Growing up on the Canadian border in Maine, we used to frequent a shop called ‘The Indian Store’, strategically placed in Greenville, Maine beside ‘Big Squaw Mountain’, a popular destination for skiers and right beside Maine’s largest lake, ‘Moosehead Lake’. You can get the Native ‘feel’ just listening to the names of these places. There was some debate for a while about changing the name of Big Squaw Mt to be more politically correct, but I guess the attempts were thwarted because it remains the same. I, for one, am happy about that because I don’t have to rename from my childhood eyes.
My beadwork influence comes from that era of my life and I have fond memories of being in awe looking at the pretty and delicate beadwork done by the local Native tribes. I have always known that Native American’s used to do trades with Europe for beads. Today I found a more accurate article and the years that brought the trade to fruition.
“Origins of glass beads: From the Venice to the Czech Republic
Venetian glass beads are probably the earliest, most enduring, and most widespread forms of currency and ornamentation on earth. As early as the 15th century, glass beads were traded over the entire world to aboriginal populations – they were exchanged for gold and ivory from the African continent, for spices and textiles from the Far and Middle East, and for furs and land in North America.
Venetian Glass Beads
The older Venetian beads have a luminous, translucent quality (often referred to as “greasy”) and came in a staggering variety of colors. These softer colors made many more color combinations possible (the color palette we have today seems limited compared to these early gems).
Because making glass requires much heat (which at that time was solely provided by wood-fired workshops and kilns), when the source for firewood became depleted on the mainland near Venice, much of their operations were moved up along the Adriatic Sea into the thick forests of what was then Bohemia (known today as the Czech Republic) and Czech glass beads were born.”
You can find the remainder of this history at this link.
The history of Preciosa is quite interesting in itself!! Wikipedia says:
“The history of glassmaking in Jablonec region has been written since the 14th century. In 1711 the Fisher brothers brought the secrets of crystal cutting and polishing to the North Bohemia. During the 19th century, Jablonec nad Nisou became the world center of jewellery industry. In 1724, the first factory specialized in manufacturing and export of crystal chandeliers was established in Prácheň near Kamenický Šenov. Bohemian chandeliers were ordered for the Royal Courts – Versailles and Fontainebleau palaces of Louis XV, Sultan Osman III of the Ottoman Empire, and Empress Elizabeth of Russia. In 1743 Czech master craftsmen created a marvelous chandelier in honor of the coronation of Empress Maria Theresa which still bears her name. The development of jewellery and glass companies, which were established and prospered in North Bohemia at the turn of 19th century, was interrupted by the World War II.
In 1945 the seven main crystal factories and 18 small firms in and around Jablonec nad Nisou merged, forming the Preciosa company. Preciosa was officially established on April 10, 1948. The Preciosa brand name was first registered in Bohemia in 1915.”
I have been intrigued with Fire Polish crystals since I started ‘officially’ beading 8 years ago. I have used them endlessly in my designs and will continue to. I love the Czech seed beads and was always upset that I couldn’t find them at a shop in Maine, of all places! None of my local shops carried them. I had said, from right then, that when I ever opened a shop, I would have ALL seed beads. I used to acquire the seed beads at Bead Fiesta shows when I taught and vended. I even traded work for them! I think they fully compliment much of my work. They have that organic flair and the colors are gorgeous! I love using them in my work!
A few years ago, on vacation to Oklahoma and Colorado (right before we moved here). We went to visit Kelli Burn’s in Bartlesville, OK at her bead shop. She told us on our way back to Tulsa to stop in Skiatook at Supernaw’s Oklahoma Indian Supply. I about died (not literally) when I saw the walls and walls of high ceiling to floor Czech beads. All in narrow slender cardboard boxes lined up and down and across in neat rows. I was in Czech bead heaven and can’t wait to go back. I need more buckskin soon too 😉 Photo from our vacation 2 years ago.
Preciosa has come a long way baby!! and I will continue to seek and use these incredible beads! They add spice to my life, my workspace and my finished products! Preciosa Ornela supplies PRECIOSA seed beads and beads to the entire world.