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  They were originally made in that shape from local clay; the glass ones gave families a new sense of style and status.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 36: LIME: Venetian glass

“Dreaming the Dreams”

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 36/Drawer 36: September 6, 2017: “Dreaming the Dreams”

I’ve expressed my love for Venetian glass many times and the romance continues with this week’s choice. This shade of lime is especially dreamy.  Actually, I do believe the gold foil centers of most of the beads causes the lime to impart a special glow on your neck.  I have worn this twice and the compliments were many!

It is my opinion that Venetian glass is made by true artisans on the Island of Murano, a vaparetto ride from Venice ( details of my visit there in Blog dated June 29, 2013).  Those artisans are the designers and the flame workers:  they both have their hearts involved in achieving outstanding results.  You don’t find any of the Venetian beads I’ve showcased this year in a bead shop (apologies to my local purveyor, Beaucoup Beads in Scituate…I still love to shop with you!), rather you have to go to shows where vendors lay out their best stuff, and make you drool!

Regarding this necklace, the 11 squares trimmed with yellow measure 7/16th of an inch…small, but large enough to be noticed.  There are smaller squares, only 1/4” across, that I used as spacers.  Be sure to notice two round lime beads with gold foil centers that comprise the focal point.  In fact, all these beads except the distinctive square ones have gold foil centers.

This 18.5” necklace comes with matching earrings.  Gold metal clasp.  The set is $109.

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 25: Iridescent

  Week 25/Drawer 25: June 21, 2017: “I Believe I can Fly”

 I’ve made perhaps ten of these complicated woven necklaces in my 22 years as a bead jewelry artist. As a beginner in the 90’s, I took lots of classes from a lot of fabulous well-known instructors.  I loved learning about other artists’ styles and methods, hearing their tips, fondling their samples, and buying their beads and books.  For me, there is no better way to spend time.

helen dietze (always lower case) gave classes in making “Ambassadors”—knotted woven seed bead chunks about 2” x 6” strung on thread which was tied in a knot and worn long. As named, she took them on her travels and gave them away.  She also taught her techniques, including an advanced class where the Ambassador was used to encase a beautiful extraordinary object preferably found in exotic places.  These creations were meant to exemplify the “more is better” theory.  This class was made for me!

 

 

 

 

So, helen, here is what you taught me 20 years ago, adapted to my style, and an appropriate challenge for Week 25, almost halfway to the end; almost to my 75th birthday!

 

 

 

 

A bit of a bio of helen: Born in perhaps 1919 (she disallowed discussions of her age); she studied art at the Rudolph Schaeffer School of Color and Design in San Francisco; was widowed in 1959; lived in a house in San Leandro, No. California, which was packed to the rafters with mosaics, yarns, looms, and beads.  Small of stature, she was tall in presence:  perfect make-up with signature red lipstick; hair up in a chignon; black clothing; and always a major necklace on her neck.  She was our Georgia O’Keefe.  helen passed away in 2004, at approximately age 85.  Needless to say, the crowds at her memorial were huge.

In closeup, above, in step 5.

To describe my necklace, I shall do it in terms of the construction process (usually called my design process):

  1. Go to the bottom of the necklace and find the knot of beads. This section, about 2” x 2” is the “Ambassador” starting point. I added the sterling silver fish and the pewter frog. Attach it to the 4” long shell with some holes supplied by Mother Nature.
  2. I weave and knot my way up and over the shell strip using multi-color beads of varying sizes. My principal colors reflect the iridescent shell—greens, pinks and greys in all shades. Blues and reds thrown in for punch.
  3. Practicing “more is better”, I add another shell, 2” at its longest. By now I am working with four strands of strong bead thread on each side.
  4. I start up one side. I string 2-3” on two strands and knot them. I string a new strand, add a few beads to one of the strand I just knotted. Repeat over and over. But I only go up 3-4” on this one side.
  5. Then I turn my attention to the other side, always consulting side 1 to assure balance by bulk and color.
  6. Note the Guatemalan fish dangles at about the 4” mark. Here I terminate one strand on each side so I can progress with three strands.
  7. I work narrower as I round the neck area, tie off and cut one more strand to finish with only two.
  8. The darling frog button gets attached on side 2 and I string medium size Czech glass on the loop side, completing the closure and the necklace. It took 22 hours by my best guess. Did you find the fourth fish dangle?

This woven necklace is 22.5” long. The centerpiece section is 7”.  $139.

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 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.

Drawer 16: Pink

“PINK: One Word Sentence”

 

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 16/Drawer 16: April 19, 2017: “PINK: One Word Sentence”

A half a dozen years after I started beading, I became a redhead. I stopped wearing pink since it clashed with my hair.  I guess I also stopped buying pink beads, because when I pulled out Drawer 16, I was surprised at its sparsity.  Besides the one bag of pink Czech glass that dominates this necklace, all I had were bits and pieces.  For example, near the clasp, note the two “lacy” round beads and the larger pink ones of the same family as the dominant beads–there were exactly two beads in each plastic bag.  Now there are none.

I have many pretty pink beads: the ones with embedded green leaves (maybe dots to your eyes); vintage faceted clear and pink; and the triangular ones near the centerpiece and in the earrings as well.

The centerpiece is from my large lampwork glass collection and features pink and lavender roses, er, flowers, with leaves. It measures 2.5” and is a real statement!

Riffing off those flowers and leaves, I couldn’t resist designing four clusters of them into the body of the necklace. I wanted each cluster to be unique, so I pulled different shades and styles of leaves and flowers, and randomly assembled them.  It took some time and involved close work, but I found the process very satisfying.

 

Work in progress:

 

Laying out the design.

 

 

 

First cluster is made!

Finally, the clasp is a pink glass circle with a silver toggle.

This is the first and perhaps the only necklace of this Challenge to be strung in thread which is especially adaptable to the clusters in this woven piece. I used three strands on each side to give the three-dimensionality I wanted to the clusters.

This necklace is accompanied by earrings using beads from the necklace. It is 26” long plus a 3.5” dangle.  $129.

Drawer 15: Peach & Gray

 

“Emotionally Rich”

 

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 15/Drawer 15: April 12, 2017: “Emotionally Rich”

Since I had just a few peach and gray beads, I put them together in Drawer 15 and they have co-existed over the years. While rummaging through the drawer, I was excited to find two strands of gorgeous peach aventurine to feature this week.

Aventurine is a crystal with a lot of quartz in it, mostly opaque and often green, leading some to incorrectly identify it as jade. Peach is a lesser known aventurine color which is achieved by the presence of the minerals orange mica and pyrite (aka “fools’ gold”). These minerals are said to enhance creativity.

When I found the four large peach aventurine ovals, I knew I had enough to make a two-strand necklace! Notice how the sparkle of the coppery seed beads brings out the brightness of the minerals.

The highlight of the necklace is the lampwork glass creation of Gail Crosman Moore. Gail is special to me: a familiar face at the many CA bead shows where I shopped; she is from Western MA; and she is a redhead!   Mostly she is a truly creative artist as she wields colorful glass canes in one hand and in the other hand, she shapes the molten into a unique bead, all while wearing protective gear in front of flame!

Shaped like a bell, the centerpiece is peach with striations of green and blue. The bottom has beautiful blue pods waiting for your caress.

Read Gail’s website and be sure to note her shop in P-Town!

This necklace demanded a copper clasp and is accompanied by a simple pair of copper and aventurine earrings. It is 20” long.  $115.