Beading With Friends

For me, beading has always been about the people that I’ve met through pursuing my love of beads. It’s the owners of the local bead shops and small online beading supply companies, the vendors and independent artists that I meet at shows, and the people who connect with me through social media and email to talk about beading that are a huge part of my inspiration to bead.

So last weekend, when I was faced with a bad case of the IDonWannas (IDonwanna do the dishes, IDonWanna do the laundry), I thought I would delay the inevitable and string up a necklace design that had been waiting patiently in the recesses of my mind for months.

All of the beads used in this beaded necklace, with the exception of the clasp, were either purchased from friends or given to me by friends. It made me happy to think about them as I picked up each bead on my needle.

Beading with Friends

Starting from the top down, the spotted wood beads, carved animals, and bone spacers were purchased from my friend Nicole Campanella. You might recognize her as the maker of Nicole’s Beadbacking, far and away my favorite colored bead embroidery backing.

Beading With Friends 2

The large brown and mustard round beads were given to me by my good friend/teacher/mentor Debbie Philp of True North Yoga in Schroon Lake, NY. Debbie led my 20o-hour yoga teacher training in 2013, and she continues to inspire and encourage me as I make my way along this new path.

Finally, the 4mm druks in the fancy picasso brown finish were a gift to me from my very good friend Perry Bookstein, formerly of York Beads in New York City. Perry was an incredible source of inspiration and friendship for me over the last few years, a fellow New Yorker from the “other” end of the state in which we both reside.

It’s always been fun for me to think about where I procured the beads for each project as I stitched, strung, or otherwise assembled my finished beaded jewelry. Wearing this necklace will always be a reminder of some of the friendships I’ve cultivated through our mutual love of creating with beads!


Bead Circle is Recombobulating!

recombobulation-areaNew Year, new ideas! Bead Circle is shifting focus under the direction of a dynamic duo- Jennifer VanBenschoten and Mandi Ainsworth. Together we want to bring you more joy, more creativity, and more fun in beading.

Do you remember the first time you picked up a bead? What about the first beading project that you finished from your favorite book or beading magazine? Can you picture in your mind’s eye that thrill of excitement you got the first time you wore one of your finished pieces out to dinner or to work? Do you remember how much fun it was to discover new beading techniques or learn how to do new off-loom bead-weaving stitches? Were you like a kid in a candy shop as you picked out new colors and sizes of seed beads, crystals, and cabochons from your favorite local bead shops?

Most of all…Do you remember what it was like when you sat for hours and beaded simply for the joy of it all?

Our vision is for Bead Circle to function like a Huffington Post for Planet Bead-with that same positive, playful energy. We’re excited to encourage beading and jewelry-making enthusiasts like you to explore the world of creativity from the heart. What would beading be like for you if it had that “new car” smell again?

To that end, we are upgrading our website so we can offer you more of what you love, more insights and instruction from bead artists you admire, and more practical beading and jewelry-making techniques that you can use every day. (And code some cool author boxes for our contributors! Yes, we will be asking if you’d like to write for the site so we can promote you.)

If you’re inspired, please consider contributing a small amount between $5 and $20 to help us cover our costs. (Because isn’t inspiration worth the price of a good cup of coffee?) To donate, simply click the donate button in the sidebar. It will take you to Paypal where you can enter the amount you’d like to contribute. Thank you!

We are looking forward to filling this coming year with peace, love, and most of all, beads!

Jennifer & Mandi

P.S. Have something you’d like to see on Bead Circle? Please share with us in the comments!


Fierce Exhibition Challenge Reveal

Fierce. When I say it, I immediately think of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Madonna (pictured) as women who embody the word. To me it means confidence, passion, untamed, with a splash of what will she do next…the perfect theme for a beading challenge.


What’s an Exhibition Challenge?

Well, I made it up. I wanted to create a safe space for creative expression with beads- no voting, no winners, no prizes. We will celebrate creativity and beading as an art form, and I am excited to promote these artists and their work!

I made kits available and participants had to use items from the kit in their beadwork and incorporate beadweaving techniques. Animal print daggers, chain, various size spikes, and firepolish beads were included.


I am blown away by the inspirations and results!! I hope you enjoy the reveal as much as I did. Click each image for a closer view.

