Joyful Discovery: Bead Artist Carol Cypher
“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” —Julia Child
Carol Cypher’s enthusiasm is absolutely contagious. Whether she’s talking about her favorite bead stitches, ways to jumpstart your imagination, or any of her other interests, her passion shines through. She’s taken that energy and imagination and turned it into a livelihood. Carol’s colorful, eye-catching jewelry takes her around the world to share her favorite beading and felting techniques with fellow enthusiasts.
ABOVE: Carol Cypher uses polygon stitch to create beaded bezels for Swarovski stones that are just as lovely on the back as they are on the front.
In 2001, Carol left her career as a chef and dietary manager to pursue teaching beadwork and feltmaking full-time. She had been teaching workshops on the side for a few years and building up the confidence she needed to leave her steady paycheck behind. Carol believes, “Arranging workshops around my day job allowed me to be in the company of people I enjoy and doing what I love.” She decided she would try her new business for five years and then reevaluate. Her local workshops led to classes farther afield, and she has built a business based on her creativity.
Carol has been practicing mindfulness meditation for years. Originally, it was a way to deal with a stressful job, but it has become a mainstay in her life. She studied with Ernie Shaw, MD, a protege of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is a pioneer of the mind-body connection and founder of MBSR (Mindfully Based Stress Reduction). She shares, “If I feel myself getting frantic, I start counting my breath and I can see my heart rate coming down on my smartwatch.” Once she began to get serious about beading, Carol noticed that her heart rate slows when she’s deep into a beading project, too.
When Carol is weaving beads, she finds that “The only thing that matters is the next bead. Everything else is out of focus.” In her workshops, Carol encourages students to relax while doing their beadwork because it makes the experience more pleasant, and they can absorb the stress-relieving benefits of their work.
At home, Carol’s husband says, “Sweetheart don’t you have some beading to do?” when he notices her stress level rising. It makes her laugh, and it’s a good reminder that beading really does calm her down. She thinks more people should try beading as meditation because it helps slow down their heart rates—plus, it has the extra benefit of resulting in a finished piece of jewelry.
The Joy of Color
Carol’s passion for color knows no limits. She says, “Color rocks my world. There are color combinations that just plain make me happy. I recently purchased a fun, colorful dishtowel for $2. It was made in India of 100% cotton and flat-out makes me glad when I see it. So, I had to buy a few more, and now I have one at my place-setting, in my studio, on my recliner, in my car, and in my handbag, just in case.” She finds color inspiration in all kinds of outside-the-box places.
Carol also loves the fact that beadwork and felting are both based on composing with little bits of color. She sees beads as pops of color that can stand alone or be woven together in myriad ways. Her feltwork started because she had so many small pieces of wool roving leftover from one of her other loves: spinning. Carol likes the synergy that happens when she mixes beads and felt together and says, “I’m intrigued by the tiny bits of glass sparkle against the matte surface of felt.” She encourages her students to use their imaginations to create new color and textures combinations.
Hobby Turned Business
Carol’s beadwork occupies the better part of most of her days, where she admits, “Actual beading is only a portion of the activities involved. When in a creative frenzy, I grab my morning coffee and get right into the studio and dig in. My devices alert me to get up and move or drink a glass of water every hour. Otherwise, I could just sit and bead and bead and bead.” She credits Craft-Optics magnifying eyewear with an attached light and Tulip Beading Needles with making it possible to bead longer and more comfortably.
To a beader who aspires to turn their beading into a business, Carol suggests considering which potential streams of income best utilize their talents. She says her friend Robin McLaughlin is a “talented beadworker and salesperson. Carol makes her living selling her beadwork at fine craft and art shows. She enjoys customer interactions and the challenges of making and closing a sale. Through devotion to her customers and the quality of her beadwork, she has cultivated many enthusiastic followers and collectors. On the other hand, selling my beadwork is not my forte, but teaching totally delights me. I revel in the challenge of finding the best approach for each person. It gains me access to various groups of ‘my tribe.’ It takes me to countries and places I have not been.”
Teaching is the foundation of Carol’s creative business, and she goes to great lengths to make sure her students get the most out of their classes. She observes, “I go into every class hoping the students see me as a generous teacher. I like to think that I am infinitely patient because I know that no matter the pace, the students (almost all adults) will eventually get it. So, I try to find the best ways to help people get there.”
Carol also suggests checking into selling patterns or kits online, in stores, or at shows; monetizing videos; selling beadwork through Etsy; writing books and articles; and other creative streams of income. She has had success developing a marketing relationship with one of her favorite manufacturers, Tulip. She made some suggestions about Tulip Beading Needles that have since become reality, she has been to Japan many times as Tulip’s guest, and she is a distributor and marketer for the needles in the United States.
When Carol learned that Interweave wanted to title her beading book Mastering Beadwork, she was ecstatic. She explains, “Julia Child is one of my heroes and her masterpiece is called Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I love the similarity of the titles. A couple of years after my book was published, a reader got in touch to tell me she was working her way through Mastering Beadwork, project by project, just like the character in the movie Julia & Julia.” That really brought Carol’s interests full circle and is a moment she won’t forget.
While Carol refuses to identify a single stitch as her favorite, she is on a mission to explore and expand the potential and appreciation for African helix and polygon stitches. Carol observes, “Both are tubular work, though I have devised a technique for flat beadwork, based on the thread path of polygon stitch. African helix has a graceful swirl, and polygon stitch creates faceted ropes. Beading these stitches for the first time may seem unfamiliar because an armature is traditionally used. Keeping an open mind, you may find you welcome using an armature, especially for the first few rounds of any tubular beadwork.”
Contact Carol Cypher
Carol is a creative soul, giving instructor, and innovative designer whose passion for beading, feltwork—and life—is infectious. I enjoyed interviewing Carol so much! I hope you can feel her encouraging vibes coming through in this article. Visit Carol’s website, www.CarolCypher.com, for links to her YouTube channel, workshops, Tulip Beading Needles, and contact information.
Interim Managing Editor, Beadwork