by Julia Steele
photo by Steve Brinkman
Walking into Paia’s Aloha Bead Company is like stepping inside a kaleidoscope: Everywhere you look is color, and when you turn, the spectrum shifts, your vision dances from lavenders, limes and aquas to mustards, pinks and ivories. There are hundreds of thousands of beads in this small beachside cottage—three rooms full. There are beads as ovals, teardrops, discs, stars. There are beads as butterflies, fishes, ladybugs, leaves. Beads from Europe, Africa, Asia. Beads barely bigger than an atom, beads as long as your finger. At the middle of it all is Sarah Klopping, who came to Hawaii over twenty years ago and learned to bead in one of Maui’s remote valleys, living in a teepee and honing her skills well into the night with the aid of a propane lantern.
Sarah Klopping in the
of the Aloha Bead Company.
Today that skill is on display at the Aloha Bead Company, where Sarah’s exquisite creations adorn the many Buddhas scattered throughout the shop. Her specialty these days is intricate, nature-oriented jewelry: The Garden Necklace, for example, is a dense glass foliage of tiny leaves, petals and flowers; the Carmen Miranda Necklace is a bright concoction of glass and crystal fruits and leaves.
"I’ve been inspired by living in Hawaii," Sarah says. "My necklaces and bracelets are like lei, gorgeous and beautiful to wear." Sarah’s own glass beads are also on display, crafted from scratch in her studio in upcountry Maui. "I love what I do, absolutely love it," she says, gazing around the shop. She pulls out a necklace with dozens of colors, thousands of beads, a masterwork that for all its complexity has a simple loveliness. "This was an ‘inspiration piece,’" she says. "It took me three days and fifty-three years to make it. When you bead, it takes all the creativity that’s evolved over the years."
Aloha Bead Company