Alasdair demonstrated glass bead weaving. The technique is complex and requires a lot of planning, attention to detail, feeling for the material, and spatial awareness. It was lovely to hear Al talk about how he had learnt the skill from his father, in the same way that knowledge would have been passed down in the tribal communities the technique comes from. The patches of woven bead work are hand sewn on to fabric, often artist’s linen, which is stretched over a stretcher.
Even though glass bead weaving seems like a very specific skill to learn, there was so much in this demo that was directly relevant to anyone with an art practice. I found it fascinating hearing Al describe his sequence from concept through process. Al described the planning stage as the creative part, and the period of actually making the work, doing the weaving, is an intense period of sticking as rigidly as possible to the plan.
One of the things that resonated most with me was when Alasdair talked about working with a material where you select from a limited range of colours, rather than being able to mix up whatever you want. Along with that, each colour of bead has a different level of translucency and a different level of sheen. So the when the colours are next to each other you get another beautiful and subtle level of visual effect. How Al talked about glass beads reminded me of the way Lynette Smith talked about pastels, or Alice
Wormald talked about water colours. We are really lucky at Chapman and Bailey, to be able to present these demonstrations by such amazing and generous Melbourne artists.
Julia Gorman 2014
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