Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bead Love: Nature vs. Nurture

Last week we got to meet the Beading Buds, and talked a bit about how our obsessions with beads begin. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my own beading origins are, and the more I consider the possibilities, the more mysterious it becomes.

The most obvious source of bead-craze for me is my mother’s seed bead collection. When I was very young, she practiced Native American style bead embroidery, and also made some amazing loomwork pieces. To this day, I swoon a little at the scent of suede and rabbit fur. I loved everything about the craft, from the materials to the finished projects, but the loose beads were my favorite.

Mother bought and stored Czech seed beads in clear film containers, and stored them in a big vintage sewing box. I spent hours upon hours just looking at all the little vials of color. My favorite was an enormous bottle of lustered transparent cranberry. Today I think that it might have something to do with my notion that seed beads are always more appealing in huge quantities.

Seed Beads in Plastic Bottles

Getting an actual taste of beadwork at an early age is a good start, but not everyone keeps going, or picks it up again at a later date and makes it a constant passion. For many beaders, there are other factors that make beads and beadwork irresistibly appealing. But do we love beads because of these experiences, or do these experiences stand out for us because we love beads?

To solve this mystery I went on a nostalgia trip, looking for all of the things in early life that may or may not link inner cartwheels and figurative drooling to beads, and the way that I feel about them today. At the risk of dating myself with some distinctly late 20th century fads, I’m going to share a few of the things I found on my search through photo albums and pin boards. Perhaps you’ll see a few familiar things here, too!

Collecting Freshwater Shells

The first thing I found was an old photograph of a day at the beach - one of many. The lake that we used to visit every summer had a wonderful sandy beach, and in those first few years, it was always covered in beautiful little snail shells. Collecting these shells, using them in sandcastles, and taking them home for crafts was something that I always looked forward to.

Sadly, the number of shells that we found got smaller every year, and several summers went by without a single find. I didn’t know it at first, but this was my first experience with the idea that people can drastically change an environment in a very short period of time. Fast forward a few decades, and here I am, carefully choosing beads that are the least likely to have caused anyone harm.

1980's Contac-C Commercial

The old photo album got me thinking about the days before the Internet, and some of the quaint things that we used to love ‘back in the day‘. Then I remembered how obsessed I was with a particular Contac-C commercial. In the ad, a model breaks open a cold medicine capsule, spilling out an abundance of brightly colored little ‘beads’. I was always glued to the set whenever this add came on, and this was long before I had discovered the wonder of glass seed beads. Coincidence? Or instinct? We may never know, but the fact that I remembered enough about the commercial to include the keyword ‘bus’ when looking for it must mean something.

Of course, cartoons and movies were also full of bead and gem goodness. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a small town, and had the freedom to walk home everyday for lunch - even in first grade - to eat Alpha-getti and watch Teddy Ruxpin. My favorite episode? The one where Gimmick invents a machine that turns the rainbow waterfall into colored crystals, naturally. (By the way, if this show ever ends up on Netflix, you might not see or hear from me for awhile. I'll drop everything to watch every episode!)

Do you remember push pencils? If you don’t, just imagine a pencil that you never have to sharpen, and then throw away after only a few uses. I cringe when I think about how much plastic was wasted by this particular fad, but at the time, they were delightful! For my birthday one year, I received a package of push pencils with fruit designs on them. Each one had a reservoir in the lid that was filled with tiny little scent beads to match the fruity print. I loved these pencils above all others, and spent as much time examining the little translucent beads inside as I did writing with them.

While on the hunt for an image of push pencils, I stumbled across many forgotten things from my childhood that may have contributed to, or enhanced, my love of beads.

These wooden bead toys made visiting
the dentist a treat. Still do!

If you never woke up with stick-on earrings on
your face and/or pillow, you didn't grow up in the 80's.

Remember the worry doll fad?
The smaller the better, just like beads!

I'm not sure, but I think I wanted a bike
just so I could put Spokey Dokeys on it.

Small, colorful, transparent thingies that make pictures...
Beads, or Lite-Brite?

Of course, beads and jewelry themselves played a part. Just like most girls, I spent a fair amount of pocket change on vending machine jelly bracelets. I also had a marvelous collection of brightly colored, chunky plastic jewelry a la 1980’s SAAN and Woolworth stores.

1980's Plastic Jewelry

Here I am with my aunt in 1988 or so, wearing a stretchy bracelet and rainbow plastic hearts. I loved junk jewelry, and treated it like gold. One piece that really stands out in my memory is a multi-strand stretch bracelet with white plastic pearls, and an enormous red ‘gemstone’. Even when the bracelet fell apart, I kept that plastic rock and treasured it for its size, color, and lovely transparence.

I’m still no closer to learning if bead-love is in my bones, or if I’m a product of a bead-friendly environment, but the journey was incredible! It didn’t even make me feel old, but I do have a craving for Kool-Aid and Pop-Tarts now.

Where did your bead obsession begin? Do you think it was fate or fortune that brought you together?

Copyright 2012 Inspirational Beading and Friends
Images Hosted by Pinterest
Subscribe to Inspirational Beading
Get inspired on Facebook and Google+


  1. What a charming stroll through treasured memories. I was already grown during most of those 80s fads, so many were new to me!

  2. Great post Mortira, that picture of you on the curb with your "jewels" is adorable!

  3. I enjoyed your look at the past as well. I grew up the decade before you, so some was familiar, some not. Fun to read. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. Great post! Yes, the past includes great memories! But some thing new to me are; stretched bracelets and stretched rings, I think it is a great way to use up small amounts of left over beads.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin

Inspiration Topics

accessories amulet Ancient Worlds Modern Beads animals April's Army art ArtFire astrology astronomy autumn awards awareness bangle beach Bead Inspired Bead Shops bead soup bead spotlight bead stash Bead Trays beaded beads beading theory beads belt bezel birthstones black blog spotlight blue boho bone book spotlight bracelet Bracelet A Week branch fringe brick stitch brown bugles buttons cabochon ceramic chain maille challenge charity chevron chain christmas collar Collections color Color Ideas color triads conservation craft shows crafts crochet crystals cuff Culled Beads current events Current Faves daggers Daily Sets daisy chain Delicas Destash drops Dutch spiral earrings Egypt Egyptian Gods embellishing embroidery environment etsy exotic fair trade fantasy fashion Favorite Beads Favorite Techniques feminine fibers film findings fire polish fixtures Flashback Test flickr inspiration flowers food found object free form fringe Geek Jewels geekery gemstones geography giveaway glass gold gray Greece green herringbone hex cuts history holiday home decor insects inspiration tip inspired beader Inspired by... Inspiring Links ivory Jewelry Stash knitting ladder stitch lampwork lariat leaf fringe leather lights literature loomwork macrame magatamas Master Class Medallions metal free metalwork Mini Collar a Week mixed media mixture Mood Board MOP multi-color multi-strand music natural beads nature necklace Necklace a Day Nepal chain netting New Beads ocean ombre orange paint paper patterns pearls pendant peyote photography Picasso finish pink Pinspiration PMC polymer clay poster sketch purple quick inspiration rainbow RAW red resin ring Ring a Day rivoli Rome Russian spiral scarf science seed beads shell silver soutache spiral rope spring square stitch St. Petersburg steampunk stringing stripes summer tagua TBT The Elements thread Tilas Time Capsule tools trade beads triangle weave tribal tropical turquoise tutorial two-hole beads Ugly vintage Wear it Twice weather white winter WIP wire wishlist wood World Beaders yellow
Blog Home * About * Beading Tutorials * Advertise

Learn About Sponsoring Inspirational Beading with Project Wonderful
Affiliated With and