Loom Beading

Published: 17th May 2006
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What Is Loom Beading?



Loom beading is a kind of hybrid of the arts of weaving and beading.



Like weaving, beading has been around for thousands of years. It has also been an important historical and cultural element. Peoples from all over the world have strung beads onto necklaces and other accessories, since the dawn of modern man and maybe even before.



While not as essential to survival as weaving--after all, beading is fundamentally a means to adornment or decoration, rather than addressing a basic human necessity--beading has played an important part in world history. Glass seed beads were a huge commodity on the trade routes of the Old World, with Arab and Portuguese traders carrying fine Indian glass beads far and wide.



People in the beads' destinations, locations such as Zanzibar, Tanzania, Kenya, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Vietnam, treasured these rare wonders. For more than a thousand years these beads were brought from the sub-continent by the Arab caravans, and during that time a handful of seed beads was a rare and precious thing.



Such beads, the type you'll be using for loom beading, have been found in the tombs of kings and queens of the Far East, in the funerary mounds of China and Korea.



In the 16th century AD European craftsmen and traders began to dominate the glass seed bead trade. They had to contend with a number of competitors, however. By this time a great number of other types of beads had come into circulation on the world market.



Glass seed beads weren't the first type of beads to be developed. Not even close. The first beads were precious stones, or shells, or real seeds, or even pearls. The impulse to decorate one's person is a strong and primal one. The history of bead-making goes back just as far as the history of weaving, reaching back into the fog and mists of time, 10,000 years or more.



By 7000 BCE the inhabitants of the Indus Valley were using primitive tools to drill holes in stones, which they then strung around their necks.



Out in the Philippines and the South Pacific, islanders used clay, coral, and shells to design gorgeous necklaces for ritual exchanges, beginning at the latest in 1000 BCE. The development here was that clay beads allowed a maker to shape a material without needing to drill a hole.



The faience beads invented in modern-day Iraq or Egypt accomplished the same thing. Ceramics of quartz sand and colored glaze, these beads could be turned out quickly, easily, and relatively cheaply. This led to a bead explosion in the region, particularly in the areas of the ancient Egyptian dynasties.



Faience is a bead style still employed today.



Beadwork evolved as an embellishment for textile weaving. Very early on tribal weavers discovered that clothes and other cloth products could be livened up very easily with some form of bead. Every culture had its own methods and materials in regards to this process.



In India and Africa, beads have been made from things like ostrich shells, seeds, and bone for thousands upon thousands of years. In Peru the materials were highly refined bits of shell and malachite. In Israel, stitched beadwork from the Stone age has been discovered.



The use of looms for beads centered in the Americas, for the most part. Tribes of the Amazon used looms and beads together, as did Native Americans of the central and eastern United States.



When European colonizers appeared on the scene, the art of loom beading was slowly absorbed into their culture, and through them flowed back to Europe. By the 19th century loom beading was a popular pastime in the growing United States, as well as in England and the Continent.



Beaded cloth also appeared in Czech, southern Europe, and the Indonesian isle of Sumatra.



These days, loom beading generally does without the cloth aspect of the equation, instead focusing on smaller accessories such as necklaces, bracelets, hatbands, and small tapestries.



Today, loom beading is a fascinating pastime for many a "handy" soul. Some people say the loom work itself is claming, almost like meditation. And it produces a nice byproduct--beautiful beadwork.



Vilma Ladaga

http://www.loombeading.net


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