Glass Onion Bead Company was founded in 1990 by husband and wife team David Johnson and Debbie Austin-Johnson. While starting out as a stained glass studio, we have evolved into a bead store with the largest selection in Northeast Wisconsin. We offer a wide variety of classes with award winning bead instructors.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Patience of a Saint

Have you ever worked on a project for a
really long time, thinking
"When will I ever get this done?" 
Well,  you have no idea.....
  A woman by the name of Liza Lou
has the patience of a saint. 
She has worked on ONE project alone for five years!  Her first large scale work was titled "Kitchen" and it is a life size replica of an actual kitchen.
Lou used millions of seed beads and a tweezers, placing each bead meticulously, creating an amazing mosaic surface over every single item in a full sized kitchen.
  This American Artist is either crazy or a Genius.
  I vote  Genius.
  You really have to see close up shots to appreciate the detail.
 I cannot begin to image the hours and hours.
I cannot imagine her patience.... 
And if this weren't enough, She has recently created the "Backyard" project.  Lou has used over 30 million beads creating this scene.  Most of those 30 million beads went into creating 250,000 blades of grass around a picnic table. 
Look at that grass!! It's amazing!
Along with the life size lawn mower, she has gardens of flowers and food on a picnic table.  Google this woman's work to see all of her extreme bead work. 
Her website is  www.lizalou.com
Her latest work is called "Color Fields" and is now on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.  "Color Fields" is meant as a tribute to the grasslands of South Africa, where Lou is currently based. The artist said her work is inspired by traditional African bead crafts.  The local artisans passed on the secrets of this medium that they have been doing for generations.
I would LOVE to see this in person.
Wonder if I have enough frequent flyer miles?! 

words for the day....
Patience is what a parent has when there are witnesses.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Anyone who knows me, knows I have a fascination with doll heads.  There is something interesting to me about imagining what happened to the rest of the doll.  Frozen Charlotte Dolls are something else that have always caught my eye.
Frozen Charlotte is a name used to describe a specific form of china doll made from 1850 through 1920.  The name comes from an American folk ballad which tells the story of a young girl named Charlotte.  She refused to wrap up warmly to go on a sleigh ride in fear that it would cover up her pretty dress. The story tells how she froze to death during the journey.

The frozen Charlotte is usually in the form of a standing doll, naked and moulded all in one piece.  They are sometimes called  a pillar doll or a penny doll, because they usually cost one cent.  Most were made in Germany.  They are usually white porcelain and are mostly found with broken limbs.
I have a great collection of frozen Charlottes and I love to use them in my jewelry.

  With a little imagination, Frozen Charlottes and their "parts" can be used to create one of kind pieces in jewelery, mixed media and altered books. (Photo above from the work of Donna O'Brien)  You can usually find them at flea markets or on ebay.  Many of the dolls will still have some of the dirt on them from where they were dug up.  Years ago, the dolls that were broken or not quite perfect were discarded and buried around the doll factories.  They are now excavating around these doll factories and resurrecting this little gems. There was also a boy version named Frozen Charlie which is distinguished by his boy hair cut. 

This is a beautiful example of using a Frozen Charlotte by Rogergardens.com.  He incorporated old vintage jewelry with the doll to create this wonderful piece. 
 They are little works of art. 

words for the day....
Life is short.  Smile while you still have teeth.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The projects are in!
And boy, are  people creative!  We were blown away with the great uses for the recycled silk saris.  Now is your chance to vote for your favorite one.  You can vote by coming in the shop and see them in person.  Or you can vote by email or on face book.  Either way, you HAVE to vote!
First place winner will receive a $50 gift certificate and Second place will get a $25 certificate.
We will be having an Anniversary Sale and Open House celebrating our shop's 23 year in business on Saturday, September 14th.  That will be the last day to vote!
Stop by.....   you won't be disappointed.

This horse was made by Joan Rudolph. 
To say this is unique is an understatement!
 She did a fabulous job!

 This quirky wall hanging was made by Meredith Ulman.  She made the paper mache heart and tin wings herself! 
The base is made from an old stick.
I LOVE it!

This project was made by Richard C. Willes, III or "Chuck"!   He does some awesome origami and this piece is no exception!  Notice the tiny paper elephants...

