By Christina VanGinkel
Working with beads in any form can be a highly addictive craft. Like a child in the proverbial candy store, if you are a bead lover, it is difficult to enter a store that sells beads, or bead supplies, and not buy at least something. A strand of seed beads, a few dozen spacer beads, and the perfect focal bead for that necklace you are going to start next, maybe stringing supplies, or needles, or even a baggie of porcupine quills to dye and incorporate into your next bead project. Bead crafters often end up overlapping their crafts too. If you work with seed beads for example, you will suddenly need to find the perfect accent bead for a project that you happen to be working on, and no combination of seed beads will work. Soon, you will be shopping for larger focal beads, or maybe even searching out a source for handcrafting your own. Chances are if you work with beads, you work across the board with several different types. I know several people who work with seed beads, who also blow their own glass beads for incorporating into their seed bead designs. Another woman I know who began doing basic bead stringing, went on to learn how to make her own glazed, kiln fired beads because she could not find the style of bead she wanted. One good friend of mine buys her beads, both glass, and metal, but handcrafts pit fired ocarinas to use as the focal point of necklaces she makes. Working with beads can be a part time hobby I suppose, but know that it has the ability to become as much a part of your life as breathing. Another friend makes beads from paper, and she has said it is the one thing, that saves her from stressing about everything. She comes home after a day at work, sits down and cuts and tears strips of paper, which she rolls and glazes to look like delicate porcelain beads. Beads can be bought, made, or combined of the two into an amazing array of projects. That may be a big part of the attraction of beads now that I think of it, the variety is so massive, that it has the potential to appeal to so many different people.
I began making seed bead items close to twenty years ago, and in that time I have strung beads, incorporated them into macrame, both strung them on and made them from wire, and learned to do intricate weave stitches such as Peyote, Brick, and Loom work. The loom beading I have done both on and off the loom, and I have incorporated beads into a variety of other projects besides jewelry including cross-stitch and crochet. Creating with beads is much more than a hobby or a craft. Working with beads is one of those areas in life that has a way of working into the elemental parts of it. You no longer are so and so who beads, you are a bead worker by the name of whatever happens to be your name.
I enjoy working with beads to the degree that I have even researched what some of the earliest beads were actually constructed of, such as shell and stone, and other natural items such as porcupine quills. I have gone so far as to learn how to salvage porcupine quills and clean them, how to debarb them (not all bead workers who work with quills debarb them, but for the purpose of stringing them, I did), even how to dye them with natural ingredients such as blackberries and dandelions, and incorporate them into drop earrings and chokers. I even created a Native American breastplate for my brother, which was decorated with several medallions that I created from quills.
If you are looking for a hobby that has the potential to be a fulfilling part of your life, working with beads may be just the hobby you have been searching. Kits are abundant in many types of beads and areas of beading to provide even the most inexperienced crafter the opportunity to try their hand at this craft. For the basic beginner, I would recommend a bead stringing kit with semi precious tones to give you a hand on feel of the beads. A quick search right here at Hobbiez.com for 'bead stringing' will provide you with several choices to get you started, including kits, books with instructions, and getting started guides.