Exclusive Interview with Bead Star 2010 Winner Erin Strother
Grand Prize Winner
In June of 2009 I meet one of my BBB (Best Beading Buddies) Erin Strother on the message boards of Beading Daily in a Bead Star forum. On her post, she said, “Looking at all the incredible finalists, I’m worried none of my pieces will make it.” This marks the beginning of a beadiful friendship. We chat through phone calls and emails sharing our triumphs and tragedies. Not a week goes by that we do not connect. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that Erin is the 2010 Bead Star. No one deserves this honor more than she.
When I found out she won, I asked her if she would grant me an exclusive interview for my blog. I hope you enjoy interview.
How did you start beading/making jewelry?
I was looking through a big name jewelry catalog, and I really wanted some of the pieces, but they were soooo expensive. Most of what I liked were really simple designs, like a strand of faceted apatite rondelles with a coin pearl in the middle. I thought to myself, “It can’t be that hard to make something like this—this is the same basic thing as stringing macaroni necklaces, but with prettier macaroni! I just have to find a source for the beads and figure out how to get a clasp on it.” I got my hands on a Fire Mountain Gems catalog and it was all over.
How many years have you been beading/making jewelry?
It was either 2006 or 2007 when I started. I can never quite remember.
How many times have you been featured in Bead Star and what place did you come in?
The first year (2008) was the first contest I ever entered. I got one piece in as a finalist in the glass category, and it took honorable mention. The second year (2009) I had 6 pieces that were finalists, and took 1st place in seed beads and honorable mention in metals. This year I had 7 pieces in the finals and took 1st in metals, 2nd in under $25, 3rd in hearts, and honorable mention in stones. And then the grand prize!
How did you find out you won the Bead Star competition?
I didn’t find out until months after the competition was over. I assumed that the grand prize winner would have been notified a few weeks after the winners were announced. Since I didn’t hear anything, I just assumed I hadn’t won. I came home one day to find a message on my answering machine from Melanie Stafford, the editor of Bead Star. I only remember the first few words of the message—I totally went into shock-- I just stood there with my mouth open for about 15 minutes.
What was your reaction when you found out you won?
I walked around in a daze, muttering “I won Bead Star” to myself for about 3 days. I’m sure everyone thought I was drunk or insane or something.
How long have you known that you were the winner?
I found out right around Labor Day.
Was it hard to keep the secret?
It was horrible! You know me—I have such a big mouth. Can you even believe I didn’t blab it to everyone on the planet?
What inspired you to create the Athena Collar?
I found these great metal components and I hadn’t seen anything done with them before, so I was hoping it would be something different and new. I wanted to make geometric components of connected elements that would repeat throughout the design.
Did you sketch or pre-plan the design?
When I plan too much, things tend to turn into a giant lop-sided mess. My best work happens more spontaneously. I knew the elements I wanted to use, but I did not plan it out—I just started putting pieces together until I had a finished component I liked. Then I figured out how to connect them together.
What will you do with the Athena Collar when it is returned to you?
I’m not sure. Its not the kind of thing you wear with shorts and flip flops, so I probably won’t be wearing it around every day. Maybe I’ll put it up for sale in my Etsy store and see if someone wants to give it a good home.
Who takes the photo for the Bead Star spread?
My fabulous and talented husband George took the photo. He’s a professional photographer, so that was a no-brainer.
What category do you think had the toughest competition this year?
This year I think metals was the toughest, so I am really proud to have won that category. Last year I think it was glass.
Will you enter next year?
Of course! Duh.
Do you have any tips for designers that want to enter the contest?
Yes, I have a million tips, but if I tell them to everybody, then they will have a better chance of winning, which means I will have a less good chance of winning. ;-) Seriously, the best tips I can give anybody are (1) Design a piece that is unique. You will have a better chance of being selected as a finalist if your work stands out from the crowd. And (2) You need good photos! Do not use your cell phone to photograph your necklace lying on your kitchen table with a coffee mug and yesterday’s mail and your cat in the background! Don’t do it!!! I can’t use enough exclamation points here!!!
You are an accomplished, frequently published designer. Do you have any advice for the jewelry maker who is just starting out?
Subscribe to one of the many jewelry-making publications out there. Go to Barnes and Noble and spend some time looking through different magazines to find out which ones appeal to you the most. They all have lots of useful info about basic techniques, and plenty of great design ideas with instructions and where to buy materials to give you inspiration.
What are your favorite beading publications?
Stringing and Step-by-Step Wire are my favorites. I also really like Belle Armoire Jewelry.
What technique or style do you want to learn or master?
I would love to learn more chain maille, and my wire skills definitely need improvement. My wire-work looks like a 5 year-old did it. I pretend that’s on purpose…
Now that you have won Bead Star, what are you going to do next?
I’m going to Disneyland, baby! I’ll be the one walking around muttering, “I won Bead Star” to myself.
You can contact Erin at
Are you entering Bead Star in 2011? What is your favorite category?