Advice and Fame: Sherry Serafini Shares Her Life as a Bead Artist

Beadwork Designer of the Year 2011, Sherry Serafini, lectures and teaches classes around the world. Named one of the top ten instructors in the United States by Bead & Button magazine, Sherry owns Serafini Beaded Jewelry, which features her unique bead embroidery designs. In this interview, Sherry shares her own experiences as a bead artist, including working with celebrities, the struggles she has encountered along the way, and some advice for bead artists looking to start their own business.

Sherry Serafini

Sherry Serafini

Q: Can you please describe yourself and your work?
A: I feel my artwork is a reflection and an extension of myself, so I must say unpredictable and a little weird at times. Yet, at other times, very safe and unassuming. What comes out in my art is what is in my life and my mood at the time. I create jewelry art utilizing bead embroidery as my chosen medium. I not only create but also travel extensively doing workshops across the world.

Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: Because I have to! It’s what drives me. If I didn’t create I couldn’t breathe and then I would die. I also have to survive and make a living. I don’t have a side job…this is what I do.

Q: What would you consider your specialty as far as your process goes?
A: Bead embroidery. It’s the most freeing type of bead work because I don’t have to follow a pattern or rules.

Q: Could you describe a real life experience that inspired you?
A: There are so many. Every day is a day for learning and being inspired if you open your heart. I would have to say that meeting Steven Tyler was one of my greatest inspirational moments. The creative atmosphere changed me forever and his energy is intoxicating. There was incense and scarves flowing in the dressing room and art everywhere. I remember I could ‘feel’ the music and felt alive and I immediately ‘saw’ beadwork in my head and was never creatively the same. I’ve been much freer in my thinking when I create because of it.

Sherry Serafini

Demon’ of Screamin’ A Dedication to Tyler and Perry was inspired by The Laura Mears skulls.

Q: What is your favorite part of your work and why?
A: My favorite part of my work is that I can be creative and experiment with new ideas presenting them to my audience/students. The older I get the bolder I get with playing around with unusual elements. Sometimes it’s well received and sometimes it’s not!

Q: What part of your job as a jewelry artist is your least favorite and why?
A: My least favorite part is pressure and deadlines. Sometimes months go by and I don’t get to do anything ‘fun’ because I have deadlines looming. I’m always grateful for the deadlines, but just wish I could get through them faster so I can just BEAD fun stuff!

Barnacles by Sherry Serafini.

Barnacles by Sherry Serafini.

Q: Can you please describe what failure means to you?
A: Failure shouldn’t be something to be feared. To me failing means not trying. If you fail in the trying, then you actually learned something, you didn’t fail. I recall the first time I tried to get into a local artist guild in Pittsburgh. I received a score of 40…anything below 60 was failure. AACCK!! Did I ever cry when I received that review! Well after a week of feeling sorry for myself, I actually read the criticisms from the jury and took a good look at my work. I refined it and threw myself into it whole-heartedly. I went back 6 months later and tried to jury in again. This time I received a perfect score. And guess what! After a year of being a member of the guild, I became a juror and a member of the board.

Q: What does success mean to you?
A: Success is normally implied when you perceive you have achieved something in life, which you value. I think real success comes when one learns to understand oneself. It is a journey within, and when one discovers something about oneself, it brings everlasting.

Barnacles is formed using Makustudios pods, wooden rings, seed beads, cheesecloth, freshwater pearls, and glass pearls.

Barnacles is formed using Makustudios pods, wooden rings, seed beads, cheesecloth, freshwater pearls, and glass pearls.

Q: What is something we may not know about you?
A: Fred Flintstone and Popeye rule! My plan was to become a cartoon illustrator. I adore drawing cartoons and still watch them to this day. I had a whole series of characters and in 6th grade tried to get them published in a local newspaper. Even now there are times when I incorporate my cartoons into my work.

Q: What is the best piece of advice someone has ever given you? This does not have to be work related.
A: Be yourself. Don’t try to become what others want you to be.

Q: What career project do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?
A: Back to Aerosmith for that one. Hands down my biggest accomplishment was doing the backstage passes for the bands tour with Lenny Kravitz. I created the beadwork and they photographed it for their laminates. To my knowledge it’s the first time it’s been done!

Q: What is one key thing you do every workday that helps you be successful?
A: My day starts between 4 and 5 a.m. I meditate/pray in the mornings. For blessings on my creativity…for peace…wisdom…all this while walking the dogs. If I don’t do this early in the day to ground myself the day takes off and gets messy with phone calls, texts, demands…(by the weekend I am a total hermit and shut everything off.)

Q: What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your career as a jewelry artist?
A: Sadly, the hurdles came from some people in my life. They tried to hold me down and told me I was shooting too high with my goals and would not be successful. I am very happy to say that I now maintain a safe distance from those negative people.

Sherry Serafini

Inner Animal was created when Sherry saw a pile of beads that accumulated on her table in a pile from three other projects. They all seemed to work together and made her want to make something out of them, and she found the cab with the tiger to match and just started to go for it.

Q: What were some of the unexpected benefits in your career as jewelry artist?
A: The incredible, wonderful, beautiful, fabulous people I’ve met in this industry and my awesome students. Truly, I value the relationships I’ve made along the way and am so blessed to live a life surrounded with the best friends in the world…even though they are scattered all over the world.

Q: What valuable piece of advice can you give to our readers that are aspiring to make a living off their jewelry making?
A: Hmmm…my first thought is don’t under estimate yourself. I see so many people spend weeks on a piece of jewelry and put it on Etsy for $40. Remember the materials and time…AND imagination you put into that piece. I also think it’s important to find your correct market. And never give up if it’s your dream and desire. I’ve had a lot of doors close, but if you keep the faith another opens. I think too it’s important to develop your own personal style. Learn from others…we all do and then make your art your ‘own’ by creating what’s deep in your heart. It will show in your designs and people will be drawn to it.

—Jill MacKay

Photos courtesy of Sherry Serafini.

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