The Art and Craft of Beads
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There used to be a time when the term “bead crafts” brought to mind bracelets loomed at summer camp, or brick stitch earrings with long fringe that you might buy in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert. Lately, though, I’ve noticed a new respect for bead crafts, and this goes to include not just beaded jewelry, but beaded sculpture, beaded objects, beaded wall hangings, and beaded accessories.
Bead crafts have exploded to include things made with wire, resin, and even mixed media art techniques. Just when I think I've seen it all, I attend a bead show or a class and I see something exciting and innovative that has me convinced that the world will never run out of things to do with beads.
The word “craft” always contains the word “skill” in its definition: when craft is used as a noun, it means an activity using skill to make things by hand; when used as a verb, it means to use skill in creating something by hand. Sound familiar? Yes, the art and craft of beads takes time to master, and some of us would be perfectly happy spending an entire lifetime perfecting our skills at bead crafts.
Fine Art vs. Fine Craft with Beads
When I decided to take the plunge into the world of high-end craft shows, I was dismayed to see how many artists of other mediums looked down on my chosen medium — bead crafts. I was even denied entry into one show because the jurors categorized my bead-weaving as "simple assembly of pre-existing materials". On the other hand, I have attended many craft shows, both as a seller and as a buyer, where the majority of the "crafts" being sold are cheap, imported items, or items that have had a minimal amount of embellishment applied to them. (We're talking hot-glue-ribbons-to-a-watering-can kind of "crafts", here, and not at all what I would expect to have seen for the booth fees and entrance fees that I paid.)
After one such disappointing craft show, I got all fired up about the craft of beads, and decided to make it part of my mission to educate people about the rich history of beadwork and the technical skills needed to create sturdy, beautiful beaded jewelry. I did my own research, talked to other bead artists, and started volunteering to teach bead art at some of the local schools. The more I referred to the art of bead crafts, the more the students understood that this was just like any other medium and required its own set of special skills.
Hone Your Bead Craft Skills
My favorite part of being a bead artist? Expanding my set of jewelry-making and beading skills, of course. Whether it's through a great book or beading magazine, a class at a local bead shop or a big bead show, or a great video streaming on my computer, all of us should be exploring, seeking new ways to make the best beadwork we can.
If learning by video appeals to you, check out the videos available on Craft Daily. Especially for those of us who enjoy mixing beads with other crafts like knitting, crochet, and mixed media, there are over a hundred great crafting videos available for instant viewing on your favorite laptop or desktop computer. For the price of just one online class somewhere else, when you subscribe to Craft Daily, you get access to all the crafting videos available! Check out some of your favorite videos for bead crafts from Beads, Baubles, and Jewels available right now on Craft Daily!
The next time someone asks you about your beadwork, what will you tell them? Will you tell them that you're a bead artist? Or maybe that you create fine crafts with beads? What do you think about the evolution of beadwork as an art form in recent years? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share your thoughts about the art and craft of beads with us.