Potomac Beads Europe: From Idea To Reality

September 22th marked six months of Potomac Beads Europe existence. I thought it would be appropriate to stop for a minute and think about what we have achieved here.

It seems unbelievable to me that in a few days it will be a year from the day I met Allie and Nathan for the first time in Prague while they were on their “tour de Europe“. I was a biology PhD student back then, but I wanted to leave the university and find a full-time job when Nathan reached out to me with the plan of bringing Potomac Beads to Europe.  The idea was to bring the vast range of jewelry-making supplies that Potomac Beads offer to their European customers who wouldn’t have to pay customs and expensive shipping on Potomac exclusive beads, crystals and other items while receiving customer service and the rest of Potomac special features which made them so popular in the US.

You can imagine that after this meeting my life completely changed. I have been a beader for years, making and selling my own jewellery, and suddenly there was an opportunity to do what I love as a job. It was scary and exciting at the same time. I couldn’t be more thrilled for the launch, but there was a long way in front of us. Setting up a company is never easy because of the amount of bureaucracy you need to overcome. It was twice as hard for me being a biology student and beader while missing the necessary knowledge of a businesswoman. It took three very challenging months before I could hold the official founding papers and keys to our warehouse in my hand. Now when I think of it, I really try to not think about those difficult times 😀

A lot of great things also happened during the three months too. I got engaged which established the fact that my now-husband Pavel was willing to spend his life with me and a lot of beads at the same time. He supported and still supports me immensely. He is the one who tubes and bags most of the beads, so I can send you orders, do videos, write blogs (and come home to him at some reasonable hour 😀 ). Plus he is our IT guy in addition to his other two jobs. As you can see, like Potomac Beads US, Potomac Beads EU has become a family company.

Thanks to all of this, we also visited the United States last December, so I could see and train at Potomac Beads Headquarters in Haggerstown, Maryland, and  deliver the best service to you here in Europe as well! Allie and Nathan took us to Washington D.C., a place I’ve never dreamt of seeing in my life, the same goes for the Potomac Beads store which is a place of beaders’ dreams with great people working there.

IMG_20171209_143547

When we got back, the clock started ticking since a huge container with Potomac Beads EU initial inventory and warehouse equipment was sailing to Europe, to our warehouse-to-be, from which I still hadn’t got keys back then.

Nevertheless, after a number of sleepless nights for me, all ended up well: with the beads inside of our shop! Pavel, my Dad and our friends helped us to unload everything and build slatwalls where their names are forever burnt into one their columns to remember everyone who helped in this adventure.

Post_1

Finally, on March 22nd 2018, we opened the online store to public and it hasn’t been closed since. Since then we launched two new beads StormDuo and RounDuo Mini, another one, EVA, will launch soon. The inventory got much much bigger, new items are coming in every week. At the same we are trying to add specific items you would like to see on our site and create a lot of content, so you would get inspired or learn something new every day. Like I do myself.

In the “personal section”, a lot of happened too. Pavel and I got married in June, postponing our honeymoon to “some date” since I need to take of Potomac Beads EU now. We managed to squeeze in at least a trip to Amsterdam you might have read about already.

2018-06-02-Terezea-Pavel-Svatebni-Jonatan-Jan-430.jpg

Since I am rather a new member to Potomac Bead Family, I am trying to add my own touch to our creative content. Making original videos for you is one way to use my knowledge and experience gathered throughout my beading years. I am also trying to find new items you could enjoy and make your original jewelry from.

Looking back, it really has been a wild ride. Seeing what things are behind us, I am pretty sure great things are yet to happen for Potomac Beads Europe. I hope you will join and be there with us on our beading journey!

Bead on,
-Tereza
Potomac Beads Europe
http://www.potomacbeads.eu
http://www.potomacbeads.com

Beading and biking in Amsterdam

For the first week of August, I left the warehouse for the first time since our launch in March for a few days. I had a great reason – a beading event in Amsterdam held by Erika Sándor to celebrate International Beading Week.

Amsterdam_01
Goodie bags ready for IBW participants

For five years already, the first week of August is for many beaders marked as the International Beading Week (IBW) organized by the Beadworkers Guild from United Kingdom.

Beadworkers Guild is a registered charity dedicated to supporting and promoting the art of beadweaving and is open to bead workers and bead artists everywhere. They publish their own magazine, back in the day they were also organizing the “national beading week” which got so popular, it turned into International Beading week with ambassadors across the whole world, with most of them based in Europe.

Amsterdam_02
Me and Erika getting ready for the event!

What the Guild says about the event: “The original ethos of our idea was (and still is) to educate and encourage the wider public to participate in beading, to support bead traders so we could continue to have an excellent source of supplies and to have some fun sharing our passion with others in our local area.”

