One Creative Sister: Beading and Gladwell’s Theory of Mastery

Sassy Sunflower Bracelet

We are so excited to have a wonderful, intelligent and gifted guest blogger today. Now, you’re probably asking yourself how we know our guest is wonderful, intelligent and gifted and I will tell you it’s because we know her well. She is Paul’s sister and a very gifted beader and blogger in her own right. You can see this for yourself by checking out her work at Cave Creek Beads and her accompanying blog. She has a very interesting message for us today as well as some incredible eye candy to enjoy. So grab a cup of coffee, tea or soda and sit back to enjoy our guest post. And thank you, One Creative Sister, for joining us today. It was such a pleasure to host your post.

Hello – I am Paul’s sister, Paula. Yes, our parents had a fixation with the name. Since our father was Paul, it was usually a bit confusing trying to figure out who was being summoned! I was so honored when Paul and Cathy invited me to guest blog as One Creative Sister (how cute!) As they well know, I usually have much to say about most topics but Paul reigned me in and encouraged me to speak about my creative outlet, which is beading! So for all you painters out there, it’s nearly identical to what you do except I use tiny objects and thread in place of paints and my final creations are also rather small in scale as compared to yours!

I am not a bead artist by occupation and came into the art at about my “mid-point” in life – around six years ago. I had left one corporate job and was taking a breather before starting another. We were living part of the time at a condo in Pittsburgh across from a Michael’s store where I would wander the aisles on a regular basis. One day, I purchased an earring kit. I have no clue why. But when I got home, I realized I had no tools and there it began by trial and error.

As Paul mentioned in an earlier post, we came from a creative household. My mother sewed almost my whole wardrobe up until some point in high school and even made my wedding dress! My grandmother did beautiful lace work, knitting and crochet. And I picked up needlepoint and cross-stitch, which I practiced on and off over the years. That day in Michael’s started me down the amazing path of beading.

First, I bought a DVD that described stringing. Oh yes, a packet of tools might be helpful. My first productions were interesting “science experiments”. I made necklaces for my nieces that were probably not worn or, if they were, likely fell apart from crimps that were inexpertly applied. I don’t have many photos of the early efforts but below you see a necklace made for a work colleague. I guess it’s ok but my photography has certainly improved with time and the purchase of a light box!


After 41.6 hours of beading

But I persevered and this is really the point of my blog. Most experts are usually not born that way. They may be born with a certain genetic make-up or grow up in a particular environment but what makes them experts is usually a big investment in time. With Paul, we kiddingly refer to this as his obsessions. I guess a kinder way of saying it is his laser-like focus on something. You are all probably aware of his mastery in music. Then, when he and Cathy were first married, it was refinishing furniture. I remember my astonishment at the beautiful pieces they created on a shoestring budget. Then came stained glass. I was the lucky recipient of a couple by-products of that phase. I’ll pass right over the fish tank phase, my least favorite one! But when Paul and Cathy hit on painting, it’s like they found their heart. Every spare moment was spent reading, doing, traveling and learning. In other words – time and practice.

Sassy Sunflower Bracelet

After 912 hours of beading

I recently wrote about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers that offers a fascinating theory on what it takes to gain mastery in a particular area like music, computers, painting and even beading. In a nutshell, Gladwell states that 10,000 hours is the magic number of hours of practice before mastery can be achieved. He offers great examples like The Beatles who had performed live over 1,200 times in Hamburg, Germany before they returned to England where they started their epic journey to fame. Bill Gates was another example of meeting the 10,000 hour rule early in life when as a rare exception at the age of 13 he had access to a high school computer. He had accumulated at least five years of practice by the time he entered college. I was sharing this fascinating tidbit with my husband who took some exception to the theory. He maintains he has spent well over 10,000 hours golfing and he still isn’t a master. I guess there are exceptions to every rule but you get my point.


After 608 hours of beading

I started out slowly, fueled by the sense of accomplishment in finishing a project and thinking, “wow! I actually made that!” I’m not too proud to say that I learned many techniques through kits, like one of my early triumphs shown below inspired by Sandra Halpenny’s Christmas ornament patterns. Everyone on my list received beautiful beaded snowflakes as holiday gifts that year.


After 105 hours of beading

So when Paul asked me to guest post, I immediately thought of Gladwell’s theory and tried to figure out where exactly I was in my 10,000 hours. Since I have a “day job” like many of us, I am limited to nights, week-ends and vacations. The Wikipedia post on this topic offers an interesting formula that spending 40 hours per week for five years will get you to 10,000. So if you are doing something as your full-time job, I guess you are good to go at about the five year mark. If you spend 20 hours per week, it will take you 10 years, and so on.


After 375 hours of beading

So perversely, I tried to figure out where I was in my 10,000 hours and was crushed to see that I haven’t even hit the 2,000 mark. But that’s the great thing about our passions. It’s about the journey more than the destination and as long as my eyesight holds up or they invent great magnifiers, I am looking forward to the next 8,000 hours!

Snake Necklace

After 193 hours of beading

Paul and Cathy advised me that good blogging requires lots of photos so I thought I would end with the picture below of a Steeler necklace. It’s not my most complex creation but it is a pattern I developed and football season is right around the corner! Go Steelers!

Steeler Necklace

After 1500 hours of beading

Thank you so much, Paula, for guest posting for us today. I loved reading about Gladwell’s theory but I must tell you, based upon your photos, I’d say you are well on your way to mastering beading. Your hours of practice are really showing!

Please come back and visit us soon,


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