Director of Dining Services University of Richmond
Hometown: Vinton, Iowa
from Purdue University with a degree in restaurant, hotel and institutional management
Lives in: Richmond, Va. with husband, Bob, who works in sales
Dee Hardy, director of dining services at 4,322-student University of Richmond in Virginia, never thought her involvement in the National Association of College and University Foodservice (NACUFS) would lead her to start making her own jewelry. But a side trip during a NACUFS conference led her to a bead shop that became the inspiration for her new hobby.
“I am very active in NACUFS and we hosted a national conference in Baltimore several years ago. We had a little free time when we were there and I just happened to see a bead shop. It was a shop that sells the components for making jewelry and I was just fascinated by it. There was an array of bright colors and shapes and components. I was talking to a gentleman in the store and the next thing I knew, I was buying a small amount of stuff to make jewelry for myself.
I found out there was a glass bead shop in Charlottesville, which isn’t far from where I live. They were having a glass-making class with a teacher who was a lamp worker, which is what glass bead makers are called. I took the class in Charlottesville and I really enjoyed it, but it was very expensive. I came back to Richmond and just did my own beading. My husband found a gentleman who was teaching classes locally so he gave me a class as a Christmas present. I took that class and then a couple more and then finally bit the bullet and bought myself the equipment. It’s what I enjoy. I think there is a very personal creativity aspect to it.
I made jewelry as teachers’ gifts and Christmas presents for people I was close to. Most people who start out making jewelry start with earrings because they are the easiest. There are all kinds of different ways of making jewelry. You can use metal beads, glass beads, paper beads, etc. As I visited bead shops I would see beautiful handmade glass beads in cases that had a wide variety of colors, textures and depth. They were fascinating and very expensive because of how they are made. They are made on a metal rod called a mandrel with a graphite coating so the glass will come off once it cools. You work with a torch that gets as hot as 2,000°F and you do a twisting motion with your hand and then you can manipulate it into the shape you want. It’s demanding. You have to have good hand-eye coordination.
It’s addicting because you are working with mixing colors. You can add different broken pieces of glass that will add a different texture to the beads. You can manipulate the glass where you mix different colors together. When you do that you get these fabulous looking works of art. When you work with glass, the color is not always the same when it cools, so there is always a ‘wow, what am I going to get’ aspect to it? You’re always hoping that they’ll come out well. The nice thing about it is it’s something you can go to and leave and come back to. However, it’s not something you should get into unless you’re willing to put an investment into it. You spend a couple thousand dollars by the time you’ve bought all the equipment.
My husband and good friends built me my own glass house. It is like a shed, but it has windows and air conditioning and heat. It was built so I have a ventilation system. I’ve had that for about five or six years. I do beading all the time. It’s fun and it satisfies the artist in me. I love doing anything that has handmade beads in it. I probably make more earrings than anything else because if I have a new outfit I just go out and make myself something. It’s the twisted fun pieces that I like the most. My favorite pieces are necklaces that have a special handmade bead as a focal point.”