Monday, July 21, 2014

Bead Shops: Spirit Bear Beads

Grapes on the Vine Custom Seed Bead Mix by Spirit Bear Beads

Nothing beats an indie bead shop when you’re looking for unique supplies. One of my favorite shops to browse is Spirit Bear Beads, which specializes in custom seed bead mixes and gorgeous Zuni bear gemstone fetishes. Shop owner and bead soup chef Mia offers a wonderful selection of supplies that you can’t find anywhere else.

Inspirational Beading: How did you get into the business of jewelry supplies?

Mia: My Mom..... We went to a bead store one day to restring a necklace of hers. I wandered around fascinated by the beads, picked some out and made a bracelet. We were both hooked! Soon we were traveling to bead shows, shopping catalogs and online. Suddenly I had more beads than I knew what to do with. Selling the extra online was a logical step.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite material, color, or bead style to keep in stock?

Mia: My favorite and mainstay are the size 6/0 Czech seed beads, I create my own mixes and keep the best in stock.

Inspirational Beading: What kind of criteria do you use when selecting new products to carry?

Mia: First and foremost it has to appeal to the Artist in ME! 2nd I want to be able to use that product in a new and exciting way that no one else has thought of, and finally, will it sell? What customer am I appealing to with the item?

Inspirational Beading: What makes your bead selection stand out from other craft supplies shops?

Mia: Well, I have been told, many times, that my unique and original bead mixes are what customers love, and keep coming back for. I also stock, what I believe to be, the largest selection of Zuni Bear Beads on the internet.

Witch's Brew Custom Seed Bead Mix by Spirit Bear Beads Colorado Morning Custom Seed Bead Mix by Spirit Bear Beads

Inspirational Beading: Many beaders are familiar with the emotion that comes from selling a finished design. How does it feel when you sell something that will become a beautiful work of art?

Mia: All too seldom do I see the finished product. I have several customers whose work I am familiar with and it does make me very proud to see one of my unique bead mixes in a finished product.

Inspirational Beading: What is your favorite thing to make (or see others make) with your beads?

Mia: I love to make earrings! I literally have hundreds of pairs of earrings!

Inspirational Beading: Baggies, tubes or strands? Which is your favorite?

Tiger Eye Zuni Bear Gemstone Beads from Spirit Bear Beads

Mia: Baggies for the seed beads I sell, I weigh my seed beads so that works the best for me. My personal stash is stored in Tic Tac boxes!

Inspirational Beading: In your opinion, what’s the best thing about small supplies shops vs. the big bead retailers?

Mia: Personal service and attention to detail. Customers like to be considered special, I often have requests for quantities, colors or a certain type of bead. I enjoy filling those custom requests, you don't get that kind of service from the 'big box store" type of retailer.

Inspirational Beading: Do you have any plans for new products this year?

Mia: I always have plans! I have this muse that wakes me up out of a dead sleep with ideas! I never know when her inspiration will strike!

You can find current bead mixes and other unique bead selections at Spirit Bear Beads on Etsy and ArtFire. Mia also sells gemstone jewelry and Southwestern accessories at Spirit Bear West. For updates and inspiration, follow along with Spirit Bear Beads on Facebook.

Copyright 2014 Inspirational Beading and Spirit Bear Beads
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Work in Progress: Netting Experiment

This week I’m taking a short break from my top secret project, which means that I can actually show you what I’m working on - a new netting pattern idea. I’ve been wanting to experiment with different styles of collar, incorporating accent beads and nets in different ways for new pattern possibilities. The stitches I have so far aren’t quite what I want, so I’m scrapping this piece and starting again. Once I’ve worked out the pattern I like with just this simple palette, I can hopefully move on to some interesting variations.

Netted Collar in Progress

We’re nearly finished with the new pharaoh pendant in hot pink - all it needs is trim. It will be interesting to see how it all looks once the felt is cleared away, allowing the green beadwork to stand out a little more. Next I think we'll try out some dove beads!

What are you working on this week?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mood Board: Pina Colada

It wouldn’t be summer on Inspirational Beading without a little pina colada inspiration. I suppose I could be a little obsessed with pineapple and coconut, but there’s just something about tropical yellow and blue that makes for irresistible summer palettes.

