Studio Sunday: Bead Society Spotlight

Bead Society Spotlight: Coastal Bead Society, Tiny Treasures Exhibit

When it comes to creativity, sometimes the smallest things make the biggest impact; the tiniest seed of an idea can be planted and then blossom into something incredible.

For the Coastal Bead Society (CBS, www.coastalbeadsociety.org), that seed came in the form of a seed bead, and it has developed into a six-week-long gallery exhibit in Savannah, Georgia, titled “Tiny Treasures.” The exhibit, opening December 2, will feature approximately 250 pieces of beaded art from about 40 of CBS’s members.

Peacock Necklace, bead embroidery, Coastal Bead Society, handmade

Since 2004, CBS has been quietly beading under the radar in the Savannah area. The group of 78 members is an eclectic mix of beaders, wire workers, stringers, and fiber artists, and the depth of talent among them is immediately evident in person. Although CBS members proudly wear their creations to monthly group meetings, most people outside of the society don’t get the chance to see their amazing work.

As CBS’s president, Tana Flagg wanted to change that. “One of my goals was to seek out opportunities to showcase the skills and talents of CBS members, and to elevate knowledge of beading in our communities,” said Flagg.

And she knew just how to do it. Flagg has taught and attended classes offered through Savannah’s Department of Cultural Affairs. She also frequents the monthly gallery show openings, and it was through those that she saw an opportunity for CBS to show the community what beading is really about. Flagg submitted an exhibit proposal to the Department of Cultural Affairs, and in January 2016 it was accepted.

Since that day, CBS members have been hard at work preparing for the exhibit. First, a title and description for the show had to be determined. This was no easy task. How do you sum up such a diverse range of work with only a couple of words?
Collar, bead embroidery, Coastal Bead Society, handmade
After much discussion and brainstorming, the committee thought they had captured the spirit of the show with BEADS: Beading, Education, Artistry, Design, and Sharing. But this idea was rejected for fear that it wasn’t catchy enough for the press to latch on to. An emergency meeting was called, and it was then that the final show name—Tiny Treasures, which was plucked from the descriptive blurb written by CBS’s Online Presence Director, Michelle Gowland—was decided.

“When we changed the [exhibit] name, I panicked a little,” laughed Gowland. “We worked so hard to come up with the initial title—but not nearly as hard as we’ve worked on everything else.”

A small group of CBS’s members, many of whom also serve on the board, began to tackle the monumental task of organizing the exhibit. There was a lot to be done, including conceiving a cohesive look for the show; collecting, inventorying, photographing, and cataloging artwork; compiling educational information about the history of beading; gathering displays and wall decor; and the list went on. And as with any large project, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
Red Collar, bead embroidery, Coastal Bead Society, handmade
Hurricane Matthew hit Georgia in the midst of CBS’s exhibit planning, forcing the cancellation of the society’s October committee meeting—a crucial time in the planning period. The storm even hit the home of the member who was storing much of the show’s artwork. She was forced to evacuate, and her home suffered a tree through its roof. Fortunately, all the jewelry was safe and sound!

Many other people also had to evacuate the area, including about half of the committee. Around this same time, Diane Fitzgerald was scheduled to teach beading classes in the area, but she was forced to reschedule because of the storm.

Fortunately, the sun often shines after a heavy rain. Diane’s rescheduled visit now coincides with the Tiny Treasures exhibit’s opening weekend. The opportunity to attend the show will allow Diane to reconnect with her Savannah students in a whole new way.

Now only days away from the event, thousands of hours of planning and preparation are finally about to bear fruit.

The exhibit will be held at 9 West Henry Street in downtown Savannah’s hip Riverfront area. Opening night is December 2, and the show will run through January 20, 2017.
Steampunk, bead embroidery, Coastal Bead Society, handmade
The CBS committee is hoping for a big turnout on opening night and throughout the coming weeks. The exhibit is a destination on Savannah’s December First Friday Art March, which will bring plenty of visitors. Members of CBS will be offering demonstrations of various beading techniques so that visitors can interact with the artists and witness the precise and time-consuming processes behind each beaded piece of art.

Story and photos courtesy of:
Michelle Gowland
Online Presence Director
Coastal Bead Society

Model: Erica Bogdanowitz

Coastal Bead Society membership dues are $25 a year. For information on how to join, visit www.coastalbeadsociety.org.