Caravan Beads is a wholesale supplier and retail shop for Miyuki Japanese seed beads, Delica beads, as well as CLON beading thread and cord and CFLEX beading wire. Follow the blog to find ideas to make creative handmade jewelry.
In 1970 I graduated from college and moved to a miner's cabin at 11,000 ft. in the Rocky Mountains. While there I learned to bead by the light of kerosene lamps. Living the life of a hippie, I made fringed leather handbags with circular beaded Mandala patterns laced onto the front of each bag. They sold for $45 at the Gypsy Woman shop in Aspen, CO.
After living in the woods of Southeastern Pennsylvania for 37 years, I’ve recently relocated to the mountains of Western North Carolina with my woodturning husband David Ellsworth. I am still working with tiny seed beads to make a wide variety of products. I have converted a large bedroom on the main floor of our new home into a sunny studio. We share a gallery space in the basement and recently participated in the popular Weaverville Art Safari open studio tour.
Over the years I’ve developed a national and international reputation as a bead artist. My work has been shown in exhibitions of contemporary beadwork, glass, basketry, fiber, jewelry and body adornment. I’ve written multiple articles for the leading bead magazines and my work has been featured in many books and periodicals.
My own book Beading–The Creative Spirit: Finding Your Sacred Center Through the Art of Beadwork was published by SkyLight Paths in 2009. It offers multiple ways to explore beading as a spiritual journey of self-discovery. For me, beading and my spiritual path are intricately interwoven. As I sit and weave with my beads, I allow the Creative Spirit to flow through my hands. It feels like a transmission of Spirit that fills me with deep inner peace and joy as I bead.
I’m self-taught and use a variety of bead weaving techniques that include gourd stitch, herringbone, ladder, brick, netting and right angle weave. I primarily use seed beads in sizes 15/0 - 6/0 in many colors and finishes. My sense of color is intuitive, I enjoy combining colors that feel right to me during the process of making each piece.
I’ve been exploring 3-D beadwork since the late 1980’s. I began a sculptural Beaded Stick Series in 1989, searching for tree branches that resembled the human form in some sort of movement or gesture. Working in the gourd stitch, I wove the entire surface of each stick with size 11/0 seed beads, free-forming the beadwork in difficult areas. Each piece in the Stick Series represented a deep emotional process within myself that is reflected in the title. “Resisting the Mirror,” for instance, portrays the contortions we go through when the mirror of truth is presented to us and we resist looking into it out of fear of what will be reflected there. “Goin’ Dancin” was the final piece in this series and inspired me to start working three-dimensionally without an armature.
This led directly to my ‘SeaForm’ series in the mid-1990’s. Each piece has been inspired by underwater coral reef forms. I don’t begin with a pre-conceived idea of how the form will develop or what colors of beads I will use. Instead, I respond to the forms as they evolve in a totally interactive and collaborative manner. Some SeaForms are simple like “Tanjung Kandi” and others are more complex like “Selat Ombai,” “Tanjung Samba” and “Tanjung Datu.” I’m passionate about coral reefs and dismayed that they’re dying because the oceans are warming. It’s my hope that through my ‘SeaForm’ series, people will be reminded what an important resource the coral reefs are for our planet and perhaps make a commitment to limiting their carbon footprint.
In 2016 I collaborated with my husband David to make a series of 3-D beaded Mandalas that were included in his exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art titled “At the Center, Masters of American Craft.” These included “Sunflower,” “White Lotus” and “Orange Flower.”
I’ve also been interested in geometric beadwork and have been participating in Kate McKinnon’s project the past few years. My "SW Geometric Cuff" and "Jester Cuff" are examples of this. I have a lot of ideas swirling around in my head about future ways to utilize these fun geometric methods of beading, especially making more Kaleidocycles and adding Hypar Inserts into flat beadwork to make it 3-D.
Teaching classes in off-loom beadweaving techniques has taken me as far abroad as Kenya and Australia. After receiving a Fellowship from the PA Council on the Arts in 2003, I traveled to Kenya to study the beadwork of the Maasai and Samburu peoples. I’ve continued to work with tribal women through non-profits that have beading projects to help them refine their products for the western market. I also teach within the US at various venues and hold private classes in my home. In 2018 I had my first solo exhibition at the Hunterdon Museum of Art in Hunterdon, NJ titled “Wendy Ellsworth: A Passion For Beads.” Beads have truly been my passion for almost 50 years!
