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Shari Slonski

British Columbia, Canada

by: Dwyn Tomlinson

Beading Times: How long have you been making beads?
Shari Slonski: About two and a half years now. But only full time in the last year.

Beading Times: What got you started making beads?
Shari Slonski: I was encouraged to take a class by a friend, she said that I could probably incorporate the bead making in with my cancer awareness jewelry business and she was right. I did and in a big way. It's really taken off. They have become my most popular bracelet. They are not like any other cancer awareness bracelets. Very unique.

Beading Times: Were you interested in making beads before that?
Shari Slonski: Not in the least. Had no interest in beads or making jewelry up to three years ago.

Beading Times: Did you have an artistic or craft history before that? How has that translated into the beadmaking, if at all?
Shari Slonski: I was very interested in many mediums of art and still am. Just haven't found that ONE that I am truly talented in or that I get really excited about. I was introduced to many mediums of art while in high school. I was lucky enough to attend a school that had a huge art program. I've done pretty much every medium that you could think of except for maybe textiles. I think that I use all the skills that I acquired in my work somehow. Just having an eye for color or design.

Beading Times: Did you take a class?
Shari Slonski: A beginner class on how to make a round bead and then a class with Amy Johnson at Andrighetti Glass in Vancouver, B.C.

Beading Times: What has surprised you most about working with glass?
Shari Slonski: No surprises. It's just another medium for me to acquire skill in. I've found it very easy to pick up for the most part.

Beading Times: Have you had anyone that you consider to be a mentor? Tell me about them.
Shari Slonski: No mentors. I just admire the work of all the lampwork artists who's work I've seen posted on WetCanvas or viewed on their sites. Too many to name. They're all very talented.

Beading Times: Do you sell your beads?
Shari Slonski: I make my beads into cancer awareness jewelry and sell them as pieces. I haven't ventured into selling them as just bead sets yet. Maybe in the future.

Beading Times: Do you make beads for friends?
Shari Slonski: Only if they're paying. I'm too busy to be giving stuff away.

Beading Times: What does your family or friends think of your beadmaking?
Shari Slonski: All my family is very supportive. My husband and children are especially supportive. A lot of family and friends have no idea as to what it is exactly that I do. They think I paint the design on or something. They don't realize the skill involved nor the money I actually make. They think it's just some silly craft thing I do and that I couldn't possibly make money at it.

Beading Times: What sort of set up do you have for making beads? (Type of torch, gas, kiln, etc.)
Shari Slonski: I have a minor torch, gas and oxygen, and a kiln.

Beading Times: What type of glass do you use?
Shari Slonski: Mostly Effetre. I have other glass, just bits of it, but have been to busy filling orders to experiment with new glass or my new toys.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite product, i.e. bead release, glass, etc.
Shari Slonski: Not that I can think of.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite technique?
Shari Slonski: Well not really a favorite technique, maybe more a favorite bead design that I do. It's not my favorite to look at, it's just fun to create it. It's not favorite with my customers either. So I don't make it that often.

It's my "My window" design.

Beading Times: Are you a "set person" or a "focal bead" person?
Shari Slonski: I am definitely a set person. I don't think I've ever made a focal. At least not on purpose.

Beading Times: Have you developed a "signature" bead, a unique type of bead that is recognizably yours. Tell us about it, how you developed it, etc.
Shari Slonski: Oh gosh no! I don't think I've acquired enough skill to have a signature bead yet. Plus, I couldn't stand doing the same design over and over again. I'm too impatient for that.

Beading Times: What was your biggest obstacle to overcome?
Shari Slonski: No obstacles that I can recall. It all comes to me eventually.

Beading Times: What is the hardest kind of bead to make for you?
Shari Slonski: They're all the same. I just probably haven't made a hard one yet.


Beading Times: The easiest?
Shari Slonski: One that doesn't take a lot of my time. I have no patience for detail.

Beading Times: What is your favorite kind of bead or technique?
Shari Slonski: No favorite, I like it all. But probably anything that doesn't consume too much of my time.

Beading Times: Do you still have the first beads you made? What do you think of them now?
Shari Slonski: Sure, it's in a box somewhere. It looks like a piece of chewed up gum.

