Those Beaded Bags You Love? Susan Alexandra Wants You To Thank These Women

The first time I came across a Susan Alexandra bag, I did a double take. I hadn’t seen it before, but I recognized it: A purse encrusted with thoughtfully chosen colorful pastel stripes, like a disco ball-turned-box. They looked uncannily similar to those tissue-box covers that my Chinese grandma used to make from her glass coffee table that I ate fried rice cakes off of when I went to visit her in Shanghai.My grandma wasn’t limited to just Kleenex boxes (which we displayed on top of our piano at home). She would send me and my brother all kinds of beaded characters: a palm-sized sneaker with a slightly wonky swoosh on the side, a keychain of a bootleg Hello Kitty, and intricate beaded lanterns to hang on our door handles. Our home in Indiana was filled with her work. But she never made a beaded bag because the available patterns were for knick knacks and toys — things to display, and not to take outside. For her, making these beaded trinkets was a way to pass the time with her f