Q&A With Our Artist Instructors


Janet Alexander Debora Mauser Richard Salley
Steven James Laurel Nathanson Ronda Stevens
Heidi Kummli Kieu Pham Gray Gwen Youngblood
Donna Lewis Sue Ripsch Laura Zeiner


Janet Alexander

What is your favorite technique to teach and why? I love teaching how to solder. It's exciting to watch the torches' flame pull the solder where you want it to go. I teach soldering using three simple rules, breaking a rule results in failure, but obeying the rules always results in successful soldering. Students who had previously been poor at soldering, leave with a better understanding of the technique.
What sets you a part from other teachers? I had a learning disability as a child and didn't learn the same way as other mainstream children. As I grew up I learned how I needed to be taught. Consequently, I started making A's in high school and college. Everyone has a different way of learning and I teach with that in mind using all types of teaching techniques.

Why should someone take your classes at Bead Fest? I offer some unique and fun classes and do my best to answer any questions that my student' have. I offer them help before, during, and after class via email. I am a retired technical writer and my class handouts are made so they can easily follow them later when they are home and working through the project again.

What is the number one thing you try to leave your students with after each class? I want my students to have a complete understanding of the process they learned and leave with confidence that they are able to complete that same technique at home. I tell them to go home and practice!

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Steven James

What is your favorite technique to teach and why? Clearly it is torch enameling, because it is the one technique I teach the most often - but the projects are always different and in my opinion incredibly unique - I love seeing what students can do with this technique, as well as how they can push the project in new, exciting directions.

What gets you excited when it comes to teaching jewelry-making techniques? I'm always excited by the enthusiasm the students show with your finished work. I love seeing an idea come to life in the hands of a student!

Why should someone take your classes at Bead Fest? Someone should take my classes if they are looking for a way to break away from their routines, while learning something incredibly interesting. It's a pretty powerful experience to be in a room full of creativity and to be able to come in, sit down and simply make something with your own two hands is amazingly rejuvenating. I've made the class experience incredible easy - students don't need to pack a thing and can just show up to class! Plus if they've watched my FREE torch enameling videos - these LIVE classes are a great extension of previously viewed techniques.

What is the number one thing you try to leave your students with after each class? I try to encourage students to continue using the creativity they exhibited in the classroom. I obviously want them to keep practicing the techniques they were taught, but I also want them to have a sense of how creative they truly aware. Walking out with an awesome finished project is always nice too.

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Heidi Kummli

Tell us your favorite jewelry-making story about you or a student you have had. I use aluminum foil to back clear cabochons. I remember one lady asking where I get my foil she was surprised when I said my kitchen. Many people think you have to buy special tools and materials when really you don't, you have them at home.

What gets you excited when it comes to teaching jewelry-making techniques? I love passing on my years of experience to my students. Seeing a student get excited that they actually make something beautiful and it wasn't that difficult.

What makes your teaching technique so unique? I try to bring a bit of my surrounding into the class, spreading peace and beauty and calming.

Why is teaching others so important to you?It's part of my path to share my knowledge. And if I can get just that one person excited about something than it's all worth it.

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Donna Lewis

What is your favorite piece of jewelry you have created so far? It would still have to be the bracelet called Wristlinks that was a finalist in the 2008 Saul Bell Design Award. It was fun to make. There is so much silver in the piece that it would be cost prohibitive now..

What gets you excited when it comes to teaching jewelry-making techniques?My students' excitement is the biggest contributor. When they have success and clearly feel happy about their piece, I am thrilled and motivated to teach more.

What is the number one thing you try to leave your students with after each class? If you don't like what is happening with your design, grab it up, spritz, set it aside and walk away. You will come back with a more confident approach.

Why should someone take your classes at Bead Fest? Besides making fun jewelry they will love to wear, there are techniques and experiences I share in class conversation that offer some real confidence when students return home.

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Debora Mauser

What is your favorite technique to teach and why? Currently enameling is high on my list. I am loving adding color to my creations.

What gets you excited when it comes to teaching jewelry-making techniques? By far, it's the 'ahh haa' moment! The moment that the student realizes that they understand, that the new concept is now within their grasp!

What is your favorite piece of jewelry you have created so far? The first three Wild Woman Bangles that I made out of scraps on my work bench. I wear them all the time!

What is the number one thing you try to leave your students with after each class? An understanding of their new skill and that making mistakes is ok.

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Laurel Nathanson

How long have you been teaching with Bead Fest? This is my first year at Bead Fest and I am so excited to be a part of this totally awesome community!

What made you decide to start teaching? I have been teacher for many years, and what I love most is being able to help students push themselves and their ideas in new directions. I love the possibilities for material and design exploration that being a jeweler offers, and being able to guide and encourage students to explore the endless possibilities is really exciting to me.

What is your favorite part about getting to travel the country for teaching opportunities? I suspect that my favorite part of teaching at Bead Fest will be meeting so many cool people, building new friendships and connections. Being surrounded by so many like-minded people who appreciate and value this work will be really rewarding.