For today’s mood board I combined fruity elements with shades of yellow, blue, and cream - and a little cherry on top. I had hoped to find lots of natural bead jewelry with coconut wood, acai and the like. I did find a really fun coconut statement necklace, and an abundance of pineapple inspired jewelry. Although transparent blues would really enhance the tropical feel, I had to settle for fabrics this time around - the do pair up nicely with creams and browns.

Pina Colada

The pina colada bead selections include some matte accents with natural coconut shell and coconut wood, plus lovely transparent seed beads. Though the hybrid seed beads don't fit with the transparent theme, they do make a great stand-in for fresh coconut! I went with a matte finish in yellow to get that really fruity look, and the blue seed beads are ocean waves all the way.

Pina Colada Bead Mood Board

1. Flower Coconut Shell Button from
2. Round Coconut Wood Beads from Happy Mango Beads
3. Lampwork Glass Pineapple Beads from Fire Mountain Gems

4. Matte Transparent Yellow Seed Beads from Auntie’s Beads
5. Sparkly Light Sea Foam Seed Beads from
6. Light Beige Apollo Seed Beads from Lima Beads

What’s your favorite tropical color palette?

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Bead Color Ideas: Aqua Picasso

Subtle bead colors can often be the most difficult to find palettes for, as they can look washed out and forgotten next to more exciting colors. The trick is to find contrasts and complements that enhance the existing colors to make them stand out, blend in, or shine in just the right way.

I recently added some pretty Czech glass coins to my stash of accent beads. The translucent, pale sea foam shade is delicate and airy, requiring just the right colors to make the coins ideal focals in beadwork. The Picasso finish helps a little allowing for a little more play with a two-tone finish.

Surf Bead Color Idea

First I started with seed beads in the same colors as the coins, but with very different shades. Transparent dark amethyst plays up the Picasso finish, making it much more obvious and adding to its beauty. Meanwhile, cobalt complements the pale blue, and washes out some of the green tinge. Although the blue is so much stronger than in the coins, the colors work well together with the rich brown backing them up. Surf would look great in a multi-strand piece, or a design where the coins stand out dramatically from the beadwork.

Sprout Bead Color Idea

Next I wanted to experiment with more organic colors, to highlight the greens in the finish. I started with dark pearl cream, bringing to mind harvest vegetables or fields of grain. Next I tried out some opaque apple green, but it looked much too busy next to the sophisticated Picasso finish and the shimmer of the pearl seed beads. Instead I found that transparent rainbow lime adds a lot of personality, without being too bold. Sprout would be really fun with light stitches such as daisy chain, or designs with lots of fringe.

Splash Bead Color Idea

Finally, I wanted to include a neutral. Starting with some turquoise iris, I considered both black and white seed beads to complete the palette, and found white to be a better match for the delicate nature of the coins. Rather than go with a stark opaque, I used a custom mixture that includes opalescent cream and white AB. Not only does the mixture look great with the shimmer of the turquoise beads, but it has a playful look that provides a nice backdrop for the pale Picasso. Splash could work in both cool summer designs, and frosty winter ones.

Do you like to use soft bead colors in your work? What’s your favorite?

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Work in Progress: Ocean Ombre

Is there anything more lovely than a bunch of seed bead hanks all in a row? This week I’m starting a new blue-green ombre project, this time with all transparent colors. It was a little tricky putting the palette together, because I wanted seed beads of the same make, and I was under a bit of a timeline for sourcing the supplies. I’ve had to make up the palette with only 8 colors, although I would have preferred at least ten. In any case, I’ll be able to create a pattern that flows seamlessly back and forth from blue to green, and that will do just fine.

Ombre Seed Bead Jewelry in Progress

The new pharaoh pendant way in the background is a few rounds in. After all the fussing we had over making sure to save enough hot pink seed beads, they might not have ended up in the design at all if I hadn’t given a little nudge. Sometimes it’s difficult not to give any input on my helper’s choices, because I have to take the overall design into consideration - how well the beads will fit in smaller curves, or how many more rounds a design can take before getting too large. We’re both pretty happy with this design so far, even if it’s a lot different from what we imagined in the beginning.

What are you working on this week?

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