Stephanie Burnham has always crafted, even as a small child with her mum. Like so many beaders her creative life started in another textile discipline. For her own enjoyment she liked to work on counted thread techniques. She decided to enrol for an adult education course entitled Art & Design in Embroidery and it was the inspirational tutor - Helen Price who gave Stephanie the confidence to believe in her own work and achievements. By the end of the one year course she had gained the courage and confidence to produce her own work. Stephanie stayed on to take her City & Guilds in Embroidery and clearly remembers sitting through many daunting “design days”, which in retrospect she realises were so important. Stephanie believed that if this course achieves anything it is to make participants aware of colour, shapes & patterns, giving you a thirst for inspirational ides to base work on.
Stephanie was invited to teach at “The Country Cross Stitcher” by Rosemary Sharman. There she taught both Embroidery & Beading, some of these students are still in her classes today. Stephanie started beading quite unexpectedly; where have we heard this before? Whilst attending an Embroiderers Guild meeting in Letchworth. One afternoon the speaker, Sue Maguire, gave a taster session on beading with peyote stitch. Stephanie recalls, “I went along with my size 11 seed beads and a beading needle, not knowing what the heck peyote stitch was. Well, after half an hour I was hooked. Sue enthused so much and showed us her beautiful work. I needed more beads, (lots more beads) and some good instructions to learn from.”
From these small beginnings came bigger things. Stephanie’s students saw her beadwork and wanted her to teach them so she started to evolve her own designs both in embroidery and Beadwork, many of which have been featured in books & magazines.
Stephanie was invited by Search Press to co author “The Encyclopaedia of Beading Techniques” her half of the book was dedicated to all the basic Beadwoven stitches. This involved several step by step photo shoots in London and a lot of writing, but she says she is very proud of this book as it still is a best seller to this day. Four other beading books followed until she eventually decided to self publish her latest book Inspired To Bead. Stephanie felt she needed the freedom to have full say in how much text and how many diagrams she wanted to include instead of constantly being told to cut things down due to space and with her teaching background she found this very frustrating.
Stephanie’s most adventurous teaching assignment was a 10 day workshop tour of Japan. Being invited to teach in the country that actually creates those wonderful little beads has to be the ultimate honour.
Stephanie has also been thrilled to teach at The Great British Bead Show for The Beadworkers Guild on several occasions and Missenden Abby in Buckinghamshire.
Knuston Hall is very dear to Stephanie’s heart “I love the ethos of the place, everyone is committed to delivering great courses whist being the most professional you can."
With the beading workshops now a great success Stephanie decided to become a bead supplier herself; this way she had the beads available to both design with and sell to her students.
Wanting to expand her bead range and to give herself a shop window the first NEC craft show was booked, in fact The Bead scene still attends three big shows a year. “It’s great fun” says Stephanie and you get to meet all your mail order customers from around the country.
Commercial work is another fascinating side to this industry so when the phone call came with an offer of guest demonstrator for Create & Craft and then the QVC shopping channel Stephanie thought why not? She loved every minute of it even down to having to turn a headpin loop whilst holding it steady in front of a camera to a live audience.
May 2009 saw the opening of The Bead Scene Studio. Until then Stephanie had been renting a room at a local village hall to host workshops and with an ever increasing stash of beads it seemed like the best option.
Regular classes are held at the studio along with an ever increasing range of delicious beads and supplies.
Although her work does still reflect her love of peyote stitch other favourites include herringbone, right angle weave and free form beadwork.
Currently she is exploring geometric beadwork together with bright primary colours but she adds “there is nothing more satisfying than working a simple spiral rope. Just to feel to beads in your hands and the familiar rhythm of the stitch is just lovely; all is calm with the world.”