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A conversation with Andrea Grzabka

A winner of the 2018 BeadDreams competition for Finished Jewelry
Andrea Grazbka Desert Lizard cropped

In 2018, Bead&Button magazine and, in conjunction with the Bead&Button Show, welcomed many submissions to our annual BeadDreams Jewelry Artistry Competition. There were three categories: the Young Beader Award, which was claimed by Paige Meseck of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the Objects & Accessories Award, Heidi Kummli of Ward, Colorado, the People's Choice Award Cliff Swain-Solomon of Sunnyvale, California, and the Finished Jewelry Award Winner, Ksenia Korobko of Tver, Russia.

As we reflect back on all of our winners and finalists, we like to take the time to understand each and every victor, because no two winning pieces are the same! Today we are so pleased to share more about the work of Andrea Grzabka of Port Angeles, Washington, the Honorable Mention winner in the Finished Jewelry category. 

We interviewed Andrea via email regarding her stunning piece, Aisha (Swahili for “She Is Life”) and we're happy to share with you her thoughts on making beadwork.

Andrea Grzabka studio
Andrea in her beading studio

Congratulations on your success in the 2018 BeadDreams competition! We would love to know more about you.

I am from Port Angeles, Washington, and I specialize in seed bead embroidery and weaving. I follow my passion for creating challenging pieces and love to share my knowlege with the anyone interested  in  learning this slow paced art form.  

I am a retired registered nurse, so my formal education is in the medical sciences. I learned to bead from books, magazines and the internet. I just follow my passion and the learning comes easily! Other interests include travel, cooking, and nutrition.

Andrea Grzabka Lion eyes
Step one in creating the lion who will be the centerpiece of a new beadwork project. 

Tell us about your beadwork. Why do you bead?

I find that my time spent beading is very restorative and energizing. So, for me, the process of creating a large piece of bead work is wonderfully slow.

I try to accomplish one large show piece per year. I don't want the process to be hurried or pushed, so I start early, take my time and let it evolve at it's own pace. A large piece is composed of many smaller pieces, so it is always easy at the beginning while making all the individual components.

The challenge comes when you need to connect it all together. My idea of how it would work doesn't always fit. This is when I learn to be patient and keep the creativity flowing. There is always a way to get it to work, often with better results than you first imagined.

Andrea Grzabka Lion face
You can really see him starting to take shape. 
Andrea Grzabka Lion finished
The final piece, with the King of the Jungle as the focal point. 
Grzabka Aisha 1
Andrea's award-winning entry from the 2018 BeadDreams competition. 

Where did you get your inspiration for your BeadDreams piece, "Aisha"?

I am often inspired by animals living in their natural surroundings. I watched a documentary about zebras and learned that they make Africa's longest land migration. They can travel more than 300 miles each year in order to follow the seasonal rains. The female zebras give birth during this migration and must not rest, but keep going to protect their foals from lurking predators.

This beadwork piece pays tribute to their amazing strength and bravery.

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

It didn't take long to find an African name that fit. "Aiesha" is the swahili name meaning "she is life".

Grzabka Aisha 2
The back of Aisha

As you may know, BeadDreams is now incorporating an award for young beaders. How do you think we can attract new beaders to our hobby? How can we reach a younger generation and encourage them to learn/participate?

How do we attract a younger generation of beaders? Easy. Show them the way.

Invite them to sit down and show them how to make earrings. Even if it's just a bead on a wire. Then take them to a bead store and let them see the possibilities.

I think I was in fifth grade when my parents finally let me get my ears pierced. Later, my mother took me and my sister to a bead store where we discovered and purchased findings to make several pairs of earrings. Before that, I had no idea that bead stores even existed, or that I could make my own earrings. The novelty wore off quickly, but the kernel of knowledge was planted, which later, at the right time, grew into something beautiful.

I believe that in this fast-paced world, it is important to keep the arts alive. There is a quality and depth in handmade objects that machines cannot impart. There is something stabilizing and meaningful to those who make it as well as those who appreciate it.

Andrea, thanks so much for chatting with us! Where can our readers learn more about you and your work?

I can be contacted at, and you can follow me on Facebook at Andrea Grzabka -- Blue Feather Beads.

Inspired by Andrea's work, or that of our other BeadDreams winners? Want to join in the fun? 

The 2019 BeadDreams application is now available! We would love to see your work!  

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