Bead Artist Teresa Meister Offers Advice: It’s About the Journey

As artists, it is important to remember where you started, and occasionally think back on how you’ve gotten to where you are now. Bead artist Teresa Meister, author of Creative Seed Bead Connections: Using Wire, Jump Rings, and Chain, explores her own reason for bead weaving and contemplates what drives her passion and design. Internationally known, Teresa’s Floral Chandelier Necklace appears in Beadwork Presents: Favorite Bead Stitches 2011.

Q: Can you please describe yourself and your work?

A: I am an introvert and prefer the intimacy of close relationships. In many ways, my work reflects that. I design very few statement pieces, but rather prefer smaller, quieter designs that invite you in for a closer look. The closer you look the more detail and delicacy is visible. Attention may be on any number of elements; the arrangement and repetition of small stitched components that build a larger structure or create a flow, unusual color combinations and textures, or the introduction of a surprise element like tiny links of chain intermixed with seed beads. There is a thread of quiet vitality and gracefulness that runs through my work, but it is always transforming and evolving as I am. My work is a reflection of me at the particular point in time it is designed.

Q: Why do you do what you do?

A: To see what arises from me without knowing the outcome. I create in order to discover who I am.

Q: What would you consider your specialty as far as your process goes?

A: For me the design process is about seeing something new and then sharing what I see with other people, and then looking for something new again. My forte is embracing where the unknown will lead and allowing the forming of something new. This also means I must be alert to recognizing when I am trying to take ownership of the process. When I force it to take shape in a particular way, I need to just stop and allow the process to resume and unfold in a natural way. It takes patience and a willingness to fail repeatedly. It is by no means a unique specialty, but it is a valuable one.

Teresa Meister Fandango pendant - seed beads, Czech beads, chain links

Inspired by the work of Miguel Ases and his use of circular brick stitch and Joan Eagle, the designer of Chipita Jewelry, and her integration of small links of chain in her jewelry designs, Teresa created the Fandango pendant out of seed beads, Czech beads, and chain links.

Q: Can you please describe a real life experience that inspired you?

A: Being present with my Mother-in-law over the last months of her life as she was dying inspired me to feel more deeply and to become very aware of how those feelings have the potential to drive my emotions and actions. Her transformation triggered a launching of my own.

Q: What is your favorite part of your work and why?

A: I love that this is the follow-up to the previous question. The favorite part of my work is feeling a rush that rises from my gut when I see the potential of a new piece emerging. It is an emotional excitement and it tells me to keep going. When my work takes a wrong turn, the rush may feel the same physically, but the emotion is one of unease and is a signal just to stop for a bit. These feelings are a call to attention. Therefore, my favorite part is not about the finished pieces or a body of work. It is about a design process that calls me to attend to my intuition and learning to listen to that. I know I’ve listened when the response creates a sense of well-being associated with a beautiful piece of jewelry.

Q: What part of your job as a jewelry artist is your least favorite and why?

A: My least favorite part of the job is promoting my work.

Q: Can you please describe what failure means to you?

A: Failure is integral to your process if you want a successful outcome. Failure permits us to locate and correct flaws, and make whatever you are making better and more satisfying. You won’t reach perfection, but failure pulls you in the right direction.

Q: What does success mean to you?

A: Success is active. It means taking risks, knowing failures are part of success and taking time to continue to craft.

Q: What is something we may not know about you?

A: I love to explore ideas by reading. Most recently, my explorations are about dreams and the ways dreams can enlighten us about ourselves.

Q: What is the best piece of advice someone has ever given you? This does not have to be work related.

A: “Don’t sweat the small stuff” comes to my very active mind. It doesn’t take much to trigger my imagination. My thoughts can manufacture some unnecessary drama. I am trying to be more aware when something trivial is about to drag my thoughts some place they don’t have to go.

Bead artist Teresa Meister stitched these beautiful earrings with Swarovski crystal beads, seed beads and chain

Made of seed beads, Swarovski beads, and chain, Teresa’s Heirloom Earrings are inspired by exploring the uses of chain with stitched components and how to create an earring with a lace-like look, yet still have a fairly substantial form. I found using short length of chain allowed for a nice swing in these earrings.

Q: What career project do you consider your biggest accomplishment to date?

A: My book, Creative Seed Bead Connections: Using Wire, Jump Rings, and Chain, was a big undertaking and a big accomplishment. It is a nice view into a body of my work that shares my enthusiasm for integrating bead weaving with wire. The book is written for bead-weavers. The projects are designed to build a bead-weaver’s skill and confidence when working with jump rings, chain and wire.

Q: What is one thing you do every workday that helps you be successful?

A: I take a few minutes every day to meditate.

Q: What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your career as a jewelry artist?

A: As a jewelry artist, I am still my biggest unexpected hurdle. I don’t take on some challenges that would help me to grow as jewelry artist and in business because I feel anxious or vulnerable. For example, I don’t like to fly so I limit my travel. I am self-conscious in front of a camera, so I am hesitant about making instructional videos.

Bead artist Teresa Meister stitched this amazing bracelet pattern with delicate, open and flowing dimension

Teresa’s Heirloom Bracelet evolved out of the techniques used in the Heirloom Earrings. Again, she plays with ways to construct a design whose qualities are delicate, open and flowing yet also have dimension and substance.

Q: What valuable piece of advice can you give to our readers that are aspiring to make a living off their jewelry making?

A: In good years, I supplement income from jewelry making but I don’t make a living off my jewelry making. While I can’t speak from personal experience I do see up close what it takes to make a living as a professional – lots of work, smarts and hustle, and a willingness to take risks. However, earning a living off jewelry making starts with possessing the skills and authentic vision to create a few pieces of jewelry that become the foundation of your work. Then with a devotion to your process, your work can continuously evolve and delight both you and your customers.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

A: Thanks for the questions. I wouldn’t have taken the time to query myself about these things without prompting. It is another unexpected benefit.

You can reach Teresa and see more of her work by visiting her website.

Photos courtesy of Teresa Meister.

How did you discover bead weaving? What have you gained from your efforts? What struggles have you encountered along the way? Please let us know in the comments, and make sure to take some time to remember how far you have come.


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