WHEN JEWELRY DESIGNER SARA SILVIO was 7, her cousin moved to Rochester from the Bronx and opened the fondly remembered Bead Designs on Monroe Avenue, which shoppers along the avenue still inquire about to this day, years after its closing. She can recall heading to the shop after ballet class as a child, being enveloped in the array of beads on display, exploring an innate love for arranging and shaping.
“It was just vast in the case ... it could’ve been looking out into the most beautiful landscape because when I saw all the colors in the stones and the shapes, it was just the world of possibility,” she remembers.
The neighborhood itself was an inspiration for the young Silvio, who worked at Bead Designs throughout her high school years at East High, gathering the fundamentals that would inform her later livelihood.
“It was soulful, it was original, a lot of businesses were there that were locally owned,” she says. Silvio was particularly fascinated by the style of the punk rockers she’d see hanging out on the corner.
“Being who you believe in this world, there’s no blueprint. You have to be OK with the unknown. And when I see those punks, I feel like they were ... just standing in a world that was not looking like that around them, you know?”
The raw materials she chooses are, likewise, unique and often sourced from around the world, commonly with a personal connection through vendors and travelling friends.
“I might find a vintage metal German link ... I feel like I’m continuing to give that life. Or these Czech little beads that I cannot find anywhere anymore and I use them and they’re like a little artifact.”
Life has taken Silvio to many places, from a brief study of studio art at the University of Buffalo, to managing a bead store at 19 in the San Francisco Bay Area, to teaching women her craft in Manhattan, where she ran her own teaching business before deciding to move back to Rochester to raise her two children closer to what she calls the “pillars of love” that are grandparents. Through it all has been a constant thread of making jewelry.
“Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always had a studio, even if it was my bedroom. That’s my center point. It’s like a point of gravity.”