Beautiful beadwork in a matter of hours

Jewelry and other ornamentations have been made with beads for ages, and the practice continues at the Wilton Senior Center where artist Viola Galetta teaches a frequent jewelry design workshop.
Last Friday, Aug. 21, Galetta helped Sharon Powers turn a purchased beaded bracelet into a necklace that was a true statement piece — with turquoise beads complemented by glass and silver beads to accentuate the sparkles.
“This reminds me of the Mediterranean,” Galetta said as she examined the bracelet beads.
Powers, former administrative secretary of Wilton Social Services who retired earlier this summer, is a new student.
“I do a lot of counted cross-stitch,” she said, but was always intrigued by the beading workshop. “I always wanted to do beading and would come down and watch them and say ‘when I retire I’ going to do that and I’m so glad I did.”
Powers brought her own beads, but new students may come to the workshop and purchase needed supplies from Galetta for a nominal fee. “I am like a traveling bead shop,” she said laughing. “I help everyone with the designing, all they have to do is put their own touches.”
She prefers going to specialty stores like Bead Works in Norwalk, Sugar Beads in Ridgefield or Beadz in Darien rather than discount chains like Michael’s.
“There are a lot of bead stores people can go to,” she said, saying the search can take one as far afield as Danbury or White Plains or Fishkill, N.Y. “There are lots of different types of pearls. You learn about natural products, manmade products.
“Then you find things and you think you can use them and that’s exciting.”
Powers had two diamond-shaped pieces she’d been wearing on a chain that she wanted to use as drops on her new necklace. Because they did not have holes to run a string through, Galetta joined them with a short string of crystal seed beads.
“This is a game of patience,” she said as she worked.
Galetta, who wore three of her own pieces to the workshop — a bracelet, a necklace and a pair of earrings — got into beading as a hobby.
“Designing and color came naturally to me,” she said, explaining she had a career in textile design until the commute between Wilton and New York became too much.
The hobby grew in two ways. It has taken over several closets in her home and is now a second career. In addition to teaching at senior centers, she teaches at the Silvermine Arts Center, Guilford School of Art, Brookfield Craft Center and an art center in New Haven.
Through Sept. 5, Galetta is participating in Silvermine’s faculty art show, with intricate bracelets and necklaces on display. She sells her work through the gallery’s gift shop and her website.
She has several classes lined up at Silvermine this fall including:

  • The Art of Bead Stringing, beginning Sept. 17;

  • Sparkly Beaded Bracelet, beginning Oct. 8;

  • Viking Knit Jewelry Workshop, beginning Oct. 29

  • Art of Seed Beading, beginning Nov. 19.

In addition to making jewelry, Galetta has also made her own glass beads. She explained there are two types of glass beads.
Dichroic beads are made by stacking layers of glass with metals or oxides. The result is a non-transclucent material that offers multi-dimensional color.
Lampwork beads are made of molten glass heated by a torch. Murano beads from Venice are the best known type of lampwork beads.
Of beading, Galetta said, “there are so many variations of techniques and materials, it can never be boring.”
The next jewelry workshop is Sept. 4. There is a $5 drop-in fee.
For information on the workshop, call the Wilton Senior Center at 203-834-6240.
For information on Galetta, visit