Every Bead Has a Story

  Beads hold  memories and  and every bead has a story, partially known and partially buried in the past.  When I finish the piece for the Blog Hop,  story of the beads I’ve used will become longer and might be told later on-or not.

Most of the beads here are very old and I don’t know anything about the people who wore them.   I am only the latest owner-no, I prefer to think of myself as a caretaker.  I hope there will be other caretakers.

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I will use some of the beads you see below in my piece for the Memories and Thanks Blog Hop, so I thought it fitting that I should share some bead history with you.

The red disks (above) are African Vulcanite Heishi beads made from old phonograph records. The brass comes from vintage jewelry that has seen a lot of use. The glass beads (above) are African sand cast beads,  millefiore (actually Venetian but traded widely in Africa) and interlocking “snake” beads (above) called African for the same reason even though they are of Czech origin.

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Millefiore Beads

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Phenolic Resin Amber

Seed beads, Krobo glass beads from Ghana, (right) brass and bone beads.  Note that the Phenolic Amber is not genuine amber.  It’s a simulation and some of it is highly collectable.  I bought the  Phenolic Amber above in Cape Town, S.A

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  These brass findings-to-be aren’t African but I followed an African tradition:  recycling!  I cut the wires off  a brass wire picture holder,  cleaned them and made jump rings .  Then I soldered a few of the rings to straight pieces of the wire.

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More Krobo Beads from Ghana.

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I am thinking earrings here, maybe without the beads because I don’t want them too heavy.

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Baoulé Brass, Ivory Coast, Ghana

Interested in learning more?  See

Bedazzled Dictionary of Beads

But wait-there’s more–

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Kashmiri

Maruti International Beads sent me some  lovely  handcrafted beads to give away to lucky readers.    Interested in winning some?   Details coming soon, so keep checking here and my Facebook page.

The Fabric Workshop: A Philadelphia Treasure


 

I recently had the opportunity to see an exhibit at the new home of the Fabric Workshop and Museum .  It’s a roomy, comfortable space that takes up several buildings on Arch Street in Philadelphia.   You no longer have to climb flights of stairs to get to the exhibits and it’s conveniently located on across the street from the Philadelphia Convention Center.

The current exhibit, New American Voices II showcases the work of  four invitational artists-in-residence: Bill Smith, Jiha Moon, Robert Pruitt and Jim Drain.    New American Voices II was definitely not the visual version of a string quartet; it was the work of four soloists, each of whom chose different media and themes to express a unique point of view.   The FMW  tries to showcase artists from across the United States with varied backgrounds and perspectives and encourages them to work with materials they might not have used before.  From what I saw the FMW accomplished its mission and it looks like the artists enjoyed the process.  The exhibition had so much to offer that I can only hit the highlights  in this post.  To get the full flavor, you must see it for yourself.

 

South Korean-born Jiha Moon’s mixed media wall pieces combine collage, sewing, painting, and screen printing with an Asian color aesthetic.   She makes  plentiful  use of Asian and American popular culture symbols and much of her work reminds me of traditional Asian embroidery, not because of any needlework she might usem, but because the designs are expansive and flowing.  Much of her work consists of fanciful pieces that incorporate images from folklore and advertising , but she showed her serious side in a work that appeared to explore the tensions between North and South Korea.     The piece below, which is a little different from the others, features pin cushions, ribbons and beads.

                                       

Jiha Moon

Jim Drain’s huge (and I mean XXXXXL) colorful  machine-knitted dolmen sleeve sweaters remind me of  the big suit David Byrne wears in Stop Making Sense, and fantastic Noh costumes.  I suppose they could be worn, but they were displayed on stands that let the viewer examine every nuance of the designs.  A two-dimensional picture cannot convey the surprises that jump out as you circle the sweaters.  The colors shift and there are lots of subtle details and embellishments.   At first, the color choices appear to be mostly random but on further examination, you realize that every skein and thread works with everything else in the sweater.  Nothing is there that doesn’t belong.

 

Jim Drain

What fascinated me most about Robert Pruitt’s work was his use of period cameras to photograph members of a fictional African-American family to depict ancestors from years past like you’d see in a family album.  Now that’s attention to detail and real dedication.  For me the most powerful photograph was one of a young woman wearing a grass skirt and what appears to be a European colonial officer’s dress uniform jacket.  The golden shoulder cord is replaced by rope that appeared to be a noose.   Pruitt also uses  traditional African symbols and imagery pulled from contemporary urban America.   I found his work  disturbing and compelling.

Robert Pruitt

Bill Smith’s mechanical sculptures meld engineering and art in a way that any fan of Jules Verne or Nicola Tesla would admire, but his inclusion of organic objects like Emu eggs and feathers along with organic looking plastic forms that resemble jellyfish or brain synapses takes his work out of the realm of Steampunk into another world that seems really strange (or is it strangely real?)  Along with Emu eggs, he takes water, magnets,  quirky copper wire, electronics and computers to fashion  several interactive contraptions that manage to look organic, old-fashioned and futuristic all at once.    When walked up to one sculpture,  the Emu egg started to spin, the wires started to sway and the room  filled with a low humming sound.  Then projectors started flashing images onto the white walls of the gallery.  Amazing.   Here’s a video of a similar device he designed and built.

New American Voices II runs until the Spring.  Admission is only $3.00 but you can  donate more if you like.    Treat yourself to this exhibit and the ones planned for the future.  We are so lucky to have a venue like the FMW in Philadelphia.  Let’s support it.

