HOW TO BEAD A ROGUE ELEPHANT
warrenfeld
…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren S. Feld
blog.landofodds.com

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.|

CURRENT ROGUE ELEPHANT BLOG ARTICLES

Introduction


WOMEN & men

Women get together and bead. They sit around a table. They talk. They gossip. They share bead stories. They share personal stories. They complain about the difficulties in life, and they extol the joys of living their lives. And they bead. At least a little. Some more than others. But it’s often difficult to tell if the talk is more important, or the beading. Or if all the talk is too distracting for some. Or not distracting enough.

Women get together and bead in classes. They get together and bead around the dining room tables in their homes. They attend workshops, and sit in a circle and bead. They join bead societies, and sit in a circle and bead. They arrange retreats so that they can sit in circles and bead. Why do so many woman like to sit around in a circle and talk and bead? Vera says it’s so I can get an education about women when I’m with women.

But anthropologists tell us this was always so. Women sat in circles and talked and crafted. The circles provided a measure of convenience. They provided a sense of safety. They allowed women to reconfirm their places within the group. They allowed women to learn the basic rituals in life, and to transfer this knowledge to their children. They offered women some sharing of responsibilities, especially for child raising.

It was because women so frequently came together to sit, circular, with one another, and because the tasks they did, while in these circles, were so involved and complex, that language was born. Women had a lot to say. They had to keep their children alive. They had to influence their child’s development. They had to balance the gathering of food with the rearing of children. A few guttural sounds, and the waving of hands, was insufficient. So a language of purpose was born, and the circles of women had one more added responsibility – keeping the language going.

Men, on the other hand, only needed a few sounds to get through their day. A “grunt” for “This is a good place to hunt.” A “grunt-grunt” for “Here comes the woolly mammoth”. And a “grunt-grunt-grunt” for “Run, here comes the woolly mammoth!”

Men also had an “Ah” for “This rock looks like it will sharpen up well.” They had an “Ah-Ah” for “I’ve made a sharp point with this rock.” There was an “Ah-Ah-Ah” for “Look at the spear I’ve made with this sharp rock point.” And then an “Aaaaaahhhh!” for “I speared myself with my sharp rock point!”

These grunts and ah’s would get the men through their day. They were sufficient.

But not for the women. Grunts and ah’s couldn’t capture ideas like, “Your baby threw up over me,” or, “Don’t eat those berries – they’re poisonous,” or, “These leaves and shoots would make a pretty dress.”

At first, in the earliest circles of women, various women would invent words, but they would talk across each other. [I’ve heard some say that this continues even until today.] Women had difficulty making themselves heard and understood. They might try shouting the word louder, or more frequently, or right into another woman’s face. But this probably precipitated fighting, perhaps a punch in the face. Early language use was probably a tower of Babel – no one speaking the same things.

To rein this in, to correct for this chaos, to bring order to language, rituals were born. By convincing all the women in a circle to perform in the same way, they could label each performance. And with each label, everyone could understand. Some rituals were religious. Some were social. Some social rituals were oriented around life cycle events, like birth, puberty, marriage and death. Some social rituals were oriented around the gathering and preparing of food. And other social rituals were oriented around making things. It was important that everyone perform in the same way, do the same things, and use the same labels for things. This had survival value.

Concepts were channeled into words. Words delineated activities and events. Women whose performance held closest to the words -- as defined by the beliefs about the concepts underlying these words -- had higher status. Women were keepers of the “word”, and those that did a better job of “keeping”, had higher status. These women were judged better. More right. More righteous. More proficient.

And beading was eventually born. Women used the small seeds and berries around them to adorn themselves. They added small shells, pieces off bushes and trees, and animal parts. They figured out ways to string these together and secure them in place. They developed the “Needle” and concepts for making and utilizing these needles. And women sought to preserve beading by performing it over and over again in the same way. And performing it within their tight circles. And with the smaller materials, objects and tools they had at hand.

Which brings us to men.

