, Gloucester, MA


September 16, 2010

Roll out the fun with paper beads and baskets

When you're done with that magazine, don't toss it.

Clever crafters today are turning pages into pretty: beads, bowls, baskets, photo frames, mirrors and more. It's all made by rolling strips of shiny magazine paper, junk mail and other paper trash.

Some of the paper beads you can buy in craft and jewelry stores are made by women in developing countries.

A nonprofit group called BeadforLife, in Boulder, Colo., for instance, trains Ugandan women in paper bead-making, then buys their finished jewelry for sale in the United States. Besides beading, the Ugandans learn business and entrepreneurial skills. They open bank accounts. And 18 months after joining BeadforLife's program, each graduate is expected to launch her own small business in her community.

Most succeed, says Torkin Wakefield, co-founder and co-director of BeadforLife. The nonprofit has worked with more than 700 women since its 2004 inception, and paid nearly $1 million to its jewelry makers last year.

"The problem with being really poor is you can't save or get ahead," Wakefield says. "The bead rolling gives them a steady income for all 18 months (of the program), so they don't have to worry."

Paper-rolling is also catching on among crafters in this country. Rebecca Douglas, 23, of Lansing, Mich., learned how to roll paper beads as a child living in Namibia, and returned to the skill years later out of financial necessity.

Paper beads can be made out of nearly any paper trash; Douglas prefers to use catalogs and other unsolicited mail.

"It's my quiet protest against junk mail," she says.

Douglas also fashions rolled paper into larger objects: a waste basket, a mirror. She snips off spirals from her paper rods to create delicate necklaces, which she sells from her Etsy shop, Reloved Designs. All of her creations — and instructions for many of them — can be seen on her blog, Some were adapted from "The Big-Ass Book of Crafts" (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008) by Mark Montano, a designer for TLC's "While You Were Out."

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