Bead artist Rona Smith thought she was going blind in her work with miniature beads when an opportunity to re-invent her business surfaced. She bought Zebewa (pronounced Zeebeewah), a jewelry design and manufacturing company, which allowed her to change her focus from making art pieces with miniature beads to creating key rings and jewelry with beads sized in one-inch diameter or larger. “I just love beads. There are thousands of potential matches of things I can create from the beads,” Smith said.
Smith ran a business creating framed art pieces with miniature beads from 1995 to until January of this year. Toward the end of 2012, Smith said she struggled with working “termite-sized” beads that required lots of hours of concentration. “I got to a point where I couldn’t focus my eyes. It was like I was going blind,” she said. When Smith took hold of Zebewa from its former owners Linda and Donna Grimes, the business allowed her to continue working with all sizes of beads plus other items that are collected from around the world. “It was kind of a re-inventing. I could still create beautiful things with beads,” she said.
Among Zebewa’s most popular items are one-of-a-kind key rings each priced in three separate ranges: $44, $55 and $66. “Each is a piece of art,” Smith said. The beads and art components that make up the key ring and jewelry pieces vary from carved stone to wood to coral and antique beads. Smith distributes her wares at art galleries, the Kula Marketplace and at the Hui No’eau. She said she’s been able to sustain the business in part because of the clientele she serves – visitors seeking unique items they can take back home to remember their experience in the islands.