Beading has a long and colourful history – with archaeologists and historians noting beadwork in Europe dating back to a time where shells and animal bones were popular in the craft. These materials were most commonly found in pieces like necklaces.
The glass bead makers of Murano in Italy were creating their spectacular pieces at the end of the 14th century, whileFrench beaded flowers were made from as early as the 16th century.
Remarkably, beads have even been used as a bartering and monetary system across the ages, as well as an addition to decorated ,costumes, headwear, footwear and jewellery in a wide variety of cultures.
How did I start beading?
About 15 years ago, I watched a friend make a pair of simple earrings by simply stringing some beads onto wire, and then looping them to make earring wires. And I was literally hooked. My thirst for knowledge of this wonderful craft continues to this day, and is fuelled by my membership in groups such as the Bead Society of Victoria. It’s also inspired by my travels worldwide exhibitions such as the Bead and Button Show, held annually in Milwaukee in the States.
Groups like the Bead Society and exhibitions like Bead and Button, allow me to meet with fellow creators, find new and interesting products to include in my projects, and lear n new techniques.
One of my greatest classes was a three-day workshop with Cynthia Rutledge, learning to make boxes, combining metal and beads in a ‘snuff box’ format. Using the historical images of snuff boxes, and recreating them with tiny seed beads, crystals and pearls was a once in a lifetime learning experience.
Beading for beginners
Making a simple pair of earrings is a great way to get started with this art. Using a piece of wire, some pliers and adding a few beads opens up the world of possibility.. Being able to match pieces to your favourite outfit, and create the length and movement you desire is one of the key benefits of making your own jewellery.
One of my favourite techniques in this craft is embroidery, where beads are applied to a fabric backing, creating a statement necklace or cuff. Embroidery uses a backing foundation and gives the creator the opportunity to craft 3D and dimensionally raised beadwork, through the application of layers.. This simple technique of basic bead embroidery is a great way to ‘capture’ a round feature bead for use as a pendant.
Isolation projects to keep you busy
And of course, isolation time is a great way to expand your knowledge and learn a new technique. Beading is a great pastime, and some more complex projects can take many hours of detailed work, stitching each bead by hand onto a piece. The crown piece that I made for the 2019 Bead Society Challenge has over 40 hours of work, allowing me to create a whimsical design that represented a ‘Silver Anniversary’ challenge.
For someone who wants to learn beading, which is a great isolation project. All you need to get started is to access a beading tutorial, or watch a YouTube video on this craft. Then, grab a beading kit, thread and needle, and get get experimenting!