Drawer 43: Mali Wedding Beads

“First Person Narrator”

Week 43/Drawer 43: October 25, 2017: “First Person Narrator”

In rural Mali, West Africa, a bride is given a strand of these glass wedding beads on the eve of her wedding. It is the Fulani tribe, which is 2.5 million strong, that has decorated their daughters with beads for over a century.  For equally as long, these pressed glass* bulbous beads were expressly made for the African trade in Bohemia*.  The Fulani tribe likes them because their shape is so feminine.  They were originally made in that shape from local clay; the glass ones gave families a new sense of style and status.

I ended up reading a lot about Mali, formerly French Sudan, which became truly independent with democratic elections in 1992. This land-locked country is twice the size of Texas and now has a population of 18 million.  The Sahara Desert takes up 68% of the acreage.  Many tribes are semi-nomads.  And guess who is a minority tribe in the desert?  The famous traders we met in Drawer 12—the Tuaregs!**

It was delightful reading about weddings: only Thursday or Sunday are good luck days for marriage; first a civil marriage in which the bride and groom individually state whether they want a monogamous or polygamous marriage.  Choice of the former has always been limited to single digits.  Then the bride is washed by the female adults; an Islamic ceremony follows; then there are several days of celebrating when family drops by.  Since families are polygamous with many members, they have to introduce themselves to each other!  The groom’s dowry is as many kola nuts (a stimulant) as he can afford which he presents to his father-in-law who shares it with wedding guests.

I admit to being culturally fascinated by Mali, but I must move on to the necklace. It sits on the neck as pictured:  the very center lies flat and, as it curves up to the neck, some beads rest on top of each other, creating a certain movement.  Each bead is separated by an interesting small Venetian glass bead that is clear with thin, closely-placed white stripes, resulting in a milky tone.

Each bead is 1” high and 5/8” diameter. It doesn’t feel heavy to me, but it may be a three-hour necklace for some:  a party necklace; a ladies lunch necklace.  When I put it on after weighing myself, the digital scale did not change.

It is 18” and earrings are included. The clasp and the ear piece are matching hammered silver metal.  $115.

*See Drawer 30 dated 7-26-17 for Bohemia and pressed glass story.

**See Drawer 12 dated 3-22-17 for the Tuareg story.

Drawer 37: Olive

“Empress of the Splendid Season”

My Chinese Apothecary Chest:   in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during my husband’s ex-pat assignment.   Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 37/Drawer 37: September 13, 2017: “Empress of the Splendid Season”

I never knew there were so many shades of olive until I looked into the so-named drawer #37. That said, the color of this necklace defies definition, even if the beads were living in my olive drawer!  It is a dusky green with gray tones…

I was pleased to see I had a good amount of American Art Glass which I paired with not one, but two, pieces of Lampwork Glass by Gail Crosman Moore. I balances Gail’s lush work with a common round agate.  A few inches of small faceted Labradorite provided subtle color support to the dusky art glass and brought the necklace to 19” in length.

 

 

The Art Glass is by David Christensen who used to commute from Rhode Island to California to sell his beautiful wares to folks like me. See Drawer 17 in my blog dated 5-3-17 for the Art Glass history.  These beads have the color embedded in the center—there are actually two shades of the color that my photographic inexperience may not allow you to see—and the clear glass surrounding each bead is cut in a diamond shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gail’s beads have been featured several times this year; they never fail to mesmerize due to the complexity of their layered colors and their unique shapes.

 

I chose the spacer/extender Labradorite beads to compliment Gail’s and David’s colors. Labradorite is a semi-precious stone that is usually gray-green in color; its attraction is the iridescence that seems to move depending on the angle it is viewed from.  I like how an Intuit lore describes Labradorite:  it fell from the frozen fire of the Aurora Borealis.

This necklace is very tactile due to diverse shapes and a color that calls you in for a closer look and touch.

At 19”, with earrings included, it is priced at $189.

I first introduced a Gail Crosman Moore bead to this blog in 4-11-2016. Others followed in 4-12-17 as well as 5-3-17 and 5-10-17.  To access these blogs, choose the month and year in the  ARCHIVES box on the right side panel of the landing page of priscillabeadle.com.

