Art Bead Scene giveaway!
May 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
Over on Art Bead Scene they are hosting possibly the mother of all giveaways. I can’t even begin to describe everything in there, but it features some of my favourite artists that I have come across in the last few months. I’ve entered through comments but also I wanted to enter by answering one of the questions the ABS team had put forward:
What is the reason you use art beads in your designs?
It seems a simple question: because I like them. But I know that it’s a little bit deeper and more complicated than that.
I work in a bead shop, and before that I worked in a fabric and craft shop. We get our products shipped in from all over the globe, arriving in these huge, weighty cardboard boxes and covered in dust, that we then have to check off, sort, and clean up. Then these little beads are sold to our customers, who come from all over West Yorkshire and also from around the country – and some even from other countries! We have some wonderful products, as did the fabric shop, and they are beautiful.
But in my other life, my academic life, I study a lot about work, and labour, and where things have come from, and how we’ve been alienated from things that are made by other human beings. Food and fashion have undergone big changes in the UK (apparently) with more people being concerned with origin. Where is our food grown? Who harvests it? Who sells it? Who makes my jeans, or sews my skirts, or cobbles my shoes? With big shops and global manufacturing, we can’t really answer a lot of these questions.
I have tried to make a commitment to myself to buy things locally, and if not locally, from a local source, and from small producers. For example, I shop for my food at the local market, where I know many of the traders. When they have English apples, strawberries, peas and rhubarb in, I buy it. If things have been imported from Europe then it’s not so local: but I am putting my money into my local (read, Leeds market) economy. I try to buy clothes from second-hand sources and charity shops. After reading very recently about the wages of garment workers in (for example) Bangladesh, and realising that some of my clothes bear that label, I am going to try very very hard not to purchase from shops that I know, explicitly or implicitly, are using underpaid or forced labour.
So what’s this got to do with beading? Well, I know which country our beads have come from. But I don’t know who made it, what they were paid, or what conditions they worked in. I wear things round my neck and wrists that have travelled across the globe and I have no idea how they’ve been created. That’s sort of weird. I want to know how things are made – that’s why I make things myself. I want to know who the person is who made the objects I enjoy, where they live, what their lives are like, how long it took them, how it was done, whether they enjoyed it or not. It would be unachievable to think that everything I purchase must have a clear and definite point of origin that I can know: but when I can achieve this, why wouldn’t I?
And I think that’s why I enjoy using art beads. Because although it is about the ‘art’ of it, it’s also about the work, and the person who made it. It’s about the social connection of people that has come through an object – rather than an object being mystified and devoid of these social processes. Ideally, I want to be at the point where either I or someone I know can make every single element of a piece of jewellery I create – which is why in September I am desperate to go on a local silversmithing course – and in those different elements the relationships between people, their work, and their ideas, can be expressed and talked about.