Men made jewelry, too. They made jewelry that did not need an elaborated language to inform them what to do. Given how men envisioned the design of hand-made things, they gravitated towards larger objects. Men hammered these. They put holes in things. They bent things into hooks, and rings, and connectors. Their jewelry was informed by strength. It didn’t take much of a language to demonstrate how to hammer things and make holes in things. They could easily teach others.

And this teaching was a source of power and strength. Men who could teach faster had higher status. Those that could develop tools to hammer and drill faster, cleaner, better, more exacting, using ever-harder and harder stones and other materials, continued to have higher status. Those that could build mechanical devices to achieve even better ends, secured their higher status.

For women, large, heavy tools and objects were inconvenient. They preferred smaller things they could manipulate, while gathering nuts and berries, and while nursing and caring for their children. Women relied on their fingers and hands in different ways than men. Some might suggest this was only a difference in scale; others might argue that these differences were significant. But the importance of the hand in craft was critical from the start.


As humans, for both WOMEN and men, their beading and jewelry making were informed by a sense of design. Undeniably, there was always a sense of design in craft. The degree to which WOMEN and men could implement their design sense, however, was limited by language and ritual. If they couldn’t provide a Name for something that they could envision in their mind, it was difficult to make it so. If they couldn’t create ways to teach themselves or others to recreate these Imaginations over and over again, the design concepts would be lost. And humanity would be lost. Or at least, set back.

Earliest humans most often assigned spiritual meanings to words and concepts associated with jewelry, to help them remember their sense of design. Some shapes and designs became strongly associated with social rules and social preservation. Eventually Art was born, and many more meanings could be assigned, and assigned in more complicated, elaborated ways. The expression of design would come to have many more pathways. It became much easier to progress with humanity. And more challenging. And more fulfilling.

Whether the ways of WOMEN or the ways of men were better at fostering jewelry, beading, design and creativity, … well, this battle is still getting fought out today.


Why do more WOMEN bead than men?

The “woman” thing. It’s not that it hasn’t been interesting. Or adventureful. Or something. Gender is an underlying theme, even tension, in beading and jewelry making. It’s there, but often unspoken. It plays out in many ways, and as a guy, it comes unexpected at times, unpredictable, unfathomable, unexplainable.

Virtually all our customers are women. Virtually every student in our classes. Virtually every member of the local bead society. Virtually all our teachers and staff. And that is true at the other types of craft stores in town, as well. You wonder where the men are, if for no other reason, than you can make a lot of money at this – designing jewelry, making high-end crafts and art. The ability to make money usually attracts men. But not necessarily to beading.

You see men at art events, art groups, and art societies and guilds. You see men at wood working and silver smithing and wire working events. But they seem to be very shy about beading and bead stringing. Perhaps men are intimidated by the size of the very small pieces used. (Although men don’t seem to be as intimidated by these same small pieces, when used to make fishing lures.)

Perhaps men can’t envision how beads get strung or woven or otherwise manipulated. I know a lot of our guy customers have trouble figuring out how to open and close most clasps. Yes, men seem shy around beads. Not sure why, except for the “woman” thing that seems to underlay these.

The “woman” thing.

What makes female customers take out their frustrations on our female staff, but not on our male staff?

What makes female bead society members get angry when a male wants to run for an officer position?

What makes female customers, unlike male customers, take their local bead store so personally, and expect a very high and personal level of service, when they would not place such high expectations on their local Walgreens pharmacy or Michaels craft store or the Wal-Mart down the block? And when they don’t get that level of service at the moment they want it, why do women seem to hold grudges, and hold them forever?

I don’t know if this is a Nashville phenomenon, or not, but why do so many women take “ownership” of their local bead store, and take “ownership” very personally. “MY STORE” as opposed to “YOUR STORE.” They pit bead store against bead store is some very war-like and ugly ways. They organize campaigns to prevent people from shopping at other stores, than “MY STORE.” They go into major panic mode when caught with a tube of beads with a label from another store. And if they feel any whiff of a slight by anyone at “MY STORE”, “MY STORE” quickly becomes “YOUR STORE”, and they begin waging war from the other side.

