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Simplicity, sophistication inspire at Planet Bead

Finding inspiration can be a life's journey. Once found, the level of stimulation depends on ones requirement.

Beadwork has been regarded as a significant expression of human culture for thousands of years. Whether as a source of mysticism, power, comfort and decoration, the use of beads is as diverse as the beads themselves.

For example, the dZi bead is one of the most mysterious of all beads known to humankind. It is unclear as to its exact origin and time in history other than its direct relationship to Tibetan culture. What is accepted is that these shiny stone beads patterned with mystical eyes and stripes are now of the most treasured in the world.

Keith and Sharon Seib, owners of Planet Bead, 710 N. Milwaukee St., for the last 10 years, understand the simplicity and sophistication of beads that come in all shapes, sizes and types. They know that the art of beading may be a hobby to most, but to many others, it's a serious passion.

"Everyone has a different degree of seriousness," Keith Seib says. "There are those that are casual clients. They come in to have a piece of jewelry repaired or are just looking for something unique. Others, and I would say the majority, are very serious. People are always looking for meaning in their life."

Sometimes, clarity comes in the form of personal handiness.

"People come in and see the quality of the pieces and want to get into it. Something draws them to certain pieces. People's first impression is that it takes a lot of time to design a piece. But once they get into it, they realize that they can do fine pieces fairly quickly. Within an hour, they can create a nice necklace or bracelet or a pair of earrings. It's the personal satisfaction of creating their own that brings joy to our customers."

Planet Bead offers the finest collection of art objects, jewelry and gifts in a serene environment. Mood setting incense and music greets customers to the store. It has an extensive compilation of merchandise, ranging from Austrian crystal, to African horn and bone to European precious and semi-precious stones to metal and sterling silver pieces from Thailand.

"We also get our stones from the Czech Republic, Italy, Brazil, Israel, Peru, China and Japan," he adds. "You name it. Wherever fine beads are marketed in the world, we can get them here."

In addition, Planet Bead carries all types of crafting tools, findings (hardware) and stringing materials from leather to special fabrics and yards.

Seib says costs vary from a fraction-of-cent to hundreds of dollars, depending on individual tastes. Planet Bead also sells finished pieces, including works created by customers.

"If you're very careful about it, you can make a necklace for practically nothing," he points out. "I would say to make the average necklace, it's about $20 for materials."

Beads aren't the only stones found in the store. From time to time, Seib gets requests for healing stones, too.

"People have asked for stones that have vibrational energies," he explains. "They can be used for rituals or simply for good luck. None of theses stones have wholes. They are solid and many are polished."

Beyond selection and quality, exceptional service is truly what sets Planet Bead apart. But it's not just a retail store. The Seib's also conduct workshops and classes.

"We typically publish a quarterly schedule and we offer about 40 different classes from beginners to advanced," Seib says. "We show people how to make a simple pair of earrings all the way up to soldering and glass blowing. People come in to work on bracelets, earrings, necklaces and even adorning other items, like purses or clothing or curtains and baskets.

"Our classes are usually in the evenings and on Saturday mornings. We do a lot of parties, Christmas workshops and meditation classes. For our advanced customers, we also have lapidary classes (the actual cutting of stone) as well as a glasswork courses."

The interest in beadwork has grown in Milwaukee according to Seib. A magazine called Bead & Button is locally published to keep up with the demand. "That magazine is a big help for us," he says. "It has certainly helped our industry continue to grow."

But it wasn't always like that, particularly when the Seib's first moved to Milwaukee from Washington D.C.

As a way to pay for college -- Keith, with an engineering degree and Sharon, with a fine arts degree -- they began fashioning beadwork. They started a mail order business as they continued to develop their own line of jewelry.

"Interest in our pieces was strong," Seib says. "We sold pieces to galleries and that's when people started asking us what the components were in our pieces."

Once they relocated to Milwaukee, the Seib's noticed few outlets, if any, for beadwork. So, they decided to open a storefront on North Broadway. Just last year, Planet Bead moved to its present location on Milwaukee Street.

"It was a dream come true for us," Seib says. "We saw the opportunity to expand and live right Downtown when this building became available. We have our retail shop on the first floor, a studio on the second floor and living quarters on the third floor."

Keith and Sharon renovated the building themselves. "We did everything," he adds, "from redoing the walls to jacking up the building to laying the floor to rebuilding the staircase to the upper floors. We wanted it to be ours."

That must be how customers feel when they walk out of Planet Bead - personally satisfied with their own creation.

Planet Bead is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. It has a developing website at For additional information, call (414) 273-BEAD (2323).


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