Oakland, CA, and was a Studio Art major. At my school all Studio Art majors in their senior year are required to work on developing a cohesive series of works that will go on display at the annual senior show. I wasn’t sure what to do for my show. I had been joking around with my friends about how I should make a giant series of puppets for the senior show (since I enjoyed working on puppets), but I knew that puppets probably wouldn’t be approved by my professors. It was while joking about the puppets, however, that I remembered the beading I did on one puppet in particular. Suddenly something clicked in my head: If people could use beads to make designs on clothing and fashion accessories, why not use them to create art pieces? Georges Seurat used thousands of tiny dots to create his famous works of art, and beads are essentially tiny dots. Why not use beads to make art? Canvas is a type of fabric after all, so all I would have to do was sew them to canvas instead of felt. I chose seed beads instead of other sorts of beads because they are small and allow for more detail, and seem to come in the widest variety of colors.

How did it feel the first time you made a piece?

The process of working on my first piece was a bit frustrating because I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing and I expected it to go faster than in did. I was also nervous as to how my class would react to the work because it was a project for my drawing class and I wasn’t exactly drawing. However, when I saw the reactions of my teachers and classmates to the finished piece, I was really amazed. The lighting in the studio was a bit dim that day for reasons I can’t really remember, and it caused the beads to sparkle in a way I had never seen before. Everyone seemed blown away. They offered a few tips on how to draw the portrait part of the piece better, but they were really encouraging of the work in general and told me to keep it up. I wasn’t really used to getting such a strong, positive reaction about my work (at least not since coming to college), so I knew I was onto something special and wanted to keep going. It was a really great feeling.

How long does it take you to complete a project (from concept to completion) and what’s your process?

On average it takes me between a month and a month and a half to complete a piece. For my process, I first start out looking though theater programs and magazines that I have to see if there are any images that look like they would be fun to draw. Once I select an image I sketch it out in illustration marker (either directly on the canvas or on paper which I will later glue down on top of an additional fabric layer). Since my sketches are done in color, once they’re done it’s simply a matter of figuring out which beads best match the colors on the sketch and then sewing them on.

You can watch Emily’s process as she details the activity on her blog. It’s truly amazing!

Where do you find inspiration?

My inspiration comes from historical fashion and musical theater. For as long as I can remember I have loved both. Aesthetically, I tend to be drawn towards the ornate and the theatrical, (which really makes sense with what inspires me).

I have also always loved performing, but due my shy nature, have rarely had the opportunity to do so. I think that when I portray something theatrical in my art it makes me feel almost as if I too am performing on stage. My beaded pieces are all of actresses from an all-female theater in Japan, known as the Takarazuka Revue. I first found out about the Takarazuka Revue in high school, through my interest in anime and manga.

It is very possible that I will move on to depicting other subjects in my work in the near future (perhaps other sorts of theater or movies, or maybe something completely different altogether), but this is what I’ve been interested in lately, so this is what I like drawing.

Do you sell your finished pieces?

I would like to. So far I haven’t had anyone express interest in buying any of my works, but if someone wanted to buy one I would definitely be interested in selling. I’d be willing to sell most of the finished works (the word “most” is because there are a few that I’d like to keep.)

If you’re just starting out and looking for a way to sell your designs, check out our Seller’s Secrets page where we share helpful ways to develop your jewelry-making business. Also be sure to sign up to be a part of Shop Handmade, a free site dedicated to helping you sell your ideas!

We want to hear your story, too! Send us your jewelry design to our Blog for Beaders e-mail to be featured as one of our customer success stories. Share your stories and inspire others to get creative! Mail them to [email protected].


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  1. Reply

    I went to school with Emily our freshman year–she also introduced me to the Takarazuka Revue, and looking at her pieces on here is almost like seeing them come to life in one of their performances. Emily has great talent and I’m so excited for her to be able to share them and her talents with us. It’s truly inspiring. If I still lived up in the area I’d buy one off her in a heartbeat, but it’s a bit much to ship to where I’m at. I wish her great luck and many future successes–I know she’ll make herself, her professors, her family and everyone whose lives she’s touched proud through her artwork.

    • Alison
    • November 10, 2012

    I love your work so much. This is exactly what I want to learn to do eventually. Very beautiful. I signed up to follow your blog. Happy!

    • Erica
    • July 27, 2014

    What kind of glue do you use for these?

  2. Reply

    Hi Erica! Emily sews the beads into place, so no glue is needed for that part of the process. I hope this answers your question! – Becky

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