Jewelry Superstar

The Beading Library

Make jewelry with Helen from The Beading Library

Helen Bowen
Malvern, UK

When did you first start making jewelry and how did you learn?

I have always been creative, right from a young age, but didn’t discover the ultimate crafty pastime until my sister in law introduced me to beads. Within hours of picking up a pair of pliers I was hooked. I made jewelry for family and friends for a couple of years before I set up a Facebook page and then an Etsy shop. In 2012, I won a magazine jewelry making competition and two years later, I landed the job as Editor for the same beading magazine! When the title closed at the end of 2015, I decided to set up a new business, The Beading Library. It allows me to continue to share all the beady news and knowledge I used to share through the magazine!

Can you remember the first piece you made?

It was a charm bracelet using simple looped beaded headpins on a chain. I spent three times as long choosing the beads as I did making it!

Where do you look for inspiration?

All sorts of places! I am influenced a lot by nature and it’s colors, patterns and textures, but I can also be inspired by a single component or bead that sets me on a design journey full of twists and turns. For the projects on Cut Out and Keep, I was inspired by a vintage blue and white plate that I picked up in a thrift store for 50p. I love antique china and have quite a collection of willow pattern and floral plates as well as teacups and saucers. They appear often in my jewelry displays and photographs and even get used for Earl Grey every now and then! I often create a range of pieces based around a theme or color combination. You’ll find common components throughout my projects, despite each one being based on a different technique or medium. Building collections of jewelry is cost effective and you can really get into a groove with designing. You’ll also find it much easier to create a coherent and eye-catching display of your work for a retail space or craft stall.

What's your craft space like and how do you organize your supplies?

I’ve learned lots of different skills over the years; from bead weaving to wirework. However, my greatest love is definitely mixed media — the possibilities to come up with unique designs are simply endless. I get so excited when I find a new, unusual object or a new craft to incorporate into my jewelry. You’ll notice elements of paper craft and sewing in my pieces as well as recycled or modified components and found objects. I’ve recently added resin to my skills list and it’s opened up even more opportunities!
As for my workspace? Well what can I say apart from "it's too small!". Well, I am really lucky to live on the side of the Malvern Hills and I have a desk that looks out across the Severn Plains. When I am not gazing out the window, I am playing with components from my stash, discovering new color combinations or ways to combine techniques in my pieces. Everything is to hand (one of the advantages of a small room!) and I have all my beads sorted into color with a few special boxes of artisan components that I look at occasionally but can never bear to use! The shelves that aren’t filled with beads are taken up with books and endless props /display items for photography and shows.

What music/podcasts/TV shows do you love to craft along to?

I am a news addict and so tend to have rolling news on the TV in the background. I can't work in silence. When England is playing an international test match, I also have the cricket on :-)

Do you do any other crafts and what are your hobbies?

I don’t have huge amounts of free time with two children under 10 and a dotty Dalmatian that requires walking. We are renovating our house at the moment so I've been doing a little sewing - curtains, cushions; that kind of thing. However, as a family we recently started geocaching which is a great way to get some fresh air and tire out the children. I am also a keen cook and take my love of experimenting straight from the craft room into the kitchen!

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Whatever project you choose, have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to change it up, substitute colors or your favorite gemstone beads and really make it your own!

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What's your favorite...

TV Show
Any crime drama
Maroon 5
Back to the Future
The Magic Faraway Tree
Craft Supply
Craft Tool
Flush Cutters