By Molly Schaller
If you're a member of our Beaded Jewelry Facebook group, I'm sure you've seen Tracy McMonagle Sparks' amazing jewelry. Her pieces are beautifully laid out to display her careful selection of beads, and she uses a few background objects to give a sense of depth and size in her photos. I've admired her work ever since she started sharing her work in the group, and I'm so excited to introduce her to you as April's Spotlight Designer!
When did you first start beading & what drew you to beading in the first place?
I always loved jewelry, but because of sports, playing the cello, and in some cases cost, I found that I didn’t wear a lot of it when I was younger. As I got older I found that if nothing else, I had to have earrings! I always loved Native American jewelry and had inherited pieces from an Aunt, so when I researched Native American seed bead earrings I became inspired to make a pair that matched a ring that I had received. When I found out in 2004, that I had to have a surgery that would keep me out of work for 6 weeks, I thought that would be the perfect time to start making jewelry. A year and 8 earrings later I had the one pair of earrings I wanted! I also had become hooked on bead stringing!
(Earrings are pictured below.)
What is your favorite project that you’ve finished recently, and why is it your favorite?
My favorite project was one that got me started on a new passion in jewelry making: Boho Beaded Chain Necklaces with Sari Silk Tassels. I was inspired to make one when entering a competition. I ended up winning that competition and found that I really liked the look of the necklaces! I do wrapped loops, as opposed to simple loops. I like the way the wrapped portion gives the piece texture!
Do you have a jewelry business?
I have a shop on Etsy: Sparkles-a-lot 2. I started my jewelry business in 2006 when people started requesting things that I had made. I did a craft fair with just a few pieces and learned a lot by observing other vendors and asking questions. Unfortunately, craft fairs always seem to happen the same weekend I have concerts in the various orchestras I play in, so I don’t do very many of them now. I opened my Etsy shop in 2012 when people asked if I had a page they could look at to see my other pieces. It all evolved from there!
What are your favorite beading techniques and materials?
My favorite techniques right now, (I do go through phases) are wrapped loop beaded chain necklaces and then my initial love of handwoven beaded jewelry using brick stitch for earrings and Oglala style lace stitch for bracelets. I LOVE gem stones! I am also always on the lookout for unique beads and/or pendants that I can use as focal pieces for my jewelry.
What techniques would you like to learn?
I am interested in resins and Fimo clay, but right now I don’t have a lot of time to work on those techniques. Because I am such a klutz at times and do make a living playing an instrument, I avoid anything that would burn or cut my hands!
What are some of your favorite beads or components on the HalcraftCollection.com website?
I really like the painted design dyed agate tubes – again, I like unique beads I can make a piece around! I am also excited about the Kingman turquoise – I LOVE turquoise!
Where do you get your beading inspiration? What most inspires you?
My inspirations come from everywhere! A scarf one of my friends wear, flowers, trees, and Pinterest! When I think I have my bead combination, I put the beads in a random group to make sure the color combo goes “ahh” with my eyes! I’m weird that way – if they make my eyes happy, then I know that any pattern I choose will probably work!
If you had room for only two tools in your bead kit, what would they be?
If I had room for only two tools in my bead kit, I would buy a bigger kit! But if I HAD to pick only two (so hard), I would need to be practical and choose my needle nose pliers and my snippers. Of course, if I were bead weaving it would be needles and scissors!
Tracy lives on the Central Coast of California in the town of Orcutt.
She's a mom of four kids and has a wonderful husband who supports her passion for making jewelry.
She has been a music therapist, classroom Kindergarten teacher, and a classroom music teacher.
She is now a certified jewelry instructor at Michaels, teaches lessons on cello and violin,
and plays cello in various groups in the area, as well as running her Etsy shop!
You can find Tracy's work online at
Are you interested in being in our Designer Spotlight?
Join our Beaded Jewelry Facebook group today!
We choose a new Designer to spotlight each month and would love to celebrate you!