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Denise Bush Revives Popularity of Handmade Jewelry

By Abigail Howarth, Contributing Writer 

In a world where artisan- made goods are commonly overshadowed by computer-generated or mass- produced products, one Prince William businesswoman is doing her best to revive the popularity of handcrafted items, through her love of beading.

Denise Bush, of Occoquan, opened Off the Beading Path, Prince William’s first beading store, in 2008 to introduce others to the art formDSC_3507 and provide a local source for beading materials. “I felt we needed a nearby local bead shop and thought one located in a historic district would be an ideal place,” explained Bush of her shop, located in Occoquan.

Off the Beading Path offers a wide variety of beads and beading materials as well as jewelry-making classes, private parties and jewelry repair and design. Bush said that beading is basically stringing, which she described as “arranging beads on some type of stringing material to make a bracelet or necklace.” Bead workers may also include wire working, knotting and bead-weaving techniques to complement their beadwork, she added.

Bush was not always a die-hard beader, although “I’ve always had a creative side,” she related. When Bush was around 5 years old, her great-grandmother taught her to embroider, recalled Bush. She eventually delved into cross stitching, ultimately becoming a “cross-over crafter,” meaning that she crossed over to beading after incorporating beads into her cross-stitching. This was shortly after she retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994.

Beading became her creative outlet of choice. “There are so many directions you can go with the multitude of materials,” Bush said. “It’s portable. It’s difficult to take a sewing machine in the car. Because there are so many material options, the opportunities to create unique items are endless.”

“Listens” to Beads for Inspiration

Of the many beads available in her shop, Bush said her favorites include stones and wire or metal. “I like the earthiness and connectedness to nature. I also like the imperfections that come with natural stone,” Bush elaborated. As a result, the store is known for having a large supply of “naturals,” materials that come from nature.

Bush shared that her creative inspiration comes from the beads themselves. “I spend so much time with them. You’ll often hear clients comment that this bead or pendant is ‘talking to them.’ In the bead world, we know that’s just normal. Beads ‘talk,’” she said. “You can bead almost anything. Jewelry, quilts, pillows [and] candleholders are just a few ideas.”

Dorthe Rahme, a longtime Off the Beading Path customer, said she checked out the shop when it first opened, signed up for a class and was hooked on beading. Bush’s passion for the craft is contagious, Rahme said.

“[She is] always willing to help and share new ideas as well as her love of beads. She’s a real asset to the town in more ways than one,” said Rahme, adding that Bush provides “friendship and a sense of family for some of us frequent and longtime customers.”

Offers High-Quality Products and Services

Incorporating a sense of community and offering a range of products has been good for business. Bush said she has achieved many of her 2013 goals for the company, including remodeling and expanding the shop. Her biggest goal is ensuring that customers receive “high-quality products and services for a good value,” she said.

Bush’s aspirations for 2014 include “getting to create more and deciding on a method to sell my own jewelry,” she said.

Off the Beading Path is located at 310 Mill Street, Suite E, in Occoquan. For information on classes, trunk shows and products, visit www.offthebeadingpath.biz or call 703-492-BEAD (703-492-2323).

Lifelong Prince William resident Abigail Howarth recently graduated from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, with a bachelor’s degree in art and art history. Her work has been published in national publications, including USA Today College. She operates Prince William’s Soccer for Success, part of the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s effort to bring soccer to elementary students in underserved areas across the nation. Howarth can be reached at [email protected] 

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