In 1908, archaeologist Josef Szombathy discovered a figurine that would come to be known as the Woman from Willendorf. The limestone carving depicts a woman with ample curves and a smooth face. The accentuation of her motherly attributes - hips, abdomen, and breasts - suggests that she is a talisman of fertility, or perhaps a symbol of a mother goddess. The actual purpose of figurines like these are unknown, but the abundance of similar carvings found throughout Europe suggests that ancient people treasured and revered a woman's power to create life. These little sculptures are commonly referred to as Venus statues.
The symbol of the Earth mother has continued to be used throughout the ages, and is even now easily recognized in modern works of art. The strong feminine qualities of the goddess are popular symbols - gracious curves and smooth features. Many of today's lampwork bead makers create their own version of the Venus, which make wonderful necklace pendants. Louise Ingram's handmade beads depict a charming version of the goddess, with unique shapes and gorgeous colors.
Inspirational Beading: How did you first discover bead making?
Louise Ingram: I first discovered bead making one day while I was online. I found glass beads with frogs on them, and the more I looked the more amazed I became at what I was seeing. I really felt like it was something I had to try. I fell in love with a bracelet and earring set at a craft show because it was made from lampwork beads. I asked the seller if she made the beads herself - I was desperate to learn all I could about this art form. She told me that she hadn't made the beads, but I bought it anyway. I now realize the beads were most likely made in China and not good quality, they probably weren't annealed and are showing their weaknesses with cracks in the glass.
Within a year or two of seeing my first lampwork beads, I had purchased a beginners kit and started to create my own. Since then I've upgraded to a torch that uses propane and oxygen, and also have my own kiln so that I can anneal my beads as I go.
Inspirational Beading: When did you become drawn to the goddess form?
Louise: In part I was inspired by a bead in a Cindy Jenkins book; it was a bead by Sage Holland, which had a Goddess form on it. I was intrigued by the way she had created the body by shaping a dot of glass into a triangle, and how she had placed another dot on top for the head. It was clearly a Goddess, but the thing I liked about it was it's primitive form. It wasn't a voluptuously figured Goddess, it was something that to me was much more spiritual.
My first Goddess beads were based on this design of Sage's. I'm very conscious of not wanting to just copy another artist's beads, so bit by bit my Goddess' grew into a design that I think is pretty uniquely mine. I embellish ivory glass with silver foil, which gives a wonderful organic look to the base of the bead, and then from there I build up my Goddess figure. She's lost her triangular shape and now has a more curved, feminine body that I will often decorate with murrini (a slice of glass cane that has an intricate pattern running through it).
Many bead makers create incredible sculpted Goddess forms. I feel like I bring something a little different with my design. They can be worn on a chain or cord, and hang by the hole that runs through the top of the bead. This has become my favorite bead shape, as the right face of the bead is always facing forward, it's not going to flip around while you are wearing it.
Inspirational Beading: Where do you find the most inspiration?
Louise: I'd have to say that most of my inspiration comes from the past, from history. I love looking at ancient beads and jewelry, even architectural shapes. I find it very exciting to think of how people created such beauty hundreds and thousands of years ago. Of course, there's also a wacky side to my bead making - my Monkeys and inspiration for them can come from anywhere!
Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite color to work with?
Louise: Dark Ivory glass is one of my favorite colors, it reacts in wonderful ways with many of the other colors. Sometimes it will cause another color to feather into it with a delicate tracery of lines, and other times it will react with a color and create a totally new shade where the two come together. Dark Ivory also tends to curdle when it is cooked in the flame, it is the most magical base to work with.
Inspirational Beading: Who do you hope to inspire with your work?
Louise: If my work inspires one person then I'd be happy. If I inspire someone to find out more about lampwork, and maybe take the plunge themselves, that would be exciting -- who knows how talented they may end up becoming.
At one of my shows a lady was looking at my Goddess beads. She was trying to find a particular color, so I pulled some more beads out of my box for her to see. There was one that had open arms with stars slipping between them. For the lady this bead really meant something - one star was beyond the reach of the Goddess. I was extremely touched when she bought it and explained that the one star was for a child that she lost, while the stars within the Goddess' grasp were her other children.
The process of making my Goddess beads is very pleasing, and there are several steps. Each one takes time, thought and a little magic to bring everything together just right. To know that one of my beads had touched someone on such a personal level was very humbling.
Louise Ingram creates her one of a kind beads from her studio in Merrickville, near Ottawa, Ontario. She shares her creative space with her husband and cat. Originally from Bristol, England, Louise has always dreamed of doing something creative for a living. After making beads for three years, she is proud to say that she has earned the title of Artist. She works with soft glass and a propane-oxygen torch, making goddesses, monkeys, and a new line of creations inspired by beads in history. You can see her glass creations on her website, FireSeed. Visit her Artfire shop during the month of January for a special New Year's sale. To catch up with her latest inspirations, and learn about her January giveaway check out her FireSeed blog and Facebook page.
Copyright 2010 Inspirational Beading and Louise Ingram