Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Coexist Beads - My Everyday Wear

Several years ago I came across this brilliant assembly of necklaces in Showcase 500 Beaded Jewelry by Lark Crafts.  Titled the "Coexist Prayer Beads" by creator Nancy Meli Walker, for some reason this was the first piece in the book that I noticed, and as I flipped through the rest of this fantastic showcase, I realized that I was still thinking about this collection of simple and meaningful necklaces.

For me, the historical, cultural, and human ties to beads and beadwork are impossible to separate from my own work.  I feel that it is extremely important to spend some time investigating the role that beads have played throughout our history, and that includes the role that beaded items play in the realm of religion and spirituality.  A few years ago I picked up a copy of A String & a Prayer by Eleanor Wiley and Maggie Oman Shannon, which is a fantastic modern investigation on the role of prayer and meditation beads, along with a guide to creating and using your own.  In my head, the bead strings were connected - I needed to make my own set of "Coexist Prayer Beads" - an assemblage of pieces that resonate for me on a more personal level...and so this project was born:

How do you go about gathering ingredients for something like this?  For me it's very important to have some sort of memory or other connection to the major components of each piece, along with finding tactile pleasure in the bead or other material that makes up the bulk of the necklace.  Today I'm going to share some of the pieces that I've created so far, along with components and materials I have gathered for future creations.
There is one necklace I wear 7 days a week - my medic alert.  I've worn a medic alert since the age of 7, and this particular tag since a few years after that.  I keep it tucked inside my clothes on the long stainless steel curb chain.  The contents really needs an update, but in reality I will likely just get a second tag and wear both on the same chain.  5 days a week, I also have to wear a lanyard type necklace to hold my work key fob - currently I'm wearing it on this lanyard of rich purple button and coin pearls. 

This vintage glass necklace was found in a baggie at an antique mall for a few dollars one day.  When I got home and pulled it out, I realized it was fully intact except in one area where someone had lost 2 small and 1 large bead link - they sewed the missing section together with thread.  I pulled it apart and inserted this Green Girl Studio chameleon bead - it ended up being the perfect fit, and this is probably the necklace I grab most often.

I think of this piece as my own personal "rosary" - a tool for assisting with the mindful management of my own thoughts.  It consists of a bronze octopus coin with labradorite by Cynthia Thornton, a bronze urchin component by Lesley Watt, and a pewter fish link by Green Girl Studios.  These pieces are paired with iolite, labradorite, and fire prehnite beads, along with copper, niobium, and gold. I feel that my major inspiration - the sea and her creatures - resonate in this piece.
When I was a kid, one of our neighbors made rosaries and would pass along her left over supplies to me.  I have been intrigued with them since then, and when this lovely bronze cross and center medal came to me, I decided to make my own.  This is modeled after a traditional Catholic rosary, but of course the materials and sentiment resonate with me on a more personal level.  Sue Kennedy made me the "our father" beads to coordinate with the vintage glass oval beads I wanted to use, for an even more personal touch.  Incorporating my friends creations into my everyday wear is important to me.

It's no surprise that eyes would fall into the jewelry that is most significant to me, is it?  The focal bead on this necklace is a Nazar that a friend brought back from Turkey.  Paired with enameled eye chain, brass links, vintage glass beads, and brass eye "ball" dangles - this is my favorite thing to wear when I feel vulnerable in any way - surely all these eyes will repel any negativity, right?
This agate cicada is paired with an enameled flower, pyrite skull, and flat Picasso marble knotted on silk.  Cicada's are symbolic in many cultures, but mostly I just find them fascinating.  I picked this cicada up at a show several years ago...that just happened to be a year when the periodical cicadas were hatching.  It was such an overwhelming experience - you couldn't step outside without being pelted with the blundering insects.  You couldn't escape the noise without covering it up with something else - I found the entire experience humbling.  What a fantastic reminder that nature continues on, even in the midst of a huge city.
Of course I can't leave out my mala beads.  I have a traditional rosewood Hindu mala, along with this Tibetan style bone mala.  This strand of cedar berry "ghost beads" and strand of tiny wooden people also feel like mala's to me - a strand of meditation beads where the material the beads are made from is as significant as every other aspect of the strand's construction. 
I have many other items collected - some made by me, some made by friends, and some made by nature.  There will be more additions to my collection of coexist prayer beads in the future!

I've been seeing this term tossed around lately on the internet - Every Day Carry.  This appears to apply broadly to those things you don't leave the house without, come hell or high water.  I've realized that these pieces have become my Every Day Wear - I can't leave the house without at least one on.  Even if I'm wearing a larger beadwork necklace, I'll wear a special charm on a chain too, or something else that coordinates.  It doesn't matter the day of the week, where I'm going or what I'm doing, I just can't make it out of the apartment without some item of jewelry that resonates with my spirit.  I'm sure you have something like this that you wear every day too - maybe it's a watch, wedding ring, or earrings you've had for years.  That item you fiddle with when your hands are idle.  That accessory you feel naked without.  Something that means more to you than just "jewelry".  What is your Every Day Wear?


  1. Thanks for such a lovely post, filled with beautiful beads and their back stories. Though I dont wear beads everyday, I never go out without earrings on and wear my copper bracelet on most days

  2. Love all your 'special, spiritual, personal' necklaces! Creating with meaningful components really makes it more lovely.

  3. What a wonderful collections of jewelry. I really like the rosary it's beautiful.

    I always wear a bracelet regardless of where I'm going or what I'm doing. Rings are another must. I have two in particular that are part of my daily wardrobe.

  4. You guys do such a marvelous job with the information here. I love seeing the variety of styles and thought processes. Lovely!


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