Things to Bead Around: Sticks from Lake Champlain

Do you feel the need to branch out a bit in your beading? Well, all puns aside, my newest beading project obsession is beading around sticks!

The beach on Lake Champlain, looking towards Vermont. Photo by Sharon Schenckel.

I'm lucky enough that I get to live in what I think is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, near the shores of Lake Champlain. The weather up here can be a bit unpredictable — in the last two years, we've had record-breaking snowstorms, floods and tornadoes! But living in the middle of these beautiful forests, rivers and lakes is really a very important part of what inspires me and my beadwork. The colors and shapes I see in nature provide many of the ideas I translate into beading projects.

During the winter, I love to take my son for a walk along the beach and we collect rocks and sticks that have been tumbled and polished smooth by the water. Just after New Year's, we took one of our walks with some relatives who were visiting for the holidays, and my niece helped me collect some very beautiful and interesting-looking sticks for me to start beading.

Beading around sticks is nothing new. Native Americans have been using natural objects for beading for hundreds of years, and both Wendy Ellsworth and artist NanC Meinhardt both have used sticks as the foundation for some beautiful beading projects that are also a source of self-exploration and spiritual growth.

My niece helped me pick out this assortment of sticks from a beach on Lake Champlain.

I chose these sticks with the help of my niece because of the things they reminded me of when I saw them lying on the beach. Their shapes and even the colors of the water-washed wood gave me inspiration, and my recent trip to Tucson gave me some new color palettes to explore.

Choosing a stick. Choosing your sticks is really a very personal process. Find a patch of trees or a beach that holds meaning for you, or set out to explore a new part of your world. While you take a quiet walk, look around to see what speaks to you or what makes a connection in your mind. Try not to choose a stick that's too large or too difficult for you to carry out with you. You might meditate on a recent event or a question you have while looking for your stick.

Preparing your stick. Once you're ready to bead your stick, it's usually a good idea to clean it with a mild detergent and allow it to fully dry. You can carefully remove any rough patches of bark with a Dremel tool and smooth out other bumps with sand paper. If your stick has lots of little branches on it, feel free to nip them off with a small saw or clipper to make it a pleasing shape.

Then…just bead it! I've picked out a palette of colors for my stick, and I'll go with it and see where it leads. As I bead, I'll probably add some cabochons, buttons and maybe even some fibers to finish it. The beauty of making a beaded stick is that it can really turn into a wonderful mixed-media project that uses whatever craft supplies you might have handy.

Beading a stick can be a wonderful way of marking a transition or commemorating a special event in your life. I also like to look at this kind of beading project as a way to get me back in touch with the natural world around me.

What kind of unusual object from nature have you wanted to bead around? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!


Bead Happy,


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