Artistic deeds with beads: a brief history of bead craft

Beads are such versatile and varied objects. They can be made from materials such as glass, metal or wood and look great when added to jewellery, purses, coasters and other crafts.

Ingenious artistic people can also add beads to decorations, cards and collages.
Craft Supplies company Yellow Moon has a range of fantastic bead craft which can keep budding young artists happily entertained for hours on end. They are great resources for teachers and families with young children who are looking to encourage kids to make great art to display.

Beads are so commonly used in children’s art today. So it is easy to forget just how long beads have been around – helping artists of many generations to put the finishing touches to fantastic pieces of art.

Bead craft can involve attaching one bead to another. It can also involve the art of attaching beads to cloth. A needle and thread – or soft bendy wire – is an essential part of the expert bead artist’s bag of tricks.

There is much evidence – in the form of archaeological records – that beads were made and used as long as 5,000 years ago.

Rosary beads

Beads haven’t just been valued on the grounds of their aesthetic merit; they have also been used for religious purposes. The most famous example of ‘religious’ beads are rosary beads.

Rosary beads provide a physical method for Catholics to count how many Hail Marys have been said during prayers – the fingers are moved along the beads as the prayers are said.

Today, the vast majority of rosary beads are made from glass, plastic or wood. However, rosary beads have also been made from materials such as bone, crushed flowers, coral, crystal, silver and gold.

Early rosary beads were strung together using silk – quite an indulgence!

Native American bead craft

Native Americans are considered the masters of bead art so it might seem strange that they import most of their beads from Europe before transforming them into magnificent items, jewellery and art.

Glass beads have been in use for almost 500 years in the Americas and the title of one of the world’s best-selling bead books – 1930s’ Hiawatha presents Beaded Bags – is proof of why Native America is seen as the home of bead art.#
Next time you take a look at a beaded bag on the high street, bear in mind that the Great Lakes’ tribes’ crafts people take a year to make a bandolier bag.

Today, Native American artists such as Rhonda Holy Bear, Charlene Holy Bear and Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty are keeping alive the tradition of making beautiful dolls from beads.

Marcus Amerman of the Choctaw tribe is another celebrated Native American bead artist. His beaded depictions of Janet Jackson and Brooke Shields are the perfect examples of how the ancient art of beading has a place in modern art culture.

3D beads

So, what is the next big thing in the beading world? It could well be 3D beads – beads which can be put together to form 3D models of things like teddy bears. These 3D beads differ from normal beads in that art can be made by the beads alone (rather than attaching beads to cloth or other surfaces or by stringing them together).

The fact that most 3D bead instructions are written in Oriental languages has prevented them catching on in Europe so far, but they are sure to be a big hit when they are introduced to British shores!

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