To Bead Or Not to Bead

Tiny beads become bejeweled berries with sparkling tendrils in the hands of an artist.


The path to beading was serpentine for Beader Gillian Smith of Andover. She was born and raised in England and traveled the world with her husband, who was in the British military.

With a professional background in fashion design, she explored clothing design, stitchery embellishment and at one point taught Americans in Britain the art of quilting. She moved to New Hampshire in 1986 and now finds satisfaction in beading. “Jewelry fits everyone,” she says.

Smith uses the tiniest of seed beads – Myuki – from Japan’s oldest beadmaker. With tools as simple as a needle, waxed synthetic thread and magnifying “specs,” she strings colorful glass together to create flowers or berries or organic designs in three dimensions. The finished piece is a statement on the creative mind mulling the possibilities of the simple medium. The beads are no longer just shiny bits, they have been transformed by stitching techniques and patience into wearable art.

At this point along the path, Smith travels for four months each year and only creates unique pieces for exhibition and a selection of necklaces and brooches available at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen retail store in Concord. ($250 to $500). Her work can also be seen starting in February at Gallery 205 in the League’s Garden Imagery show.

Meanwhile, she is an active volunteer with the League, mentoring new beading members and encouraging those who make application. She says, “Many people make beautiful necklaces by stringing beads, but to be juried into the League, the craft needs to be taken to a more creative level. We can help them with technique, but the imagination needs to be there already.”

It doesn’t take much imagination to see the beauty in Smith’s beading.

– Susan Laughlin