…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.|



I have always wondered about the changes people go through at different stages in their lives. Rites of passage. Life crises. Lots of names for these things. And while everyone thinks their lives and thoughts are uniquely their own, very often they are very similar to the lives and thoughts of others.

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to read a book by Erik Erikson called Childhood and Society. Great book. He detailed these life stages that everyone seems to go through. In order for a person to develop appropriately, they have to successfully resolve all the issues of their current and previous stages. If you “skip” a stage, you have to go back and work through the issues of this earlier stage, before you can continue to successfully develop as a secure, functioning, self-fulfilling person.

The first stage is BASIC TRUST AND MISTRUST. The baby must learn to have Basic Trust, to continue to develop successfully. Erikson found, that for most people, their psychological issues in childhood, puberty and on into adulthood – depression, paranoia, obsessiveness, low self-esteem, self-doubt, whatever – often resulted from failure to resolve the issues in this very first stage of life. Mistrust of your mother’s nipple, or fears about the security of your father’s arms, or discomfort when held by others, had to be overcome, but often was not.

Erikson continued to define several stages up through young adulthood, and then stopped. It always frustrated me that he stopped here. Are there no other stages to life? What issues do I need to resolve to continue on into my adulthood? How unfair to leave me on my own like this.

I observed, and observed, and observed. In my 30’s, I tried to distance myself from old ties – family, friends, relationships, network contacts. I wanted to prove that I could accomplish some things on my own without help. And I did.

In my early 40’s, I went through a very rough mid-life crisis. I had a prominent job as a director of a primary health care association. I had a high salary, status, prominence. I was handling a very multi-task job, which, as a card-carrying workaholic, was up my alley. I had a great staff. Interacted with a full range of situations and people, some good, some rough, some not so good, but all very challenging.

What was unusual for me, though, was that I was distancing myself from the work world around me. I felt more like a consultant doing the job, rather than a family or team member. For many things, I was going through the motions.

It was a political job, close to several government programs, and caught up among the conflicting and competing politics of local, state and federal agencies and entities. I was charging through audit after audit, federal oversight, state oversight, sleazy and sometimes crooked expenditures of moneys. Glorified oratories and events were hoisted upon us from myriad nonprofit foundations, news media and newsletters and writing and photography and TV promotions. And I was not particularly caring. Assuming that I’d do my part well. And things would turn out. Not particularly challenging. Boring, reflective.

And amid this, my job and all it entailed, I had a mid-life crisis. Nothing really related to the job. Nothing about work pressure. Nothing about sleaze or corruption. Nothing about political battles with dragons and flies.

I found myself welling up each day with uncontrollable anger. Anger at my father. Anger at my mother. Damn, I thought that I had dealt with all these family issues in my 20’s. And then again, I felt that surely, after all the work I had done on these issues in my 30’s, what more could be left? Where was this renewed anger coming from? Why was it so overwhelming?

After a year and a half, the anger went away. Stopped. No longer the distraction to my job. Or my life.

I had decided to shift gears a bit. Break out of my parents’ expectations for my success, and follow my own. Status, money, position, title, career – I no longer cared about my parents’ disappointments. I settled for somethings less. Less money. Less prestige. Less getting into the center of things. Less stress. Less spending my time on someone else’s agendas. No title or career.

I didn’t care what friends or family thought about my stopping my world and getting off. I was ready to try something else.

I built up a retail business, because I always liked retail. I made, bought and sold jewelry, because I’m very artistic and creative. I played with, and sold the heck out of beads, because, …well, we all know what happens when you start to play with beads. Sometime after I got started, somewhat unexpectedly, I began looking for my Rogue Elephant. And deciding how to bead him.

My mid-life crisis wasn’t the last life cycle crisis I had to resolve, however. Life always seems to present something new every few years. I wish Dr. Erikson had continued to document these things. It would have made understanding the world around me so much easier.

In my mid-40’s, I had a sudden urge to reconnect to my family. And I did. I got closer to my father and sister, and some cousins. This lasted a few years, but I had changed a lot, and no longer fit in with many of their values and expectations – things I had rejected in my own personal journey many years ago.

When my dad died, and I went to his funeral in New Jersey, I had the chance to interact with his friends and experience his thoughts of me through them. Not a pretty picture. He was very disappointed in my choices. I was a little unprepared for all this. I had lived my life so differently from his expectations, and so distantly from him physically, that, honestly, this caught me by surprise and depressed me for awhile.

But my dad’s friends weren’t reacting to me, per se. They were reacting to my father’s images of the shape of a person he wanted to claim as his son. I wasn’t that person. His friends weren’t reacting to my own self-image. I valued my own self-image. So I got over this.

And in my 50’s, another life crisis knocked on my door. I found that I started obsessively questioning my choices in life. If I had done this, I would have ended up this way. If I had done that, I would have ended up that way. On and on. It became apparent to me, that I was realizing that I no longer felt that there were unlimited possibilities for me to find all the things in life that I would like to have had. There was a time horizon. Fixed. Finite. Very defined. There probably would not be enough time to put strategies into effect to get all the things done which I wanted for myself.

Could I have made different choices? I could have, but now it felt too late. Was I too opportunistic in life, and not sufficiently strategic? Why didn’t I keep up with more friends from college? Why didn’t I pursue my dreams to become an architect? Why this, and not that? Why that, and not this?

Now I was in my 50’s, though I felt like it was my 40’s. Each experience was so much fuller now, than when I was younger. But a sense of limits, a horizon on time, these were new. And my body. My body was showing signs of aging which my mind wasn’t feeling.

And, admittedly, I am very hairy, but hair began to grow in places I had never had hair grow before. My beard was actually growing along the edge of and into my lips. Each morning, I was having to shave my lips.

This is what life comes to.

Not career changes. Not parental expectations. Not art or craft or jewelry making and design or selling beads.

This is really what life is all about. This is what we have to aspire to.

Shaving our lips.

And there’s nothing better than jewelry, Rogue Elephants, and beading, to take my mind off of having to shave my lips.



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