Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vicarious travels through worldly beads...

The stormy days of late summer have given way to cloudless azure blue. Warm sun falls deliciously on bare skin, in the cool dry air of the season on our doorstep. Where did the time go?
No souvenir shells and beach glass from vacation seaside strolls are found in pockets. No ticket stubs from checked baggage with foreign airlines either but I have been traveling…vicariously, in my heart and mind.
Spread before me is the season’s bounty… not the heirloom tomatoes that stoic New Englanders are still patiently waiting to ripen,but beads… strands and strands of beautiful beads.
Ever since my grandmother provided me with a wax-tipped thread and her treasured box of buttons as a small child, I have relished stringing various colors and materials together to create something totally new from something old and well-traveled.
This summer slipped away, dissolved, in rain soaked afternoons, as I explored the surfaces of antique carnelian, worn smooth by time and touch. It was probably mined in the Ramtanpur area of Gujarat, India and shaped and polished by lapidaries in Cambay. Here they were masters at deepening the color of paler agate to the fiery orange of embers, the most desired shade. Cambay still is a leading supplier of this handsome stone, thousands of years later.
These beads, like all others, traveled in ships and across ancient trade routes via caravans around the world.
Instead of summer beach glass, I’ve designed with beautifully pitted cobalt blue beads from the Netherlands, several hundred years old and collected in Africa in the late 1970’s, when “tradebeads” were reintroduced to these shores. The subdued luminous sheen of these delicious beads resembles the most sublime beach finds, softened by sand and water. Adding to the deep cobalt is every shade of blue and green translucent glass handwound in Peking in the 19th C.and beloved by tribal groups everywhere.
I also marveled at faience beads of delicate hues from the ancient city of Persepolis, made a thousand years before Alexander the Great sacked this major metropolis of the Persian Empire. Holding and wearing these venerable world travelers is quite humbling, when you consider the stories they can tell and makes those smitten by their delicate beauty into modern day “time travelers”.
For those of you who are inclined to do so, I highly recommend spending quality time with Lois Dubin’s major contribution, The History of Beads from 30,000 BC to the Present (ISBN 0-8109-0736-4). Her maps of trade-routes and history of bead production will inspire you to do your own vicarious traveling and to learn much more.
I hope your own summer travels were pleasant ones and prepared you for the busy season ahead. Enjoy the waning days of summer and may your harvests be abundant ones.

Please visit: to see a small sampling of the summer harvest featuring wonderful beads.From the Homepage go to Adornments then Asia/Page 3

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