About Marlene Cartter and Her Work

Marlene Cartter has  has  been creating both loomed and off loom bead work since the early 1990’s,.  She is a native Californian, born and raised in the Los Angeles area.  Marlene and her husband currently live in Northern California.

Family stories of Mexican and Native American ancestors and the artistic bent that often comes with left-handedness are part of the inspiration that led her interest in beading.  She also creates Native American styles along with contemporary pieces with an Art Deco influence.

Marlene  volunteered at Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument—Hearst Castle—doing restoration or conservation of beaded pieces used in the living history program there, including beaded dresses, gloves, and handbags.  She has also done restoration work on antique Native American and African beadwork.  Paintings of the old master’s also inspired her to create replicas of beaded jewelry pieces that appear in historical works of art.

Most of Marlene’s work is by commission.  She creates unique pieces by color size or style.


Feature 1

My work is a collection of different approaches to beadwork in general. I get inspiration from nature and landscapes; colors of flowers, trees, and leaves; art and music. I have music playing when I bead.

My Mexican, Native American, and Californian heritage and culture are a great source of inspiration for me. The colors of Mexico are phenomenal. The use of the various hues, and trying different combinations of tones is an enjoyable part of the creative process. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. I have taken apart many projects over the years that just did not turn out the way I had envisioned, and start all over again. One aspect of Mexican culture that I would like to incorporate in more of my work are the ancient designs of the Aztec, Mayan, and Toltec. I have been doing more research of these designs, as they are very compelling to me. I have a few projects in the future that will bring some of these motifs into play.

Native American art and design intrigue me. When I do my southwestern inspired pieces, I am careful not to use designs that are attributed to any one current tribe or group. Their designs are just that….theirs. I use generic southwestern inspired shapes and designs in my work. It has been interesting though, to find that sometimes the designs I think are original to me, have also been imagined by others.

Feature 2

Marlene's Process -

Sometimes I plan and draw out a design in advance. However, I have been beading long enough that most of the time I just start collecting some tones or colors of beads and actually will begin a piece before I have even come close to a final design. I create the design as I begin the work.

When I have a commissioned piece to do, I make sure that it is one of a kind. If I have people ask for the same design, and/or colors, I talk to them and usually recommend changing one or two aspects of the design or finish so they get an “original” piece. I don’t mass produce my pieces.

Loom work is a very satisfying and a soothing way to bead for me. I love the rhythm of weaving beads on a loom, and watching the pattern evolve. I use different color palettes with my southwestern inspired pieces, and enjoy using leather as a finishing. This is the type of beading I first started with over 20 years ago, and it is one I still find very enjoyable.

Feature 3

Black, white, and hematite bracelet

I was a volunteer at Hearst Castle for a few years helping with the conservation of the beaded dresses and handbags used by the docents there.

Many of the original clothes were from the art deco period and these designs just lend themselves so well to bead work.

Art Deco patterns and designs are some of my favorite, and I have done many pieces over the years.

This is a recent work.


Gold beads, crystals, and green stone bracelet

My bead buddy, and my husband and I were talking about some old master’s paintings and we noticed that there were usually jewelry pieces on the people in these paintings.

We decided to try and replicate a few of these pieces in beads and Swarovski crystals since we didn’t have gold and gemstones. This was one of those pieces. 

Inspired by 'Judith Slaying Holofernes' by Artemisia Gentileschi, we think it came out rather well. We have a binder full of others that we will be working on in the future.


Dark Gold and Blue bracelet with crystals

Experimenting with size of beads and keeping the bracelet lines simple was the goal here.

I gave it a little bling with the Swarovski crystals, and a nice combination of colors.