There are lots of dramas that play out with beading and in beading – I never fully understand them, but they swirl around me nonetheless. Some of these seem keyed to “gender.”

But, so what? So what if there are differences between women and men, when it comes to beading, jewelry making, and shopping for beads and supplies? Who wants to know? Why? What’s the implication for the jewelry designer? Does it matter whether the jewelry designer is male or female? Does it matter if their Rogue Elephant is male or female? Does it matter if their client is male or female?

Should everything be gender neutral? That is, should we try to attract more men into beading? Or should we leave this as a primarily woman’s domain? Or, should we kick the women out, and make it a men’s domain?

I have some observations, but no real answers.

Why, I ask, did our bead studies group – mostly all women with two men – find it so hard to ask one very disruptive woman to leave the group?

We had had a woman join our bead studies group for awhile – let’s call her Henny --, and there was something a little off about her. She claimed she could not understand peyote stitch, for example. Yet she created a couple dozen pieces, each about ½’ long. You get a lot of peyote into ½ inches. She not only asked, but demanded, of the other women that they spend time with her showing her how to do it, and do it again, and do it again. Pretty soon all the women who had taught her began to wonder about each other’s teaching abilities. Why couldn’t any of them get Henny to learn peyote?

Henny had convinced each one of them that it was the “teaching,” not the “learning,” that was the problem. After all, once you get the peyote stitch started, it’s relatively routine to continue it. I pointed out to everyone that Henny’s problems always began at the ½” mark. This was true in the various classes she took, and what some of our other teachers had observed. Whether bead stringing or bead weaving or wire working, Henny always stopped her projects at about ½" in length, and complained she couldn’t get it. No matter how many times she restarted her projects, she could never get past this 1/2", and none of her teachers could get her past that point. She was playing them, I told them, and she was very disruptive to the group.

No one wanted to deal with the situation, let alone confront her. One of our group members learned that Henny had belonged to a knitting group nearby as well. The women in this group hated her. The women decided to disband their group, in order to get rid of her. There too, they had an almost primal reluctance to confront her.

This seems to be one of those women’s things again. They would rather hurt themselves and give up their group, than confront another woman. They have such empathy for all the women in the world and all their problems and all the reasons why some women will never be whole, that they have difficulty confronting one particular woman who is currently making their lives miserable.

We eventually exorcised Henny from our advanced beading group by changing study topics. As an advanced beading group, we were about to begin a new series of studies. We set out some general rules for the group, where the group would not take the time to prepare people who were not quite at the level of the group. The group members wanted this time to be the “students,” not the “teachers.”

Based on this rule, Henny would have to take some more classes, before continuing with the group. I pointed out to Henny that no one else had needed help in doing the peyote stitch, or other stitches or techniques. Her continued need for help showed she wasn’t ready for the group. I put things in writing for Henny, suggesting a specific course of study.

She continued on the war-path for awhile, asking for sympathy for her 4 of 5 mothers who had died, (People should remember the stories they tell, before they retell them), her husband’s refusal to allow her to take classes on Saturdays, or any other day of the week that the bead study group did not meet, and pointing out what she felt were double-standards in how we applied our rules of continued entry. She took this as a personal attack, and began to attack others. She sent emails to various people, pointing out how other people were somehow doing wrong, being wrong, and the like. She sent emails to friends of members of the bead study group, as well as to national instructors of whom the group had talked about. (After two years, and she was still sending out her emails.)

Henny could have taken the Bead Studies group down with her.

Because the women in the group did not want to hurt her feelings.

I think that men, in this stressful situation, would fight or flight. They would have asked her to leave. The women seemed to want to tend and befriend.

But I don’t know. Perhaps if the group were all men, they might have acted the same way. Or perhaps not.

Why do we distinguish between things/activities/roles/situations for women and things/activities/roles/situations for men?

