COLUMBIA — Black lava stone, translucent green peridot and smooth, pale pink squares of spicy jasper rest in estate-sale glasses atop vintage dressers. The 600-square-foot store is filled with beads, some of which even hang from a chain along a staircase to the apartment above. But it’s only half of owner Jessica Otterbacher's collection.
On Thursday evening, Otterbacher held a jewelry-making workshop, as she does almost daily in her new store, The Bead Gallery, 1013 E. Walnut St. This one was dedicated to earrings.
Contact Jessica Otterbacher(442-9233, email@example.com) to sign up for a jewelry making class. Individual classes cost $20, which includes basic materials.
“Are you going to wear your pink stilettos with those?” Leigh Burton, 43, asked her niece.
“You know I am,” Katie Burton, 23, said as she held up the hot pink and silver earrings she designed.
Leigh is a nurse, and Katie is studying to become one at Columbia College. Thursday night was the first time the Burtons dabbled in jewelry making, but they created earrings in less than two hours with four other women at Otterbacher’s workshop.
“Let’s see, which one did Jessica do, and which one did I do?” Leigh Burton said, inspecting her finished black-and-red beaded earrings.
Otterbacher, 33, specialized in jewelry and metal design at the University of Toledo. She offers her expertise to new and experienced jewelry makers in workshops at The Bead Gallery, the store she dreamed of creating since college.
Her workshop attendees came from a variety of experience levels.
AnneMarie Claypool, 61, a nurse by day, has been designing jewelry in her free time since 2002. She has her own store on etsy.com, on which people sell handmade and vintage goods. The Silver Lady, her line of jewelry, is also available at The Bead Gallery.
Hayley Garnett, a 21-year-old psychology major at MU, also sells jewelry she designed on etsy.com. She came to the class with a clear plastic organizer holding her supplies and a set of tools with bright purple handles, which Otterbacher welcomes.
Garnett's husband, a regular at Rock Bottom Comics next door, passed by The Bead Gallery on Thursday and knew she would be interested.
“I signed up for the first class available,” she said.
Otterbacher’s love for art began before college. Starting in second grade, she visited her aunt in New York over the summers and was treated to classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After her first visit, she came home and told her family, “I’m going to be an artist.”
She would rather make a piece of jewelry than price a bead, but a college professor offered advice she has heeded.
“(She said) you always have to find something else to sell as candy than not sell anything at all,” Otterbacher said. “You’re not going to sell a piece of jewelry every day.”
Her "candy shop," stocked with beads from gem and mineral shows and wholesalers, varies widely. Coral, seeds and natural shells complement stones such as quartz rock crystal and moonstone, a personal favorite.
“You cannot go wrong when you buy stones,” she said.
After college, Otterbacher visited bead stores every place she traveled — including Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where she has lived with her husband, Nick, who is director of football recruiting for MU. She hoped someone would open a similar store when she moved to Columbia but ended up doing it herself first.
“I’ve heard there’s pretty good stores in Springfield and Jeff City, and I was just waiting for someone (to open one),” she said. “It’s a huge risk, but I’m happy to do it.”
Before opening her store, Otterbacher rented space in Orr Street Studios, where she taught workshops and sold jewelry. Her old studio space and the new store are part of the North Village Arts District, which is home to artistically inclined businesses such as studios, galleries and restaurants.
Jennifer Perlow, co-owner of Perlow-Stevens Gallery at 812 E. Broadway, knew about Otterbacher's desire to open a bead store. Every time she stopped by the gallery, Perlow asked about her progress.
About a month ago, Otterbacher began to consider getting out of her studio’s lease. When she mentioned this to Lisa Bartlett, co-owner of Artlandish Gallery at 1019 E. Walnut St., Bartlett let her know about the space to be vacated by Mizzou Records.
Mizzou Records, formerly Happy Time Media on South Ninth Street, opened in July 2009 and closed this past May. Despite Mizzou Records’ short life in the space, Otterbacher isn’t concerned about her store’s location.
“I always think when you put a positive in front of a negative, it always works,” she said. “I have my faith and myself, and I’m always taken care of.”
After moving from her Orr Street studio, Otterbacher has remained a part of the community of artists. She rents out wall space to artists and allows them to keep 100 percent of the profits.
She wants to provide something different every month and plans to host promotional events for the area that will allow people to shop and hear outdoor music.
Her grand opening July 1 featured folk music from friend and guitarist Tom Skinner. Guests could make a pair of earrings for $10, half of which went straight to her Central Missouri Humane Society container by the cash register.
Otterbacher hopes to someday have her store overflowing with beads, but she also wants the store to be a community place where people can feel comfortable chatting and making jewelry.
“Now I’m addicted,” Leigh Burton said as she finished her earrings on Thursday.
“We’ll be back for Bracelet 101,” Katie Burton said on her way out.