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Bella Beads in Center Harbor Helps Aid Cancer Patients

Christine Randall - May 11, 2011





Given the prevalence of cancer in our society today, it is quite probable that you know someone or know of someone who is battling this devastating disease.  Fighting cancer can take a huge physical and emotional toll both on those living with it and on their caregivers, and any respite, however brief, must be welcome.  With that in mind and using the concept of the healing power of art, the Plum Blossom Project was created in 2009 by three women at Bella Beads in Center Harbor.

“Working with beads is very relaxing and it reduces stress, kind of like yoga for the soul,” explains shop owner Sue Vachon.  “When a woman in our beading group who was currently in treatment for ovarian cancer asked us if we would be willing to go down to Rhode Island and conduct a beading weaving workshop for her oncology support group, we – Diane Hulse, Deb Martin, and myself – agreed.

“It was the most amazing afternoon, one of the best I’ve ever had, watching people just transform, forgetting about their cancer and their treatments for just a few hours,” Sue continues.  “It was on the trip back home that we decided that we’d like to offer bead weaving workshops to other oncology support groups and we formed the Plum Blossom Project.”

The three women organized and taught eight workshops during 2010 at various hospitals and cancer centers in New Hampshire, in addition to participating in three cancer awareness events in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.  More workshops are planned for 2011.  The three-hour workshops are open to any person living with cancer as well as their caregivers, and they are absolutely free.  Participants are taught the basic techniques of weaving bead bracelets and necklaces, and all beads and other supplies are provided free of charge.

According to Sue, the plum blossom design is an ancient form of Chinese bead weaving which represents beauty and longevity, and all workshop participants are given a free plum blossom necklace made by Sue, Deb, and Diane.  These necklaces are also available for sale at Bella Beads in Meredith or by ordering online at www.bellabeadsnh.com.   There are two styles available, a $20.00 version made with brass beads featuring a blossom that can be any one of a variety of different colors, and a sterling silver version which features only red blossoms.

“Since 100% of all plum blossom necklace sales are used to support the Plum Blossom Project, when you buy a plum blossom necklace, you are buying the gift that gives twice,” Sue notes.   Bella Beads also has a CD available for sale, “Plum Blossom: Beads of Healing and Hope” featuring two songs, Plum Blossom, which is described as a ballad “…inspired by the courage and grace on one woman’s journey as she moves beyond cancer,” and The Caregiver’s Song, which is dedicated to caregivers who are in supportive roles with those living with cancer.  Proceeds from the sale of the CD are used to help fund the Plum Blossom Project.

Sue is very enthusiastic about the workshops.  “I can’t think of a better way to spend my day off than to go to a workshop,” she says.  “The beauty of it is watching people who are under physical and emotional stress and who come in sad and tired, being able to let it slip away for awhile, and they leave invigorated.  Although we’ve been at almost every hospital in New Hampshire, I challenge every hospital in New Hampshire with an oncology unit to contact us to host a free workshop.”  You can request a workshop by filling out a form online at Bella Bead’s website www.bellabeadsnh.com or by calling the shop at (603) 253-9010.

Sue would like to see the Plum Blossom Project concept spread further afield by way of other bead stores in other states, using the original project in Meredith as the model.  “It would truly be a way of spreading healing through the arts,” she says.

For those interested in learning more about bead weaving as an art form, Bella Beads offers workshops, books, advice, and beads and other supplies for both beginners and more advanced bead artists.  In addition, Bella Beads works with the Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies at Plymouth State University to offer a certificate program on the Art of Beading.  The actual classes are held at Bella Beads.

For more information about the Plum Blossom Project or Bella Beads, log on to www.bellabeadsnh.com or stop by the shop at 34 Plymouth Street in Center Harbor.  The shop is open from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday 

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