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|The history of beadwork is very scant and most information is contradictory. We all have different opinions as to where beadwork history began. Since larger beads of natural materials have been in existence for over 30,000 years, I believe bead stringing was the first method employed. Can you imagine the first person in ancient times picking up a pierced rock or shell and sticking a reed through it to wear. What was that person thinking? What was the first concept or idea as to the purpose? We will probably never know, but that was the birth of bead stringing. Beadwork stems from bead stringing.|
Beadwork found in Egyptian tombs including broad collars and bead netted clothing composed of larger beads than what we call seed beads and bugles today. Most of these beads were tubular in shape and made of a paste composition. Since some of these beaded items had turn-around beads for thread movement, it is obvious they were not made by stringing alone but by creating more complex structures, one bead at a time. Is this beadwork? You bet! I believe these beadwork items are the precursors to contemporary beadwork.
Beaded bags and embellishment to religious objects and clothing predates 1100 AD, but the beads were not as small as those of the 1800s. Beadwork with very small beads exploded onto the market in the 1800s when advancements in glass manufacturing methods allowed for mass production of small beads. Many of the early beaded purses were knitted, couched, embroidered and woven. Bead crochet, appliqué, stitchery and other needlework techniques quickly followed. The smallest beads were made during the early 1800s and those beads are no longer manufactured due to the excessive hours involved. Most beads of the 1800s, size 16/0 and smaller are vintage beads today. Contemporary beadwork is very different from that of the past, however, the stitches remain the same.
It is our responsibility to record beadwork and provide beadwork history for future generations. Recent books published recording beadwork and beadwork artists will go a long way toward preserving contemporary beadwork. Books and magazine that were published in the past with how-to instructions for beadwork have given us the reference material to learn beading techniques. Making beadwork samplers will reach a much wider audience around the world in our effort to preserve and record beadwork history, past and present.
What are Samples? What are Samplers? A sample is one small motif/ piece worked with specific stitches. A sampler is the piece all the small motifs/samples are stitched to or added onto the surface. Several samplers would mean several pages with samples stitched to each page or the page filled with stitches forming a sampler.
At one time children were taught embroidery and needlework stitches in school and required to put all the stitches they learned on a piece of fabric. Once all the stitches were added to the fabric, the piece was called a "sampler." They could use this sampler as a reference of specific stitches and it was also symbolic of their mastering all the stitches. At one time there were schools in many countries including samplers in their curriculum. Eventually these samplers were dropped from the education system and those schools dedicated only to needlework and samplers disappeared.
The only beadwork samplers I know of are those created by Native Americans and Africans. These samples were created for their own use and it has just been in the last few years Native Americans and Africans have spoken about these samplers in bead related magazines. Beadwork pieces have been found in various areas of the world that reflect beading techniques; however, they are used to form an artwork, not actual beadwork samplers.
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