Monday, April 20, 2009

History Lesson

Though not particularly free-spirited, my parents had a plastic bead curtain hanging in their bathroom for years. It came with the house when we moved there in 1979 and hung there, separating the toilet and shower from the countertop and twin sinks, until my parents updated their living space with some iteration of early 1990’s design sense. The red and clear beads were fused onto several dozen strings hanging neatly in a row, nearly reaching the floor. There seemed no better entertainment for a three-year-old (but in retrospect long strands of beads seem to present quite the strangulation hazard, don’t they?). Most of all I loved the sound they made when disrupted. First elegantly swinging in unison and then spastically crashing together.

Bead curtains, a few lost and lonely bead discoveries and the Cub Scout program, which recognizes merit and advancement with beads, all laid the foundation for my interest in collecting and making beads. To be certain, I don’t “bead.” I don’t make necklaces, bracelets or watch bands and I certainly don’t embellish figure skating dresses. My interest is in each individual bead and its inherent, intrinsic value.

I discovered polymer clay in a craft store and immediately realized the clay’s ability to mimic glass millefiori (me and everyone else). My early beads are generally predictable and mimic the polymer pioneers of the time but overall I loved this new found ability to make my own beads. By 1994, I discovered glass lampworking and polymer clay instantly seemed so passé. Glass carries status.

Since that time, I’ve gone back and forth. Glass. Polymer. Glass. Polymer. I still love both, but ultimately feel most expressive when working in polymer which is why I continue with this medium today.