Read where it all began.
The Dandelion market was a hive of activity during the 1970’s.It was located at the top of Grafton Street in Dublin. I wandered into the entrance, from the street through the elongated archway. I was 12 years old. As I walked through the archway, unfamiliar smells greeted me – incense, sweet and spicy foods, leather.
Ten steps into the entrance way on the left hand side, a small stand caught my eye.
A vendor stood beside his stand and his loyal German Shepard sat beside him.
He sold beads – I was transfixed.
I could never have known then, that that bead vendor was to have an indelible influence on my whole life.
Whenever I was allowed, I’d go into town to buy some beads. Small packets of tiny seed beads – 10p a pack. To make the best of my day out, I’d bring some breadcrumbs for the ducks in St. Stephen’s Green – happy days.
The bead vendor had made a hand drawn instruction book of bead stitches and techniques. It was knocked down from 25p to just 20p. I bought a copy from him and studied every word and diagram. I still have that little book.
One Sunday afternoon, as I deliberated on which beads to bring home to my burgeoning collection of glass spheres, I noticed that my bead merchant had a new device on sale.
It was a bead loom.
It wasn’t long before I’d made a variety of loomed items for just about everyone. And to show solidarity, I wore as much beadwork as I could. On my wrists, around my ankles, around my waist, I even managed to dangle some from my hair – it was the ‘70’s !
On the odd occasion, as years have gone by, I’ve bumped into old school friends (and by now, they are old), who’ve told me that they still have a piece of beadwork that I made.
It’s funny how people treasure hand made things.
I guess it’s because their intent is woven into it.
I continued creating beadwork throughout my teenage years, devoted to learning my craft.
My bedroom was always littered with beads and projects in varying stages of completion or more accurately, incompletion.
In 1977 I went to London on a shopping spree with my sister. I was all revved up to get myself some trendy clothes.
On our first day there, I found a bead shop. I never knew such a wondrous place existed. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
I told my sister to go away and come back for me later. She did. On her return, I’d blown practically all my money on beads – money well spent.
It’s difficult to describe the joy derived from sorting through them, matching colours and imagining the myriad of designs possible. I just couldn’t stop thinking about those miniature sparkly spheres.
I lived in Copenhagen for a while and I found an outlet for my creativity there too. They had a well established tradition for bead craft in Denmark. I was delighted.
Again, I accrued a new stash of beads. I’d pop into the bead shop on my way home from work and deliberate over which ones I could afford.
I entertained myself making any number of beaded objects. All the while learning new skills and techniques. I still have one of those pieces. Happy days.
This time, returning to Ireland, I had to leave some clothes behind to make room for my stash of beads.
They travelled with me on the back of my boyfriend’s motorbike – half way across Europe.
As my interest developed into adult life, my choices and style became more discerning.
People began offering to buy my designs. I found the stash of beads I had was limited in range so I began to look further afield. I travelled back to London but this time I had a much more focused objective.
I introduced semi precious stones and Swarovski crystals to my collection. My jewellery was selling consistently in markets and fairs.
I knew what I wanted.
In 1997 I thought how much I’d love to show people all the wonderful things you can make using beads. I already knew I wanted quality beads and Findings.
In 1998, the dream of owning my own bead shop became a reality.
The internet was still in the reals of science fiction so it was quite a job sourcing what I wanted.
I had a limited budget. So I made a graph and chose what suppliers were giving me the quality I wanted for the money I’d got.
During this time, I was also looking for a premises. Every now and again, I’d walk through town looking for a suitable spot. Then one day, I was driving up the Quays towards O’Connell Street when I saw it. The place I wanted. At that time Bachelors Walk was not a great area. There were few people around but but the area was being regenerated.
I thought to myself that at some point it had to be a good spot. After all it was situated between the Ha’penny bridge and O’Connell bridge right in the heart of Dublin.
I stopped looking for anywhere else (not something I’d recommend) and focused singularly on that shop.
The people who were renting it were quite reluctant to hand it to me. I had no track record of running a shop or retail business. Can’t say I blame them.
However, that was the object of my desire and I wasn’t going to be put off. I’d ring the landlord regularly and ask about progress on my shop. I could almost hear his thoughts over the phone – not her again.
I never let him wriggle off the hook. Eventually I wore him down through sheer determination in the politest possible way. He caved – but it took 10 months.
The reluctant landlord handed me the keys. I was thrilled and terrified all at the same time.
I had chosen what companies were superior in quality, most of which I still use today.
I blended the semi precious stones with beads and Findings from around the world.
In 1999 I held my first Jewellery making class with 5 students. This course was held every Tuesday for 8 weeks. 22 projects were made over the 8 weeks and everything my students made they took home. They benefited from all my years of trial and tribulation.
The fundamental structure of this course still forms the foundation of every course, module and seminar I hold today.
Those 5 students grew from 5 to 5000 over the following years.
Jewellery Making and Beadwork became the engine of my business.
I taught the full spectrum of stitches – Peyote stitch, Brick stitch, Herringbone stitch, Right Angle Weave, Netting, Fringing, Dutch Spiral, Square stitch, Ladder stitch and of course – Loom work.
Students created beautiful jewellery with just a needle, thread and beads while learning all the intricacies within each stitch.
Beadwork and Jewelley Making workshops were now taking place in the evening, during the week and at week ends.
At the height of the Celtic tiger, I was responsible for the ‘beaducation’ of up to 100 students per week.
It was like running a small college.
People were travelling the length and breadth of Ireland to attend my workshops and classes.
Students would return to their home town and spread the word. In doing so, they would accelerate the momentum of this captivating interest. Jewellery making classes were popping up all over the country. It makes me feel very happy!
My later and other love is photography where I hold a distinction known as Licentiateship. I put these skills to good use photographing jewellery and product for my latest venture.
In 2015, to embrace the global online market and demand for jewellery making classes and supplies, I launched Beads and Crystals.
We specialise in a wide variety of hand sewing materials such as lace, threading materials, tools,books, classes, jewellery repairs, ribbons and of course a wonderful choice of beads and jewellery making equipment.