Jean Gribbon Honored as one of Interweave’s Top 20 Luminaries

Jean Gribbon Honored as one of Interweave’s Top 20 Luminaries

Beads of Courage Founder Jean Gribbon Honored as one of Interweave’s Top 20 Luminaries

Jean Gribbon Honored as one of Interweave’s Top 20 Luminaries, Beads of Courage

For 20 years, Interweave has celebrated everything beads through Bead Fest, one of the largest bead and jewelry gatherings in the nation. In honor of this 2022 milestone, the eponymous art and craft media company has recognized 20 transcendent Innovators, Trendsetters, Emerging Artists and Community Leaders who elevate others in the bead industry.

These luminaries of the bead products market—which is expected to reach $30 billion in global value by 2030—include Beads of Courage Founder Jean Gribbon.

“This just made my year! How cool for Beads of Courage to receive honors as a community leader and to receive recognition at the 20th Anniversary of Bead Fest. Thank you, Interweave, for recognizing the work of our organization as we integrate the use of beads as powerful metaphors of human courage and caring in children’s hospitals throughout the world,” said Gribbon, who started Beads of Courage in Tucson, Arizona, in 2004. The nonprofit has since grown to serve children in more than 150 hospitals throughout the United States and 400 hospitals worldwide. Beads of Courage is dedicated to helping children with serious illness record, tell and own their stories of survival through beads, which are given to honor their courage during medical procedures and treatments. 

Gribbon has leveraged her extensive knowledge and understanding of the power of beads into unparalleled leadership, according to Katie Hacker, Interweave Bead & Jewelry Content Manager and host of the Jewelry Artist podcast. 

“Jean is and has been a rock star in Community Leadership, elevating artists and bringing instructors together to teach and educate while finding ways to get beads into the hands of Beads of Courage members. As a leader, she has taught all of us what beads mean: The history of humans interacting and creating beads from objects around them; why stringing beads makes us feel good; and how beads have connections with our earliest ancestors and our pasts,” said Hacker. 

She credits Beads of Courage with providing encouragement and support for children struggling with health crises and their families while also providing inspiration for countless artists who support the mission by donating time, talent and treasure.  

“Beads of Courage helps members tell their stories and show all that they have been through. I know they love seeing all of the colorful beads, and their families say that it is an important way to mark milestones in their treatments,” said Hacker, who has personally participated in the Beads of Courage Carry a Bead program. 

She is gratified to carry beads while hiking with her dog, Darlene, who also carries beads. Hacker said the experience is beyond rewarding.

“I really love the connection made between the person who carries beads with intention and sends each one back with a handwritten note of encouragement. I remember exactly what I was doing when I carried each bead and I know that carrying the bead gave me strength, too,” said Hacker.

For the past decade, Hacker has also worked to develop opportunities to bring others into the Beads of Courage family. Three years ago, she and Gribbon created Designing with the Stars, which has evolved into the largest teaching/fun/fundraising event at Bead Fest. The evening provides participants with the opportunity to create special pieces of jewelry with guidance from premier bead designers.

“I love seeing the spark of compassion that Beads of Courage lights in people and want to create more opportunities for people to learn about the work they do, whether by making bracelets that can be used to raise funds or by bringing together other artists to teach at fundraising events like Designing with the Stars. It all benefits an awesome cause,” said Hacker. 

Additionally, Hacker is passionate about promoting awareness about Community Leaders who made the Bead Fest A-List this year.

In addition to Gribbon, the inspirational group includes Karen Smith, Founder of We Wield the Hammer, a metalsmith training program for women and girls of African descent. Other honorees include Merle White, Former Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist,  who has shined light on countless artists and makers; Tim McCreight and Matthieu Cheminee, Founders of Toolbox Initiative, which collects tools from North American jewelers to redistribute to West African metalsmiths with limited resources; and Wendy Ellsworth, a talented beadworker and ally of the women in Unity Village in Kenya.

“These represent a variety of organizations whose founders stood out for the work they have been doing for years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their efforts resonate throughout the bead world and beyond,” said Hacker.

For more information about the 2022 Bead Fest Community Leaders, Innovators, Trendsetters, and Emerging Artists, visit