For more pictures of the artists’ work, press here, here, here, and here.

Happy New Year from Philadelphia

 

For more than one hundred years, the City of Philadelphia has sponsored the Mummers Parade on New Years day.  I thought it would be fun to do some research into the history of this Philadelphia tradition and share the results with you.  The Mumming tradition started  in Europe.  It came to these shores  with  the wave of immigrants that started arriving in Philadelphia in the 1600’s- first the Swedes, then English and then the Irish.  According to Murray Dubin in his book South Philadelphia, Mummers, Memories and the Melrose Diner, the Philadelphia Mummers have been strutting since 1790!  These parades were probably informal at first but became more organized with the passage of time.  As other ethnic groups like the Italians poured into South Philadelphia, they embraced the Mummers tradition.  The Mummers gradually started to form clubs which became an important part of the social fabric of the South Philadelphia working class.

The back of the above photograph says “Chas. Forbes Commercial Photographer  1006 W. Girard Ave.” When was it taken?  There’s no date, but I see a pipe that appears to be for an oil tank for a furnace on the front of the brick row house.  I don’t think oil heat came into wide use until after World War One, so this picture could be from the 1920’s.  For some beautiful photographs of Mummers in modern costumes,  check out the Philadelpha Mummer Flickr site. For an outstanding album of old pictures you’re not likely to see elsewhere on line, go to the Rare Mummers Archives.

Until the late 19th Century, Christmas and New Years celebrations were more like  Halloween or Mardi Gras festivals with people in masks and costumes going from house to house, offering to entertain the occupants with plays, skits or other antics.   People fired guns in the air (illegal in Philadelphia today) and public intoxication was the norm.  No wonder the Puritans banned Christmas!The   Philadelphia New Years Mummers parade has its roots in those raucous winter holiday celebrations of  the past. The first “official” parade was in 1901  when the City decided to sponsor it. There were so many Mummer’s clubs by that time that the City had to  do something to  protect the public safety and cut down on the revelry and  vandalism that accompanied the parades.  The Mummers have marched up Broad Street on New Years day every year since then, with a few exceptions.

There is a lot more to the history of the Mummers in Philadelphia than I could write here.  Click on the links for more information.  Remember, when you watch a Mummers parade,  you are part of an historical tradition you won’t see many other places in the U.S.  You are really looking into a portal to history.

Here are some parades from over the years.

I estimate from the dress that the undated newsreel below is from the 1930’s or 1940’s.  The parade passes a business called “University Motors.” Anyone know when they were in business on Broad Street?  I think it might have been a Studebaker Dealership.

 

 

 

 

When you are in Philadelphia, be sure to stop by the Mummers Museum.

 

Beading From Budapest

I bought these necklaces and lariats in Budapest. I had never seen netting around beads, tubular netting, or so many variations on flat netting. I wanted to try some of the stitches myself, but I couldn’t find good netting instructions anywhere.

When Diane Fitzgerald’s wonderful book Netted Beadwork came out, the mysteries of the netting stitch were revealed along with the tale of its rich history. I recommend the book for anyone interested in learning this versatile stitch.nb

Here’s a picture of the beautiful blue Danube. Go to Budapest if you have the chance. It’s a charming city.

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DVD’s from Kato, Miller and a Calder Article


 

Donna Kato Presents: Tips, Tricks & Techniques for Polymer Clay  is three and a half hours of Donna Kato demonstrating caning, transfers, mica shift, finishing techniques and more. The gals at video night (you know who you are) gave it a five (out of five) pasta machine rating. A bargain at $34.95. To order, press here.

I love everything Sharilyn Miller. (To see my review of her Tribal Treasures video, press here.) I just got finished watching her Ethnic Style Jewelry Workshop video, and all I can say is “Wow!” Another three and one half hours of valuable information on wire working, and instructions for making four bracelets and two necklaces. A steal at $39.95. To order it, Press here.

I wrote about the Alexander Calder Jewelry Exhibit at the Philadelpha Museum of Art in an earlier post. The latest issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist has an article on Calder’s jewelry well worth reading: “Calder’s Mobile Jewelry” by Cathleen McCarthy.

African Beads

To me, the words Africa and beads go together like Romulus and Remus, Baskin and Robbins or Damon and Runyon. In fact, I started working in polymer clay because I wanted to replicate millefiore African trading beads.

So last year, when I was lucky enough to travel in South Africa
I bought beads and bead work in dinky little stores, outdoor markets and anywhere else I could.

I found the beads you see above at a wonderful store in Capetown called Bead Merchants of Africa.  The beads are are brass Abijas, blue glass, amber/copal, and millefiore trading beads. Most of these beads are not native to South Africa, but Bead Merchants carries everything!

I have designed a necklace with them and just need to put it together. Alas, it sits unfinished in my workshop! When it is finished, you’ll be the first to see it.

Zulu Beadwork

When I traveled to South Africa recently, I was fascinated to learn it has a myriad of ethnic groups and eleven official languages. The Zulu are the largest ethnic group in South Africa and they produce some of my favorite bead work. I picked up the items pictured above trolling markets and funky little shops.

To learn more about the lore and language of Zulu beadwork, press Here. To learn more about Zulu beadwork in general, press Here.

One of my favorite beadwork authors, Diane Fitzgerald, has a forthcoming book from Interweave Press entitled Zulu Inspired Beadwork.

To learn more about the rich history and culture of the Zulu, press Here.