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PUBLISHED: 10:42 AM on Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Ella Johnson Bentley- a Master Beader in Our Midst by Dianne Anderson

Photo courtesy of the Artist
  Ella's brooch entitled "Mojave in Bloom"
Ella Johnson Bentley describes herself simply as a "bead artist", but really she is an internationally known beading master, author and beading teacher. Her beaded sculptures have won numerous national awards and these have been showcased in over 15 publications. She has also written many how-to articles of her latest innovations for beading magazines.

Her bead artistry in necklaces, earrings and gemstone brooches will be featured for the month of August at Juneau Artists Gallery in downtown Juneau. These new pieces will fit together in a theme of fall colors. These are not simple strands of beads, but massive necklace sculptures meant to be worn and uniquely titled: "Yellowstone", "Everglades" and "Basaltic Glory". Also on display are her popular new inventions of the purse jewelry, made from larger torch work beads of India.

Ella is constantly inventing new ways to bead. She has produced unique 4-inch high sculptures such as "Hot Shot" - a shot glass full of red peppers which won first place in Anchorage's "Arti Gras", and "3 Dog Knight" - a knight in full armor with his dogs which won Judges' Choice award in a show called "Embellishments". In the Puget Sound Bead Festival in 2003, she won Best of Show and 1st place for a set of jacks complete with a bag and ball all in beads called "Let's Play". Her sock monkey named "Sock It To Me" won 2nd place.


Photo courtesy of the Artist
  Ella's neckace sculpture and earrings entitled "Yellowstone"
She also wins many awards for her boots and shoes made out of beads. Her piece "Soul Mates" - a logger's boot and socks, was featured in Carol Wilcox Wells' book, "The Art of Elegant Bead Weaving". The author loved her sculpture so much after photographing it that Ella reluctantly sold it to her. Normally her sculptures are not for sale. They can be viewed in the publications at her exhibit. " I just can't part with them", she explains. "My next sculpture will be a fireman's boot."

Recently a student from Kuwait read an article in Bead and Button Magazine and traveled to the International Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin just to attend Ella's class. She has also been chosen to teach there, for the last 6 years.

Ella will also teach classes for the Alaska Beading Company this January in Anchorage . She will be the featured guest teacher. When teaching she often wears her necklace, (advertising her expertise) called "Heard it on the Grapevine" which consists of many stands of beaded vines entwining a driftwood stick and sprouting clusters of purple grapes.

Ella is a lifelong resident of Juneau, even celebrating her 50th reunion recently of "Jay Hi", and lives in West Juneau with her husband, Jim and 16 year old pig, "Nort". She states that Jim is very supportive and helps with the naming of her art. "He brags about me", she says. But she went on to explain that all her ideas and inspirations are "gifts from God". "I want to give credit where credit is due". She has worked as a fisherman, but as an artist she is basically self-taught. She has worked in other media - painting, knitting, embroidery, and quilting, but with beads she says she "can be as creative as I want to be".

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