The social aspects of beads include wearing them to show rank, to show class affiliation, and to show wealth. Another less weighty aspect is to just have fun showing what you can do with beads and then sharing this with others.
There are several beading groups in which one can get involved. Most states have a beading society or two. If you have a local bead store, you can participate in contests, or enjoy a get-together and bead with people who are sure to become friends. If you do not have a local bead store or beading society, the Internet offers so many options, I find it is hard to keep up with them.
I started learning beading from the Internet, and there I discovered beading groups and information that helped me get started. That was ten years ago and today there are more choices than ever. I also discovered the Bead Society of New Hampshire early and from there I went to bead retreats, the society’s programs, and learned about different techniques and ways to use beads.
One of the first contests I entered online was through Jeanette Shanigan’s Yahoo Group called BeadyShenanigans, now defunct. Jeanette gave the group a peyote pattern for a few autumn leaves and although I knew the rudiments of peyote stitch, I had never followed a pattern. I had a difficult time with it, and had to take rows out when I had an error, but it led to one of my favorite pieces (Figure 1).
The piece is composed of Czech seed beads, tiger eye druks and cut leaves, as well as natural red coral. The gold beads are vintage (1920) gold-lined crystal seed beads, and the sparkle from them is amazing.
I wanted something on the backside of the bag I made, something I do with most of my amulet bags, and the falling leaves came from Ellen Sadler’s piece in Beadwork Creates Bracelet called Ellen’s Flower Garden (Figure 2). This was one of my first beading books, and I have used it so much it is literally falling apart (excuse the pun, please).
Imagine my amazement when the necklace came in second! I won an art bead that Jeanette sent me and the whole experience left me excited that I was recognized so early in my learning curve.
I took the art bead and went on to make another necklace (Figure 3).
The strand is the Apache stitch and I taught myself how to do this stitch through the Internet. The directions were so brief, with no illustrations that I wrote up directions and posted them on my website at as a free tutorial. Little did I know that this was good practice for what was to come. Who would have thought I would be writing up my own designs and publishing the patterns online and at my website?
By just joining in the fun that Jeanette offered, I continued to learn and add skills to broaden my beading and started sharing what I knew with others. When Jeanette started her Bead It Forward project, now handled by Bead & Button, I did several beaded squares for her and got the Bead Society of New Hampshire involved with the project. The theme was roses and you can see the work here.
Dr. Gail H. Devoid, Ph.D. is president of Need for Beads, Inc. and teaches beading techniques through programs at the Bead Society of New Hampshire. She also co-hosted a live, free, Internet radio show called The Jewelry Connection.