Sunday, May 2, 2010

time to pony up or eat crow

I've been making lots of little beads. In yesterday's post, I mentioned that a friend suggested that I devote less time to testing out colors and more to making stuff I could sell. What I didn't understand was that she had a goal in mind. In about a month is a Revolutionary War reenactment demo for her town. She wants me to sell beads at it. Time to research what was hot and how it was done.

During the period between 1700 and 1850 a booming fur trade existed in the part of the country I live. Beads were used as currency since native people and frontier types had little use for paper money or even coin. There was a fixed heirarchy of prices and the demand was specifically supplied by beadmakers in Venice (Murano), Bohemia and as far away as China. The most common types of beads used for trade were "chief" beads, measuring 5/8" to 3/4", crow beads of about 3/8", and pony beads of about 3/16". There were also chevron or rosary style beads, which are true objects of beauty even if they were mass produced by cutting murrini-like tubes and smoothing off the edges. These are so far beyond my skill level and resources that there isn't any point going into them further. I chose to make the crow bead size, since they are well documented and are best suited to my setup and ability.

Above is a picture of some of the beads I made for this event. While beads were made in most of the colors available in the modern palette, the ones most in demand were the blues and white. Lewis and Clark and others state that unless they had blue and white beads on offer, the trappers simply weren't interested. This does make sense since even today these are among the most sought-after colors.

Later in the period, perhaps 1820 or so, a new style began to emerge as the ruby red colors began to become more popular. It is referred to as the Hudson Bay bead and is made with a translucent green core and a translucent to opaque red wrap. Later yet, the core became white or yellow and the wrap could become more pink. I couldn't help it. Even though it is later in time than the period covered by the reenactment, I had to try it.

This is my effort along this line. I have more in the cooker and can't wait to see how they turn out, but I couldn't wait. The core is some Effetre translucent green purchased before I became rabid about labeling, probably grass green opalino. The shell is CiM sangre, chosen because it yields a result closest to the antique beads offered for sale at about this time.


The picture on the left shows the colors better and the one on the right is more clear. I can tell that as simple as this should be, it is going to be a work in progress for me. The idea of using the dark green core is very strange for me to wrap my head around and is, strangely enough, more difficult to do than a core of plain white would be. It may be that I am using a picture to work from and am trying to do a lot of things at once.
I have a lot of work to do on this project and at my current production rate, should finish in time for next year's event.

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