Saturday, September 20, 2008

Let Us Now Praise Famous Beaders

Although the late Peter Francis, Jr (1945-2002) writes from the perspective of a bead collector, (what beader is not a collector as well) I thought starting this series on beaders with Peter Francis, Jr. was most fitting because his research goes back to the many places where beads were first found. He points out that beads are the first known art form of humans, emerging over 40,000 years ago. In fact they predate cave paintings and carved figures.
The Late Peter Francis, Jr. (1945-2002) was a pioneer in the beading movement that we are continuing to experience today. I first became aware of his work when I was surfing the net on Compuserve in the late 80's early 90's. He had a webmall for beaders, he was the first I know of to have shops for beaders to sell their work on the web and he was a very knowledgeable bead collector and researcher. You can visit his original website here. In addition to his extensive research on the history of beads, he had a bead museum in Lake Placid, NY. Here is a link to photos of his museum. There are plans to have his entire collection placed in the Bead Museum in Glendale, Arizona.
I have a copy of his book Beads of the World which is a fascinating look at the history of beads. There are many photos of different beads from all over the world. He also includes some old photos of primitive bead making techniques and some great old drawings of how glass beads were made in the past. I especially love the drawing of three women at a table making wrapped lampwork beads, around 1600. Not so different from now.

Peter Francis, Jr.'s definition of a bead:

" What's a Bead?A survey of dictionaries and encyclopedias will reveal that the usual definition of a bead goes something like this: "A bead is a small, round object with a hole in it used for necklaces, etc."I do not find this satisfying. For one thing, many beads are not round. For another, they are not all small. They do not all have holes, and their uses go far beyond necklaces.My definition would be more on these lines: "A bead is an object capable of being strung and used for the many tasks assigned to it by various cultures. These include (but are not limited to) symbols of status and group membership; ornamentation of people, animals, and things; mnemonic devices; counting devices; amulets and talismans; and others."

I found the following link here that shows a video of Peter talking about African Beads on a UK TV program. It gives you a great sense of his knowledge and love of beads. I found that it would work on my Windows Media Player if I scrolled down to the link for people who can't get it on the screen provided i.e. the 14 mb .wmv file.
I hope that you will spend some time getting to know Peter's work, if you don't already, and enjoy remembering him as I have done in writing this article.

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