From Designer of the Year to Starman TrendSetter

I have always been a person who loves a challenge. I learned to play the piano when I was 4 and by the time I entered junior high, I could play several woodwind instruments. The clarinet was my favorite and I competed in local and regional competitions as well as solo and ensemble events. My freshman year of high school, I was disappointed when I lost first chair in symphonic band to a senior. Although some might see my competitiveness as somewhat of a detriment, I think it has served me well. As my grandfather always said, "if a job is worth doing, it's worth doing well". This mantra resonates with me daily.

2017 was a year where lots of magical things happened. Having been published over a dozen times (four of which were in 2016 and 2017 after a long hiatus from beading), I finally had my first project on the cover of Beadwork magazine. The issue came out in August/September of that year, which coincided with my 40th birthday celebration. I did countless shows and learned what worked for me and what did not. I introduced beadweaving to the general public in the Dallas/Fort Worth area; some wanted to wear my work and others wanted to learn from me.


In 2018, I was a Designer of the Year for Beadwork magazine. The challenge was to publish a unique never-seen-before project every issue for one year. (I wrote a great article about that experience, if you would like to read more about it. It's called A Year in the Life of a Designer of the Year.) I also launched my new brand and my website, Steele Magnolia Designs. I began offering PDFs and kits online and I started teaching classes again. And I kept on keeping on with my mission to make beadwork cool again, doing more than 30 arts festivals and pop-up markets in the area. 

(Me at the Arlington Brewing Arts Festival in September 2018)

I'm not going to lie: the past couple of years have exceeded even my somewhat ridiculously high expectations and somewhat delusional fantasies about being a bead artist for a living. After I submitted my final Designer of the Year project in the summer of 2018, I started to evaluate what would be next for me. So many jewelry artists publish books, but I a) didn't think I had enough material - or patience - for that and b) didn't want to give up on doing the makers markets I have come to love. I had to find a way to blend my love of educating others with my love of showing and selling my wares. 

When I was growing up, my father was a graphic designer. This was in the 1970s and 1980s when nothing was computerized yet, so he was a true artist - and a huge fan of the arts. I remember spending Sundays at museums and attending larger arts festivals in the DFW metroplex. My favorite was always the Main Street Arts Festival in downtown Fort Worth. So I decided to apply. No one was more shocked than me when I received my acceptance email and I am already stressing myself out, trying to plan the perfect displays with the most beautiful pieces of beadwork the world has ever seen. I don't just want to GO to FWMSAF, I want to stand out (and maybe even win an award in my category).

This news was exciting, to be sure. But what about the teaching component? Part of what I loved about being a Designer of the Year is that I had deadlines. I got to see my work in print. I got to challenge myself to play with new bead shapes and stretch my limits on color choices. Go big or go home, right? 

One morning in October, I was checking my email and saw that my mother-in-law had forwarded me an application from Starman Beads. They were looking for people to join their 2019 TrendSetters team. Having worked in the bead biz for a number of years, I was very familiar with Starman's product and this incredible design program. So I applied and found out in late December that I had been accepted. YAY!!! I am joining the ranks of people whose works have been published in books, designers who have thousands of subscribers on YouTube channels where they teach the art of beadweaving, and even working with the former editor of Beadwork and a fellow Designer of the Year. It's a little intimidating, to be honest, but I do love a challenge.

So, what exactly does it mean to be a member of the Starman TrendSetters team? It means that I get to see new colors and bead shapes before they even hit the market. It means I get to flex my creative muscles and put together new designs with components no one has ever seen before. My designs may be featured in project form on the Starman website; they may even be featured in international ads and marketing materials. It's a huge opportunity for me, both personally and professionally. Although I can't share any of the designs in progress - or even any of the beads I am using - until the project is "live", rest assured there will be lots of good new stuff coming your way this year.

If you haven't already, please go on over to my Facebook page and give me a like and a follow. I would love to meet everyone at art shows and/or classes - and I always welcome your questions and feedback on my designs!

Here's to another great and challenging year!