Design Like A 12 Year Old

a sample of my beadwork at age 12, found in my grandma's jewelry box 14 years later

I’ve been in love with beads ever since my grandma gave me her loom at a young age.

I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit since then, too.

One summer when I was 12, I decided to make some bead money by selling my strung seed bead jewelry. I lived by the lake, and the busiest day is the fourth of July. There was a little store that everyone would buy ice at on their way to the boat ramp, and the owner agreed to let me sell my jewelry in front of his store.

With the date set and the agreement made, I started beading up a storm. I created patterns that I liked, and color combinations that made me happy. I’d finish one design that would spark a new idea for another design. I realize now looking back that I was creating a collection! I didn’t think too much about what people would want to buy, and only a few designs ended up red, white, and blue. I stayed up late creating with reckless abandon, just doing what I loved.

The big day came, and I laid out my jewelry on the walkway in front of the store. My sign read bracelets $1, necklaces $2, and leather keychains $5. I didn’t exactly get the idea of pricing for my time, but I never questioned the value of my work. I had the mentality of “who wouldn’t want one of my cool bracelets?” I ended up making $76 that day, and I felt so rich!

If my 12 year old self knew what goes through my head when I design now, she would kick my *$$! Recent designs have been edited by the thoughts, “What will my colleagues think of this?” and even worse “Is this good enough?” I’ve held myself back in ways I never did before I decided I want this to be a career. The piece I created for a beading challenge, just to have fun, was the piece that ended up in a Beading Daily newsletter.

So, not only will I bead an hour a day, I will design like my 12 year old self. For that hour it will not matter what anyone else thinks of it but me.

My advice of the day is to bead what makes you happy, and get lost in it. Get so lost you have to set an alarm so you remember to eat! Most importantly, have fun. 😉

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • avatar Lori Clarida June 12, 2012, 6:42 am


    I love the bracelet and the fact that your grandmother kept it all these years. You should be very proud of your humble beginnings!


  • avatar Rachel September 28, 2012, 7:02 am

    I love this post. Isn’t it wonderful remembering how we got started doing something we love?

  • avatar Deborah Bergen January 3, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Great post. Really takes me back to my early days or should I say younger days of crafting. I loved it all I would sit for hours
    and macrame jewelry and plant hangers. My fav. was a round wall hanging done on a hoop.
    Love the bracelet in grandmas jewelry box.

  • avatar Renee Carson February 20, 2013, 10:48 am

    Great article! Thanks for rekindling that creative carefree spirit! I think sometimes that we need PERMISSION to be kids again and be told that it’s OK to color outside of the lines.

  • avatar Karen Williams February 20, 2013, 11:00 am

    What a fantastic post! And you are so right – it’s some odd quirk that as soon as we start ‘taking something seriously’ we start hedging ourselves with alls built of ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought tos’. When creativity is all about ‘what ifs’. Thanks for the reminder!

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth February 20, 2013, 12:21 pm

    I love all your comments!

    Renee, happy to provide some rekindling! We can give ourselves that permission, but the other key is to recognize it/bring our attention to it, which is what I hope to do with this story. Thanks for your comment!

    Karen, I think you hit the nail on the head. It can happen the moment we take something seriously. Thanks for sharing that and I’m happy to provide the reminder!

  • avatar Paula Sullivan February 20, 2013, 2:21 pm

    Thank you for the “wake up” call! Sometimes we get so bogged down in the “business” of. beading we forget why we started beading in the first place, we love doing it! Yes its important to please our customers, but nothing compares to the great feeling i get when i finish a project , knowing what i put into it and it comes out beautiful!

  • avatar Deborah Bergen February 20, 2013, 2:34 pm

    Ohhh Mandi how you came and you gave without taking, LALALALALAL!
    Hope you know the song.
    I really relate to your articles, that’s why I take the time to read them. Your like having my own private therapist. I really can’t wait to let go of the part of me that holds me back from being the true artist that iam to let go of the I’m not good enoughs when I have people tell me all the time Iam and they mean it. Thanks to Mandi and the rest of you!!!

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth February 20, 2013, 3:13 pm

    Paula, that’s definitely the heart of it all-We Love It! Thanks for your comment.

    Deborah, thanks so much for your feedback on my writing. I’m glad the topics are helping you and always remember- You are enough.

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