Explorations with Glass Seed Beads
In linguistics, 'loan-words' are words adopted from a donor language and incorporated into a foreign language without translation. This happens due to changes in human geography, caused by processes such as migration, invasion, or globalization. I am interested in how the 'loan-' ideology can be applied to glass beads, a loan-craft object.
The first glass seed beads were made in south India, over 3000 years ago. Through trade, these beads made their way to Europe, where the Italian glass industry perfected the art of making these en masse. During European colonial endeavours, these beads spread to large swaths of the Americas, Africa and Asia. Often used as currency, the beads became a vehicle for colonisation.
However, indigenous communities adopted and seamlessly incorporated the loaned-glass bead into existing religious and craft traditions. I am interested in the glass seed bead as a unit of time, violence, labour, and faith.
The first glass seed beads travelled to Europe from South India through the silk route. The colourful checks in “Stained” are typical of South Indian silk textiles. The specific pattern in this piece is an imitation of a sari, over 100 years old, rendered useless due to a large water stain on the fabric. The piece was created by individually placing 13 co- lours of glass seed beads onto a cloth textured-ceramic substrate. The beads are then fused together in a kiln to form a delicate glass tapestry. The layout of beads remains unchanged throughout the piece. A slight variation in the height of the beads causes the individual colours to melt into one another, creating the image of a stained textile.
Visually drawing from stained glass, jewelry, and ritual objects, this piece was an offering to a site where I developed my practice of working with glass seed beads. The imagery draws from the native flora of this location, where indigenous communities have worked with seed beads made of glass, stone, and shell for millennia. It also draws from the sewing pattern of beads used in traditional beading crafts. The fractured ring form alludes to the form of each individual bead, and also frames a void - drawing upon the incomplete history of the bead as a unit of time, labour, violence, and faith.