16/10/2010 by Sarah Ritchie
If you can’t afford the price tag of handblown glass or stained glass there is an affordable and accessible glass beauty to be found closer to home.
My mother was an expert seamstress. Our home was full of fabrics and trims dating to the early 20th Century. Hidden in her treasure chest of buttons and threads was a jar of beads. Not the chunky beads of today, but the oh-so-tiny beads of the 1920s and 1930s. Delicate glass tubes and seed beads that only the finest of needles could pass through – the type of beads that had no real, modern use other than to fascinate a child.
Over the past few years the craft of beading has swept the globe in a resurgence not seen since the hippie subculture of the 70s; and it’s easy to be caught up in the phenomenon. When we lived in the Middle East I decided to take up beading as a hobby and a possible money-maker (as a hobbyist I was successful, but the idea was never “monetised”).
We lived very close to a small bead shop. The owners traveled regularly to Europe to source their beads, and what beauties they brought back (and so cheap)! Some of the more stunning beads were made of Murano (Venetian) glass; others were Grecian recycled glass with a wonderful strata of colours. Two unique stone beads could be sourced (within Israel) made of Red Sea pink coral and the deep green Eilat Stone.
I resisted the urge to simply string the beads and so tried the technique of freeform peyote: no patterns, just a needle, thread and an assortment of different kinds of beads, then see where the wind will take you.
A more pricey trend in bead-acquisition is the Pandora range of beaded jewellery. With the price of a single bead costing anywhere up to US$700+, Pandora may not be for the average bead enthusiast, but there is no denying your wrist looks stunning once you’ve loaded your beaded charm bracelet.
To make your own hand-blown glass beads you can visit Hoglund Art Glass, Nelson, New Zealand. The cost is approximately NZ$75 per person for a 2-hour class. For more information: hoglundartglass.com.