Friday, February 14, 2014

Therapeutic Beads ~ Aurelio

Summer Flower
Aurelio Castano
I have been making Jewelry for the past 14 years. Jewelry design was love at first sight for me when I took my first jewelry making as part of my two year Visual Art Program. I made metal jewelry from scratch, using techniques such as silversmith, Goldsmith, Lost Wax casting, Enameling, even Wire wrapping.

Being Latino, I was always curious on how to put intense color to my metal designs, tried Enameling, chemical and heat oxidizing, but I did not obtain the vivid color palette I was looking for. I tried beads as accent to my jewelry work, first large semiprecious beads, and then little by little the beaded work became more visible in my designs, until one day the metal became so minimal that it almost disappeared and the beads took over.

Native Barrel
Aurelio Castano
I did not abandon metal work by choice though. A few years ago, I became very ill; I was diagnosed with a very extreme case of Fibromyalgia. Day by day the illness took away the strength in my hands and doing basic tasks became a struggle. Chronic illness affects so many aspects of our lives. Sadly, that includes all the fun ones too.

I Think I made the transition at the right time. Beads have become one if not the only sources of happiness and therapy for me as well. When I first became disabled, I thought Cool; I will have more time for arts and crafts projects. Boy was I wrong. With pain in most of my body, there is very little that one is capable or desires to do. Luckily for me, I discovered Beading a few years into my chronic pain journey.

The great thing about Beading is that it lends itself to doing just a little bit each day, it is not exhausting, Plus when I finish a piece it makes me happy and gives me an enormous sense of accomplishment.

Making beautiful Bead work I have been able to continue a designing career that otherwise would have ended. Doing my bead work at my own pace makes things much easier and I don’t have to force my body in anyway. Once I finish a piece I take pictures I am able to upload to social media like Facebook. This way I am able to interact with other artists and public in general, getting feedback about my work, but more importantly it gives me the opportunity to stay in contact with people which otherwise I would not be able to, due to the nature of my illness.

My work has been published in magazines and participated in bead exhibitions, which is not necessarily everyone’s plan but it is a hint that shows that beading not only makes a good therapeutic exercise but also a great opportunity to continue having a descent fun living despite the aches and pains.

Beads seem to be very therapeutic and are used in many ways to help patients deal with the great deal of stress and frustration of their medical conditions. As a patient with a chronic painful illness, I know how beads have helped me from going KUKU.

I am not a therapist and I don’t intend to be, that is why I am going to concentrate on what I know has helped me by making 5 important steps to make your beading experience pleasant and rewarding.

1-  Investigate whether you want to or can do Beading or Bead stringing. Here is the differences to Beading, bead weaving or bead work:
Bead stringing:

2- Once you decide which technique would be better for you, and easier for you to do, taking into consideration your abilities and restrictions, plan your design, start very simple. Remember that you should enjoy this experience. Buy only the necessary materials for your project. It is very easy to over spend when you are in a bead/craft store if you don’t have a plan.

3- Create a comfortable atmosphere where you can sit comfortably, and enjoy your time. Make sure you have a good light, make sure that you have all your tools handy and all your materials available.

4- Be resourceful, there are hundreds of free tutorial videos online.
If Bead weaving is your technique of choice you can come to our Bead Mavens blog spot where you can find many ideas, if you are a beginner. I recommend checking the back to basics that Mikki Ferrugiaro posted recently. Here are the links:
Check all of January 2014 for the Back to Basics Tutorials

5- Whether you make your designs for yourself or as gifs, always be sure to do it for your own enjoyment, remember this is a therapy for you. Through experience I can say that the reward can make you feel better and happier, something that no medicine can do. And if you do it the right way, believe me there are no side effects from this.

So, if you are suffering from a chronic illness, don’t hesitate to grab those beads and cheat on those dreadful painkillers and their side effects.

Lol, do take those meds as well.

Inspirational reading:


  1. It warms my heart to see that beads also saved you from going nuts, dear Aurelio. We are nearly twins.

  2. Wonderful article! think there are many beaders among us that recognizes this, including me. Not only beading but designing gives me so much peace that I enjoy it immensly! It saved (and it still does) me from going nuts!

  3. Great, thoughtful writing Aurelio! I have health issues as well and would be lost without my beads! My family has little interest in what I do, but I am lucky to have some beader friends to chat with online and view each other's work. I only wish I had someone to take my stash when I am no longer able to bead!!!

  4. It's always good to hear how beading has helped other people cope with their illness. While I may not have a physical illness, I have spent my life dealing with anxiety and depression. My beading has been a great help for me in many ways, from giving me something to distract my mind when I'm having bad days- to actually getting me out and about doing things like going to markets or the bead groups that I have become a part of. Through these things I have met so many wonderful people and experienced all these great things that I could never imagined happening before I started beading.

    Thank you for sharing your story, Aurelio and good beading to you.

  5. Despite your health issues, you shine thru and it reflects in your beautiful work.......I'm so happy to read how beading helps you...and this is a very thoughtful and helpful article.....xoxo

  6. Wonderful article.Thank you for sharing and thank you for your inspirational art.