Wild Things Beads is an American importer of glass beads manufactured in the Czech Republic and Germany, supplying bead stores and the costume jewelry industry. The owners are J-Me & Guy Lynn, a wife and husband team. Both were in corporate employment during the beginning days of Wild Things.
They have been in business since 1982, starting off in the arts and crafts industry, selling at flea markets, craft fairs, church fetes, art shows, and Quartzite -- Arizona; before specializing in glass beads, first as a retail bead store, then in 1998 as an import warehouse.
Originally, J-Me sold her beadwork on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Wearing her own custom made Christmas outfit, J-Me was known as Mrs. Claus on Telegraph.
She opened a Bead Store in Livermore, California in 1992; which was where they lived for 24 years raising their son Rob. When the town grew too big for them, they moved up into the mountains near Jackson in Amador County, closing the bead store but continuing with their passion by becoming a wholesaler of beads to the trade with a warehouse building.
Moving from retailer to wholesaler was easy. It started when they visited Guy's family living in Zimbabwe, Africa back in 1993. When they returned, they had imported a container of African Artifacts; such as - baskets and drums, masks and then stone cut beads designed by local artists in the villages to J-Me’s specifications. The stone beads J-Me designed were small beads shaped like animals and African heads. At that point, they realized this is what they wanted to do.
After that, J-Me got her hands on a container of Czech seed beads. Sales went through the bead store, but soon after that they discovered Quartzsite, Arizona, which hosts a huge Pow Wow, gem and mineral shows and various flea markets during January every year for the snow birds who flee the cold north for sunny southern desert. She had to buy more types of beads in large quantities just to keep up with demand, and bead stores started buying from her in larger and larger quantities.
The next year Wild Things went to Europe hunting for beads and bead factories. Armed with information that J-ME had collected through the years and books on the history of bead making in Bohemia, Germany and Italy, and a quick search on the internet the day before they left; they set off on a 5 week adventure of the Netherlands, Northern and Southern Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Their current glass bead supplier had warn them it would be difficult, no one would speak English, the factories wouldn't let them in, it would be too expensive and just let him keep supplying them. They did not give up and went ahead with their plans to go to Europe.
So then they went straight to the source . . . To the glass bead factories all over Europe and focused mainly on the glass factories of the Czech Republic and Germany. And it was difficult, hardly anyone spoke English, some factories would not let them in, they spent a lot of money looking around, but had fun met many wonderful people, ate lots of great food and drank good beer, and found beads, and more precisely Bead factories!
Only 2 factories in Czech Republic, 1 in Austria and 1 in Germany; but it was a start. Like any new business relationship, they had to pay up front, and hope the beads would arrive in California 2 months later, after they were back home. The quantities the factories insisted on were enormous and it was not unusual to have to spend $100,000 on one shipment. One factory was a cash and carry stock purchase, and they hand carried the beads with them over the Czech border into Austria, where they were immediately accused of smuggling them in. Once that was resolved, they mailed the box of beads home, instead of carrying it all over all the other borders still to come. Having experienced that, they now ship everything home straight from the factories. Wild Things Beads has gone back almost every year to Czech Republic, and sometimes twice a year.
They now buy from over 21 Czech bead factories, 5 German bead factories and 3 button factories. Over the years this has changed as the German bead industry has changed. It has collapsed to practically no factories left at all. The same thing will be happening soon to the buttons industry as the last old men pressers die off.
Not only do they buy beads from the factory sample charts, but also they also custom make colors and shapes, re-introducing vintage bead shapes that have not been made in many years, and also they create new bead shapes using mold makers who specialize in beads. Such as: ladybugs, ammonites, trilobites, tennis shoes, fish, bicones, squares, druks, cathedrals, window cuts, table cuts (which are hand polished on the flat surface of the bead), faceted round beads called fire polish, lamp work beads (which are handmade one bead at a time), peacock beads (which have a special finish applied to a bead sometimes looking like dots) and metalized seed beads with a facet (known as charlotte cuts) made in gold, silver, copper, marcasite and a variety of J-Me's Special "Magic" colors. As well as the glass beads, Wild Things Beads also imports crystal prisms from Preciosa (a large and very old chandelier manufacturer), glass jewelry boxes and perfume bottles, hand painted vases and glass flowers.
