A jewel here, and a trinket there, add up to works of art

Published July 28, 2006

Sally Lewis can bead just about anything: pillows, picture frames, mirrors, candlesticks, teapots, jewelry, vintage trays and furniture.

"It's endless what I can cover with beads" said Lewis, whose beaded, fiber-art sculpture, Goddess Triumvirate, earned a spot in the book 500 Beaded Objects: New Dimensions in Contemporary Bead Work by Lark Books.

A former schoolteacher who has served as the statewide president of the American Association of University Women and board president of Congregation Schaarai Zedek in South Tampa, Lewis, 60, began beading to nurture her artistic cravings.

A native of Brooklyn, she loved to knit and sew and liked beading for its demanding concentration levels. Such precision allowed her to focus on the rhythm and beauty of the piece, tuning out the problems of the day.

Her work blossomed from stringing delicate pieces of jewelry fashioned from tiny glass seed beads and Swarovski crystals into creating large home decor items using beads as well as glass, decoupage, photos and collage.

There's little she won't bead, including a chest of drawers she rescued from the street and embellished with a mosaic with beads, broken mirror and red, black and gold paint.

"I always think, 'What else can I do?' I hate to keep making the same thing over and over," she said.

Lewis, who has lived in Carrollwood for more than 20 years, specializes in incorporating beads with the sentimental or unusual: an antique piece of jewelry, a handsome old button, a 1920s photograph.

An avid reader on the subject, she travels to conventions around the country where she hobnobs with other beaders and finds bead treasures to nestle into her creations.

For years, she made her beaded artwork for friends or sold it at shows at friends' homes, she said.

But recently, she decided to get a tax ID, join the Carrollwood Area Business Association and turn her talent into a business.

"I started toying with the idea about a year ago because I had been giving things away as gifts all these years," she said. "When I decided to get serious, I was really encouraged by my friends and my husband, who is very supportive."

She named her home business Twice Loved Treasures, which focuses on custom-made home items, furniture and jewelry.

"My customers have really come by word of mouth or through my home showcases," she said. "I have some inventory, but most things can be custom ordered."

Lewis loves to comb thrift stores and the trash for things to cover with beads, glass and pictures.

She discovered a bag of tiny, quirky doll teapots in one secondhand store and later used them to mosaic over bigger teapots.

She layered a glass head - the kind that show up in dollar stores - with shells and earthy-colored beads. It reminds her of her annual visits out West with her husband, Michael.

"It's a place that really inspires me," she said.

Sometimes she likes to help friends incorporate a piece of family jewelry or an old photograph into something attractive for their home, such as a picture transferred to a pillow then splashed with a confetti of beads and sequins.

For her mother's 80th birthday, she had friends send snapshots that she copied in black and white and collaged into a mirror frame.

"I really do enjoy it a lot," Lewis said, "but it becomes even more meaningful when I'm making things that have to do with family."