Are we in a mysterious world of perpetual winter? I do hope not: I’m none too fond of the cold! No, I’ve just brought you to my beading mat. I’m going to tell you a bit about beading here.
I could write thousands of words on the subject of beading, but I won’t. I know you just really want to get on with the fun bit and get a quick glimpse of what goes into a piece of Katie Dean Jewellery. If you do find beading as addictive as me, then I have a whole other website dedicated to the topic…My World of Beads…So pop on over there to satisfy your curiosity!
What is beading?
Technically, beading means joining together single beads to form a larger object. Now, that’s a pretty broad explanation and, as you may have guessed, there are lots of different ways of joining beads. You could glue them onto other objects, you can stitch them onto other objects (bead embroidery), or you can join them to each other. Again, when it comes to joining beads to one another, you can use thread, wire, ribbon, or just about any other material that you can fit through the bead’s hole. So, think freedom here. Think, rules that are made to be broken: because, yes, there are rules. There are many different techniques, all of which I have taught myself. (In case you are wondering, this is perfectly normal in the beading world. There are loads of great books, online tutorials and YouTube videos out there.)
Early Beading Techniques
I began teaching myself back in 2003 and I started with French beading. If you want the full low-down on French beading, then check out this blog post. The short version is that it involves threading tiny seed beads onto wire, then shaping this to form realistic-looking three-dimensional flowers…pretty cool huh?! So, I did this for a while and I ended up making a few wedding bouquets as commissions. (I still do, and if you want to know more about that, then visit my Beaded Wedding Bouquets website). Now, the trouble with beading is that one thing leads to another…
…having discovered the French beaded flowers, I found myself trying, and getting addicted to, Peyote! Sorry, I should make it clear: I’m not talking about the hallucinogenic drug that comes from a cactus, but a really, really old beading stitch. It involves using needle and thread to stitch…you guessed it…tiny seed beads together, adding them one at a time. You can use the technique to create flat strips of beadwork, circles, and three-dimensional shapes as well. I just love the flexibility! Before long, I had made a bit of a name for myself by making little cakes and sweet treats using Peyote stitch. You will see this theme recurring in my jewellery…oh, and if I’m boring you, please feel free to head straight over to the jewellery collection.
More Beading Techniques!
Surprise, surprise: there are lots of beading techniques using needle and thread. They all have slightly different thread paths. This means the layout of the beads looks different in each case. Different techniques create different structures for the fabric you are making. So, I made it my business to learn as many different techniques as possible. This gives me options: when I plan a project, I think about the effects I want to achieve and choose techniques accordingly.
You will notice that I have mentioned the technique used in each piece of jewellery. I try and link these to blogs that tell you more about the technique. So, if you are interested in that side of things, this website is the place to visit. Now you are getting more of a sense of what beading is all about (I hope the photos are helping you see this too), let me talk about beads.
Beads, Beads, Beads…
If you want a technical definition, a bead is any object with a hole through that allows it to be connected to other objects. A stone with a hole through could be used as a bead. In fact, our ancestors saw the potential here. They found stones, old bones, leaves, shells – anything they could turn into jewellery. If you want to wear it as a necklace and it doesn’t already have a hole for stringing, then just make one!
Beads have a fascinating history: they have been used as status symbols and even ‘coinage’, for want of a better word. ‘Trade beads’ are collector’s items today. Their precise history is not so savoury. European traders used glass-blown beads manufactured in Venice (Italy) to buy Africans to sell on (for cash), as slaves. I know my beads are precious to me, but to think that they once had a value equal to a human life is sobering.
Today, the beads I use are made from glass and are manufactured mostly in either Japan or the Czech Republic. I do also use pearls and crystals and even semi-precious gemstones sometimes. However, the beads I love most, because they are so flexible, are the seed beads. These now come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I have scattered a few photos about here to give you some sense of these beads. If you want to learn more about the exact varieties, then try this website. Again, my jewellery collection does tell you which beads I have used, with links, so you can find out more about them.
A Small Digression
While I’m talking history, I want to digress briefly and mention the history of jewellery. I’m guessing you’re here because you are interested in jewellery. (Once again, if you just want to get on and drool, then go straight to my collection!). You will be relieved to hear that I have no intention of offering you a potted history of jewellery. I just wanted to mention that jewels have always played such an important part in society.
Jewellery is all about self-expression. Don’t forget, that is self-expression for men as well as women. You do not have to go far back in history to find men adorning themselves with just as many rich jewels as women. Jewellery is also about status. We attach a value to the materials that we now use for making jewellery (precious metals, gemstones etc). You may identify diamonds set in platinum as the most valuable. So, if you see someone wearing jewellery made from these materials, you immediately recognise it cost a lot. From here, you probably make the leap that the wearer is very rich – that is what you are meant to think!
When you choose your own jewellery, you make choices based on what appeals to your nature (self-expression) and on the image you want to create. Remember what I said about wearing a chocolate éclair necklace to a business meeting? So, I’m going to make a bold statement here. If you are the kind of person who likes to blend into the crowd and look like everyone else, then please walk away from Katie Dean Jewellery right now. If you are enjoying my ramblings, then do please carry on reading this first – I’m very happy to have met you, even if we don’t become lifelong jewellery buddies!
A Controversial Idea
Why stop at one bold statement when I can throw another, bigger idea, out there? Some people regard beading as a craft. Other people regard beading as an art-form. Society tends to place more value on ‘art’ than on ‘craft’, I think. A lot of people perceive that you need skill, talent and training to be an artist, whilst anyone can take up a craft. In fact, I would argue that crafts also need skill, talent and training if they are to be performed at the highest level. Similarly, anyone can pick up a paintbrush or try some sculpture if they wish.
So, the second part of this idea. Remember what I said about value of materials? Well, I think it’s fair to say that most people today consider beads to be less valuable than, say, gold or silver. I think this is a shame. The beads I use are manufactured from glass and there is enormous skill in the manufacturing process. Trained artisans create shaped beads with multiple holes, or really tiny, yet uniform seed beads, materials that are of such high quality. A couple of centuries back, society saw beads as a fair exchange for a human life.
What I am trying to say is, if you are sitting here thinking that jewellery made from beads is going to be cheap, you probably won’t be coming back to Katie Dean Jewellery again. As ever, thank you for looking, lovely to meet you and if you know someone who you think would like this, then please pass my details on. Otherwise, read on my friend…
What does beading mean for you?
The fact is, the materials I use are costly because they are in themselves made with skilled labour. You have been getting a sense of the techniques I use. These are painstaking, skilled and take time – many, many hours in fact. If you think this should cost nothing, then think again. I have become so addicted to beading that I have literally thousands of hours’ worth of experience. This allows me to know what materials to pick and what techniques to use in order to create a top quality product.
If this still sounds like it could be your cup of tea, then you have some choices to make now…
…Go straight on over and browse my collection…
…Or for the more cautious amongst you, find out more about the background. You can read my top secret method for marking my jewellery so that you know you are buying a Katie Dean original. Perhaps you want to find out more about pricing. I do in fact believe that everyone should be able to own a piece of Katie Dean Jewellery if that’s what you want. So, you have a choice of buying the one-off, never-to-be-repeated works of art, or something smaller scale. You could even commission your own piece. Most importantly of all, you’re going to want to know how to buy my jewellery, so find that information here.
Before you head off and play, take a little look at this video. I hope you find it both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Thanks for reading!