Rainbow’s End Bead Arts

Donna Harvey, St. Louis

I am a Creator who makes beaded jewelry, insects from beads and other found objects, and wall decorations from found items and beads.


My Bead Story…
When I was a very small child, I used to dream of finding a Pirates’ Treasure. In my mind, I would see it gleaming, falling out of the trunk. I had no idea of the worth of something like that; I just loved the idea of playing with all the gems and strands of pearls. The closest I came to finding such a treasure was my Grandmother’s jewelry box. There was not much of actual value in it. My Grandfather was a farmer who worked for other land-owner/farmers, much of his life. There wasn’t much money for “fripperies.” Still grandma had enough to keep me enthralled. Another thing she had was a large box of buttons. I learned to sort with those buttons – by size, by color, by type, and into the actual sets… I loved playing with those buttons. I was very happy, a couple of years ago, when my aunt gave me that box of buttons. They are nothing special; but to me they are beautiful.
As I grew older I became interested in insects. My parents, especially my mother, were very supportive of my hobby and showed me how to mount and display my finds. They also encouraged me to research information on new insects I might find (something MUCH easier now that we have the internet…). My engaging Rainbow Critters are a direct result of this.

For several years after graduating from high school was too busy with “life tasks” to find time for my “childish fantasies”. Then, in 1985, I found a new hobby which absorbed me for many years and restored my love for “sparklies.” I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism, an organization which recreates the GOOD parts of the Middle Ages – the foods, arts, dance, tournaments, and the dress. With two good friends, I started Rainbow’s End to merchant yard sale finds – jewelry and other accessories – at events. Then, one evening I was visiting with an SCA friend who mentioned that she wanted a “Chain and Bead Headpiece”. As she explained what she wanted, a picture began to form in my mind and I thought, “I can do that,” It was made of clear, round glass beads and chain. Barbara Parker, I’d love to know where it is, now… For several years I made headpieces, of increasing complexity; until, one day, as I worked on a lovely piece, I simply realized I was done. I still have that headpiece and it is still a beautiful thing.

My husband is, mostly, the reason I started making jewelry. I had all these beads, which I loved. He was tired of seeing them all over the apartment, so he said, “Do something with them… or get rid of them.” I began making simple necklaces, bracelets, and earrings and sold them at Rainbows End. Gradually, my work became much more intricate. I actually learned peyote stitch years before I found out what it was called.

Life has not been all “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows”. In 2001, after many years of living in Charlotte, NC, we made a decision to move to St Louis, MO, realizing that our parents were getting older. It was a very difficult decision, as we had many friends in NC and SC and I had several venues established for selling my jewelry. I still miss those friends, dearly; but have met new friends and built up many new venues for my selling.

Health wise, the past several years have been very difficult for me. I was diagnosed diabetic, in the mid-1990s. Sometime in 2006, I discovered I have an inherited form of Parkinson’s syndrome, which mostly affects my non-dominant (left) hand and arm with a tremor. In September 2008, I broke my right hip, which led to a downward spiral of incidents. Within a year and a half, I had 3 surgeries and 2 stays in rehab, for Physical Therapy related to my injuries. I have always been heavy. In 2011, I was nearly 320lbs. In September of that year, I had a gastric bypass. With the procedure and the support I receive from my Weight Watcher group, I have lost and kept off 85 lbs. It has been difficult to keep creating, during much of this time; but my love for creating and sharing my pieces has helped me focus on the good things in life.

A couple of years ago, I received as a gift, a small spider, made of beads and wire. I studied it, carefully. I was in awe. HOW CUTE! My next thought was…. I can make that. So I did. Reaching back to my knowledge of insects, from 4-H Entomology, I began with spiders. Since that time, I have made spiders, flies, bees, praying mantises and various other critters. This has given me a wholly new way to use my beads. I especially love to use “re-purposed” materials. When asked about my style for these critters I say, “It’s rather like Lewis Carroll meets Tim Burton…”