One of this year’s ambassadors was Erika Sándor, a very talented jewellery designer educated in all the aspects of this art, and also my dear friend who lives in Amsterdam. She prepared a special event for IBW which was a beading class for (not only) Dutch beaders where everyone could make her Star Anise pendant. The pattern can be downloaded for free from Erika’s and Beadworkers Guild website, so everyone could join us in celebration of beading anywhere and anytime. Erika also invited me and Potomac Beads Europe as an honoured guest, and I couldn’t say no, of course!

Amsterdam_03
Preparing my humble jewellery display at the event location

For the beaders joining us on this event, I prepared a special package with our pattern and a goodie bag full of our Potomac Exclusives like StormDuo, AVA beads, RounDuo, RounTrio, Faceted RounTrio, DiscDuo, IrisDuo and also brand new EVA beads and RoundDuo Mini which we will launch soon.

Amsterdam_04
A little bit of introduction for the beginning

It is always amazing to meet fellow beaders in person, to look at each other’s finished jewellery while chatting about the craft, beads and experience. I joined other ladies and made my own Star Anise pendant. It was rather refreshing to step away from my own original designing and let myself be guided by someone else’s pattern. It is a great way to learn something new while making something beautiful. And I am still considering making a pair of statement earring to match the pendant as well :))

The event was a great success, the only issue was, it was too short! Time flies by when you are having fun! We decided though to stay for a few days in Amsterdam, enjoy some time out in the sun while sightseeing and biking in and around the city.

Since we visited Erika last year, we were already recognizing some places, returning to the favourite ones and visiting new ones as well. I can only recommend visiting local markets which are changing all the time. One day offering great food, the other turning into an excellent and inspiring flea market where my only wish was for my luggage to be bigger!

To deserve all the great food and local beer, we needed to do some proper biking, so Erika and her husband took us for a trip outside of Amsterdam to see the sea 🙂 More than the sea I enjoyed the local way of life on small islands where sheep and cows can roam free thanks to the natural barriers made of canals, and where you can find amazing ice cream for 1 € in an old cowshed! I am telling you, stroopwafel flavoured ice cream is a thing you want to have in your life!

We decided to spent our last day by visiting museums which Amsterdam has plenty of. Little did we know that you need to preorder tickets to Van Gogh Museum days in advance. So we took a picture of the building at least and moved over to Micropia, an exhibition of microbes, bacterias, algae and other little things 🙂 I am originally a biologist, my husband is one too, so you can understand our motivation!

One would also think that going to North Sea would mean that you escape the heat waves which were going on in the Czech Republic, but we were greatly mistaken. That meant we spent the rest of the day in Amsterdam zoo which was right next door. And it was, a bit surprisingly, a great idea! I had so much fun there 🙂

DSC01881_2
As a former ornithologist, I couldn’t leave without measuring my wingspan!

Although catching up with things after this trip was very demanding for me, we enjoyed a few days away. I hope you have enjoyed this little tour through Amsterdam too! I got a lot of inspiration for the future of Potomac Beads Europe, both the website and the warehouse, and also possible future events we might not only attend, but even hold! Stay tuned 😉

-Tereza
Potomac Beads Europe

 

Introduction to Soutache

Are you a fan of beadweaving? Do you like bead embroidery as well? Then we got something else for you that might catch your eye: Soutache Embroidery.

A little bit of history…

From the historical point of view, soutache is nothing new. Some sources say that the word itself comes from a Hungarian word sujtás which describes the artistic decorations on sleeves and trousers of Hungarian national folk costumes. The history of soutache is tightly connected to European history where the trends and fashion, among other things, were influenced by the ruling country or house, in this case by the Habsburgs. From there, the “French fashion effect” spread through the whole empire, reaching Turkey, Hungary, and even Russia.

Soutache braids were, and still are, used in the French art of passementerie where delicate and elaborate trimmings and edgings from braids, beads, precious metals and silk are applied to clothing or furnishing. This kind of art is very old. Let’s take for example the Czech Republic where our European warehouse is and which is also a country which produces soutache of excellent quality The first guilds that worked with braids, lace and other similar materials formed already during 12th and 13th century. Nevertheless, true passementerie (or in Czech pozament) was first produced by the guilds in the 16th century. These guilds survived here until today, in the city of Krnov, where the factory producing soutache (among other passementerie supplies) still operates. The origin of soutache itself is also dated to 16th century.

soutache_2

Clematis – a headpiece made by me in 2016

What is soutache

Soutache braid, sometimes refered to as “Russian braid”, is a decorative braid, a type of galloon, made from both natural and synthetic fabrics. Among natural and semi-natural materials used for soutache are silk, cotton, mixture of silk and wool, and the nowadays most popular rayon. You can also find soutache made from metallic bullion thread, acetate, nylon or polyester.