The Fierce Lariat by Care’ Sharpin

Growing up I always admired the movie heroines that bested their enemies using only their wit, ninja skills, and lipstick. These were the characters that could walk into a ballroom and turn everyone’s head, but still kick some serious butt in 5-inch heels.


With that in mind, I sat out to create something that my heroine would wear that could also be used as a weapon should the need arise. It had to be beautiful and elegant with many options for wear, while still being able to dish out some serious punishment. Bonus points if the weapon could also get through security.


The Fierce Lariat is my version of a “wearable whip” and can be worn as a necklace or a wrap bracelet. As a necklace, the fringe can we worn in front (shown); over the shoulder; or pushed to the back, (which gives the choker a stronger look while the fringe plunges down the back – perfect for that backless gown). As a wrap bracelet the braided part wraps around the wearer’s wrist twice and the fringe dangles down – perfect if our heroine also doubles as a rock star.

As a weapon, the braided section serves as a handle while the beads act as the whip. Our heroine could also use the lariat to put a serious choke-hold on the enemy; lash their hands; or even tie them securely to a fixed object.


The Fierce Lariat includes daggers, spikes, firepolish, bricks, chain, seed beads, delicas, and bicones. Techniques include tubular herringbone, herringbone, RAW, CRAW, PRAW, nepal, serpentine, chevron, and St. Petersburg.

The Tiger Lily by Connie Bradley

I wanted to make a necklace that was wearable, but still “fierce” in the spirit of the challenge. I decided to make a layered necklace in order to effectively display all of the types of spikes and daggers. The collar part of the necklace is the tiger, as it looks like a set of grinning teeth. The dangling part is the lily.

Tiger Lily 1

The collar is made with ladder stitch and a chevron chain strap. The lily is peyote stitch around a rivoli, with zig zag stitch for the flower as inspired by Kate McKinnon in Geometric Beadwork. The large spikes in the necklace were encircled with peyote and topped with a 2 hole brick to create a wonderful spacer.

Tiger Lily 2

Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Tracey Levandoski

I found the steel skull several months ago in the parking lot of our local K-Mart, so beyond that, I have no idea of the origin of the skull. I thought it looked cool and was something I could incorporate it into a bead embroidery piece at some point, so I picked it up. As I was going through my stash to see what I could do with your Fierce challenge kit, I ran across it again and had an ‘aha’ moment.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

I used everything in the kit except the daggers; I thought they had too much blue in them to go along with the rest of the piece. I used the spikes to create beaded beads, including the toggle closure, using a component in a pattern from Helena Tang-Lim of Manek-Manek Beads. I embroidered the rose using a line drawing I found on the internet. Everything else was from my own imagination.

A Fierce Fascinator by Peggy Vargas

When you said “fierce”, I immediately thought “steampunk”! The heroines of the genre are definitely fierce! The picture that came to mind was a “fierce” fascinator for the intrepid warrior woman to wear. One must keep up fashion standards, even when saving the world from evil!


The main feature is a flower with a potion bottle as it’s center. The potion bottle can be removed and used as a bracelet, depending on what our heroine chooses. Hovering above is a butterfly with a spare knife as its body. One must always have a spare weapon at hand. A fascinator often has lovely feathers giving a feminine softness. But our lady isn’t soft. So I created “feathers” with the spike beads, and only added the smallest feathers to give a false sense of softness. It’s all finished off with luxurious tassels using the animal print daggers.

IMG_2366 copy

Matching earrings echo the tassels, but add some lock nuts – just in case a quick repair job is necessary.
I chose to leave in several of the imperfections.

Fierce + Goth by Alex Dycus

Inspiration: Combining old Goth of the 80’s, with the new Visual Goth of the 2010s. Little bit of thorns & roses motive all in black.


Personal Strength by Deborah Baker

It is a two part necklace with pendants. I tried to weave around the concept of fierce, per your instructions. When I first received the beads from you, I thought about what being fierce as a woman meant to me, as a mother, as an artist, as a woman. So often in life we become warriors for our children, for our families, our communities, and ourselves. It was my intention to embrace that fierceness within myself, and exhibit them in the bead weaving you will see before you.


