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Contemplative Ode To A Bead

Posted by learntobead on April 23, 2020


You stare at a bead, and ask what it is. You put some thread on a needle, then the bead on the needle, and ask what to do. You stitch a few beads together, and wonder what will become of this. You create a necklace, and ask how it will be worn. And you stare at each bead again, and think where do all these feelings welling up within you come from — beauty, peace and calm, satisfaction, magic, appeal, a sensuousness and sexuality. Your brain and eye enter into this fantastic dance, a fugue of focusing, refocusing, gauging and re-gauging light, color, shadow, a shadow’s shadow, harmony, and discord.

You don’t just bead.

There’s a lot involved here. You have to buy beads, organize them, buy some extra parts, think about them, create with them, live with some failed creations, and go from there. If there wasn’t something special about how beads translate light into color, shade and shadow, then beading would simply be work. But it’s not.

You have to put one next to another…..and then another. And when you put two beads next to each other, or one on top of the other, you’re doing God’s work. There’s nothing as spectacular as painting and sculpting with light.

This bead before me — why is it so enticing? Why do I beg it to let me be addicted? An object with a hole. How ridiculous its power. Some curving, some faceting, some coloration, some crevicing or texturing, some shadow, some bending of light. That’s all it is. Yet I’m am drawn to it in a slap-silly sort of way.

When I arrange many beads, the excitement explodes geometrically in my being. Two beads together are so much more than one. Four beads so much more than two. A hundred beads so much more than four. The pleasure is uncontainable.

I feel so powerful. Creative. I can make more of what I have than with what I started with.

And the assembling — another gift. String through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align. So meditative. Calming. How could beads be so stress-relieving, other-worldly-visiting, and creative-exciting at the same time?


To contemplate the bead is to enter the deep reaches of your mind where emotion is one with geometry, and geometry is one with art, and art is one with physics, and beads are one with self.

So these days, I confront my innermost feelings about beads. What I enjoy, and what I do not. What I have learned, and what I have not. What I want to achieve, and what I fear I cannot.

It’s not that, originally, I wanted to bead much of anything. I imagined what I wanted to create, and quickly found I couldn’t create it. This became my Rogue Elephant — the sum of all my jewelry design ambitions, and my fluency and ultimate success with it.

I had very specific ideas of what my beadwork should look like, and how it should function. I did not want to be considered a painter who uses beads, or a sculptor who uses beads. I wanted to be considered a bead artist. A bead artist who legitimately uses beads, and not paints, and not clays or stone. This was my dilemma.

Alas, this was the basis of all my fears. Could bead artists intentionally design with light in a fundamentally different way than painters use paint, or sculptors use clay or stone? If I beaded a mannequin, I’d be painting or sculpting.

But what if I beaded a Rogue Elephant? Something that moved. Something that reacted differently in different situations. Something that appeared in different contexts. Would my beadwork stand up to some test of grammar, poetry, art, vision and even love?

I was tentative, at first, about beading, but that Rogue Elephant kept getting in my way. To tame it, to get rid of it, to make sense of it, I had to bead it.

But how? Should I? Could I? Would I? It’s huge! It’s fast! It’s ornery!

Should I make my Elephant some kind of necklace or anklet to wear? How about a little hat? I can tubular peyote around its trunk OK, but what about its ears? What do I do there? That mid-section is awfully rotund. Fringe would be pretty, hanging around some kind of blanket. But, alas, wouldn’t it just drag along the ground?

The main problem is, though, that this beast keeps moving. How am I ever going to get anything to look good, and stay looking good, on this Elephant if it keeps moving? After all, Rogue Elephants don’t Pose. They’re not “Vogue” Elephants. They’re “Rogue” Elephants. They’re too busy tossing their heads at everything else in sight.

If I use large beads, I can accomplish this feat faster, but not necessarily as elegantly. Should my Elephant be elegant? Sophisticated? Earthy? Adventurous? Bohemian? Fashion-aware or fashion-I-don’t-care?

