If you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, you may be familiar with Perler beads. The humble craft is made by arranging tiny beads on a peg board, then fusing them together with a hot iron to create colorful designs and shapes. While the concept is simple, the possibilities are endless, and that’s exactly what Birmingham native Aaliyah Taylor saw when she began making jewelry out of the children’s craft in 2012.
At the time, Taylor was a freshman in college. The idea came to her while strolling through the aisles of Hobby Lobby one day.
“I wanted to create different types of art, other than the art that was assigned to me in school,” she says. “I remember staring at the Perler kit, and the waves of summer camp memories and the joy felt from creating pins and bookmarks using the beads filled my mind.”
With that in mind, plus the incentive to make a little bit of income, Taylor began designing and selling earrings and accessories made from Perler beads in 2013. Those were the origins of her jewelry company Exalting in Beauty. In the almost 10 years since, Exalting in Beauty has amassed quite the fan base and grown considerably. Taylor says it wasn’t until she shifted her perspective on what her company’s purpose was that Exalting in Beauty began to take off.
“In the beginning, I knew I could sell my art and receive just a little bit of money to help out in my household,” she says. “But creating with that mindset and intention can cause one to compromise their design and pricing. It wasn’t until I let go and really allowed myself to submerge fully into creating wearable art with purpose and intention that my business evolved into something special and unique.”
Taylor describes her designs as over the top, exaggerated, vibrant, and bold—much like her own personal style. Colors are bright and poppy, shapes are bold and funky, and bigger is always better. She says inspiration for her designs, which have included earrings that look like giant pixelated bananas and papayas, come from all kinds of places—seeing someone rock an amazing outfit or scrolling through her Pinterest explore page.
For Taylor, Exalting in Beauty is about much more than tongue-in-cheek designs or crazy color combos. “Exalting in Beauty was birthed out of the need to exalt everyone’s uniqueness and beauty—even when they feel broken,” she says. “Exalting in Beauty is a love letter to myself. The name stems from the meaning of my name, Aaliyah, which means ‘high exalted one.’ During the time when I was starting my business, I felt low and broken—the complete opposite of who I was created to be. Creating my jewelry helped me remember who I am and gain the confidence to live a bold and vibrant life.”
Through Exalting in Beauty, Taylor has helped other women recognize their worth and beauty, to see themselves as unique and special, just as Taylor did when she started the company. Her designs can be purchased on Etsy, as well as at Citizen Supply at the Ponce City Market in Atlanta. Recently, Taylor had the opportunity to impact even more people with her art and message of self-love. She partnered with Perler, the little bead that started it all, to create a jewelry kit that gives individuals that chance to create their own earring designs based on Taylor’s designs. It’s sold on Perler’s website, as well as on Amazon.
While Exalting in Beauty has far exceeded Taylor’s humble expectations, she said she’s excited to continue growing the brand and expanding it into a full fashion brand of ready-to-wear slow design pieces that are sold directly to consumers. She kicked off the endeavor as one of six competing designers at the Emerging Designers Runway Competition during Magic City Fashion Week in early June.
Wherever the future takes her, Taylor says her goal for Exalting in Beauty will always remain the same: “Creating wearable art to enhance the beauty of God’s creation.”