In Gathering 2000, Dan Adams, premier glass beadmaker, gave a lecture about the joys of collaboration, something he is well qualified to do, as he and his spouse Cynthia Toops, the well known “mosaic” fimo bead maker have collaborated, even on single beads, which he makes and she then adds to, as well as their necklaces. Many collaborations feature artists in which one does one part or one kind of medium, and the other the other part or a different medium. There's nothing wrong with this approach, of course, but there is real pleasure in other, more subtle infections of ideas, as when the creative spark dances from one to the other in a scarcely acknowledged way.
The bulk of my glass bead production goes into the delicate, fairy-like designs of my business partner, and with whom I've been working for over 15 years. Many of our customers tend to adopt the rather simplistic view that I make the beads and she makes the jewelry out of them. Granted, efficiency makes it practical for her to take on the bulk of the stringing, whilst I make many of the beads, but we're collaborators, sometimes in such a seamless way that it's impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. It helps, I suppose, that we're both familiar with both media: I have been stringing for over 15 years; she made glass beads before I had any sense one even could and certainly before the modern boom.
Take this necklace, for example. Obstensibly, I made all the hollow glass beads, designed and strung it, so it's all mine, right? Well,...not really. This pattern which Page calls lumpenfrost came out a bunch of beads which she handed me one day with the command to “make something out of this”. Most of these beads were not things I'd buy, let alone put together in that combination, but I was intrigued. (Free beads. Nothing to lose. I always do my best designs with cheap beads. She has no difficulty whatsoever using up her materials, but for some reason finds the expenditure of experiment time a barrier. Another way in which we are fortunate in complementing each other.)
So I strung something up, which she subsequently sold for me. Then she came to me again, showing me a large frosted bead she'd purchased. Make a bead like this (meaning, one with these qualities—good thing too, because I'm lousy at copying other people's beads). She suggested materials and colors; then after I'd duly made the bead, she pulled together some other glass beads, and suggested I should string a necklace like the garnet and wood netsuki one, above. I used my glass beads (she'd picked) and her stone and metal beads in the color combination she'd suggested. Then she made some of these lumpenfrost necklaces.
Hers were, for a lack of a better term, joyous in their color—clear, sparkling, bright—all austrian crystals, glittering transparent seed beads, strung together with great delicacy and, as always, a suberb sense of simplicity and balance. Mine tended to be murkier, more textured (more needlessly complicated)—a sun lit pond, to be sure, but one with fair amounts of duckweed and silt on the bottom, rather than a brook rushing over sparkling stones.
Let's be honest: I simply stole outright this combination of violet, blue and grey from her, as well as shamelessly mooching various fancy stone and silver beads, such as the large kitties, the stone set silver beads, and some of the fish from her to compliment my own collection of beads. I loved making this piece, loved the sparkling faceted crystal beads, the mystery in the depths of the translucent semi-precious stone, the flashes of iridescence, loved the pun of the kitties and the fish (I had two cats, and thought the fish fit companions for a water colored piece, as well as the felines) and the wonderful texture their contrasts made. But amongst all my passions so are her sensibilities, and, if you like, our friendship, threading through it, delicately as a favored perfume.
It has and continues to be a rare privilege to work with her.
Catfish, 2000, glass, stone, silver, beadalon. Collection of Ms. Agnes Clark
Unless otherwise noted, text, image and objects depicted therein copyright 1996--present sylvus tarn.Sylvus Tarn