 This unusual hanging piece was made by Mel Gramont.  She is always coming up with something funky. This was made from the top of an old drum.
so cool..

 Felted Fabulous!   Kim Wallander felted this wool purse and embellished it with the silk saris and beads.  You must see the detail of this piece in person.
 Jump in your car and get down here.

This is a beautiful piece made by Lori Miller .  She braided the base and made tiny detailed seed beaded flowers in the fringe.  Absolutely beautiful.

 This bracelet was made by Teresa Ford. She wove the silk with ceramic beads to create this fun, chunky piece.

  The photo doesn't do it justice.  It was made by Michelle Redding and the detail is exquisite.  Another one you just have to see in person.

This is a beautiful example of kumihimo.  It was made by Kamilla Mueller. 
I love the color choice she used.

This silk cuff was made by Pat Knackers.  She did a great job using the multicolored silks.  The vintage glass button is a nice touch on top.

This is another wonderful cuff but this one was done on a loom.  It is the creation of Kim Dworak.  Kim also picked a multicolored skein of silk.  Again, the photos just don't do these projects justice.....

This entry was created by Tori Gold.  She painted the canvas and added her silk as accents on the
edges and in the heart.
  Very unique..

This is entry was made by Virginia Haren.  She did something totally different.  She used the silk as an embellishment for a garment and accented with little resin flowers.

All of these projects were so creative!  I wish you would come in and see them.  If you want to vote by email, drop me a line and vote for your favorite two.

I hope we see you at the open house.  More details will be coming out later about this fun event!
We look forward to the next challenge!

words for the day.....
Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Family; a group of persons connected by blood or marriage, a succession of persons connected by blood, name, household, lineage, descent or clan, to be descended from common parents, belonging to a common group.

Tuesday night was like any other weeknight.  I went to bed by midnight and was asleep very soon.  I was awakened by the wind and got up to close my windows as a storm approached.  Around 1:00am my cell phone rang and it was one of those calls anybody would dread.  It was my youngest sister calling, in shock, in the dark, and afraid to move.  At first she couldn't understand what happened.  She got up to close her windows and as soon as she did, she was knocked to the ground, with rain pouring on her head.  Dave and I jumped in the truck and drove over to her "war zone" neighborhood.  It's hard to believe you can go to bed at night and wake up homeless.... 

This is what her house looks like now.  Her roof was completely ripped off.  While it's always nice to see the sun shining in your kitchen in the morning, this is not the way you would like to have it.
Or in your bathroom......
The destruction that happened in a few minutes time is unbelievable. We really take Mother Nature for granted.   Part of her roof was over, on top of the house across the street.  Her belongings in the attic are God knows where....  Her whole neighborhood looked like that.  Mature trees split down the middle.  Scattered patio furniture, trampoline in the street, jagged metal and shingles all over, everything was covered in pink cotton candy insulation.   A few quick calls to my other four sisters and they were all there, with husbands and boxes and trucks to save what we could.  We tried to work fast as the ceilings in the back bedrooms were getting lower with the weight of the rain soaked plaster.  My sister will be alright.  We found her a new place to live while they tear down her home and rebuild a new one.  It's only "stuff".  Stuff can be replaced.  It's a blessing no one was hurt.  We are thankful for that.

words for the day....
 When you have family, you have everything.  No family is perfect.  Some families argue.  They fight.  They even stop talking to each other at times, but in the end, family is family.  The love will always be there. 

p.s...  when we were all done cleaning up, we were sitting on my sister's porch, watching the whole neighborhood, picking up, raking, helping one another.  A car pulled up and a man got out with a case of Miller 64 and brought it to us.  He said "It's the least I can do".  Total stranger... random act of kindness.  Sweet.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The National Button show is coming to town!

We have a national treasure coming to our own back yard!  The NATIONAL BUTTON Show is going to be in Appleton, August 12 through the 17th.  If you've never been to a button show, it's really interesting.  Button collectors are a lot like bead people.  If the word "hoarders" comes to mind..... you understand what I'm talking about. 

