I love collecting and wearing ancient beads. One of the oldest art forms, wearing beads is one of the characteristics of being human. While we love the sculptural forms of the ancient stone beads and admire their longevity, surviving over thousands of years, let us not forget that they were literally made to be worn. Their rightful context is on the human body, and the sense of connectedness with both the earth and past human cultures can only be experienced by wearing the beads. They are a pleasure to behold on another person and convey something about that person to us, but it is when you wear them yourself that you have a deeper understanding of this most ancient art form. With this in mind, I have turned all my skills as an artist to making collections of beads that return them to their rightful contexts and ennoble and recreate the splendor and magic of the past. For me, designing necklaces is a collaboration with those ancient artists that created such magnificent beads and a message sent into the future.
David Ebbinghouse began collecting beads after a fellow art student at Indiana University gave him a strand of beads that were thought to be red coral. It turned out that the beads were actually glass imitations, and so the need to research beads became evident. Beads and jewelry from traditional cultures were available in the early seventies as many young people were returning from backpacking treks to places like Morocco, Afghanistan, India, and Nepal. Old beads were available to be purchased in the markets inexpensively, but there was not much knowledge about their origins and history. The Peace Corps also provided a way for young people to experience tribal cultures and gain some appreciation for their traditional ornaments. In this way, beads and beaded jewelry contributed to the counter-culture fashions of the time. As more knowledge became available, it seemed that beads were an important but underappreciated aspect of history, religion, culture and economics. Ebbinghouse began traveling to India in 1978 and researched beads among the Tibetan refugees who had settled in Dharamsala. He published an article about Tibetan dZi beads in Ornament Magazine in 1982. This resulted in his being asked to present lectures to various beads societies as well as to give a presentation at the first International Bead Conference in 1985. He has also contributed to works on beads by other authors, such as Lois Dubin’s book, “History of Beads.” His research was recently included in a book about Himalayan beads published in China. Knowledge of beads and their historical importance and use has informed the design principles Ebbinghouse utilizes in his creations of contemporary jewelry using the very finest ancient beads. Seeking to restore the beads to their intended use, Ebbinghouse designs necklaces that would not be out of place in their original contexts, but have a classic design sense that makes them very modern. Using ancient metal working techniques such as filigree and granulation, David makes silver beads and clasps to complement the ancient beads. The gold work is done by Michael Winsten (research partner and co-author of the dZi beads article in Ornament), who is a self taught designer and goldsmith who worked out his own techniques for doing very fine filigree and granulation. The necklaces that result from their collaborations are unique works of art.
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