WOMEN and men. My mother was one of the first female pharmacists in New Jersey. When my family went to a pharmacy convention, much to the consternation of and a little jealousy by my father, also a pharmacist, people would always point to my mom – there she is, one of the first female pharmacists. When husbands and wives split up at these conventions – pharmacists to meetings and women to women’s auxiliary functions, my mom always went with the men to the pharmacy stuff. I noticed differences in how men and women were treated from the start.

While my dad always showed my mom the respect any pharmacist would deserve, during the times when I was in high school, college, and my 20’s, he applied a double standard. He refused to hire a female pharmacist. The standard he went by assumed that women pharmacists were not as proficient as men. That women pharmacists could not hold their own as “managers.” You would never let a woman pharmacist open and close the store. And the old line was always brought up as Gospel, that “women will get married and have children,” so they would not be a good investment as an employee, nor entitled to equal pay with men.

Woman who bead and make jewelry grew up in this same world as I did. Perhaps the primarily female character of beading and jewelry making as avocations provide a protective shield. Maybe this is a respite from discrimination, lost opportunities, stolen opportunities. Maybe the bead world is a place for women to experience a more even playing field, where there are no expectations that they are “less of…”.

But the single gender arena also takes away some of the competitiveness and drive that forces people to confront their Rogue Elephants. It too often allows beaders to huddle in the safety of craft -- and to the safety of their craft circles -- to the detriment of art and design. You end up with the women and the circle thing. The circles protect their members from Rogue Elephants. They allow them to pretend that Rogue Elephants either don’t exist, or exist for other people elsewhere. The inherent values in our circles of women are to ritualize things, and the women who ritualize the best, have the highest status. This is why a Craft, rather than an Art or Design, philosophy so permeates beading today. “Follow those steps,” crafters like to say.

But how do we get these circles of women beyond just following a set of steps and ending up with something? How do we influence these women to break free of some rituals? How do we encourage these women to think outside the box, (or in this case, outside the circle), and then support them? Does “gender” somehow get in the way of the appropriate dialogue? Do we really want every beader to do the same things and make the same things and do this over and over again, year in and year out?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers.


When I worked as a city health planner in New Brunswick, New Jersey, my immediate supervisor was a woman. She was extremely competent in her job. One day, we were on an elevator with the board members and the current president of the agency. One of the directors told the president, in front of my supervisor, that although she was doing a great job, he was too uncomfortable sitting at the board of director’s table with a woman at this same table. He told the president to fire her, which, within a month, he did. This was in the 1970’s.

So, here we had a circle of men – the board of directors – that was very hostile to the presence of a woman. Even though they admitted she was qualified. Maybe forming and preserving circles of women is the only adequate and appropriate response? But I don’t think, in my heart of hearts, that a health planning agency of all women or all men, would do a better job for the community, than one that had a mix of genders. Why would we think beading or jewelry making, as a context, should be any different?

Blame The Oscars! After all, why don’t they have it set up so that both women and men compete for one award – Best Actor? They compete together for Best Director. And Cinematographer. And Set Designer. What gives with the actor category? Do the male actors think they don’t stand a chance against their female counterparts, thus need their own category? Or do male actors act differently – different techniques, different styles, different gestures – than how women actors act, so should be judged by a different standard?

These are but a couple of examples of tensions gender-related. The world’s hostility to women can be very glaring. We like to pretend it’s an historical fact, some ancient phenomenon, some former social construct, but it isn’t. The same things exist today.

At the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, one of my professors from Rutgers University, was applying for a job there in the Department of Epidemiology. Barbara had been my advisor at Rutgers in the Department of City and Regional Planning. She taught the health planning classes. She told me about her interview.

She had sat down with all the professors in the Department. The first thing the head of the department said, was that since she was a woman and was black, they would not hold her to the same standard as everyone else, in terms of research and publications. Barbara was already published out the wazoo. She was in mid-career, and was so distinguished on every level – research, publication, applied work – that she would put most professors to shame.

