Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beading: A Gathering of Women

Across the world and far into the past, beading has been a craft passed from generation to generation largely through women. Certain bead colors, shapes, and combinations could speak for the solidarity of clans, for religious devotion, for wealth and status. For instance, in Canada, the First Nations' traditions of beading have been passed down using the patterns that are of the family or the area. In Africa, tribes like the Zulu have expressed themselves through beadwork for ceremonial occasions using organic materials.

Similarly, I come from a clan of beaders. My mother and my three half-sisters have traded homemade jewelry and beading supplies for special occasions for as long as I can remember. Themes came and went with these gifts: like the Christmas we all received a strand of beads ending with a crystal to hang from the window and cast rainbows across the walls, or the year of the beaded bookmark. Or the year I tacked a strand of beads around a candle, and sent one to each of my sisters.

Traveling has turned me into a bead collector. And this started even in the States. I still have strands of matte-finish, salmon-colored beads purchased at a Spokane Indian pow-wow in Washington state. Beads are a souvenir that hold the memory of a place, and through my international collecting, add the eclectic to my adornments. During my travels in Turkey, I've collected seashell beads from Sinop, ceramic beads from Ulus, Ottoman coin beads from Konya...

Several years back, I began hosting a women's beading gathering during the long winter months. When the bleak weather brings on a need for color, the company of women, and the slow steady meditation of beading, I call together my closest girl friends for this event. I love sharing my beads. I love seeing familiar shapes and colors that hold the memory of a place I've been on the necklace of a friend.

This year's beading gathering took place last weekend, and once again fed the soul with wine, laughter, good food, creativity, and great women.

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