Fearless Sherry Serafini finds magic in Czech glass beads
This is the first in Nirvana's occasional series sharing the inspiration and ideas of breakthrough designers. If you’d like us to consider your favorite designer – or you! — send us an email.
Everything in the bead business today seems to be in a constant state of change — except for the waiting lists for Sherry Serafini’s classes.
For those not yet fortunate enough to make the cut, you may be imagining detailed patterns and specific instruction on how exactly to mimic the distinctive look of the beading rock star who beads for rock stars* and others of exquisite taste and adventurous spirit.
As they say in Jersey, “fuggedaboudit.”
If you come out of Sherry’s class with a piece that looks exactly like one of hers – you weren’t paying attention (and if you sell that mimicked design as your own, you’re cheating – but that’s another topic, although an important one). She doesn’t print roadmaps, simply guides students to their own path.
Her website says she offers “unconventional and unpredictable beadwork with attitude” Serafini’s style iconoclastic and irreverent – but always intrinsically beautiful.
She’s more than the genius who introduced us all to the durability of marine vinyl as a beading medium (after learning about it from her friend and fellow design luminary Diane Fitzgerald). Sherry is the virtuoso conductor who will envision a collection of disparate and unexpected objects and bring them together in a way superior to the previous use of any of the components. Through her books, videos and classes she has nurtured and inspired a new category of designers who refuse to be categorized. Through her continuing art, she remains their inspiration.
I lucked into a class with her accidentally a few years back when better-beader friends needed me to drive and made the arrangements. Her website enthralled me. The class sign-in list scared me senseless, stacked as it was with the names of others whose patterns I had purchased and skills I envied. I separated from my group into the very back row to cause them and myself the least embarrassment.
We were designing purses, but Sherry didn’t lead us through a construction process. She talked about texture, color and feeling. I listened and started playing with the fantastic mix of fire-polish, metal seed beads, shibori ribbon and other pieces that made each of the kits around me a little different. I attached the ribbon, started manipulating folds with a variety of the seed beads and quietly got lost in a process that looked nothing like what the real beaders were doing – but I was having fun and no one would ever see it.
I didn’t realize she was standing over me until I heard Sherry ask me if she could show the class.
Busted. And she had seemed so cool. The others would likely confiscate my car keys and ditch me in embarrassment. I deserved it.
“Look,” she told the group holding up my awkward, imprecise stitching “At the way she chose these beads to just follow that line…” She said something about it looking like a dragonfly and not being afraid to go with your gut. That day I went from a barely adequate beader to the startled ( albeit temporary) envy of my friends to designer-who-eventually- learned-to-stay-out-of-my-own-way.
When I recognized the distinctive finishes and shapes of Nirvana’s Czech glass in some of her published work, it gave me a great excuse to reach out to Sherry with a few questions to share with you:
Do you find new types of objects to incorporate in your work or do they find you?
They find me. Always. I never know when something is going to speak to me. Once in Tucson I was buying cabs and stones….I walked by a trash bin that had metal parts in it and they screamed ‘art’….I took them and they are now in a California gallery on display in a beaded piece.
How many crayons were in your box when you were a kid? How many did you use? Did you have a favorite?
I had the BIG BOX….however, I always gravitated towards Maze and Periwinkle. Funny that I still remember that. But all the colors were intoxicating. I still get excited over a new box of crayons or Prismacolors.
Some people are fire-polish types, some are strictly bi-cone devotees, others go with the flow. Which are you?
Totally go with the flow.
My heritage is Eastern European. I’m not sure most folks understand when I tell them I feel the history and fire in the peasant beauty of handcrafted and small batch Czech beads. How and why do they appeal to you?
I can’t explain it. I just feel there is magic in the beads.
What is the biggest mistake designers make when they try to be you?
I don’t feel it’s a mistake to learn from each other. I am influenced by my peers all the time. I think true artists find their own inner voice and go with it and you can feel it when it’s right. I guess I’m saying that we shouldn’t try to be anyone. My favorite saying is by Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Growing up in a military family you moved around, how did that influence your early work?
What is the greatest influence on your work today? I think it gave me a no fear attitude. I always had to jump in to new situations and find new friends. I approach my beaded art the same way.
You don’t work from sketches, but have likened your process to a meditative state. What does it feel like when you are “in the zone?”
I get lost in the moments. Hours pass and it’s euphoric. When you get into that zone nobody and nothing else exists but you and your art. I wish the whole world could experience this feeling. Maybe we would all coexist better.
Art is beauty. Diversity is Beauty. It’s the images and moments that inspire and represent the most distinct and remarkable attractiveness of our souls. It’s the moments we feel free and real. To be alive/ It has never changed for me……..I’ve always felt this way.
Do you take time away from your beading or is your beading your time away?
Beading is my time away. I spend a lot of time prepping for classes so sacred creative time is what I covet.
You just found out you’ve got to evacuate your studio — what are the first five things you grab?
My trays of art pieces by all my favorite artists and stone cutters…..my favorite bronze gold beads…….books……….my two dogs who are always there with me while creating……my favorite movies that I watch while creating.
For more gorgeous images of Sherry’s work go to http://www.serafinibeadedjewelry.com
For her kits and creations, check out her Etsy Shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/sherryserafini
And, of course, we’d love for you to follow your path to our inspiring beads at nirvanabeads.com
*Every written piece I’ve found on Serafini notes that she has sold pieces to Aerosmith’s Steve Perry, Melissa Etheridge, Fergy, Lenny Kravitz and even golfer Michelle Wie — as if she was the lucky one to have her work come into their orbit. I’m pretty confident her customers know it’s the other way around.
Writer Judi Griggs designs and sells jewelry in Western New York in the summer and Texas in the winter.