Beading Gem: how the Web is transforming crafts

One of Pearl Blay's designs, featured on Jewelry Geeks

Whether it's pearl stringing or neuroeconomics, the Web is full of people actively pursuing their passions. It's easier than ever before to find others who share your interests. I caught up with beadwork teacher Pearl Blay, aka 'The Beading Gem', and asked her a few questions about beadwork, teaching and learning beading and how she uses the Web to help fuel her passion for beads.

Me: How did you get into beadwork? Did you teach yourself, or find a particularly inspiring teacher?
 
Pearl: My mother loves jewelry and is still an amazing bead embroiderer. I've always crafted - knitting and dressmaking were my earlier passions. For a long time I wanted to make my own jewelry and once I actually started, I was hooked! I find jewelry making to be far more rewarding because most projects take so much less time than knitting a sweater or making a dress and the end products are very pretty! There are also so many different disciplines to explore beyond the simplest bead stringing that as an artisan, there is lots of room for growth.
 
Me: Are you a full-time beader, and is this common? What proportion of your time is spent making/selling beadwork versus teaching others?
 
Pearl: No, beading is a part-time business for me. Very few beaders are lucky enough to do it full time i.e. depend on beading as the sole source of income. Most of us do it because it is our passion and a way to express our creativity. Selling jewelry or beading supplies and teaching the craft are also ways to help fund the addiction for more beads! I'd say I spend roughly half the time teaching and half the time making and selling jewelry.
 
Me: How do you use the Web? How much time do you spend online, and what do you spend it on?
 
I think I spend way too much time on the web! Every spare moment if I have it. I rarely watch TV so my screen time is nearly all computing. I am a naturally curious person, and love learning about all sorts of different things besides jewelry making.
 
I'm also a blogging addict. I author my own jewelry blog, which is updated daily. The Beading Gem's Journal is where I write about beginner beader creations as well inspirational artisans' work. I also use Web to find source material for entertaining articles on jewelry, beads, gemstones and biographies of people through their jewelry. It's my way of sharing what I have seen and learnt, and to build a community of beaders who share my interests. I also participate in forums and on social networking sites specifically for jewelry makers like Jewelrygeeks.com.
 
Me: Do you think much has changed in the crafting world as a result of the internet?
 
Pearl: Without a doubt, the internet has revolutionised the crafting world: we now have so much more available to us. We're no longer limited to what we can get or who we can meet locally. Our crafting networks extend to all corners of the world. I think that is fantastic as it broadens our views and enriches our experiences.
 
Me: Do you, and other beadwork teachers, spend more time teaching face to face? Do you prefer creating downloadable tutorials or teaching in the flesh?
 
Pearl: I love teaching and inspiring others. I get a big thrill when beginners insist they are not creative, and end up with a fabulous piece of jewelry at the end of the afternoon. The incredulous looks on some of the beaders' faces really makes my day. One actually told me that she couldn't believe that she had made something she would wear in public! It's really about encouragement and support to give beginners that sense of accomplishment and in some cases, self-worth. So for me, teaching face to face is preferable.
 
Teaching in the flesh has two requirements, though, which may not appeal to all. You have to like interacting with all kinds of people and also have a place to teach if it's not to be your home. So many accomplished beaders teach via their tutorials, which also means they can reach a wider audience than their local area.

Click here to see Pearl's beading teacher profile on School of Everything

Click here to browse School of Everything for more beaders