So, in spite of her record and reputation, these were the first words she heard in her interview. She stood up, thanked them, politely and in Southern fashion, “blessed their hearts,” told them all they could kiss her ass, and left.


Why do our women customers respond better to our male store clerks, rather than our female store clerks?

On some level, I think I see some issues that women respond to. But I can’t translate that to everything I deal with at the bead store.

A female customer had hurt herself in the store. This occurred in front of my male employee. Richard did not show any sense of compassion. He did not get her name and phone number, nor suggest that the owner would contact her. There were two other female employees in the front of the store, but not near this customer. They knew something had happened, but did not know any specifics.

This woman called the next day. She complained vociferously and often about the two female employees, who had not expressed any compassion or concern. She was very complimentary about Richard. Richard had been an immature jerk. He was right there, but did not respond. Yet, she had no complaints whatsoever about him.

It’s amazing how often similar things happen. Another female customer had been working with Richard for several minutes. She was a beginner. Richard excused himself to go to the bathroom. She asked another female employee where a particular item was. This employee pointed to a wall. The customer rushed off, and immediately came and found me. She was incensed. She was so upset that this woman did not “help” her, that she told me she would never set foot in this store again. And, by the way, she told me how wonderful Richard had been.

A knitter who needed some beads for a scarf came into the store. She had never been in a bead store before. One of my female employees waited on her. She asked the customer if she had brought her yarn with her, so that they could match the color. The customer hadn’t. She felt the question was rude, and that the sales clerk was not interested in helping her. The woman stormed out in disgust. She drove to the local yarn store to vent her anger. She published a long diatribe against the store on-line.

I am friends with the owner of that yarn store, and asked for more details. The woman was incensed that my employee had not offered to pick out the specific beads she needed. Even though there was no yarn to match the beads with. Even though there are a couple dozen possibilities of bead colors for any color of yarn. My friend encouraged this woman to return to our store and speak with me. And, to my surprise, she did. “If only that woman (our store clerk) had asked to see her yarn, she would have been more than happy to bring it in.” Of course, Nola had asked her about her yarn.

A lot of our female customers can be nasty to our female employees. They are rarely nasty to me.

Designing for Women and Designing for Men

I don’t know if there are any differences between waiting on a woman or waiting on a man. Or a man waiting on a woman vs. a man. Or a woman waiting on a man vs. a woman.

When I was young, I worked in my Dad’s pharmacy. We sold make-up, cosmetics and perfumes. As a guy, it was easy to sell items to a man. At the time, men didn’t use make-up. And perfumes were an easy sell – you could always work with the price, the beauty of the packaging, and the shape of the bottle. Scents didn’t matter that much. If a man were buying a cologne or after shave for himself, he would tend towards the brands he saw on TV or that he knew other guys wore.

With women, well, there was always an awkwardness, not so much when I sold them perfume, but when I worked with them to select make-up. I would apply samples to their wrists. I would apply samples to their cheeks. I would even apply lipstick or gloss to their lips. That first touch, that first touching my hand to their hand or face, even that first movement of my hand towards their wrist or their face – it was electrifying, but not in that good way. More like a jolt. Of surprise. Mistrust. Hey, what’s going on here? Only my husband or physician has touched me before.

But I was gentle. Sensitive. Aware. I would hold their glance, showing confidence and warmth. I tried not to blush, or look away. The sales reps for each of the cosmetic lines would spend a lot of time training us how to apply their products. I was young, I didn’t use the products myself, but I had learned my craft well. So when the brush, or liner, or stick, or my finger began to do my work, the client relaxed, confident that they would leave the store looking good.

In the interaction of genders – designer and client – some things are affected by personality, others by situation, and still others by gender roles. This is important in designing pieces. In working with a client to create a design. In presenting the client with the design. In responding to the client’s suggestions, concerns, complaints. In presenting the client with the finished piece. In adequately and appropriately pricing the piece for the client. And in soliciting the client’s repeat business.

