Archive for Beaded Jewelry

African “Trade Beads” – Meaning Behind the Name

“Fake trade beads.” That is how I heard an artist friend refer to recycled glass beads. There is some truth there in that some recycled glass is made to look like Venetian glass beads. But though the Venetian glass beads that made their way to Africa and were traded for a variety of goods, including slaves (hence, the name “trade beads”) are beautiful, people often don’t understand what they are getting when they covet them.

The slave trade trade involved a triangular system (by which manufactured goods, such as jewelry, guns, liquor, etc., were transported to Africa; African slaves were exchanged for the European imports; slaves transported to the Americas were exchanged for goods produced in the New World (cotton tobacco, sugar, etc., which were then sent back to Europe to begin the process all over again). Though the origin of the jewelry transported to Africa came from many sources, it was the Venetian beads – particularly the millefiori (literally one thousand flowers) that were highly sought in Africa. Given their popularity as well as the object of their destination, these beads came to be known as African Trade Beads (sometimes known as slave beads). But they were not fabricated in Africa. In fact, it is most likely that Venetian glass arrived in Africa as a result of someone having been traded for them – or as a part of a deal that included, slaves as well as other goods.

Don’t get me wrong. I possess “trade beads” and find them beautiful. But I wear them fully conscious that the beads are part of the legacy of the slave trade. Though we may choose to wear clothing made in sweatshops and sold in big box stores because they are a “bargain,” I think we should make conscious choices. Same goes for what we choose to adorn ourselves with.

That’s why I am excited about sandcast, recycled glass beads. Recycled glass, primarily fabricated in West Africa, notably in Ghana, are more affordable, are made from reused materials and provide income to communities that have thrived on this craft which has been handed down to generations for centuries.

African Recycled Glass, Powder Glass Beads

African Powder Glass “Bodum” Beads

African Trade Beads

Venetian glass “trade beads”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on African recycled glass beads and how they are made, see my previous blog post on this subject. You can also find jewelry made with recycled glass on my Etsy site or my Web site.

Evolution of a Style

I was looking through my designs and thought it interesting how they’ve evolved over time. Here’s a glimpse:

First I was focused on beads, beads, beads. I still am to a large degree. But then my focus was beading, pure and simple:

Turquoise Blue Necklace

Turquoise Blue Necklace – Handmade turquoise-colored 10mm recycled glass beads from Ghana

Desert Flower Necklace

Desert Flower Necklace – Fulani wedding beads, trade beads, seed beads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I started varying my techniques with beads by using waxed cord, knotting and playing with a variety of closures.
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Recycled Glass Knotted Bracelet Recycled Glass Knotted Bracelet
Suncast recycled glass necklace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suncast recycled glass necklace

I started to get bored with just beading and wanted to take my craft to another level so I started dabbling in metalwork and wire wrapping.

Trapezoid copper and recycled vinyl earrings

Trapezoid copper and recycled vinyl earrings

Trade bead hoop earrings

Trade bead hoop earrings

Copper wrapped swirls and Fulani wedding bead earrings

Copper wrapped swirls and Fulani wedding bead earrings

Variegated oval hoops

Variegated oval hoops

metal clay pendant

metal clay pendant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still have a passion for beads, but I’ve grown from just beading to incorporating metal work and wire into my creations. Learning new techniques keeps me fresh and keeps the work interesting. It’s all a part of my journey and …..Who knows where it will go from here?

Tell me what you think about how my style has evolved as well as how your own creative journey has evolved.

Art Hop Takoma 2013 Readout

Once a year, businesses and artists in Takoma Park, Maryland get together for what is known as Art Hop Takoma — a week-long fete where the work of local artists is featured in local businesses. This year’s Art Hop was the fourth annual event and my third year of participating. I, along with another area artist, was featured at S&A Beads where I frequently buy beading and art supplies. It’s also where I had my first beading class years ago and got hooked on designing jewelry.

Last year, I was featured at The House of Musical Traditions where my recycled vinyl jewelry fit in perfectly with the records from which recycled vinyl is made. This year, S&A Beads featured several works from several of my collections, including my sandcast beads from Ghana, newly-designed wire-formed and wire-wrapped earrings, and recycled vinyl jewelry.
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Me and my collections

Me posing next to my collections

Display window

Display window in S&A Beads

Storefront Display

Art Hop Storefront Display of my items

All in all, it was a wonderful celebration of art, handmade and community. I was fortunate to have participated in my third year of Art Hop and totally thrilled to have been featured at S&A Beads where I got my start.

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