The instructor had many examples of how prayer beads have been used for thousands of years. Originally beads were used for praying. It wasn't until the Renaissance period that beads were used for ornamentation.
She shared information about African trade beads...
how shells and coral are/were used for beads (the coral ones she got a very long time ago when it was okay to harvest coral)...
She showed different ways that beads are used. For example, in the Catholic church, rosaries are used.
Something I had never seen before that I found interesting were "beads" called milagros or "miracles." They are little metal objects representing a wide variety of things such as body parts, animals, or houses.
The milagros usually are given as an offering to a saint after healing a certain ailment, buying a new home, or receiving news of a trip.
Most of the time they are carried until the "miracle" happens and then given to the corresponding saint.
Another interesting bead is created from the nut of the tagua palm tree. According to the informational card, "The nuts are harvested as part of an initiative to help protect endangered South American rainforest."
The tagua nuts help "forest-based gatherers and artisans earn a living by managing the forest instead of cutting it down. In addition, it helps keep real ivory where it belongs - on living animals."
An example of the tagua nut is on the left hand side in the picture above. The turtle is made from obsidian (a type of rock). The artisans use obsidian to rub away the outside of the nut to get to the cream-colored part. By smoothing the inner part, it turns into a beautiful, smooth bead.
The instructor showed us different types of items created with beads that she has made. What we all liked were these little pouches that were created using the peyote stitch. The entire pouch/purse is very soft and flexible even though it is made up of hundreds of beads.
Inside the pouch is a little written prayer. Another pouch had some Irish coins in it.
After the presentation, it was time to make our prayer bracelets. The stringing method she used is simple: a large bead, three small beads, a large bead, three small beads, a large bead, three small beads, a large bead, and three small beads.
All together, there are 4 large beads and 12 small beads. We talked a bit about the symbolism of the numbers 4 and 12; and how they are represented in a variety of ways in the world around us.
When you use a prayer bracelet, there is a different focus when you come to each of the four large beads. At the first one, you pray for yourself. At the second one, you pray for your family. At the third one, your community; and the fourth one, the world.
For each trio of beads, you say a different prayer three times.
The bracelets can be worn or placed somewhere where you would see them regularly and would benefit from focusing or meditating on something. The size - only 16 beads total - lends itself to a quick re-focusing during the day which is beneficial to anyone.
After we learned about the format of the bracelet, we looked at the variety of beads that we could use to make our bracelets.
It took a while because there were quite a few different types of beads and colors.
We chose some colors...decided it wasn't exactly the look we were after...and then chose again.
Sophia was debating between a couple different types of large beads.
She found the ones she liked and began stringing the beads together.
I set my beads up in a row and then dumped out some of the tiny seed beads.
Olivia put her beads in order as well.
After the stringing process, we tied the ends together.
It was important to pull the string out a couple of times before knotting it; and then gluing it.
As we were letting the glue dry for about ten minutes, the instructor shared some more ways that prayer beads are used. The ones below are for a horse blessing and barn blessing.
This is my finished bracelet. The large heart-shaped beads are millefiori beads. According to Wikipedia, "Millefiori is a glasswork technique which produces distinctive decorative patterns on glassware."
"The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words "mille" (thousand) and "fiori" (flowers)." Before the 1850s, the beads were called mosaic beads. More currently, "the millefiori technique has been applied to polymer clay and other materials. As the polymer clay is quite pliable and does not need to be heated and reheated to fuse it, it is a much easier medium in which to produce millefiori patterns than glass."
What I like about art is that we all can use the same materials (beads) - yet come up with such completely different results.
The girls and I thoroughly enjoyed our first class at White Bear Center for the Arts. We hope to go back again during the summer for another class.