…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren S. Feld

Excerpts From This Ever-Evolving Tale.....

I don’t mean to drag a poor Elephant by its tail, kicking and screaming, into our bead world against its wishes. Nor do I perceive the elephant to be a threat, like you might see an Elephant in the boudoir, or the fine china store. And I don’t want you to shut your eyes and pretend not to notice that this Elephant is here, standing shoulder to shoulder with every beader and jewelry maker around.

The Elephant is not a joke. And the fact that it is “Rogue” makes it more important than ever to figure out why it’s here, among size #10 English beading needles, and Czech size 11/0 seed beads, and Austrian crystal beads. It seems so worldly, yet other-worldly, our Elephant. It’s not our muse. It’s not our Cassandra. It has no secret plan or strategy. It does not depend on its size to make its point. It does not hesitate to stomp and chomp and clomp because the beads before it are raku or glass or gemstone or crystal or metal or plastic. But a Rogue Elephant in the middle of our craft room forces upon us a completely different logic, so that we can make sense of it all.|




The other day, I tried to link one of our web-pages – the announcement about our Beaded Tapestry Contest – to a crochet-themed web-ring. I received an email from this web-ring manager that she had received my request, and had visited our web-site. She discovered that we were linked to several Art-themed web-rings, as well. This, she pointed out, was unacceptable. She indicated that her web-ring was “G” rated, and that Art web-rings allowed pornography.

There was no more elaboration. I was wondering what she meant by pornography. It was difficult to imagine that any real XXX sites were linked in these ART web-rings. It was much more likely that some of the art-related sites had images that showed portions of the female or male body, perhaps in erotic poses, perhaps not.

I didn’t consider these kinds of things pornographic. She gave me the option either to delete myself from these Art-web-rings, or unsubscribe from hers. So I asked her to unsubscribe me from her web-ring. I guess she was a bit taken aback from my response. She emailed me a few more times to clarify my decision. I had picked Art over her.

I replied “let’s just unsubscribe me.” Nothing more. I kept it short, simple, unemotional. I didn’t ask for any more clarification on her views. I didn’t share any of my views. If that’s how she defined “G” rated, fine. I didn’t define it the same way.

And of course, she got a little retaliatory, as I found out after the weekend, that I had been removed from four more crochet-oriented web-rings, without any explanation.

I’m sorry, people, you can’t separate JEWELRY from SEX and SEXUALITY. Playing with beads and designing jewelry is not ColorForms. It’s not dressing up paper dolls. There’s nothing one dimensional about it. There’s nothing asexual about it. You can’t separate jewelry from sex and sexuality.

It can’t be done.

It can’t.


Get used to it.

As a jewelry designer, you have to be very aware of the roles jewelry plays in sex and sexuality.

One sexual role of jewelry is the “Peacock Role”. People wear personal adornment to attract the viewer’s attention. This means that the jewelry not only needs to be flashy enough, but also must contain culturally meaningful elements that the viewer will recognize and be sufficiently meaningful as to motivate the viewer to focus his attention on the jewelry and who is wearing it.

These culturally meaningful elements might include the use of color(s), talismans, shapes, forms. They clue the viewer to what is good, appealing, appropriate, and to what is not. But the jewelry must also provide clues to the individuality of the wearer – her (or his) personal style, social or cultural preferences, personal senses of the situation in which they find themselves in.

Another of these sexuality roles – The Gender Role -- is to define gender and gender-rooted culture. Certain jewelry, jewelry styles, and ways of wearing jewelry are associated with females, and others with males. You can easily label which jewelry looks more masculine, and which more feminine. Some jewelry is associated with heterosexuality, and others with homosexuality. I remember when men, in a big way, started wearing one earring stud, it was critical to remember whether to wear the stud in the left ear lobe (hetero) or the right one (gay). For engaged and married women, it’s important to recognize which style of ring is more appropriate, and which hand and finger to wear these on.

One of the most important sexuality roles, however, -- The Safe Sex Role -- concerns the placement of jewelry on the body. Such placement is suggestive of where it is safe, and where it is unsafe to look at or touch the person wearing it. The length of the necklace, relative to the neck, the breast, and below the breast. How long the earring extends below the lobe of the ear. Whether the person wears bracelets. The size of the belt buckle. If a person has body piercings, where these are – the navel, the eyebrow, the nose, the lip.

Jewelry calls attention to areas of the body the wearer feels are safe. Jewelry gives the viewer permission to look at these areas, and not others. Jewelry may give the viewer permission to touch these areas, as well. The wearer may want to call attention to the face, the neck, the hands, the ankle, but also to the breasts, the naval, the genital area. We know that certain areas of the body are more sexually arousing than others. We know that different people are more or less comfortable with these areas on the body, or with someone sexually arousing these areas on the body. But how does the wearer communicate that? How does the wearer communicate her (or his) personal views of what is sexually acceptable without having to physically interact with someone in order for that person to find out?

Jewelry. How jewelry is worn is one of the most critical and strategic ways for achieving this Safe-Sex goal. The line of the jewelry imposes a boundary line on the body. Do not cross it. And make no mistake, this boundary lines separates the permissible from the impermissible, the non-erotic from the erotic, the safe from the unsafe. Jewelry is not just a style preference thing. It’s a safe-sex preference thing, as well.

When news of the AIDS epidemic first burst on-stage, you saw a very dramatic change in jewelry and how it was worn. We’re going back to the 1970’s. Right before the AIDS epidemic, large long earrings were in style. Remember shoulder dusters. But as awareness of AIDS spread, most women stopped wearing earrings for awhile. Then gradually, they began wearing studs. Then very small hoops. It wasn’t until around 2004, that some women wore the “new” chandelier earrings, and you saw longer earrings on actresses as they paraded down the red carpets of one award show after another.

Prior to AIDS, the necklace style was for longer necklaces – 24” to 36” long. The necklaces were full – multi-strand, lots of charms and dangles. Again, as awareness of AIDS spread, the necklace profile changed rapidly to no necklace at all, or to thin, short chains and chokers. You would typically find ONE charm, not many, on a necklace. Attention was pulled away from the genital area, the navel and the breasts, all the way back up to the face.

Prior to AIDS, necklaces and earrings were the best-sellers in the shop. After AIDS, it became bracelets. Holding hands. Not necking. Not fondling. Not sexual intercourse. Holding hands was now the acceptable norm. This was safe.

Body piercings came into major vogue during the 1970s. And look at what typically got pierced. Noses, belly buttons, eyebrows, lips. Think of this as a big Body Chart for safe sex.

As society became more understanding of AIDS and how it is spread, the jewelry became larger. It extended to more areas of the body. People wore more of it. But in 2009, it was stilled restrained, when compared to what people wore before the 1970s.

In the sexual hunt between the sexes, jewelry plays an important boundary-defining role. Let’s not forget about this. Jewelry does not have to be visibly erotic, or include visual representations of sexual symbols, in order to play a role in sexuality – a role that helps the hunter and the hunted define some acceptable rules for interacting without verbal communication.



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