Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bead Shop Interview - Allene Rose

The name of my company is Allene's Beads. I do have a website (, done by a wonderful website designer - I took the photos, but he did the slide show and gave me great suggestions. Rather than a store - I sell only at bead shows, bead society events and the occasional trunk show at bead shops in Southern California. I do not sell artists' beads on my website because I just don't have the financial resources for continually updating the site. Also these pieces are meant to be seen, touched, and inspire for creation which is something a website just doesn't always achieve. I also do a great show up in Oakland in November - Bay Area Bead Extravaganza which is an invitation only show. I love doing it because it attracts a totally different customer base.

My traveling bead shop has evolved very quickly in the last six months. I think the reason for this is because I created a really unique niche for myself. There is a two part reason for its success. The first is that it has enabled bead artists to showcase through my endeavor. I do not take pieces on consignment. I purchase (hopefully at some sort of wholesale basis) and that way the artist gets an immediate return. Also, it gives beaders here in SoCal a chance to see wonderful pieces from all over the U.S. and even Bulgaria. So, it's been a great project for everyone involved. I'm very committed to artists, especially clay bead artists because of the personal aspect of this art.

My project actually began about three years ago when I read about Kazuri Beads in Bead & Button Magazine. This is a fair trade project began by Lady Susan Wood to kick-start a project for women in Kenya. What began as a two woman enterprise has grown to over 300 women now. My first show was a bead society event and I put together the appearance of a bazaar with only 4 bowls of beads. It's evolved tremendously and I now sell many styles and color families of

Very quickly I decided to add pendants to make for a more complete creative experience. Also I began to notice that the uniqueness of the Kazuri beads would complement anything else I brought to the table. I scoured bead magazines looking for just the right complement pieces. The project has grown to over 20 artists and still growing almost everyday. One thing I did which I believe helps tremendously is that I designed a simple necklace used for display - one that could be explained "on the fly" so I can do a quick lesson for beginners. Bead shows attract a huge amount of potential and beginning beaders. This has really helped to encourage and inspire my customers who may not necessarily have time for more involved projects. And, I always suggest basic classes at local bead shops.

I became a member of Beads-of-Clay which opened the door for me to add to my designer base. I'm very careful to make sure that each designer's pieces are unique and that's there's no overlapping of ideas. I also use Etsy. There are a few criteria I have for searching out pieces for my table. Very importantly, I think, is keeping prices reasonable for my customers. From the beginning I was very aware that beaders and designers must work on a budget. They are often making jewelry as a hobby or a small business. Many are working moms with limited time and just want to pursue beading as a creative outlet. If they are re-selling it's very important that prices are reasonable. One suggestion I would have for artists selling on web-sites - please give dimensions of your pieces. They may look amazing on the site - but closeup images can be deceiving.

I also always try to have a few surprises on my table - just recently I've been selling antique hardware such as old keys, keyhole covers and doorbell hardware. I'm not afraid to try new things and I think that's way my table is always busy. I just bought a wonderful collection of amazing red ceramic
pendants because it was the most wonderful red glaze I've ever seen. A bowlful of red pendants - a real magnet for attracting customers!!! I've kept the African bazaar theme so pieces are presented in baskets, bowls, trays - anything that inspires creativity. I always have bead publications at my table, especially if one of my artists is featured.
As for the world of cheap imports and knock-offs, I really give credit to beaders themselves. I really believe they are starting to see the differences in these kinds of products and are choosing what is really worth purchasing. Because I try to keep a policy of "one of a kind" - that guarantees a more discriminating purchase. Also I do not sell strands of beads whose origins or methods of production are unclear to me. Production methods in some countries utilize unsafe procedures (as we all know) and I'm very opposed to that.

I think seeing wonderful ceramic pieces at a bead show inspires jewelry designers to try pieces that are more edgy and unique. Quite frankly, even though I do the choosing, the ceramic pieces sell themselves. I have never been a ceramic artist, but I've tried to learn a little bit about materials, glazes and techniques. Customers love "provenance" so I always have tags on the bowls with the names of the artist and where they are from. I've made some wonderful friendships in my search for artists and I hope that this is conveyed to the customers. I grew up in the retail fashion business - my parents had a shoe shop and accessories boutique so enthusiasm and excitement about wonderful things comes easily for me. I love to encourage and inspire and I'm extremely lucky to have found the perfect fit.

A big Thanks to Allene for participating in our Bead Show Interview. If you see Allene at a bead show, make sure and tell her you saw her on Art Bead Scene!

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