In a final postscript, my friend Sue, a lover of Labradorite, created a kitchen island top out of this magnificent stone!!!

Drawer 32: Cobalt Blue

“Fact from Legends”

My Chinese Apothecary Chest:   in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during my husband’s ex-pat assignment.   Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 32/Drawer 32: August 9, 2017: “Fact from Legends”

This centerpiece is part of a 1940’s lampshade from Shanghai. And it is amazing that it exists at all!  Shall I tell you why?

China was ruled by Mao Zedong from 1949, when he declared the People’s Republic of China was under one-party rule, until his death in 1976. The last ten years of his regime is known as The Cultural Revolution which aimed to purge capitalists and traditionalists from Chinese society in order to impose his own communist ideology. The purged were humiliated publicly; property was seized; youth were made to go to the countryside to learn from peasants; historical artifacts, such as Confucius’ birthplace, were destroyed; cultural and religious sites were ransacked; the only movies, books and theatre allowed were propaganda.  Mao said he killed 1.5 million people; the true number is alleged to be up to 6 million.

When we lived in Hong Kong from 1993-4, I read many books on the Cultural Revolution, fascinated by the stories told. I also searched the antique shops for cultural artifacts—and found the pieces of the lampshade.  The antiquarian told me how wealthy families managed to hide their treasures, mostly by burying them in the ground.  I also purchased a few finely-embroidered patches mandarins wore on their robes in the Imperial Court which ended in 1912.

As for the necklace, the beads are mostly cobalt Czech glass. The 14 cylinder beads are pre-war Bohemia pressed glass (see Drawer 30 for that history); the four small circles, plus the earrings, are glass beads made in Holland starting in the 1800’s for trade in Africa.  The lampshade centerpiece is enamel on copper and is trimmed in cobalt blue.  The clasp is glass with a sterling silver hook I fashioned.

The two-strand necklace measures 23.5”plus 2.5” for the centerpiece and dangles. The earrings are 1.5” long.  The set is $119.

This is a necklace I made some time ago.  It features freshwater pearls, garnet and seed beads.  I removed the tassels from the top piece and added a seed bead tassel.

There are four long single tassels hanging from the top piece and three pearl and garnet  single tassels from the bottom, between the long original silk tassels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are three of the four enamel-on-copper pieces from a 1940 Shanghai chandelier that I still have for future projects.

Drawer 31: Light-Medium Blue

“Something of an Asterick”

 Just like last week, I am focusing on the centerpiece while I am in the blue drawer. Only this time the centerpiece has a lot of orange, so, dear readers, I must cheat.  I must take the orange drops from Drawer 19 to make a great necklace.  Orange and blue are at opposite ends of the color wheel which makes them very compatible…not always true in our human relationships.

My compliments to fellow New Englander Stephanie Sersich (Topsham, Maine) for her wonderful Lampwork starfish. I met Stephanie at one of those gigantic bead shows in Oakland, CA, and found her here three years ago in the small but fabulous show the Bead Society holds each October in Watertown, MA.  Her starfish was alluring to me on all counts:  slightly irregular shape; polka dots, so many layers of scintillating colors!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an asymmetrical necklace. They are a lot of fun to make and a challenge to balance.  I often choose to go asymmetrical when I have a few stunning beads I want to highlight.  In this piece, there were an excess of fabulous blue beads, none totaling more than a half-dozen.  So I gave it a whirl.

Here is a description of those beads, starting from the clasp: flat rectangular vintage medium blue; two American Art Glass with lampwork glass in between.  Then the most challenging section to balance:  two odd-shapes with a large Art Glass in between across from one odd-shape balanced with periwinkle ceramic beads. The polka dot lampwork beads were irresistible!   The only beads I had volumes of were the orange Czech glass drops, so they became the glue as well as the “pop” that holds the necklace together.

Only you, the viewer, knows if all this asymmetry worked.

The necklace is 18” and the starfish dangles 2”. The clasp is an orange glass circle with a silver toggle.  Matching earrings of American Art Glass and orange drops.  The set is $145.

