Friday, 30 July 2010

Life at The Bead Shop by a Newbie...

As has been said to me on many occasions, for a lot of you The Bead Shop would be an amazing place to work. As the (almost) newest member of The Bead Shop’s staff, I decided that my first blog entry on here should be to introduce myself and describe my somewhat swift entry in to the world of beading!

Before working here, my beading knowledge consisted of sewing beads on to canvas, and stringing together basic elastic bracelets for my cousins. Although I had been shopping at The Bead Shop since its days in West End Arcade, my venture with beads had been limited to how I could incorporate them in to my artwork, and how in my teenage days I could fit them on to my shoelaces to be a little more ‘individual’! Having studied, lived and breathed art and painting for so long, I was far more caught up in ways to enhance and embellish my work with beads than how to create jewellery.

The picture belows shows the beginnings of my next project. It's just a background for now, and is certainly a work in progress!

Finding the life of a self-employed artist too solitary, I decided to supplement my canvas habit with retail work. Finding a job where I already used the product I would be selling was just an added benefit! And so I applied to The Bead Shop, already knowing that the staff and environment there were both very welcoming.

Firstly, anyone who thinks that retail work is an easy job, has clearly never worked within it before! Since my days of needing part-time weekend work for extra pocket money, I have been involved in retail in one way or another. It can be long hours; surrounded by often thankless customers; a never ending run of tidying, replenishing and straightening stock; and as for a full weekend off work... don’t even think about it! But as I have discovered over the years, if you can find a workplace that compliments you, it can be a very rewarding job.

This new venture turned out to be a rewarding one for me. From day one, I have found The Bead Shop to be the most enjoyable place I have ever worked at. With its myriad of amazing employees and brilliant customers, the constant behind-the-scenes mad rush of getting things ready for bead fairs/ new websites/ mail-orders/ workshops, the regular introduction of new stock items (most of which I’ve never heard of before!), and the continual job of helping customers with beading related queries, life at The Bead Shop is certainly eventful!

I began working here in January of this year, and immediately felt like I had finally found an employer who I would be happy working with. Many of our customers don’t realise how many staff members actually work here. With our shop, wholesale department, mail-order department, workshops, bead fairs, website, and regular magazine & press appearances we are a very busy company! From the beginning I found everyone to be very welcoming, happy to teach a newbie, and more than happy in their jobs. It made a refreshing change to work somewhere where the general consensus was that of contentment rather than a frenzied rush to the door at home time every night!

And so, settling in to my new environment, I began the task of learning all about beads, jewellery making, and the many new products that I had been introduced to. Little did I know how involved the beading world is!

Since I had only a basic knowledge of this new world, I began to learn about all of the different types of beads. Discovering that beads weren’t simply beads, I set about learning all the differences! I discovered pony beads, delicas, Xilions, seed beads, rivolis, and all of the other varied names and types of beads that I never knew existed! But I was eager to learn, and so after only a week I had the chance to sit in on a Japanese bead weaving workshop with one of our tutors; Machiko. As one of the more intense workshops, I admit to finding it a little challenging; not least because I had never woven beads together before in any shape other than one long string! But I stuck at it, and was very proud of the necklace I produced.

And so began a new hobby for me. I now scour charity shops for second hand jewellery to rework in to more modern styles. I have been given enough jewellery making tools and equipment to set up a small shop, and have beads spilling out of so many jars and boxes at home that my boyfriend fears they’re taking over. But as I’m sure many of you know, it’s addictive!

Through everything I have experimented with so far, I have found wirework and chainmail to be my favourite techniques. I have a semi-precious necklace with handmade wire findings that I created being featured in a magazine article by The Bead Shop, and so that has inspired me once again to see what new creations I can come up with. However since I admire the polymer clay, dichroic glass and resin designs made by my workmates so much, I may be experimenting with my own take on them in the not too distant future!

With our regularly updated window displays, I have been given the chance to contribute to many different styles. I have created nautical themed bracelets, tribal inspired necklaces, pirate earrings, Japanese hair slides and wire wrapped pendants. And since January I have had a go at most techniques in some form or another; whether for my own curiosity, a gift for a family member, or our shop window.

With their constantly changing and evolving worlds, jewellery making and beading techniques have become another art form to me, and more than ever I love to include them in some way in my mixed media projects. However, even creating and selling a canvas which I’ve spent many an evening painstakingly embellishing with the tiniest beads available doesn’t come anywhere close to giving my mum a pair of earrings which I’ve learnt how to create from scratch especially for her.

And so my beading journey will continue with new techniques, projects inspired by all of you wonderful customers who are always happy to share ideas, and designs dreamt up during my canvas work. I just hope that my next six months here at The Bead Shop will be just as fun and eventful as the first!

Hope to see you in the shop soon!