Beadapalooza: Annual event draws artists, fans to Helena

Students show off the cuff bracelets in progress during Ann Recotta's Beadapalooza class.

Students show off the cuff bracelets in progress during Ann Recotta’s Beadapalooza class.

Story and photos by Laura Brookhart

Beadapalooza, now an anticipated event held bi-annually in Helena, outgrew its former quarters at The Bead Biz retail location and expanded to the Helena Community Center in March.

Lora Lunsford, owner and bead businesswoman, brought back popular vendors and attractions from past years, including belly dancers from Devyani Dance Company who entertained the waiting crowd. Visitors could browse numerous vendors, listen to live music and attend classes about embroidery, wire wrapping, pewter casting and more.

“It has become more like a bead circus than a bead show,” Lunsford said. “People come from all over the Southeast to attend and it has grown tremendously.”

A first this year, Lunsford welcomed artist and workshop teacher Ann Recotta from Soulshine-Studio in Corning, New York.

A Shibori cuff bracelet created by Ann Recotta.

A Shibori cuff bracelet created by Ann Recotta.

The two met as members of an online group of bead business shop owners. The group shares information about business practices, including insurance, vendors and classes.

“We are independent brick and mortar shops, but we each have our own issues that we brainstorm about with each other,” Lunsford said. “It’s a way to not feel so isolated in our individual stores. There are currently about 30 members from across the U.S. and Canada at this point.”

Recotta’s studio sells a lot of handmade jewelry and kits, while Lunsford’s store focuses on workshops, in addition to offering a large selection of beads, tools and books.

Recotta says that the Shibori Luna Cuff technique that she now enjoys teaching is somewhat new to the beading world. Her shop sells lengths of Shibori ribbon and color-themed kits that incorporate the varied elements needed to create a unique cuff bracelet.

“I was inspired by Glennis Dolce, a consummate craftswoman who has honed her own knowledge for 30 years and travels worldwide practicing and demonstrating the Shibori silk-dying/pleating technique,” Recotta said.

As Recotta’s Beadapalooza workshop began, she advises her students, “It’s important to note that Shibori ribbon is fragile. One must be careful not to snag it with your fingernails or needle while attaching it with fine stitches.”

“Play with the ribbon—it will move and flow; explore to find what feels and looks best before beginning to tack down the shibori with needle and thread—the first step,” she instructs.

Each student then establishes a focal point with a large bead or Lunasoft Cabachon. From this groundwork, the designer can take off with added embellishments to her heart’s delight.

Now in its ninth year, the next Beadapalooza is scheduled for Aug. 22-23. Featured artists/teachers already booked are Delia Stone who will teach two classes—a fold form copper cuff and also a cloisonné enameled pendant. Dale “Cougar” Armstrong, JTV expert, will teach a wire wrapping class.