I spotted Viva Beads in a local shop and had to explore further. Their beads are carried in a dizzying list of stores so I’m assuming we’ve got a big production going here. They carry a short list of patterns and their beads are all identically sized. Though the address is Northbrook, Illinois and the company was started by Lori Mottlowitz and Jill Manzara, I doubt they’re operating out of their kitchens.

I laud their success (nice color palette) and at the same time lament the fast food approach. Anybody know the story?

  • reply Barbara Forbes-Lyons ,

    I’m guessing that since She Beads is also based out of the Chicagoland area, they either are the inspiration for Viva (or vice versa).

    I will say, I like the Viva offerings more that She Beads. And they are certainly a lot more reasonably priced, which leads me to think that maybe they are making their own product?

    • reply Juli ,

      I’ve met the lady who makes She Beads, a few years ago at an upscale craft show. At least back then, she was hand-making all her own beads, but she was more notable for getting photos of her works on basketball players than she was for the quality of her work.

      I must say that though I also do production work (not on anything comparable to She Beads or Viva’s scale – my idea of “production” is more like 20 than 2000) that I am frequently dismayed by the poor quality of some highly visible polymer clay work. Sometime back you had a link to the Artful Home catalog and the beads in the featured bracelet were VERY shoddily made. I would have been honestly embarrassed to let those beads out of my studio – but the bracelet was priced at over $200.

      Viva and She Beads both seem to produce work of decent quality, but I would so like to see more REALLY high-quality work out there competing with it.

      • reply Sherry Bailey ,

        Colorful but kind of boring. (And MAKING them would drive me totally mad!) My guess is that they do make their own beads, possibly with some helpers. The colorways are consistent and the pretty simple canes are all the same “flavor”. It would be the repitition that would be a pain, but I can easily envision them cranking out bead after bead while watching TV or something!! With bead rollers, probably!

        My idea of hell, though! (Can you tell I am a poor candidate for production work!?)

        • reply Jeanne Dumond ,

          Other than the number of different beads available, I agree that it looks like a She Bead knock off. I’m wondering how they can supply all those locations by making them themselves at home? I mean did you take a look at the number of locations just in Ohio for instance? I challenge even the best of production workers to produce that much product with 2 people! Can’t really tell anything about the quality from the pics available.

          • reply Merrie ,

            I also thought they looked like she beads. I also remember reading somewhere that She Beads are hand made by lots of women who work for the main she bead woman. I don’t think there is any originality but I am sure at those price points they will sell.

            • reply Garlinda Price ,

              I think these beads are beautiful.

              • reply darleen aka "claypimp" ,

                I saw the She beads at a braft show in Nh and approached the lady at the table regarding her possibly joiing a polymer clay guild in the area. She did not even know what the beaded bracelets she was making were made of till i explained it to her. She was selling them as the retailer (at a craft show) and told me she bought the bracelets wholesale from somewhere in Chicago. They are nice looking put togehter but I think they are being manufactured overseas. I do believe the lady that started it all did do them herself, but they are in almost every mall card shop and gift shop in my area. The craft fair gal did say something about the originater working for the basketball players..I think it may have been as the therepy purson if they got injured during the game, and that she would make the beads down in the locker area while waiting to see if she was needed to attend to a player that got hurt or something like that.

                • reply darleen aka "claypimp" ,

                  PS…the lady was selling them under her buisness name if diva beads and I think she had a web site too.

                  • reply Julie ,

                    Color palette may be nice, but I see no creativity, no artistry, no…joy in the final product. Obviuosly, they’re being made cheaply and sold as such in volume…well, it’s a business, and it shows.

                    • reply Barbara Forbes-Lyons ,

                      Bead Divas are the retail sellers for She Beads. She beads runs two manufacturing facilities in Chicago (see their how the beads are made page).

                      I’ve also seen some of the She Beads items up close – I wasn’t impressed, but they are also not really my style.

                      • reply Cindy Pack ,

                        Pretty beads. I’ve never seen them in person, but have been told they feel lighter than US polymer. Much like the mass produced ones coming from China.

                        I was contacted by two women several months back who wanted to start a line a beads to be sold in up-scale department stores. The beads were to be done in theme and would (hopefully) be collectible. Turns out they needed 50,000 or more beads per month. They suggested that I design the patterns and write instructions on making each cane, that would then be sent over seas to be created in factories. I could not put my name on something I didn’t make. I declined the offer.

                        I was doing bead production for years. But my body finally said, enough! 🙂 It’s hard on your body to roll beads and make canes every day year after year. I believe I make a quality product that is also a little piece of art. Quality control is important. And if you aren’t making the product, that’s difficult. I’m still making beads, just a little slower these days.

                        • reply Christine Ranta ,

                          I agree that the beads are in an attractive range of colors. I like polymer clay becoming more available and known so that I have less explaining to do when I sell or give my work as gifts. The prices are in line with the kind of work that the beads represent so the art of others is not being de-valued.


                          • reply Michelle ,

                            It does say on the She Beads website that they are all made in the USA (30 employees, 4000 square foot production facility)… but I guess we will never know.

                            • reply ponsawan ,

                              I agree with Cindy.
                              I sat down one day and made my snowman beads. I am usually pretty fast but after 8 hous of work, I can only finished 50 of those and got bored to death.

                              • reply Elizabeth ,

                                I’m from IL, this bead company is very small located in Northbrook, small office looks like they’ve got a small warehouse. They have a website its called vivabeads.com for those who are interested.

                                • reply eth ,

                                  cheap beads nothing special. not popular in IL at all.

                                  • reply Sandra ,

                                    I’ve seen much better and more artistic works from polymer clay.

                                    • reply johnny ,

                                      i work for viva beads we have hundreds of beautiful beads small warehouse about 15 employees these are all hand rolled clay beads we get thousands of orders including from disney there mostly popular in Florida and California because of the bright colors you should buy some 😀

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