When a woman marries, she wants to be near the people who have loved her all her life, to celebrate, not only the union she is entering, but also the family history that brought her to that moment.
Natalie Stalis of Elmira wanted that. But, as she planned her special day in 2014, she knew there would be empty chairs. Her father was tragically murdered when Natalie was only twelve years old. Her beloved grandmother, with whom she shared a special bond, had recently passed away.
How to keep their spirits close to her in the joyful setting of a wedding?
Enter Ann Recotta of Soulshine Studio Bead Shop. Ann is a renowned bead artist and teacher of bead crafts throughout the Eastern United States.
“Ann was very enthusiastic about the piece I envisioned for my wedding day, and she brought my idea to life,” says Natalie.
Natalie gave Ann a collection of jewelry that holds special meaning for her, and Ann crafted them into a truly one-of-a-kind bridal bouquet.
“The most special piece became the center of the bouquet. It is an antique bracelet that my grandmother gave me as a young child. The bouquet also has other sentimental pieces throughout it; a ring my grandmother gave me for my confirmation with the church, a couple of pins that belonged to my father, some random pieces from friends that hold a special place in my heart even though I don’t see them often and a pair of earrings from my husband,” Natalie says.
The carrying stem of the bouquet is covered in rings and necklaces loop throughout the round arrangement.
“All of these pieces combined were very comforting to me and were important to me because many people have helped me grow into the person I am. I wanted to be close to them, as all of their support is so meaningful to me,” Natalie says.
The bouquet has a place of honor in Natalie and Tim’s home and brings loving memories every day of their wedding and the people who were there, both in person and in their hearts.
Ann smiles broadly at the thought of her creation being so important to someone. “It was one of the most unique things I’ve ever done,” she says.
“When I am working on something for a wedding, I often think about the couple getting married. I think about their future together. I like to think that I’m embedding my best wishes for them in what I’m making. I know it will always be a part of the memory of that day for them,” Ann says.
That philosophy is a standard part of the service Ann provides for her brides and all her customers. Whether she is adding some bling to the bride’s shoes with jeweled beads or creating personalized wine glass charms for the reception, Ann approaches her work with the full understanding that her creations will live on for generations in wedding albums and family heirloom boxes. She sometimes gets to see photos later of her jewelry being worn on the big day.
Sometimes, the fate of Ann’s jewelry is more of a mystery.
When she had a storefront, a gentleman walked in off Market Street one summer day and pointed to a large choker necklace Ann had displayed in the window. Bronze in color, the choker showcased a golden stone set in the center, with beaded draping ready to adorn a lovely neck. The man said he wanted it and he didn’t hesitate when Ann quoted him the $800 price tag.
“He paid me in cash, took the package, and winked at me as he left, saying ‘And I was never here.’ Then he got into a waiting limousine.”
Ann laughs at the memory, adding, “I loved that necklace, and I wasn’t fully prepared to part with it. My hands shook while I was wrapping it.”
Luckily for Ann, handing over her beaded pieces is usually less emotional.
More than a dozen years ago, she and her daughters went to a beading class and made bracelets. “There were some beads left over, but not enough to make anything else. So, I went to a shop and got more. That was it. I was hooked.”
Ann was working for a framing shop on Market Street at the time, so the basement of her home became her artist’s studio. She sold jewelry out of her employer’s shop and online. She also, by her own admittance, “buried” her family and friends in gifts of beaded jewelry.
The bead shop where Ann had her first creative experience closed and, “I didn’t want to live in a town that didn’t have a bead shop.”
She opened Soulshine Studio Bead Shop in 2011, taking the inspiration for the name from an Allman Brothers song. “Anything a person creates is part of them, it reflects their soul. I always loved when someone came in and said, ‘I am not creative. I don’t think I can make anything.’ Then to watch them light up when they made a beautiful piece, that was my favorite part of having the store.”
Ann began teaching, basic classes at first, then more elaborate techniques as she learned them from seminars. She is now in demand as an instructor by bead shops in the region and in other states like Virginia and Alabama. “Spreading the sickness,” she laughs, about getting others hooked on the craft.
Exclusively online now, her virtual studio can be found at www.soulshine-studio.com or via Facebook and Instagram at Soul Shine Studio Corning.
Because she understands that her pieces are worn on special occasions or given to mark a milestone event, Ann uses high quality components and assembles them with an emphasis on durability. “I want it to be passed on in a family and cherished.”
Her preferred beads come from Czechoslovakia, because of their organic imperfections. “The Japanese beads are perfect in their shape and color, but I prefer something less artificial looking, more authentic.”
She has shipped her artistry to several other states and routinely participates in international competitions.
“All the competitors are supposed to use the Japanese beads, but I bet the folks in Czechoslovakia use their own,” she said, with a good-natured laugh.
Ann works full time in administration for the 171 Cedar Arts Center in Corning and her free time is spent traveling, teaching and beading.
“I am very happy with where I am,” she smiles, in the words of someone with a bead on life.