Find Beading Eden in Beads of Paradise

Who doesn't yearn for a glimpse of paradise? Moses climbed a mountain for his, Ponce de Leon sailed for his (Florida? boy was he wrong), and Robert Plant bought a stairway for his. If they had known about this Sherman Oaks store's heavenly wares, the world may have turned out richer, wiser, and much better accessorized. Adam and Eve left their fig-leaf lives for a reason - to find Paradise.

This is one of those stores that does for the beading world what the Glendale Galleria does for shop-a-holics; the merchandise is extensive and varied, surprisingly affordable, and eye-candy gleams around every labyrinthine corner?you just have to look. Search, actually, and in some cases, hunt. Beads of Paradise was born ten years ago with a sizeable selection, but has steadily been growing too big for its britches. There are twice the beautiful beads to display as space to display them, so to find your true Lapis love, you might have to squat, crouch, reach, or even dig. For those of you who love the thrill of the chase (and what beader doesn't), follow your killer instincts here.

Stepping into Beads of Paradise is like cracking open a trunk of pirate's booty: twinkling gems, precious and semi; snaking strands of pearls and ripe bunches of seed beads hang low on their hooks, begging to adorn some siren's hair. Looter or not, you may experience feelings of overwhelmed disbelief. Fortunately for first-timers, beading classes every Sunday offer a port in the storm; from 12:15 to 3pm, friendly instructor "The Bead Store Guy" Chris unravels the mysteries of basic bead stringing, knotting, and wire wrapping.

The last thing two-year manager Andre Harrison wants is for beginning beaders to feel sub-par. He and the rest of the personable staff are eager to give newcomers a tour of the store, including all its nooks and crannies. For those customers with beader's block, they will also do one-on-one work outside of the classes, and even build artists' creations for a small fee. Harrison encourages the first option. "They have to be the designer, that has to come from them," he says. "But we show them the technique of putting the piece together."

Before the design and the execution, however, comes picking out your beads. The easy part? You've obviously never been to Paradise. Along one wall hangs a cornucopia of shiny, matte, luster, metallic, and galvanized seed beads in every imaginable color. Standing racks hold all styles of glass beads, in generous strands. From the far wall beckon semi-precious stones of deep, Earthy hues, and exotic names like Chrysoprase and Chalcedony. These come in many shapes and cuts, to suit your every design. Beads of Paradise sells Turquoise alone in heishe, chip, teardrop, briolette, bamboo style, and rough cut forms.

Shopping at Beads of Paradise is an educational experience too. One lesson you might learn is that Labradorite is neither black and white, as some might imagine, nor canine, as others might imagine, but a luminous cousin to the Moonstone. If you peruse the extensive magazine and book section, you might learn everything from how to make a daisy chain to the metaphysical properties of your favorite minerals. The Amethyst necklace you always wear, for example, might actually help you sleep better at night.

While the store's beading classes usually teach with glass beads due to their uniformity, Chris says, most artists opt away from glass in time. "People tend to gravitate toward the natural stones, because they have that connection with the Earth."

Among the Earth stones the shop offers are many familiar names. Peridot, Garnet, Jasper, and Goldstone sparkle on their strands, while red and gold Tiger Eye winks appealingly. If you're hungry, try juicy chunks of Pineapple Quartz. Wash it down with milky Red Carnelian. Blue Agate and Green Tourmaline dangle like land and sea, and Onyx gives nods to more colors than black.

Aside from strands, an entire case is devoted to beads sold in singles, such as bone, large stones, and centerpieces. Austrian crystals and vintage beads are popular, and another case houses findings and spacers to set off your stones. For stringing purposes, the store offers a wide variety of leather and satin cords, sterling silver and gold-filled chains, neoprene, cotton, and elastic cords, as well as ribbon and wire. This may be your toughest decision yet. Once finished, pick up some Turkish "evil eye" beads to ward off hand cramps and calloused fingers, and you're on your way.

Visit Paradise online at www.beadsofparadise.com. This treasure chest is a jewel of a find.

Beads of Paradise
13451 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

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