It is amazing how far back in time that beads of all sizes, shapes, colors and materials have been a desired collectible and how they have been used not only for personal adornment and jewellery but also as “money” to use in trading for goods and services, as good luck talismans, for religious ceremonies, and in a large variety of spectacular crafts.
Beadwork is the technique that attaches beads to one another by stringing them with a needle onto thread or thin wire or by knitting, crocheting, weaving, or sewing them onto cloth.
Ancient beading is thought to have begun in Mesopotamia and was imported to Egypt where they made it into their own art form. From Narmer’s first dynasty back in 3100 B.C. and up to the present time, Faience beads have been made using the same method of a mixture of powdered clays, silica sand, soda and lime mixed with a little water that makes a paste. That is molded around a piece of straw or a small stick, fired, and it melts into glass that covers the clay, resulting in a hard bead which is covered in bluish glass.
Native American beadwork actually uses beads that are imported from Asia and Europe, and the Americas have used glass beads for about five centuries. Tribes are well-known for their beautiful artwork used in all types of uses from dance regalia to buckskin, sculptures, portraits, horse trappings and even dog blankets!
European beadwork dates back to when animal bones and shells were used as “beads”. The 16th century found the French making beaded flowers, and the still-popular-today lampwork glass was invented back in the 18th century.
Modern beadwork as a creative hobby can range from simple projects that can be created in less than an hour to complex beadwork that could take weeks of meticulous work and require the use of specialized equipment and tools.