Eagan artist Sheila Bayle finds peace creating wearable art.
Six years ago, Sheila Bayle made a life-changing decision: “I was ready to go and be a full-time artist,” she says.
She spent a year wrapping up her full-time job, figuring out the financial logistics of pursuing her beadwork and discussing the plan with her husband. In 2017, she officially made the leap.
Then she got life changing news. “Sadly in 2018, my late husband was diagnosed with ALS,” Bayle says. “The good news is that I was able to work at home in the rare hours I was able to work.”
Bayle, who lives in Eagan, is thankful for the neighbors, friends and family who helped her take care of her husband during his last few years of life. In 2020, he passed away, and Bayle found herself at another crossroads, wondering whether or not to continue pursuing her art or to move on. A good friend of hers encouraged her to “go after it,” and she says that advice is among the best advice she was ever given. “It’s kept me going,” she says. “Losing a spouse is very hard. Watching someone die of ALS is abysmal … I could just go down into my studio for just an hour and really focus on something that was really important to me. In some ways, my art is my path to healing.”
Bayle was put on the path to beadwork when she was a young girl. She remembers sitting in a church pew with her parents at Holy Rosary Church in Minneapolis and turning around to find a Native American woman with long, gray hair wearing an intricately-beaded medallion. “I just remember being fascinated,” Bayle says. “Not long thereafter, I wandered over to the traditional dime store near my parents house in south Minneapolis and found tubes of beads. I learned in Girl Scouts to build a small loom, and I still have it. I still work with it.”
That early interest in beading was eventually put on the back burner by the usual suspects—college, career and kids—but she returned to it in the early 1990s when a beading class reignited her passion. “I started doing small, quick projects, like earrings and bracelets,” she says. “I was giving them away as gifts, and people said, ‘Well, do you sell them somewhere?’”
Since online shopping was still in its infancy, Bayle started doing one to two art shows per year in 1993, slipping shows in as much as she was able while continuing to work full time. Since leaving her full-time job to focus on beadwork, Bayle continues to do art shows, as it gives her direct feedback from customers, and is starting to dabble in online sales.
Bayle doesn’t have any formal art training in design or color theory; instead she draws inspiration from colors and designs she finds in nature. “What I did was just put a pile of beads down and figure out how to weave it,” she says, of finding her artistic voice. “It was more instinctive to start with. A lot of it was freeform. Then I started to be interested in making shapes and forms.”
Bayle makes what she calls a “beaded bead,” which is a larger bead made up of smaller beads, and creates pieces with unique shapes using different bead types. She also loves exploring different color palettes, often taking her work outside to see how light changes each piece. “Glass beads come in any shapes, any sizes and colors, and so it’s like painting,” Bayle says. “All of the elements that go into making a painting interesting can also go into beading.”