Meet the Designer-Artist
Where do you live?
Las Vegas, Nevada
Describe your artistic style.
I love intricate beadwork. The challenge for me in my more involved designs is to create a piece that invokes an emotion or clearly resembles a beautiful place on the planet.
What inspires you as a designer-artist?
The obvious, nature, in particular the ocean. Also, individuals. A long, elegant neck speaks to me. Ethnic beauty in so many different aspects.
What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Pearls, shells, anything from the ocean and crystal.
What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
The Tahitian Queen
What inspired this design?
The spectacular waters of Tahiti and a beautiful Tahitian woman named Hutia, born in paradise on Bora Bora.
How did it come together? For example, did you plan it out or did it define itself once you began working?
I had an initial visual in my mind with no idea how to begin until I found the lace appliqués and I could see that once they were dyed and wired, the look I had in mind could be achieved. Besides knowing the colors I wanted to incorporate, the piece definitely defined itself as it went along.
Share Your Background
When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I began over 40 years ago embellishing costumes and continued to do so during my 35 years as a professional dancer. Jewelry came later as an artistic release when I retired and grew into a passion over the past 5 years.
Who introduced you to beading?
A Chinese costume designer in Montreal in 1972. After that, I picked up different techniques and styles of embellishment and beadwork through my travels. My friend's mother gave me a dozen beading magazines 5 years ago and opened up a world of new beading techniques.
Do you have an artistic background?
Yes, ballet, acrobatics and adagio dancing. I also paint in acrylic, mostly dancers.
How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
My friend's mother, Kitty.
What other hobbies do you have?
Dancing, painting when there is time, and classic cars. My husband and I have restored many, including our present car, the GT40.
What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
It is the creative outlet that has found me since my retirement from dancing. It is as necessary as breathing for my sanity and, although nothing will replace my passion for adagio, when I manage to create something that is truly a piece of art, it is a close second.
If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
It started out a hobby and grew into a few festivals a year. Then placement in a few jewelry stores followed and the just-for-fun design competitions. Just recently I was approached at an art festival to create a line of jewelry specifically for the Red Rock Canyon Visitors Center just outside Las Vegas and the jewelry so far is being well received. I do have a website but do not sell online. I prefer a one-on-one personal approach with clients.
Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
Yes, whenever approached. Just recently I donated a piece for silent auction at a benefit for Baby's Bounty, a nonprofit organization that provides essentials to babies born into families living in poverty. The Las Vegas community is amazing in its involvement in charity events.
Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Let the jewelry take you where it wants to go. Be open to new techniques and, the big learning curve for me, try to move beyond the colors that speak to you. Experiment!
View all of Karen's designs in the Gallery of Designs.
What inspired you to donate your bead(s) to Circle of Hope?
Sadly I have known several women over the years who have succumbed to Breast Cancer and, happily, I know several who have battled and won against this disease, due largely to the strides made through research. When I saw the new Crystal Antique Pink Swarovski color it seemed to appear just in time to be used to create a bead for Circle of Hope. I hope in some small way it inspires others to become involved in helping to find a cure.
Fund the fight against breast cancer with your purchase of this one-of-a-kind focal! View the handmade focal donated by Karen Leslie Carmichael.