Lily Morda has been a professional jewelry designer, teacher and avid bead collector in both the U.S. and Europe since 1988. Her unique, high quality designs have sold to collectors all over the world.

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Exploring The World, One Bead At A Time

By Lily Morda

One of the most interesting things that my husband Tim and I discovered about each other, when we first started dating, was our mutual love for all things Italian. Living in Seattle in the 1990’s, Tim owned a café and I designed hand-made jewelry professionally and owned a bead shop. The shop, called Sound City Bead, catered to bead lovers of many stripes for over ten years. Both Tim and myself built our businesses around concepts and products that were staples of Italian life; i.e. coffee and hand-made glass beads, respectively. We both adored Italian food, wine, art and culture tremendously, although at that point neither of us had ever actually been to Italy. After we were married in 1999, we joined other family members vacationing in a rented villa by the Tyrrhenian Sea, just south of the port city of Livorno. We spent a month traveling around the regions of Tuscany and Umbria and also took a three day trip to Venice. I will never forget the overwhelming impression that Venice made upon me. I felt as if I had died and gone to bead heaven!

Then, during the summer of 2001, we rented an apartment for two months in the Tuscan town of Lucca. We both fell so in love with the way of life in Italy, especially in the region of Tuscany itself, that we never left! Because of my Italian heritage, I discovered I was legally entitled to obtain Italian citizenship, which I did with the help of my father. Shortly thereafter, my brother took over the bead store that we owned at the time in Tucson, Arizona and we sold or gave away most of our other belongings.

We then enrolled our daughter Leah, who was nine at the time, into a local Italian public elementary school, and together, we started to build our new life in Italy.

Around that time, early 2002, I suggested to Tim that he might enjoy learning how to make lamp-work beads. After taking a one week intensive course in the region of Umbria, Tim set up his own studio and began to teach himself the ins & outs of glass bead making. Ever since, he has been busy making wonderful glass beads in the Venetian tradition, but with a distinctly American twist.

Many torch hours later he began to realize that learning the art of glass bead making need not be the arduous process that he had endured.  He then developed tried and true techniques for imparting his lamp-working knowledge  in a more efficient and “user friendly” manner than he had experienced when he first started working with glass. It was at that point that he began teaching this ancient craft and has since had satisfied students come from literally all over the world to take his one-on-one workshops.

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Lucca, Italy (Photo: Tim James)

In early 2005, craving a more “big city” cosmopolitan atmosphere, we moved from Lucca to Florence. Florence, which is called “Firenze” in Italian, is the capitol of Tuscany and one of the world’s most beloved art cities. Besides being the home of the great Renaissance period of art history, Florence also enjoys the distinction of being one of the main intellectual centers of Italy.

Home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, the University of Florence, the city also hosts at least thirty Italian and American study abroad programs each year. Many American universities, like Syracuse and New York University for example, have permanent campuses there. This helps give the city a young and vibrant feel, which is an interesting contrast to its ancient surroundings.

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Florence, Italy (Photo: Tim James)
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Piazza Santo Spirito - Florence, Italy (Photo: Tim James)

After moving to Florence, we both began an interesting personal and artistic journey.  I continued to design jewelry in a variety of styles, greatly inspired by Florence’s rich history and landscape. Tim also designed and produced glass beads for a number of design houses, both big and small, as well as for our store, website and jewelry lines. Chanel featured his beads in their summer and fall 2006 line, as well as in spring 2011. He received commissions from the famous Italian design houses Ferragamo and Escada, as well. Currently, he continues to supply a myriad of smaller designers in Europe, North America and as far away as Australia and Japan, with his ever-expanding line of hand-made glass beads.

It was also around that time that I discovered and started to work with Italian Tubular Wire Mesh Ribbon, which greatly changed my focus and enhanced my design work.  In all my years of designing jewelry I had never come across a product that was so inspiring, versatile and such an interesting challenge to work with.  It quickly became a foundational material for many of my designs, which I have been fortunate to sell to collectors all over the globe.  Over the years I have developed several interesting techniques for working with this exciting product which I have shared extensively with students in my workshops in both Italy and in England, as well as on our youtube channel.

In 2012 another adventure ensued as we moved to Brighton, England to accompany our daughter who was attending university in near-by London.  During that time both Tim and myself continued to focus on our teaching and other related activities. Always seeking new inspiration and joie de vivre, we both expanded our creative horizons.  I got very much into mixed-media and collage work, and found it to be a wonderful tool for both self-reflection and creative expression.  I also learned to play the tenor ukulele and went on to compose and record several instrumental pieces. Tim continued to develop his web design skills and it was in Brighton with the help of some local friends that we conceived the idea for the  Missing Madam Z living novel and our newest web venture www.Glass-haus.org.

Now, a new chapter has begun… After a year of living in the quaint and lovely Ligurian hill town of Apricale, we are back in Tuscany.  But, instead of returning to the hustle and bustle of Florence, we  have chosen to live in the foothills of the beautiful Apuan mountain range. Nestled  just a few miles from the sea, in the coastal area known as Versilia, is the town of Camaiore.  It is here that we have settled for the long-haul and set up a wonderful new studio in our home, where we focus on our design work, music-making, our vegetable garden and of course, on teaching creative workshops in glass bead-making, jewelry design, web design and mixed media.  We hope you’ll join us in our ongoing creative adventure in this truly lovely and inspiring part of the world.

For us, the first step was articulating our dream. The rest continues to reveal itself day by day…one bead at a time.

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Lily Morda

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The online novel, "Missing Madam Z", is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Glasshaus Creative Studio | Camaiore (Tuscany), Italy

Glasshaus Creative Studio | Camaiore (Tuscany), Italy

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