Beaders, as they are called, have several reasons why they bead. The repetition of stringing beads is relaxing, or the recognition that comes from wearing one’s own designs is rewarding. One reason, more specific to the Bay Area, is that it does not take up a lot of space, said Lydia Chapman, 28, store manager of just-opened on Piedmont Avenue
“You don’t have to have a studio, you just have to have a shoebox, and when you’re ready to make something, you can just pull out your shoebox," said Chapman, a 15-year veteran of beading.
Blue Door Beads, at 4167 Piedmont Ave., kitty corner to the Piedmont Theatre, opened June 2 as a quasi retail, classroom, and jewelry repair space. Owner Sara Mancini, 32, described it as “a place where you can make and create,” as opposed to other local bead stores that are strictly retail.
Mancini sells over 2,000 types of beads from refurbished architect's flat files — long, shallow drawers that formerly housed blueprints, now brimming with tiny pieces of a beader's future design.
Almost all the Blue Door displays are from old furniture or the siding of a house. They have been “up-cycled,”which means to turn a used item into something new and better, a concept that Chapman talk about on the store blog, Behind the Blue Door.
Other services offered include metal-stamping and something called "The Big Kick," a machine that allows customers to emboss a piece of brass for $1 by cranking it through the machine's rollers like a piece of linguini in a pasta maker.
Planted in the middle of the rows and rows of beads is a long table with tools. Everyone is welcome to come and work on his or her design, said Mancini.
“If you’ve never touched a bead before, it’s really easy to navigate, you start small and work your way up,” said Chapman.
Mancini had wanted to open a bead store since 2004 when she worked at a bead shop in New Zealand which gave customers encouragement to create. After moving to Oakland, she was athletic director at Holy Names High School for four years. Then, on June 2, 2012, she opened her dream store.
She already has regular customers who come in daily — a bundle of lavender, a gift from a new regular, sits atop her counter. Sometimes her husband and 10-month-old daughter join her. Local artist Kris Kelley, 57, called the store a “communal, relaxed atmosphere” that “involves the community.”
“I don’t know if seasoned beaders know about us yet, but a lot of young families have come in. What makes Sara’s environment different is she encourages a lot of little beaders,” said Chapman, “Small objects are not the most kid-friendly but she’s trying to make it kid-friendly.”
Classes don’t begin until July 25, but Oakland resident Carnella Butler, 52, has already made her first jewelry set — a necklace, bracelet and earrings — at the shop. For Butler, the praise she received from friends after wearing the set to a July 8 wedding was highly rewarding. “One lady sent me a text and said I should begin selling on Etsy,” she said.
“All the other stores that I went to said I have to sign up for their classes, and they didn’t have any classes to make (the jewelry) in a week," said Butler.
“When (Mancini) told me that I was welcome to sit at the table, and she would sit and coach me, I said ‘You will?’”
Over the course of a week, Butler worked on her set, and when she was done, “(Mancini) said ‘stand in the mirror’, and she said put it around my neck, and it felt like I hit the jackpot, the lottery, I had wanted to do this all these years,” said Butler.
Why is Mancini a beading enthusiast? She cites the rewards of making all her own jewelry, as well as some mental benefits.
“When I want to organize or I feel like things are chaotic in my life, I do some beading. After, I’m exhausted because I’ve recessed all my thoughts and turned around life’s worries,” she said. “It’s very therapeutic.”
The classes will range from basic stringing to faux cloisonné. Levels range from beginning to intermediate, with some children-only courses. Mancini has already hosted a children's birthday party at the store and, as with the courses offered, the kids left with handmade pieces.
Mancini made her first piece of jewelry, a pair of earrings, when she was a kid one summer at camp.
“I remember making them and being like, that was so wonderful, anyone can do it. You don’t have to be art-savvy, you don’t have to have a design sense, you just have to know what you like,” she said.
Blue Door Beads, 4167 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-652-2583 (BLUE), firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/bluedoorbeads.Monday-Thursday 11am-7pm, Friday 11am-9pm, Saturday 11am-7pm, Sunday 11am-5pm.
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