An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Friday, July 23, 2010

Escher, mandalas, recycling and the move to eco-friendly jewelry packaging

I have been researching the best way forward to create more stylish and eco-friendly packaging for my designs. It’s been a longish project with not a little frustration attached to it I’ve found very little in the way of custom-made eco-friendly packaging for jewelry that can be ordered in small quantities.

Today I think I’ve found a solution. Trying to work with the 3 R’s of recycle, reuse, reduce I’m considering moving to a form of packaging I will make myself from eco-felt - an envelope shaped pouch. Eco-felt is made from recycled plastic bottles (the first R) but looks just like wool felt, it will be designed to be re-used by people to keep jewelry and other small items in it (the second R) and it should be light but protective for posting items reducing it’s carbon foot print in the air and reducing the need to use the tissue paper I now use for packing and protecting (the third R). I already recycle bubble wrap as a protective layer and am looking to recycle envelopes more.

I’ve just ordered some sample eco-felt to work on my prototype packet and will post some pictures once I have had a go.

I’d welcome feedback and critique on the direction I am going from those more knowledgeable than I about such matters.

In the meantime, in celebration of a possible solution to my packaging saga I’m offering a free bookmark (or bracelet) pattern for Facebook fans and Blog Followers based on the recycling symbol - just let me know if you'd like it. If you’d like to learn about the history of the symbol you can read about it in detail here:

To entice you to do that here’s a tidbit from it: Looking back, he (the designer) feels that his designs were influenced not only by M. C. Escher's art and the Möbius strip, but also by the wool symbol, reminiscent of spinning fibers, and the concept of the mandala as a symbol of the universe in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Free HIV/AIDS Awareness Bead pattern

Several folks have emailed wanting a copy of the Free HIV/AIDS Awareness Bead pattern which is great.

To help people more readily access a copy I have set up a PDF download link on my website:

Please feel free to share this link with others in your beading community. I'll be adding other patterns over time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Talking with beadwork (Ubuhlalu): messages of hope, love, and solidarity

I’m delighted to have just been given two beaded dolls from South Africa. They are Zulu AIDS ‘Orphan Dolls’ about 4 inches tall with wonderful disk head dress (see photo). These dolls are most often handmade by Zulu beaders who are grandmothers and who are taking care of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic. The women make the dolls as a source of income to help them care for a generation of children orphaned by AIDS. Often these children will not be related to the grandmothers.

The dolls also carry a message to the world. They are sent to remind us that there are millions of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic and to express a hope for the future free from the AIDS pandemic and its effects on everyone. A powerful message sent through beadwork.

The use of beads to send messages has a long history in many cultures. In traditional Zulu culture bead colour and the beadwork patterns carry meaning. Zulu beadwork (Ubuhlalu) is designed and created solely by women, but both men and women wear it in the form of bracelets, headbands, necklaces and clothing adornment.
Traditionally, each colour and pattern in a piece of beadwork expressed a different meaning so that a Zulu woman could weave a “message” into her beadwork gifts to man using a combination of colour and pattern. Generally, her beadwork messages were about courtship, marriage, sexual intentions, hopes and relationships. For this reason, beadwork was not made for or given to blood relatives.

In contemporary times, beadwork in South Africa has also carried messages of protest and political solidarity. For instance when Nelson Mandela appeared for his trial he appeared in Tembu dress with a wide beadwork collar. The photo of his appearance was not published until the 1990s when ANC was unbanned.

Among the Zulu beadwork is women’s business. Zulu women learnt their beading techniques and symbolism from their mothers and/or older sisters and Zulu men and boys had to rely on the women in their family to translate the meanings of beadwork gifts that they received. Now, beadwork enables many women to become wage earners and their beadwork (for example, AIDS orphan dolls) is critical to the finances of their families and communities.

Whilst not all contemporary Zulu beading carries messages of love, sex and courtship the tradition of Zulu women using their beadwork to talk about issues important in their lives is clearly apparent in my AIDS orphan dolls. It is also apparent in two other pieces of contemporary Zulu beading I own - two beaded AIDS awareness red ribbons. These ribbons carry the message of solidarity of people living with HIV/AIDS.

What messages are in the beadwork you own?

If you'd like to bead your own HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon I have designed a free pattern as a Friday Followers and Facebook Fans offer in peyote and square stitch - just email me or let me know in a comment and I can email it to you.

• The History of Zulu Beadwork |
• Carey, M. 2001, Gender in African Beadwork, in Sciama, L. and Eicher, J. (Eds), Beads and Bead Makers: Gender, Material Culture and Meaing, BERG, Oxford. (pp. 83 – 91),

Friday, July 16, 2010

New competition - jewelry that has non-bead components

BeadStyle magazine has a new challenge for beaders - make a piece of jewelry with non-bead components or findings. Send a JPEG of your piece to by September 6, 2010. Finalists are published in the January issue and we can vote for our favorite. What would you make?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And again a Treasury

Summer Night Sunset - the Eye of the Lemur by Dax Designs Bead Art bracelet is featured. Wonderful company it's in.

Etsy Treasury time again

Dax is in two new Treasuries curated by Etsy shop owners. Here they are:
  • Hyperallergenic - featuring some of my DaxDestash surgical steel earstuds.
  • Cuffs, cuffs, cuffs, cuffs, cuffs - featuring Dax Bead Art Eye of the Snow Leopard cuff bracelet

Dax Designs - now on Artisan Co-op