Marybeth Johnson of Tucson, Arizona is MiaLena Designs. Growing up in Alton, Illinois. Marybeth was always a creative spirit, making never ending paper chains and elaborate dollhouses out of anything she could find available in the house. However, the inspiration to make jewelry didn't hit until 2002 while living in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. "On a whim, I went to the bead store. I had given my sewing machine to my daughter, so I had to find a new hobby. I ended up charging $400 worth of beading materials (which I could not afford) on my credit card." Her Sunday project turned into a little business. She made and sold pieces to friends locally, and her journey had begun.
In 2004, Marybeth moved to Tucson, AZ. She started working retail at the gift shop at Miraval, Life in Balance, one of the top spas in the country. She read a book about prayer beads and was instantly inspired. "I really liked the spiritual aspect of them, the idea behind them was so personal and meaningful." She made the first prayer bead necklace for a friend at work who was going through a hard time. Soon after, other friends and co-workers were requesting prayer beads. She tried them out in the gift shop at Miraval. Guests gravitated immediately to their unique style and intimate meaning. Even at first glance, the prayer beads have a compelling presence. Whether it is their inherent significance or the rich, organic colors, shapes and textures that Marybeth chooses, her jewelry commands attention. She uses beads from all over the world that clearly convey a sense of history. "I love to use old beads and pendants that have meaning and life of their own," she says. "I love to hold them in my hand and think about where they came from and who made them."
Although Marybeth is not a fundamentalist of any kind, she has a refreshing sense of reverence and irreverence for life's journey that emerges in her work. You may find surprising and interesting combinations in her beads, but all of them convey a sense of integrity and respect for their larger meaning. "You never know where your inspiration will come from, it could be something simple and exquisite in nature, or a good Seinfeld re-run," she laughs playfully. Either way, the result of her inspiration is truly magical. "My hope is that a piece will end up resonating with a person's own spirituality and personal style, that they will find their own intention in the beads. That feels good to me. That is something I believe in."
Marybeth continues to live in Tucson. When she is not beading, she is visiting her two grown children and granddaughters in Seattle and San Francisco, and watching Seinfeld, of course.