August 8, 2014 at 1:00 am

Handmade

Broken necklace becomes link to jewelry-making business

Claireta Thomas hammers on a metal spiral. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Fourteen years ago, a broken necklace and an adult education brochure prompted Claireta Thomas to pursue jewelry-making as a hobby, but shortly thereafter, her place of employment went bankrupt, so she decided to turn her pastime into a small business venture.

“I had bought a necklace at a store and it broke. It was kind of pricey, so I decided to fix it,” recalls the Detroit resident. “I went to a craft store and bought supplies to fix it. Then one day, an adult education booklet came in the mail from Redford Public Schools’ Adult Education program. My daughter decided to take a sewing class, and then I looked through the catalog and there was a jewelry-making class offered, so I decided to take it.” Once she acquired the basic skills, Thomas began making jewelry and selling it at local craft shows and festivals.

Thomas later chose to expand her skills by taking a metalsmithing class at Center for Creative Studies, and another in glass beadmaking at University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Along with buying her supplies at dealer shows that come to town and on the Internet, Thomas shops for vintage crystals at resale stores because “that seems to be the best place to find them.” She also designs her jewelry with pearls and semi-precious stones, including her favorite, amethyst. The result is a unique collection she describes as “contemporary with a classic element.” She adds, “They’re pieces you’ll have for a long time.”

No doubt, Thomas’ marketing skills have given her a definite advantage for growing the business she named Ms Bead Lady’s Jewels. “I actually went to school for marketing. Business was my major with a concentration in marketing,” she says.

Her timeless pieces are currently available at Michigan Artisans on the Eastern Market in Detroit, the Grosse Pointe Center for the Arts and her Etsy shop at msbeadladysjewels.etsy.com. She also sells her work on Sundays beneath the sheds at the Eastern Market in Detroit. Prices range from $10-$125, with the majority of items being less than $50, including necklace sets.

Here, Thomas shares instructions for creating a wire spiral that can be used as a charming little enhancement for practically any piece of jewelry, including her elegant crystal necklace seen here.

Wire Spiral Charm

Level: Beginner

Estimated time: 5 minutes

Tools: Round-nose pliers, flat-nose pliers, hammer

Supplies: 8 inches of 20, 18 or 16-gauge beading wire

1. Fold wire in half, squeeze together using flat-nose pliers and leave small opening at top.

2. Insert round-nose pliers in opening and curve towards you to form loop.

3. Using flat-nose pliers, continue turning until each straight end is ½-inch long. Make loop on each end.

4. Now, gently tap spiral with hammer to harden wire so it will keep its shape.

Contact Claireta Thomas at (313) 982-3849, msbeadlady@hotmail.com or msbeadladysjewels.etsy.com

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com. For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.

Claireta Thomas and her handmade jewelry. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)