Discussion Notes

The purposes of the bead studies group are manifold, including to explore new methods of beading, to experiment with variations on traditional techniques, and to study culture-specific beading techniques. The group meets in Nashville, Tennessee the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays from 1-3pm.

If you are in the area, please join us in our discussions. There are no fees.

Current Bead Study Discussion Blog



We have concluded our year-long study related to Valerie Hector's
bead research on Contemporizing Traditional Beadwork. We've
learned a lot about cultural-specific design criteria, and
strategies for using these criteria in contemporary pieces.

For the next several months, we want to begin to review how
techniques in other craft and art disciplines might be combined with

The group will be focusing on exploring how various art, craft and
alternative beading techniques can incorporate beads or traditional
beading techniques. We are looking at things like felting, kumihimo,
cross-stitch, other fiber techniques, pin weaving, and the like.

We want to encourage discussion, and hope everyone in the group will
contribute ideas and insights based on their own experiences.

1. What are the pros and cons and lessons learned when combining
beads with other crafts and arts?

2. How do we keep our beadwork pieces at the level of good art and
good design -- something more than simple craft?

3. By combining media, what kinds of compromises must we make, and
do these help us, or hinder us, in achieving good art and design?
For example, is "knitting with beads" the same as "beading using
knitting techniques"?

On the fall agenda for the Nashville bead study group:
Sept 6 - Susi Graves felted necklace or bracelet
Sept 20 - Kathleen Lynam fiber and beaded bracelet
Oct 4 - Vera Fox-Bond beading and designing with cross stitch fabric
Oct 18 - Connie Welch - pin weaving with fiber and beads

We will also continue to work on our quasi-serious, quasi-comical
book on How To Bead A Rogue Elephant. The group will be asked for
some input on personal stories and experiences on a host of critical
beadworking topics. Previous topics have included:
1. How do you organize and store your beads?
2. How do you know you've become "addicted"?
3. How have you set up your beading work space?


Below is a revised schedule for the next several bead study groups
in Nashville:

October 18 – Donna Hogan – Viking knit metal chain (need craft
wire in 24 or 26 ga)
November 1 – Connie Welch – pin weaving with fiber and beads
November 15 – Andrea Jones – knitting with beads
December 6 – Christmas Party with Dirty Santa
No class on 12/20
No class on 1/3
1/17 – Claudia Welker – pendant with pieces of gourds and beads

The focus is on multimedia beading, and most of the group is
combining beads with some type of fiber.

Everyone is having a lot of fun with the different techniques, and I
don't want to take away from that.

But, we need to bring in a little bit of design to the discussion

Question 1: How Easily Can You Combine Beads With Fibers, without
diminishing the integrity of either medium as an art form, when
dealt with apart from a mix media presentation?

For example, with the fiber bracelet that Kathleen teaches, she
creates a "fiber rope" and embellishes virtually all the surfaces
with beads. In a similar fiber bracelet in Beadwork or Bead &
Button recently (I forget which one), the fiber bracelet is
embellished with very few beads. In Kathleen's bracelet, the beads
are center-stage. In the magazine example, the fiber is center-

Which one is better? I know different people prefer one to the

Is the simple test of which is more appealing a sufficient measure
of the piece, when mixing two media? Or has one piece subsumed
the fibers in order to work better as a bead piece, and has the
other subsumed the beads to make the piece work better as a fiber

Is it possible to make the piece work both as a fiber AND as a bead
piece? If so, how? When would the resulting design be?

Question 2: Is FIBER more of a craft and less of an art than BEADS

You can literally paint and sculpt with beads. Can you do the
same with fiber?

Question 3: Does combining fibers with beads make the pieces too
crafty, and less art and less design?

Or, is there a way to combine fibers with beads to have your result
clearly be labeled as art and as design?

It seems to me that to achieve these ends, your piece or project
would have to respect both the structural integrity of the fiber
aspects of the piece, as well as the structural integrity of the
beads part of the piece.

The easiest way is to have both co-exist. Take a well designed
jacket with impeccable construction, and create a crochet beaded
rope as edging along the collar. Here you respect the structural
foundation of both media, and they coexist on the same piece.

It's more difficult to integrate both beads and fiber.

Kathleen taught the class on kumihimo (basically a fancy way to
braid fibers into ropes), and used strands of beads, rather than
lengths of fiber materials, and braided these. You end up with a
braided rope of beads, as if the braiding was a bead-stitch-
technique. There is no fiber per se. The resulting rope does
reflect both the structural integrity of the fiber technique, as
well as that of beads. But is it still a fiber-and-beads project,
or just a beads-project, without the fiber? And again, Kathleen
covers all the fiber with beads in order to end up with a satisfying

What do you think? Give your opinions and relate your
experiences. Try developing some personal answers to the questions
raised. Share them by posting them to our group.


Bead Study

The question this month concerns mixing different types of materials
within the same piece.

What kinds of successes and failures have you experienced when trying
to mix different kinds of materials in the same piece?

For example,
glass with gemstone
wood with glass
gold and silver
cord and thread
glass and crystal
plated and raw metal
ethnic and contemporary
rough and smooth

I personally find it very difficult to satisfactorily mix glass with
gemstones. When your eye hits a gemstone bead, it is drawn into
it. It hits the outer surface, but also focuses at different points
within the bead. When you eye hits a glass bead, it tends to stop
at the surface. My most successful mixes of glass and gemstone are
when I use glass that is matte/frosted, or two-toned -- especially if
at least one of the colors has been encased in a clear or transparent
glass covering. That is, if I can get close to duplicating with
glass how the eye interacts with a gemstone bead, I feel my final
piece is more successful.

Please share your response on-line with this group.


I have never been visually satisfied mixing so different kinds
of materials on a piece. I've tried doing that but seldom do I feel
convinced that my piece looks great. I find it difficult to mix
synthetics or man made materials to natural materials like mixing
gemstones with plastic rubber cord. I prefer working with all natural
materials together on a piece
and all made materials on another piece.

Hello Everyone,
I haven't been beading much lately. I've been trying to perfect a
bracelet I've been working on. When I got the e-mail about this
discussion, I went on the web to see what was being produced. They
were big chunky bracelets, all new to me.
About the subject at hand, I have had a problem with fusing
diliberately painted enamels & glass. Does anyone have a suggestion?

I am actually on a serious mixed material kick, it's the main focus of
my work lately. I incorporate mid-century plastics and small costume
jewelry elements with beadweaving or bead embroidery techniques. The
whole point of the work is in giving a careful and labor intensive
treatment to an item that might be considered beneath "fine craft"
consideration ordinarily.

A lot of my plastics and plated metal/rhinestone focals are nearing or
well over 50 - so the next decades don't really worry me deeply as to
how the pieces will fare - I find that plastics and plated base metals
often have more integrity than we assume. A half century of
disposable and temporary isn't bad for shelf life - I have cylinder
beads that haven't made it nearly as long.



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