Trend Watch: What We Saw at Bead Fest

While at Bead Fest

I saw as I’ve never seen before!  That’s because I tried on a pair of CraftOptics for the first time.

Bead Fest, Merle White, Kristal Wick, Tammy Honaman, CraftOptics

Though I’ve seen their telescopes before and heard wonderful things about them, this was the first time I sat down, put them on, and had the chance to examine and pick up some mighty tiny seed beads with the help of this amazing optical aid. Great magnification, and the light! OMG, it was like looking through a good microscope. Seriously, it made my heart go pitter patter.

A Trend or Two

Usually it’s stone rather than glass that catches my eye, but when I headed over to see what unusual cabs and beads Gary B. Wilson might have at his booth, I surprised myself.  Of all the material this outstanding cabochon cutter of many years’ experience had on display,  wouldn’t you know the three things that I got excited about were ceramic, paint, and glass! 

Ceramic fire bricks have been used to line smelters, where heating releases the desired metal from whatever rock it’s locked up in. In the course of smelting copper ore in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some of the molten copper infiltrated these bricks at smelters in the Lake Superior copper mining district in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  I’d seen samples before, with pure copper now neatly outlining the bricks, but this was the first time I saw this stuff cut into jewelry stones.  Very cool, and I love the colors!

Fordite is another industrial byproduct, and yes, it relates to the Ford Motor Company. Layer upon layer of paint used to paint Ford cars over the years accumulated in the plant and was removed . . . a little of which was saved by auto workers who were interested in gems and lapidary work. 


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Fordite cabochons by Gary B. Wilson

Cutting the layered material in cross section reveals a dazzling concentric pattern made up of the tiny strata of automotive paint. And it’s not just Ford paint cut into cabs, either: in April, Lexi Erickson shows Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist readers how to make a pendant with a piece of Corvettite!


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Fordite cabochons by Gary B. Wilson

Blue is the favorite color of many people, and Leland Blue is another smelter byproduct from Upper Peninsula, Michigan.  It’s the result of smelting iron ore from the Mesabi iron ranges with a particular charcoal made from beech and maple and a particular limestone flux. I love this kind of story, but this is also a very pretty blue glass.

As for what I saw a lot more of, you probably would have guessed this, but textured surfaces on beads and in jewelry are in: yarn, fabric, rough stone, matte glass, leather cord, and leather strips. Sugar skulls were also trending, as the show took place in mid October, just in time for Day of the Dead inspired ornamentation. 

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Sugar Skulls by Clarissa Callesen

And just to reinforce this idea, a week after Halloween I was in a pub where the bartender was showing off pictures of herself  serving on Halloween: with her face made up like a very colorful sugar skull!