$35 Million for the Lot. That’s all she wants for the jewellery on this page.

Without a doubt Margot McEwan knows full well that this price tag is high but as Executive Officer of Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research in Western Sydney she simply can’t ask for anything less.

See, the Institute, which is one of the largest of its kind in Australia, is in desperate need of a new home so that their scientists can work together more effectively on their research into liver and metabolic disease, cancer, infection and immunity, cardio and respiratory disease, neuroscience, dental and vision. “At the moment, our scientists are scattered throughout the Westmead Hospital precinct because we have outgrown our current building” explained Margot. “Work is about to commence on a new building but, despite significant contributions, from Government and other donors, around $35 million is still required to complete the project”.

Of course, Margot is realistic about being able to raise that kind of money through her jewellery sales but she is passionate about the ground breaking work of the Institute and, along with her professional duties, does whatever she can to support its research through her other passion, beading. She explained how it all fell into place. “About ten years ago, my daughter learnt how to make earrings and decided to have a stall at Winmalee High School’s “Artfest” which is held each year before Mother’s Day. She was running out of time, asked me to help and showed me what to do. Although I continued to make my own earrings from that time on, it took another seven years for me to really get into beading”.

“Then in 2009 I started working at the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research and a few of the staff, who knew I could make earrings, asked if I could make some pairs for their Breast Cancer Morning Tea raffle. Around the same time, a friend gave me a copy of Creative Beading. I never knew such magazines existed! I know it sounds corny but it really was a life-changing moment. It was the start of my beading addiction and I have not stopped since”.

It didn’t take long for people to start noticing Margot’s designs. As soon her work friends saw what she was making they encouraged her to hold a small sale in the staff tea room to raise money for medical research – it was a hit. Margot’s jewellery sales have now become a twice yearly event and have raised over $10,000 for the Institute, a remarkable achievement.

Margot did admit however, that it is not all one-sided. “It is a bit of a marriage made in heaven, really. I have the need to be creative, to experiment and to make new pieces, and the Institute provides a captive audience of people who want to buy it”.

As for experimenting and coming up with ideas, Margot has found her perfect resource in what some would consider ‘junk mail’. “I get ideas from a number of sources including beading magazines or books, websites, markets, online jewellery stores, all the usual avenues; but I also subscribe to clothing catalogues that arrive in hard copy through the post so I can check out the accessories being worn by the models. It’s funny though, sometimes I just wake up with a new design in my head that is just bursting to get out. All the beads and findings, and all the different steps and techniques needed are perfectly mapped out in my mind. It can be very frustrating on those days to have to go to work when I want to make it there and then!”

Not that Margot always needs a lot of time with her designs, particularly the ones for personal use, as she has become quite clever at making jewellery on the run. “I do love the quick fix beading can give. Very few crafts allow you to whip up something new in a matter of minutes. I often find myself making a pair of earrings or a bracelet to match an outfit ten minutes before I have to race out the door. What I think is most interesting about beading however is the variety of styles that can be made. There are so many beads and findings to choose from that just by mixing and matching, or changing colour schemes, completely unique pieces are created. The possibilities are endless. For example I recently used a small feature tile left over from our kitchen renovation in a wire-worked pendant. It sold very quickly at the jewellery sales”.

One young scientist who will be reaping the rewards of Margot’s passions later this year will be the recipient of the “Early Career Creative Research Award”. It is one of many financial awards she has been able to support. The award, valued at $2,000, will be presented at the Institute’s annual awards night in October. “I’m so thrilled I am able to help the Institute’s young researchers because they are the ones who will find cures for the diseases of the future and will build on the research efforts of their predecessors”.

As for Margot’s beading future, she dreams of making it big online while still helping where she can. “I really wish I had discovered beading much earlier in life. Had I done so, I definitely would have put more effort into making a career out of it. I would love to own a beading store or an online shop that sells beads and findings in the future”.

When she does eventually retire from full time work, however, what Margot would really love to do is run beading classes for people undergoing cancer treatment. “I think it would be a very relaxing activity that would help them pass the time while receiving chemo and may temporarily take their mind off what was happening to them. If hospitals were willing to offer beading classes to the patients, and the patients were interested, it would be a relatively easy thing to run. All it would take would be a few stable tables, some basic supplies and some keen patients. I can picture it now”.

Margot McEwan – Blue Mountains Beads  

If you would like to contribute to the building project of the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research or to the important medical research undertaken at the Institute, please contact: wmi.reception@sydney.edu.au or call (02) 9845 9773.

You can also find out more about the work of the Institute by visiting: www.wmi.org.au

Profile created for the good folk of Creative Beading Magazine

Author: Sharon Quill

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