Topsham bead-maker offers colorful jewelry

Posted Nov. 10, 2009, at 7:02 p.m.

If you’re craving color now that the garden has been put to bed and even the autumn leaves are gone from the trees, look to the work of bead-maker Stephanie Sersich of Topsham.

Her brilliantly colorful glass bead jewelry including everything from a pendant shaped like an abstract eye to a necklace of whimsical flowers will be on display and for sale Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13 and 14, at The Gifted Hand Fine Art & Craft Show at the Holiday Inn in Ellsworth. The show is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

“I have been making jewelry ever since I was a little girl stringing pasta on yarn,” Sersich said with enthusiasm.

The daughter of a mother who pursued interior and clothing design, Sersich said she gained her color sense early on as she admired her mother’s collection of ethnic fashions. She also was impressed by the brightly hued sweaters her mom designed and knitted. She said she gained respect for the technical side of the design process from her father, an engineer who also is talented at designing furniture.

Sersich credits the work of Arkansas bead-maker Sage Holland, who makes beads through a process called lampworking, with inspiring her interest in this work. After Sersich saw some of Holland’s work in 1996, she could not wait to try out the process herself. She taught herself some basics from a book and then took a workshop with Sage Holland and the bead-maker’s husband, Tom, who also is a master of the art.

Even though she has learned from and built upon the Hollands’ techniques, to this day Sersich usually makes an annual pilgrimage to share ideas with her mentors.

The lampworking process seems particularly well-suited to an artist who loves not only results but also the pleasures entailed in the technical process.

To make her beads, Sersich begins by melting glass rods over a flame. She then winds the molten material around a steel mandrel to form a hole in each bead. She adds colors and shapes by dropping, layering and shaping drips of molten glass that are added to each basic bead. For instance she can use a tool to “smash a dot of molten glass into a flower petal shape,” or take tweezers to pull and twist the glass into additional imaginative forms, she said.

“In the course of making one bead,” Sersich said, “I will change the surface maybe 100 times before it is completed.” This is particularly evident in Sersich’s complex floral necklaces, in which some fabulous flower forms may be found that sport numerous petals and colorful embellishments.

“The big difference between this and working with other media such as polymer clay is that the glass cannot be touched, because it is molten,” Sersich said.

Her vibrant beads prove that for this bead-maker, the challenge of working with untouchable material also is a joy.

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