Beading Times: How have your beads changed? Since you started or over the years?
Shari Slonski: Well they don't look like gum anymore. But yes, they've changed a lot. I often run into a customer from when I first started. They will proudly display the bracelet that they bought from me and have been wearing almost every day since. It's very humbling. I almost want to say "Oh my gosh, I was so awful back then" but I don't dare, as they cherish their bracelet and I don't want them to think they paid big bucks for a piece of crap. It's not that they were bad. It's just that they are so much better now. Definitely come a long way in the skills department.

Beading Times: What was your scariest beadmaking experience?
Shari Slonski: Can't say that I actually have had one.

Beading Times: Have you had any "glass epiphanies" while working - some revelation or understanding? What were they?
Shari Slonski: Sorry, no epiphanies. Every day is a learning experience. I just take it in stride. If I did have one, I don't remember what it was.

Beading Times: Do you have a technique or method or tip to share?
Shari Slonski: I don't think I have any techniques that most lampwork artists don't already know. Tips? Well maybe a clean torch desk is a clean mind.

Beading Times: Have you "invented" any new tools, or recycled something that wouldn't ordinarily be thought of as a tool for lampworking?
Shari Slonski: No, I'm not very inventive.

Beading Times: Could you share with us some pictures of your studio set up?
Shari Slonski: Sure, see attached files. My husband made my computer desk, torch station and work station. It's great being married to Mr. Handyman.

Beading Times: How much time do you spend making beads, in, say, hours per week? Is it enough?
Shari Slonski: It varies from month to month. Right now it's 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week and it isn't enough, but the kiln can only hold so much and I have only so much energy. But most of the time, I have time for my family and friends. I know when to put down the glass and enjoy life.

Beading Times: What about photographing your beads - what do you use to get your pictures?
Shari Slonski: Photographing my work and editing it in Photoshop is my favorite part of making beads. I enjoy it more than making beads, or making the bracelets. I use to be a computer graphics artist and love photography, so I guess it's my true love.

I use a FinePix camera. I love it. I also have a photo studio, a cocoon and lights etc.

Beading Times: Do you have a website or auction site that you regularly sell you beads on? If so, what is the url/id info, etc.
Shari Slonski: I sell mostly on my website

Beading Times: Tell me about your cause — — how you came to be involved, and what it means to you.
Shari Slonski: My business means a lot to me. I started my business after recovering from breast cancer. I was looking for a way to fundraise. I bought some beads at a store, made some bracelets, they were a hit and I so I started the site. It's been very rewarding. I receive positive feedback every day from customers whose lives I've touched. I also give a portion of the proceeds back to cancer programs to aid in research, education, treatment, prevention and diagnosis.

When a family member or friend is touched by cancer, we often don't know what to say. A lot of people don't know how to show their feelings. My products are a venue for that. It's a way of showing your support or care. But some customers are themselves survivors and it's a way for them to be proud of the fight they have just won, but also a way of honoring those that have lost their battles to cancer. It's great to give back to the cancer community and to make a difference in the lives of others.

The business has allowed me to be artistic and creative. It allows me to contribute to the family income. I was sick for so long after cancer, so I wasn't able to return to work. The financial burden was on my husband's shoulders for years. He never complained and was so supportive as I went through my journey. Now I am able to release some of that burden for him.

The business is accomplished with team work. It's brought us all closer together as a family as did the cancer. I have great pride in what I've accomplished over the last three years. I am able to be home for my family and most of all I enjoy every moment of it.

Beading Times: Do you sell at shows or in stores or other venues? Do you sell the beads by themselves, or already made up into jewelry?
Shari Slonski: I do not sell in stores, just on the site. I make my beads up into cancer-awareness bracelets. I don't do shows as a habit, but I do attend a few cancer-related venues where I sell. But maybe only once or twice a year.

Beading Times: Where do you see yourself going with lampworking/glassworking in the future? Or, where do you see it taking you?
Shari Slonski: I don't really have any thoughts about my lampworking for the future, but my business as a whole, I see going places. It' grown in leaps and bounds already and I'm just getting started. I see a good future for the business. I don't see myself doing it forever but I'll just take that one day at a time.

Beading Times: Do you have a favorite bead, a "best bead." Can you share a photograph with us?
Shari Slonski: My last work is always my favorite. I can't say I favor one set over the other. I like them all. But here is my last one. I not only have fun making it, it's also a nice looking bracelet, depending on your taste.

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Copyright 2005 Dwyn Tomlinson. Photos by and copyright by the interviewee, unless stated otherwise.