1. Cut a five foot length of C-Lon Micro Cord (CLMC). Make a slip knot and leave a 15 inch tail.
2. Slide the slip knot over the leather cord and tighten, approximately 2 inches left of center.
3. Thread a Big Eye needle onto the longer piece of CLMC and string two Miyuki size 5/0 seed beads (E).
4. Pass the needle up and behind the leather.
5. Bring the CLMC over the top of the leather and down through the second E bead. Pull the CLMC to position the two E beads side by side and against the leather. This is the start of the brick stitch row.
6. String one E bead and pass the needle up and behind the leather.
7. Bring the CLMC over the top of the leather and pass down through the newly added E bead, pull to secure.
8. Continue in this way, repeating steps 6 and 7 until there are fifteen E beads in the brick stitched row.
9. String one Miyuki size 8/0 seed bead, one Miyuki size 8/0 Delica bead (DBL), one 8/0, one E, one 8/0, one DBL, and one 8/0.
10. Moving from right to left, skip over one E in the brick stitch row and pass up through the next (keeping the needle behind the leather). Pull the CLMC tight to create a loop with the newly added beads.
11. Bring the CLMC over the top of the leather and pass down through the E and the last 8/0 from the loop.
12. String one DBL, one 8/0, one E, one 8/0, one DBL, and one 8/0. Repeat steps 10 and 11.
13. Repeat step 12 to add seven loops of beads.
14. Bring the CLMC over the top of the leather. Pass down through the nearest E and the next four beads. Exit the E in the center of the loop.
15. String one 8/0, three DBL beads, one 8/0, one E, one 8/0, three DBL beads, and one 8/0.
16. Moving from left to right, skip over one loop of beads and pass through the E in the center of next loop. Pull the CLMC to secure the newly added beads into place.
17. Repeat steps 15 and 16 until there are three loops of beads in this row.
18. Continue up through the next four beads exiting behind the leather.
19. Bring the CLMC over the top of the leather and pass down through the beads on the right edge of the necklace. Exit the E in the center of the last loop added.
20. Repeat step 15.
21. Pass through the E at the center of the loop to the left.
22. Repeat step 20 and 21.
23. Continue up through all of the beads on the left edge of the necklace, exiting behind the leather.
24. Thread the needle onto the 15 inch tail of the CLMC.
25. Pass down through all of the beads on the left side of the necklace. Exit the E in the center of the last loop added.
26. String one 8/0, three DBL beads, one 8/0, one E, one 8/0, one E, one 8/0, one E, one 8/0, three DBL beads, and one 8/0.
27. Pass through the E at the center of the loop to the right.
28. Continue up through all of the beads on the right side of the necklace, exiting behind the leather.
29. Tie a knot around the CLMC just below the leather.
30. Tie a second knot and add a drop of Hypo Cement.
31. Pass down through the nearest E and pull the CLMC to hide the knot. Repeat steps 29-31 on the other side of the necklace.
32. Trim the leather as needed to achieve the desired length. Use a pair of chain nose pliers to flatten the middle of a 2mm crimp end.
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My name is Heather and I’m an English beadwork designer. I began beading out of curiosity, and just fell in love with the materials, with the huge range of techniques, and with the endless possibilities they offer. You can always spot me in a crowd because I love to wear my beadwork!
I’m fascinated by the structures that can be created with just beads and thread, it’s like drawing in 3D with sparkle and colour added in. My beading life is a curious mix, I travel a lot to teach because for me, sharing techniques, meeting people and exploring the learning process together is the best fun.
I travel far and wide and some years I seem to be permanently on planes, trains or motorways heading out to the next group of beaders, I love it! For the last few years I’ve been an Ambassador for International Beading week, started by the Beadworkers Guild here in the UK. Lots of artists offer free designs with the intention of encouraging beaders to bead together, support their beadstores and encourage newcomers to help keep this wonderful craft thriving.
