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A Conversation with Heidi Kummli

An interview with the GRAND AWARD winner of the 2018 BeadDreams Objects & Accessories category.
Kummli Tea Party 1
"TEA PARTY," Heidi's winning piece in the 2018 Objects & Accessories category.

Now in its 19th year, BeadDreams is our annual juried competition showcasing exceptional bead and jewelry artistry from around the world. The pieces continue to inspire awe and amazement every year at the Bead&Button Show exhibit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. All of the submitted pieces competed in the categories of Finished Jewelry, Objects and Accessories, and our newest category, Young Beader.

We're so pleased to share our interview with the GRAND AWARD winner of the Objects and Accessories category, Heidi Kummli of Ward, Colorado! Her winning design is called TEA PARTY. 

We were so happy to speak with Heidi via email! An award-winning beadworker and a seasoned BeadDreams contestant, Heidi produced a stunning winning piece depicting animals, flowers, and other natural elements.

View all the winners of this year's competition here!

Heidi Kummli
Heidi Kummli with one of her three dogs!
Heidi's appreciation for the spiritual and incorporation of Native American beadwork techniques is evident throughout her work. Just look at the detail!

Tell us more about you.

I started working with beads in 1975 and remember making jewelry even as a young child, it came naturally for me. Like my Chippewa Great Grandmother explained, they [my relatives] listen to their hearts and the beadwork just seems to flow. My Great Grandmother Nora did beadwork for vaudeville. I did not know this till after I had been beading for many years. I am totally self-taught, learning from books and trial-and-error. 

Currently I live on sixteen acres in the Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado at 9000 ft. elevation, with my husband, Gregg, and three dogs. Our home is built off the grid, meaning we use the sun and a back-up generator for power. I've spent most of my life in quietude and solitude learning from that place deep within. I live among the forests and mountains spirits, whom have given many lessons throughout my life.

You mention "learning from that deep place within." Can you elaborate?

I have been a spiritual person most of my life, and in 2011 I came across an online course called Shamanism 101 (I now teach the same course). Shamanism is a spiritual practice, which brings healing into the world. It is about being connected to the Earth, and all the diversity around us. Paying attention to the omens in our everyday lives. When we surround ourselves with this beautiful spiritual connection, honoring it through ceremony, ritual, and practice, we ourselves can become whole and thus reflect it back into the world.

I feel that same way about my beadwork; I hope that each piece I make brings a sense of healing and peace into the world. My work has always been a reflection of my surroundings. By using animals and natural stones in my work I feel in some way I am passing along that connection that sadly so many of us have forgotten.

My beadwork flows through my fingers with the greatest of ease. Each bead is sewn down using bead embroidery techniques, knowing exactly where to rest. I allow spirit or perhaps the universe to express itself through me. I can’t take credit for the results, as it is deeper than myself.

Kummli Tea Party 2
Another angle of the winning piece, "Tea Party".
Another example of Heidi's beadwork, in the form of a soaring bird.
Shamanism is a deep influence throughout Heidi's work. For example, this piece depicts a woman who has an apparent connection to the creatures around her.
One of Heidi's stunning and colorful cuffs.

Let's talk about "Tea Party." How long did it take you to complete your winning piece?

[Approximately] several months; not sure as I worked on it when I had the time.

How did you choose the name of your piece? Does the name have any special significance?

I love to have fun when naming a piece, either a song or quote. “Tea Party” just seemed so fitting, like we were all gathering to have a spot of tea with all the animals on the pot. 

What challenge did you need to tackle to finish this piece, or what problem did you have to solve? How did you solve it?

Whenever doing a three-dimensional piece a problem arises. You try to make a pattern first but once you bead on the fabric, the dimensions change. I have learned to make the pattern slightly larger. I also didn’t take into consideration that when you open the lid of the teapot, the dagger beads were in the way. All the dagger beads are embedded in epoxy clay but also strung, so those daggers can move when the lid opens.

What did you learn as you created this piece?

That I am crazy.

Well, we definitely don't think you're crazy! Crazy talented, maybe :). Where did you get your inspiration for "Tea Party"?

I am always trying to challenge myself, and make something no one else has, at least that I know of.

What was tougher: the design or the execution? Why?

Designing is the fun part; execution is harder with challenges you never thought of when designing. Most of the time these challenges are for the better, making the piece stronger and can also make the piece better all around.

Why do you bead?

It is what I am on the planet to do; I am lucky to be able to make a living with it too.

What tip would you give someone who wanted to enter the BeadDreams competition?

Make and use techniques no one else has before.

Of all the things you’ve learned on your beading journey, what’s the one thing you’d like to share?

Follow your own path, not someone else’s.

Heidi’s work has been displayed all across the globe and has been a finalist and award winner in the prestigious BeadDreams competition by Bead&Button magazine every year since 2002.  In 2003, Heidi won First Place for her Beadwork in the Saul Bell Awards Competition, put on by Rio Grande. Heidi’s work has also been on the cover of Fire Mountain Gems catalog and magazines. In 2008, Heidi had the opportunity to design a beaded tea box cover for Celestial Seasoning Tea! The original piece of beadwork is on permanent display at Celestial Seasoning in Boulder, Colorado.

To find more about Heidi and her designs, visit her website at: You can also find her on Etsy, under Heidi Kummli Designs and White Wolf Trading Co. Visit Heidi on Facebook at

Heidi teaches private workshops and also spiritual bead classes at her mountain home in the summers. She has been a teacher along with her good friend - and fellow Kalmbach author! - Sherry Serafini, at the Colorado Bead Retreat since it started in 2013. For more information on her classes and workshops, visit Heidi's site.

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