…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.|


When you look at a bead, what do you see?

I doubt in these early years, I thought much about beads, except that they were a fun way to make money. It was fun to wait on people in the shop. It was exciting to make something, and have someone pay you for it.

I should have spent some time, however, contemplating the bead itself. When you look at a bead, what do you see? The answers are many. They are simple, yet complex. They are straightforward, yet multifaceted. They are material, yet ethereal. They are down-to-earth and practical, but also magical and fraught with possibilities.

So, when you look at a bead, what do you see?

Go ahead. Pick up a bead. Look at it.

What do you see?

I was once invited to give a presentation to a local group of women made up of widows of armed forces personnel. These mostly elderly women were a support group. They got together once a month for a luncheon, and had a speaker at each luncheon. I was invited to speak about beads and beading. The talk went very well. The women were excited about beads. At the end of my talk, I passed out to each woman there a sample of seed beads I had put into tubes. As each woman grabbed a tube of beads, I saw each one look from the tube to their hands. Their facial expressions turned from a joy to a grimace.

Beads in the abstract had been beautiful and fanciful. The beads had wondrous tales found in history. The beads had clever and smart links to fashion and the special occasions that fashion is all about. The beads had strong ties to what it meant to be a woman in the arts and crafts. But then, by putting some very small beads into their hands, I made them personalize the beads. And they looked at their aged hands, felt their limitations in dexterity, anticipated the pain they would experience working with such small objects, and that was the end of that.

In this early period of time, when I looked at beads, I associated them with kids projects, things you would do at camp, things which were unsophisticated, or things you would use to embellish other things. We were doing a lot of silversmithing at the time, and beads were used occasionally to embellish the silverwork. The silverwork was always center-stage.

I did not appreciate beads as a way to draw with colored light. I did not understand the dimensional and shading effects you can create with beads. I was totally unaware and unappreciative of stitching techniques, and how these contributed to the power of beads and beadwork. I never wore beads, so I could not appreciate their tactile and visual splendor. I just didn’t get it. My customers, for the most part, didn’t challenge me. The internet was very undeveloped. Bead & Button magazine hadn’t yet come out with their first issue. Again, here I was immersed in beads, and just didn’t get it.

Except I did get one thing: You can make money selling beads and selling things made with beads! I got that very quickly. And this propelled me. And propelled me. And propels me still.

I’m not sure at what exact point the bead became something more than just a part. Eventually, when I contemplated on a bead, I began to appreciate its power to channel light into art. I began to understand the idea of bead embellishment, not as a short-cut or cop-out or something indicative of not-so-fine-craft, but as enhancement, improvement, enrichment. I began to feel and see and think of beadwork as art. I saw a sexiness and sensuality in the curvature of forms, and forms over forms, bead to bead, segment to segment, and artistic piece to artistic piece.

Beadwork was me. Even though I didn’t know what that meant. Even though I didn’t know where it would take me. Even though I didn’t fully know or recognize the possibilities.

I wanted to translate these splashes of light and color mix and shadow I saw in my head, with beads, and achieve something more than a simple painting with paints or sculpture with clays. By contemplating the bead, I got a first whiff of my Rogue Elephant.

I’ve pursued it ever since.


How to catch a white elephant: Go to a place where there are white elephants. Bring with you a muffin (with raisins). Climb a tree. When the white elephant is close, drop the muffin (with raisins) in front of it. The white elephant will be happy, and eat the muffin (with raisins). White elephants like muffins (with raisins).
Repeat this procedure for five days in a row. After the fifth day, the white elephant will be used to its daily muffin (with raisins). The sixth day you climb the tree, bringing with you a muffin (without raisins). Drop the muffin (without raisins) as usual.
When the white elephant finds out that the muffin (without raisins) lacks raisins, it will darken in anger. And then you catch it the same way you catch an ordinary grey elephant.



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