I’ve had the pleasure recently of making a lot of glass beads which were distributed to Museum Members at the Members’ Preview opening of the exhibition Life on a String, that took place on Friday, May 17.
My personal glass work over the past 18 years has often been bead related and I’m fascinated by anthropology and the ancient history of craft techniques, so this new exhibit is of particular interest to me.
Flameworking beads is an intricate and close-up method of working with glass. Beads are fairly small objects so meticulous attention to detail is the challenge and hallmark of making a quality bead. Beads are considered by anthropologists to be among the earliest examples of symbolic objects made by people and symbolic actions such as production of personal ornaments are often cited as traits for identifying the beginnings of modern human behavior.
Beads exist in most cultures, in many materials, sizes and shapes and are used for different purposes including ornamentation, wealth, trade and spiritual practice. They are among the very earliest glass objects made by humans. Methods for making glass beads include fused or molded glass frits and powders, pressed glass, cast and carved glass, blown glass and mandrel wound glass, stretched canes and tubes of glass that are later cut into segments.
Life on a String: 35 Centuries of the Glass Bead is now open. I hope you have a chance to visit the Museum to learn more about these fascinating small glass treasures, and see a demo of how glass beads can be made at the torch.