By Carrie Vittitoe

While on a trip to visit her husband Matt’s family, Kelley Hudzik found herself in a Massachusetts craft shop, dropping about $100 on beads and wire. Kelley’s sister-in-law, Kristine, had taught her how to make beaded bracelets. “It was like nirvana in front of me with all those beads,” Kelley says.

Kelley began developing her own design style as she continued learning the basics of bracelet making. She says her sister-in-law is very structured in how she uses patterns, but Kelley’s aesthetic is different. “It’s all over the place,” she says.

Kelley relies on her creative outlet to keep her mind stimulated. Photos by Patti Hartog 
In the two years since she was introduced to bracelet making, Kelley has created a “woman cave” in her basement at her home in Middletown where she can work whenever she has the desire and time. She has set up tables and has lights all over. She says hours can go by while she works. She usually keeps the TV on so she can listen without having to pay a lot of attention. “My cat Spike always comes and sits on my lap until I have to move him to get another bead,” she says.

Kelley, who retired as a teacher from Jefferson County Public Schools in 2016, says making bracelets is a natural creative extension even though she isn’t shaping minds now. “I think making bracelets is excellent cognitive therapy that helps with my multiple sclerosis,” she says. “I came to the conclusion that I was no longer able to handle the rigors of teaching. I am happy that I was able to find another way to stay mentally engaged.”

She uses any and all colors of glass beads in her creations and, up until recently, Kelley had never made two bracelets exactly the same. One of her latest creations was a University of Louisville-inspired bracelet for a friend, but she doesn’t limit herself to just bracelets for women. She made Matt a man bracelet with neutral colors in it.

She began accumulating more and more bracelets, even though her daughter Taylor would swipe her favorites. Kelley’s friends and colleagues would frequently comment about how much they loved her creations, so she thought she would see if a local boutique would be interested in carrying some. She spoke to managers at a couple of shops and eventually met Barbara Manning at Lin Z’s Boutique in Middletown’s historic shopping district. Kelley’s bracelet creations are now being carried there.

This bracelet was made to match a sweater Kelley wore to an ugly sweater Christmas party. 

“It’s a hobby that if I make money, great. And if I end up with thousands of bracelets, then my kids will have to get rid of them,” she says.