Where do beads really come from?  They are all around me, taking up every inch of space in my house.  They seem to grow out of the walls.  These four sculptures are part of a recent study of the “growth” of bead.  I have been working primarily with polymer clay (for the past four years), learning various techniques and applications of the medium.  I make different types of beads for use in my jewellery pieces - some are flat, round or rock-shaped, and most are made using the millefiori technique.

          Millefiori (literally “a thousand flowers”) refers to an ancient glass making technique developed in Venice during the 1700’s.  Coloured glass, or clay in this case, is built into a “cane” with a pattern running through the centre.  Slices of the design are then used to create unique beads. 

when the canes come together  shows many different examples of cane-work “growing” out of a glass-filled flower box.  The mature bead which I term “fruit basket bead” comes from underneath the stalk and pops out of the glass pebbles when ready to be picked.

All of the flat pieces are composed of many cane slices which I arrange in various patterns.  I often refer to this as quilt-work or clay mosaic.  In a garden such as the one featured in my summer in the yukon, you can see many different flower designs from which a multitude of beads may later grow.

          The delicate flower beads from outburst  have thin slices of canework appliquéd to their surface and grow from a short twisted stalk with large leaves that protect the bead within.  As a ripe bead is plucked from the stalk, another will sprout in its place.  They are shown here growing on local soapstone from Soap Creek near Dawson City.   Many varieties are found in this area and some I have “harvested” and used to create my “extremeware” line of necklaces.

          In reaching you see the formation of the “lace bead”.  The beads form in the centre of the green petals and when ripe are ejected from the stalk and land around the base.  These grow best near old decaying trees and roots. 

the ripening shows bead growth in its entirety from the first tiny sprouts to the fully developed bead.  You can see the young green polka-dots forming, turning colours while the bead darkens, then the leaves open and fall off and the fruit is ready.  The large colourful borbles from this organism were picked at their prime and strung together to form the lotza dotz necklace.

The beads in my life are always growing, and changing with the seasons, becoming greener and budding in spring and summer, taking on the rusty hues of the leaves in autumn and lightening the coldest winter days.  Every year there is a bountiful harvest and it is always a pleasure for me to going gathering beads.