Is a woman client more willing to listen to a male designer’s opinion, without questioning it? Do women designers share and discuss the design options and considerations with their clients more than male designers? When a male designer presents a piece to the client, is it presented almost as a fait accompli, whereas when a female designer presents a piece, does she wait for approval? When the client has some hesitation about whether she likes the piece or not, are woman designers more likely to go back to the drawing board and start all over again, while male designers more likely only to do a little tweaking to satisfy this customer?

When working with clients, I find certain character traits seem to lead to greater success. The client is more likely to like the piece, or if not fully satisfied, the solutions are simple and not time consuming. Whether these characteristics are more distributed among men, than women, is something up for debate. But these characteristics include:

1. Confidence
2. A love and passion for jewelry design
3. An in-depth knowledge of jewelry design and construction principles
4. Experience with multiple kinds of jewelry-making techniques
5. Minimal needs for people-pleasing
6. A willingness to say “No” and even walk away from a project, if the project would not make good business or design sense
7. A good ability to understand, empathize with and read people

Women and their Husbands

It’s always been a little confusing in society about how women should relate to their husbands, and how husbands should relate to their wives. I remember coming home one winter vacation. My stepmother was a bit frantic. She was unable to cook my dad meals. The oven and 2 burners on the stove no longer worked. She had asked my dad if they could buy a new one, and he said “No.”.

I doubt my father truly understood what was getting asked of him. It seemed out of character for him to say No. But my stepmother was afraid to ask him again. So she was very stressed at having to prepare meals everyday on the two burners that were left. My father, and this was in character, never noticed her dilemma.

She felt the bible instructed her to abide by whatever my dad said. I took her aside. I told her firmly that in the Old Testament, and we’re Jewish, so we go by the Old Testament, it relates that the “woman” is the head of the household, and that the “man” is head of everything else. So, I further instructed, if the oven goes kaput, it’s her responsibility, under God, to get a new one. My father has no jurisdiction here.

Thus Anna found herself a new oven. And she gave my father the bill.

The bible is actually very confusing when it comes to delineating appropriate roles and relationships between men and women, and husbands and wives. Take the book of Genesis – the root of all things. It turns out, there were many, many, many versions of this first book of the bible. In some versions, Adam and Eve were equals. In other versions, Adam was more equal than Eve, and in still other versions, Eve was more equal than Adam. Some versions even threw in a 3rd party – Lilith. Dreadful Lilith. So we have stories where it’s Lilith vs. Adam and Eve. Lilith and Adam vs. Eve. Lilith and Eve vs. Adam. Lilith, Adam and Eve.

So, among these very ancient biblical and co-biblical texts, we have a plethora and cornucopia of sexual relationships, power relationships, gender relationships, and sexuality relationships. We have pairs and triplets, straight and gay, feminine and masculine. And it was up to a committee – probably all made up of men – to pick one of these many versions to incorporate into the official bible as the Book of Genesis. Guess which one they picked.

But if we were trying to sort out which version of the truth about Genesis was more correct, and more Godly and God-inspired, things would be somewhat confusing. It’s unclear if God had any plan about the relationships between men and women. Perhaps any thought about the relationships between men and women is trivial, when compared to creating the whole universe.

I don’t know.

And it’s clear that many other people don’t know.

When we look at how women relate to their husbands, when they come into the bead shop, we find many contemporary interpretations and re-enactments of these historical dilemmas. And we watch in amazement as husbands and wives play out their respective roles.

He drops her off, and goes elsewhere.
He drops her off, and waits patiently.
He drops her off, and waits impatiently.
… waits sitting in the store
… waits sitting in the car
He is embarrassed to be seen in or near a bead shop.
He won’t get near a bead shop.
He is someone who will drive her anywhere, anytime, any place.
He loves what she does.
He comes into the bead shop, and follows her up and down all the aisles, but says nothing.
He comes into the bead shop, and follows her up and down all the aisles, and offers lots of advice.
He likes to make all the final decisions.
He hates making any kind of decision.
He likes to know exactly how much she spends.
He prefers her not to tell him exactly how much she spends.
He is never told what she spends.
He is easily convinced that all her shopping will lead to something, like jewelry getting sold.
He worries you haven’t bought enough.
He tells her she really has enough already.
He tells her she needs to stop beading.
He tells her she can’t continue to shop at bead stores.
He figures the more she spends at the bead shop, the more he can spend on himself for his own hobbies and endeavors.


