Monday 23 April 2012

"Patchwork" seed bead necklaces...

These are what I worked on all day yesterday. Haven't quite finished them, but...

For years I've been fascinated by the colourful mixed up patterns of the seed bead jewellery worn by many African women, hence my calling these patchwork necklaces. The hundreds, if not thousands of hours involved making their jewellery blows me away, and that's just the assembling part. They also make many of their beads by hand or in small production batches in simple wood-fired kilns.

I've always known that learning another's craft or art gives insight into how the person -- or the culture -- viewed/views their world and thought/thinks visually. Reproducing a work, studying it from the doing of it, to an infinitisimal degree allows me to crawl inside the artist's motivation and/or way of looking at the world, not to mention provides a deeper appreciation of their art of their place and time, whether it's drawing, painting, etching, calligraphy, bookbinding, paper marbling, and now all the different forms of jewellery-making (wrapping, chain maille, Viking knit, PMC, stringing, etc.). Jewellery, which is to me simply wearable art, if not wearable sculpture, is all positive/negative space to me -- which is why I was always drawn to the monochrome of silver and pewter in particular. Colour adds an impenetrable complexity. Still lots more to learn on the jewellery-making front, not to mention the geology of it which is a whole 'nother colourful and 3-dimensional world within a world.

Since my own use of colour is notoriously bad, I had to force myself to not overthink the process, just pick colours at random, work with them for a couple of inches, pick more colours, and not try to second-guess myself or control the final order. Maybe instead of patchwork, crazy-quilt would be a better term, emphasis on the first word.

I was also curious to see how long it would take to make one single simple strand: about three hours for the long one, over an hour for the shorter one. These still need to have the clasps finished, but here are some pictures.

The "bracelet" I'm wearing in the top picture is actually a 58" necklace; the other necklace is about 26". I've used fine wire to string them with and the long necklace has been double-crimped at each end so it will safely hold pendants if desired, and take the abuse of wrapping when worn as a bracelet.
About 26"

About 58"
More of these necklaces are in production. Still also working on the final design of the clasp loops. I've chosen to use the tried and true lobster clasps as they are the most secure.  
They will be for sale (at first world prices, alas), please email me if interested or you want to commission a particular length.
Thanks for looking!


Lisa Yang Jewelry said...

Love these bracelets! I have been experimenting with the colored seed beads too - but not nearly as successfully as you. Nice work with the colors!

Barbara said...

Thanks, Lisa. Believe it or not, I have a problem with picking colours. I'm a 2D b&w or at least monochrome artist from a way back. Putting beads of different colours and shapes together -- and making it look good eluded me for a long time. I was watching a Magpie Gemstones tutorial last year when Szarka mentioned "bead soup" and the penny dropped. Also, I love African beadwork and noticed how cool all the colours and patterns worked together when they stack up all the necklaces/belts. And started playing.

Barbara said...

Thank you, Annie.