The Elemental Power of Beadcraft
The words crafted jewelry to me mean something indigenous, of the earth, personal, shared humanity. It is the opposite of commercial, bulk, machine pressed and manufactured. To give my craft to you is more than an act of transfer. You have a piece of myself. Wear it with love from me to you!
Monica Fairbairn creates vibrant, colorful designs to fashion unusual necklaces made of beads from Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. Her inspiration comes from a cornucopia of materials adapted for adornment in traditional cultures, and recalls old ideas transformed into her own modern creations.
Favorite materials include millifiore and chevron beads, clay heishi from Columbia, and African coin metal, bone and sand glass. The Tagua Collection features the sliced and colorfully dyed and polished palm nut, which she imports directly from Quito, Ecuador. Tagua is the foundation of the South American “Vegetable Ivory” craft industry that uses a renewable native plant resource to support the livelihood of local artisans.
Her work has been shown at Dedham Square Artist Guild, The Shop at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, Karenna Maraj collection, at Open Studios in Jamaica Plain, Watertown, Hyde Park, Roslindale, Cambridge, Dedham, Charlestown, and Jamaica in the West Indies. She lives and works in Watertown, MA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Beads in my Jewelry
Tagua, “Vegetable Ivory” from Ecuador
Tagua beads are carved from the nut of a palm tree. Its parent is the Phytelephas Palm growing exclusively in the Pacific coast forests of South America. This renewable resource provides 18,000 Ecuadorian jobs and has a market with artists and artisans all over the world. Tagua is a large part of my inventory, I am inspired by the range of hues in the vegetable dyes used to color the beads. Because we are working with a wood product, there is a subtle difference in grain and density within the material that absorbs the dyes differently. This is a very sensual and organic looking plant product, almost good enough to eat!
I import these beads from Ecuador. I promise, no two necklaces will ever be the same. Paired with beads from Africa, lapis Lazuli, or on a chain of natural leather or seed-beads, they offer stunning additions to any outfit.
Beads form the African Continent
The treasury is endless: krobo glass, inlaid ebony, Tuareg prayer beads, copal, millifiore and chevron trade beads, sand glass, Mauritanian kiffa, coin silver, wound brass, stone, bone and clay! At a time when African beads are more available than ever, the beader has the challenge of making them accessible to today’s market. My challenge is to combine them in new ways, extracting their color and artistry in combination with more accessible beads. krobos paired with tagua, millifiore trade beads with coral. I think it works!
The Murano Collection
Murano, a tiny island off the coast of Venice Italy, is steeped in the tradition of exquisite glass making. Cristallo, the precursor of modern clear glass had its origins there in the remarkable alchemy of glass-makers of the middle ages. Today, the tradition produces magnificent beads, embossed with molten minerals in gold and silver leaf and brilliant compounds that glow in a myriad of colors when fused with glass under high temperatures.
I have used a selection of these gorgeous beads to honor the age long tradition of adornment and have called this jewelry “The Murano Collection.”
Pre-Columbian Heishi Clay Beads
Old traditions on the North Coast of Columbia have been passed on to today’s artisans. These gorgeous clay beads are created form fired earthen clay, silica and oxides. The strands of clay are polished to a satiny texture and cut by hand in irregular lengths. When beaded together they are light, fluid and glowing. When worn of a long period they darken with the oils of the skin to create a gorgeous patina.
My 16 strand necklaces are ALWAYS in demand. I also make them in 8 and 12 strand pieces. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the beads.