Why work with beads?

“My goodness, that must take a lot of patience!”

I think all of us bead weavers have heard that at some point from one of our friends or loved ones… or even each other. This statement is always a head-scratcher to me. When we do what we love, it doesn’t feel like it takes a lot of patience or work.  It’s like saying to a golfer, “It must take a lot of patience to swing your club for several hours each day you go to the course!” That isn’t to say the road to creating a project isn’t without its speed bumps and doesn’t have tedious moments, but the reason we bead is because we love it.

We each began beading for our own reasons. For me it was part of my physical therapy/rehabilitation after losing use of my hands for several years.  But why did I stick with it? Why does anyone continue to bead? What is the draw of beads?

I was studying privately with the amazing David Chatt, and the first thing he asked me when I sat down with him was “Why do you work with beads?” He continued, “There are so many other mediums you could work in that get results faster and are less tedious.”

His question inspired me to introspect. I realized that each piece I made was an opportunity of self-expression, a chance to meditate on a subject or feeling or idea that I was dealing with in my life, a gift for others to let them know how I felt about them, or any number of other things.

A few months later, I was teaching for a bead society and I posed the same question to the group I was with, “Why do you work with beads?” For some, it was just because they really like beads and the look of them (That is an awesome and totally valid reason to work with beads). For others they were carrying on family or cultural traditions. Others had similar reason for beading as I do.

One of the latest pieces I’ve made is “Ancres Au Soleil.” The inspiration for it came when I saw a Facebook ad for an Hermés bracelet that was a series of anchor chains linked together. My friend, who had spent time as a sailor, recently died from an asthma attack and the jewelry in the ad made me think of her. As I sat beading my interpretation of the piece, I reflected on my memories of her. At times I would just meditate on her smile; in some moments, her sense of humor; and still others, occasions we got to spend together. When the first link was done, I started crying, something I hadn’t been able to do since she parted. The whole process was cathartic and healing. I’m currently working on a necklace for myself, using those same techniques and the same anchor links.

This might be a long way of responding to a person who states, “That must take a lot of patience!” but for me it isn’t about patience at all. Beading is worthwhile to me because it not only gave me use of my hands again, but it continues to give me a healthy way to heal and share a piece of myself with the world. Even if you are beading because “beads are just pretty,” take a moment to notice your thoughts as you bead and how creating things of beauty feeds your spirit. And for those who haven’t considered, I ask you, “Why do you work with beads?”