How I Turned an Itty-Bitty Hobby into a Raging Addiction

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I have been a crafter all my life. A couple of knitting years produced a sweater for every kid I knew and a few that I didn’t. During my needlepoint, petit point and crewel phase I covered my walls and those canvases are all still staring back at me forty years later despite having been in storage for ten years during the full-time RVing stage of my life.

During that phase I took up beadwork because I was living in a home-on-wheels so small that, as my friends and family delicately put it “even the mice walk around hunchback” and they were not impressed that I could open and retrieve something from my refrigerator without getting out of bed.

I created earrings, necklaces, bracelets – just about everything that every other new beader created. There was nothing that revved up my excitement button and although I always felt a twinge of guilt because my long departed, immigrant mother worked in a factory beading hats for many years and I knew she hated it, I continued.

Even as my fingers gently massaged the beads – putting colours and textures together that I had not seen before, I had that gut feeling that the education my mother insisted I get was somehow mocking her. I couldn’t help myself.  After all, it was just a hobby.

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As the author of many adventure-travel books, doing book signings whenever and wherever I could and wanting something new and different to work with I mentioned to my friend Ingrid, the Vendor Coordinator at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference that I had hundred of pictures on my computer and if I could figure out something to do with them, could I display and sell them at my table.

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It took her a couple of seconds to think about it but she finally said, “sure – why not.”

I paired my photography – using the colours in the photo with the same colours in the beads – to create a most unique line of bookmarks. It didn’t take long before every book sale included a beaded bookmark sale and suddenly my excitement button was nudged.

Not long after that I was a vendor at another craft show. There were beaded tree of life wall hangings in six, eight and ten inch hoops and I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I had always wanted to make them but had no idea how to start. Since it was possibly the slowest craft show I had ever attended I walked around the show and stopped a number of times to admire them. I finally broke the ice and told Karen, the creator of those gorgeous pieces of art, how beautiful they were and  how I always wanted to make them. She suggested watching a specific tutorial on YouTube. I was speechless.

“No,” I said. “I wouldn’t do that. We could end up at the same craft show and it wouldn’t be fair. I wouldn’t do that to you,” I said.

“No. It’s okay,” she said. “We won’t be at the same craft show.”

“How can you be so sure?” I asked. “I’m old but I do get around pretty well.”

Her response took my breath away.

“I have Stage 4 breast cancer,” she said. “This is my last craft show.”

Like my bookmarks, my trees of life are unique and beautiful, in honour or Karen. Rather than straight hoops, I create a three inch braided hoop to match the colour of the beads and rather than a wall hanging – “if you have an ample bosom you can wear it as a pendant – if not – stick it on a wall,” I say to each potential customer and it always gets a laugh.

I have now added wire weaving to the mix and my addiction is mushrooming out of control but for the moment I have to let the cuts heal on my fingers before I prepare my first custom order.

Besides, I am learning so much about working with wire that it deserves a story of its own.



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