I can not get this Rogue Elephant out of my mind. The thoughts of beading it seem insurmountable, unconquerable. My eyes strain, my hands ache, my back stiffens at these thoughts. It will never get done. I won’t finish it. I won’t do it. I most certainly don’t have the time. I’ll try something easier, like a toy rabbit or a stick. A small stick. A very small, very straight, perfectly round stick. Surely not an Elephant, a Rogue one at that.

Calm down, I say to myself. Stop hyperventilating. Wipe those clammy palms. Don’t let the task before you scare you before you even start.

I grit my teeth. I stand up straight. I squeeze my hands into a fist. I hold my fisted-hands stiffly and tightly against my right and left sides. I lift my chin up ever-so-slightly until my eyes meet his. I stare that Rogue Elephant right into the face for those few seconds it stands in my field of vision. I will bead you. I will bead you. I will bead you.

I set my mantra going. I try to focus on my inner self. I reach way back to grab my inner being, setting its life force and motivation on track to complete this awesome task.

I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead.

Glue. Thank God someone invented glue. I could corner that Elephant, pour buckets of glue on him, and use a leaf blower to blow a pile of beads right onto that beast. They’ll stick. I’ll be done. Whatever happens, happens. That’s what I’ll do.

But I wouldn’t be happy. And that Elephant would probably want to scratch and itch. Beads would pop off. The glue would yellow. That Elephant wouldn’t be able to walk with any sense of style or grace. It might trip. It would probably fall down, actually. And not be able to get up. Pitiful. It would lose its Rogue-ness. It’s essence of being. I would tame it, yet more than humble it. Where’s the excitement? Glue just won’t do.

I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead.

How about Mardi Gras beads? These beads, already ironed into place onto a string, could be wrapped around and around and around. Purple Iris’s. Topaz AB’s. Olivine Lusters. They’d be colorful. They’d shine. They’d sparkle. It would be like lassoing a steer — over and over again. I don’t know if my Elephant would stand still for that. Perhaps I could corral him. I could tape one end of the bead string to the tail. Then go around and around and around his body until I reached the other end of the trunk. I’d parade the Elephant in front of all the other Elephants out there, and they’d all want to look as dapper. Everyone the Elephant meets, in fact, will want to be wrapped in bead-ropes. How easy, how simple, how divine.

Once I let my Elephant out of the corral, however, I fear the bead-ropes will reposition themselves and slip off and look sloppy. My Elephant would have to lose its Rogue-ness to pull off this look. My Elephant would have to stand still and pose. I don’t think my Elephant would stand for that. In fact, I know he wouldn’t. The jungle is not a circus, and the banks of the jungle watering hole do not provide a level pedestal for such an event. My elephant would be perplexed. And the result would not be satisfactory beadwork. He’d be off in an instant. This would be a mess — a big Mardi Gras mess. Only sanitation workers in New Orleans getting paid much overtime would have any determined appreciation.

I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead.

Just what is the recipe then? Take needle and thread, add beads, mix lightly, separate whites and darks, bake, turn once, and voila? Do I have to have a recipe? A determined strategy? A plan of action? Can’t I just bead it? Do I have to think about how to get the beadwork to stay in place? Look good? Look great? Must the Elephant still be able to run with the beadwork on? If the Elephant runs, must the beadwork stay on? And still look good? Oh, dear, my head is beginning to hurt. I don’t know if I can do all this. And be satisfied.

And the poor Elephant. It looks at me one more time. It’s green eyes dart on me. Challenging me. Daring me. Perhaps fearing me and my determination. Perhaps pondering the why’s and wherefores of my insistence that he be beaded — in totality, Rogue-ness and all. The Elephant turns its head, touching his long torso from shoulder to belly with his trunk. His tusks shift uncomfortably. I’m sure the Elephant is wondering How! — How would the beads go on? How would they be arranged? How could he continue to walk and drink and eat and talk? How would the other Elephants react? How could anyone ever begin to bead a Rogue Elephant?

My Elephant looks at me one more time — staring directly into my eyes. It’s more than a glance. He stares, as if to say, it can’t be done. My Elephant lifts its trunk, extends its ears, snorts, shakes its tail, turns and darts away toward the horizon.

I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead. I will bead you. I can bead.

I follow him.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

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