Barbara Tilley

Purple Yumm
Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
Charlottesville, Virginia

Describe your artistic style.
Big and bold would be the best way to describe my artistic style. I try to design jewelry that you have to build your wardrobe around.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
I am an avid crafter and I find that the other crafts inspire my jewelry designs. I am also inspired by my friends who are voracious internet surfers. They are always sending me design ideas.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
I used 24 gauge copper sheet and lots of stones and beads. I have just started working with a torch and I find it exciting and full of surprises.

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

What inspired this design?
The delicious purple stone inspired this design. People love purple, so I buy lots of purple. The only color that sells better than purple is a brighter purple.

How did it come together?
I used the stone to trace the outline of the metal setting. Then I had fun deciding what texture to make on the metal and what kind of prong to make to hold the stone in place. Since I have lots of wire experience, I have fun playing with the wire and trying different things.

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I started making jewelry about 10 years ago when my sister gave me a complete wire wrapping kit that she found on the internet. At that time, I didn't know the first thing about making jewelry. The kit came with all the materials and tools and lots of DVDs.

Who introduced you to beading?
After learning a little about wire wrapping, I needed more information about beading in general. In Charlottesville, Virginia we have a wonderful beading shop called Studio Baboo in our downtown mall. I wandered in and was introduced to beading and that started my love affair with beads.

Do you have an artistic background?
I grew up in a very artistic home. My mother handmade all of our clothes, which we hated at the time. My sister and I were constantly making something from this giant steamer trunk my mother had filled with crafting supplies. My sister made all of my Barbie clothes and all my friends were envious. I never did take any art classes, which I have always regretted. But now as an adult I indulge myself with any project or tool that I just can't live without.

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®?
I discovered Fire Mountain Gems because someone showed me the catalog. I was in heaven. My friend let me have that catalog because it was "last year's." I took that catalog and spent the next 3 months flipping through it every night before I went to sleep. I have ear marked at least 25 pages. I finally placed my order online and was so excited to get my box in the mail. I still remember being tickled by the tissue paper and the little gold foil sticker. The whole experience was great. And then ... the very best part ... I received my very own Fire Mountain Gems and Beads catalog in the mail. And it was new, brand new.

What other hobbies do you have?
I also have lots of fun painting pet portraits and making ceramics. I give myself permission to try anything!

Do you belong to any beading societies or beading groups?
I belong to the Charlottesville Bead Society.

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
Creating jewelry is such a part of my life that it touches every aspect of who I am. Professionally I am an accountant, but I spend all free time making or designing jewelry. I teach classes in wire wrapping at our local beading store and host webinars on making jewelry and other crafts online at

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I used to do about 20 shows a year. But with the economic downturn, I had to cut out many shows that just don't bring a profit anymore. I still do several art shows a year. I have several blogs that I use to market my jewelry online. I have entered contests; I was in the top 20 designers in the Crystal Contest in 2008.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
The Charlottesville Bead Society does make jewelry for the Women's Shelter of Charlottesville.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
My advice for aspiring jewelry artists would be to use those special beads that you are saving for something special. Take them out of the special tissue and make something! You will love it, and if you don't ... just cut them out and use them again. If you use them, you can buy yourself something new to put in the tissue paper.