BREMERTON — Twelve years ago, Beth Shea slipped on ice and broke her leg. Because of that, her life changed.
Unable to work on finishing her master’s degree in marine biology at the University of Washington, Shea decided to open a bead shop and gallery to get her through the medical expenses.
Shea has been making jewelry for herself for years, and she credits her grandparents with getting her interested in the hobby.
“I was the youngest grandchild and the only girl,” Shea said, “so I had a grandfather who treated me like everyone else, and put tools in my hand.
“My grandmother would not let me not be a girl, so I did it all in dresses and jewelry.
“I was very, very lucky that I got both sides of it. The pretty, jewelry, fancy side and also tools in my hand and making things. It was my grandparents that got me started, in two different directions.”
Now, Shea, who co-owns the store with her mom Penny Morse, travels to shows and teaches workshops around the country in relation to her bead artwork, and she’s all set to celebrate the 12th anniversary of opening her shop, Echo Artworks Bead Shop and Gallery, located at 626 N. Callow Ave., Bremerton.
Shea said she never imagined, when she started, that it would turn into such a success for her.
“It was something to do while I healed and tried to come up with a plan, whether it was try to go back to school or try to find a job,” Shea said.
“I’m very happy. I absolutely love our little shop and the life I have, but it wasn’t the long-term plan (when I started).”
Some of the beads available in Echo Artworks Bead Shop and Gallery are over 60 years old.
Echo Artwork specializes “in vintage, natural and unique findings and supplies.” Shea said everything is hand-picked. But perhaps the most unique part? The section that features old, one-of-a-kind pieces from Germany and then-Czechoslovakia, “stuff they haven’t made for 60 years.”
Shea said that the pieces come from a couple families who were separated and otherwise stopped making the beads sometime around World War II. The section features pieces that have never been in circulation.
They also hold workshops, to help people make their own unique pieces and jewelry. These workshops include basic, wire, metal, metal clay and more.
Shea said they also travel to a lot of shows around the country and sell jewelry wholesale.
“The one downside of owning your own business is, it will take as much time as you give it,” Shea said with a laugh.
Shea’s also one of the coaches and mentors with the Kitsap BE$T (Business Education Support Training) program, which helps new business owners get started.
But now that they’ve reached a milestone of a dozen years in business, that doesn’t mean they’re done growing.
“We’ve been talking about lots of different things, actually, doing more shows and expanding lines of finished jewelry,” Shea said.
They’ve even talked about opening a second storefront. That’s only in the very early stage of conversation at this point, but if they decided to go that route, Shea said they would need “a place that’s far enough away, but not too far away.”
“We’re kind of looking, Gig Harbor-ish,” Shea said, “Close enough, but far enough away that we’ve got different clientele.”
Below, Beth Shea, owner of Echo Artworks Bead Shop and Gallery, pets her dog Pixie.
Echo Artworks isn’t the first bead shop in Bremerton, but it’s currently the only one, according to Shea, who said the economy was hard for a lot of people.
“I think the thing that really separates us is, we are very creative problem solvers,” Shea said. “Wedding jewelry, specific project or we have a lot of artists and designers that need to solve a certain problem … we’re able to look at potential solutions in a different way, teach a lot of workshops.
“We can teach them the things we can do with them.”
With the anniversary coming up, Shea has scheduled events at her store to help celebrate. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Nov. 10-14, there’s a party planned.
Each day, there will be tool demonstrations, make-and-take projects for all ages and skill levels, refreshments, raffles, deals and more.
And, with the shop located in the heart of 12th man country, and with her and Morse celebrating 12 years in the business, Shea has something planned to celebrate the passionate Seahawks fans.
“We do have some 12 charms, and they are indeed Seahawk colors,” Shea said. “We are going to have, we’re calling it 12th day. It’s kind of our 12th man celebration.”
That celebration will take place on Friday, Nov. 13. For Seahawk fans, Fridays are known as Blue Fridays, so wear your Seahawk gear.
“We’re really, really happy to be in Bremerton,” said Shea. “We love it here.”
Echo Artworks Bead Shop and Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours for appointments. For more information about Echo Artworks, visit www.echoartworks.com.
Photos by Michelle Beahm