I’m a person who is very deeply sunk into the beading community. My day job is working for an online bead store that used to be brick and mortar. I’ve been working there for over 10 years now, since I started as a shop girl right out of high school. Beading retail is the only industry I know.
I’ve been selling beadweaving patterns and running my little Etsy shop since 2013. I’ve been teaching classes on and off at my local bead stores for about as long. In normal circumstances, I spend every Wednesday night beading at Beaded Bliss with my friends. When the owner is out of town, I run the shop for her.
I’ve never tried any other type of art or craft, except for that one week I bought a bunch of watercolor supplies, painted three bookmarks, and then never tried again. My only other hobbies are reading (often while beading) and painting my nails. Beading takes up a lot of my time and a lot of my brain, and every aspect of my working life is related to it somehow.
And I have known that entire time that the beading industry is incredibly fragile.
And HOO BOY, this has not been a great year for fragile things.
One of my local bead shops has closed. I’m sure you all know Carole Ohl’s work from her amazing Trendsetter designs and her gorgeous patterns and kits available on her Etsy shop Open Seed. But I mostly knew her as the owner of the Bead Stash, which I discovered was just down the street from my in-laws house. She did consignment, as well as traditional bead retail, so there was always a pile of unique treasures to be found there. I loved chatting with Carole when I could get myself up to Dayton to visit and I taught classes there on and off for a few years. It was a wonderful clubhouse and Carole’s artistic flair made the whole place welcoming and inspiring.
It wasn’t just beaded art either – Carole is a prolific artist of all kinds and every inch of her shop was filled with doodles, fabric art, beaded art, beaded dolls, and Zentangle designs. I mean, just look at the bathroom!
The shop has closed and I’ll miss popping in to catch up with Carole. But I’m also excited for her to have more free time to develop designs and fill her Etsy shop with kits and patterns and beautiful ideas. I’m happy for her to have more time to spend with her grandkids and for the freedom from the grueling retail schedule inherent in owning a shop. All good things come to an end and Carole is so full of good things that I know the internet will allow them to keep overflowing onto us.
And as I was compiling these photos yesterday and thinking about what I wanted to say about Bead Stash and how to write about its loss, I found out that Bead & Button is completely shutting down.
Personally, I rarely buy the magazines because of the density of ad material and focus on shaped and two-hole beads. And I never had the time or the funds to make it out to the Bead & Button shows. But it would be insane not to recognize the intense blow to the beading community this is. The shows, the classes, the magazines… a lot of beadweaving designers got their start working with Bead & Button in some capacity. It’s hard to see it go and scary to think of what it means for the community.
So, I don’t really know what to do right now besides mourning what we’ve lost and holding tight with both hands to what we still have. Shopping small and supporting the small bead businesses left in our lives and hoping that the industry can course correct enough to survive the pandemic. But as someone who’s been watching it from the inside and seeing the struggle every bead retailer goes through, I’m very worried.
Beading and crafting and self-adornment have been a part of human culture since we were barely humans, so the craft itself is not going to go away. But I suspect that the beading industry and social landscape is going to look a little different after the pandemic. It might be time to start emotionally wrestling with that so that we’re ready when the dust settles.