An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Durability of construction – could my beadwork last longer than me?

6000 year old beadweaving (South Africa) with ostrich shell beads

Durability is on my mind this week as my lower back failed the durability test when I rather enthusiastically took to weeding our very weedy vegetable patch on Monday. It proved incapable of withstanding the wear and tear of my weeding efforts and a trip to the Physio confirmed that my back was probably less durable than my current beadwork!

With this in mind it seemed opportune this week to focus my series of blog muses on bead competition on the criteria of 'durability in construction'.

1200 year old glass bead
Put simply, durable beadwork lasts a long time even. And beads and beadwork can be very durable. For instance, archaeologists have found handmade glass beads that are now thousands of years old and still intact and I was luck enough to see 6000 old beadweaving still intact on a visit to the South African museum in Cape Town this time last year.  So, how do you make your beadwork last 6000 years?

Again, its simple.  For beadwork to outlast its maker beadwork needs not only to be well-made technically (see my last post on this - but it also needs to be made from durable components that are resistant to moisture, microbes, light, heat, cold and impact (e.g. being pulled, dropped or dropped on). That may seem quite an ask but here are some questions I've put together so that you can use to test the durability of your components. Perhaps I need a similiar list for my next visit to the Physio on Monday!

You might also find a previous posts on durability issues in seed bead finishes worth popping by and reading (

As always, I'd welcome thoughts and suggestions you have. Now, back to my back exercises so its durability can improve!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The new studio

I'll let photos speak for me today - here is my new studio (formerly known in our home as the garage!) all moved into. The table will be for classes once my destash finishes at the end of the month. If you live local to Drysdale just email if you'd like to pop in and see what treasures are left from my stash for sale.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Technical execution– towards workwomanship in beadwork

This week is the fourth in my series about criteria used to judge beadwork in competitions. My musings this week are about how technical execution, often referred to as workmanship, or given the number of women beaders, how workwomanship is judged? With Google at my side I searched through the criteria for various craft competitions where workwomanship is an active criteria of excellence for inspiration.

Quilters and embroiderers seemed to have some of the most specific guidelines on how to technically execute a competition piece. So, with thanks to those craftswomen my musings workwomanship in beadwork suggest that neatness and sound engineering are key. More specifically:

Neatness – is the beadwork precise and tidy?
  • even tension as appropriate to the stitch
  • invisible starting and finishing threads
  • no threads showing or crossing beads - no missed or broken beads. 
Sound engineering – does it work and is it hardy?
Cabella bracelet by Glenda of Dax DesignsIs it neat? Does it work and is it hardy?
  • strong joins, components, closures and/or clasps that work as they should
  • form suits its function – e.g. wearable beadwork sits or drapes well
  • durability – the beadwork will survive its use. 
Mind you, reflecting on these criteria of workman/womanship I think that the world might be a happier place if all that we made in the world met these critieria. I know my beading world would have been over the past couple of weeks. In the conversion of my garage to my studio several workmen seriously failed the neatness test – piles of plaster dust and sawdust seemed to appear just as they disappeared. Perhaps, that’s a good reminder to me that workwomanship in beadwork needs to be both neat and soundly engineered. One, without the other, is only half way there.

I’d love any thoughts you have on what makes for sound and neat beadwork and what we can do to work towards excellence in the technical execution of our beadwork.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sophistication in beadwork – how do we create it and judge it?

Sophistication in beadwork is the third of my posts reflecting on criteria used to judge beadwork in competition. Like all things socially and culturally created sophistication is a tricky thing to define and therefore to create and judge.

The concept of sophistication has it roots in Ancient Greece where a "sophist," was a master of knowledge or learning and it is derived from the Greek word "sophia" meaning wisdom. For beaders in contemporary times mastering sophistication in beadwork is linked to mastering broader contemporary cultural ideas of sophistication in fashion. These centre on ideas of good taste, classiness, refinement and elegance. They privilege subtlety rather than ‘bling’ and flashiness in the materials, shapes, colours and patterns of a design.

Sophisticated or not? What do you think? Hedron Rising by Glenda
Many writers suggest that these ideas of sophistication in fashion derive from European and Anglo-American middle and upper class definitions of good design, luxury and style associated with ‘old-money’ families and the traditional elite of a given society, such as royals and aristocrats (see for example, Cameron, 2010).

So, if you are not an aristocrat or royal whose sense of fashion and design defines what is sophisticated what do you do? How do the non-royal and non-elite beaders amongst us pursue sophistication in our beadwork? How we gain this allusive knowledge and master it? How we become masters of elegance, elite taste, refinement and elegance? How do we pursue subtlety?

A good place to start is Google images – try putting in some search words that take you to images others define as sophisticated. Look at the colours, shapes and patterns that emerge. Use these as inspiration for your designs. Mock up some colour palettes and keep them for your next design. Some word combinations that I found worked were:
  • sophisticated plus - royal fashion; women; colours; patterns
  • elegant plus: colours; jewellery; beadwork. 
You can also set up a special folder where you place images of colours, shapes and designs that others label sophisticated. Grow this over time and then try to generate some common themes/ideas that seem to emerge. When you design something have someone seen as sophisticated and elegant in mind, and ask, would they wear this? For instance, Mary – Crown Princess of Denmark, is often referred to in the Australian media as having an elegant and sophisticated sense of fashion. Choose an outfit she has worn and design something you think she would wear with it. Check with others to see if you have 'got it right'.

Often you will find the motto, ‘less is more’ summarizes sophistication. So, try reducing the number of colours you use, reduce the amount of bling (sparkle), pull back on complex patterns and reduce the diversity of shapes that you use.

On the other hand, if you just love bling and flashiness you might enjoy this quote:
 "[...] sophistication is a form of snobbery - it's based above all on knowing something another person does not." (Holleran, Andrew (January 2001). "Staying a Step Ahead". Out (Here Publishing) 9 (7): 38–80. ISSN 1062-7928. Retrieved 2011-03-06.) 
To explore the allusive nature of sophistication more you might enjoy these texts:
  • Faye Hammill (2010), Sophistication: A Literary and Cultural History.
  • DeJean, Joan (2003). The essence of style: how the French invented high fashion, fine food, chic cafes, style, sophistication, and glamour. New York: Free Press. 
  • Douglas Cameron (2010). Cultural Strategy: Using Innovative Ideologies to Build Breakthrough Brands. Oxford University Press.

Dax Designs - now on Artisan Co-op