Seed Bead Secrets

Close Up of "Chomp!" a necklace now in a private collection

Close Up of “Chomp!” a necklace now in a private collection

Seed beads are small to tiny glass beads that I rely on for my bead weaving art work. They’ve been around for hundreds of years. Only recently has the production of these become mechanized, but that’s only at some manufacturers. After all this time, though, the basic steps are still the same. Make a hollow tube, split the hollow tube into thousands of tiny beads, and optionally, polish them. Bead making remains a cottage industry, family run and worked. Here’s what one beader described as her observation of one family’s enterprise.

The glass is heated until it is pliable. An air pocket is introduced and then two men run in opposite directions stretching out what becomes a very long tube. Another man moves down the length of the tube scoring it at even intervals. Then he taps the tube and all the beads fall apart onto the floor. They are collected and then polished so that the ends are smoothly finished. This polishing usually takes place in a large drum or container where the beads are mixed with clay or clay-like substances that fill their holes and keep each bead separate from all the other new beads. It is with this process that the final color becomes set, though dying and fancy finishes and other effects can be applied later.

The most consistently sized beads come from Japan with Czech beads being a very close second. Beads from China, Taiwan, and India are much less size consistent but this can work toward the bead weaving artist’s favor if she or he is working on a free-form project where diversity of sizes adds to the depth of the art.

quot; a necklace now in a private collection

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