I sat down with Terry Hale in the Folk School Enameling Studio where she teaches bead making several times a year. We talked about the joys of craft addiction and how she got hooked on moving glass into beads, what she likes about teaching, what she loves about the Folk School, and more. Enjoy our interview!
CP: I noticed while reading your bio that the one of the main reasons you started making beads is because you were making jewelry and just couldn’t find the right beads for your projects, so you took the initiative and decided to make your own beads. What was the moment you embraced bead making as your main craft?
TH: From the first moment of putting the glass in the flame, I was hooked! I took my first lesson with Marjorie Langston (who’s also a teacher at the Folk School) and after about 15 seconds at the torch, I fell in love. I had no idea that you would see so much movement in the glass.
I love the process of craft, so to know that it was so active from the get-go was incredible. You take this breakable, fragile, dangerous material, make it molten, coax it into a shape, it hardens up again, then it’s something you can put on your body and wear! And then when I took the first beads out of the kiln, it was like ahhhhhh okay here’s the cliff, now I’m going off.
CP: Where do you live and work?
TH: My studio is in Madison, Alabama, in my home. I had a commercial studio and store for a while, but I found that in selling beads you have to be able to tell the story behind them and finding the right people to be able to do while I was away teaching was often difficult. People think to just go to Michaels and buy a $3 strand of beads if they don’t see the value and story of hand-crafted beads. I have so many teaching gigs and I am traveling so much, my current studio is now more of a private home-based studio than a retail/commercial studio.
CP: How far do you travel to teach?
TH: I’ve taught at the Miami University of Ohio, Tennessee Tech, and at the Folk School. Marjorie and I host retreats together twice a year in Asheville. We have 30 artists who come together to create and share ideas and work on fundraiser projects like Beads of Courage.
Every other year Marjorie and I host a retreat in Ireland. Beads have taken me to many places, but my favorite of all (besides the Folk School of course!) is Ireland. Marjorie and I co-host a bead making retreat on there at the wonderful home and studio of Cheryl Coburn Brown.
CP: Wow! That’s neat! Why Ireland?
TH: Cheryl Coburn Brown is a fiber artist who has a house and teaching space in a little village called Mallaranny in County Mayo near Galway. Originally, Marjorie & I went over to take a class from another American bead teacher. We had such a great time and Cheryl saw our personalities and rapport with each other and invited us to come back and teach. We’ve done it three times and will be back in September this year. We have also worked there as visiting ”artists-in-residence” for two weeks.
CP: What inspires you?
TH: I love things in nature, shapes and things, like fiddlehead ferns for example. I look for color combinations everywhere. I’ll see two cars pass each other and think, oh those two colors look really cool together. I even see things in garbage cans and think, that’s inspiring. Color combinations I never would have thought of are in the strangest yet most common of places. Sometimes I’ll just sit down at the torch and grab a handful of glass and not have a plan and see what happens.
CP: Tell me about some of your most memorable projects?
TH: Marjorie and I taught a class and one of our projects was making an aquarium-inspired design. That was really ambitious for a class, but the final projects came out great.
Once I made vessels for a retired marine who was going back to Iwo Jima for a memorial and she wanted some little hand-crafted jars to collect the sand. She brought one back for me and that was very touching.
One of my favorite stories is about my frog beads. When I had a store front, I had a little terrarium in the window where all the frog beads would live on the leaves and logs. For some reason, I put a pink ribbon on the back of one of them, cleaned it up, and put it in the window. Within minutes, a man walked by and he stopped and stared at it for a while and came in and said, “I don’t even know what that is, but I want it. My sister-in-law was diagnosed cancer free after many years and she loves frogs and I am looking for a gift for her.” Something in the universe told me to make it and he walked by at the right time. That was pretty cool.
CP: How long have you been coming to the Folk School?
TH: It’s hard to remember not coming to the Folk School. I started assisting Marjorie about 15 years ago and when I came here, I just fell in love; it was like I died and went to heaven.
One of my favorite things about teaching at the Folk School is that you to know a class in a week and you get to watch things click. As a teacher, I get excited when I can take an idea, give it to somebody, and see them understand it and they run with it.
CP: Do you get a lot of beginners in your class?
TH: In this class, I have one man who has never made beads before and he is doing a phenomenal job. It’s fun to watch somebody who doesn’t really know what they are in for, and then they “get it.” That’s one of the best feelings in the world–I remember that feeling.
CP: You perked my interest in glass beads!
TH: It’s not a craft, it’s an addiction.
CP: I have an addiction to being addicted to crafts. I do so many things, it’s hard to focus on one thing, especially at the Folk School.
TH: I was the same way. My husband knew I was a dabbler and then one day I came home and said: “Honey, I’m going to make glass beads!” And he was like: “Okay.” I think no one has been more surprised that I stuck with it than me. Every time I sit down at the torch I learn something new. It may be what not to do, but there’s always more to learn from the glass.
CP: Any closing words?
TH: Oh gosh, I wish I could put into words what the Folk School means to me. I just wish time would slow down here. It’s just phenomenal how fast time goes here–too fast. In all my classes, I teach the zen of working with glass, it’s not “hurry up and make all these designs” it’s how to relax and work with the glass. Understand what it’s doing so you are anticipating it instead of reacting to it.
About Terry Hale
Terry is the owner of Hale Fire Glass, a working studio and teaching facility in Madison, Alabama. She also teaches nationwide, as well as in Ireland. Twice a year, she co-hosts beadmaking retreats in Asheville, NC, that are attended by glass artists from the entire U.S. Terry’s original wire and glass bead work can be seen at fine art shows and several venues across the country.
This interview was originally published on June 15, 2015. We update and republish our interviews to reflect our current class schedule as many teachers return to teach many times.
Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes. podielski.com