Handmade: Artist creates jewelry with unique beads

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News
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Some jewelry sits quietly on the body without making a visual sound, if you will. And, more often than not, it goes unnoticed.

But, then there’s the chunky body adornment that makes a bold statement, and appeals to those who don’t mind a fixed gazed, or two, when wearing such pieces. It’s the kind of jewelry that has slowly “evolved” for more than 20 years through the hands of Jody Mitchell, who has a talent for marrying unique beads and other components to create wearable art.

“I’ve always been a creative person, but when I had kids I didn’t think I could do that because I like to totally immerse myself in something,” said the Huntington Woods resident. But, about 23 years ago, after someone gave her daughter some loose beads for her birthday, she was inspired to take basic jewelry making classes at the Miner’s Den Jewelers in Royal Oak.

Over the years, her work transitioned into mostly ethnic-inspired pieces featured on her website,, where it’s sold through a link to USArt Boutique, an online art gallery that promotes local artists and their work. Prices range from $45-$400 per item.

“When I began making jewelry, I selected individual beads specifically for a design I had in mind. As I learned more about beads, I found myself attracted to unusual and ancient beads. At one point, I found myself with a weekend of unexpected free time. It was then that I started creating designs that combined the unusual beads that I had collected,” she explained. “It was a defining moment in my creativity. I started creating jewelry on an intuitive, rather than cognitive level.”

Mitchell, 62, is also big on re-creating old jewelry. “I go to thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales to buy the jewelry, and then I take the components apart and redesign them in a different way,” she said. “I mainly make necklaces, and I use a lot of African beads and Roman glass.” Many of the ancient beads she uses are from Afghanistan, and she’s able to find them at various shows. She also shops online, where she recently purchased “some old Islamic beads from Thailand.”

DABLS MBad African Bead Museum (6559 Grand River) in Detroit is among her sources for rare African beads. “He (Olayami Dabls) and I designed a piece together. I love going to talk to him, and learning about the history of beads,” said Mitchell. “I got some pieces from DABLS that were used in rights of passage when a boy becomes a man. I mixed those with trade beads. A lot of my beads are from Africa. I’m not sure why I have an affinity for those (beads), but I do!”

She described her customers as “People who want jewelry that is meaningful, and appreciate that I’ve collected these rare and unusual pieces.” However, she shared, “It’s hard to find an audience that appreciates the pieces and the history behind it.”

Artist Linda Allen is among Mitchell’s customers who know the worth of her work. As the owner of two pieces, she said, “I love it because it’s unique — from how she sells it to how she puts it together. She does unique beads that are a one of a kind. She works like I do — intuitively. She has exquisite designs, and I love how she arranges the clusters of beads and bobbles.”

“Heart Strings,” one of Mitchell’s newest collections, centers around “creating new jewelry from collected cherished pieces,” with jewelry of customers’ relatives or friends, and turning them into a keepsake that would work well as a gift for special occasions, like Mother’s Day or a birthday.

Later this year, one of Mitchell’s necklaces will be featured in Bead and Button magazine. Pieces from her latest collection, “Karma,” made of hand-blown glass beads she found at a flea market in Royal Oak, were among juried items in the 2016 Holiday Shop at Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center.

Detroit News Handmade Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or

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