by Kirby LindsayFremont may well be an artistic community, but not everyone in Fremont can create art. Some of us (that would be me) find mystifying the ability of others to take a collection of materials, such as those tiny beads, clasps, fasteners, pendants and wires sold at bead shops, and convert them into gorgeous pieces of art jewelry.
Jade Gunnarson, owner of Gargoyle Beads, has the touch and talent. A professional jewelry designer, Gunnarson admitted her store reflects her own interests. “I purposely buy the most hard-to-find, collectible pieces,” she explained.
And For Those Who Can’t?
Gargoyle opened in Fremont on Halloween 2009, after Gunnarson spent 16 years operating the store in the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco. With her experience as a bead vendor, she described four common customer types –
- newbies – “looking to be educated,” she explained, on beading or the historical significance of beads, “like an archeological dig.”
- craft curious – they have discovered beading, and reside somewhere on the learning curve, and continue to seek out sources and techniques
- shoppers – those who simply want to buy something pre-made
- custom/repairs – people who want something made to order, or repair (or have repaired) a piece they already have
All four can benefit from help, and with it Gunnarson has customers who started as shoppers expand out as designers of their own custom pieces, through classes and advice. Also, she pointed out, the truly crafts-challenged - like me – can still wander the store and select elements we like. Even after Gunnarson assembles the elements into a personalized piece of jewelry, the final could be as little as $10, or even $5, depending on the elements chosen.
“People bring in ads from stores, websites,” she explained. One customer found an internet ad from a large chain store of a necklace she liked. The customer purchased supplies and, using glass rather than plastic, built two necklaces and a bracelet nearly identical to the pictured piece, for the price advertised for the necklace alone.
Gunnarson can also help with repairs. Many times people reverse engineer their pieces, correcting design errors so the jewelry will now hold intact for a lifetime rather than a season. With her experience, Gunnarson can advise on what works and what doesn’t – products like silk that tend to break she won’t carry in her store.
The Significance of the Gargoyle
“There is always a bead that serves to commemorate, or as a marker,” Gunnarson explained, “it is rarely just purely superficial.” As Chair for the Northwest Bead Society 2010 Bead Bazaar, Gunnarson knows beads – and her community. “At one point Seattle had more bead stores per capita than any place in the nation,” she remarked. Today there are not so many, although each has its place. “As a designer, my suppliers are different,” from a crafts based store, she explained, and provides “a good complement for other bead stores.”
The store name, Gunnarson explained, referred to the role gargoyles play as creatures that protect, defend, and serve as talisman – just like jewelry. In the study of history and cultures, jewelry started as pieces to protect the wearer for safe passage or from evil spirits.
Even a single pendant, on a cord, can prove “talismanic,” Gunnarson pointed out, “it means something.” No matter her customer - those crafts-challenged or crafts-expert – “I love seeing what people buy,” Gunnarson admitted. Where ever on the spectrum, bead stores like Gargoyle still offer advice, instruction and, perhaps, a special charm.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.