Bead Work

Bead Work


Beadwork is the art or craft of attaching beads to one another by stringing them with a sewing needle or beading needle and thread or thin wire, or sewing them to cloth. [1] Beads come in a variety of materials, shapes and sizes. Beads are used to create jewellery or other articles of personal adornment; they are also used in wall hangings and sculpture and many other crafts.
 
Beadwork techniques are broadly divided into loom and off-loom weaving, stringing, bead embroidery, bead crochet, and bead knitting.
 
Most cultures have employed beads for personal adornment. Archaeological records show that people made and used beads as long as 5,000 years ago. Beads have also been used for religious purposes, as good luck talismans, and as curative agents.
 
Modern Beading
 
Modern beadwork is often used as a creative hobby to create jewelry, purses, coasters, and dozens of other crafts. Beads are available in many different designs, sizes, colors, and materials, allowing much variation among bead artisans and projects. Simple projects can be created in less than an hour by novice beaders, while complex beadwork may take weeks of meticulous work with specialized tools and equipment.
 
Ancient Beading
 
Broad Collar, ca. 1336-1327 B.C.E., ca. 1327-1323 B.C.E., or ca.1323-1295 B.C.E.,40.522, Brooklyn Museum
Faience is a mixture of powdered clays and lime, soda and silica sand. Mix this with a little water to make a paste and molded around a small stick or bit of straw. Now it is ready to be fired into a bead. As the bead heats up the soda sand and lime melt into glass that incorporates and covers the clay. The result is a hard bead covered in bluish glass.
 
This process was probably discovered first in Mesopotamia and then imported to Egypt. But, it was the Egyptians who made it their own art form. Since before the 1st dynasty of Narmer(3100 B.C.) to the last dynasty of the Ptolomies(33 B.C.) and to the present day, faience beads have been made in the same way.
 
These beads predate glass beads and were probably a forerunner of glass making. If you are a little short of clay and have a little extra lime and the fire is hotter than usual, the mixture will become glass. In fact some early tubular faience beads are clayish at one end and pure glass at the other end. Apparently the beads weren’t fired evenly.
 
The uneven beads were noticed early on, this led to experimentation, slowly at first. It took a long time for new ideas to be accepted in a conservative, agricultural society. One of the first variations to take hold was to color the faience beads by adding metallic salts. By the beginning of the eighteenth dynasty(1850 B.C.), faience making and glass making had become two separate crafts.
 
Faience beads were made in two basic shapes; flat discs and narrow cylinders. The sizes and colors may differ but these two shapes are found throughout the archaeological record from the earliest sites to the present day. Other common shapes include; the scarab beetle and melon shapes as well as specialty pieces for the ends of necklaces and bracelets.
 
Why were faience beads so common? They were cheaper and less labor-intensive to make than stone beads. Aside from personal use and daily wear they were used to create beaded netting to cover mummies. Most of the archaeological specimens come from burials.
 
As early as the Old Kingdom (circa 2670–2195 B.C.), Egyptian artisans fashioned images of gods, kings, and mortals wearing broad collars made of molded tubular and teardrop beads. These beaded collars may have been derived from floral prototypes. In antiquity the collar was called a wesekh, literally “the broad one.”
 
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