Mae Barraclough

Mae Barraclough

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2010 featuring Crystal


Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
I recently relocated to the vibrant, crafty city of Portland, Oregon from my hometown of Ashland, Oregon.

Describe your artistic style.
Updated old-world. Romantic, sumptuous, imaginative. Dimensional and super-detailed.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
The flora and fauna of nature and mythology and the verdant area in my mind where they meet to play. Many times my approach is to feel into the unique qualities of the materials at hand, discover the layered associations they bring up for me, and take it from there.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
I love to crochet with silver, brass, and copper wire and embellish the forms with crystal, freshwater pearl, gemstones, and glass. No glues, just crochet hooks, wires and pliers.

What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
La Dorada Necklace

What inspired this design?
The title is a play on the idea of the mythic city of El Dorado, and could maybe be translated to mean "The Golden Lady." Every edge is "gilded" with Dorado 2X crystals.

How did it come together?
I wanted to create a multi-station, multi-level piece with different shaped motifs that would really showcase my skills for the contest. After many divergent sketches, I settled loosely on this design idea and ran with it.

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
My bead obsession began when I was very small. One of my earliest memories is being held by my grandmother and playing with her long strand of beads, fascinated. I loved all kinds of arts and crafts growing up, but again and again I gravitated toward jewelry making. Going to the bead store and filling my tray with sparkling, colorful beads was always the biggest treat in the world. It still is!

Who introduced you to beading?
My mother and my stepmother both beaded occasionally, so this is where I found out that one could actually make the beautiful beaded jewelry that I so admired. When I was about ten, I took a wire working class from a fabulous Ashland bead store called the Bead Studio. That's when I got serious, making wire wrapped necklaces for everyone I knew. I learned to crochet around the same time from an elderly neighbor in between neighborhood games of dominoes. It took me several years to make the connection between crochet and beading, but once I did, I was totally hooked (pun intended).

Do you have an artistic background?
I have no formal training or artists in my family, but I have always loved to find my own twist on a wide range of arts and crafts. All throughout college, I worked at the Bead Studio, where I had been shopping since I was a little girl. This is where I really began to push myself as a jewelry artist and became a professional beader, honing my skills and teaching classes in a variety of beading techniques. I was a resident artist for one year at an Ashland gallery called Studio 5 before becoming a studio artist at the Ashland Art Center for about one year up until my recent move to Portland. My educational background is actually in Biology and Psychology but I have abandoned those pursuits for the time being to focus on my art.

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®?
When my local bead store didn't have something or enough of something I needed, I would always order from Fire Mountain. Fire Mountain keeps me in supplied with crystals, which is no small feat considering how many I go through!

What other hobbies do you have?
I absolutely love to read. The rare times I am not reading or beading, I can usually be found on my way to the library or the bead store.

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
I am currently a full-time jewelry artist. I recently quit my day jobs to focus exclusively on my art, and I will continue to do so for as long as I can support it. It is my dream to support myself completely through my art and eventually open a bead store and a cooperative studio/gallery.

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I have a web gallery at and an Etsy boutique at I sell in shops throughout Oregon and hold the occasional trunk show.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
In Ashland, I donated beadwork to charity auctions. I would like to do so in Portland as well, and my larger goal of opening a studio/gallery would involve charitable programs as well as community education outreach.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Spend time getting to know your artistic self and developing a clear vision of what is unique about your art. Discover what truly inspires you through experimentation and let intuition be your guide. What materials feel right in your hands? What colors images, themes, and textures speak to your heart? Be yourself, nothing less and nothing more, as big as you want to be, and others will resonate with the purity of your expression.

View all of Mae's designs in the Gallery of Designs.