Meet the Author
Hey there, can you introduce yourself?
Hi! I'm Susan, I live in Portland, Oregon, and I'm a writer who loves to make things. My blog is called West Coast Crafty, and I also teach log cabin quilting for Creativebug and beginning sewing for kids for CreativeLIVE. I love sew, embroider, quilt, and make terrariums, but my first big craft love was really jewelry-making. I moved to Portland after college to go to jewelry-making school, and learned casting and fabrication, and started a little business called susanstars selling my work, while I was also teaching sewing and crafts. In 2008 I wrote my first solo book, Bead Simple, which was a collection of 150 modern jewelry and accessories projects to make. Six books and two kids later, I got the chance to write a sequel to that very first book - Bead Sparkle!
Tell us a bit about the book?
Bead Sparkle teaches you how to make 120 jewelry and accessories projects, really focusing on the extra-special pieces that add a little sparkle to your life! Along with beads, charms, and buttons, and all the traditional beading techniques like stringing, wirework and knotting, I also got to play with collage, glass, metal, fabrics, cross-stitch, and painting. Every design encourages you to create your own version in your style, whether it's mixing new, vintage, and found treasures, or changing the colors, scale, or texture to really please your eye. And every project chapter (necklaces, earrings, accessories, and so on) has a special stand-alone vintage gone modern section at the end, to give you more ideas for reworking broken jewelry or dated pieces in a fresh and stylish way that's really your own.
What was the inspiration behind it?
I've been so lucky that Bead Simple has done well for the last eight years - it's gone into several printings, and spun off a series of craft booklets, too - so my publisher asked me to create a sequel book last year. At first I was a little overwhelmed... what could I possibly come up with after designing 150 projects for the first book? But it turned out to be so much fun, especially since there are such amazing beads and craft supplies available now. I got to take the designs in so many new directions, and I've been wearing the new pieces every day.
Which is your favourite project?
That's so hard to choose! The one that means the most to me is my Family Birthstone Pendant, which mixes our four birthstones and a vintage gold locket (with tiny locks from both my children's first haircuts tucked inside). It's a sparkly, beautiful piece I save for special occasions. The one I wear almost every day is the Geometric Trio Necklace - three oversized, chunky wooden beads on a spare, simple chain. They couldn't be more different, but both of them are very me.
What is your craft space like?
My sewing room is in the basement, but for beading and crafts like that, I like to set everything up at my dining room table, where there's lots of light (and coffee nearby). I store all the vintage beads and charms I use the most in plastic boxes with snap-tight lids, so I can see everything. I like to work on a velvet-lined tray, so I can set beads or charms down securely, and they won't roll away or get lost in my house. I love how portable jewelry-making and beading can be - so different from a lot of my bigger sewing and quilting projects!
Have you always been creative?
Yes, I've always loved making things! I loved art class in elementary school and weaving on a cardboard loom at summer camp. I go through phases though, and what I'm drawn to making shifts around. I made tons of jewelry for the book, and then shifted over to sewing clothes for myself and my kids, then I did a lot of embroidery and loved that. I think staying open-hearted is the key, so you're always trying new things, not just sticking with what might be comfortable or easy. I just started weaving again in the last year and it's so much fun to circle back to it after thirty(!) years.
When did you first start crafting?
My first craft was stringing bead necklaces on dental floss and reworking broken jewelry with pliers from my parents' tool box. There weren't any bead stores or classes in my town, so I had to improvise!
Who are your crafty heroes?
Some of my favorite art and craft authors are Denyse Schmidt, Anna Joyce, Diane Gilleland, Lisa Congdon, Heather Mann, Bill Volckening, Blair Stocker, Christina Cameli, Kathy Cano Murillo, Christine Haynes, and Kayte Terry. My crafty heroes are the Quilters of Gee's Bend, Enid Collins, Maija Isola (who designed for Marimekko), and Vera Neuman. I was so lucky to take an improv quilting class with four of the Gee's Bend Quilters at Quiltcon, and I collect Enid Collins bags, Vera fabrics, and Marimekko prints... always so beautiful and inspiring.
Where do you find inspiration?
I love vintage fabric, jewelry, buttons, and treasures - taking apart a broken necklace and letting the individual beads or charms sparkle in a whole new setting is so much fun. When I see a color combination that I think is beautiful, that inspires me to make jewelry or a dress or a gift for someone that captures some of that same feeling.
What's next for you?
I love teaching, so I'm excited to do more of that! I'm also organizing some trunk shows to share some of my (many, many) vintage beads and buttons, from when I used to sell my jewelry. I'm ready to send it out into the world. And I have a new book idea, so fingers crossed that one will find a home, too.
Susan Beal has created a standout sequel to her jewelry-making bestseller, and, just like its predecessor, Bead Sparkle aims to delight readers with more than 100 great jewelry designs to make. The book features necklaces, bracelets, earrings and everyday pretties that add a little something special to a regular morning, as well as fanciful designs ideal for a party or a wedding. Incorporating new and vintage pearls, crystals, gemstones, charms, and other gorgeous materials in addition to standard and readily found beads, the projects are sure to inspire crafters and beaders everywhere.