A comedian once said that the difference between animals and human beings is their ability to accessorize. Animals do not really need to they’re born with fur, feathers, or scales. We may take accessories as trivial and even mundane; but every student of archaeology knows when ancient human bones are discovered that is a skeleton however when pottery shards and beads are uncovered that reveals a culture.
Culture equals a society; a community of people and even if they did not record their thoughts and ideas their jewelry is one remnant of these lost people. Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, New York City or the Louvre on the right bank of Paris, France and you will see they have display cases loaded with beautiful wearable art made for people hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
Typically this museum art is what I call tomb jewelry; made for an important individual and buried with them so that those in their afterlife will know they were a significant being, they were important because they have bling. What do our modern accessories say to the world around us? Men finish a suit with a necktie and women may select a scarf or necklace and earrings, but what do we know about the actual creator of what we are tying around our neck and hanging on our ears? What would they reveal about us in a thousand years?
Ancient beads have been uncovered from many cultures around the planet and were probably developed independently. Today beads can be purchased in nearly all craft stores and imported from all over the world. Beads are an easy introduction for wearable art. My summers spent in central Pennsylvania introduced me and my brothers to Straits Hobby Shop in the Borough of Huntingdon. We could pick out fishing lures to fish with or as my brother learned he could buy the supplies and create his own fly fishing lures.
There were many types of hobbies to occupy us through our rainy summer days, but my maternal grandmother was known for her custom beaded necklaces. She always had dozens of tubes of glass beads for me to try stringing a necklace. A spool of brass wire and I explored making earrings of my own design. Even today when we travel I keep a look out for local bead shops.
Glass beads from the Czech Republic, semi precious stone malachite and black onyx can up the appeal of simple glass seed beads. It is all about personal preference and what is appealing to me. Some of my beads have been strung and restrung on necklaces since I was in first grade and are still a favorite bead and timeless in its appeal. It isn’t often I can afford the time to sit quietly, my supplies in front of me like an artist’s palette, but unlike a painting I don’t have to frame it..I am the art and my necklace is my edge.
The other day I was chiding myself for being such a magpie and later that day I saw a special on National Geographic Channel about a lost culture of the Green Sahara. Sure there were pottery pieces uncovered at this dig in the Sahara Dessert but it was the bangle made from the tooth of hippopotamus on the skeleton of a ten year old girl that reminded me that a culture is defined by what they leave behind.
My maternal grandmother left me with hundreds of beads that I have shared with many others and that is the best kind of legacy; one that continues long after we have departed.
A few weekends ago when tropical storm Nestor was unsettling the west coast of Florida, I decided to unpack my beads in the event we lost power I did not want to be left with a palette of wet paint. We selected our condo for the natural light in my potential studio and even without electric lights on an overcast day and I was still able to string my beads, creating a new piece of wearable art.
Light is the major difference between summer and winter; its warming glow nurturing plants or its absence advancing winter. November can be the beginning of preparations for the holiday season, and the inevitable cold, dark corridor of winter. Will you fill in the dark with holiday lights, a television screen, and trips to museums in your local metropolis? Perhaps a new hobby is waiting to be discovered or even rediscovered that will enlighten and inspire you. Don’t be dismayed by the dark, be the shimmer that illuminates the dark!