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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn
Off Loom (Seed) Bead Weaving*
Or, How to Spend Lots of Time for Little Output

I have a vivid memory, of when I was perhaps four or five, of picking seed beads off a fraying, loom woven Amerindian belt because the belt came in more colors than any beads I possessed. My mother, to whom the belt belonged, never realized until I told her some years later, why it disintegrated merely for hanging in her closet. My sole source, at that time, for beads of any kind was Frank's Nursery and Crafts, and their selection was pretty limited. Eventually I did loom weave a piece, with eagle feathers, arrows and the like, with my name worked in. I never finished it, and years later I took it apart because I thought it was ugly. (The lesson here is too save your earliest efforts no matter how badly you despise them; someday you'll want to look at ’em again, to see how far you've come, if nothing else.)

So, snarky comments aside, my earliest memories were with seed beads. I started really playing with them again for much the same reason I'd taken up stone and larger glass beads some years before: because I discovered, at long last, decent sources for them. Beadwork, as opposed to making individual beads, comes out of two traditions: metalworking and textile. I tend to hew to the latter, which I find ironic because although I've taken metalworking classes on a sporadic basis since high school I've never had any formal training weaving. Though I love all beads, the difficulty with seed beads is that the individual components disappear into a fabric, as tiles do in a mosaic. You don't see individual tiles.

I've concluded that my real interest lies in playing with interface, or boundary, between individual beads and the overall piece, difficult with such small beads, though I generate some interest in varying sizes of seed beads—the red and yellow peyote stitched donut and the Bumblebee are good examples. Most of the variation in the latter, however, comes from the contrast between the strung and woven elements.

Now that I feel fairly comfortable with some of the more common stitches–peyote, single-needle right-angle weave, brick and square–I've started to work larger beads into the weaving stitches, as well, and I think this is a promising direction. The stickpin is perhaps the first piece that really explores this theme.

Works are ordered more or less chronologically. (N.b. the above was basically written sometime in the mid-to-late 90s: I recall making similar arguments much earlier, likely the early 90s, to the Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans after they decided that Bumblebee was good enough to on the program cover, but not good enough to be in their Greektown show, though I'd have to go back and look at the dates on transparencies to know when I was actively jurying with the piece; however, I didn't, so far as I know, start creating web pages until 1996 or so, about the time I tentatively began lampworking.

So the sentiment dates back further than the actual writing. I should note at the current time I'm not exploring seed beads much with weaving or embroidery, that is, as individual components that recede or come forth or balance between those two. That is not to say I've lost all interest in the concept, merely that I'm doing it on a bigger scale. One could argue that the bead curtain, for example, works both as a singular object, as individual beads, and, can, depending upon the viewer's interest and distance from it, switch from one to the other, or possibly even achieve a sort of equilibrium in which individual strands are foremost.)

Update 14aug04: I've added a couple of pieces, and made text links to the all files in this directory (though if you can't see the pictures, why you would bother...); update 18oct06: I've reversed the chronology to put the most recent pieces first; and substituted a subindex that collects all the beadwoven pieces, which is to say, both Margaret and Gail's stuff.


post about a multistrand necklace made to feature a piece of beadweaving in olive, black & gold I did many years ago. 23apr2017


We have fun with Hardware Store hardware... 07jan2012


White and goldfilled bead loom-woven wedding belt . Yes, it's in the off-loom section. So sue me. Originally posted 12jan09. 12jan2009


Long & ruminative post about a green iris bugle & silver-lined tri-cut loom-woven beaded belt. 01oct2008


A fun class featuring an easy technique at our glass bead guild's winter retreat. Originally posted 01mar08. 01mar2008


this on valentine's day 2015!!! 15feb2015


Beaded crochet bracelet featuring lampwork. Originally created & posted 11jan07. Private collection. 11jan2007


Unfinished carpet of flowers . file created 21aug04, featured 21may05. 18oct2006


My second attempt at beadweaving. Early 90s? (posted 14aug04) 21aug2004


More playing with pis ; early 90s? (posted 14aug04) 15aug2004


Variation on a Theme by Gail Frederickson ; (closeups posted, 14aug04) 15aug2004


Page dichro focal necklace 22may2004


A small happiness 22may2004


Variation on a Theme by David Chatt 22may2004


Beaded Stickpin 22may2004


Extravagant color blocking 22may2004


Necklace with copper disk , riveted, woven with fringe. Early 90s? (posted 27dec03) 22may2004


Lots of Black & Yellow Stripes 22may2004


Actually, Mr. Chatt was very nice: I reproduce his response in its entirety below: Date: Sat, 02 Jan 1999 19:54:35 -0800 Dear Silvus, I hate the unimaginative straps most bag makers use. Chatt's has two big beads, each bracketed by nearly invisible czech 4 and 6 mm disks where the strap attache...


Peyote pin worked in sea colors 22may2004


My first attempt at beadweaving 22may2004


Bruised peyote 22may2004


Double pi necklace with 2X configuration 22may2004


Work by other artists:


aqua mouse with peyote tube 21dec2023


spring pinks & greens dead mouse 20dec2023


2021 lime and aqua mouse with peyote stitched component 19dec2023


2021 pink dead mouse with peyote-woven tubes 18dec2023


super long aquatic dead mouse featuring nautilus shell bead 20apr2018


The Purple Gang: Ode to Barb Klan, 2012 synergy piece by sylvus tarn and cindi brunell. 09oct2012


Lumieres de la Nuit, art deco & arduino by Sharon Wagner. 08oct2012


Dear Sharon, here you go: Click on each image for the full-size version.


Wendy Zollars and I participated in a collaboration as part of the joint GLBG/GlassAct challange, exhibited at the Lawrence Street Gallery in November of 2009. Originally posted 04dec09. 04dec2009


This subindex collects bead-weaving (and other stuff) by two other bead artists. N.b.: the works are copyright by them. All rights reserved. 18oct2006


modified: Sun Aug 15 02:15:28 2004; 18oct06