Do you ever get the opportunity to attend a class from another instructor that you admire? I am definitely planning on taking classes, there are so many great options to choose from!

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Kieu Pham Gray

What is your favorite technique to teach and why? I love to saw because it is instantly gratifying!

Tell us your favorite jewelry-making story about you or a student you have had. During a soldering class, from across the room a student said,"Hey Kieu, it went really fast, what did I do wrong?" Me, from across the room, "It went really quickly because you did it right!"

What is your favorite piece of jewelry you have created so far? Ammonite pendants for a custom order.

Why is teaching others so important to you? I just like to share my knowledge.

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Sue Ripsch

Sue Ripsch

1) How long have you been teaching with Bead Fest? The first time that I taught at a Bead Fest Show was at Bead Fest Atlanta in 2005. It was a lot of fun and there were many wonderful students in attendance. I have been teaching at other Bead Fest venues ever since.

2) What made you decide to start teaching? As I was growing up, I wanted to be either a teacher or a nurse. I ended up being a nurse, but have always had a soft place in my heart for teachers. My love of chain maille just seemed to lead me to needing to teach it, so that I could share and hopefully instill that love of the technique in others.

3) How many shows a year do you attend? I attend and teach at five major shows a year throughout the country. It is very interesting to see the variety of students that come to the shows in the different locations. All are wonderful and always offer something for me to learn along the way.

4) What is your favorite part about getting to travel the country for teaching opportunities? I find it wonderful to meet so many different people from different locations and walks of life. Everyone has something of value to offer the class and myself, and I cherish the opportunity to meet them. I also love to travel, so having a show to attend is an added benefit.

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Richard Salley

What sets you a part from other teachers? I've been working with metal for over 40 years; in that time I have seen most of the problems one can encounter and I know how to solve them.

What is the number one thing you try to leave your students with after each class? I try to ensure that everyone leaves with a completed project and has learned at least one new skill."

What makes your teaching technique so unique? I believe that I am very patient and very good at solving problems, and problem-solving is a big part of jewelry-making.

Why is teaching others so important to you? Many great jewelry artists have helped me and I want to return the favor.

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Ronda Stevens

What is your favorite technique to teach and why? I love to teach traditional Wire Wrap Design. I have found that students want to create a piece of jewelry just like mine when taking a class. I can make that happen teaching traditional wire wrapping techniques. The success of that first project is extremely important to ensure that the student will make more when they return home.

What sets you apart from other teachers? I want to make each class enjoyable. Some techniques are more difficult to learn than others, so I try to find ways to lighten my approach to teaching and keep people smiling during class. This cuts down on the stress of learning something new.

Why should someone take your classes at Bead Fest? Each class that I teach is based on a design that I have created with the student in mind. My classes are sometimes taught at a slower pace, but it is very important to me that each person in class feels they received my attention and that I shared my knowledge with them. The student's success is my number one priority.

What is the number one thing you try to leave your students with after each class? A sense of accomplishment with the desire and ability to go home and make another piece on their own.

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Gwen Youngblood

What sets you a part from other teachers? My patience and sense of humor; also, I love troubleshooting problems that arise. They are such great learning opportunities for me and for the student.

Why should someone take your classes at Bead Fest? My goal in each class is for students to accomplish more than they ever thought possible by breaking down what looks like a complicated project into small, achievable steps. By the end of class, students are often amazed at what they were able to accomplish.

What prompted you to want to teach others about jewelry-making? Looking back over my various careers, the common denominator has been that I was the teacher/mentor. It just seemed like the natural next step for me when I had mastered these techniques and had developed my own spin on some of them.

What is your favorite piece of jewelry you have created so far? It is a piece I made for my mother. My Dad was very ill the last few years of his life and shopping for a Christmas gift for my Mom was difficult. One year he asked me to make a piece of jewelry for him to give my Mom. She loves turquoise and I found the perfect cabochon to make a pendant. I had just learned to make bezels and was so proud to help my Dad surprise my Mom. And Dad was so happy to have a Christmas gift for my Mom.

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Laura Zeiner

What is your favorite technique to teach and why? I love teaching brick stitch! There are two steps per stitch and I LOVE that second step with the satisfying the-bead-pulls-into-place. It helps the technique make sense and usually elicits a smile from a first-time student.

Why should someone take your classes at Bead Fest? We're going to have fun! I love to get to know my students and try to create a happy atmosphere where everyone can chat and bead.

What is the number one thing you try to leave your students with after each class? I want my students to leave wanting to do more and expand on what they've learned in class. I love it when someone sends me an email after class with a picture of a cool variation on what we've covered..

What prompted you to want to teach others about jewelry-making? The best thing about teaching is watching someone "get it" for the first time. I started working for a bead store years ago, and that light bulb over the head moment when someone understood a stitch or discovered a new direction in beadwork always gave me a beading "high" that prompted me to want to get serious about teaching.

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