Women have adorned themselves with jewelry for millennia. But nothing has fueled jewelry’s popularity as much as the do-it-yourself trend. It’s easier and more affordable than ever to design an exclusive piece that expresses your fashion sense, highlights your blue eyes or emphasizes your summer tan.
“Its popularity hasn’t let up,” says Teresa Barber, manager of Bead Here Now at 1051 Park St. in the Five Points area of Jacksonville. “Everyone wants to make jewelry now. There’s been an increase of women who feel empowered to make it themselves.”
One of them is VerLana McCombs, who popped in the store recently for a chunky turquoise and jade bracelet that wouldn’t interfere with office work. She knew what she wanted but needed help, which designer Sierra Forbes eagerly provided at a table in the back. Admiring the bracelet as she rocked her wrist, McComb announced that it was perfect.
“I like to be able to choose exactly what I want,” she said. “I’ll be back.”
Customers can do it themselves or join classes teaching a variety of techniques, such as creating a single strand necklace or bracelet, making a wire link bracelet, or reusing and repurposing vintage jewelry. A sign on the wall says: “Whoever dies with the most beads wins.”
“A lot of people say it’s therapeutic,” Barber says, recalling one customer whose high anxiety subsided each time she returned. “The more she beaded the happier she got,” Barber says. “It’s a relaxing, calming and creative place.”
If a customer doesn’t have the time to make their own piece, or isn’t confident in their design instincts, staff can customize a piece for them. Employees can also do repair work.
Opening seven years ago, there’s no end to the array of beads, wires, fittings and other materials to choose from at Bead Here Now.
Maria Cox, the store’s owner, spent the summer in exotic locations like Bali, Thailand and China buying beads directly from the source. In Africa, Cox collected beads made from old vinyl records. On the same continent, she bought brass beads from the Ashanti tribe. She gets most of her turquoise from India. The lapis lazuli, a shimmering deep blue semi-precious stone, comes from Afghanistan and Russia.
Pieces can be timeless or trendy. In Jacksonville, there’s a movement toward wrap bracelets, minimalism, bohemian style and seed beads, the tiny beads used by Native American Indians, Barber says. More men are making jewelry too, designing masculine pieces with chunky, organic and natural beads.
“I’ve been making jewelry since middle school,” says Barber, a frequent Bead Here Now customer before she joined the staff. She designs Victorian-style necklaces and earrings with the view that she’s “returning the discarded and forgotten to the world with a new shape and a new life.” Her jewelry is sold at the store and on etsy.com.
Forbes, her coworker, prefers to craft kitschy, whimsical, feminine work. Her pieces are for sale in the store and at delirium.storenevy.com.
For more information about Bead Here Now and the local jewelry designers featured in this article, call 904.475.0004 or visit beadherenow.org.