College Ave. studio evolves from stained glass to beads

David Johnson and his wife Debbie admit to warning first-time beaders that their new hobby is addictive. The Appleton couple opened Glass Onion Studios in 1990 as a stained glass store and workshop.

Within the past year, the pair has evolved Glass Onion into a bead store with the largest selection of beads and supplies in the area.

"I was a beader, and it seemed a good excuse to buy more beads," Debbie quipped.

After attending a bead show in Tucson and talking with a San Diego-based bead shop owner, the Johnsons realized that a market for beads existed in the Fox Valley.

"There is so much you can do with beads," said David, adding that he finds the history of beading "fascinating."

Evidence of large shell or ivory beads added to clothing can be found as far back as the Late Old Stone Age. Beaded items using small seed beads have been found in Egypt dating back four centuries, he said.

Jewelry making is probably the most common use of beads, but almost any material that can be embellished, such as clothing, quilts, silverware, purses and stationery, can be decorated with beads.

Following scrapbooking and stamping, beading is the "next huge craze," Debbie said. Beads are priced from 5 cents to $40 each, and pearls are making a comeback.

"Kids are wearing pearls with blue jeans," Debbie said. Freshwater pearl manufacturers have discovered how to stretch an oyster's muscles resulting in square and rectangular shaped pearls.

David makes glass beads using a propane torch, molten glass and a kiln. He recently took third place in the glass beads and buttons category of an international juried competition.

Johnson created his prize-winning lamp work beads in a workshop on the second floor of their 1,600-square-foot College Avenue store.

Three instructors join the Johnsons in teaching a variety of beading classes held in the studio classroom, which accommodates 10 students.

Glass Onion moved to its current location at 1011 W. College Ave., Appleton, in 1999. Before that, the store was located on N. Richmond Street.

600450 College Ave. studio evolves from stained glass to beads

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