Beadwork Designer of the Year Beadweaving Artist Melissa Grakowsky Shippee

Behind the Scenes with Melissa

Melissa Grakowsky Shippee is a 2017 Beadwork Designer of the Year. Her Crystal Falls Earrings are featured in February/March 2017 Beadwork. We recently talked to Melissa about how she got started beading, how she uses color in her designs, and the inspiration for her 2017 DOY projects.

Beadwork Designer of the Year, Melissa Grakowsky Shippee


Q: How did you get started beading?

A: I started beading because I was home with a new baby, my son, who is now 10 years old, and I was incredibly bored. I had always done art and worked and gone to school, so just being home with a baby wasn’t stimulating enough for me. My good friend from college introduced me to his aunt’s bead store, and I was hooked! I learned from the store owner and employees, then started working at the store soon after. I learned all the basics about beading there, as well as how to write beading patterns and how to teach beadweaving.

Channeling Creativity

Q: Where do you get your design ideas? What inspires your creativity?

A: Shapes and patterns from the natural world are inspirational to me, as are the extreme designs found in haute couture fashion. I love the mathematical patterns found in nature and try to utilize mathematical relationships in my own work.


Q: Do you plan your designs in advance, or do you just let the creativity flow?

A: Most of the time I design with at least some idea of the finished piece in mind. Sometimes it goes easily and I’m able to produce almost exactly what I’m imagining. Other times, what I imagine doesn’t work out exactly and during the process the design changes based on the constraints of the materials I’m working with. Sometimes I start with a vague idea that becomes more clear once I get beading–again, based on the constraints of the beads and the thread.

Finding Your Way

Q: How do you get out of a creative rut?

A: The best thing to get myself out of a creative rut is to go outside and enjoy nature. When I feel relaxed and connected to the natural world, my creativity flows better. Stress is a big hindrance to creativity for me, and I find that when I de-stress my creativity comes back naturally. I can’t force it. If the muse isn’t with me, I focus on what I need to do for myself to allow it to come back, and thankfully, it always does.

Beadwork Designer of the Year, Melissa Grakowsky Shippee, Crystal Pendulum necklace.

Crystal Pendulum Necklace, Beadwork April/May 2016


Q: How do you approach the use of color in your designs?

A: I love contrasting colors, colors that are complimentary on the color wheel, and earthy colors like bronze, blue, and purple. Sometimes I start a design based on what colors I imagine in my head, or just a color palette I feel comfortable with and pick beads that I like to go with it. Sometimes I have a new focal bead or other kind of bead I want to use and pick colors that complement it. I often start with WAY more colors than I should, and as I work with them, I thin them out to fewer colors. I try to stick to two or three basic complementary colors in a piece and use them to play off each other.

So Many Favorites

Q: What’s your favorite stitch or technique, and why?

A: I don’t even know anymore! I like to use techniques together to produce unexpected results. I’ve just started using right-angle weave in the past couple of years and experimenting with how it can be used with netting, peyote stitch, and herringbone stitch to create structure, or laciness, or ropes. I wouldn’t call it my favorite, but I would say I’m kind of obsessed with it at the moment.


Q: What was the inspiration for your 2017 DOY projects?

A: I think it may be obvious from many of my DOY pieces that they’re inspired by the shapes and colors of nature. I was experimenting with some new bead shapes, because I’m also a 2017 Starman TrendSetter–so some of my designs came out of grappling with these new beads and how to use them in structural pieces.

Beadwork Designer of the Year, Melissa Grakowsky Shippee, Crystal Falls earrings.

Crystal Falls Earrings



See more of Melissa’s work at MGS Designs, and watch for the rest of Melissa’s Designer of the Year projects in upcoming issues of Beadwork magazine.

Lavon Peters
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine

For more on Melissa read: Beadwork Designer of the Year Melissa Grakowsky Shippee

or Create Beaded Designs Filled with Sparkle and Light, with Melissa Grakowsky Shippee

Get the February/March Beadwork magazine in our shop!


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