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Artist Profile: Isabella Lam

The Healing Power of Beads
Isabella Lam components
As evidenced by this small sampling of her work, Isabella’s favorite beading materials are seed beads, cylinder beads, crystals, and Czech glass. Equal parts elegance and glamour, her jewelry is classically inspired with a dash of romance. Many of Isabella’s designs are available as kits and/or tutorials on her website, isabellalam.com
Isabella Lam
Isabella Lam choker
Isabella Lam turquoise bracelet

The Israeli port city of Haifa shines like a jewel on the shores of the Mediterranean, the glittering blue of the sea before it meeting the shining sands of its beaches, the lush green foliage of Mount Carmel at its back. The work of jewelry designer and bead artist Isabella Lam echoes the color and vibrancy of the city she calls home: beads of all colors recall Haifa’s many gardens, such as the world-famous Bahá’í Gardens; plentiful crystals sparkle like the sea or the lights of the city at night; her jewelry designs take advantage of the plethora of beads now on the market, capturing the richness of that city’s architecture, both ancient and modern.

Emotional investment

In addition to finding inspiration from the beauty around her, Isabella invests her pieces with emotion. “Behind every piece of jewelry I create is an experience or a singular situation that led me to the design,” she says. “Here in Israel, daily life is varied. No two days are alike. Not every day is good — some days are tragic — but every experience affects my work. I’ve designed some of my jewelry while, behind the scenes, tears of sadness — or happiness — were flowing.” 

This ability to tap into the moment keeps her work fresh. Sometimes almost too fresh. “Some jewelry is created in ways that don’t allow for exact replication,” Isabella says. “They’re not uniform, there are no repeatable steps, and when they’re done, the pieces are a surprise — even to me!”

Amazing to think that Isabella has developed her glittering style essentially on her own “I have no training in beading, and I didn’t learn from everyone else,” she says. Instead, she has a passion for beauty, “an internal volcano that erupts from within me and doesn’t stop.”

Isabella Lam crystal bracelet
Isabella Lam necklace

Isabella also has a mission: to spread the healing power of beads. 

Building community

“I had a dream 30 years ago,” Isabella said. “I promised myself to leave a mark on the world for future generations and I’m doing exactly that by beading.”

Isabella found her way to make her mark in 2005 when she left a government position to join her husband, Avi, at the bead store he’d opened the previous year. The couple named the shop “Hut Hashani” for the red string bracelets worn as talismans, and in a way, the name was prophetic — the shop has become a thread binding together the Israeli beading community, and a gathering place for beaders from all across Israel.

“Avi’s professionalism has given him a great reputation and women as well as men from around the country come to us for advice,” Isabella says. “We also created workshops for our customers who wanted help realizing the potential of the beads we sell in our store.” She began selling her own work in 2009 and now has patterns and kits available in addition to her finished pieces. 

The couple does manage to venture out of their safe beading haven, including to the U.S., where Isabella teaches at the Bead&Button Show. “Avi and I go on adventures all around the world to participate in fairs, teach workshops, or find new beads,” Isabella says.

Isabella Lam flowers
Beautiful Beadweaving by Isabella Lam
About the book
Order Isabella’s gorgeous new book, Beautiful Beadweaving, online at JewelryandBeadingStore.com.

Bead therapy

But it’s at Hut Hashani where Isabella found her calling, in the workshops she developed for her beading community. 

“I believe in the healing properties of beading,” she says. “In the years that I have been teaching, I have met women who found ways to overcome physical and mental hardships through beads.” Isabella recalls one student, afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. “She had a terribly hard time beading. She had to force her hands to do what she wanted while beading — but she didn’t give in. She managed to gain control of her hands through beading, even though it was a great physical strain, and she was able to improve her everyday quality of life.”

Another memory strikes. “A woman who had lost her grandson had stopped living her life,” Isabella continued. After three years spent just existing, the woman was able to use beading as a way to live in the moment. “She could forget the tragedy for a few hours, and see the beauty that she created with her own hands.”

Stories like these showed Isabella the true power of beads. “I don’t take my talent for beading for granted,” she says. “The honor of teaching other people the art of beading is my way of giving back and thanking God for this talent.”

Isabella has bigger ideas for giving back. Though her project is only in the initial planning stages, she hopes to harness the power of beads (and beaders) to do good. “I have this idea of a cadre of women who, through the sale of jewelry they create from my designs, can help fund social assistance programs throughout the world,” she says. Her vision takes the local beading co-op idea one step further; in addition to helping the beaders support themselves through sales, a fixed percentage of the proceeds from each sale could be earmarked by the purchaser toward a charity or organization with which Isabella’s group will partner. 

Beads: so small, and yet so powerful. Isabella is not finished exploring their potential for good. “Beading, in general, is a great way to heal the mind and the soul,” she says. “This is where I found my place.”

FIND MORE: bead weaving , beads

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