The first part of the week consists of competitions.  Collectors have their buttons arranged in trays.  They could collect elephant buttons, for example.  Their "tray" would consist of maybe 50 different elephant buttons from all over the world and possibly be over 100 years old.  The subject matter for the collection ranges from animals to patriotic, war to windmills.  The different subject matters are endless. The trays are so very interesting to look at.  A button in the tray could cost anywhere from $5 to $500.  This is serious business! If you don't use buttons in any of your many artistic interests, I would still recommend you going to the show.   The showroom opens to the public on Thursday, August 15 from 10-5.  Same hours for Friday and Saturday, August 17, from 10-3.  Most of the vendors have "poke boxes" at the end of their tables.  These are big cardboard boxes chucked full of buttons.  Prices range from $.50 to $3 a button.  I have found from experience, the further back you go, the cheaper they get.  If you would like more info about the show go to:

words for the day......
The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Betsy Youngquist

I have many favorite bead artists, but one really stands out.  Her name is Betsy Youngquist.  There are no words to describe her exquisite pieces of art.  She can turn an ordinary object into the most beautiful creations you will ever see.

 Betsy is from Rockford, Illinois and she is  internationally known for her mixed media bead work.  She weaves together the human aspect along with the animal spirit to create a surreal sight.
The surfaces of her pieces are often covered with beads and found objects done in a Mosaic process.  I had the pleasure of seeing her beautiful work at the Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee this year.  She taught some classes and if you are able, I would highly recommend them.
You can check out her work on the gallery page on her website.
Betsy also sells her pieces on etsy.  She likes to incorporate doll heads and eye balls into her artwork. 
 Right up my alley!

words for the day....
I may not be perfect but parts of me are pretty awesome.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Where, oh where have I been?

Where does the time go??
When I started this blog, I swore I would post once a week.  Well, so it's been a couple weeks...like maybe four... A girl gets busy, you know.  Especially in summer.  I've had a few great adventures since then.  One of the most memorable milestones involved my travel buddy.  His name is Floyd.  Pink Floyd.  He had the softest pink fuzzy fur when I got him in a little antique shop in Milwaukee.
I got him many years ago, when I had 10,265 miles on Betty, my blueberry colored Volkswagen. We just reached this milestone I was talking about.  Floyd has been sitting on my dash board, through rain and snow, hail and hot sun and he just hit his 100,000's mile! His fuzzy fur is gone, he's all faded, his head is all cracked and he's missing half of his dog biscuit. But boy, He had one hell of a ride!
It may be time to retire him to the top of my studio lockers,with a great view of everything.   But for now, he's not complaining so I guess he will ride for a few more miles.

The next thing I was busy with was my annual Girl Friends Weekend at the lake. 
We always have a great time and this year was no exception.
Food, drinks, cards, food, drinks, food...drinks, etc.

Then, came the Fourth of July.  Brooke and I went to an Amish auction in Wautoma in the morning, which was very interesting. Our 92 and 95 year old mothers came to the lake along with my five sisters and husbands, and Dave's brother and sister in law.  Our mom's loved the pontoon ride.
Again with the food, drinks, food, drinks...
There's starting to be a pattern here.

Bring on July 13, my birthday.  Pattern still going strong.... drinking, eating, eating, drinking. I got a fabulous new camera that lets me zoom in so close, I can see bugs on the backs of the birds.  And a water balloon launcher.  Neighbors beware...
Last week was "Girls Rock" Art Camp.  We had a great group of girls who journaled and made hats.  We made polymer beads and painted some amazing canvases using old paper and photos.  It was a fun week but it made me realize, teachers need to get paid more.  No alcohol involved in this event.  My liver is resting.
Tomorrow we head to Sheboygan for the John Michael Kohler Summer Art Fair. Should be a great show.  So glad the forecast is for cooler weather!

words for the day...
I'm always disappointed when a liar's pants don't actually catch on fire.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

SILK FIBER Challenge


We just got some beautiful silk fiber in stock.  It's actually made out of ripped Saris, the garment wore by women of India on special occasions.  The width varies from 1/2 inch wide to one inch wide and they are sewn and tied together.  Each skein is about 20 yards long. The color palate is fabulous!  They retail for $10 but if you are doing the challenge, you can purchase it for $6.  What a deal!

