Melissa Grakowsky

Melissa Grakowsky
Grand Prize Gold Medal Winner

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Contest 2010 featuring Pearls, Organic Beads and Kato Polyclay™


Melissa Grakowsky

Grand Prize Silver Medal Winner

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Contest 2009 Crystal Category

"My design process is hard to describe. Because I have so little time to sit down and actually stitch, when I do, it is an incredibly intense, focused activity. Often the only thing I can remember about the experience is a feeling that I associate with the piece as it is coming into existence. With Cultivation, I remember wanting the piece to feel very fertile, as if the necklace was just bursting forth with life. The name is a reflection on the uniquely human process of growing and caring for the things we find beautiful."

Melissa's portfolio contains a storied list of contest winning pieces. Her necklace, Cultivation, is the 2010 Grand Prize Gold Medal Winner in the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Contest featuring Pearls, Organic Beads and Kato Polyclay™. The intricate bib-style necklace features a cascade of handmade polymer clay roses and pearls. The attention to detail, both in the incredible realism of the roses and the thoughtful finishes, made Melissa's necklace a favorite of the judges. The piece received praise for the wide variety of contest materials, and creative use of mixing the mediums. Melissa also won the Silver Grand Prize Medal in the 2009 Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Crystal Jewelry-Making Contest with her piece, Matrimonial Headdress.

Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?

Describe your artistic style.
I think my designs are earthy, sometimes representational, and often mathematical. I enjoy creating three dimensional beadwork with seed beads and am excited by the endless possibilities.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
I am heavily inspired by nature and mathematics. My stitching style could be described as a blend between flowing shapes and rigid patterns. I like to use a mix of colors and finishes to create visual interest in my pieces. I'm most proud of my piece ''Celestial'' because it has taken me the longest to complete, and was very difficult to see through to the end. I'm also inspired by other beadwork artists--they inspired me from the start of my beading career! I never knew what was possible with beads until I saw Laura McCabe's beadwork.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
I enjoy working with seed beads and crystals. I definitely have Magpie syndrome.

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

What inspired this design?
Natural forms, fertility and Autumn

How did it come together?
This design started from a sketch as most my work does. The sketch gave me a jumping off point, but the design took on a life of its own once I started beading. This piece represents six full days of intense beading!

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I started beading in 2007 when I was introduced to the beading community. I never realized before that what could be done with beads, a needle, and thread!

Who introduced you to beading?
Ann Benson of Beads East in Manchester, Connecticut introduced me to beading. She happened to be my close friend's aunt and after we were introduced, she took me on as a part-time employee in her store. She taught me the basics of beading and continues to be my beading mentor. We work directly with Sherry Serafini and Laura McCabe who are both brilliant artists and extremely inspiring. Beads East often orders products from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, so I get to see everything up close and personal.

Do you have an artistic background?
Yes. I was always a crafter and began painting at a young age. I have a BFA in painting, as well as a BS in physics, so I'm on both sides of the spectrum.

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
I was introduced to Fire Mountain Gems at the Bead and Button Show by my good beading friend. She urged me to enter the contests, so I did!

What other hobbies do you have?
I still enjoy painting, but also enjoy sculpting with clay, woodcarving, cooking, gardening, reading, hiking, and writing.

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
Jewelry making definitely grounds me. Part of me has to spend time creating. It centers me and makes me feel productive. Currently, the actual designing is part-time, but I am working toward making it a full-time career.

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I do the social networking thing-I'm on Facebook, I have a website,, and a blog, and I enter as many contests as I possibly can.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I frequently donate jewelry to the Angelman Syndrome community to help raise money for research.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
Go with your gut!

Share Your Background:
Beading is very important in my life because it is my primary creative outlet. Before my son arrived, I was a painter. After Jack came into my life, it was difficult to continue painting because of the extensive set-up and clean-up required. Beading suits my new lifestyle. It's very easy to get out and put away, and much less messy than painting. It has been a life-saver for me because I am happiest when I have a way to create. It also, very practically, helps bring in extra income. I only work part time because I am home with Jack, who has Angelman Syndrome and needs daily therapy. My husband works full time and we sacrifice a second income so that our son can have the best care possible. The extra income we get from my beading helps us afford to give Jack the care he needs.

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