Jennifer Lowe's been bent over beads since she was old enough to break into her mother's jewelry box.
Lowe, owner of Beaded Venus, a bead and jewelry shop on Chuck Dawley Boulevard, doesn't remember it, but she got hold of one of her mother's rings, and an opal vanished. A self-deprecating Lowe holds up her hands to her face and says she assumes it disappeared into an orifice.
True beading came a few years later. She restrung beads and old broken things her family gave her. When she was old enough, she would drive to thrift stores and buy $1 bags of jewelry, an assortment of necklaces, broken chains and old watches.
Lowe says she always thought she'd work for the Foreign Service and graduated with a degree in international studies, but that didn't work out.
She found herself moving from restaurants to home decor and furniture stores and finally put her hobby to work becoming a manager of a bead shop in Columbia.
She took a workshop with artist Joyce Scott in 1998 where she started "Venus on the Halfshell," a prize-winning foot-tall peyote-stitched sculpture of the goddess. So when Lowe decided to open a shop of her own in Mount Pleasant in 2002, she already had part of the name. The shop, an old pink house, home to the Beaded Venus, was exactly what she wanted, at least from the outside. It was close enough to downtown Charleston that tourists could find her but still had room for parking.
Lowe spends most days at the shop repairing other people's jewelry and teaching customers how they can fix or make their own if they don't already know how.
She makes her own jewelry, artistic pieces that cost hundreds of dollars, at night from her North Charleston home. Necklaces with names such as "Strange Fruit" and "Sea Foam" are for sale in her shop along with $5 reproduction pieces. Beads from the globe can be found along the walls and in counter bins ranging in price from dimes to dollars. One bead behind a glass case called a Venetian chevron goes for $300. Lowe purchased it from an artist at one of her annual Venetian bead trunk sales.
Lowe said balancing artistry with business is one of her greatest challenges. She's a businesswoman but not so good with numbers.
"I'm an artist. I'm not an accountant," she says.
She also may be too nice. She gives out free advice, only to learn that her customers have opened their own bead businesses or have begun teaching classes of their own.
She shrugs, "But that's what I do. I'm a teacher."
She likes to show people who walk into the shop saying they can't make anything that they are more creative than they realize. She or an employee tells them to peruse the walls of beads and pick out a few.
"We take you from there," Lowe said.