BREWER, Maine — Holden resident Sheridan Treat walked into Downeast Sticks ’n’ Stones on Wednesday with a shopping list of items she needed to finish up her Christmas projects.
She grabbed a small tray with separate compartments for each of the beads she selected and began to look over the strings and strings of colorful beads in every shape and color that adorn the shop’s walls and the hundreds of individual beads displayed on tables.
“It’s like being in a candy store,” Treat said. “I am hooked on jewelry making.”
The grandmother said she is making holiday gifts for her granddaughters and for others in her family.
“It’s so versatile,” Treat said. “It’s great. You can do any age.”
Downeast Sticks ’n’ Stones opened four years ago on North Main Street and recently moved to a new home on Wilson Street, located between Aubuchon Hardware and the Subway sandwich shop, said owner Kathleen Mailman. The bead shop is a family-run operation with daughters Jennifer Foley and Sarah Skoniecki.
Mailman always has loved beading, but it didn’t become a passion for her until after she was injured in a car accident in 2000 that left deep scars on her hands and forearms.
During her recovery, “I just started working” on making jewelry, and the physical therapy turned into a way to make money and have fun, she said.
The home hobby soon became an obsession, and then the decision was made to open the first shop.
“My husband was really glad when I got it out of the house,” Mailman said. “We grew out of that space [on North Main Street]. The new location has no problems with parking, and we don’t have stairs, so it’s handicapped-accessible. Plus, we have plenty of rooms for parties.”
Beading parties are gatherings of friends, family or co-workers who make bracelets, necklaces or earrings together in a party setting.
Beading is a pastime for some and a passion for others. The craft is something basically anyone can do, said Skoniecki.
“We have 12-year-olds who make earrings for their friends,” she said. “We have local designers who buy their beads here. If people are interested, they should come in and check it out.”
In addition to free beading classes, offered at 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, there also are classes on how to make bracelets, how to use wire, knotting, and Kumihimo braiding, which is a Japanese style of wrapping rope or chains into a necklace.
Folks involved in quilting, felting and scrapbooking also stop by for embellishments, Skoniecki said.
“We also do custom work, and we do repairs,” Mailman said.
The shop’s walls are adorned with strings of African Trade beads, freshwater pearls, coral, shell, exotic woods, glass, seeds and mood beads. “We have 200 different kinds of gemstones,” she said. “Some are precious, and others are semiprecious.”
The store also features Swarovski crystals, Pandora-style beads and Czech glass.
“It’s primo glass,” Mailman said. “They’ve been making it since the 16th century. They have it down pat.”
The store gets new beads every week, and all are purchased through fair trade, which ensures that those who make the jewelry pieces are paid a fair wage for their labors, the shop owner said.
Shortly after Treat left Downeast Sticks ‘n’ Stones, Indian Island resident Ester Mitchell walked into the shop carrying her sleeping daughter in her arms and announced, “I’m back.”
Mitchell went to the front counter, where she found locally made glass beads and then checked out a display of sparkly, light-catching stones.
“They are so beautiful,” she said. “I’ve been experimenting using the pins and the balls with semi-precious stones.”
Some of her experiments may turn into Christmas presents, she said.
Her daughter Nora, 2, woke up shortly after the duo entered the bead-filled store and began to shop herself.
Little Nora is not too young to learn how to bead a simple necklace, Mailman said. There is no minimum age or age limit and no experience necessary to make something beautiful, she said.
“You don’t have to have any skills,” Mailman said. “Come in and get inspired. We’ve got books, free basic beading classes, and we’re here to help.
“The most important thing is you have fun,” she said.