This year I offered Flora, a simple flower that can be used to teach a beginner or to create elaborate beading in the hands of more experienced beaders. Between my travels I have the peaceful solitude of working in my studio, creating new jewellery designs for classes, patterns and kits. I keep sketchbooks of ideas and my phone photo library is full of random snap shots I use for research. Beading starts with an idea, a pile of beads and can get pretty messy as a design emerges.
Another way I share my love of beading is through books and magazines. I’ve written several technique based beading books, one on Netting, and three on Albion Stitch, which is a way of working with picots I devised and that I love because it is so versatile.
I’ve just completed a huge project, a book called ‘Tudor Inspirations’, working in collaboration with another English bead artist called Melanie de Miguel. It’s a delicious mix of our designs, and each design is made of elements which are interchangeable; so beaders can pick and mix elements to make their own combinations. We’ll be hosting two beading retreats in England next year, where beaders can join us to explore ‘Elemental beading’ and explore the entire hoard of Tudor Inspirations jewellery.
You can find Heathers designs, kits, books and upcoming class schedule at:
As an artist I believe that all people have creativity within them. Some express it in their chosen medium and some express it as appreciation of art from afar. Appreciation can extend to viewing a beautiful sunset or flower. If one has the passion to create art, as I do in my chosen medium of beads, one soon realizes that passionate practice can be pragmatic, fluid, and spontaneous. Being pragmatic is willing to see things as they really are and deal with them sensibly. The more art one makes, the more successful the art becomes. In the great words of Pablo Picasso, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
As an art instructor I believe that pragmatic techniques can be taught. From the pragmatic comes the fluidity and with that, the ability to ‘see’ a design or inspiration through creation. The more fluent one becomes with the materials and techniques, the more spontaneous and skilled at creating art forms.
With any risky adventure (and art is risky) we wear our hearts on our sleeves. It can be scary but we have to be brave and accept our fears to remain fluid and spontaneous. Let the art be in control.
I have two sides to my art; one is as an artist and the other is as a teacher. I have always loved the art as much as the teaching side. I love to give students a solid, understandable grasp of technique and create a safe, judgment free space to encourage experimentation. My passion lies in technique and finding a new way to use the beads. It's thrilling to find a new variation of an existing technique or material.
I live in Colorado where I have been married over 30 years and have two grown children. This year I was honored with the Excellence in Jewelry Artistry Award from Bead&Button. I have taught four Master Class sessions at Bead&Button shows. One other event that I am very proud of is taking 3rd place in the US Open Judo Competition at the Olympic Training Center in 1984.
To see more of Nancy's incredible bead work visit:
1. Cut a 2.5 foot length of Miyuki nylon beading thread (MNT). String four Miyuki 4mm Square beads (SB) in color A.
2. Pass through the first two SB beads again forming a loop. Pull tight to secure forming a square with the four beads.
3. Pass up through the bottom right SB and down through the bottom left. This begins Square stitch.
4. String two SB beads in color A.
5. Pass up through the bottom right SB then down through the bottom left. Continue down through the newly added SB on the left.
6. Repeat step 3.
7. String two SB beads in color B.
8. Repeat step 5.
9. Repeat step 3.
10. String two SB beads in color B.
11. Repeat step 5.
12. Repeat step 3.
13. String one Miyuki 3mm Spacer bead (SPR3).
14. String thirty Miyuki size 11/0 sead beads, one SPR3, one SB in color B, and one 11/0.
15. Turn and pass back up through the SB and SPR3.
16. Pass up through all thirty 11/0 beads. Continue up through the SPR and bottom left SB bead. Turn and pass down through the SB bead on the bottom right.
17. Repeat steps 13 and 14 on the right side of the earring.
18. Pass back up through the SB, SPR3, thirty 11/0 beads, and the SPR3.
19. Pass up through the next two SB beads on the right then down the two SB beads and SPR3 bead on the left.
20. String twenty 11/0 beads, one SPR3, one SB in color B, and one 11/0 bead.
21. Turn and pass back up through the SB, SPR3, twenty 11/0 beads, and SPR3.
22. Pass up through the next three SB beads on the left then down the three SB beads and SPR3 bead on the right.
23. Repeat step 20 and 21 on the right side of the earring.
24. Pass up through the next four SB beads on the right then down the four SB beads and SPR3 bead on the left.
25. String ten 11/0 beads one SPR3, one SB in color B, and one 11/0 bead. Pass back up through the SB, ten 11/0 beads and SPR3.
