Local woman finds creative outlet with beads

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Whether it is paint, charcoal or some other medium, the artist loads their palate with a myriad of colours, hues and shades that will allow them to capture what their mind envisions. There is no paint on Morinville resident Denise Cullen’s palate. Her palate is comprised of trays and trays of beads.

Cullen specializes in costume jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, anklets, watches, earrings, and other ornamental accouterments that allow people to spice up their wardrobe with a lot of colour at an affordable price.

“I’ve always kind of liked beading. I’d do it for myself if I wanted a necklace or something,” Cullen said, adding it was not until six years ago when she was no longer able to work that she began to take it up more seriously as a way to pass the time. “My kids had grown and you can’t just sit home and have a pity party. So I thought I’ll just go buy a few beads and some stringing material.”

That early purchase resulted in Cullen starting with a few simple creations, but quickly evolved into more and more complex creations. What is different about the bead artist’s work is she creates directly from what her mind’s eye sees. “I’ve never used a pattern or anything,” she said, noting she might partially replicate something she has seen in a magazine.

More than a half decade into the art form, Cullen still is drawn to it and finds working on her creations to be relaxing. She spends about 20 hours each week on her craft and enjoys sharing her work as much as creating her jewelry. “I get so much joy just seeing what I’ve done,” she said, noting she sometimes surprises herself that she was able to make some of the things she has designed. “It just makes me happy. I just get joy out of people looking at it.”

Although she creates a wide variety of costume jewelry, she is particularly drawn to crafting necklaces because she feels the styles and combinations are endless.

But whatever she is working on, the inspiration comes from within. “If I feel like making something, I’ll just go to my beads, open a couple boxes, and if those jump out at me, I’ll make something,” she said. “If they don’t, I’ll just go to a different box. You just kind of do what you feel like doing that day.”

Simple tools required

Unlike many art forms that require expensive or elaborate tools and equipment, beading requires minimal tools and equipment to get started. Cullen explained threading materials are used to secure the beads and can include chain, elastic threads or even thin wire. Beyond that the tools are readily available – tin snips, needle nose pliers and other small household tools. The beads, clasps and stringing materials are available at most craft shops.

Like most hobbyists, Cullen does a little selling of her merchandise, setting her prices such that what she makes from her products cover her costs and allow her to buy more supplies to keep on beading. “I try to make it so that anyone can buy them,” she said of her creations. “They’re not going to pay a fortune for something that I made.”

She has seen an upturn in interest in her creations, something she attributes to a resurgence in the interest in costume jewelry in general. “I think a lot of people cannot afford the really good jewelry, and costume jewelry has come so far in looks and style,” she said. “You can buy costume jewelry in a jewelry store, but at a price point. I think that’s why it’s come back.”

Cullen’s watches, necklaces and other creations can be purchased at local farmers’ markets. She currently sets up shop at the Gibbons Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays and the Westlock Farmers’ Market on Fridays.

Above: Morinville resident Denise Cullen displays some of her beading creations in downtown Morinville. The craftswoman has been involved with beading for the past six years. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

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