PUBLISHED: 5:13 PM on Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The beading will continue until morale improves
When beadwork is more than stunning jewelry and best described as sculpture, it's likely the work of Ella Johnson Bentley. Her collection of wearable art and beaded sculpture reflect the uplifting personality of its creator.

Ella is the featured artist in the Juneau Artists Gallery this First Friday, Feb. 1 and will be displaying her latest beadwork there.

Courtesy Photo
  Ella's bead creations are not always planned.. She often gains inspiration as she works, as with this bead sculpture, "Porky Does Lunch."
Ella had taken her art form employing beads to another level. She has created beaded baskets of beaded fruit, miniature beaded boots and a miniature beaded replica of one of Elvis Presley's famous blue suede shoes. She's created beaded geodes, bead-encrusted inter-tidal beach rocks complete with beaded seaweed and bead barnacles and bouquets of flowers all made of glass beads.

"Much of my work is one-of-a-kind pieces," she says.

Ella moved to Juneau in 1948 and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1955. She began beading about 21 years ago, starting with beaded earrings. She works in a studio in her home and said she works every day.

"One of my friends called me a compulsive producer," she said.

Courtesy Photo
  This Tiger Necklace is just one of the examples of Ella's beautiful creations.
She says she doesn't often plan her pieces. She just starts working and "something wonderful takes shape, often whimsical, sometimes beautiful." Ella also names all of her sculptural pieces and most of her beaded jewelry.

"A lot of my personality goes into my work."

Her most recent project was an imprint of her husband's hand on paper which she turned into a beaded bag. It was done as flat work and Jim chose the cabochons and color selections. The bag highlights some tiny bronze tools a friend gave to her. Jim named the bag, "Handyman's Hand".

This piece was juried into "Dairybarn International 2008" a prestigious competition held every other year. The piece will be in their show in May and then travel around the U.S. with the show for 2 years.

"I would say that the 'Handyman's Hand' bag is probably my most challenging project in that I had to find a way to display all those little tools. I am also very pleased that I created a beaded teddy bear that was fuzzy, a dream showed me how to do it."

The next item she did was a beaded porcupine and beaded bush. She mounted them on a piece of driftwood and named it "Porky Does Lunch".

Jewelry has been her bread and butter work for many years. She still makes beaded necklaces, bracelets, eyeglass holders, purse jewelry and other beaded wearables. She also makes beaded flowers and miniature wax linen baskets.

"I like the tactile feel of

beads, especially against your skin. They warm up and feel nice," she said.

Ella continues to grow in her art.

"I've become more daring in the objects that I want to duplicate in beads. I don't look at something anymore and say 'I can't do that.' It might take a lot of false starts and a lot of ripping, but I usually portray what I intend to do in beads."

She teaches beading at home, and has taught at local workshops as well as national beading conferences and seminars. Her beadwork has been featured in national arts magazines and has also toured the United States as part of art exhibitions.

Ella displays her work at the Juneau Artists Gallery as one of the almost 30 artists who operate the shared venture year round in the Senate Mall Building downtown. Stop in to visit her on First Friday, Feb. 1.