Inspiring others with my passion for handcrafting beaded chain jewelry is the goal of this website, and I hope it serves to spark the curiosity of those that seek a creative adventure. Although I am no longer making jewelry or teaching classes, the legacy lives on as my educational books continue to encourage people to discover the quiet meditative practice of assembling jump rings. The audience rarely gets to peek behind the curtain and witness the creative journey, so this is an abbreviated story of how I went from being a curious artist to a published book author; and how this creative problem solving has carried forward to teaching English in the tropical paradise of Thailand.
In 1995, I was a BFA student at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Tennessee, where I focused on ceramic pottery and metalworking. In the library, I came upon an old woodblock-printed book with simple line drawings that showed how to create round wire by pulling through a draw plate, wrap into a coil around a mandrel, cut into jump rings with a saw, and provided some simple chain pattern illustrations. I became fascinated with this process of assembling jump rings in chain patterns and soon found myself leaving the noisy studio environment to go out into the forest and sit under a tree for hours of blissful chain making. Something deep within me connected with this calm meditative process and sensed that it was my destiny to explore.
With a mobile craft that did not require a studio nor electricity, I decided to leave art school and sail to South America. I discovered the ancient wonders of the Inca civilization in Colombia, Equator, Peru, and Bolivia, making chain bracelets in my free time to barter and bribe as needed. I returned to the USA and worked as a cook at a ski resort in Washington, where I fell in love with snowboarding. For my next adventure, I hitchhiked down into Central America to explore the archeology of the Maya Empire in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. I then worked as a cruise ship chef, sailing from Baja to Alaska, and then slowly worked my way down to Washington for another snowboarding season. Along the way, I moved from crafting linear chain patterns into assembling geometric shapes with negative voids to be filled with gemstone beads; suddenly, a new creative plateau opened for me.
After five years of wanderlust, I settled into the bright lights of Seattle, where the owner of a local bead store invited me to teach a chain-making workshop. The enrollment was so overwhelming that they soon had me leading two 3-hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday. For my students, I made simple handouts to explain the chain-making process and jump ring math formulas. After each weekend of classes, I reworked these handouts with better photos and instructions to more clearly explain details that confused my students.
With the encouragement of my students, I decided to combine all my handouts into a published book. However, there were skills that I needed to master, from digital photography and graphic design to educational strategy and business marketing. With specific goals to be achieved, I enrolled in Western Washington University and continued to teach jewelry workshops at prestigious art institutions throughout the Pacific Northwest. While earning my BA degree, I created a rough draft of the first book and then hired an editor to organize the book layout and pitch the manuscript to an NYC book agent.
The following week, like a rainbow from heaven, I got a phone call from a very enthusiastic editor at Random House who loved the beaded chain jewelry designs and was impressed with my teaching resume. The publisher wanted full-color images and requested that the jewelry designs be handcrafted from different metals, such as copper, brass, silver, and gold. I was thrilled to comply with this colorful presentation but explained my current ‘starving artist’ situation, and they casually offered me a $35k advance – I almost fainted in disbelief.
With the financial resources to make my dreams come to fruition, I relocated to the beautiful mountains of Taos, New Mexico, to devote myself to creating this five-part educational book series. Taos is a longtime artist colony and home to some of the most beautiful (and strange) people and landscapes to behold. I loved living at a 7000-foot (2000-meter) elevation with 300+ days of sunshine, mountain biking all summer, and snowboarding all winter.
However, as each book release became increasingly popular, the publishing company demanded a wider promotional platform of teaching workshops nationwide. For several years, I was flying to a different city once a month to lead multiple beaded chain jewelry workshops to promote the latest book release. Yes, I was making lots of money, and certainly, my pride swelled as people stood in line to get my signature, but deep within me; I was slowly becoming spiritually bankrupt and silently suffering from depression.
During the financial recession that followed the 2008 housing bubble, attendance to the national craft shows reduced to levels that were not profitable. I took this as a blessing in disguise, a sign that I needed to re-evaluate my priorities and put spiritual happiness above material wealth. So, I delivered the images and text for the 5th book to Random House and politely declined to do a promotional tour; I just packed up all my worldly possessions and set out with a backpack to explore the world again.
I started my quest on the Appalachian Trail by hiking 1000 miles (1600 km) from West Virginia to Georgia, slowly healing my soul through physical exertion and mountain tranquility. Next, I traveled down the Pacific coast of Central America, from Guatemala to Panama, learning Spanish and surfing the ocean. For my third adventure, I flew to the southern tip of South America and hiked the Patagonia Mountains of Argentina, visited the Atlantic coast of Uruguay, and traveled up into the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Peru, Equator, and Columbia.
Seeking a deeper understanding of myself, I spent six months studying yoga, meditation, and various mystical arts at the hauntingly beautiful Lago Atitlan in Guatemala. Shifting gears, my next challenge was a 7000-km (4400-mile) bicycle tour across New Zealand and Australia, knowing that there were no limits to physical or mental exploration. Finally, I flew to Bangkok and backpacked around Southeast Asia to discover Thailand, Lao, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
During my SE Asian tour, I met ‘digital nomads’ who inspired me to transform my travel photography, philosophies, and storytelling into digital eBooks. With a new laptop and lots of dedication, I started self-publishing 50-page eBooks about my travel adventures on Amazon. First, I published 26 eBooks about cycling across New Zealand, and now I am writing a new series about backpacking through Vietnam. Visit the Travelmagic website to learn more about these eBooks, review maps of Magical Places around the world, and read my Travel Advice and Adventure Philosophy to gain a deeper immersion into foreign cultures and your self-awareness.
After five years of trekking across four continents, I decided to find a new home to focus on my eBook-authoring aspirations. In Thailand, I started working as an English Teacher, which has been a rewarding occupation and has also improved my writing ten-fold. I love being an educator, as it allows me to inspire my students with the positive empowerment of education with a fun and engaging teaching method.
Over the past four years, I have been teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to business professionals in the banking and technology sectors of Bangkok. I lead group classes at various English-skill levels, private lessons with business executives at a more advanced level, and online courses with the Zoom software. Visit the ESLupskill website to learn more about the professional services that I offer for English text editing and online classes with Zoom.
Recently, I have undertaken the HUGE challenge of starting a YouTube channel to inspire both students and educators to ‘upskill’ their knowledge base – because your curious mind is a precious gift. Over the past six months, I have dedicated myself to fine-tuning my video presentation, audio quality, and social media promotion. In the future, I am planning to start a Travelmagic YouTube channel to chronicle my international travels. However, my ultimate goal is to publish travel novels to inspire people to explore the unknown with curiosity-fueled enthusiasm and achieve their full potential.