Kathy Ridgely Beal

Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
Boston's North Shore

Describe your artistic style.
My artistic style is to reflect grace and harmony with a touch of radiance and shimmer ... because we are all meant to shine!

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
I am inspired by the beauty that is around us every day. Living near the ocean, I often work with ocean colors. I also find that I am inspired by the beads and materials themselves.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
I love mixing new beads and vintage beads (and even old buttons) into my designs. One of my favorite things to do is to mix materials and textures into truly one-of-a-kind pieces. There are no rules to limit your creativity! Who says that crystals can't be mixed with wood or heavy precious metals can't be mixed with delicate pearls? I have been hired in several instances to take older jewelry that someone has inherited and turn it into a more suitable or current style so that the item doesn't just sit in a jewelry box collecting dust because the style is too outdated for the wearer!

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

What inspired this design?
The colors of the ocean and sky near my home.

How did it come together?
I put together a "bead soup" of various colors of beads--I wanted different textures and materials. Once I made the cuff form itself out of silver coated copper wire, I played with different combinations throughout the freeform style. It was a wonderfully fun process and since this first one, I have made similar cuffs in various color combinations.

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I started making jewelry in 2004 after my oldest son (then 12) became very ill with a rare condition and I had to stop working in order to take him to doctor's appointments, be with him during procedures and hospitalizations, and be home with him. One day, I wandered into a local bead shop for the first time with a girlfriend and just felt so at home and mesmerized with the beautiful colors of beads and all of the incredible shapes and textures. I had never made jewelry before but I made a pair of earrings that day and my passion for jewelry design was born!

Who introduced you to beading?
Rita Parent, the owner of Magpie Beads, the little shop I wandered into in Ipswich, MA. I ended up becoming an instructor there eventually. Sadly, the shop burned down several years ago.

Do you have an artistic background?
I learned to crochet when I was probably about 10 years old and always enjoyed working on colors and patterns with yarn. I now use some of those same crochet techniques in my jewelry design but use metal instead of yarn!

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®?
As a new jewelry designer, I was always asking around for new, good sources of beading materials and several people mentioned Fire Mountain. I love the huge catalogue, the updates, inspiration gallery and emails about specials. And the prices are very good.

What other hobbies do you have?
In addition to jewelry design, I love yoga. I find the same sense of relaxation and peace in both yoga and jewelry design!

Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
Not currently.

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
I may not have gotten very rich through my jewelry making but I always say that it truly has en-RICH-ed my life in so many ways. I have been a volunteer at Children's Hospital of Boston for 6 years now (where my son received some of his medical care). I work with adolescent and teen patients using jewelry making as art therapy. Some of the kids have gone on to be avid beaders and even have sold some of their designs. It is tremendously rewarding! I feel so lucky to work with these kids and families.

I also conduct jewelry making workshops at our local hospice. We make bracelets in memory of loved ones who have passed away. It is a powerful and beautiful experience to help people to design something to remember their loved ones and to share in their stories.

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I have two websites to sell my jewelry: www.theforeverbracelet.com and www.elysianjewels.com. I also sell at some craft fairs, hospitals and house parties.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I designed a bracelet, The Forever Bracelet, for people who have lost a loved one. The entire profits go to hospice and bereavement charities to help people grieving. It is one of the things I am most proud of in my life. The website is www.theforeverbracelet.com. I have gotten emails from people who have worn the bracelet at their loved ones' funeral and at other important occasions such as their child's wedding as a way to remember someone who has died.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
I tell the students, teens and the bereaved whom I work with to first and foremost, to have fun and to "play" with the beads and colors and materials ... to not pressure themselves but rather to think of "no rights and wrongs" and to design what feels right to them--to let their own voice and spirit shine through.