Some Thoughts
Re: Re: Re: Mystery Beads -- floorkasp Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Beadman Post Reply
05/02/2020, 18:28:21

Hello Floor,

I began this dialogue with "I gave the owner my opinions."

Anytime one asks for additional opinions, one cannot say what opinions have been expressed already. That would spoil the objectivity of the proceeding opinions.

Here is something you don't know. After giving my opinions to the owner, she asked me if I could ask elsewhere of other "bead experts." I said I would—but that I could predict what anyone else would probably have to offer. And I said that, since I haven't seen every bead in the world, there was a minor chance that someone might recognize her beads.

And what I predicted is exactly what happened. (Here and at FaceBook.) Rather than anyone saying, "I know these beads," there has been a repetition of my original expressions (to the owner) by those who responded. And, no recognition.

You ask, "I would be interested to know if you share my idea that the beads I showed are the same as the ones you showed."

And the answer is no. You have shown another selection of the beads that I discussed with the owner prior to the dialogue here. And others have likewise made the same association (as predicted). They are SIMILAR beads. They have some features that are similar. (Mainly because the actual approach to trailing—in the Venetian style—was composed similarly.) But they are not "the same beads."

So, the "mystery" stands.

Regarding Chinese lampworking. I began an essay on Chinese glass-beadmaking a couple of years ago. I got distracted by other matters. But I hope to pursue it. I'll tell you my perspective on lampworking in brief terms.

It is already conceded that glass was of minor interest to the Chinese, with notable exceptions in antiquity, up to the late Ming Dynasty. Then they made some furnace wound-beads. Some for domestic use, and some for export. Also, their beads divide into those for Emperial use, and those for common people (and export). Throughout the late-Ming and the Xing Dynasties, most beads were monochromatic. A few had scattered crumb decoration (to resemble jade). They did not approach trail decoration as did most glass industries.

Everything changed after two events. First, there was a German enclave at Boshan. It is said, they came to make beer in China. But they also introduced glassworking. And they probably pursued a Chinese version of lampworking—demanding preformed elements. Rather than canes, they apparently made and used bars of glass. (This is according to Simon Kwan.) Soon after this, the Japanese occupied China, and likewise promoted glass factories at Boshan. It is thought that their intent was to have beads made cheaply with Chinese labor, to have products to sell at various regional client bases. In addition to beadmaking, they produced other products—such as paperweights, in the Venetian style. So this work began with producing Japanese-style beads, that were themselves inspired by Venetian beads. (It is my opinion that Japanese lampworking was incited by Dutch Europeans, who brought Venetian beads to Japan—and eventually the theory of the apparatus. And, clearly, their earliest beads were imitations of Venetian beads.) But, as happens, the output in China quickly became their own idiom. And these are the antique beads that began to be circulated in the US beginning in the 1970s (in my experience) and that became more prevalent in 1985. (At the International Bead Conference in Long Beach, CA.) And since then.

By 1987, after an apparent fallow period, The Boshan beadmakers took up beadmaking again. And their new products were essentially exactly the same as previous editions. (I have side-by-side photos of beads I bought then, and from a private collection.) The new beads I acquired came from Leekan in New York. (See Paddy Khan's article on Boshan beadmaking, with Robert Liu, in Ornament.) And, by the way, Boshan beads feature some very rudimentary trailing. As though this technique were entirely new to them. But the beads also feature distinct mosaic-glass canes, for millefiori and filigrana applications. (The murrine canes made it possible to make imitations of Venetian paperweights, as well as beads.)

So, to the next wave. Less than twenty years ago, a new glass-beadmaking industry was inducted into China. It may be centered at Boshan. And it may have some connection to the previous industry. But, in any event, this was the beginning of a HUGE operation. In just a few years, their output has produced SO MANY beads, one has to speculate that a large body of workers have been trained and put to work, to make the beads that have become commonplace now. The primary differences between these and previous industries is that the current workers are reasonably adept torchworkers, who perform a lot of trailing. They also produce mosaic-glass beads, as I have shown here as these beads were released into the marketplace. Some of the early work produced has consisted of imitations of ancient beads (and beads that they would like you believe are "ancient"). Both pristine and artificially-aged versions have been routinely available. I showed these in my pap[er for the Istanbul Conference in 2007.


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