Thursday, September 10, 2009

Baubles, Bangles, Beads & SB Adult Education

Carla's Design & Work Shop

Vintage aqua & rhinestone broach

with pearl & apatite rondelles

Our beautiful community has so much to offer in activities that a person has to live several life-times to do just the most intriguing things. Santa Barbara Community College (aka Santa Barbara City College) has the most fabulous Adult Education programs which are offered almost every night of the week at different campuses around our communities, from Carpinteria to Goleta. The cost to attend these classes is nominal. It is no surprise that these programs are incredibly popular.

About 7-8 years ago I began taking classes in crafting jewelry. It was pure serendipity!

My weekly route home from the Saturday Farmer's Market often took me by a little shop on the corner of De la Guerra and Santa Barbara Street, called "Beads." One day I decided to stop and take a peek. That was it! I was was like walking in a store filled with candy...eye candy! There was a sign offering classes in beading instruction..and I signed right up!

To say that I have become addicted is an understatement!

Backing my story up a bit; my mother had been making jewelry for over 25 years and progressed to making the real thing; silver & gold jewelry! My sister and I have some gorgeous rings, pendants, bracelets, and more, oh my. Mom even made the wedding rings for my niece(her grand-daughter) and her husband. She always said that she would only make her jewelry for love and would never sell it. Needless to say, we all encouraged her 'hobby'! She was good!

As Mom got on in years her hands became unsteady so she couldn't use the tools any longer. It was quite sad because she had developed such camaraderie with her fellow students at the Adult Education Jewelry classes, workshops & labs. One day she gave me a box of her 'stuff' and told me I needed to have a hobby.

The box sat in my garage until the serendipitous stop at the Bead Store on SB Street!
Barbara and Andy Nelson own and run the store. They are both accomplished artist in all the facets of jewelry, including glass blowing. Their two gorgeous, lovely and talented daughters are also very creative. The youngest daughter Raquel make the most intricate and whimsical glass beads, from mermaids to abstract. Stopping at the store is always an adventure in discovering new ideas, new materials and meeting the most fun people!

The classes of 5-8 people were held after store hours. I was probably the clumsiest student poor Barbara ever had. However, I am tenacious and Barbara is patient, and once I got it! I got it! Now I may be one of her most successful students.

They are so busy with their store, that they no longer teach. However, Adult Education is currently offering classes in beading and other facets of jewelry making, metal work, soldering, setting stones, lost wax method, etc. I have taken several of the classes and have discovered that they are quite challenging! I have also gained a lot of respect for the craft people who make jewelry by hand for their livelyhood such as the Hill Tribe people from Thailand. It is truly a craft which requires patience, precision, delicate work and creativity! The teachers of these classes are terrific artisans themselves and outstanding teachers.

I have not graduated to making my own silver & gold findings, clasps, and jewelry and for now I am concentrating on creating fashion jewelry with pearls, and semi-precious gems. It truly is instant gratification, while the designing of a piece may take several days to get it right, at least you don't melt the silver into a useless blob. It does take a great deal of consistent and concentrated time to develop the learning curve in order to create the 'real' stuff. My real estate business requires most of my time. However, in the evenings I can create all the necklaces, earrings and bracelets to my heart's content....and I do!

The other fun part of this hobbie is that I no longer have to shop for gifts...all my friends and relatives are decked out in Carla's Baubles. And the beading buddies I've made! It is such fun to run into each other at Gem Shows or Jewelry sales. My grandmother was the village clock fixer and I have become the jewelry fixer for my friends and family. I do sell my jewelry at benefits and Holiday a most reasonable price. I just need to get my $$$ back so I can keep my addiction going. My accountant has told me that this is NO business as far as the IRS is concerned! I would have to earn money at it!

The first time I went to a GEM Faire I was overwhelmed! Through the years Mom would come to the Gem Faire with me. When she couldn't go any more, I would stop at her apartment to show her my treasures. It was my turn to make jewelry for her. She was not an easy customer because she knew exactly what she wanted. It truly was a fun interest to share with her.

four times a year the Gem Faire comes to

Santa Barbara's Earl Warren Show Grounds.

Hundreds of vendors from all over the country come to sell their gold & silver findings, fine jewelry, beads, gems, crystals, rocks and minerals. No cameras are allowed so I can't post any photos of the overwhelming array of treasures from all over the world.

Entrance discount coupons are always in the SB Newspress a few days before the show. Entrance fee is $5. with a coupon. The show starts Fridays at noon and ends Sundays at 5. One entry fee gets you a pass for the entire weekend. If you don't want to pay the $3 parking fee, park on the side streets and walk in. It is truly an amazing event. The first time I went I just looked. It was so overwhelming that I couldn't make a decision. Now I know the vendors and whom I like to buy from. I often take my friends along so they can pick out what they want and I help them fashion it into a wearable piece of art!

Each show offers classes in the different facets of making jewelry, such as a class I took in crocheting with wire and beads. I decided that it wasn't my thing, but it was a fun class.
My latest pasion is working with vintage broaches. I fashion them into centerpieces for necklaces. This has opened a whole new learning experience for me...finding out about vintage jewelry. The best part is going to flea markets, thrift shops and antique/vintage shops to find them.

The next Gem Fair in Santa Barbara will be in December. Details at You'll find me there!
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