A Few Farewells, in Which Sam Gets in Her Feelings

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.

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11 Responses to A Few Farewells, in Which Sam Gets in Her Feelings

  1. Rebecca says:

    It is scary. But as someone who has beading for over 35 years, I’ve seen the cycle of popularity of beading come and go. We have been so fortunate lately with the growth of technology and bead development. We must not lose sight of what we have gained And need to find a way to carry on our artistry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • samwescott says:

      Oh, definitely. The beading world has already been evolving and changing, especially in regard to moving online. It’s just sad to see changes being accelerated because of the pandemic. Change is inevitable, but it’s still so freaking sad sometimes.

      Like

  2. Barb Weinbrandt says:

    Bead Stash was the nicest most complete bead store I’d ever been to. I felt like Carole was a friend from the first time I visited her store. I and many others will miss Carole and the Bead Stash very much. I live about 2 miles away from the store, so it was nice to know all I had to do was jump in the car and and in 15 minutes have the supplies I needed. Thank you Sam for this wonderful tribute to a terrific business and terrific business owner. I’ll be spending more time on Etsy now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. W HEATH III says:

    I received an email from Bead & Button about their closing.  I cried for a solid hour. My husband heard me and ask me if I was sick, sweet of him, but I told him about my favorite magazine is going out of business.  He said well it’s a good thing you saved all those years of magazines. Now you can start reading them all over again. I thought that was both sweet and he was so right. I will still miss getting it in the mail.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Redman says:

    Although I have never been to the Bead Stash, your tribute to Carole and her shop were heartfelt. I live in Wisconsin so I have been very fortunate to go to the Bead & Button show for the last twelve years. I am heartbroken over their decision to permanently end the show. It is difficult to process it all. 😥

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joanne Maurice says:

    Hi Sam, I just wanted to share my post with you…for some reason the site would not let me post in the comments…

    “Beautifully said Sam! It is so sad to see things changing like this and landmarks of the Beading industry close or change. I live in Canada and travel for work…i always make a point of stopping in and shopping at all the great bead shops i have found on my travels! They each have some thing so unique and different about them, but what stays the same is the passion beaders have for what they create💕“

    Happy Beading!

    Joanne Maurice

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mindy Steinman says:

    Morning Sam,
    I’m sad that so many small businesses are failing. I do my best to shop local. My bead store is about 30 miles from my home. I love the shop and the wonderful woman who owns it. You don’t get the personal relationship or the help from the retail stores that you get with “mom”. I hope your business stays open and you keep creating your beautiful pieces.
    With warm wishes,
    Mindy

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Liz Browning Fox says:

    Oh, Sam, you have given me, sadly, a more 3-dimensional view of your beading world. Since I live in a national park, and the local bead shops are aimed at vacation “stringers”, I haven’t lost a “brick and mortar” local shop, but have seen several of my favorite online businesses fold. I hope most of the rest will hang on, because with a pandemic and everything else wild and weird in the world today, beading process gives us a calming focus and allows us to bring more beautiful things into a world that needs them. I love Carole’s designs, and am glad she will continue to pursue them in a way that keeps her safer and lowers the stress levels. You, too……stay safe. Due to the exposure risk factors, I have discontinued nearly everything I normally love to do, including sea turtle nest-sitting for the national seashore and participating in local art shows. I can, however, continue producing my radio programs and bead-weaving on my porch. I’m just looking at the things I can do, and trying not to mourn those I’ve given up for this year. I wish for you the same.
    Happy Beading!
    Liz Browning Fox

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Adventures in Bead Looming! | Wescott Jewelry

  9. Julie says:

    Sad sad news. Bead on, my sisters.

    Like

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