When Debbie Jaffe was 30, her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Nine years later, he is cancer-free — and his oncologist credits her “can do” attitude with the result.
Recently, Jaffe’s attitude surfaced in Wallingford as the force behind Kandu Beads LLC, a wholesale and retail space for raw materials and jewelry created from hard-to-find beads and metals. The store, which opened to the public in June, is located along Quinnipiac Street in Silversmith Park.
Zebra jasper beads. Handmade African ox bone beads. Gold-coated titanium. The pierced material that presents itself as a bead at Kandu Beads extends way beyond citrine and aquamarine.
“It’s an easy method of making something that you can wear... Then, there’s the element of bringing something so organic into your everyday lives,” Jaffe said. “You pull these things from a mine. You put it close to your heart. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
“I love rocks,” said Jaffe, explaining an early fascination with one material frequently pierced as a bead. “It’s as simple as that. I love touching them. When I was a kid, we used to go to the Museum of Natural History.”
The museum in New York had bins of tumbled stone. “I just ran my fingers through them,” she said.
She said she has always created jewelry from beads. “I can recall lying on my parents’ floor and stringing them,” she said.
As an adult, she began selling beads on eBay and, somewhat to her surprise, the beads sold quite well. In 2009, she began selling her beads on the online marketplace Etsy. She signed her lease for her space in Silversmith Park this year.
There, beads comprise 70 percent of her inventory. Pieces of jewelry that Jaffe designs — pendants, necklaces and earrings among them — overwhelmingly constitute the rest.
And although she displays strands of beads from five continents — some in drawers, most hanging from the walls — there are some materials she does not like. To beads of plastic, for instance, she gives a thumbs-down. Pewter, on the other hand, receives a thumbs-up.
“I want to emphasize the beauty of the handmade,” she said. “The more naturally organic they are the more I love them.”
“I don’t want to have anything factory made,” she said. “I just don’t feel like that’s the right venue.”
Jaffe is especially conversant in items that are handmade because, after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, she spent part of her graduate study at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Glasgow was the home of Charles Rennie MacIntosh, who was a designer in the turn-of-the-20th-century Arts and Crafts movement.
She then travelled across Europe familiarizing herself with Art Nouveau — another movement that, emphasizing curves and tendrils, drew from the natural environment.
At present, she says, the aesthetic of her own designs, which are also on display online at kandudesigns.com, change season by season, according to her moods.
In addition to sales, classes and the occasional kit she puts together for clients, Jaffe holds trunk shows by area “beaders.” Although the artisans currently come from Connecticut, she hopes to expand her trunk shows to persons who bead throughout the Northeast.
This weekend, Deb Floros, who lives in Canton, will hold a trunk show at Kandu Beads. In addition, Jaffe is selling a bracelet of glass crystal and pewters beads, among other materials, to benefit breast cancer charities. She is hoping to raise $50,000 by the end of 2013.
And just this year Jaffe learned that “kandu” has the sense in Hindi of bringing lightness out of the dark. “It’s kismet,” said Jaffe, who described herself as lucky in many ways.
The Deb Floros Trunk Show will take place on Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kandu Beads LLC at 346 Quinnipiac St.