Bead It!

As youth market director for the American Heart Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, Johnna Snell supervises a range of programs to help kids adopt healthy habits. By night, she makes bracelets. “I do it whenever [the spirit] hits me — and it actually hits me quite a lot,” says Snell, 36.

The idea to create jewelry came gift wrapped one Christmas about four years ago when her brother-in-law gave her, his wife, and his two daughters custom-made bracelets — each one personalized for the recipient. “Every time I wore it, I got compliments,” she recalls. “I found myself studying it. I thought, ‘I’ve got to find a way to make these.'” Approximately one year later, she took a private class at a local bead shop. The session was scheduled to last an hour or two, but she ended up staying all day. With roughly $250, additional beads, heavy gauge wire to string them, and tiny “spacer” beads and toggles to close off the bracelets, Snell was launched.

Today Snell goes to “open torch night” one evening a week. She pays $10 an hour to use an oxygen propane torch to transform imported Italian colored glass rods (about $3 each) into pretty baubles. Snell first gave her bracelets away as presents, but it wasn’t long before her hobby became a business. Now, clients pay between $75 and $400 for her custom creations. Her designs sell via word of mouth and on www She hasn’t made a mint yet, but the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, North Carolina, has invited Snell to sell her wares there.

Getting Started
TAKE A CLASS. Check with local craft shops and colleges.
PAY LESS. Use less expensive beads and stringing wire to begin. Snell suggests several magazines: BeadStyle (www.bead Bead & Button (www.beadand Lucky (, for color trends.