Sunday, December 19, 2010

December Blog Carnival: How it All Began

This pearl and shell necklace was one of my first creations.
I was so proud of the wire clasp.
It all began with a single class.  In January of 2006 I took a basic beading class to help me get through the winter blues. Depression is a struggle for me and winter was making me want to hibernate. The class seemed like a really good idea--- a nice craft, a hobby to keep me busy, and a way to beat Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The class was very basic bead stringing, and a lot of fun so I called my mom Ella, daughter Becky, and sister in law Nancy and invited them to join me for the next class.

We were hooked! We visited the local big box craft stores. We found a few local bead shops. We made a road trip to Springfield Massachusetts to attend a gem and mineral show. We checked out every bead and jewelry book that the local libraries possessed, subscribed to all the bead magazines we could find, and scoured the Internet for sources and patterns and instructions. I ordered some instructional DVDs and we all watched them and practiced new techniques.
Through those books we discovered the teaching of Sharilyn Miller who taught us how to do it right the first time. Some day I will attend one of her Wild Women Seminars.
The DVD's were made by Preston Ruether, the Master Wire Sculptor himself, whose down to earth style and frank advice made us believe that we could do this too.
Internet investigation lead me to Eni Oken  whose free form work and use of wire gave me the knowledge to create the pieces I was dreaming about.
Developing my own style.

Bead night started every Monday around the dining room table. What did you make this week? Will you teach me that? That would go great with these beads. Try this! We were obsessed, and our volume of jewelry was growing, and growing and growing.

We decided to try our luck at an artisan street show called Art on Lark in June of 2006, and at the Jazz Festival in July, and in Saratoga in August. We were a hit. Sales were profitable but better yet we received the affirmation that what we had produced was good.

The FamiLee Jewels was born. We booked bigger shows, started a blog, and opened stores on  ETSY and Artfire. We booked home parties, did fundraisers, and took orders for custom work.

We discovered wire wrapping and cold connections and have never looked back.  My style has evolved into a sort of Steampunk, Victorian Industrial melange that blends new brass findings with vintage and antique hardware, watch parts and found objects. I enjoy the hunt for materials almost as much as the process of creating the jewelry.
A recent necklace that celebrates the love of wirework.

Read here about how other Starving Artists started making their jewelry.
Bead Sophisticate

Island Girl



Northern Girl


  1. So do you still work as a family? Wish I had someone that I could bounce ideas off... My husband always tries to give me the answer he thinks I want... not real useful, and the cats look at me like I've lost my marbles.

    Love that last necklace!

  2. I am jealous about the family bit too, bead nights on Mondays,sounds fab. Wonderful post. Thank you.

  3. Wonderful story - I loved reading how you evolved from starting with basic beading and the journey you took to creating what you do today. Sharilyn Miller and Eni were a couple that I had looked to for inspiration along the way.

  4. Alas Monday bead nights are a thing of the past for the FamiLee. Nancy moved to Florida, Becky had 3little boys, and Mom doesn't like to drive at night. We still do shows and teach classes together. We use one another for critiques all the time.