Keren Alfred

photos by Sophie SCHWARTZ 

Upon entering Keren’s dorm room in Littlefield, I was astounded at how large her room was. Meanwhile, I saw very little evidence of Keren’s beading endeavors. In fact, she really only works out of a single tiny tin box that contains the beads and thread to make her jewelry. This box accompanies her almost everywhere, even to class.

Always into arts and crafts as a kid, Keren fell into beading when she was in eighth grade at her school in Jamaica. As a going away gift for her Spanish teacher, Keren made a safety pin bracelet. This was the gateway project, resulting in her budding fascination with jewelry making. From this project, she had left over beads and googled various ways to use them. She says, “At first, I put the beads on elastic to create jewelry, but that was not sustainable.”  The first tries were messy and difficult, making it easy for Keren to feel unfulfilled with her new hobby. Despite these initial doubts, she “kept falling in love with beads.”

Keren considers herself a self-taught creator, having taught herself how to crochet with youtube videos, as well as teaching herself how to bead. When I asked her if she ever dabbled in the fine arts (i.e. painting and drawing), Keren said, “Before, I thought that fine arts were something you were born with so I never thought I was good enough. I began to understand that drawing and painting skills can be taught, just like I taught myself to bead. I like that I get to worry less about the final product when I bead- I tend to focus more on the process itself.”

It’s hard to sit down and think about where the beading will take me. It’s what I feel in the moment.

Working with her hands is what attracts Keren most to beading, for she finds the process very calming. Keren beads more to relax than to achieve a final product, which means that in more stressful weeks she creates more jewelry. She says, “I bead mostly in my free time. It’s hard to sit down and think about where the beading will take me. It’s what I feel in the moment.” The products that she makes at home, however, tend to be different than the ones she makes at school. At home, all of her beads and materials are available, while at school she must work with minimal supplies.  

Her favorite creations are the blue four-coined earrings, but during my stay, she pulled out a pendant that she really likes, as well: a stone with multicolored beads wrapped around it. This project took her the longest of any project (3+ hours), and was the most irritating one to finish. It’s made in a new and more difficult style, so she is not comfortable enough to sell it, but it is something she would like to improve upon.  Some other things she would like to try are sewing, metals, ceramics, and glasswork to make her own beads.   

“I have moments when I wonder why I am doing it. I have so many beads and jewelry but I can’t wear like five bracelets at one time,” she says. She emphasizes that “creativity comes in different forms. Although it is easy to feel that what you’re doing is too crafty or not, don’t compare and don’t be intimidated if you are drawn to something like beading. You can teach yourself, it’s not something innate, just something you need to work on.” If you want to see some more of Keren’s work, her blog is