This blog is brought to you from today's issue of the Toronto Star. In the Living Section, Bernadette Morra has written a wonderful article about beading that mentions the Toronto Bead Society, Bead Junction, beadFX and even crocheting with wire - so I guess I am alluded to! She actually mentions Patricia Huff, Heather Taylor and Rachel Nelson-Smith by name!!
Here is the article:
Having spent a great deal of time visiting my late mother in nursing homes the past several months, I began to forget that it is possible to remain healthy, productive and creative in one's later years.
Then I met Edie Atkin Goodis. At 88, Goodis could be the poster girl for graceful aging.
She spends two hours each day swimming and working out in her condo's gym. When we met on a recent weekday afternoon, she was smartly dressed and expertly coifed. Goodis showed me her needlepoint, her stitchery, her quilting, and her block prints. But her main passion is to create mosaic-like bracelets and jangly necklaces from a palette of microscopic beads.
That she can even see them is remarkable. That she threads a surgically thin needle through the tiny purple spears and bronze spheres is even more impressive. And if Goodis doesn't have a bead she thinks will work in a particular spot, she'll make her own, forming miniature cylinders from tubular Japanese delica beads.
"I am painting with beads," she describes. And she is not the only one.
A survey of Goodis's favourite local bead suppliers – Bead FX in Scarborough, Bead Junction on Roncesvalles, and That Bead Lady in Newmarket – reveals a subculture of (mostly) women who just can't keep their fingers still.
Groups such as The Toronto Bead Society have monthly get-togethers where members "show and tell" new projects. Bead retailers regularly hold classes, birthday parties, drop-ins, beading bees and workshops with internationally recognized bead artists.
It was at a Bead Junction workshop that Goodis learned the technique for the fringed necklace that she has riffed on with her own palette and sensibility – that being typical of beaders who will master a technique, then run with it. Luckily, there are artists such as Rachel Nelson-Smith, Sherry Serafini and Cynthia Rutledge (who will be teaching at Bead Junction next month) who are pushing the boundaries of beading to keep enthusiasts engaged.
It also helps that the range of available beads has exploded thanks to online shopping and retailers such as Bead FX, which makes lampwork beads and offers classes to teach the skill.
No wonder bead stores have become something of a refuge during tough economic times.
"For as little as $5, a person can buy two tubes of seed beads that will make six or seven necklaces," says Patricia Huff, co-owner of Bead Junction. Huff is a client data analyst at RBC by day, and self-confessed bead addict on nights and weekends. She opened the store with architect and bead artist Heather Taylor in 2005.
Bead Junction has hundreds of styles of beads including semi-precious stones, Murano glass, fanciful cloisonné and iridescent dichroic beads made from layers of glass and foil. There are 14 styles of turquoise alone. Prices range from pennies to $99.95 for a Druzy, an inner chunk of a geode that has been gold-leafed.
The beads can be loomed into fabric, strung into strands, crocheted with wire, and used in quilting, knitting and micro-macrame.
The thrill, says Huff, is simply in, "taking this, matching it with that, and then going to town to see what you can make. And I like that in 15 minutes I can have a necklace, or something more elaborate in two hours." One Bead Junction client is working on a seed bead tapestry that will take months to complete.
Such intense work can have its hazards. Goodis is being treated for trigger finger and has had to lay off the needles and wire.
But don't expect her to ever stop. Goodis attributes her longevity, in part, to her hobby. As she puts it, "I can't wait to get up in the morning because I've got something that I love to do."
After 23 years with the Toronto Star, this is Bernadette Morra's final column. In August, she becomes editor-in-chief of Fashion magazine, replacing Ceri Marsh who is on maternity leave for one year. Morra will continue to edit her website for jewellery lovers, firstwaternews.com.