See Week 17 for details on American Art Glass.

Note to Leticia S:  your necklace is on the way!!!

Drawer 30: Purple

“Don’t Let Your World Get Small”

My Chinese Apothecary Chest:   in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during an ex-pat assignment.   Serves as the repository for my beads. Handcrafted. It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 30/Drawer 30: July 26, 2017: “Don’t Let Your World Get Small”

This necklace focuses on the centerpiece; it is an artist-made glass petal wrapped over itself, leaving a ruffled opening for the necklace designer to embellish. I will confess I bought 6 of these in different colors from the husband and wife designers and I have no record of their names.  My apologies since I pride myself on acknowledging artists I use in my work.  I further confess I have made them all in the same style; namely, with multi strands of seed beads flowing from the center.

There should be an equal focus on the rare Bohemia beads I used in the necklace. I wanted to keep their purple color flowing in the centerpiece and was able to bring in green with a tube of seed beads that are green outside and purple inside!  The glass drops are also Bohemia beads.

“Details of the centerpiece with seed bead embellishment. Also notice clarity of large Bohemia beads in the necklace.”

In 1995-9, there was a trader called Ava who held semi-annual trunk shows at my favorite bead shop in Palo Alto. She sold exclusively what she called “pre-war pressed glass beads from Bohemia”.  They were exquisite and expensive and I was smart enough to buy from her every time she visited.

Bohemia is actually the precursor of the Czech Republic and touched Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Poland. Glass beads were made there from the 12th century but not until a trade show in Prague in 1829 were they commercially introduced.  By 1850, the Germans had invented costume jewelry and Austria became the premier producer of the finest glass crystals in the world…think Swarovski.  Pressed glass (which means molten glass poured into a mold) boomed until the run-up to WWII in the 1930’s and then ceased during the war years.

In postwar 1946, the German glassworkers in Bohemia were given 48 hours to leave. They were able to take precious little; the Czechs moved in to their homes and factories.  But the Germans soon coalesced in Neu Gablonz in a bombed out ammunitions factory.  They still make pressed glass but not of the pre-war quality they made in Bohemia.

Now take another look at the 12 large round purple beads in the necklace and the five drops in the centerpiece strands: they are pre-war pressed glass beads.  Made in a mold, but no mold marks.  They are as translucent as any finely cut gemstone.  Dark purple large faceted glass discs and small light purple faceted discs finish the 18” necklace.  The centerpiece is 4.5” long and 2” at its widest.  Gold metal magnet clasp.  Earrings to match.  $159 for the set.

Drawer 27: Vaseline Beads

“Things Rare and Strange”

 

 

My Apothecary Chest: in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during an ex-pat assignment. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 27/Drawer 27: July 5, 2017: “Things Rare and Strange”

 When I found these opaque aqua beads in a section of Drawer 27, I gasped at their beauty, mostly due to the intensity of their color. As I fondled them, I realized there were subtle differences in their aqua shades; I also observed they were so old that their faceted surfaces had become smooth! They are trade beads, after all. These discoveries made this strand mysterious—what secrets were they sheltering?

Since the secrets are unknowable, let me address “What the heck are Vaseline Beads?”

Beads have been made in Bohemia (Czechoslovakia) since the Romans occupied it in 400 AD. Until 1400, they mostly made rosary beads.  In the 1500’s, a major expansion in bead-making began, attracting Spanish, Italian and English traders.  In 1800, the Industrial Revolution invented machines that produced pressed glass beads in great volume, different designs, and at lower prices.

One of those innovations was fluorescent Vaseline glassware and beads. The fluorescence was created by the adding uranium salts to the glass.  They kept lowering the amount of uranium to the 1-2% that worked.  It actually shone in the dark!  Today, with electric lights, a black light is needed to see the fluorescence.

Vaseline beads had their heyday from 1900 to 1920 and continued to be made until artisans lost their ability to buy uranium when governments became universal procurers in the 1940’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Typical Vaseline beads are transparent in color and usually yellowish green.  The short strand third from left look to me like they may be shine-in-the-dark variety! 

