Reports on shows, trends, and more
More Thoughts on the Bead Market
Comparing beads with other
categories, and trends from the latest show.
by Deb Murphy and Katie Hacker (July 20, 2005)
(Note: the 7/4/05 edition of CLN and the previous
Scene & Heard column include a description and analysis of the
current state of the bead category. Here are more thoughts on the
subject, inspired by the recent Bead&Button show in
Beads and other categories – Deb Murphy.
My observations include beading (and "beadwork") as a
broad, complicated, and creative art that includes, but is not
restricted to, "stringing" beads as is common in the craft
and fabric chains. That's the significant difference.
The Bead show reflects an art that includes original
patterns, special tools, and complicated techniques – just like
knitting, crochet, quilting, and decorative painting – that is NOT
supported or promoted in chains where new components and projects
using strung beads are the popular craft.
The innovation in craft and fabric chains is in types of beads to
string (new crystals, new sterling, new glass, new acrylic, new
findings), and in new projects for strung beads (watches, necklaces,
bracelets). It does not broadly include or support bead weaving,
lamp work, blowing, 3-dimensional construction, innovative materials
such as etched dichroic, and innovative techniques, such as actually
Creating the beads, one by one.
It makes sense that the mass market captures the techniques and
components that are accessible, understandable, and affordable. Some
of these customers migrate to artisan beading. Most do not. In this
regard, beading in the chains is just like knitting – most
customers are stimulated and rewarded by finding new yarns and new
patterns that do not require personal instruction – same as dec
painting, quilting, crochet, and needlework).
The role of "kits" in the bead market is to promote and
distribute unique, original, complicated patterns designed by
teachers for new projects – just like knitting, dec painting,
All of these categories are similar in many ways. The artisan
influences trickle down to the mass market where the most accessible
and central items and ideas are commercialized and widely
Scrapbooking is somewhat different. It does not require intense
teaching of techniques – it feeds on innovative uses, layouts,
designs, surfaces, and components that are easy to understand
visually. That is why its hard for independents to compete and
survive profitably – although they support and provide classes,
the constant demand is for innovative new surfaces, designs, and
components, not techniques or complicated "patterns."
And I believe that is one of the fundamental reasons why
scrapbooking is uniquely and hugely successful across all channels
– mass, discount, craft and fabric chain, stationery, gift,
grocery, drug, direct, web, and home party.
Beading books, kits, classes, beads, findings, tools and
components obviously exist and are very successful in craft and
fabric chains. What distinguishes the BEAD market is the artisan
techniques, the handmade beads, the complicated patterns and
techniques, and the reliance on teachers and designers for
Same story, generation after generation, traditional handcraft
after traditional handcraft: Artisan to independent shop to mass
appeal to chain distribution. And usually, the artisan marketplace
pays no attention to the "craft" industry; it's the other
way around, as it should be! Crafts is a feeder industry (and a VERY
successful one!) for artisan handcrafting.
(Note: Deb President of Deborah M Inc., a product
development/consulting company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Trends from the Bead&Button show – Katie Hacker.
Millefiori: Chinese-made in a wide variety of colors and
Kits: Saw lots of simple, trendy kits in addition to complex
seed bead projects.
Turquoise & coral: Lots of turquoise and coral in all
shapes, sizes and grades.
Shell: Large shell pendants (plain and carved) and unusual
sizes and shapes of mother of pearl.
Wooden beads: Chunky wooden beads, plus pre-strung wooden
bead bracelets and bangles abounded at the show.
Chain: Chain is hot! People are using it for charm bracelets,
chandelier earrings and opera-length necklaces.
Bead accessories: Lots of groovy, retro-looking novelties
like mouse pads that say "Bead Queen" and coffee mugs
& t-shirts that say "beadfreak."
Collage jewelry: More found-object jewelry this year, from
game piece bracelets to necklaces made from a collection of vintage
(Note: Katie teaches a lesson each week on the weekly PBS
series, Beads, Baubles & Jewels. (Visit www.beadsbaublesandjewels.com.)
She is also the author of Simple & Stylish Bead Accents and
is a contributing editor and columnist for the new beading magazine,
Simply Beads. (Visit www.simplybeadsmagazine.com.)
Her new website is www.katiehacker.com
and her email is email@example.com.
To read the previous Scene & Heard column about beads, click on
the title in the right-hand column. To comment, email CLN at firstname.lastname@example.org.)