Bead it: An ancient art form finds modern devotees
Stone-age homo sapiens wore them as protection. Romans traded them across their empire. Zulus used them to distinguish social class. Considered so valuable by Native Americans they sold the island of Manhattan for a few of them. What are they?
Beads and the art of beading have been around for 40,000 years. The instant prehistoric humans found a stone or shell with a natural opening and strung it on a piece of vine to wear around their necks, it became the first form of beading. Today, the same method is used, but many forms of beads and stringing have since been developed.
If you walk into The Bead Box in Tecumseh, Mich., you can get a look at the thousands of different bead choices along with all the material it takes to string together bracelets, necklaces and earrings, among many other decorative options.
Jane Gilbert and Jane Richard joined forces recently to expand the business. Both have jobs outside the Bead Box, but their flexible schedules and combined passion for beading allow them to keep the store open. They pride themselves on being able to offer help and advice to those in need.
“It’s addictive,” warned Richard, who has been beading for 20 years.
Gilbert has been beading for seven years.
“I think I got into it because there’s instant gratification with stringing,” she said. “You’re making
CJ Bauschka, who is part Native American and teaches beading classes at Hobby Lobby Creative Center in Adrian, has a similar opinion.
“It’s very meditative and a good way to relieve stress. It’s very soothing. I have eight children and it’s my way of keeping my sanity,” she said with a chuckle. “Beading keeps me calm and focused.”
Native Americans had beading and quilling — using porcupine quills — societies that were sacred to the women who were recruited and trained in the art. The process of making the beads and quillwork focused on prayers, meditation and thoughts while stringing beads and quills. The finished product was not sacred.
While the self-taught Bauschka only began beading five years ago, it was something that always intrigued her. As a little girl, she went on a field trip to a Native American village where there were bowls of beads and moccasins and costumes.
“At the end of the trip I didn’t want to get on the bus,” she said. “I wish I had started beading years ago.”
In the past five years, Bauschka has had a design published in the June 2009 edition of Bead and Button magazine and another design will be published in the June 2010 edition.
Gilbert, Richard and Bauschka are all experienced with off-loom weaving, including peyote stitch, right-angle weave, endebele and simple stringing. Another contemporary technique for making jewelry is wire-wrapping.
While bones and shells are still used today, they come in various shapes and sizes and are polished. You can find beads made from minerals such as jasper, jade, quartz, amethyst, howlite, turquoise, gold and silver.
A rainbow of colors in the form of glass beads are available in many sizes. Japanese and Czechoslovakian manufacturers of seed beads have differing standards, prices and colors. Swarovski crystals and findings — the metal parts used for connecting beads, etc. into finished jewelry — can be found along with cords and other stringing materials.
Daily Telegram (Adrian, Mich.)