It all started more than 17 years ago with a bag of beads from a concerned friend.
Cicily Tarapchak of Monaca was mourning the death of her mother when a friend gave her the craft supplies and encouraged her to start beading to help her cope with the loss.
After stringing the first row, Ms. Tarapchak was hooked.
Since then, this maven of creation has produced many pieces, including one that recently appeared in the February/March issue of Beadwork magazine, an international publication that features bead-weaving design with step-by-step instructions and advice from designers for artists of all skill levels.
After sending in a photograph of her work, Ms. Tarapchak and three other artists were selected to participate in a challenge in which they were sent a bead kit and given free rein to create a design.
At first, Ms. Tarapchak was disappointed with the kit because it contained items that she didn't typically work with, but then she adapted it and came up with a unique creation.
A photograph of her piece, “Conjuring Fantasy,” was published in the magazine with three other submissions.
Ms. Tarapchak described herself as an artistic person and said she likes to think outside of the box, which is reflected in her mostly asymmetrical designs.
When creating pieces, she said, she sometimes has a design in mind, while at other times, inspiration comes spontaneously while she is working with the beads.
“Beads kind of move around the beading board in a friendly dance, and as I move things around, I just like the way they are,” she said. “It just kind of goes from there.”
The magazine article wasn't the first time her work has been featured. Some of her pieces have been in shows at The Mall at Robinson, at local bead stores and at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh — her alma mater.
She also sells some of her pieces at Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley and at Crystal Bead Bazaar in Lawrenceville, where she has taught beading classes. One of her friends sold a few of Ms. Tarapchak's bead creations at galleries in Colorado and California.
Ms. Tarapchak is a member of the Obsessive Compulsive Beadworkers of PA, a Pittsburgh beading society that meets monthly and where she is known among her beading buddies as the “Queen of Beaded Beads and Asymmetry.”
When she’s not beading, Ms. Tarapchak enjoys decorative painting and working with polymer clay to make cameos and other decorative components.
She hails from an artistic family and has a sense of humor that she described as kind of "out there." She likes to include the unexpected in her work.
Her latest creation is being crafted from pieces of a bright chartreuse bowl that was shattered when a man dropped it at a glass show she was attending. Upon learning that it was going to be thrown away, she offered to buy it.
“I thought, there’s something that can be done with that,” she said.
The colored glass reminded her of absinthe, a green alcoholic beverage that artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and his contemporaries drank because they said it gave them hallucinations and inspiration.
Drawing her own inspiration from that history, she glued a photo of a woman from a magazine whose face she said looks askew onto one piece of the glass and a photo of Van Gogh onto another piece and is forming the pieces into a necklace.
The necklace is just one of her many unique creations. As working with beads gains popularity, Ms. Tarapchak has nearly two decades of experience with no plans to slow down.
“I ran with it long before it was a big thing like it is now,” she said. “I plan to continue beading for a long time to come. It started as therapy for me and it still is.”
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.