I chose a spiral rope with a pendant at the end as the longer piece of the two necklaces. The spiral rope is made of an embellished graduated twisted herringbone rope, starting with 11/O’s, working up to 8/O beads, and 8/0 hexes. The piece became a sampler for me, as you can see in the pendants, which are worked with peyote, netting, and branch fringe.


The smaller necklace is clearly the chain that was included from you, embellished only with fire polish beads, and then the pendant. This pendant is my favorite. As with the longer piece, the bezeled piece shows two faces: one of the Sun, one of the moon. I have always found the concept of balance fascinating. I am in a constant quest for balance. Light against dark, and at this point in my life, health against cancer. The pendant allowed me to express that search for balance in my life at a point where I need it the most. The upper pendant is my favorite, as I got to use the large and small spike beads, rulas, fire polish, and the wonderful vitrail drops!


All in all, this has been a wonderful journey for me in bead weaving! It has given me inspiration to continue on and create more pieces which will echo and exhibit my life as an artist, as well as allow me to find my fierce personal strength.


The Word Project

word project

How choosing a Word-of-the-Year changed my life.

Christine Kane’s Word of the Year Discovery Tool was like gasoline on the fire of my creative heart. It started 3 years ago when I beaded a simple word on a pen: Emerge. I started allowing myself and my work be seen, and tried show more of my goofy self on the podcast and edit myself less. Two years I ago, I managed to cram all the letters together to spell Completion. My goal was to finish more things instead of focusing on the outcome of the thing. The biggest completion was my application to teach at Bead & Button. Just sending it would make me proud. It was a bonus that I was accepted!

Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map fanned the flames of my fire. You start with how you want to feel, because the only reason we want certain things is so we can feel a certain way- so why not start with that? As someone who takes life so seriously, I chose the word Joy. If you listened to my updates at the beginning of the podcast, you know this summer was packed with bead trips, laughter, and friends. I truly experienced Joy.

As the summer faded into fall, I knew it was time to change my word again- to TRUST. To trust myself and my ideas, and to act on them promptly and instead of waiting for the perfect time or circumstances. The Word Project is one of those ideas!

What is The Word Project?

The Word Project is a community beading and intention project. I invite you to share your word, make a pen to bring your word to life, and send me a photo. I will be making a music video of all the photos of completed pens I receive by January 15, 2014. Extra Credit- If you have a blog and choose to write a post sharing your word and declaring your intentions, send me a link and I will share those here as well!

Why a pen?

I put my word on a pen at the start of every year for two reasons. 1. When I spend that much time beading a pen, I know my word was thought out, and specifically chosen. No waffling on it could be this or maybe that. 2. I am reminded of my word on a daily basis every time I write in my journal, take notes, or make the grocery list.

What will I get out of participating?

We could start with the obvious things like clarity and focus, improving bead skills, making a cool beaded pen, and some blog post traffic, sharing with and supporting others in the bead community. But there’s definitely more to this.

Setting an intention in this way is very powerful. Emblazoning your word on something you can use everyday? Well that’s intention on steroids. Its one thing to think “I’d like to lose a couple pounds,” and quite another to meditate on the word Health while creating a beaded pen. Then, to have it bang around in your purse or pen jar at work as a constant reminder of something you want. How would your life be different if you allowed your word to float in the top of your mind as you go through your day? Could be small things, could be big things, could be the smallest shift is the biggest shift. In the case of Health, you may find yourself choosing the salad and dance walking through parking lots.

Why does Word of the Year work and resolutions don’t?

First, because it’s simple. It’s one word and there are small things you can choose every day that are easy to do and easy not to do. Your word is something you want to embrace: Health, Love, Delight, Gratitude, Freedom, Grace, Laughter, Clarity, Yes, No, Savor, Order, Listen, Peace. It’s a goal with a soul, not something big and scary and filled with negative energy like “finally get organized” or “lose 20 pounds.”

How do I participate?

For instructions on creating a beaded pen, click here to sign up for the newsletter and get my free Beaded Pens eBook. There is a peyote alphabet, and printable chart so you can graph out your word.

To be included in the music video, email a photo of your completed pen to by January 15, 2014. To have your blog post listed, email me your link anytime.

I love this concept! What if I’m not a beader?

I would be honored to create a pen for you. Choose from the pens in my Etsy shop, or order a custom pen and choose your Word and your colors. You are are also welcome to submit a blog post.


