By Aisha I. Jefferson

Locust Grove resident Helene McDonald has a fascination with beads.

Even when she is not using the beads to make bracelet or necklace creations, the 61-year-old Norfolk Southern Railroad retiree said she buys beads sometimes just for the heck of it.

"They are all unique and different," McDonald said. "There's just millions and millions of beads - there's an unlimited amount of beads."

McDonald, a self-described bead appreciator, said she is partial to natural stone and lamp work beads.

She said her involvement with beads began 20 years ago when she decided to investigate a bead show she stumbled upon while living in Philadelphia.

"I just went to see what it was about and I just got hooked," said McDonald, who is a member of the Atlanta Bead Society.

And her relationship with beads isn't just limited to making jewelry for herself.

When the opportunity presents itself, McDonald participates in bead workshops where she teaches others the art of making beaded jewelry like she did Monday morning at the Locust Grove Library.

Using a design board to help her coordinate her bracelet design, Locust Grove resident Aliyah Kadeem, 13, said she participated in the workshop so she could learn to make wrist trinkets. Aliyah said she sometimes makes jewelry at home with a bead making kit her mother bought her.

Stringing wooden and green glass beads on elastic string, Locust Grove resident Adrian Pickle, 14, was in the midst of making himself a bracelet as well. Like Aliyah, Adrian said he wants to improve his bracelet-making skills.

McDonald described society's interest in beading as cyclical, where "right now, it's really popular."

"Beads have been in existence since the beginning of man's time," McDonald said. "It's a craft; making jewelry is a craft that is easily done."

McDonald said the price of beads range from cheap to expensive, and can suit people of all tastes.

McDonald said beads come from different cultures, pointing out India, the Czech Republic, Japan and China have some of the best beads.

She also is quick to remind people that beads are not just limited to small, round plastic objects with holes in the center.

McDonald explained that shells, bones, natural stones, wood, and "just about anything" can be used as beads.

And they aren't only for decoration.

McDonald said beads have been used for stress relief, religious purposes and as currency.

"It's a feeling of satisfaction and self-appreciating when you can see what you can really do," McDonald said.