I retired from the Waterloo County School Board in 1996 as a computer consultant for elementary schools. I wrote curriculum and worked with principals and teachers to implement the effective use of computers in the classroom. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my different jobs in education.
Now What Will I Do???
After retiring I tried out a couple different ventures and art forms: house parties for a line of clothing, future markets, sewing for my children, crocheting, and stained glass—but none of these resonated with me.
In 2000 (after my husband retired), we were invited by friends in Tuscon to stay at an RV resort for the month of February. While there, I read in the local paper that there were gem and bead shows happening all across the city. Naturally I wanted us to check one out—so we went to a huge bead show. I was totally blown away by all the lovely beads and jewellery, but walked out without buying a thing because I had no idea where to start. The next day I called up a local bead store and signed up for as many classes as I could take before we had to leave to return home. When I returned home I signed up for a week-long beadwork class with William Hodge (OCAD) in Haliburton for Georgian College.
This was the start of my beading adventures!!!!!
The Beginning of the GRBS
After beading every spare moment, I soon started to think about connecting with other beaders and about selling my work. I bought many beads and patterns from Cathy Lampole in Newmarket (before she had a store), and it was Cathy who put me in touch with Roxann Blazetich-Ozols. We met, and decided we should start a “Bead Society”. At the beginning, our small meetings were in Kitchener and Cambridge. We had our first bead show in 2002 in the party room of our condo building in Waterloo.
Beadwork, Bead Shows, Retreats, Teaching, Website, Artist-In-Residence
It didn’t take long for me to conclude that selling finished beadwork wasn’t what I wanted to do. Instead, I decided that I’d prefer teaching others how to make these lovely pieces of jewellery.
Next came learning how to write effective beadwork instructions, making myriad decisions about buying beads in quantity, packaging “kits” my way, and finding venues for teaching classes.
All of this led to vending and teaching at shows across Canada and in the US. This included the Bead Oasis shows (Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax), the Creative Festival, and shows by the Toronto Bead Society.
Tidbit: This couldn’t have happened without the active help and support of my husband Brad and good friends who worked in my show booths (Sue Henry and Cindy Goldrick, to name two special ones).
In 2007 I was honoured to be selected as the Artist-in-Residence for Beadwork at the Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener. This involved setting up a gallery display, giving lectures, teaching classes, and creating a beadwork piece for their permanent collection. [photo of purse, gallery]
A good part of this life included learning about business: inventory, bookkeeping, marketing and more. I needed a website (a story in itself), a social media presence, business cards, and brochures. This meant finding a web designer, computer technician, photographer, bookkeeper, and help filling orders.
We continued to spend the winter months in Tucson: I sold finished beadwork and kits through a gallery, sold kits and taught at the Tucson gem and bead shows, at stores, and at the Voyager RV Resort too. I discovered, and then attended for several years, a January Bead Retreat in Texas where I learned, taught classes, and made good friends. Several years later this led to teaching in Dallas/Fort Worth and in San Antonio, usually in early spring on our way back to Canada.
I love taking classes and learning new techniques. I’ve tried wirework, Kumihimo, metal work, metal clay, bead looming, broad collars, bead embroidery, resin, and much more.
Chainmail and Publishing
By 2008 I had created my first chainmail kits. At shows I offered both beading and chainmail products and taught both kinds of classes. However, it wasn’t long before I moved completely into the world of chainmail.
In addition to continuing to teach at shows, retreats, and stores, I decided in 2012 to apply to teach at the huge Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee which is put on by Kalmbach Publishing. I was thrilled to be accepted! My next step was to approach the editors about publishing a book on chainmail. I sent my first book proposal in 2013, and that book was published in 2015.
Preparing the materials for a book at a large publisher is a huge amount of work—and a real learning experience! My second book was proposed, accepted, written, and then published in 2018. (They like to have three years between books.)
Tidbit: All of the hundreds of process photos in the books were taken by me—their photographers took the “beauty shot” for each project.
After a book is published, then comes the publicity needed to sell copies. My part was to work with bead stores and shows to do book signings and marketing through teaching classes and sending out emails.
Prior to the Pandemic I continued to teach chainmail classes regularly at BeadFX. In 2019 I was invited to be on the faculty at the Dundas Valley School of Art and I’d started to teach classes there. Now, of course, there are no in-person classes.
Last year I took an in-depth course on making videos but I’ve decided not to make the move to teaching online.
My current pandemic occupation is selling my rather large personal stash of beads by auction on my Facebook page Marilyn Gardiner Design. Like many others, my creative juices have stopped flowing. I’m not sure where my creative journey will lead next. Stay tuned…