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Published: Tuesday, 11/1/2005

Bead bonanza: Hobby attracts a range of enthusiasts

BY RHONDA B. SEWELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Connie Smarszcz creates a beaded piece at her Baubles Bangles & Beads shop in Toledo. Connie Smarszcz creates a beaded piece at her Baubles Bangles & Beads shop in Toledo.
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Walking into any of the area s beading stores is like entering another world.

Thousands of beads, shells, stones, and pearls are sorted into small boxes and vials awaiting inspection, creating an intense tactile sensation.

If it looks like it tastes good, I buy it, said Connie Smarszcz, who opened Baubles Bangles & Beads, 2909 West Central Ave., last November.

Mrs. Smarszcz entered the professional beading world after years of making wire rings, bracelets, and other jewelry, often adorned with beads.

I upgraded to beads, and I started buying and collecting so many beads that I thought to myself, I should just open a bead store, Mrs. Smarszcz said.

Ann Tristan of Bonita Bead Boutique in Maumee wears an erring that she created. Ann Tristan of Bonita Bead Boutique in Maumee wears an erring that she created.
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She s not alone: Beading is a $2 billion industry, according to Bead & Button magazine. It was popular from the 1960s through the 1980s, and after a lull in the early and mid-1990s, surged again in the late 1990s and has been increasing in popularity since.

Toledo-area beading shops include Toledo Bead at 436 13th St., Bonita Bead Boutique at 215 Conant St. in Maumee, Meant to Bead at 6546 West Central Ave., and Mrs. Smarszcz store. All of the stores offer beading classes, and most welcome people who want to work on projects alone or with friends, similar to quilting bees.

Hot projects include necklaces, earrings, bracelets, pocketbooks, scarves, and adornable clothing and knitting creations outfitted with beads.

High-profile help is available. Master knitter and crochet designer Lily Chin last weekend conducted an all-day seminar at Vintage Yarns, 3524 Sterns Rd. in Lambertville, Mich. Ms. Chin writes books and creates samples for fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang.

People are finding this to be a different type of hobby that does many things for them, said Bonita Bead Boutique co-owner Ann Tristan. We get beginners here who want to try something new. We get a lot of nurses and teachers where this is therapy for them. It s a hobby that meets people at their own level.

Ms. Tristan and her sister, Anita, opened the Maumee store in June, but they have sold their works in art shows and trunk sales since 1991. This cottage industry has received a boost from celebrities who wear beaded jewelry, and accessory departments that are loaded with beaded works, they said.

The Tristans store includes Kazuri beads from Kenya, Murano glass from Italy, and opals from Mexico, as well as beads made of Czech glass, citrine, burnt bamboo, buffalo and camel bone, quartz, and malachite.

We re so hard-core about beads, Ann Tristan said. We don t want to just admire it, we want to know the history behind each bead.

Contact Rhonda B. Sewell at: rsewell@theblade.com or 419-724-6101.



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