Wednesday, March 9, 2011

African Trade Bead Rings

African Christmas Bead Strands

At the beginning of this year, I began a mission to try out some new and unique beads every month. During my February shopping trip, I stopped by one of my favorite browsing spots, Happy Mango Beads. They have some of the most unique and interesting beads you will ever find outside of a worldwide bead show.

As a seed beader, I’m a sucker for small colorful beads, so I couldn’t resist picking up several strands of African Christmas beads. They are so beautiful on the strands, with lots of different colors, patterns and shapes. I grabbed six strands altogether, in two sizes, and started planning how I would use them.

Tribal Bead Palette

I wanted to create designs that would be worthy of the Christmas beads. Although their origins of manufacture aren’t very exciting, it’s the history that makes them special. They are traditionally worn as a symbol of love and devotion to one’s partner, which is why they are also known as love beads.

Once I had the new beads in my hands, I was buzzing with a need to bead, but I couldn’t decide what to make. I thought Ndebele herringbone would be a fitting treatment, but I wanted to make something a bit more interesting.

Tribal Trio Beaded Ring Set

Then I considered some freeform work that would lend itself well to the different bead shapes. But I though that would end up looking too busy, and the uniqueness of the beads would be lost.

Finally, I decided to just get my toes wet at first, and use a few of the beads for just a hint of color. I gathered up some other favorites like tortoise druks with their leopard-like finish, and instead of bone, I grabbed some more of those claw shaped mother of pearl chips.

I had so much fun making a quintet of spring color rings last week, that I decided to do the same again. For the bands, I picked some more spring-like colors, but in richer shades that would go well with my tribal bead theme. I chose dark beige, orange, lime green, and purple. I wanted to add a blue, and I was torn between cobalt and abalone. In the end, I went with the abalone, because of it’s more natural appeal.

Horn Beige Cluster Ring

I love the way these rings turned out. I added a striped slice and seed bead shaped Christmas bead to each ring, and they give the tribal design a perfect hint of authenticity. Now I’m ready to make something with lots and lots of trade beads.

Copyright 2011 Inspirational Beading
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  1. Hi Mortira, those rings are so cute i wish i could learn the technique, i have tried to follow the instructions on paper but i am more of a hand on girl. Thanks for sharing ttfn Lana

  2. Hi Mortira, These rings are so great! Any chance you'd do a tutorial? I was looking at the close-up photo and it looks like you have some 2-drop peyote but then there's that single line around the edge. I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to do this! And I love them! Good job!

  3. Thank you! I do have plans for making some more ring tutorials in the near future. I'll add this style to the list!

  4. The rings are adorable! I love your photography too. Thanks so much for mentioning HMB, we feel very honored!

  5. You really did get caught up in them but OH BOY those are fabulous!


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