We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Dedra Weiss a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Dedra, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Can you talk to us about how you learned to do what you do?
Being a self-taught beadwork artist, I created my own technique for purse making on a loom through trial and error. Early on, I began beading simple projects such as loomed bracelets and belts. Infatuated with vintage clothing and accessories, I was inspired to expand my techniques to create my own brand of elegant purses that held the romance of the past while being fashionably current.
My mother gave me a sack of antique beads salvaged from a vintage purse. I used those beads to create my first purse, which I gifted to her. The purse was small and quite basic, but it gave me the confidence and insight to modify my techniques to create more complex purses. Fast-forward to today, I make a variety of styles of purses, handbags, and decorative beaded wall hangings with complicated designs and pictures.
The biggest obstacle that I faced during the learning process was that there were no instruction books about loom purse making. There was information on basic bead weaving techniques, but I searched to no avail on how to construct the purses I envisioned in my head. That didn’t stop me though; who needs instructions anyway! I set out to create my own method of purse making combining what I knew about bead weaving, sewing, and drawing.
Throughout my learning phase, my most essential skill was the ability to visualize a process without instructions or patterns. Of course, I made errors and had to constantly improve my techniques, but my ability to conceptualize how to get to the end result was very helpful. Looking back, I could have sped up my learning process by documenting the successes and setbacks I encountered as I developed my techniques. I frequently relied on my memory, which opened up the possibility of making the same technique mistake more than once before the best method became a customary part of my process.
I have since solved that problem by creating an online course, “How to make Handmade Beaded Purses,” that documents my process in detail. I chose to create this course because, even after decades since my original search, there are still no instructions or tutorials on how to make my style of seed beaded purses. I hope to inspire others to be creative and to prevent my techniques from being lost one day.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
Dedra – Handmade Beaded Purses evolved over time from a hobby into a business stemming from my love of vintage fashion, history, art, and beading. My name is Dedra Weiss – a beadwork artist, painter, and poet. Weaving together thousands of tiny, glass seed beads on a loom, I create vintage-inspired, artistic purses that can be displayed or worn. Each piece is a work of art that I exclusively create from the original design to the final stitch. For a final creative touch that adds to my artistically-distinctive brand, I write a poem for each of my purses.
Becoming an accessory designer was unintentional. I began making purses simply out of the enjoyment I had for bead weaving and vintage fashion. I gifted or wore the purses I first made. As a young adult, I loved to dress vintage-chic and attend various functions in the metropolitan cities where I lived. I wore my handmade beaded purses, and people would approach me inquiring about them. I never intended on selling the purses or starting a business until my first sales came from complete strangers who commissioned my wearable art after seeing the purses draped on my own arm. The word spread and my purses began to appear in magazines and television shows such as Southern Living, HGTV – Crafters Coast to Coast, Southern Bride, Wedding Dresses, Coastal Living, Texas Living, and more.
Dedra purses are set apart from others in that they are not mass produced, machine made, or even handmade by other artisans. My purses are extraordinarily unique and fall into the realm of art – produced by a specific artist – as I personally draw, weave, and sew every bag. I first draw or paint pictures that I transform into patterns by assigning thousands of glass seed beads into specific positions to recreate a beaded mosaic. Many of my purses and handbags are one-of-a-kind, boasting authentic antique metal purse frames. My creations are also rare, as they take up to 50 hours each to construct, enabling me to only create a limited supply each season.
This artistic component and rarity is coveted by my clients, as they are set apart from others when wearing a Dedra purse. They become a focal point in the room, as their handbag captures stares as it dangles from their arm. Cinderella wore glass slippers that set her apart from the rest. I transform my clients into modern day fashion princesses with my unparalleled handmade glass beaded purses.
Recently, I have broadened my business scope towards other beadwork artists, and created a digital online course, “How to Make Beaded Purses.” The course has instructional slides, diagrams, and has step-by-step instructions in both written and video form. This is the first course in a series that I plan to launch instructing how to make a variety of loomed beaded purses using my own techniques.
I am most proud that my purses have meaning and love woven into every strand of bead. My purses are an extension of my artistic vision, passion for keeping bead weaving and historical fashion alive, and my desire to make people feel confident and beautiful when wearing my creations.
What do you find most rewarding about being a creative?
The most rewarding aspect of being an artist is also the most intimidating. It is the necessity to show vulnerability to the world. Art is born from emotion, passion, pain; it offers a glimpse into the soul of the creator. The fear of rejection or judgment always looms in the back of my mind when I post a new poem or piece of art on social media. If a certain style of purse I created doesn’t sell, I am always hard on myself since it came from my own creative vision and made with my own hands. Yet, these feelings are fleeting because the ability to show one’s vulnerability makes for great art and true connection with audiences and clients.
Do you think there is something that non-creatives might struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can shed some light?
The word non-creatives doesn’t appeal to me. Every person has a spark of creativity within them that may just need some encouragement to ignite. Someone who may not have an innate sense of creativity may struggle with understanding how to turn art into a business. However, with the right tools, teacher, and materials, anyone can start their journey in a creative field and eventually flourish. For example, I benefitted from scouring books on drawing and painting techniques that allowed me to improve my skills.
My purses are synonymous with creativity, but that doesn’t mean that a person who struggles with art cannot make one. When writing and recording my digital purse making course, I sought to tailor it for people who were not artistically inclined. It’s like following a recipe. Instruction is given for each step with written and video tutorials. I also show how to make patterns from copyright-free drawings and photos. Students do not have to draw their design if they don’t desire to. Talent grows with practice and commitment, and creativity is flamed by interest and imagination.
- Website: www.handmadebeadedpurses.com
- Instagram: @opalsandclovers
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/handmadebeadedpurses
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dedra-weiss-7175a222a/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQly3zvb9XZrULtzy_53MVA
- Other: Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/dedrapurses