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, RelovedDesigns.com. 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."
"I've kept my hands busy for so long now they can't handle not doing anything," Douglas says.
Another paper-beading fanatic is Janice Bautista, 52, who owns Aubrey's Beads shop in Glendora, Calif., and sells beads and jewelry online. She calls herself "the Paper Bead Princess" in the profile at her Etsy store, Janicemae, and posts a new use for paper beads daily on her blog, Paper Beads.org.
Bautista is crazy for the colors and shapes of paper beads, but it's the element of surprise that really grabs her.
"When you're rolling it, you'll slowly see the beads come to life," Bautista says.
Bautista has a sister in the Philippines, an avowed non-crafter who caught the paper-beading bug, then shared it with others. Now the sisters employ about 50 bead-rolling women in Quezon City, and Bautista receives about 200 36-bead strands a month to sell at her shops.
"It's driven by the idea of helping the women have jobs," Bautista says.
To get rolling, a few supplies help: paper, a rolling tool, glue or a glue stick, scissors and a water-based sealant, such as Polycrylic by Minwax.
Both Bautista and Douglas recommend recycling waste paper, and Bautista suggests experimenting with nontraditional paper, such as cat litter bags, which are sturdy. Rolling tools can be purchased at craft stores, but Bautista and Douglas recommend working with items in the home: a coffee stirrer, a toothpick, a pencil, even your finger. The larger the rolling tool, the larger the bead hole will be.
Bautista mostly relies on her tapestry needle, while Douglas uses her grandmother's metal, narrow-sized knitting needle, which she also uses to roll the rods for her spiral jewelry.
Many online sites, such as those listed below, offer paper-bead-rolling instructions, but it comes down to simply cutting a long strip of paper — preferably wider at one end; rolling it around the rolling tool (from wider to narrower end); gluing it; allowing the glue to dry, and sealing the bead.
Bautista says it's just about the easiest craft to teach.
Douglas suggests starting by hoarding junk mail.
"Start getting excited when you get catalogs in the mail for stuff you don't want," she says.