When we decided on Victorian Christmas as our theme for this month, we instantly thought of the ornate, classic beads made by Gaea Cannaday. Her color palate fit perfectly and the handmade quality of her beads work perfectly with Vintaj components. We asked Gaea some questions about her business and her background and now we’ll share it with you! It’s a wonderful story of a spark ignited by a teacher and how it grew from there. Enjoy! How long have you been designing beads? This will be my 12th year designing pendants and beads! I’ve had a love affair with clay since grade school! What is your background and how did you get started? As and art major in collage, I had an open period my first year and beginning ceramics was the only class that fit at the time I needed. I had played with clay in grade school and high school but not in depth. The class was taught by sculptor/artist Lynn Creighton who really got us into the art form as a whole, not just vessels but all techniques and forms. Taking us on field trips in the evenings to art openings and galleries, Lynn really got us interested in art as a whole from creation to exhibit. Lynn moved on to teach other classes and I was spoiled by her love of art and her generosity with information. My addiction to clay has held firm ever since! At that time there was a limit to how many classes you could take and I seem to recall intentionally failing that final class so I could take it over again. Addicted! Eventually we found a class outside the collage and my husband and I jumped on it! Robert and I spent a few years at that studio having such a great time! It was at that time that I began to make molds and decorate my pots and forms with “jewelry”. Years later I was looking for a way to make a bit of holiday money. The first pieces for jewelry were molded from Sculpey and painted with acrylic. My husband, always the thinker, pointed out that we owned a kiln and I could be making the small pieces for my jewelry from clay. In 1998 I started to experiment with fired pieces and we just had such a good time playing with clays and glazes. Boy were they rough but they had a lot of heart. In 2000 my full time art director job was looking like it would become part time and at that time I was pregnant with my son. When he was born in 2001 my job let me work from home but the company was going through some hard times and I could see layoffs coming. I had a terrible fear of leaving my infant son which led me to look for other work that would let me be at home with him. In 2002 I started with my jewelry part time at home. When I went into bead shops for supplies sometimes the shop owner would ask where my pendants and beads came from and I was always pleased to say “ME”! I would take a sample tray with me everywhere, my toddler in tow and most shop owners had children and were very understanding. Where do you find inspiration for your lines and how often to you introduce new ones? Inspiration is around every corner! I do find nature, the ocean, and fairy tales to be very inspiring! My kids are great inspiration. I think they could be in charge of the inspiration department! And they both like to make jewelry! I reward my daughter with strands of beads when she cleans her room or gets all her homework done. Pulling that new creation from the kiln is really inspiring as well. I fire about every two weeks and I try to have new items in every firing. If not new designs then at least a new spin on an old design. Some times that can bring about really fun new designs, just playing with something old. Do you have a similar design process for each line? I have a few basic techniques to create but they are all based around carving and sculpting. It is always fun to take a new design for a test drive! Figuring out where it is working and not working. Failure brings great designs! There is a mermaid pendant that I was struggling with. The hands looked weird, her head was too big, and I kept struggling and trying different things the only thing that was working was the body and tail. My husband, Robert, walked in as I stopped to wonder what to try next and said “It looks great like it is. What’s wrong with just that?” And he was right! It didn’t need arms and a head. She looked like an ancient sculpture. In fact, one woman made a necklace with the mermaid and was walking down the street. As she approached an intersection she noticed a homeless man. As she waited for the light to change she noticed the man looking at her necklace. Then suddenly he said to her “You’re the mermaid!” She was the mermaid! It wasn’t intentional in my design, but that is what he saw! What kind of space do you design & create in? I wish I could say my studio was a bit more glamorous but my studio is in my home and we are in such a dusty rural area that I’ve given up on having a clean and tidy space! Some day I hope to put it all into it’s own building. Work actually happens where ever the kids are and mostly at the kitchen table. When the kids were little I would put a tray together and sit with they by the bath tub or out in the yard while they played. Even the beaches and parks have seen some bead action! How often do you get to design jewelry? My jewelry designs usually work around when the next deadline is for various publications or sometimes when there are open calls and challenges. I try to journal any ideas that happen between due dates. It is another aspect of design that I love, putting an idea onto paper. Working with Vintaj was a great for flexing my creative muscle and to try new elements. I loved playing with the Rhapsody Romance Arte Metal Embellishment! I just purchased a new metal hole punch and hadn’t played with it yet so I was really excited! I had so many fun ideas! I created a pair of earrings with them and took some light sand paper to the metal to make the beautiful design on the metal “pop”! There were quite a few charms that also caught my eye and I have great plans for the decorivets! The elements I worked with added just the right amount of embellishment. I kept with the black metal and added small pops of color. Visit Gaea’s website ~ Gaea’s Handmade to see more of her fabulous work! Read her blog & visit her Etsy shop! Thank you for sharing Gaea!
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