Bead-It-Forward Project

by Jamie Smedley, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Beading can be a fantastic way to raise money for a good cause. One example is the Bead-It-Forward Project. Read on to get inspiration and ideas for how you can use your jewelry designs to benefit something you care about.

Photo Courtesy of Mike Ann Zable


The History

The Bead-It-Forward Project began with Jeanette Shanigan. In 1985, Jeanette lost her mother after a hard-fought battle with breast cancer. This tragic event led her to join the fight against breast cancer. To help raise money for breast cancer research, the Bead-It-Forward Project was born.

Jeanette soon realized her reach could be far greater if she could get others involved. Through online outreach and emails, the project eventually consisted of artists from all over the world submitting small, beaded squares that matched the theme for that year. Jeanette sewed the squares together to make lovely beaded quilts. The finished quilts were donated to the Bead Artists Against Breast Cancer (BAABC) auction at the Bead and Button show. This community of beaders raised thousands of dollars through these auctions while getting to share their art with the Bead and Button attendees.

Jeanette organized the theme each year, along with some patterns that could be used. The themes ranged from butterflies to turtles, all with a special meaning. For instance, the butterfly was chosen in 2007 to symbolize metamorphosis, and in 2010 the turtle was a symbol of perseverance, something anyone battling breast cancer will surely need.

These themes allowed for artistic expression in each square, but with a unified, meaningful feel. Their diminutive size of 1x1 inch made each one an artwork in miniature.

Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts
Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts

The Bead-It-Forward project also made an impact on Fire Mountain Gems. Chris and Stuart Freedman—co-owners of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads—purchased over twenty pieces from the Bead-It-Forward auctions from 2007 to 2014. These works of art are proudly on display throughout the company for employees and visitors alike to enjoy.

The fight against breast cancer continues to be very dear to the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads family.

We hope this quick history of the Bead-It-Forward project inspires you to look at your own beaded creations as a way to support your favorite charity.

Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts

Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts Bead-It-Forward Breast Cancer Quilts

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