Helen Yao

Helen Yao

Turquoise Garden
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads'
Jewelry-Making Contest 2010
featuring Gemstones
Bronze Medal Prize Winnter (Tie)
Category: Necklace

Helen Yao

Natural Beauty
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads 2007 Beading Contest

Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
El Monte, California

Describe your artistic style.
My artist style is a combination of traditional and modern elements. As a former watercolor painter, I combine my Asian influences with Western aesthetics in an east-meets-west style. Bold, luxurious ''statement pieces'' are my specialty. Those items that are not only elegant, but excite a double take and just stops all eyes when one wears them. My pieces are made using both wire work and colorful gemstone beads.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
As a former trained artist, I love paintings and art work, especially landscape and fauna paintings by Monet, Asian artists, and Impressionism in general. I design each and every jewelry piece as the three dimensional product of a two dimensional painting.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?
Multi-colored gemstones, freshwater pearls, turquoise, and base metal, sterling silver and 14kt gold-filled wire.

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

What inspired this design?
I love the color turquoise. To me, it is vibrant, happy and soothing. When I designed this piece, I wanted to design a beautiful but simple garden of flowers that can be worn on a person. Turquoise and gold are a regal and extremely flattering color combination.

How did it come together?
There are a couple of steps in my design process. First, like a mosaic artist, I lay out all the beads on my special cloth covered table to make a flower arrangement. After that comes the artistic vetting process, where every shape, color, and bead is changed or arranged by my artistic intuition into a design that makes me happy and satisfies my aesthetic. Once the two top steps are done, I use both Zebra Wire and Accu-Flex® beading wire to knit and create a strong foundation for the gemstones. Lastly, 14kt gold-filled wire and other garnishes are added to the surface design for a multi-layered, impressionistic effect.

Throughout this process, I pay special attention to how things look worn on a live person. To me, jewelry must flatter the wearer and be practical in a woman's wardrobe. Necklaces are modeled standing in front of a large mirror, in a variety of outfits and poses, with a premium put on design.

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
17 years ago, my husband was a graduate student at Indiana University at Bloomington and we lived there. A friend was relocating with her family to another state, and sold me her wholesale bead and trinket business. I begin to play with the beads and findings to create small, simple designs. Those small designs were first sold at a University art gallery. From then on, through practice and pure enjoyment, my pieces kept getting bigger, designs more courageous and my quality level in workmanship and materials both improved, gaining me more and more customers.

Who introduced you to beading?
My friend, who sold me the bead business 17 years ago, was the first person to introduce me to simple wire work and beading. From then on, I studied and experimented myself over 17 years to create new and interesting designs.

Do you have an artistic background?
When I was young in Shanghai, China I studied water color painting and commercial arts design for three years at an artistic institution. My graphic designs for advertisements have been used in retail stores.

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
In 1993, my husband found an ad in a magazine. Due to the superior customer service and wide selection of materials, I have stayed with Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® throughout all those years. As a loyal customer, I can see myself buying from Fire Mountain for years to come.

What other hobbies do you have?
In my spare time, I enjoy reading novels, dancing ballet, painting water colors and gardening pretty flowers.

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
My jewelry designs are both my part-time career and also something I love to be immersed in to forget about all the stresses of the outside world.

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I rent a seasonal (month for big holidays) store at a shopping mall to sell my jewelry, also at my website: www.songgalleria.etsy.com

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