BCP 18 | Chic Beading with Amy Katz

amy_katzAmy Katz has been part of the world of seed beads since 1993 as a student, teacher and designer. All her life she has had a love of quality jewelry. Several years ago when she began designing her own pieces from scratch, Amy made the decision to make the fine jewelry look her own using seed beads and crystals. Using imagination and top-notch materials, this high-end style has come to life as her signature style. Amy is currently teaching both locally in northern Virginia and nationally. Her work has been featured in the books Beading Across America, and Beading All-Stars.

In my interview with Amy, we discuss how she developed her fine jewelry style of beading, her retreat that combines mining with beading classes, and all about her new book titled, Seed Bead Chic: 25 elegant projects inspired by fine jewelry. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Heart's Desire designed by Amy Katz

Heart's Desire designed by Amy Katz

Show Notes

More listening options:

Want to win an autographed copy of Seed Bead Chic? Imagine that a limousine in pulling up to the curb to chauffeur you and some friends to an Art Gala. Picture yourself wearing the perfect, made for you designer dress! With that in mind go to Amy’s website and choose the perfect piece of jewelry among Amy’s workshops and kits that would go with your look. Then, leave a comment on this post describing your dress and the name of the piece you chose.
I think this is a really fun exercise and Amy and I are excited to read your comments. Be sure to enter your email address, and I will choose a winner next week.


Butterfly Exhibition Challenge Reveal

It started with an idea for an exhibition challenge- no voting, no winners, no prizes. I wanted us to celebrate creativity and beading as an art form. Participants must use something from the kit in their beadwork and incorporate beadweaving techniques.

I threw down the butterfly challenge inspired by their Herculean type strength that allows for their complete transformation…


and put together the kits..


Now it’s time for the Big Reveal! Click the pictures for a closer look.

Lynn Lytle
Katy, Texas

Many years ago my mom started beading peyote bracelets after she broke her ankle and could no longer square dance. I has made numerous macramé bracelets with beads in my youth and had taken a course from Sitting Bull’s great granddaughter learning how to bead with quills a very long time ago! When my mom moved to Texas after my dad died, we had plans to explore the world of beaded dolls together. Unfortunately, she passed away soon after and I became the owner of her extensive bead collection, and somehow, I got where I am today!


I am a member of the Houston Bead Society and find my strengths are in free form bead embroidery since I’m not much of a jewelry wearer. Lately I have been exploring mixed media assemblages, but when I saw this challenge, I knew it was time to bead again!


Having 2 teenage daughter doesn’t leave me much time in the summer, so I took the challenge quite literally. I included the quote Mandi provided – printed on vellum – and used only the beads provided (except for the caterpillar’s legs and head and the blue sparkly bead on top of a toadstool), adding only the flower, wire, empty spools, glass bottle and mirror. I really am happy with the end result and it looks amazing sitting on my window ledge. Thanks for the opportunity to participate. I hope my butterflies carry their message of hope to everyone who sees them.


Amy Royster
Roselle, Illinois

After last year’s challenge, I could not wait to see what Mandi came up with this year. FLUTTERBYS!!! YAY!!!

For some reason, when I started thinking about this challenge, I thought of how butterflies gracefully land on flowers to drink the nectar, and this led me to wanting flowers around my neck to attract the butterflies to me.


Here in the Midwest, the trees are beginning to turn, the wind is getting nippy, and the skies are withering to gray (YUK!), so I wanted bright colors for my flowers, to entice my butterflies out of their cocoons for just a little longer….

I present to you the BLOSSOM PATCH. A simple spiral rope with beaded flowers attached. The clasp is a bezeled fabric cabochon that with a snap sewn on the back.


Cheryl Norwood
Lake Jackson, Texas

I named it the Birth Of The Butterfly. The little white spots on the leaf are caterpillar eggs, then you have the cocoon hanging from the branch, and the new butterfly that has hatched out on the limb.


Sue Charette-Hood
San Antonio, Texas

Inspired by the love of Super Duos, and wanting to create a “home” for the little polymer butterfly.


Gillian Utting
Gosport, United Kingdom

That butterfly made me jump higher than I have leapt before. What a clever and crazy idea.


