Bead embroidery is probably my favorite form of beadwork. It's more like drawing or painting with beads, and I tend to get into a meditative and peaceful space while working on a project, especially a big one. While I was a night nurse in our local ER, I would often come home and get into the beadwork as a form of processing and healing.
Loomwork is often the first experience many of us middle class kids in America have with the craft. It has roots in both ancient European and ancient Native American craft traditions and lends itself well to geometric patterns and long or short strips of fabric like work. I use it for making belts, guitar straps, bracelets, dog collars-you name it!
Stitched beadwork, as opposed to stringing, loomwork or embroidery, is done in hand using a variety of stitches developed over the ages, from ancient Egypt and the middle East, to Africa, to Europe and the new world. New stitches and methods are still being worked out, but the fun here is learning a stitch and figuring out how to combine colors and shapes of beads into pleasing or useful objects.
The great influx of new shapes of beads and new theories of working with them has brought about a wonderful explosion of creativity from the 'bead world'. New designs and studies of how beadwork can translate itself into geometric forms or free form sculpture and design makes the craft a living, growing form of expression.
Hand Work as Meditation
Beadwork can be a form of working meditation and pure creative action. The spider in the picture is part of a large beaded flute bag, done on commission for a healer. Spiders are weavers, storytellers in many legend traditions and thought of as wise. I know I love them and adore seeing a good big porch spider or two on my porch during the summer months. Part of the joy of beadwork is the unexpected-ideas that seem to come from nowhere, fortuitous combinations that fall together, and striving, always striving to make things more pleasing and perfect, even in their imperfections.
Preserving the Past
Years ago, when my mother was still alive, I asked her if she had a button collection, as I was looking for interesting buttons to use in my beadwork. She excitedly took me down to the basement and unearthed a wooden wine box (probably held two bottles), that was full of buttons-mostly from HER mother's collection. The box came home with me and the button in the center of the pin in the above image became the focal point for the pin. I gave that pin to my Mom and she wore it happily. It came back to me when she died and is a prized possession. Not all of the buttons in that collection are as lovely, but I still pull out that box and use buttons from it fairly regularly.