If you’ve made your way to the rodeo arena in the last few months you may have noticed the appearance of bead work….EVERYWHERE. From hat bands, to belts, even tack, it’s a bead explosion and I couldn’t be more excited. As much as I love rhinestones, bead work has been a nice break from the norm. It’s a style that both genders can get behind without looking odd.

Double J Beaded Saddle

So where can you get in on this fashion trend? A few stores have picked up on the trend are carrying generics on their floors. Double J Saddlery carries belts, headstalls, saddles, and breastcollars inlaid with beads but they will cost you a pretty penny.  I’m not saying their brand isn’t worth it, they are well known for their quality tack (I own a few of their beautiful pieces) but if you are going to spend the money why not get custom?

You may have noticed Everything Cowboy’s, Ted Stovin sporting the trend at the Stampede this year. You can learn more about his custom belt and the maker, Kathleen Brannon of  Desert Sage Bead Art here.

You can also find custom pieces on Etsy, which I will talk about in a later post.


Gypsy Soule Beaded Bracelets

Maybe you aren’t ready to commit to the custom belt or tack piece yet, but you like the idea of the bead work trend? Well you can find cheaper accessory options at department stores. I picked up a beaded headband from Forever 21 for around $7. Gypsy Soule, National Roper Supply (NRS), Forever 21, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren the list goes on and on, all carry beaded accessories.

Throw on a long seed bead necklace, beaded bracelet or headband to pull your outfit together and you’ll be surprised how many compliments you get.

So what is it about bead work that makes it so appealing? Is it the amount of time we know goes into the intricate process? We asked Kathleen Brannon of Desert Sage Bead Art a few questions to get more insight into the process.

What is the process to make something with beads? As in all art, one needs inspiration.  When an Artist continually stays inspired, they know they are on the right path.  The process continues with creating your subject with the best quality of tools and materials.  My handcrafted work starts on a loom.  Having the correct loom, size of thread and quality beads is where you start.  People ask all the time ‘how do you do that all day’.  When you love what you do and the inspiration continues…it’s quite rewarding…as well, as very meditative, as is all art.

How many  beads are there per project?
  It varies in what the pattern dictates.   Loom work is all geometric, so one needs to create a pattern  on graph paper….warping (stringing) on an even number and beading on an odd number.
What is the length of time to complete a beaded project? Again, length of time varies depending on the pattern, however, with art it is not speed, it is quality…and the time frame for quality cannot be measured.
The best way to measure the ‘time’ factor in beading is difficult. Some projects come together easier than others obviously. Let’s say it’s a perfect project. My average bracelet is 1-1/2 wide x 6 long. One row consists of 29 beads wide and the entire bracelet requires 45 rows. 29 beads x 40 rows is approximately 1,305 beads. With that said, it is then how long does 1305 beads take? Rough average is 4-5 hours if one was to sit from start to finish. Beading is reasonably intense…so for me, I work in segments. I work for 2 hours, take a break of about 1/2 hr…then back to work for 2 more hours, etc.
Ted’s belt was 9 rows of beads wide and 240 rows of beads long. It took 2,160 beads approx. It is difficult to equate time because the width of the belt was only 1″. Indeed time was fast, however, the belt was so very long..approximately 25″ of beads.
I believe I spent about 10 hours on his piece…again, not at once, in 2 hour segments.
What is the care of beaded products?  Regarding ‘care of product’:  Staying organized is major.  When you use high quality materials they pretty much take care of themselves….along with all materials are reasonably organic.
The beads themselves are pretty solid and stable. It normally is not environmentally they get ‘affected’. Most damage occurs from contact. I have few repairs and when I do it is because they slammed the piece into something. My customer base are horse women…and well, it can be rough wearing such a piece around horses! To keep the surface clean a simple spray of alcohol and water. Simple wearing of the bracelet will keep the dust out of it.




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