One first place winner will receive a $50 gift certificate and second place will get $25 gift certificate.
We will post photos on facebook and here on our blog.  We KNOW our customers are creative but let's just see HOW creative you can be! Bead on it, knit with it, knot it, twist it.....what ever your little heart desires.  Oh....but it must contain beads somewhere. 
Contest ends July 31.
Stop in and pick our your color.  I think they'll go fast!
If you can't make it in, we are happy to mail the silk skeins out to you.

We will be having an Anniversary Party in early August celebrating our shop's 23 year!
Bead Challenge projects will be on display for voting along with other great events and give aways.
Hope you'll join in on the fun!

words for the day....
No one looks back on their life and remembers
the nights they had plenty of sleep.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

So Much More Than a Bead Shop

A woman came into the shop today and said “I had no idea you had all this unique jewelry.” It made me wonder if most people were completely unaware of what we really have going on under our roof. Not only are we a full service bead store, we have lots of interesting, one of a kind jewelry, hand dyed wool roving and fabulous chunky yarns for the knitters and felters.

We wear many hats around here at Glass Onion Bead Company. It’s a great place to hid out from your husband and kids. A get-away from your job and other stresses.

We’d like to think that we offer you “Color Therapy”.
Just touching the beads is sometimes all you need to lift your spirits.

We are  Psychiatrists.
We hear all kinds of problems and listen to your worries and offer words of encouragement.

We are  Bartenders.
We put in our two cents on your love life, your mother and many other topics to long to mention.

We are coaches.
“Well of course you can do that! That’s not as hard as it looks…”

We are a museum (well sort of….)
You can stop in to see my doll head collection consisting of more than 50 heads that are not creepy what so ever.

Not only do we provide materials, we offer solutions to problems you may have. Bead related and non bead related.

If you are new to beading, we are happy to show you the basics. If you are old to beading, we offer over 75 great classes with award winning teachers.

We hope we are a place of inspiration. A place you can just come and hang out. Our goal is to be like “Cheers”…..
Where everybody knows your name.

Words for the day…..
You have the choice to create the life your heart is yearning to live.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I had the greatest Dad ever....

I had the greatest dad in the world.  He’s been gone almost six years and I still miss him every day.  He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back.  He gave me the greatest childhood and I didn’t even know it.  He spent his time with us instead of money on us.  He would take us to fly kites and pick hickory nuts and go swimming at Waverly Beach on hot summer nights.  He worked hard to support  my mom and me and my five sisters.  He was a pipe fitter at the Kimberly Clark Mill, and every single day he would ride his bicycle to work.  Some days I would be waiting on the corner and he would pick me up and ride me around the neighborhood on the handlebar.  He did paint by number with us and colored in coloring books and in the evenings, we would move the kitchen table and dance to the Lawrence Welk show.  We spent many nights playing rummy or doing craft projects.  (Guess where I got my love for the arts?) Dad  played school with us and made forts in the basement and ate the meat off my plate when my mom wasn't looking. 
He was just an all around great dad. 
My father was a member of the volunteer Fire Department in Kimberly.  (He is the third man in, from the right side) This photo was from the late 1940's.  He worked his way up to assistant chief and he was proud of that. The neighbor kids and I used to ride our bikes to watch the fire calls but I'd have to hide because if he saw me, I would be in deep trouble. I have his old helmet hanging on my studio wall.  See in the photo, the great antique helmets hanging off the truck?  Ya… that’s the one I have.  So cool.
One of my dad's favorite pastimes was fishing.  I think you would fish too, if you lived in a house with seven women and one bathroom.   No one wanted to go along on Saturday mornings because he never knew when to quit.  “Just one more stop, over by that shore” or “Just five more minutes and if we don’t get a bite we’ll go home”.  Never happened…. we stayed all day.  He would bring jelly beans and black licorice and the polka music would be playing and we'd use up every one of those night crawlers we picked up the night before.   Those are some of my best memories ever. 
I took my dad fishing a week before he died.  We rented a pontoon boat & got him out on the Little Wolf River.  One of his favorite spots.  He was the only one who caught a fish that day.  I know he enjoyed it because I saw that spark in his eye.  I didn't know I only had a week left with him.  This is the last picture taken of him before he past away.  I get signs from him all the time. 
I know he is good. 
Fishing somewhere for  “Just five more minutes”.  
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  
I love you more.
Words for the day….
Your Father gives you many things in a lifetime. 
Most of which you will not appreciate until way after he's gone.