Maine Women
February, 2009

Bead artist dazzles with color, technique

It's not often that you hear an artist describe herself as "extremely organized." But beadmaker and jewelry designer Stephanie Sersich says that the only way she can make pieces look so chaotic is by having organization. Chaotic is one word for the outburst of color, texture and form in her extraordinary pieces. Brilliance in the beads, whimsy in the shapes, and diversity in the arrangements all make for a riot of joy.

Sersich, a bright flame of energy herself, lives and works in an 1830 Greek Revival house in Topsham, where a carriage house serves as her studio for making beads and teaching classes. She uses an ancient Italian beadmaking technique called lampworking, where glass rods are wound around a steel mandrel over a flame to build layers of color.

stephanie sersich profile

Sersich, 32, learned the technique from Sage and Tom Holland at a workshop in Arkansas in 1996. She has been creating her own style since then, and the beadmaking is just one part of it. She uses beads to create wearable art and this element is the most compelling to her.

She possesses a rare combination of artistic creativity and business acumen that have made her a successful full-time artist, showing her work in galleries and at shows around the country, teaching at workshops in the US and abroad, and winning awards in juried shows.

Last year, her piece called "Aggregation Celebration" took first place in the Mixed Media category of a juried show, Celebrating Beads, at the Bead Museum in Washington, D.C. She was also in last fall's "Work of the Hand" show at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport.

According to Barbara Michelena, organizer and co-chair of the annual craft show, "Stephanie's work is so unique, and so beautiful, and so different. That's always what we look for. I invited her to be in the show this year because of her unique creative design abilities and the high quality of her craftsmanship."

Sersich incorporates fibers, talismans, natural materials and cords with her beads in a unique knotting technique that she developed, called the Spiny Knotting technique, which is derived from macrame knotting. "I've always liked assembling jewelry more than actually making beads,' she says, calling herself "an engineer of little things."

Inspiration comes from different people, places and things.

For starters, she says, "all my designs are inspired by the natural world especially when it comes to shapes."

For colors, she looks to textiles and clothes. "I love looking at clothing catalogs, especially ones from The Netherlands," she says, where color choices seem different. "I realize that for my own color sensibilities, I like to put things that go together, and then add one thing that doesn't go. That's what makes it look like mine."

She often starts her creative process with a theme or feel in mind, and looking outside her field helps inspire her.

"I exist on a feeling, and on intuition. So music gives me lots of inspiration," she says.

She also looks to painters who "push" color like Pierre Bonnard and Wassily Kandinsky.

Collaboration with other artists can bring new ideas and direction. She has a business called Hearts and Bones with Portland, Oregon artist Michelle Goldstein.

"Our work is similar enough so that we can share a vision, but we have different skills so the items we make together look different. It brings new things to both of our minds," says Sersich.

And if she ever finds herself with artist's block, she steps away.

"In December," she says, "I didn't really work a lot. I cooked, I painted the bathroom. And I love, love, love to knit. It exercises another part of my brain, and also uses different hand muscles. And sure enough, at the end of the month, I got back into the beadmaking spirit and some new things emerged."

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