A 52-drawer, elm apothecary chest is the centerpiece of Priscilla Beadle’s home studio. Each drawer is filled with beads that are arranged by color: moon beads, jade, Hebron, amber, glass beads from Venice and others from Estonia and Indonesia. Beadle has been making necklaces for the past 23 years. This year, in celebration of her 75th birthday, the artist decided to give herself a special challenge: to create one necklace a week using materials from just one drawer a week—the 52-drawer chest was the perfect inspiration.
“I am going to be 75 in the middle of 2017 so I wanted to do something invigorating and exciting and different to celebrate my birthday,” says Beadle. “It has been so much fun. I wake up in the morning, an hour earlier than usual and I’m excited to see what happens.”
For the week of Valentine’s Day, she used red Czech glass with a ruby-red dichroic kiln-fired glass pendant made by Paul Vien of Westport, Massachusetts as the centerpiece. She created another necklace using rosewood beads with a centerpiece made from ancient turf (black peat soil) sourced from bogs around Ireland.
Each necklace is carefully executed. Beads are selected and arranged, and then Beadle sketches each piece and writes the story behind each bead—all of this information goes up on her blog. Most important to Beadle is to create necklaces that are unique. “I am always looking for the odd, eccentric and nuanced,” says Beadle. “I think it’s my personality—why settle for something that everyone else can have?” In her studio there is a handwritten note that reads: “Life’s too short to make boring necklaces.”
Beadle has crafted necklaces using rock crystal, petrified bleached wood from Alaska, natural shells from Australia and even cardboard beads. “This is called moss in snow, isn’t that perfect?” She says of a centerpiece bead that’s white with streaks of green. Inside the blue drawer she pulls out Hebron beads, an ancient trade bead that was made with salts from the Dead Sea. On her desk, she is sorting through amber beads and a bag of beads from her friend who emigrated from Lithuania. “I’ve learned a lesson,” she writes on her blog. “Not all of the remaining drawers will be exciting, but they will be interesting because they have their own special stories to reveal.”
Beadle is part of the Hull Artists collective and you can visit her studio by appointment or during the open studio nights, which run throughout the year. Follow her journey at priscillabeadle.com. Find out more information on open studios at hullartists.com.