Artisan Feature: Kari of Mile High Beads

I must confess, I really have to work hard at using color. If you have ever met me, you would have witnessed that I wear primarily black (okay, occasionally royal blue). There are a variety of reasons for this, one of them being that I’m just not as fluent as I would like to be with color…yet.

This is one of the many reasons I love following the artist behind Mile High Beads. Kari has a great sense of color. She obviously really loves working with a variety of different types of beads and has such confidence in pulling it off.

I was able to catch up with Kari in her Colorado studio and ask her a few questions about her creative process.

Becky: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to make jewelry.
Kari: I’ve been crafty since I was young. I had my hands in a little bit of everything from drawing to friendship bracelets to puff paint shirts as a kid! Around middle school I discovered beads, making beaded dream catchers and simple necklaces. I was an art major in college, with a focus on painting, but I kept making jewelry just for fun. I knew I wanted to do something creative as a career and thought it might have something to do with jewelry but I struggled to figure out what that looked like or how to make that happen. I worked in restaurants after college until a job as the manager of a local bead shop opened up and it seemed like the perfect opportunity! I got to know the business of beads and through helping customers with their projects and teaching beading classes, it really helped me to hone my skills and expand my repertoire of techniques. It also cemented my desire to own a bead shop and make jewelry for a living!

Becky:  What do you enjoy best about making jewelry?
Kari: I’m pretty much obsessed with beads, gems, and color so getting to work with those all the time is pretty amazing! Aside from that, there’s just something so satisfying about making something with your hands. And then to see people get excited over your creations and feel joy when they wear them, it’s pretty magical!

Becky: You have an amazing color sense. How did you develop that?
Kari: Thank you so much! I’ve always loved color and one of my favorite parts of college was getting to explore color theory and design. I think what drew me to painting, in particular, was how fun it was to mix paints and experiment with color! When it comes down to it, color is really what jewelry making is all about for me, so I’m constantly searching out new bead colors and playing around with different color combinations. I’m fascinated by the endless, subtle variations of color, which is why I love working with gradients and figuring out how to move from one color to the next. Ultimately, the more I play with color, the more risks I’m willing to take and the more nuanced and confident I’ve become in my color choices.

Becky: What are your main avenues for selling your jewelry? Do you offer your items wholesale as well as retail?
Kari: I mostly sell through my Etsy shop although I do a couple of local art fairs a year. I love Etsy because it’s so easy to use and it’s easy for me to combine both sides of my business, handmade jewelry, and jewelry-making supplies. I’ve taken a few wholesale orders in the past but I’ve found that most of my jewelry is too time-consuming for that so I just do retail now.

Becky: Do you have a favorite social media outlet for selling your jewelry?
Kari: I love Instagram! It’s been a great way to get my jewelry out there and I’ve found such a collaborative, supportive artist community that has been so wonderful to have!

Becky: How do you typically create? Do you have days that you are creating jewelry and other days that are purely administrative?
Kari: I have my 2-year-old at home with me so right now my schedule revolves around him. Those little hands get into everything so most of my jewelry-making happens when he’s asleep, meaning lots of late nights. I find little bits of time throughout the day to do other things, like shipping orders, restocking the jewelry supply side of my business, responding to emails, etc. I would love to have a more regimented work schedule and think it would be easier to stay more organized that way, but until he’s in school, I have to get by doing whatever I can, whenever I can!

Becky: What have been some of your biggest challenges with running a jewelry business.
Kari: Time is definitely my biggest challenge…there just isn’t enough of it! The to-do list never seems to get smaller when you own your own business, so I’m constantly trying to find ways to be more efficient and organized and stay on top of all the moving parts. Another challenge is finding a manageable work-life balance. When you work from home with an online customer base, you’re always at work and there’s always something you “should” be doing for your business, so finding a way to balance that with family responsibilities and some occasional time off can be difficult. And of course, there’s the financial aspect of the business. It’s easy to get lost in the artistic side of things and all of a sudden realize you’ve been neglecting to handle the business side for a little too long!

Becky: You use a lot of Nunn Design Jewelry Findings in your work. Thank you. How did you come to discover Nunn Design and why do you trust your jewelry to our products?
Kari: I first discovered Nunn Design years ago when I worked at the bead shop. More recently, I was searching for metal frames to replace the ones I was making by hand and I remembered your name! I was so happy to find you had the type of unique shapes and substantial sizes I was looking for! I also love that they are plated with fine silver, 24kt gold, and pure copper so I know they will wear well for my customers!

Here are some of Kari’s latest creations using the 2019 Winter Collection of Nunn Design Findings.

See More of Kari’s Work!

On the Nunn Design Blog!

Follow Kari on Instagram: @milehighbeads

Shop Etsy:

Thank you Kari for inspiring me as well as all of us at Nunn Design!

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1 thoughts on “Artisan Feature: Kari of Mile High Beads

  1. Queen Katherine says:

    BEAUTIFUL!! Kari, I’m in south Denver and I would love to get together for a creative playdate. (If you’re up for it.) Our styles are different but our love of color is the same – I think we could have a lot of fun! If you would like to talk please email me at queenKatherine at Gmail. It would even be fun to hook up at the next art fair you do.

    Fantastic interview that I really enjoyed. I love learning about other artists and how they create. The roads we take to find our creative voice are varied but similar – and I relish knowing I’m not the only one with artistic struggles and occasional triumphs – even if I am the only one who is aware of them. I appreciate the focus put on other artists – it’s an important part of feeding my creative spirit. Thank you, Becky and Kari, for giving my creative spirit a little filet mignon to chew on.

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