Bead Star 2010 Best in Show

by Melanie Stafford

Erin Strother identified herself as a "Bead Star geek" long before she knew she was the Grand Prize winner for 2010. Not only was Bead Star 2008 the first contest she ever entered, she placed in the contest that first time it was held (Honorable Mention, Glass) and studied the other winners closely in order to devise her strategy for the next.

It paid off with a trip for two to Bead Fest Santa Fe in March 2011 and a $1,000 gift certificate to Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. Who knew, when Erin, a mere first year beader, saw the original call for entries on in 2008, to what heights she would climb?

She says at first she "couldn't think of any ideas at all for certain categories. I remember thinking, 'How could you make something only out of seed beads that isn't beadweaving?' When I saw the finalists online, I said 'Ohhhhhhh. I get it now." And in 2009, she took First Place in the Seed Bead category! Erin also won Second Place in a semiprecious stones contest sponsored by and Step by Step Beads.

Erin says that her style has "changed tremendously" over the past three years. "My first work was very simple stringing. Then I started adding some wire, and then I started layering elements together. It took quite a while for me to find my own voice. I think a big breakthrough came when I started using large jump rings as design elements rather than as findings, and then I gravitated to copper washers, rubber O-rings, and very geometric layered components." Voila! So was born the Grand Prize-winning Athena Collar.

Does she have any advice for beginning beaders, since it wasn't all that long ago for her? "I have tons of advice! I could blab for hours until your eyes glaze over. My best advice is to stretch yourself creatively. Try new things. Work with different materials. Allow yourself to fail. Everything won't turn out fabulous, but learning what doesn't work is as important as learning what does."

Social media also played a role in Erin's rise to Bead Star-dom (though not always a productive one): "I love Facebook, which has allowed me to meet some incredibly talented artists and waste tons of time when I should be working. I currently don't have a blog, but that is on my radar. I honestly don't see the point of Twitter--like anybody cares if I'm on my patio eating toast." But for a real treat, check out Erin's new Etsy store at!

Bead Star 2010 Contest

Best in Show and 1st Place

Metals Category

And what about the all-important "sources of inspiration" (the question asked of every artist)? "This is where everyone always says 'nature.' But my inspiration usually comes from the beads themselves--what their shapes and colors make me feel. I am also inspired by patterns and colors I see in fabrics or artwork. Once I got totally inspired by some hardware for a shower door." There you have it. Now go out to the nearest hardware store and shop ahead for Bead Star 2011!

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