Can you start by telling us about yourself?  I was born in Moscow, Russia (this big beautiful city is my motherland). I was born in the South-West area, moved around while I grew up and settled there again after getting married.

Now I live almost exactly where I was born, and I like my current place much better than any other where I lived before. I am a mother of three children, so my beading activities continue thanks to the help of my husband. Besides beading, I love photography, and I’m quite professional in that too. I take portraits mostly and even have several publications in print editions. And of course, all the photos of my jewellery are taken by me only. That particular topic gave birth to one of my best online courses. So I’m a part-time artist & photographer.

Do you make finished jewellery or beads?  I make finished jewellery. Even when I’m experimenting on new techniques and materials, I tend to create a finished piece. And I like to use something special in my jewellery, so lampwork, ceramics, florals, made by other artists are stuff that you can see in my designs.

What materials/technique etc do you commonly use in your work? I’m a fan of craw and bead embroidery. Usually, I use these techniques separately, but now I seem to find a way to join them together in perfect harmony. I love seed beads, so they are always present in my work regardless of current trends. Also, I like new materials, gimp and sequins going into my work as if they’ve always lived there. Some time ago I used animal toys in my jewellery, but now they are rare guests in my designs. Beautiful gems, lampwork focals, and Swarovski crystals became more usual for me.

Have you formally studied any relevant courses?  I am a self-educated beader. My father was a painter, and that formed my taste a lot. To improve myself, I practice, go to art exhibitions, keep an eye on new materials, make experiments, etc.

What is (are) your masterpiece(s) or pieces that you are most proud of? Is there anything you do that’s ‘uniquely you’ or that you’re specially known for?  Yes, I’m proud to say that I have developed several recognisable styles of jewellery. The most famous piece of mine is the Baroque necklace using a spiral craw technique. It started my Joaillerie Royal collection. Most of its items became recognisable too. Another beaded celebrity is my Waterfall necklace. I still love its irregular zigzag shape, and such complicated silhouetted jewellery has become a recognisable feature of mine.

Baroque necklace

Where do you get your ideas? What styles, subjects do you like to do most and why? What is your favourite design (of your own) to date? That’s one of the most difficult questions because the most honest and precise answer is Everywhere! Nature, books, scratches on earth, shapes of clouds etc. One of my best designs was inspired by jewellery of the Russian Royal family. Another one, Waterfall, appeared thanks to very simple jewellery styles and my love for complicated shapes. And my Mime of Cologne necklace was named after the real mime of Cologne whose costume impressed me so much.

Detail from Mime of Cologne

Do you teach your craft at all? I started teaching several years ago, when beading here in Russia became very popular, and many people asked me for lessons. First I gave live workshops for small groups, then I tried giving online courses, and that format seems to be most convenient to my students as it allows them to learn anything they like while staying comfortably at home.

This year I gave my first course in photography, which was the most exciting experience as that was the very area in which my students showed me dramatic progress! That’s the best thing about teaching, to see how your students succeed and improve!

Have you written any books, or are you working on any at the moment?  From time to time an idea to write a book comes to my mind. When this happened for the first time, I started calling Moscow publishers to make sure they would be interested. Happily, they were. Unfortunately, I became too busy with my general beading and family, so my book was never finished. And I still am, so I’m not sure when, or if, my book will ever be published. Maybe it’s something that will happen in the future though.

Can you describe your workspace?  I work at home, at my computer desk. That’s where I’m either beading or processing my photos. I’m a drawing person, so I don’t use computer programs to create my designs. I just draw them, make a pattern, transfer it to felt for embroidery, or keep an eye on it when weaving craw.

Do you work by yourself or have you collaborated with anyone else? I work by myself, except when I use exclusive focal’s of other artists, like paintings on gem cabs, lampwork pieces, flowers in epoxy, etc.

What are you working on at the moment? Any particular piece of work or exciting project?   I’ve just finished a collar for a big Swarovski contest, and now I’m working on my orders. I feel especially lucky about them because most of them are new designs. I appreciate all of my customers’ belief in me.

Do you have any goals related to beading that you would like to see become a real-ity within the next 5 years? How are you working toward that end? Well, my passionate wish is to become an artist of beading, like da Vinci was in the art of painting, Tesla in physics, Lomonosov in natural sci- ences and Faberge in High Jewellery. I’m not sure if five years are enough for that, but I’m sure the goal is worth trying.

What have been your biggest personal (not necessarily bead or jewellery related) challenges, and accomplishments? One of my greatest achievements is preparing my eldest son for the exams to one of Moscow’s top schools. That was a challenge to both of us, and we both congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

My other non-beading achievement is becoming a certified EP Photographer. That was an important part of my profession.

As to my beading career, I was one of the very few beading artists, without professional education in Arts who entered the Russian Creative Artists Union. That gave me the strength and nerve to create the Mime of Cologne necklace that became Best in Show Runner Up in the Bead Dreams contest.

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Alla Maslennikova, bead artist -