Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff Photo
Wherever she travels, Sabine Clark visits a bead shop, whether it’s browsing through bins of Indonesian glass beads at a store in Martha’s Vineyard or disco
vering a set of New Orleans themed wine charms on Magazine Street in the Big Easy.
“There are bead shops all over the place, and they’re usually very individualized by the owner, and a place to pick up a few special beads,” said Clark, who is a passionate crafter. So back home in Boston, when she hit a crossroads with her software marketing career, she jumped on an opportunity to be co-owner of Sweet Beads, a beading shop in Lexington.
“I decided it was time to turn my hobby into a job,” said Clark, hoping to capitalize on a trend toward handmade goods, as more and more people using their hands to explore traditional arts like beading. “People have been adorning themselves with jewelry since the beginning of time, as a way to personalize your look and way to express yourself,” said Clark.
According to the Craft and Hobby Association, the activity-based retail concept – the idea of a store as not just a retail shop but also a community and activity center – is helping the D.I.Y. movement take hold. Sweet Beads, like many beading shops around the country, sells itself as a source of inspiration and a gathering place for parties and beading classes.
On a recent spring day, Clark recently returned from a trip to a Rhode Island wholesaler, in search of what’s hot in the beading world: Lucite, neon citron beads and steam punk charms, the latest craze in beading that combines vintage pieces with modern designs. “And we’re always looking for turquoise,” said Clark. “For some reason, turquoise always sells out.”
Q: Thanks largely to the Internet, the beading community is global now. What’s the common thread that binds beaders together?
A: People think beading is simple stringing, but actually there’s a wide range of creativity, which can be very empowering. Beading can be entered at a beginner level or at a more advanced level, with wire wrapping, molding clay, or hanging stones. There are people who do fine weaving with tiny seed beads or artisans who prefer a more ethnic look with bones, wood, and leather. Beading allows a lot of different expressions.
Q: Is beading cheaper than buying readymade?
A: No, it’s probably cheaper to go to the department store and buy costume jewelry, so the real benefit is to customize and make something that appeals to you 100 percent. But customers can save money on more expensive beads, like Swarovski crystals, genuine pearls, or gemstones, because the mark-up on these is so high at the stores.
Q: Do you have a beading “weakness?”
A: Seed beads, which are delicate, tiny beads that require fine work with needles. They are my Achilles’ heel. You need to have a lot of patience to create something with them. I respect and love seed beads, but I leave them to the experts.
Q: How big is your jewelry collection?
A: Not as big as I would like it to be. I have a diamond ring; glass Venetian beads, necklaces with fresh water pearls, and jewelry with crystals, wooden beads and shells. My biggest challenge is to actually have my necklaces and earrings go together.