Katherine Kosta
Denver, CO


When I received the kit, I immediately knew I wanted to create a bead embroidered butterfly. After doing a little research, I decided that it would be an abstract representation of a butterfly on a flower. The cuff itself is 2 ½ inches at its widest part. I’ve used clear snaps as the closure.


What’s next?
Thank you to all the participants of this project. Your ideas have blown me away, and I have enjoyed watching your creativity expand!

I want that for more people, so there will be 20 kits for the next challenge, I will allow more time for shipping to other countries, and more time to complete your project (2 months).

The next challenge will be launched February with a theme of “Fierce!” Animal print daggers, anyone?


BCP 17 | Bead On with Laura Zeiner

Laura Zeiner has been beading and teaching beadwork for about twelve years and has a passion for putting a contemporary spin on traditional stitches. Nature is a constant theme in her beading and she loves to incorporate uncommon objects and “old things” into her work. She travels around selling her work at various bead& art shows, sometimes up to 15 in a year. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, John, and Ginger, her spoiled-rotten sheltie. In her “spare time”, she can usually be found training for triathlons or playing poker.


In my interview with Laura, we discuss how she developed her freeform style, her advice for newbies just starting show their work, and her participation in Battle of the Beadsmith with a little topless photography thrown in. I hope you enjoy the interview!

Crap I Found In the Road

Laura's Battle piece entitled, Crap I Found In the Road

Show Notes

Enchanted Evenings Bracelet by Laura Zeiner

Enchanted Evenings Bracelet by Laura Zeiner, available as a tutorial, skulls optional

More listening options:

Want to win a Freeform Peyote Bracelet Tutorial from Laura? All you have to do is leave a comment below about anything you learned from the show. Be sure to include your email address and I will choose a winner next week. Update: Congrats to Ksenia! She won the tutorial from Laura!

Freeform Necklace with Elk Antler by Laura Zeiner

Freeform Necklace with Elk Antler by Laura Zeiner


BCP 16 | Bead Origami with Cindy Holsclaw

CHolsclawCindy Holsclaw is a bead artist and a scientist specializing in beaded art inspired by geometry, chemistry, and biology. Her fascination with new and interesting beading structures permeates her jewelry designs. Cindy’s strong foundation as an academic shapes her writing skills, and she enjoys teaching beadweaving classes across the country. She is an attentive and patient instructor during class, and her beading patterns are fully illustrated and complete with troubleshooting tips and design variations.

In my interview with Cindy, we discuss how molecules & origami became Cindy’s go to inspirations, as well as some tips to help you hone your geometric beady skills.

Enjoy the interview!


Show Notes

Tila Garden Pendant by Cindy Holsclaw

Tila Garden Pendant by Cindy Holsclaw

More listening options:

Want to win a pattern from Cindy? All you have to do is leave a comment below answering this question: Do you have a freeform brain or a geometric brain? Be sure to include your email address and I will randomly select the winner next week. Update: The winner is…Lisa Ballowe! Thanks to all who participated in this discussion, you left some very insightful comments!


Butterfly Exhibition Challenge

My Butterfly Exhibition Challenge Kits are now available!
(Open to 10 participants).


Every time my eyes dance across that quote, I am struck by the potential it reveals. Of what could be forged by myself and anyone reading this. And that our trials ask us to access the Herculean type strength we were born with to morph into a better version of ourselves.

I chose butterflies as the inspiration for this challenge for that reason.

That and they’re pretty 😉

And I have a butterfly with the face of a tiger in its wings tattooed on my back.


What’s an Exhibition Challenge?

Well, I made it up. I wanted to create a safe space for creative expression with beads- no voting, no winners, no prizes. We will celebrate creativity and beading as an art form, and I am excited to promote you and your work! This is the second Exhibition Challenge, and I invite you to check out the stunners from last year’s Ocean-themed challenge.

There are only 10 kits available. Participants must use something from the kit in their beadwork and incorporate beadweaving techniques. Beads from your stash can be included. I will be showcasing each piece on along with the artist’s name, story of their piece, and website. Photos of your piece must be submitted by September 15, 2014 to be included in the big reveal exhibition.

Click here to grab your kit!

