Beads: Placekeepers in the Book of Memory

I was thinking about signing up for Lori Anderson’s Memories and Thanks Blog Hop.    My friend Susan died earlier this year and I wanted to make something in her memory.  She called me one Sunday last March and said she wanted get together to  play with beads.  By this time,  her left leg  was huge from lymphedema and I didn’t  think she should drive.  I told her I would come to her house.

But no.  Susan did things her way.  She wanted to be in my workshop with me and play with beads.    She got herself down the steps to my basement  workshop while I held my breath.  We played and chatted for two hours.  I had given her lots of  jewelry over the years and made beads for her too.  She brought the beads over and a sack of her broken jewelry.  We tried out jewelry designs, looked at beading books and forgot she had cancer.  We talked about the future.  Before she left,  she gave me some beads and  broken jewelry so I could use them in a new piece.  The next time I saw her, she was  very sick.   She died two weeks  later.

When I read about the Memories and Thanks Blog Hop,  I went on a tear through my workshop looking  for the items she gave me on that last visit.   But this  story is not going  to end up like you think.  I could not find that jewelry even though I tore the place upside down.  I know  she was  hiding it from me.   As I resigned myself to giving up,  I pulled out a box full of beads that I bought in South Africa a few years ago to make a necklace for Shari.  When Shari died before  could make her anything,  I put the beads away and didn’t look at them for a long time.

I found myself staring at the beads and heard Susan’s voice, “You weren’t really looking for me, Lamb Chop.  You’ll get to me when you’re ready.”

And so I will. In the meantime, I unexpectedly find that I am ready to make Shari’s necklace.

Finally.

Beading from Las Cruces to Cape Town

It’s a long way from Las Cruces, New Mexico to Philadelphia where I live, and an even longer trip from Philadelphia to Cape Town, South Africa. I like to bead on long plane rides, so I started a bracelet on the Las Cruces trip, making a base then starting to embellish it with beads of many colors, shapes and sizes. I finished the bracelet on the trip to Cape Town. Then I submitted it to the Bead-A-Day Beading Calendar for 2009 and it was accepted! You’ll have to wait until the calendar comes out to get the instructions for making the “Las Cruces to Cape Town Bracelet.” You’ll also find many other beautiful beading projects in the calendar-one for every day of the year.

Here is a slide show of some of the things I saw in Las Cruces and Cape Town.

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 Telephone Wire Baskets

   Gold, diamonds,  coal and all kinds of metal come from mines in South Africa.   South Africa also has a rich tradition of craft work including beading (more on that later) and basket weaving.   Zulu miners took discarded pieces of brightly-colored phone wire and applied traditional principles of Zulu basket weaving to come up with basket designs that are complex and colorful.  The basket pictured above, which I bought on a trip to South Africa,  is just one example of this gorgeous art form.

When materials speak to you  and you listen,  anything is possible.

For more information on Zulu baskets, press Here.