Ella Johnson Bentley
Ella Johnson Bentley takes beadwork to a level unheard of a few years ago. She's created beaded baskets of beaded fruit, miniature beaded boots and a miniature beaded replica of one of Elvis Presley's famous blue suede shoes. She's created beaded geodes (crystal filled gemstones), bead-encrusted inter-tidal beach rocks (complete with beaded seaweed and bead barnacles) and bouquets of flowers all made of glass beads.
Ella moved to Juneau in 1948 and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1955. She works in a studio in her home. She makes beaded necklaces and bracelets, beaded eyeglass cases and eyeglass holders, and she's made hundreds of pairs of beaded earrings.
She said beads speak to her. She doesn't really plan her pieces; she just starts working. "My love is whimsy," Bentley said. "A lot of my personality goes into my work. I'm a happy person and sometimes I chuckle to myself as I work."
Bentley said she also names all her sculptural pieces. Sometimes the piece grows from just the idea of a name and sometimes they name themselves as she's making them. Some of her pieces are built around a single, one-of-a-kind handmade glass bead.
Bentley teaches beading at home, and has taught at local workshops as well as national beading conferences and seminars. Her beadwork has been featured in national arts magazines as well as toured the United States and Canada as part of art exhibitions.