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?”

15 thoughts on “Why work with beads?

  1. Cindy Boyd

    Great post Cliff! Why do I work with beads…. the peace and pleasure it brings me!

    1. cssfineart

      I can definitely relate. Working with beads definitely is relaxing for me too.

  2. Barbara

    Beads Center me . If I am upset or stressed I just put my hand in a bowl or plate of beads. It calms me right down. Just run them through my fingers, handle them. I’m in a better space when my beads are there.

    1. cssfineart

      I have a thing for textures. I will make mounds of beads on my bead board and run my hands through them too.

  3. Laura Silverman

    I love working with beads. It settles my mind.

    1. cssfineart

      It truly is a great way to relax and let go.

  4. Suzanne Golden

    Beads finally satisfied my creativity with good and pleasing results. I can’t draw, paint, knit, or crochet…..also I like working with my hands and this was the perfect marriage….and it is a form of expression for me….

    1. cssfineart

      I totally understand where you are coming from. While I am able to knit, crochet, and paint, beading is more meditative to me. I am able to get into a rhythm that is very freeing. Even problem solving different attributes of bead weaving helps bring me into focus and block out the outside world.

  5. Carol

    Your blog hit the stop. Beading for me is meditative it’s not the project so much as the journey. I go back and look at pieces I did at different times of my life and the colors tell me where I was emotionally at the time. I teach now and my students find a safe haven to express themselves while going through issues in their own lives and can forget some of their problems even if it is for just a short while. Thank you for all of you beautiful work.

    1. cssfineart

      Thanks for sharing and taking the time to comment. Whenever I teach, I too see students find solace in their community of fellow beaders and a chance to leave their worries at the door, or perhaps even process them through their work. Beading truly is a magical experience for those who are open to it.

  6. erin Gonzalez Hicks Amaya

    Cliff…I am currently using my jewelry and painting and journali g to recover from some very bad things that happened to me this summer in Kenya, Cairo and Istanbul. My art and the cors help me remember the joy and beauty and focus less on the bad humans that damaged my person, spirit and limbs….

    Thank you for sharing your art and your kindness when I had Acute Pancreatitis for the 4th time last October. I am working hard to get through my new dx of Alpha 1 Anti Trypsin Enzymatic deficiency syndrome. ART HEALS !!!

  7. Brittany

    Beading is my first hobby. I don’t have the dexterity or ability to paint, draw, mould etc. I can’t create what I visualize. With beads I can. It requires precision, but in a structured way. When you do a stitch, you get a result. I’ve never been able to artistically produce a vision in any other way, so it’s an amazing experience for me.
    I too experience many of what’s been said too: It’s calming, I love the material, self expression. Thanks for a lovely post.

  8. Malinda S Battin

    Why do I work with beads? It’s relaxing and I love making new creations.

  9. Carol Brown

    Yes. I self taught. It was pure joy to see what I imagined. Was even better than I thought. It is meditative, calming, beautiful expression of texture, color and an age old art.

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