Should there be rules here? Should every woman show the same deference to her husband? Should every husband show the same deference, in return? Or should each woman be left to her own wiles and devices? Do husbands have shades of character, for which the wife must gracefully conceal, or relegate to some other universe, or trod on in spite of?

To gain some more insight here, you could almost create a HUSBANDS OF WOMEN WHO BEAD TAROT deck, to explain all the relationship variations and how these get expressed in the bead shop. For example,


THE FOOL
Jalinda pays for her beads by check, and writes “Kroger” in the memo line. Kathy uses a secret bank account to pay for her beading supplies. Alice had returned home from a bead show with a small bag of beads. How much did you spend, her husband asked. $25.00, she replied, as she stashed her $1,032.00 bag of beads in her craft room. Sally has her system all worked out. She uses a joint checking account to pay for the part of her beads she wants her husband to see. She pays for another part of her beads with a personal checking account that her husband might accidentally see. And she pays for the last part of her beads with a check from her son’s bank account, which her husband will never see. These husbands are played for fools.

THE SAINT
Jerome has taken an active interest in his wife’s hobby. He looks forward to their bead store trips. He’s very up on what she is doing, and what her goals are. He can do more than tag along as she goes up and down the aisles. He can actually shop for her on his own, and pick the right things she needs. This husband is what women often refer to as “highly evolved.”

THE EMPEROR
Everytime Mark comes into the shop, he says, “I don’t ask her to go to tractor shops, why would I go to a bead shop?” These husbands have their own lives, separate from those of their wives, and no issues about that. On the one hand they show self-confidence; but on the other hand, they show a fear and an avoidance of things with which they don’t want to deal.

THE HANGED MAN
This husband brings the wife to the bead shop, but sits off to the side, or sits in his car – often for hours. He has little interaction with his wife, but his just-enough-visible-presence strangely hangs over the shopping situation. This husband is unwilling to make an effort to share his wife’s endeavors. Netty had this kind of husband. They were Southern Baptist. After 22 years of marriage, her husband informed her that he believed God required that she now be subordinate to him. She couldn’t reconcile reality with her and his beliefs. So her trips to the bead store grew longer and longer and more frequent. She kept her husband waiting in the car while she spent his money on everything she could think of. About every 1 ½ to 2 hours, he would come into the store to check on her, and she would say, “It will just be a few more minutes, dear, go back to the car.” She’d make a funny face as he headed back for his car.

THE INVESTOR
After his wife toils away for hours on end, but, come the next morning, decides she doesn’t like her evolving piece, and takes it apart, the husband asks, “How can you do that, after putting in all those hours!?#@ This husband shows disapproval, assuming his wife lacks vision and purpose.

You’ve seen all these husbands before. Few people have worked out the perfect husband-wife relationship. So the tensions get played out over and over again, with each trip to the bead store.

The Design Question here -- that is, the implications for finding your Rogue Elephant – is how well the woman manages her husband, and the roles required of each in their relationship, whatever type of relationship they have. No matter what Tarot Card in the deck the husband seems to be. So no husband-type or behavior-pattern is better or more appropriate or more suited to finding that Elephant. It’s a matter of, given a particular relationship, what choices does the woman need to make, in order to get there?

Women Making Choices

It has always seemed to me that women have more difficulty making choices than men. Which bead color, color combination? Which bead stitch? Which arrangement of beads and parts and pendants on a necklace? Which metal? Which stringing material? For women, it seems the implications of any one choice are imbued with so many social and personal and cultural and situational issues, that it becomes too overwhelming to make.