Soutache braids were used in trimming of clothing, drapery, furnishings, and also bookbinding. The most popular use was of course for purposes of passementerie which because of the high prices were reserved for the social elite of that time – royalty and aristocracy, high-ranking military officers or religious figures. Nowadays, soutache is popular in haute couture or you can see it used on historical costumes in movies or TV shows.

soutache_4

Circinate Vernation – a piece inspired by nature, water and plant (fern), 2014

Get ready, it takes time

I started with soutache embroidery in 2012, which is now almost exactly six years ago. My friends were nagging me to try it out, sending pictures of other authors’ works, challenging me to start already. I was afraid that I will fail. And I hate failures. There were very little tutorials, nothing in Czech (not that I would care), so all that was left for me was the method of trial and error. I gathered my courage… And I did it. I don’t know who was more surprised that I actually made something – me, or my friends 🙂

soutache_1

One of the first pair of earrings I’ve ever made, 2012

Time issue #1

If you are lucky, you might be one of those people who master this technique faster than the others. It’s not a technique that you will learn in your first session, it takes a lot of practice and time, but with enough devotion and effort I am sure everyone can do it. The problem is not many people are willing to invest so much of their time to learn one technique. I understand that, I am just giving you a fair warning 🙂

Time issue #2

You don’t need many materials for this: soutache, thread and a needle will become your closest friends. But what you will need the most is time and patience. High prices of garments with these kinds of embellishments and trimmings were dictated not only by the expensive materials, but also by the fact that it took ages to finish something. And it still does. Even when you master the technique itself, the actual jewellery making is time-consuming. Which, of course, raises the price of the finished piece.

It is not necessarily a bad thing. It teaches you more than you would think. To consider carefully the quality of materials you are using. To think twice about the design. To work efficiently. And last, but not least, it teaches you to value your work.

soutache_5

Baroque – a soutache brooch with satin ribbon, 2017

Important soutache trivia

I hope I didn’t repel you from trying soutache because it has one amazing feature – it’s light. It’s a textile braid, so most projects made with soutache are incredibly light. If you are a huge fan of huge earrings like me, this is your must-learn technique. Combined with stainless steel or silver/gold findings, the earrings do not harm your ear lobes at all, not even when worn all day. The same goes for necklaces, bracelets or headwear. Everything is super-light and very pleasant to wear.

Working with textile braids brings one danger though: things can get dirty. For example, if you wear make-up, the edges of your earrings or necklaces can get stained. That can be easily solved by adding beads on the edge or using some waterproofing treatment. Remember, you can’t wash the jewellery. Water is a no-no for soutache. When wet, it swells up and stretches all your stitches thus ruining your work. Don’t worry too much, though. During my six-year-long soutache career I only managed to dip my soutache work once. Luckily nothing got destroyed except my cucumber salad.

soutache_6

Prepare your soutache stash

For soutache embroidery, you will need 3 mm soutache braids, braided in the herringbone pattern (most of them are) with a line in the centre. At Potomac Beads, we already offer soutache braids, either manufactured in the Czech Republic (from rayon) or in the USA (from polyester). You will also need a beading needle, usually size 10 or 12, and some kind of beading thread. It doesn’t matter much if it’s Nymo, S-lon, KO thread, Hana or Illusion cord. For beginners I would not recommend Illusion cord since you can barely see it. This is the reason why advanced beaders use it, though. 🙂

Depending on the design of your project, you will need various beads. From seed beads, to pressed rounds, fire-polished beads, glass pearls, crystals, cabochons and other Czech glass beads. You might also need some beading foundation: Ultrasuede, Alcantara or leather, and some findings to finish your work. And glue.

soutache_7

Shahrazad – mixing soutache and tassels, 2017

Glue? No, thank you

Glue is a big topic in soutache. I don’t like it. I use it in necessary cases: gluing a cabochon to secure it in its place before I bezel it, applying glue to the soutache ends to prevent them from fraying, or using glue to attach backing material before it can be sewn down properly. Those are ALL the cases where I use glue. Everything else is pure needlework. I have seen a lot of projects where glue is used to replace the needle. The purpose of this is, naturally, to save time. I get it. It’s also ugly and disgusting. It is cheating. I am not sure the French aristocracy would wear dresses covered with glue-soaked braids to show off  their superiority. Not to mention they wouldn’t pay for it.

soutache_8

Lavender Snakeskin – soutache bracelet finished with a beadwoven clasp, 2016

One more thing

A lot of time passed since my first soutache earrings. I created various projects, blogged about it, began to teach soutache and make patterns, and during that time it became my most favourite beading technique. Before I say goodbye though, I have a message for you.
Hear my plea, don’t use glue to glue together the soutache braids. Soutache is a gentle material, it deserves proper handling and storing, love and kind work. Let’s not butcher it with glue 😉

See you next time,
-Tereza
Potomac Beads Europe