Eleven-year-old Salona Ruth sits at a large wooden table, surrounded by sparkly beads and baubles from around the world.
She shows off her work in progress. "These beads can tell you what mood you’re in," she says. Then, she excitedly describes the other "special" beads she’s stringing on the necklace, sure that her classmates will be impressed with her creation.
Susanne Barnard, owner and founder of the Bead Merchant located at 1547 S. Harvard Ave., has a lot in common with that young customer in her store.
"I’ve loved making jewelry since I was about 12," Barnard says. "Whenever my family would travel for vacation — to L.A. or Santa Fe — I would always blow all my souvenir money at the bead shops we’d visit."
Barnard would hone her skills, later selling her handmade creations to local Tulsa boutiques, and even to Philbrook Museum of Art’s gift shop.
"That was a really exciting thing for a high-schooler and gave me lots of encouragement," she says.
Combining her love for teaching with her love for jewelry making, she "shot for the moon" and opened the Bead Merchant in 1990. Since then, it has become the go-to place for professional and aspiring jewelry makers who seek unique materials.
"We source semi-precious stones from India and China, handmade Czech glass beads, Swarovski crystal, delica (seed) beads from Japan," Barnard says. "If it is interesting and unique, I have to have it."
The Bead Merchant also hosts instructional classes for children’s birthday parties or for a wine and cheese night for moms. No matter your experience level, knowledgeable bead gurus are there to offer assistance.
"People come in thinking they aren’t artistic, but end up leaving thinking, ‘Hey, I made this,’" she says. "I think that is one of my favorite things about the bead shop."
The Bead Merchant also carries non-bead items, does jewelry repair and takes commissions to create one-of-a-kind gifts.
Product photos by Ryan Cass
The Bead Merchant
1547 S. Harvard Ave. | 918-747-3636
10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Saturday