By Suzanne Schmidt
For years Pauline Atkinson worked as a secretary at the University of South Florida, until one day she decided to leave that job to be a full-time artist.
For the last eight years, the Zephyrhills resident has been living her dream making unique glass bead jewelry and traveling to about 20 art shows a year all over the southeast.
It all started when she was attending art shows with her sister Delores Fawkes of Atlanta.
“I fell in love with going to art shows,” Atkinson said. “I like meeting people and getting to know other artists. I have made a lot of friends. I am always working on pieces and getting ready for the next show.”
Originally she started sewing children’s clothing because she loves to sew but while at art shows, she was always fascinated by the glass bead jewelry. She decided to give it a try and after a lot of practice and a few workshops she started to get the hang of it.
“I started practicing and I took workshops,” Atkinson said. “The workshops helped me to learn new tricks. Even though I took the workshops, I feel like I pretty much taught myself everything.”
Atkinson said she is inspired to create her one-of-a-kind pieces by what she sees and what the current trends are.
“I like to experiment with different colors,” Atkinson said. “I try to make things that are simple and wearable pieces but I do have some that are not as simple.”
Making glass beads by hand is not as easy as some people might think. First she has to heat up the glass rod. Then she has to wrap the hot glass around a small mandrel or stick that is coated with bead release, or liquid clay. Atkinson continues to build the glass bead on the mandrel until she is happy with the end result. She then sticks it in a hot kiln to cool over night.
“Sometimes one bead can take as much as 45 minutes,” Atkinson said. “Simple beads can take as much as five minutes. You have to be really careful when adding glass to the bead. Because the beads cool off slowly in the kiln they will not break.”
After the beads have been cooled, Atkinson then strings them together with other beads and Swarovski crystals to create bracelets, necklaces, earrings and watches.
“So much that I do is one-of-a-kind,” Atkinson said. “I can use the same colors but because of the way I make the bead, no two usually look the same. Every piece I make is an original.”
Some artists grow too attached to their pieces to sell them, but Atkinson is just the opposite.
“I am happy to sell my pieces,” Atkinson said. “It doesn’t do any good to me to just keep them in my house in a box.”
In addition to making jewelry, Atkinson has also started making clothing and purses with her sister Delores Fawkes.
“I love to sew,” Atkinson said. “I have some vests and some sweatshirts. I like to make them with bright colors.”
Atkinson has two adult children Katie Gaddis and Jack Behring and two grandchildren from her daughter Gaddis named Lily, 9, and Spencer, 5.
Katie Gaddis of Raleigh, North Carolina said she loves that her mother is creating jewelry.
“I am a happy owner of many of her pieces,” Atkinson said. “I like that it makes her happy doing it. It is nice for her to have a creative outlet. I like working her booth with her at art shows and seeing the people drawn to her jewelry. Her jewelry is so bright and sunny.”
For more information, e-mail .
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.