China was another source for beads . . . in that case it was semi precious stone beads freshwater pearls and a variety of unusual buttons (rhinestone, wood, coconut). Hong Kong was the destination, and they go there every year as well as Europe to find more treasures.
The outlet for sales of their beads became trade shows. Not having to open the bead store every day, they were free to move around the country. Gem Faire, International Gem and Jewelry shows and various bead Society shows, rock club shows were their venue, as well as Quartzsite and eventually the biggest Gem and Mineral Show in the world . . . the Tucson Gem Show. Buyers from around the country and the world come to Tucson in February to buy gems and beads for their stores or design studios, and there they will find Guy and J-Me of Wild Things Beads. It is now over 20 years of showing in Tucson!
They moved to Browns Valley in 2006, bringing their bead business with them. The Wild Things Bead warehouse is located on their 5 acre property next to their house and guest cottage. It is not a retail store, so being way from a town is exactly what they want. The outlet for their sales now is their website www.wildthingsbeads.com which is a wholesale only website, mail order and visits to the warehouse are by appointment only. They do show their beads in a retail setting with Trunk Shows at local bead stores and at various other bead stores around the country when on road trips in their RV.
Wild Things Beads also give special Working Bead Tours around the world; such as Czech Republic and Hong Kong. These are not tourist site seeing trips, but we go to actual factories and warehouse to buy beads. Take a look at our website to see what venture we will be going on next.
J-Me has also has special beading days in the warehouse. She teaches basic beading to beginners and then instruction on more complicated techniques to advanced beaders. This is a free service and is a social event to bring local beaders together to enjoy beading with each other and make new friends.
Guy is not a beader, but is a glass bead maker. He has a glass studio set up in the warehouse where he creates glass beads -- right now he is making hollow beads with bumps all over them. Prior to that their creation was "The Hairsnake" . . . a glass twist designed as a snake to be worn in the hair. We made the original in 1996. So now we are considered the Home of the “Hairsnake”.
As the bead world changes, so does the inventory at the warehouse. Some of their imports include bone and horn beads from India, and high end precious stone beads of various types likes watermelon tourmaline. In 2007, Guy and J-Me traveled to Turkey to attend the International Bead Conference. We ended up buying glass “evil eye” beads and cotton coin purses for sale to their customers. We quickly ran out of all we had purchased and now we have thousands made for us.
In 2010 - they traveled to Thailand to procure Hills Tribe Silver beads. J-ME worked with silversmiths designing her unique designs with flowers, leaves and making a special fluted trumpet piece similar to what was used in American squash blossom jewelry.
In 2011- they traveled to the Philippines to find shell and wood beads. We had fun working with the makers to design some of our own shapes of beads and pendants.
On one of our recent trips to Europe, we found an old metal filigree company, which has closed and then was bought out and re-opened. Some of the mold stampings are as old as 150 years old. So now we have metal filigree jewelry components to offer to our customers.
In 2014 -they traveled to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to hunt for Amber. We actually hunted on the sandy beaches in hope of finding some of our own amber pieces which wash up on the beach after a storm. We found one very small piece and then a large piece, which was very exciting for us! After that we went to the factories who cut and carve the Amber into beads and jewelry.
Future trips include Nepal, Bali, Ireland and possibly India. Who knows what treasures they will find on these excursions?!
One of the lovely non-bead related items imported into their warehouse are beautiful hand-woven grass baskets from Zimbabwe. These baskets are museum quality and very rare. The tribe who weaves them are the Batonga tribe of north Matabeleland near the Zambian border and Victoria Falls. Sometimes we can find a few Ndebele coil baskets to offer. Our connection to these baskets is due to Guy being born in Zimbabwe and living with these tribes in the late 70’s.
Wild Things Beads realizes it faces heavy competition from other, older and larger importers, but they think they can keep an advantage by finding new and unusual beads, bringing them to market first and keeping an ear to the ground on new trends in the industry and being creative.
Located deep in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California, feel free to contact Guy and J-Me at (530)743-1339 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can make a wholesale appointment to come to our warehouse, to find out where their next trunk show will be, join the beading day group, or to make a date for your Bead Society to have a History talk on bead making. It is their passion after all.