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Costa Mesa Artist Creates Accessories for the Wild and the Mild


It has been four years since accessory designer Tamara Beardsley began marketing her jewelry, which sell in locales as diverse as Israel and Japan, Alaska and New York. Her whimsical, futuristic pieces have appeared on countless publications from Italia Moda and Elle to Working Woman and Young Miss, Cosmopolitan and TV Guide.

Beardsley has sold pieces to stylists who dress wanna-be celebs on TV's "Star Search" and MTV, and to stars such as Joan Rivers. Her ornate cuffs, earrings and box purses have made their way to commercials for Clairol hair products and Coca-Cola and to sitcoms and soaps, such as "In Living Color" and "The Young and the Restless."

Yet the Costa Mesa artist, who spends her days at her small Fountain Valley studio, never ceases to get excited whenever she sees someone wearing her work.

She recalls the first time she saw someone walking down the street sporting one of her products: "I made such a fool of myself. You only do that once."

Now Beardsley keeps her enthusiasm under wraps publicly; yet she hasn't gotten jaded over the thrill. "It's really weird designing. There's so much ego involved. I was petrified at first that I'd run into someone who hated it."

It's difficult not to like a box purse with a gold glitter base, covered in plastic circus characters (such as the ones found on birthday cakes) or one that plays music when its opens or flashes mini Christmas lights at the flip of a switch. The box purses sell for $180 to $800.

Such items have an inherent humor worthy of a smile or chuckle.

But to some, Beardsley's work can seem a bit wild, if not extravagant. One series of accessories uses sculpted plastic painted in silver or gold leaf and wrapped with silver or gold wire. The chunky, futuristic pieces have faux pearls or gems nestled into the plastic for that glamorous, B-movie space-age look.

Another line extends the use of wire wrapping, but around black jet beads. A large jet cross hangs from an ID chain for an industrial effect.

Much of the jewelry collection (which sells for $20 to $300) screams for attention. The items are conversation pieces not for the shy or inconspicuous. "What I like best is they make people talk," she says. "Carrying one of these purses is an ice-breaker. I think that's what fashion is about."

For the less daring, Beardsley created a delicate series in which she threads brass wire through pearls and bread-dough roses and daisies. The pieces came about after the birth of her daughter, Ellis, a year ago.

"Before I had her, I dressed very bold. During my pregnancy and afterward I realized a need for a wider range of items," she says.

The range extended to theatrical card holders, desk accessories and frames ($20 to $350) encrusted with faux gems and pearls or odd items such as bubble-gum balls and clear rock candy, which looks like ice.

"I try to do a whole collection so a person can coordinate," she says. That concept she picked up from her mother--who taught her to sew her outfits so everything harmonized--and from her retail experience.

Fresh out of UCLA in 1989 with a degree in industrial design, Beardsley worked for The Broadway, training to become a buyer. "I just didn't fit in this big company," so she left to pursue her dream of becoming a creative entrepreneur.

She considered taking jewelry classes to learn more about what had previously been only a hobby, but says she "was intimidated to take (design) classes because they teach what you can't do, and I believe that's uncreative."

Although her work has reached faraway markets, Beardsley doesn't want her handcrafted jewelry to become mass marketed. "Everything I do turns into a laborious process. I'm doing more art pieces now. I'm much more interested in doing a piece for the individual person who's wearing it."

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