Ideas for using the inspiration

You can interpret the theme literally or not. You can get ideas from the quote, from the movement of a butterfly, a memory they remind you of, even something the queen of butterflies might wear. Think of words that you associate with butterflies, and create a piece that reflects those words: whimsical, free, transformation, metamorphosis, ballerinas of the animal kingdom, serene, graceful, energy, and ease.

Most importantly, stretch, play, and have fun!


Kit contents:

Small Fabric Cabochon- purple with glitter
Medium Fabric Cabochon- turquoise swirls
4 grams Two-hole Triangles- Matte Turquoise
30 4mm Czech Pearls- Dark Purple
17 Swarovski 4mm bicones- Indicolite
10 grams 11/0 seed beads Aqua Color Lined Neon Green
10 grams 11/0 seed beads Capri Color Lined Purple
10 grams 11/0 seed beads Capri Color Lined Metallic Teal
polymer clay butterfly charm
metal butterfly charm

I’m really excited about offering a different type of challenge and to promote other bead artists and their work. Please message me if you have any questions, and I’m looking forward to seeing your creations!

Peace & Love,

P.S. If you’re scared of challenges, this is for you because its a laid back,
supportive & encouraging space. If you love a challenge, this is for you because
we all want to see how far you’ll push it. Either way, grab a kit before they’re

P.P.S. Photos of your piece must be submitted to mandibeads [!at] gmail. com
by September 15, 2014 be included in the big reveal exhibition.


Crash & Bead: the month of the most fun ever

June flew by like an 8 year old on a roller coaster, hyped up on cotton candy. Amazing and gleeful, but with the inevitable sugar crash as I passed out from exhaustion, smacking my head on the window of the Prius as my husband drove me home from the airport.

My big beady family

My big beady family at the reunion called Bead & Button

On June 1st, I left for Bead & Button. Ralonda and I decided to drive my Prius from Dallas to Milwaukee because we’re crazy like that. I taught 3 classes to some amazing students. I had an overachiever student finish her Andromeda Spike pendant in class! I met a couple of you (readers) at Meet the Teachers and sold a nice chunk of kits.

Fun times at the Calderone Club.

Fun times at the Calderone Club, sooo goood!

I also worked at the Beyond Beadery booth, and ate delicious eggplant fries with some of my favorite people. I got all dressed up for the Toho Party and had the best time drinking martinis and taking selfies with more of my favorite people. I bought a ton of Maku Raku. I laughed so much I cried, and came home really inspired to design.

This is my favorite picture from B&B 2014, and the rest are in this album on Facebook.

Laughing it up- Melissa Grakowsky Shippee, me, Laura Ziener, and Jill McKay

Laughing it up- Melissa Grakowsky Shippee, me, Laura Ziener, and Jill McKay

When I returned I had ONE day and then left to teach at the Tyler Bead Retreat. This time it was me, Ralonda, and my friend Karen Williams from Seattle.

3 teachers and my Prius: me, Ralonda, and Karen

3 teachers and my Prius: me, Ralonda, and Karen

I taught my new Ratan Bangle for the first time, and had a full class of 20! Ralonda and I also co-taught our first collaboration piece. When I wasn’t teaching I was working on my doll named Destiny. More retreat photos in this album on Facebook.

Our table, and I'm working on my doll named Destiny

Our table, and I'm working on my doll named Destiny

After I got back from that trip, it was time to get ready for the cruise! I had bronchitis on our honeymoon cruise, so six years later we had the opportunity for a re-do with friends. “Swim with the dolphins” has now been crossed off my bucket list.

Cody and me swimming with Reggae the Jamaican dolphin.

Cody and me swimming with Reggae, the Jamaican dolphin

After that trip, I had ONE day before I flew to Cleveland, Ohio to film 2 TV segments for Beads, Baubles and Jewels with Katie Hacker. She interviewed me about my podcast, tips for creative people, and I showed how to create my fabric cabochons and bezel them with seed beads. That night, a few of us gals from this series went to the home of Kieu Pham Gray for a delicious dinner and bubble tea!

Katie Hacker and me on the set of Beads, Baubles and Jewels.

Katie Hacker and me on the set of Beads, Baubles and Jewels

For beaders interested in my fabric cabochons, I created some mix bags which can be found here in my etsy shop.

After that trip I flew home, and my husband picked me up. In the split second before falling asleep and smacking my head I thought “Wow, if this is June, I wonder what July and August will be like!”