Instructor Tips: Get Started Beading and Metalworking

Annette K. Brown

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Beginning a new art form can be stressful. It is difficult deciding what project to start with or what material you would like to use, while also considering what is beginner friendly and an approachable method for you. Bead Fest instructors are experts at beading and metalsmithing—but they started as beginners.


Above: Instructors Julie Sanford and Leslie Pope have taught many beginners. They agree that it’s exciting to help people get started on their beading and jewelry making journeys.


Here are their best tips for getting started.

Don’t Give Up

Jewelry artist Helen Driggs explains how important it is to keep going, even if you don’t like the project you’re making. She explains, “The only way to match what you envision in your mind with what you create with your hands is to make a lot . . . Try to create one thing per week and finish it even if you hate it . . . that will teach you determination and get your hands, heart, and mind to learn to work in unison.” 

Erin Keck teaching
Workshop photo courtesy of Erin Keck.

Have Patience

Tenacity is an essential part of learning a new skill, especially one that involves a lot of practice. Not everything will be perfect the first time, and sometimes outside expertise is required. Erin Keck says that you must “have patience with yourself,” and that you shouldn’t “be afraid to ask for help. Most artists are happy to lend a helping hand.”

Take a Class

Kim Leahy suggests deepening your learning by take a class because, “you learn so much that way.” And Carmelina Calabrese says to practice when you get home because, “if you put [your project] away and go back to it later, you may end up forgetting what you learned.”

Learn the Basics

Edgar Lopez says that you should learn techniques and not projects alone, as “learning the techniques will make you . . . understand what you do, and you will be able to not only enjoy yourself more, but also put your own personality to your projects.”

Learning the basics will allow your skillset to expand quickly and you will be able to begin more advanced projects sooner.

Stone cabochons in Julie Sanford's studio
Stone cabochons ready for beading, metalsmithing, and other projects | Photo courtesy of Studio JSD

Don’t Rush

Julie Sanford explains, “slow down…it isn’t a race. Over time you will see an improvement in your work and that progress is your measure of success.” 

It takes time to grow as a maker and Julie recommends making the effort to learn as you go along. Rather than rushing to learning every technique, she advises students to build solid foundations and add to their repertoire over time.

Experiment

Lynn Yuhr says that beginners should “make something regularly. You will get better each time and find your voice!” Whether you’re trying a new material or playing with supplies from your stash, experimenting helps you look at new color combinations, new possibilities for techniques, and more.

Beaded cabochons by Kathy Luli
Combine stone and beads for beautiful combinations | Photo courtesy of Kathy Luli

Get Organized

Leslie Pope advises, “The best tip I can offer is being organized and using a system to track your beads. In the long run, it saves time and frustration when you want to start working on a project.”

Leslie would love to have a dedicated studio, but she beads wherever she can, including on a small worktable that she shares with her cats in her living room.

Enjoy Yourself

Annette Mackrel says, “Enjoy the process!” Making jewelry and “beading is not about making a perfect replica of a design you choose or something overly complicated.”

As she explains, making should be therapeutic and mediative. “Enjoy making something with your hands; there will always be a part of you in the finished product.” 


Learn from all these instructors at Bead Fest, PA 2022.


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