Timothy James

An artisan beadmaker in Florence

Melinda Gallo
July 2, 2009

Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home. Many people arrive in the city at a point in their lives when they feel a desire to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the ‘cradle of the Renaissance' for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.


Timothy James has come a long way from his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Timothy didn't consider himself as creative or artistic before coming to Italy, but he is now an artisan beadmaker and a freelance web designer.


After spending a month's vacation at the Tuscan seaside almost 10 years ago, he and his family fell in love with Italy and decided to move here. They had lived in different places in the United States, including Seattle, Washington and Tucson, Arizona. But Italy offered the different lifestyle that they had been seeking. A year later his wife, Lily, who is a jewelry designer, sold her bead shop and they moved to Lucca.


While living in Lucca, Lily suggested he take a beadmaking course in Umbria to complement her bead shop. After attending a five-day course, to his surprise, he found out that he had a true interest in beadmaking.


He enjoys balancing color and structure and mixing colors and materials to create unique beads that will be used in jewelry making. He finds the same pleasure in web design, but in a more virtual way.


Open to moving to another Italian city, Timothy and Lily visited Rome, Florence and Naples to evaluate them. Initially they weren't impressed with Florence because they visited it like most tourists, hitting all the highlights. It was only when Timothy walked around behind San Niccolò that he fell in love with the fascinating views and greenery all around the city. A month later, Lily closed her bead shop in Lucca and they moved to Florence into an apartment that Lily discovered by chance.


After that, everything fell into place. Lily opened up a bead shop near their apartment in Oltrarno while Timothy created a space for himself in the living room of their home to make beads. With the constraints of a small space and propane tanks being delivered to his apartment, he decided to move into a studio with a couple of other artists.

At the beginning of 2009, as one of the artists was leaving the studio, Timothy and Lily decided to create on artistic center for his beadmaking and her jewelry making. Now on via Toscanella, Beaded Lily Glass Works (http://www.beadedlilyglassworks.com) is an environment where people are able to see the full spectrum of jewelry making: from the long glass rods of different colors that are used to make the beads that are in turn used to make a piece of jewelry or other accessory.


Even though Timothy is considered an expert beadmaker, he says that, as with any trade, there is always more to learn. To bridge that gap, he also teaches beadmaking in his studio, giving himself an opportunity to continually learn.


Timothy is also inspired by the local artisans who continue working in the trades that have been in their families for generations and are still able to make a living. He feels at home in the neighborhood where he lives and works and considers himself a part of the artisan heart of Florence, Oltrarno.



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