From Trash to Treasure 5

A Local Chandler Artist Makes Eclectic Jewelry Out of Recycled Goods

Vesna Taneva-Miller heads to an unlikely place when she’s searching for materials to make her crafts: the trash pile.

“That’s where my passion is: I make crafts out of things that are usually considered garbage,” says the Chandler artist, who creates her signature paper-bead necklaces out of everything from Christmas gift tags to patterned envelopes for bills.

However, unlike many crafters, she was never terribly interested in crafts as a kid. That would come later in her life. But her personal background is as colorful as her work.

Taneva-Miller was born in Macedonia, in Eastern Europe. At the age of 15, she came to the United States as a high school exchange student and studied in Newport News, Virginia. She then returned to her native country to find out that her year in the states didn’t count for school credit, and not wanting to repeat a year, she went back to Virginia to study. She then went to college in Omaha and married her now husband during her last semester. The couple relocated to Arizona in 2002, and she’s been in the Valley ever since.

In 2004, she got a job working at an Alaska Airlines reservations hotline at night. During the wee hours when it got quiet, she tried crafting with her colleagues. She started with crocheting scarfs, moved on to jewelry, then made cards and jewelry. Eventually, she started her current blog, stitchplayinaz, documenting her crafts and travels. Her work has appeared in magazines like SEW Somerset, GreenCraft, and Art Quilting Studio.

She now sells earrings, necklaces, embroidery hoops and wrist pincushions in her Etsy shop. And her designs are as eclectic as what influences her creations.

“I can find inspiration everywhere,” she says. “When I’m in nature, when I go for a hike or go to a park. Maybe it’s because my senses are more open to everything around me. I feel like “Oh, I’ve got to make something.”

Taneva-Miller finds inspiration in work she’s personally drawn to as well. She’ll ask herself what about that object she was attracted to and try to incorporate that into her latest creation.

She’s also devoted to recycling and sees her crafting as a reincarnation, of sorts.

“You can think about things and see things with a different eye and give them another life,” she says.

See her work at Vision Gallery in downtown Chandler and at Practical Art in Phoenix or visit



To make your own paper beads, you don’t need much.  Collect some junk mail for a week or so. Or, you can use brown grocery paper bags, book pages (comic books make a good visual effect), music sheets, security envelopes and magazine pages.

You will also need: Scissors (or a paper cutter if you have one), glue (Elmer’s), round toothpicks, Triple Thick (glaze to seal your beads, Madge Podge or clear varnish can work too).

How to Make Them:

  1. Cut the paper in one-inch strips. The width of your strip will determine the size/length of your bead. The length of your strip will determine the thickness/bulkiness of your bead. I taper my strip to a wedge, to make my bead more oval. Experiment!
  2. Start rolling your strip using a round toothpick. When you come to the last inch of your strip, add a little bit of glue so it can hold your bead in place.
  3. Once you make a handful of beads, use a brush and Triple Thick to coat your beads. This will make your beads shiny and protect them from wear and tear.
  4. Then let your beads dry. When you have enough beads, you can get creative and use them to make necklaces, earrings, bracelets, embellish journals, and make tassels. There is no limit, let yourself be creative!