Beating Beader’s Block

Whether or not we like to admit it, it happens to all of us from time to time and when it comes around, we try to pretend it doesn’t exist but there is no avoiding it. I call it beader’s block and it feels like it literally drains every creative juice I have. Because I make a living being creative, people often assume that I am always “on” and full of great ideas and fabulous new designs. The truth is that often times, it seems that because I do make a living being creative, I experience beader’s block more than I ever did when making jewelry was just a hobby and a therapeutic creative outlet for me. So what do I do to work beyond the frustration?


The first thing I do—and I know this is going to sound like the most confusing, contradictory statement ever—is walk away from what is frustrating me. I have learned (starting a few years ago with the eight hour session I spent trying to learn the puffy heart) that getting frustrated gets me nowhere. I start sending myself all sorts of negative messages which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; that is, the more I tell myself I can’t do something, the more I find myself not being able to do that thing. When I feel my frustration growing and the negativity setting in, I simply walk away from whatever project I am working on and wait until I feel my patience, passion, and creativity return before beginning work on that project again.


Now, I am not advocating that you quit beading entirely. What I would advocate instead is working on something with which you are familiar. For example, I make all of the puffy heart pendants available atAuntie’s Beads. One day, while trying to do something new with the right angle weave technique andSupplemax, I kept getting stumped. I started working on puffy hearts that needed replenishing and I began to see a pattern emerge. I got out colored pencils and graph paper and sketched what I was seeing. I quickly put down the puffy heart I was working on and got to work trying to create my vision. The result was one of my favorite pieces to date: my Into The Garden Bracelet . Other great works have emerged as a result of this process so trust me: go with what you know, do something repetitive, and you will begin to see each material you are using in a new way.


Another thing I have learned is that inspiration is EVERYWHERE. When I feel stumped or stuck on a particular thing, I look outside my bead board to find the answer. Nature, for example, has always been a great inspiration to me. Many of my favorite pieces, including my Cornucopia of Leaves Bracelet, Earthly Elegance Necklace and Down By The Sea Necklace (just to name a few) were largely inspired by colors and themes outside my window. In fact, many of the Swarovski crystal mixes I helped create for Auntie’s Beads were inspired by my perception of the natural world.


I also find tremendous inspiration in magazines. By this, I don’t necessarily mean beading magazines. While beading magazines are great for learning a new technique, I have found that my best sources of inspiration are often books or advertisements within fashion magazines and even the Sunday paper. Not only do I see great pieces of jewelry, but I also see great color combinations that I never would have created on my own. Art books can also help in this regard (for those of you who often find yourselves in more of a color rut than a design rut.) I mentioned earlier that the natural world inspired many of our crystal mixes, but several of my color palettes and/or designs have largely been influenced by—but never directly copied from—books, magazines, and advertisements. My Cool Jewel Earrings, for example, were inspired by 2 different sources; the color scheme was inspired by a make-up ad and the style of the earrings was inspired by something I saw in a sales advertisement in the Sunday paper.


Another great source of inspiration for me has always been my closet. I can’t count how many times I have put on an outfit only to discover I don’t have the right pair of earrings to match or the perfect necklace for my neckline. I have discovered that it is best, when creating a piece, to make sure I make a full set—or at least matching pieces so I am never caught without a piece of jewelry. I have also found that when I buy something new and it is a different color scheme or print for me, it often offers endless new design possibilities. So… If the magazines and books and advertisements and outdoors aren’t working for you, try opening up your closet and seeing what inspiration lies within.


The best thing I can say about beating beader’s block is this: work through it however you need to and at your own pace. Don’t get yourself too frustrated and don’t give up! You WILL get through it. My father, who was a graphic designer, once told me that the profession of design essentially boils down to problem solving. You, as a beader, have materials and colors and patterns you need to fit within a certain space. Sometimes it all works well and sometimes something seemingly simple will have you wanting to throw beads across the room. When that happens, try to remember the following: avoid the source of your frustration; work on something familiar; try to see the world (and images) around you with a designer’s eye; and wait for that perfect balance of patience, creativity, and logic to help you produce your next masterpiece!


Shanna Steele, Auntie’s Beads Designer

Shanna Steele

Shanna Steele is a product manager and occasional jewelry designer for Auntie's Beads. When she is not playing in the beads, she enjoys reading, listening to music, cooking - especially baking - and good times in the great outdoors.


  • […] beading, and what keeps up going, we still sometimes face that tricky creative hurdle known as “beader’s block”. Whether we’ve grown tired with the same old beads, or just don’t know where to take our […]

  • Reply February 5, 2015


    In the post about beader block, Shanna mentioned her “into The Garden” bracelet. I have looked everywhere for the bracelet. For some reason, the name of the bracelet has really peaked my interest. Could you point me to a pattern (free or for purchase), kit, video, blog post, whatever that describes or pictures the bracelet.
    Thank you.
    btw, I really appreciated your comments about artist block; great advice!!

Leave a Reply