Maggie Meister is an internationally renowned bead designer and instructor who is the author of  Classical Elegance: 20 Beaded Jewelry Designs It is another master class book which Lark Crafts sent to me for review. It's hard to believe that this is Maggie's first ever book as she is incredibly talented!

Maggie spends 7-10 hours a day beading. It's time well worth spending! She said in an interview, "My beading space? Maybe I should let my husband answer this one! He always says I have my bead room - our sun room is my studio - and the rest of the house is the "bead annex.""

Her passion for beading is evident as is her love of history. She credits a childhood exploration of her father's books on Pompeii and Roman history and an Italian stay lasting 5 years as some of her inspirations.  She was also fortunate enough to visit some fabulous exhibitions.  How she translates architectural elements, textiles, mosaics and  ancient and other cultural jewelry into modern pieces with seed beads is astounding and what makes this book a delight. No wonder it's called Classical Elegance.

The beautiful Sappho necklace on the cover of the book  was inspired by a female Greek poet by that name. Maggie based the triple focal elements on a lyre because Sappho was often painted by later artists with a lyre which represents poetic creativity. The design was accomplished using circular peyote and brick stitches as well as diagonal brick stitch.

One stunning piece, entitled the Matriarch's Cuff,  is based on a medieval Jewish wedding ring she saw at an exhibition in Baltimore.  Check out the picture of this exquisite ring in my post about the same exhibition, Bedazzled - 5000 years of Jewelry.  There is also another picture of gold Jewish wedding ring in Treasures of the Black Death Exhibition. The distinct house-like designs of these rings were meant to symbolize both the marital home and the Temple of Jerusalem.

Matriarch's Cuff
Girandole earrings became fashionable in 17th century Europe when women began to wear their hair up. These multi-pendant earrings are the precursors of chandeliers. Indeed their name comes from the crystal pendant candelabras of the era. You need to see a picture of a pair that once belonged to Elizabeth Taylor to truly appreciate the wonderful lightweight seed bead version Maggie came up with. The original girandoles were so heavy, some ladies had to attach ribbons from the earrings to their hair to take the weight off their ears!

Sometimes a design goes through many incarnations. Her circular peyote Macha necklace started out as an ancient Irish torque inspiration and evolved to incorporate the spirals she saw in Celtic designs.  Macha is the name of the only High Queen among the High Kings of Ireland.  (Don't know what a torque is?  Check out Boudicca, The Warrior Queen's Jewelry).

Macha Necklace

There are a couple of free project tutorials from the book.  The Laksmi Pendant tutorial is a vision in silver! A carved ivory statuette of this Hindu goddess was found in a house in Pompeii as well as pearls and precious stones from India.  Pompeii was the ancient Roman town near Naples which was destroyed and buried under volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

Lakshmi Pendant

One of my favorite designs from the book is also available as a free project. The Artemisia Earrings  is a fantastic right angle weave knot design inspired by the knot patterns in the marble floors of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. According to Maggie, "This type of geometric mosaic inlay is attributed to the Cosmati family from 12th century Rome".

Artemisia Earrings
Lark Crafts also made available 2 bonus project instructions for the Fiore earrings and Liternum brooch, (both shown below) which did not make the book!

Fiore Earrings

This book now moves into my list of favorites as every single piece that did make the cut is wonderful both in design as well as for the inspirational path it took through time to get there. That's saying something because I can't say that for the majority of jewelry making books.

The book is suitable for intermediate to advanced beaders.


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