Okay… here goes…
My name is Maria and I started The Enchanted Bead Factory when I was seventeen… that was over thirty years ago. Yikes!
I really thought I’d be much further along than I am right now, but life sometimes takes interesting twists and turns. What’s important to know is that my passion never died. It may have been squashed, sidelined, and burnt in many a fire, but it’s still there. And I’m not letting it go.
My beading passion started in my grandmother’s button box when I was a tiny child. Grandma Matilda was a fore-lady at Geoffrey Beene in New York City and frequently brought home the most beautiful buttons that were left over from various production runs – her collection was absolutely amazing, and always captured my imagination. She was generous with her buttons and I was allowed to dig through and pick out almost anything I wanted to create with.
Just about every button I picked out of the button box had at least one sparkly crystal in it; eventually it got strung onto either a necklace or a bracelet, which then broke rather quickly as all I had to work with was thread and fishing line. As I got older and went shopping with mom, I was always looking for beads, but retail stores with real beading supplies simply did not exist back then, and neither did information on how to create any type of jewelry – remember – these were the days before computers, internet, and cell phones. It was all a big, well-kept secret.
So I began beading in earnest, taking apart already made jewelry to see how it was put together, wondering where all the little metal components came from, and re-stringing the beads along with buttons into designs I liked better. It would be years before I could get my hands on quality supplies so I did the best with what I had, and the results simply stayed at home in my jewelry box.
When I was about fifteen a classmate of mine unknowingly opened the flood gates. One day she came to class wearing the cutest pair of earrings, and when I asked her where she got them, she said she made them. I was in shock! Where did she get the materials? How were they put together? How did she know how to make them? I simply had to know! She explained that she had gotten the beads from an antique shop in her neighborhood in Manhattan, and that they had lots of jars full of all different kinds of beads and jewelry hardware. My imagination raced, and my soul was on fire.
As soon as I was able to go, I went to the store with my best friend and all the money I could scrounge up, buying everything I could. I was in absolute heaven! I learned that the jewelry hardware pieces were actually called findings, and that each item had a specific name. I learned all the names, and drank in each bit of knowledge the way a parched woman in the desert would drink water.
I went home and began creating the most magical earrings. They received so many compliments and I was delighted. I made gifts for friends and family who liked them, and before long I was spending all of my allowance buying beads, and giving all of my creations away.
Then I had a thought. A dangerous thought…
If the antique store was selling beads, they must be getting them from somewhere that had even more. Hmmm…
My thought began a search that landed me in the heart of the garment district in New York City at the age of sixteen. One summer day I decided to empty my bank account and take my money to a dark little wholesale bead shop on 37th street.
The shop was long and narrow, and rather dimly lit. It was dirty, dusty and old, and was packed, from floor to ceiling, with long metal shelving units filled with thousands of long, mostly beat-up, cardboard boxes, each one displaying a sample of its contents on the front. It had the look and feel of what I imagined a side street shop near the bazaar in India to be like. Excitement filled the air. Hundreds of strands of shell, wood, and large brass beads hung throughout the length of the shop, and the floor was littered with teeny beads that had fallen from somewhere. I was in heaven. I wondered why no one cared or picked up what I saw as a treasure trove on that floor.
The shop was also packed with women bustling about, arms full of strands of beads, all trying to protect their prospective purchases from prying eyes. I got a few dirty looks that day as my curiosity got the best of me. The women (who turned out to be real New York jewelry designers) were all running back and forth making their selections, while their sales persons dragged out box after box, weighing and counting beads. Nothing sold was prepackaged. I was entranced, completely mesmerized by all of the activity, and all of the amazing offerings. I had never imagined this was how and where jewelry began.
After about an hour or so, the activity died down, and eventually I was the sole customer left. A gentle voice inquired from behind me “May I help you?” And so it began. Manu guided me through the shop, answering every question I had, giving me all kinds of information, and spurring on my creative imagination about jewelry design. I went home that day with a ton of exciting purchases, but only about two-thirds of what I actually needed to make complete designs. I worked with him many times over the next few years, then he went back to India to get married and I never saw him again. No other shop employee ever came close to having the magic he had. I’m sure he was an angel sent there just for me.
So there we have it. My first shopping trip, and the beginning of it all.
Over the years I have sold at many shows (including wholesale trade shows) and markets; I have done custom work for weddings and other events; I once landed a spot on a QVC’s “Best of the Best” show with one of my designs; and I operated several different retail locations but I let everything go when my life fell apart and I proceeded to crawl under a rock for several years.
My work with jewelry also brought me into contact with the bigger part of me that had been hidden since I was a child. In 1990 I began learning about the healing and energetic properties of gemstones and crystals. As a small child I remember really feeling that the stones held a magic and an aliveness that I wanted to understand. The family that raised me (not my biological family) had no understanding of that or any other beyond-the-veil experience that I tried to share with them, so I learned to shut down and tried to be normal. That didn’t work out so well. The good news is my passion led me to the truth of who I am. I am a spiritual being having a human experience. I am a healer, a reader and medium, and (don’t get scared on me now) a High Priestess of Traditional Witchcraeft. I love walking between the worlds, and I love both worlds.
My most satisfying jewelry work experiences come when I create an energetic piece that finds a home with someone who instantly recognizes and connects with it. There is no better feeling than when I see someone light up. Often times my pieces tell a story, and when someone connects, I tell them the story; more often than not they say that it was exactly what they needed in their life. This is my primary way of connecting to this world and the people in it. It is what I truly love to do.
So here’s what I know: I’ve got a good eye for design, and people enjoy my work. I create magical pieces with all of my heart, in the finest way I know how. AND, I don’t know everything. I’m human, I make mistakes. I fall down, I get up, I fall down, and I get up again, and again, and again.
Deep breath… here I come… my new mission? To successfully demonstrate the lessons of the heart and the spirit I’ve learned, and am still learning, through my life and through my work as a sacred jewelry artist: This above all else, to my own self I am true, in body, mind and spirit. Finally. (and yes, I did just tweak Shakespeare. I just love him, don’t you?)
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