Our bead meet-up group has been having a great time with our monthly challenges. In March, each member brought an item to share/give to another member. A fascinating assortment of beads, stones, and chain were contributed. We drew numbers from a hat and everyone went home with something they were challenged to incorporate into a piece of jewelry.

The end result? Some really creative jewelry.

Was it easy? No!

Almost everyone felt pushed outside of their comfort zone, having to work with something they would not normally have chosen.

Nancy, who loves making peyote stitch bracelets, received two sterling silver triangles.“I really struggled with these,” Nancy said. “I was making it too complex. I finally settled for something simple.”

In the end, Nancy made a great pair of earrings by dangling the triangles, a feather charm, and a couple of aqua-colored beads from circular earwire. Simple, yet striking — and they looked terrific on her. A definite success.

Michelle received some moonstone beads — beautiful, yet the variety of geometric shapes and their delicate color made them a challenge. After several false starts, Michelle ended up stringing them with lava beads and other small beads in subtle greys, silver, and burgundy — making their color pop.

The strand was long enough that the piece could work as a necklace or as a wrap bracelet. “The project definitely pushed me,” she said, admitting that the style was very different from most of her work, which is very intricate. The group loved the piece and the way Michelle brought the stones to life.

Jan used bead embroidery to combine two faceted jewels into a striking pendant. While Jan is an adept bead embroiderer, working with the unique shape of the jewels required her to pull out smaller beads than she was used to working with. The end result was excellent.

“I had a really hard time,” Lauren said, describing the linked silver chain she worked with. “I went down a dozen dead ends — but learned a lot.” Lauren strung a mix of beads and stones on earwire, then connected them to varying lengths of chain to make a necklace. While she wasn’t thrilled with her design, she loved the pair of earrings she came up with in the process and felt successful.

Design work is rarely a straightforward process. It’s pretty rare that any of my ideas work out right out the gate — but if I keep at it, something good almost always comes out of the struggle.

I encourage you to keep at it. The next time you have a design that doesn’t work out the way you hoped, don’t think of it as a dead end — but as a detour.