Beadwork Designer Laura Graham Shares Her Love of Shaped Beads

Laura Graham started beading as a way to cope with a serious medical diagnosis. She now beads every day, runs an Etsy shop, and teaches her designs. Laura is one of our 2018 Designers of the Year, and her Aurelia Collar is featured in Beadwork February/March 2018. Learn how Laura got started beading and why she loves shaped beads.

Laura Graham

Beading Inspiration

Q: How did you get started beading?
A: I started beading in late 2007 after I was diagnosed with lupus. I was out of work and depressed, and I was looking for an inexpensive way to make Christmas gifts to fill some of my empty hours. I stopped in a bead store, and I was immediately hooked. (How little I knew . . . inexpensive — ha!)

Q: What inspires your creativity?
A: I’m mostly inspired by all the new beads. The shapes and multiple holes get my mind thinking of new ways to create. I’m also inspired by architecture and geometric patterns.

Shaped Beads

Bubbling Over Pinks Bracelet, available on Etsy; Tessellations Collar, Beadwork August/September 2015

Q: Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you just let the creativity flow?
A: Very little planning goes into my designs. Often, one project will spawn another. The rest of the time, the beads tell me what to do.

Q: How do you get out of a creative rut?
A: Beader’s block happens, and sometimes you have to let it run its course. I will clean and organize, pull apart or finish UFOs [unfinished objects], or play with another media such as paper crafts. Sometimes I’ll go back and remake an older design or try another artist’s pattern, which usually sparks a new idea.

Q: How do you approach the use of color in your designs?
A: I love color! Big, bold color! I actually have a hard time working in muted and neutral tones; doing so takes some thought and challenges me more than working in my favorite blues, purples, and metallics.

shaped beads

Knight’s Armor Bracelet and Collar, available on Etsy

Using Shaped Beads

Q: What’s your favorite stitch or technique?
A: With the new multi-hole beads, the stitches I use are modified, but I work mostly with right-angle weave and some peyote stitch. These stitches are so versatile. If I want to sit and relax, I will do a peyote-stitched project such as a Cellini spiral.

Q: What’s was the inspiration for your 2018 Designer of the Year projects?
A: Being honored with this title, I wanted to use my favorite beads but elevate my designs and give the finished pieces more of a traditional beaded feel by using more crystals and seed beads. I tried to get away from my typical hard-line, geometric feel and go with more flowing, softer shapes. My ultimate goal is to inspire people who’ve said they would never work with the new shaped beads to try them!

Laura’s Aurelia Collar, Beadwork February/March 2018

Q: What message do you have for other beaders?
A: I want people who consider themselves “traditional” beaders to try shaped beads. Those who have been strictly seed bead folks seem to be against the new shapes. To me, shaped beads are just another tool for creating something beautiful. Break out of the norm and try something different! If you don’t know what to buy, try a kit. Shaped beads are fun and add so much to our craft.

To see more of Laura’s work, visit her Etsy shop, Desert Star Creations. And find more of Laura’s Designer of the Year projects in upcoming issues of Beadwork magazine!

Lavon Peters
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine

Find Laura’s designs in Beadwork magazine!


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