26. Pass up through the five SB beads on the left and exit the top of the earring.
27. String seven 11/0 beads.
28. Pass down through the five SB beads and SPR3 on the right.
29. Repeat step 25 on the right side of the earring.
30. Pass up through the five SB beads on the right and continue through the seven 11/0 beads. Secure the thread by looping through the top two SB beads and then down through the SB beads on the left. Sew in and trim all thread tails.
My name is Caitlin Velázquez-Fagley and I’m the maker behind Aguja y Clavo Jewelry Designs. Aguja y Clavo translates to Needle and Nail from Spanish; I named it that because my father builds adobe houses and my mother is a quilter. I began my company in 2016 and am based out of Central New Mexico.
I started doing beadwork when I was 15 years old. Masters like Margo Field and Leah Henriquez Ready taught me about bead-weaving, intricate peyote stitch, and bead embroidery. I was completely into making jewelry, but was too young to see that it could turn into a career. I went on to study architecture in college, but it wasn’t my calling. Shortly after graduating I moved to Spain to teach English for several years and did a lot of traveling around Europe on my own. When I returned, I worked construction and loved it, but still had an itch for jewelry. In 2015 I took my first silversmithing class with Kristin Diener and that’s what brought me back into jewelry-making.
My original mission was to figure out how to marry beadwork with metalwork. I found that I could do bead embroidery and bead-weaving techniques and combine them with metal that I had stamped, riveted, and formed with hammers. It was all very low-tech at the time, but I wanted to understand the best way to work with metal while keeping beadwork in my designs. I found a program at Santa Fe Community College that offered jewelry classes, and continued taking classes there to improve my metalsmithing skills.
A few things happened at once that changed both the way I design, and the direction of my company. I gave a lecture in front of a jewelry-making association and realized in the middle of the lecture that I didn’t have a solid purpose with my work. For nearly three months I began researching and asking myself questions on how better to proceed. Around this time, I also met my muse. I met the woman who loved (and still loves) my work but wanted me to go bigger and bolder. That was when I realized that I needed make pieces that were statement pieces- ones that told a story or recalled a moment in history, and were the only one of their kind. Essentially I had to restructure my marketability by making pieces that really spoke to women and spoke to their style and identity. This meant that I had to focus on moments in history, retell that story through jewelry, and conjure images/feelings within the wearer to make her have a sense of her past all while maintaining her independent style.
I work in Collections, meaning that I create pieces based on a central theme and develop a set of design elements within that framework. My work is different in that I create only one of each design. I’m constantly experimenting with a set of ideas and jewelry-making techniques to achieve an overall feeling or vibe to each Collection. My latest body of work is called Helen of Troy Collection and I’ve been designing pieces as if Helen of Troy (the main female character from The Iliad and The Odyssey) was the woman wearing my work. She was a queen first in Sparta, then in Troy, so I’ve used imagery from both Ancient Greece and Troy to create pieces that are both nostalgic yet contemporary. I can plan, research, and anticipate how a Collection will turn out, but it’s always changing, always surprising me, and I let the process of creating just flow and be in the moment. I usually happen upon happy coincidences and that’s how my jewelry is made.
There are many layers to each piece, many questions I must answer to myself as I’m making my work like, “How does this relate to my theme? Is this a statement? Am I creating with my muse in mind? Who is this piece for? Is this exactly what needs to be made right now?” Then I’ll ask myself the technical questions like, “what’s the largest piece I can make, while keeping it lightweight? How will this feel against the body? What’s the best way to assemble this? What pieces can be purchased (ie beads) and what elements need to be handmade?” My mind is constantly swirling with thoughts and visions and ideas and often I can’t keep up, but I don’t obsess over that. If the thought was meant to be, then it’ll return to me and I’ll find a way to make it.
The bigger I make my pieces, the more I think about and am inspired by people who live large. I’m attracted to the people who speak up, stand out, live out loud, dream big, and aim high. It’s fascinating to design with that in mind. We tend to turn people into legends after they’ve passed and I think we’ve got it all wrong. I like to think of my pieces as glorifying, or at least highlighting, what makes the wearer special and unique in this moment, today, right now.