Bloomington, IL 61701
I recently had a chance to have an online chat with Shelley Nybakke, owner of The Bead Parlor in Bloomington, IL. The Bead Parlor is located in historic downtown Bloomington nestled between beautiful old buildings and sidewalks sure to inspire the artistic eye.
As part of the Art Bead Scene crew, of course I ask Shelley what kind of handmade Art Beads her store sells, but I also asked about what types of materials her customers prefer.
At The Bead Parlor they carry lampwork beads made by several local artists, ceramic clay by the FABULOUS Elaine Ray, (toot toot goes my own horn!) polymer clay beads and David Christensen Furnace glass. Shelly feels fortunate to have a good friend, Julie Suchy, who makes beautiful lampwork beads along with several topnotch lampwork artists right there in Bloomington, making a special effort to support local talent as much as possible.
These artsy customers are always on the lookout for one-of-a-kind beads and not surprisingly, everyone has different tastes and creative styles. Even for Shelley, her bead “de jour” depends on her project of the moment and guess what …… she loves ALL beads!!!! – now who else out these loves all beads? Come on, lets see a show of hands!!!! (put ’em there in the comment box)
Shelley explained that she reads every magazine, book and catalog she can get her hands. Pouring over them from front to back, back to front and over and over again. Each read through gives her a chance to see something missed or forgotten.
Understanding the importance of a strong web presence, Shelley has worked long and hard at the web site for The Bead Parlor which she feels has greatly increased business. The goal is to create a space that customers/readers want to surf over to on a regular basis to view pictures of new ideas, beads and findings. This helps everyone get in the creative mood and sparks new ideas. Shelly says that sometimes her ideas are good and sometimes not so good, but she puts it all out there to let her customers pick over. The News Page is similar to a daily blog and is a great way to get new ideas and products out there.
Beading classes play a big role at The Bead Parlor with a line up that focuses on PMC, weaving, wireworking, and basic stringing. There is a wonderful group of regular teachers who teach because they love beading. Their teaching salary rarely makes it out the door, but instead gets spent right at The Bead Parlor! Shelley says this helps to keep class fees low which encourages more people to give beading a try. In another smart business move, they understand that classes are not only to teach techniques, but also to support friendships / business relationships and to encourage customers to shop at The Bead Parlor.
I understand that in a world of cheap imports and knock offs, handcrafted beads can be a hard sell so I asked Shelley how she encourages customers to give Art Beads a try….
At the Bead Parlor they always make up wonderful examples of finished jewelry featuring art beads. These examples are changed often since many non-beaders also shop at The Bead Parlor – to purchase the “samples”. This is one of the many assets of having a store located in a beautiful and busy downtown area. Customers with even minimal beading experience can appreciate the difference between a quality art bead and a cheap knock-off. To stock her store, Shelley looks for earthy natural timeless art beads rather than the “cute”, something she will still admire 10 years down the road.
Shelley has great plans for The Bead Parlor progressing and growing every year. They have a space for even more beads and are always on the lookout for the different and unique. Most of all, Shelley is excited about the fact that her customers realize they can make and have fabulous one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Presented with the wide range of magazines, websites, bead shows, etc., people are beginning to realize that there is a whole wonderful world of amazing beads out there and that everyone has the opportunity to “do their own thing”. With every magazine Shelley opens, she falls in love with some one’s great art bead and generally investigates the artist out while keeping her fingers crossed that it is something that will work out for the store.
A big thanks from all of us here at The Art Bead Scene to Shelley for her time and effort, not only for this interview but also for all she does to promote beading and the use of Art Beads. If you ever get the chance make sure to stop in at The Bead Parlor and say hi to everyone from us!