 

They were so named because their color resembled the petroleum jelly sold in the 1900’s under the Vaseline label.  Doesn’t that sound so mundane for beads made from uranium?

My opaque aqua beads are called Vaseline Beads, but they are a variation: during the Depression, iron oxide (a glass-ceramic) was added to the formula to create opacity.

Today’s collections of Depression glass, milk glass, Fire King tableware, etc. all have roots in Bohemia, uranium, and iron oxide!

Before closing, let me name the other beads I used in this necklace: aqua serpentine which is a cousin of jade; Czech glass “spades” drops; round matte glass which looks like ceramic due to iron oxide.  Also I was quite pleased to find an aqua glass circle in my “creative clasp stash” and made a sterling silver toggle for it.

The necklace is 20”. $115.

Drawer 26: Recycled Glass Beads from Indonesia

“Adventure of Sea and Sky”

 

My Apothecary Chest: in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during an ex-pat assignment. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, mostly sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 26/Drawer 26: June 28, 2017: “Adventure of Sea and Sky”

I remember the first time I saw recycled beads: probably at the giant quarterly San Mateo Gem Show (still ongoing) in the late 90’s, and my eyes popped at recycled Coke bottles—remember that shade of green?—made in Indonesia.  Due to my policy of never hesitating at the odd or the beautiful, I bought them.  In those days, they were made in Indonesia, now Ghana seems to produce a lot of recycled beads.  Pictured below are some of that original stash:  pretty unsophisticated as quality beads go, but screaming Coke bottles!  I also have some of the early blue ones made from old-style TV screens.  Both colors are relics now.

My journal notes as I string Drawer 26’s necklace. Also three of my Coke bottle recycled beads from my collection. Too bad they stopped making those green bottles!

I favor the long rectangular bars, 2” x .5”, since they are the most contemporary and I found a photo of a necklace I made around 2000 and allowed myself to be inspired by it. Most recycled glass is transparent although there are opaque dark blues and browns in my collection.  Here I have paired the transparent glacier color bars with diamond shaped beads featuring a smooth glassy top and rough etched edges.  The Indonesian recycled beads are handmade, easy to verify since no two are quite alike.

Instead of dark compliments as in my earlier version, I found a strand of grey freshwater pearls with subtle blue and green iridescence and made my decision. I used two different seed beads with similar iridescence (the colors are silver AB* and Japanese glass triangles with aqua outside and shimmering gold inside) and wove them through and around the diamond cut recycled glass as I did 17 years ago.

This necklace is 21” long with earrings to coordinate. $99 for the set.

*I learned something I wanted to pass on: AB is Aurora Borealis, a finish invented by the famous Swarovski company, and, in my world, they always connote crystals with an iridescent surface.

Drawer 24: Black (with other colors). Revised to show color😘

“Grand Illusion”

My Apothecary Chest: in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during an ex-pat assignment. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers, sorted by color.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 24/Drawer 24: June 14, 2017: “Grand Illusion”

Two weeks ago, I stated there were four black drawers. Now there are three!

I re-organized the contents into three drawers after tossing the ugly, donating the unwanted, and re-assigning others. I put iridescent beads, mostly shells, into Drawer 25 which you will see next week in a necklace of a very different style!

Let’s focus on this week’s design: Venetian glass.  It’s been a staple of mine for many years and I am down to a small supply left in Drawers 1 and 2.  I paired the Venetian with another love:  American Art glass by David Christensen.  See Week 17 for details on American Art Glass.

It is a mildly asymmetrical necklace but balanced so it will sit prettily on the neck. I needed some very shiny and medium sized beads for the top half and found those qualities in some plastic beads I bought at a yard sale back in the day when you could find real treasures in yard sales.

The clasp has a starring role with a fabulous oval piece of art glass and a sterling silver toggle I fashioned. Two perfect pieces of art glass found their way to the earrings.  All in all, a very satisfying creation.  20” long.  $99 for the set.

