Photo: Courtesy of Susan Alexandra
No one does beads quite like Susan Alexandra, the eponymous accessory line of candy-colored earrings and handbags strung with the kind of acrylic orbs you made friendship bracelets with as a kid. (Gigi Hadid and Suri Cruise are both fans.) We asked Alexandra — the designer — what she recommends for budding beaders who want to whip up their own jewelry at home … especially since we’re not leaving home anytime soon.
I started my business with jewelry, and it’s still near and dear to my heart. My mom forced me to start working when I was very young, and because there are not many job options for 12-year-olds, I got a juicy gig helping my mom’s friend make jewelry. I would watch TRL and make necklaces every day after school, from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., which, if you ask me, is the ideal schedule. I didn’t know it then, but I’d go on to use those beading skills nearly every day of my life. I’ve made probably 2,000 beaded items, total, if not more.
I’m actually launching my own jewelry kits that come with all of the ingredients necessary to make your own pieces (including some of my own personal vintage-bead collection), but for those who are a bit more DIY-minded, here are the tools you need to start your jewelry career — even if it ends the moment the government tells us it’s okay to leave the house.
I use a combination of my signature faceted beads and beads I’ve collected since middle school. I would encourage you to be innovative with the beads you use — cut up vintage necklaces or use spare buttons, Banza macaroni, pom-poms, seashells, etc. The more unique the bead, the cooler the necklace. And everyone loves custom word jewelry.
These have a vintage Bakelite 1940s flair.
As you may know, food is my muse. What a good time to support some independent vendors on Etsy! Just type in your favorite thing — hot dog, for example, or chihuahua — plus the word “bead” and you will be delighted by the results!
The jewelry in my collection is made using a very durable metal wire, but when I’m making jewelry at home, I pivot to a really easy-to-use elastic cord. Be sure that the cord size fits the hole of your beads! This one is a pretty standard size for plastic or acrylic beads, though pearls and natural stone beads tend to have smaller holes. Adjust your cord purchase accordingly. The beauty of making your own beaded moments is that no clasp is necessary — just knot it! The stretchy cord allows you to slip the pieces on and off with ease.
Since you’re likely home all day these days, the last thing you want is more clutter. I would advise you to invest in a beading tray to stash your supplies. This one is the real deal. It has canals where you can plan out your beaded masterpiece before stringing and it has built-in measuring tools. Not a looker but extremely useful.
Or, if you want something less utilitarian, this is a nice excuse to buy yourself a fabulous new platter under the guise of a beading tool. I buy most things off Etsy or eBay; I’m on a vintage Mexican pottery kick, and I love this one.
When I’m using elastic cord, almost any scissor will do. But if you want to start investing in real jewelry tools, I recommend this supersharp and efficient wire cutter.
I’m always on the hunt for the perfect jewelry vessel that allows you to easily access and see your baubles while keeping them organized. I’ve sadly come to realize that jewelry boxes are heirloom, passed down by a chic aunt or grandmother. I have no such keepsake, so I use very thin nails to drape bracelets and necklaces over.
Or I make little dishes from Sculpey to nestle my earrings into.
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