I have had a love affair with beads and bead jewelry for as long as I can remember. It began when I was a little kid putting together necklaces from big plastic “pop beads” that my parents gave me for Christmas. Later as an adult I indulged in trollbeads to create my own special glass bead necklaces and bracelets. Whatever the era or my age, beads have always been something special to me. There is just something so universal about them, with a history that goes back to our ancient forefathers and even to the dawn of our history as a people. Clay beads have been discovered in ancient burial grounds the world over, signifying our long standing love affair with beads. It seems I am not alone in this fascination with the concept of the lowly bead.
A Sixties Bead Affair
I think my love of beads and using them in jewelry really came together during the heydays of the sixties when I was a teenager. It was a time when using a little bead loom to create your own headbands was in vogue and of course I had one. I would spend hours making patterns up and then looming them on my little bead loom for all my friends. Wherever I went I brought my baby food jars of little tiny beads along with thread and special beading needles to make strings of necklaces that I would give away. But the sixties were just the beginning of my love affair with not only beads but also making learning to make them. The arrival of Fimo clay would begin a new chapter.
Baking Up a Batch of Beads
The discovery of this polymer clay material was about to change my beading world. You could buy the material in just about any color, shape it into any kind of bead you wanted, make your hole for stringing and then bake it in an oven. I now use an old toaster oven from a thrift shop just to be sure the fumes from baking aren’t staying in our regular oven. However, the truth is back in the seventies when I first started making my own beads the idea of contamination never occurred to me. We would hold big bead making parties and invite all our friends over for a weekend long session. We baked our beads in the same oven we baked our favorite cookies. The beads we turned out were outrageous but we loved them all the more for it.
Staying in Love with Beads
Today you can buy all kinds of beads, ready to go at any one of the thousands of bead shops that sprang up in the last decade or so. The growing interest in handcrafts has meant that handmade beads can be purchased on places like Etsy. Meanwhile Michaels craft store does a booming business in bead supplies. The age of the bead, luckily, is not likely to go away any time soon.