The Los Angeles-based artisan makes all her jewelry herself — hundreds of pieces each week. She says the southern German technique for making the beautiful glass beads is disappearing. "I'm happy my work can help salvage that." Prices range from $40 to $1,400. http://www.irkjewelry.com
Julie Rofman uses uniform-sized delicate Japanese matte, translucent, opaque and shiny glass seed beads to create her modern twist on native design. Drawing from her background as a painter, Rofman started out beading on small looms while in graduate school. Through a friend's fair-trade store, Rothman connected with the Guatemalan women who now loom her beads.
Her jewelry incorporates 40 different colors and intricate styles, and she says the design process is meditative. There's no drawing; it's a freehand, fluid process in which each line builds on the next. "It's interpretive, based on what happens below," says Rothman, who creates in her Northern California studio. "I get lost in it." She gets inspiration from Bauhaus and Kandinsky, as well as mid-50s architects, and loves the "incredible attention to detail that makes such things almost artwork." Her bracelets and necklaces sell worldwide, and prices range from $75 to $265. http://www.julierofmanjewelry.com
Growing up with hippie parents who often lived and traveled in a VW bus, Stormie Trujillo as a child picked up shells on beaches and strung them together to create beautiful things. By the 1980s and 1990s, when she tried to sell her intricately beaded bracelets adorned with spiritual stories from her Native American ancestry, "people would say to me, 'I don't get it,'" she says. So the Pasadena resident sold her work herself at flea markets until a Hollywood stylist came in for a beaded cuff, which led to customers such as Madonna, Britney Spears and a slew of other celebrities drawn to the emotion of her work.
She makes each bracelet herself with the help of her son and says "[the work] is so meticulous, so planned out; it's a long process." She says she weaves stories from her life — or other people's lives — into her jewelry and that "somehow they are all prayers and have meaning to them, they're not just pretty bracelets." Prices range from $85 to $1,085, and custom work is available. http://www.stormieinc.com
Roarke New York
Working as a buyer for Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, Laetitia Stanfield learned how to successfully sell to those key store buyers: Have top-quality merchandise and great branding and know well your target market. She hooked up with another Bergdorf buyer to create Roarke New York in 2009, offering what's become their signature chiffon beaded necklaces after they saw an opening in the fashion market for something beaded that could take a woman from jeans to black tie.
Raised in New York City, Paris and Virginia, Stanfield says the beautiful necklaces that drip sparkle, color and pattern are made by Indian bead workers — all men — who make each piece in about 10 days. Now solo, Stanfield, who is based in New York, does the designing, sales, inventory, press, accounting and website. "I'm a one-woman show," she says. "It helps that the reaction to the necklaces has been amazing." She also sells bracelets and even a bridal line of neckties and bow ties for men and garters for brides. The bold pieces are sold internationally, and prices range from $60 to $725. http://www.roarkenyc.com
Born on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Teri Greeves, who is of Kiowa heritage, grew up with a mother who ran a trading post where Greeves learned the lay of the Native American land in terms of beadwork. When she was studying at UC Santa Cruz in the 1980s, her mom suggested she sell her beading to help pay for books. Greeves said she soon realized she could tell her native ancestral stories while beading and making money.
She is now based in Santa Fe, N.M., and known for museum-quality, fine-art bead work. She has also gained fame for her signature brightly colored, beaded Converse tennis shoes, which have sold for $10,500 for a pair of high-tops, $5,500 for low. The shoes are on display and offered for sale at several galleries, including the Home and Away gallery in Kennebunkport, Maine (www.homeandaway.biz) A custom pair can be ordered through the Jane Sauer Gallery in Santa Fe (www.jsauergallery.com). She also sells a line of hand-loomed beaded bracelets and purses priced at $250 to $900. http://www.fourwindsgallery.com.
Chilie Rose Beadz
As a psychotherapist in the 1980s, Adonnah Langer first beaded at her West Los Angeles dining room table to unwind. In 1989, after making "healing" bracelets for clients, she started making her trademark bold bracelets and went public, so to speak. Langer, now based in Santa Fe, N.M., designs 30 varieties of her sterling silver clasps with turquoise, gemstones, onyx, sponge coral and carnelian, working with seed, brass, pearl, fire-polished and pony beads to create bright texture and differentiate her pieces from Native American beadwork.
While she still does "the major beading" herself, she now has three beaders, two silversmiths and two leather workers who help her produce more than 2,000 bracelets a year. "The oldest manmade artifact found is a bead," says Langer, whose work is in many catalogs, including Sundance Catalog. "[They] were an attempt to express a spiritual representation of the great mystery of life. It's an old, deep pull and we love the color. Beads are playful and primal." Her designs are sold throughout the U.S. and range from $250 to $1,400. http://www.peyotebird.com.
From her first collection in 2009, New York-based designer Amanda Assad Mounser's big, bold beaded jewelry became a darling of fashion editorial. One of her first pieces, Moonage Daydream Collar from her 2010 collection, is her bestselling design to date and is still frequently seen in fashion publications around the world. It was while working in fashion public relations and sales in New York that Mounser started making the jewelry for herself. When she wore the pieces, stores and editors took notice.
Mounser designs all the collections herself, and pieces are handmade at her New York studio by a team of artisans and craftspeople. She says her target market is "a free spirit with an edge. I like the idea of sewing beads onto chain. It allows the pieces to take on a shape of their own. Pieces can go from being jewelry to art." Her work is sold internationally, and prices range from $125 to $995. http://www.assadmounser.com