Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shop Feature Elizabeth Scarborough of Scarboro

Meet Elizabeth Scarborough who opened her Etsy Shop “scarboro” in 2011.  She is a skillful bead artist, a professional writer of science fiction and fantasy novels for over 30 years, and an avid reader.  Elizabeth is also a lover of cultural and historical places, themes, and art.  She infuses all of these talents and qualities into her beadwork to produce one-of-a-kind show stopping jewelry.   Her opulent use of color and keen attention to detail as seen in her embroidered bib “In Living Color” makes it obvious that when it comes to her art, she holds nothing back and puts her heart into all of her pieces.  

Elizabeth shares the inspiration behind each piece in the item description section of her listings.  As you read the description you feel as though you have been personally invited into her world.  When you purchase one of her pieces you become the proud owner of a beautiful and thoughtfully crafted piece of art that inspires you to dream big.

How long have you been beading and how did you get started?
I have been beading off and on most of my life.  My grandmother, who at one time had a beading business (moccasins and purses with little beaded designs on them), gave me beads to play with when I visited her.

What moved you to become a member of the Etsy Beadweavers Team?
When I started posting on FB and saw posts with gorgeous beaded jewelry, I wanted to find out who made it and be one of them.

What other ways do you market your jewelry?
I show off everything I make in FB posts and occasionally get commissions that way.

How would you describe the type of jewelry you make and who is your customer?
I do a lot of jewelry based on stories, folklore, fairytales, holidays, or because of the
Etsy Beadweaver Challenges.  

My customers are often fans who admire something I'm wearing or want a gift for someone with a particular interest.  I've made lots of Egyptian inspired pieces for one friend who loves Egyptology. I love Halloween and so do many of my friends so I've made lots of Halloween and Days of the Dead pieces, but they are generally too cheerful to be properly Goth.

The thing I want most in a customer is an appreciation of color.  One lady asked me to re-do a piece I'd done for an Etsy challenge in black and I just couldn't get interested.  I find little black dresses with dainty gold minimalist jewelry quite sedating.

Do you blog, or participate in social media?
I have blogged at times but it's related to writing, which has been my profession since 1980. Currently my website containing my beadwork is undergoing re-vamping but most of the recent work is among the photos on my FB page.

What inspired or motivated you to express your love of storytelling through your jewelry?
When I saw Suzanne Cooper's first books of patterns and all of the pictorial peyote patterns she designed, I knew that was the kind of beading I wanted to do. Pictorial peyote, either flat or tubular, let me paint with beads and tell stories with humor, which is what I usually do when I write.

I love funny.  I love fairytales.  A friend wanted a piece to wear on a cruise to the Antarctic for formal dance nights onboard ship so I designed "Fred and Ginger" the penguins dancing beak to beak. Since I was doing tubular peyote at the time, the back depicted their penguin butler Jeeves bringing fish on a platter.

Pretty soon I wanted to do a book like Suzanne's of colored bead patterns. There were very few available at that particular time. Previously the patterns had been mostly black, white and greyscale symbols drawn on graph paper. People just chose their own colors. So I wanted to show my patterns in colors and with the help of Suzanne and the people who owned the beading program I was using, I created a book of funny fairytale pictures.  Friends helped me bead the designs and photograph the finished pieces.

After a while, I got tired of everything being flat, and started making bead-embroidered pieces.  At first I just beaded around cabs, using the colors in the cab to embellish it, but gradually I saw how bead embroidery could also tell stories, though in a more abstract way.

What is pictorial peyote?
Pictorial peyote is just that--peyote beaded pictures.  Some people use a special part of their bead program to copy pictures from photos or older paintings. I like to draw mine freehand. They're not fine art, but they do tell the story and sometimes make me (and the viewer, I hope) laugh.  In illustrating The Frog Prince, on one side of the bag I drew the frog with the crown and the lipstick print kiss that transforms him on the other side of the bag into The Frogman Prince in wet suit, goggles, and flippers dripping all over the palace's red carpets.

What is your design process when creating a new piece?

For pictorial peyote, I design the pattern with Bead Tool, assemble the Delicas I want to use by sight, not by number, and start beading.

For bead embroidery and other techniques, my process is kind of like jazz.  I find a focal or a color that fits the mood, pile every single bead and cab or whatever I think might work together on top of my bead desk, and start playing.  I sometimes try to draw the pattern out ahead of time, but that rarely works out for me as I keep changing my mind, and the pattern. The two main things that take time in making a piece for me are getting the right beads together and then finding all the stuff I know I have seen recently--in fact, they are often what inspired the piece--but can't locate when I want to use them.  Usually, my designs are most influenced by color and by the beads and focals themselves.

Your love of color is evident in all of your spectacular pieces such as the “Moulin Rouge” necklace. When choosing your color palette do you use a color wheel or do rely on your well-trained eye?
I learned how to use a color wheel in art classes years ago but I rely on my own color sense for the most part, as it tends to be unconventional.  My color schemes are based on things like the sacred colors of different cultures, colors that appear in a focal, or the favorite colors of an outfit or a holiday of the person I'm making the piece for.  Right now I'm making a bracelet in a very pale pastel pink for a friend who wants it to go with a dress.  It would never be my first choice but the truth is, I like almost any color.  It's how you use it that makes it work. 

How did seven of your pieces get featured in Margie Deebs book “The Beader’s Color Palette”?
Margie is a designer friend from way back and she's acquainted with my work. When she needed pieces to illustrate certain topics in her book, she asked me for pieces of mine she'd seen online.

What is it about tribal, ethnic, and historical stories and designs that inspire you?
I live and breathe stories. I sing story songs, read constantly, write books, watch stories on films and TV.  I find it fascinating how the same themes are represented in different cultures and places in the world as well as at different periods in time.  My degree is in history mostly because my main professor was a wonderful storyteller.

You often showcase the work of other artist in your pieces, why is this important to you?
I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and I'm often inspired by certain focal cabs or beads, so credit is often due!

What has been the most challenging part of owning an Etsy shop and what has been the most rewarding?
To tell you the truth, the shop is mostly a place to display work I haven't yet sold or gifted or decided to keep for myself.  I don't fuss much with technical embellishment as I prefer to do my embellishing in the actual beadwork. The most rewarding part is selling one of those pieces.

What tips or advice about running a successful shop would you like to share?
Show off what you make in other places with a hint if not a direct link to where it can be examined more closely and/or purchased.  Get photos that are as clear as you can make them and provide descriptions that are evocative of your inspiration but also give details like measurements.

Please visit the following links to learn more about Etsy Shop “scarboro” and it’s owner Elizabeth Scarborough:
My authorial website is:
Elizabeth thank you so much for sharing with us, you have personally inspired me to go big and go bold.  Elizabeth Scarborough of the Etsy Shop “Scarboro” is proof that when you do what you love – it shows!


  1. Thanks, Patrice and Elyse, for the chance to share my love of beadwork with the group!

  2. Oh Ann, what a wonderful article! And your BEAD STORAGE!!! It looks like part of your collection! Adore. Honestly, as I read, I have to admit to hoping I would get to see your Wizard-of-Oz-Lion necklace, something I remember loving, but I cannot remember the details. Happy beading to you, my lovely friend. It has been a pleasure knowing you through your work for so many years!