At this time of year, a person can’t help but think about the things they’re thankful for. Friends, family, food, safety, shelter, courage in times of crisis…you know, all that good stuff. While pondering all the change in my life in the last couple of years, taking time to just be thankful is heartening and mildly overwhelming. And though it may seem unimportant in the overall scheme of life, I am so incredibly thankful that beads became such an integral part of my life.
I knew I couldn’t be the only beader that felt this way, so I asked my beady friends, and have come up with a list of reasons that we are thankful for beads. I hope that these sentiments resonate with you as well! Take a few breaths away from the festivities to ponder…why we bead thankful (in no particular order):
10) Concentration – How many times have you been beading/making beads/sketching designs and someone starts talking to you? Do you even hear them? I am thankful that beading has helped hone this laser concentration focus, as I am able to apply it to all aspects of my life. At work, when the department is in a flurry of activity and phone calls, I am able to keep one ear tuned for my name, and the rest of my attention on my projects. Beads are the reason I can concentrate when a chore or project really needs to get done.
9) Determination – Ok, I will admit this publically, I can be a perfectionist – it is really hard for me to overcome what I perceive as my shortcomings. However, when I am not good at something new the first go, I am thankful that beading has taught me the determination to not give up. I remember the first time I tried to teach myself peyote stitch…it did not go well AT ALL. I actually gave up and put the instructions aside for several months. But I was determined to learn the secrets of this stitch, came back a few weeks later and made another stab at it. Nope! Studied other instructions (this was all before internet tutorials) and finally had success! Recently I have been applying this determination to the ballroom dance classes we’ve been taking…learning movement has always been a challenge for me. However I keep trying, and am starting to feel and SEE the improvement now…Thank you beading for the determination to continue.
8) Challenge – Speaking of things that are challenging…I am so incredibly thankful that beading has taught me to seek joy in challenging myself. After all, without challenge, art becomes stagnant. Challenge yourself to learn a new stitch/technique/media. Challenge yourself to make something you didn’t have the skills to create a year ago. Part of the reason challenge has become so integral to my beading mindset the last few years is because I have had certain techniques mastered for quite awhile. I have challenged myself to explore the more conceptual realms – such as how I use color, shape, texture, and scale. This has helped me to discover and grow beyond my own self imposed limitations as a beadwork artist.
7) Mindful Relaxation – Beading is my meditation. If you are not familiar with the concept of mindfulness, I highly encourage you to read this book – it’s an incredibly applicable introduction and lesson plan on the subject. However, I suspect that as you learn about mindfulness, you will come to the conclusion that some aspect of your bead process is a natural meditation for you as well! I am never more present in the moment than when I am in the middle of a large project. I am able to turn off my thinking brain, and just be…just breathing and beading. Thank you beadwork for creating peace in my mind, a way for my brain to recharge, a time for me to simply be.
6) Coordination – As a whole, I have always been fairly clumsy. This is part of the reason whole body movement (sports/dance/plain old walking) can be challenging for me. But beading has taught me great hand/eye coordination. This has lead me to excel at typing, paper shuffling, and many other real life job skills. While I might trip over my own feet or fall up the stairs on a regular basis (yes, UP), I can thank beadwork for my fine motor skills.
5) Gifts – Who doesn’t love giving someone a gift? I love being able to watch someone unwrap a gift, see the appreciation on their face, and knowing that you were able to make them feel that with a simple gift. I am thankful that my beadwork habit means there is a large stash of gifts at my fingertips. Find out a coworker’s birthday is tomorrow? No problem, choose a pair of earrings! A good friend’s birthday coming up? That’s when I really have fun…I love nothing more than creating with a specific person in mind. I am constantly observing the people in my day to day life (family/friends/coworkers), cataloging their preferences in accessories and jewelry, keeping a mental list of who might like what. When you make something specifically for someone, they inherently know how much time and energy you put into the gift. Handmade just means MORE, and I am thankful that I can use my skills to make someone feel appreciated.
4) Sharing – There are so many ways to share your passion and knowledge about beads and beading, each one of them rewarding in their own way. I love teaching people to seed bead that have never picked up a needle and thread before – to see their delight when they have a sample or the beginnings of a project in their hands makes me happy. I love talking to people about how universal beads are, how integral to the “human condition”, how beads connect us to our earliest ancestors and to cultures around the world. Nothing delights me more than hearing someone say, “I would like to learn that – it looks like fun!” Whether you are simply sharing your insights/tips/tricks with other beaders, or actively teaching someone who has never beaded before, we can thank our beads for this connection.
3) Artists – Beadwork gives me a connection to other artists, in any medium. I know people all over the world that are world class leatherworkers, quilters, embroiderers, glass artists, potters, woodworkers, painters, sculptors, etc. On some level we all understand what the other person goes through creatively – the hours of R&D that lead up to their current mastery, the time that went into creating the particular piece you are looking at, the particular aesthetic of each individual artist…we get each other. One of the best conversations I ever had with another artist, was with my friend Bob. He is a world renowned leatherwork artist and instructor – we spent an evening digging through my jewelry boxes talking about all that goes into a piece: technique, time, and soul. It is the same for his work – each piece of Bob’s is a reflection of his refinement of general techniques, years of practice, and his desert rat hippie soul. I can thank beads for allowing me to connect with other artists on this level…love ya Bob!
2) Creative Outlet – I do all kinds of arts and crafts. I am never happier than when I’m up to my elbows in a project, digging through materials and supplies, letting my right brain have free reign. Over the years I’ve tried lots of things, put beading aside for a few months, while I exercised a new found crush on some other creative project. But I’ve always come back to beading – it’s the only creative outlet that has stuck with me through everything. For many people, beading is their first and only creative outlet. I am thankful that beading can be a creative outlet for me and so many other people.
1) Friends and Community – Speaking of bead people…This is absolutely the number one reason I am thankful for beads. Over the years I’ve worked at 4 bead stores, taught classes and cultivated new beaders, and been absorbed into real life and online bead communities. I am thankful that beading has brought so many amazing lifelong friends into my life. One of the best things about making friends with bead people is that you already know you speak the same language of creativity, color, technique, and generosity. Everything else you have in common is bonus! If not for my online bead friends, I would not be here sharing with you now! The Art Jewelry Elements blog and our fantastic contributors are what got me back to blogging after a 4 year hiatus. The last year of coming up with things to share with all of our readers has been challenging and rewarding. Thank you all for being a part of my bead community.
I hope you all had a fantastic and love filled holiday. Please tell us how you bead thankful!