4 Easy Ways to Personalize Your Beaded Jewelry

I was invited to a fancy party recently, and realized I had nothing proper to wear. Ever since my daughter made me throw away all my "fat" clothes and anything I hadn't worn in a year, my wardrobe has become pretty slim. I knew my friend Annie Singer was selling her jewelry at a local pop-up shop (one that's only occasionally open) where there would also be one-of-a-kind designer and vintage clothing, so I thought I'd give it a try. When I arrived, I told Annie of my clothing dilemma. That's all it took; she mobilized her fellow vendors, and they all got into "dress Jean" mode. Various arms holding onto hangers kept jutting through the curtain of my dressing room while I heard the ladies speak to one another outside: "How about this sweater with that skirt?" "What size is she again?" And "Oh, no, no, no, that's not right for evening." I came away with an armful of really great vintage clothing that looked just like "me," nothing cookie-cutter about these ensembles at all. The crowning jewel of the visit was a pair of used Stuart Weitzman gold wedges that made every outfit look like I'd just stepped out of a fashion shoot. They made me feel glamorous and pulled together.

Assembling outfits from disparate sources, as those ladies did for me that day, takes talent. It's kind of what we do as beaders, too, isn't it? We pull together things from the bead shop shelves, pair it with things we already have from our stashes, and assemble everything into pieces that are uniquely us. Because we're usually assembling things from what we have on hand, our pieces turn out to be a personal statement, showing exactly how our creativity works. Flexing your creativity by pulling your elements together definitely shows off the artistic side of who you are, but here are four more ways you can personalize your jewelry so that none of your pieces have that cookie cutter look:

Incorporate Mementos

This idea evokes the charm bracelet but is so much more personal. Instead of purchased charms, add mementos from the flotsam and jetsam of your everyday life to your designs. Find little metal, stone, shell, or wooden things that remind you of special events, childhood memories, or vacations (as I did here, with these shells from a trip to Florida). Drill holes into the piece to form a charm. You can even go as far as altering the new little charm by painting it, singeing it, or adding resin to it, making it look even more "you."

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Use photos

I actually love adding family photos to my jewelry designs. Make sure to seal the photographs (especially if you're using photocopies) properly with a non-water-based sealant or clear packing tape, glue them securely to a button, bezel, or locket, and bind them in with resin. For this bracelet, I added photos to the face of metal buttons with shanks for instant charms.

Bead your own findings

I created a big wild ceramic beads necklace that ended up looking like a Hawaiian lei. It was so lush that I hated to finish it with a metal clasp. Instead, I stitched my own clasp using one of the ceramic beads as the toggle. This treatment made the necklace have a beautiful visual flow as well as showed off a little of my beaderly flair.


Make your own focal bead

This is another one of my favorite ideas: Use permanent stamping ink to stamp a domino or flat shell bead. Once dry, go in and color the outline with permanent markers. Instant personalization! Not only can you choose exactly the image you'd like to display in your piece, you can show off what a wonderful colorer you are.

These are just four of the myriad ways to put your special stamp on your jewelry designs, staying away from the cookie-cutter look. Another great way is to wirework your own findings, which, just like my snazzy new gold wedges, can be the stunning finish to a beautiful piece. Want some great ideas for making your own findings? Check out the brand-new book by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson, Handcrafted Wire Findings. It has dozens of great ideas for creative clasps, bails, rings, and more that will help you shout "ME!" with every design you make.

Happy beading-

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