 

Drawer 19: Orange

 

Left to right: ‘S Wonderful and Lady Be Good

My Apothecary Chest: in 1994, it arrived via container to California from Hong Kong, where I discovered beading during an ex-pat assignment there. Serves as the repository for my beads.  Handcrafted.  It has 52 Drawers.

2017 Challenge: Create a Necklace a Week, using only the Beads from one Drawer at a time. Voila!  52 Necklaces!

Week 19/Drawer 19: May 3, 2017: “’S Wonderful” and “Lady Be Good” (Thanks, Gershwin!) 

An Ode to Orange:  It was accidental that I fell in love with orange and it was simultaneous with becoming a red-head.  It was primarily a wardrobe choice; then a home accessory; then beads.  A few years later I noticed I was presenting too many orange/coral/peach/rust necklaces, so I pulled back.  Now I settle for one at a time.  Never bore your collectors!

I found two interesting choices in Drawer 19, so I indulged my orange love and made two…against the better advice of mentors!

‘ S Wonderful is orange carnelian (read about carnelian in 3-22-17 blog) faceted beads, both small and medium in size, with a bold orange dichroic pendant with charming green squiggles and matching earrings. I found the dichroic at Glass Garden, made by a couple from Michigan,  in Bonita Springs, Florida, at their large 2016 Art Fair when all five Kelley Girls attended and enjoyed!  It is 19” + a 1.5” pendant.  Gold tone clasp. Priced at $89 for the set.

Lady Be Good started with the centerpiece, as most of my necklaces do. This creative take on a pod by Gail Crosman Moore (see blogs dated 4-12-17 and 5-11-16) is sculpted in oxidized brass in two pieces.  Inside is a lampwork glass thingie.  Feel free to name it!  I found a perfect match to the thingie in some orange vintage pressed glass melon-style beads.  I went longer for a 24” length + a 2” pod with a brass circle and toggle clasp and matching earrings.  $129 for the set.

This time I tried to be brief with words since I have three images, including one of me and my sisters looking like tourists under a banyan in Bonita Springs last year!

Left to right: Priscilla, Gail, Nancy, Maureen and Marilyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawer 17: Dark Green

 

“Fascinating Rhythm”

I’m challenging myself in 2017 to create one necklace a week using only the beads from one drawer of my 52 drawer Apothecary Chest.

Week 17/Drawer 17: April 26, 2017: “Fascinating Rhythm”

In the glass bead world, a hierarchy of three levels exists: American Art Glass (officially called “furnace beads”); lampwork glass which I use a lot; and blown glass (see Drawer #1).

These American Art Glass beads were designed by David Christensen, Rhode Island, and I used to buy them from him by the hundreds when I lived in California. This dark green color was attractive to me because when you look closely, it sparkles due to the silver foil with which he embellished the green.

To get wonky for a moment, “furnace glass” is an American adaptation of an Italian method called “latticinio” which uses glass canes—like all three levels do—and encases them in clear glass, then manufactures them in large scale furnaces. They are not individually made, like lampwork and blown glass.

The most predominant stone in this necklace is green aventurine, which is from the ubiquitous quartz family. Sometimes I have to look twice to identify these beads since jade comes in a similar shade of green.

Also featured are some lovely pressed glass beads made in West Germany. They were hand made from 1948 to the 70’s, when they switched to machines.  I bought these vintage beads from a CA vender in 1995, so there is a chance they were hand-made.  They are the distinctive bullet-shaped beads and the leaves with white stripes.

Green Aventurine has some interesting properties: they are the heart chakra; they comfort; they settle nausea; and they give courage to the wearer in social situations.

In my quest for an unusual clasp, I found a green glass circle and paired it with an oversize pewter lobster clasp.

This two-strand necklace measures 21” and earrings are included. It is $99.

Part of the fun of each week’s necklace challenge is journaling in my “Maker’s Notebook”. It starts on the right where I leave four spaces for data which can only be entered after I finish the necklace. The body of my scribbles are thoughts that emerge as I am designing, then stringing, then closing off the necklace and earrings. On the left, I then do a drawing and color it in. I draw after completion; my design process lets the beads percolate as I gather piles of them–a process too intuitive to draw in advance.