Cloud Nine in Nags Head is celebrating its 30th anniversary. At the helm of the bead shop and art gallery is Ginny Flowers, who is as thrilled today to be operating the business as she was three decades ago when she first opened the doors.
Cloud Nine is a creative business; and Flowers is just the right gal to be running the show for she knows how to bring creativity out of the folks who visit the shop that not only sells beading supplies and art but offers jewelry making classes.
Flowers flips through her cell phone showing off tons of photos of happy customers adorned with their creations such as pendants made from beads, shells, wire, and other fascinating things they bring to the shop with which to create. Her smile is as joyful as her satisfied customers. Just as there are countless photos of her visitors, there are countless ways to create anything from a pendant or necklace, to earrings, rings, prayer beads and window dangles.
If you don’t want to make your own, you can commission Flowers to create a work of art for you. She’s crafted wedding jewelry from vintage pieces, mobiles, wind chimes, sun catchers, napkin rings, wine charms and even shower curtain ring enhancers.
“It makes a cool little addition to your cottage especially if you are renting it out,” says Flowers.
It’s all about embellishing your life, preserving memories, celebrating vacations with mementos, honoring anniversaries, birthdays — special occasions. For example, bring in full shells or even shards and pair them with beads and a chain and you have a wearable keepsake of your trip to the Outer Banks. Or choose your beads and have Flowers craft a 2-tier, multicolored necklace to match your prom gown.
What’s truly beautiful is how Flowers makes her students feel comfortable. She believes all people are creative. For some, creativity may be blocked, but it’s there and you just need a safe space and an understanding mentor to help free you to express yourself. Flowers fits the bill perfectly. Armed with an open heart and optimistic demeanor, she not only expresses her altruism at the shop, but she is active in the community, as well. Currently the president of the Dare County Arts Council, Flowers also is active with GEM, offering adults with dementia the chance to create.
“We make beaded things and talk about colors and talk about design,” she says. “You set an atmosphere and environment where everyone feels the same, and welcome and included.”
Flowers also offers the kids at Nags Head Elementary School a chance to create for free in her Read for Beads program. She encourages literacy through art.
At the shop, folks come in and take classes taught by Flowers or visiting artists. This includes wire wrapping, stone setting, beading and silversmithing. She hosts birthday and bridesmaid parties and holds classes through College of the Albemarle’s Continuing Education department. Visitors also can drop in and create on the fly. Students learn how to macramé, wrap stones, create findings like catches and ear wires, string pearls, tie knots and use beads in a design. She’s had folks bring in a wide variety of objects including fish vertebrae, fulgurites, sea glass, pearls and even beaver teeth with which to make a piece of jewelry.
At the heart of her shop are wooded trays and walls lined with beads from which people choose their materials to use or pair with their own finds or keepsakes.
“I love my beads,” says Flowers noting that many of her glass beads come from Czechoslovakia. “Some are vintage and some are new,” she says. “The younger generation is going in and refurbishing machines and pressing beads on them.”
She offers trade beads from Africa, Italian beads, vintage beads from Japan, France and Germany and a few Chinese beads in the mix.
Flowers’ personal work that sells in the shop shows off her creative flair. She says she’s always created art.
“Vacation Bible school: that introduced me to art, that and my Mom,” she says. “She wasn’t big on TV, so we made things.”
Her first creative endeavors included making macramé, and braiding beads and feathers in her ponies’ manes.
“I went through a candle phase (but it’s been) mostly making jewelry and enhancers I call them, house baubles.” She gestures to a mobile that was one of her first creations. It’s made from glow in the dark stars and a moon paired with her grandmother’s costume jewelry beads. She soaked the beads in liquid plumber. That took away the garish colors and left hues that worked perfectly with her celestial trinkets.
How did she know to soak the beads for her early endeavor? “I listen to my elders because they are a wealth of knowledge,” she says.
Her knowledge comes from other artists teaching her the ins and outs of metal work and taking classes at John C. Campbell School in Brasstown, North Carolina, and College of the Albemarle School of Jewelry in Manteo. Over the years, she’s learned silversmithing, wire wrapping and a lot of refining techniques. She helps her students choose their materials, if needed, including fabric with which to string their beads such as silk, hemp or cotton.
“Hemp is my favorite because it doesn’t hurt the environment,” she says. “It’s very strong. I have friends making dream catchers out of it.”
Sharing space in this Mecca of creativity is the work of a variety of other artists including jewelry designers, photographers and mixed media artists. She has between 30-40 different artists showing work in the gallery.
While April 1 marked her 30th anniversary at the shop, Flowers is contemplating a summer celebration. Check out her Facebook page and see her on Instagram, as well, to follow her activities, check out classes and stay in touch to help her honor thirty years of creativity and altruism.
Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 20 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.