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  • Carolyn Cave

How it all began...

What was your first ever beading project?


When I was a child I dabbled in all sorts of craft because my mother enjoyed making things. She taught me how to sew, knit and crochet. She had a small tin of beads, which I would string and then take apart. One summer my cousin taught craft at a church vacation bible school and she gave me an extra loom, made from cardboard, which I warped and used to make a bracelet from seed beads. That was enjoyable, but at that point I liked sewing and knitting more. That love continued well into my adult years and even once I was married and had three daughters.

So where did you go from here?


Several things happened in close succession, which ignited my fire for beads. The first was that I was invited to a pearl party where beautiful necklaces were made from pearls attached to gold tiger-tail wire. Second, I went to my local fabric store, which also had a craft department, and discovered that you could buy pearls in packages. I didn’t know this was possible because I thought that quality pearls were only available in a jeweller’s shop. So I bought some, as well as tiger-tail, and made a few necklaces. Third, I was given a pair of earrings made by my niece. I liked the design very much but they needed some adult intervention. So I went to the local bead store and discovered a whole store full of shiny round things with holes in them. And fourth, I bought a copy of Bead and Button magazine that featured articles made for the annual Bead Dreams competition. Well that opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities!

Having been given permission by my mother to play with her fabrics and yarns, I was not afraid to experiment and to create whatever I wanted to, without a pattern. This served me well because I began playing and experimenting with beads. My family loves books so I bought books, and learned through reading and looking. Several were a significant influence in my beading journey – Bead Fantasies by Takako Samejima, the “Beading With…” Series published by Interweave (which covered the basic stiches like herringbone, peyote and brick), The Art and Elegance of Beadweaving by Carol Wilcox Wells, and Beading with Cabochons by Jamie Cloud Eakin.

When we moved from Australia to Canada, my family joined a lapidary club. There we learned how to shape stones into cabochons that I could turn into jewellery by adding beads. About ten years ago I submitted a couple of my beadweaving designs to Bead and Button magazine and was actually published! This was exciting and gave me courage to design more pieces and larger items. Since then I have made many beaded articles, with and without stones, which reside in tins that used to have chocolate in them. Over the past decade my designs have been published many times, and have even written two books, Beautiful Designs with SuperDuo and Twin Beads and Stitching with a Handful of Beads, both published by Kalmbach Books. I am part of the Beadsmith’s Inspiration Squad and in 2018 was a Featured Artist for the Toho Challenge. This challenge piece is the largest piece I have made, and is certainly a far cry from the early strung necklaces I made as a child.

I think my beading style could be called conservative but entirely wearable. After all what is the point of stitching an article of beadwork that you can’t wear every day, or to the office, or to a concert? It tends to be floral-inspired and floral-looking with a bit of vintage thrown in. I have to challenge myself to make something more geometric every now and then. I also like to use beads in ways that they are not usually used. I boss the beads around and tell them what I want them to do. This takes some engineering, as I like to call it. My husband is a professional Electrical Engineer (PEng) but I am a BEng!

What advice would you give to other people who are just starting out in the world of beading?


Practice, practice and practice some more. Take some classes or buy books, to familiarize yourself with the basic bead stitches, and practice them. I have a Degree in Music. I didn’t learn how to play several instruments without spending time practicing and improving my skills and techniques. Don’t be satisfied with a little. Try more, try better, try bigger, and ask the question, "What would happen if…". I have discovered that one design aspect always leads to several more ideas, and I find it hard to know what not to include in my piece.

For someone starting in their beadweaving journey, I would also say that there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn and grow.

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