The fact today, however, that we can use “women” and “choices” in the same meaningful and positive sentence, is a relatively new phenomenon. For it was not always that way. It took hundreds of years of feminism, strident and subtle, violent and passive, to change society’s views of how women think, and if they could think at all. There’s been a lot of kicking and screaming, put-downs and denials, resistance and sabotage, cruelty and abuse that has occurred during my lifetime, and before, to get to the place where women are today. Not all women that come into the bead store are as appreciative of their feminist sisters who opened so many doors and opportunities. And not all women are as aware of their gender-history, as they should be.

It was Darwin who wrote, in the latter part of the 19th century, that women were not as evolved as men. They were given equal amounts of protoplasm as men. But women were incapable of using that protoplasm. God made women to procreate. Procreation was a totally biological function, requiring no thought. Raising children was a biological function, requiring no thought. If forced to use their brains, women became ill, exhausted, infected, disordered. Only men had the will, ability and motivation to think. And in deference to women, men had to think for them, as well.

The 19th century thinkers were thus enlightened. The tasks of men required intelligence. The activities of women did not. Women lacked the ability to reason and comprehend general principals. Women would not have evolved at all if they had not been blessed, because of evolution, with men’s brains. The argument continued, if women had not been blessed with men’s brains, they would not have been able to procreate. And thus, the human species would have become extinct.

Craniologists, at the time, found that men’s brains were bigger than women’s brains, and thus concluded female inferiority. However, one scientist, proceeding along this same line of research, found out that, on average, German brains were 100 grams heavier than French brains. And this line of research ended abruptly, for fear of fomenting civil conflict. And so, too, ended any more research comparing the brain matter of women to that of men.

Physicists, at the time, speculated that each human organism had a finite amount of energy. Women had to expend so much energy on reproduction, that they did not have enough energy left over to think. Men had this excess energy, so they could think. Since women eat less than men, women also had a harder time generating new energy.

Educators, at the time, used Darwin’s explanations as reasons for denying women an education. Since women could not think logically, they could not be taught to do so. It was the widely held belief that women could not grasp knowledge.

Physicians, at the time, described all illnesses affecting women, as symptoms of one illness only – a disease of the womb. To cure any disease, meant some surgical, physically abusive and cruel treatment applied to the woman’s reproductive organs. A common prescriptive was to tell the woman to think less, in order to cure herself. Sleep more. Never touch a pen, brush or pencil as long as you will live.

Advice Columnists, at the time, and this is 1849 New York, advised women about their expenditures on dress. Do not delude yourself with appearance, they wrote.
- Do not permit fashion to impair your health
- Do not allow dress to infringe on your delicacy
- Do not allow unnecessary expenses on fashion
- Do not spend too much time with fashion

In Boston (1840), one Advice Columnist went so far as to warn women to wholly lay aside their ornaments, as fast as possible, if they expected to have any sense of well-being. It was a mark of bad judgment for a woman to pursue fashion.

Wow! I think I need to knock Darwin, and certainly some of his contemporaries, down a few notches in my book. And what does this all mean for beaders, and why beading seems to be made up mostly of women and few men? From the 19th century scientific point of view, a craft like beading would have to be primarily intuitive, requiring no thought or logic. It would have been beneath a man to do. For men to get involved with beading, it would have meant resisting evolution, and resisting progress.

Beading and jewelry making, from the Design perspective, are very much about making choices. Women are assumed and subsumed to be as capable as men. Beading and jewelry making are processes of construction, whether conceived and executed by women or men, which happen within an environment, and the results of which are judged as art, as the pieces are worn. There’s a lot of choice going on here. What goes together, and what does not. What will hold the structure of the piece together, and what will not. What you want to happen to the piece over time, and what you do not.

The Designer, whether woman or man, has to make the same kinds of choices, to be successful. Perhaps there are nuanced differences between women and men, in how they think through and come to any choice. But the choices need to be made, nonetheless.


 

 


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