Artistry with cultural inspiration

Travels inspire artist's beadwork

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010

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Staff photos by BOB RENNEISEN
Artist Liz Printz of Lusby works on a beaded necklace.

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Tricia Hall, owner of the Bead Boutique in Prince Frederick, is shown surrounded by beads, jewelry and assorted jewelry findings in her shop.

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This beaded necklace is a work-in-progress by local artist Liz Printz.

For local artist Liz Printz of Lusby, beading has been a full-time vocation since 1993, but her interest in beading and beaded jewelry goes back to a much earlier time in her life.

"I've been beading since I was a little kid," she said with a smile.

The seventh in a family of eight children, Printz recalls helping her older siblings bead and embroider their jeans in the 1960s.

"My dad, in 1966, became the director of the Peace Corps in Morocco. My whole family moved to Rabat and there were just so many beautiful textiles and beads and great markets," she said.

Her family also lived in Niger, Zaire and even, for a while, in Haiti.

"I collected beads and I [began to] admire how, in many cultures, there are those who are able to create something beautiful just from what they have — it's really inspiring … Anything can be incorporated — a piece of metal, a medal, a coin, a geode slice — anything you can think of, anything. It can be abstract, it can be whimsical; you can achieve any effect."

Printz returned to the United States at the age of 20, going to school and working odd jobs.

"I would wear my beadwork and people started buying it and I started selling it and got the nerve to put it into a few stores and it sort of became a business. I enjoy doing it so much; I consider myself fortunate," she said.

These days, with the popularity of beading and beaded jewelry continuing to increase, bead shops, craft stores and numerous Web sites are available as resources. This wasn't the case 20 or 30 years ago, Printz said.

"When I first came back to the United States there weren't that many bead stores, so I started making some of the components and took classes in silversmithing, clay, glass, paper and all kinds of things and then I would make a lot of the components in my jewelry. I could make a neat stone or something that would mimic what I couldn't find. I also discovered polymer clay and began making a line of goofy little fish and cats and things and that was popular for about 10 years, but I was still doing beading as well."

Her craving for new materials hasn't stopped, she said.

"About six years ago, I moved to a little place on the beach in St. Mary's County and started collecting sea glass and incorporating it into my work and developed a line with the sea glass.

"I enjoy bead embroidery, basically incorporating all kinds of objects. It allows me the opportunity to incorporate just about anything I can think of into a piece of beadwork."

Printz's beaded jewelry pieces are all unique and the product of her creative imagination.

"I create the pieces I see in my mind," she said. "I wasn't always able to do that; I'm better able to visualize now. Each piece I do is something new — they create themselves, in a way. It's very intuitive; they seem to work themselves out. I start with sort of an idea in my head. Some pieces just sort of make themselves, they're intuitive; other pieces I struggle over."

But the creativity can be a restless process, she said.

"When you do a lot of beadwork, you end up with a lot of what I call ‘UFOs' — unfinished objects — because you're often halfway through a project thinking, ‘been there, done that,' and you become more inspired about what you intend to do next."

About 20 years ago or so, people started asking for classes so she started teaching as well.

"First, I started teaching down here at the North End Gallery, then out in Reston, Va. for a long time," she said. "Then Trish [Tricia Hall] finally opened the Bead Boutique [in Prince Frederick] and I went in right away and asked her if I could teach there. I love teaching there — the people who take the classes and those who teach the classes are just great; and I've also taken classes there. I also teach at Annmarie Garden."

Tricia Hall, who opened the Bead Boutique in 2006, said a variety of instructors teach an array of different beading and jewelry techniques at her shop.

"All the instructors are very good, very helpful," she said. "They want you to learn their secrets. Sometimes I've been to classes over the years and they don't give you the little secrets."

The Bead Boutique is a treasure trove of resources for shoppers and beaders alike, Hall said.

"We sell materials and hand-made jewelry. Some customers come in just for the jewelry, but most come for the beads and materials, and, of course, the classes," she said. "[People] can come in and we'll work with them. They're free to work here and we'll help with advice and answers to their questions."

Those interested in classes or with questions about beads and beading in general are always welcome, she said.