I am a botanical artisan working with seeds, flowers, wood to handcraft beads for necklaces, earrings, etc. Mty work is used for ritual purposes as well as for decoration.
Beads are the oldest known art form, arising in the archeological record as far back as 100,000 years ago. They have been used as currency, in ritual, ceremony, prayer and meditation, and as status markers, worn on the body as jewellery and used to adorn clothing. The earliest beads were made from shell and bone but as humans developed the ability to make and control fire, they invented new ways of fashioning beads from glass, clay and other materials.
I first came to making beads as a teenager in Yuendumu. Enamoured of the long strings of ininte strung on hairstring and used in ceremony, I gathered some of the ovate reddish-brown seeds. When we left Yuendumu, I sat on the red desert sand one afternoon with a long piece of bull wire in front of a small fire and directed my feelings of loss and grief at leaving that place into the process of burning holes in each seed in the way the old women had told me. These I made into a necklace which I wore for many years and then traded for my lover’s silver chain when leaving Syria in my early 20s. Years later, after the birth of my first child, I received instruction to train as a shaman. My mentor at the time, a woman called Claire Hinton, undertook a drum journey and returned with guidance for making a necklace of 99 beads. I had some ininti left over from subsequent visits to Yuendumu and I strung these in groups of three separated with beads that I handcrafted from a branch of the blackwood tree – an acacia with rough greyish-black bark, leathery green leaves and exquisite clusters of curled brown pods that grew in the forests of my childhood home.
In 2021, halfway into our second year of the coronavirus pandemic in the state of Victoria – which was one of the most locked down places in the world – I discovered the art of making beads from flowers. The origins of flower petal bead making are hard to decipher. It is an art that has been closely guarded by members of religious orders that have made rosaries in this way for goodness knows how long. The name rosary itself suggests that there is a connection between the bead and the flower, and there are stories about St Dominic and his early vision that led to him preaching the use of the rosary, that say he was gifted or bestowed a crown of 150 roses and 15 lilies, which form the 150 Hail Mary’s and 15 Our Fathers of the modern rosary.
There are two ways of making beads from flowers. One uses a base material and the flowers as an inclusion and the other uses only flower petals and a lengthy process of fashioning these into beads. I have learnt the latter way of making them, which produces rustic, black, purplish-black and earth toned beads, that release a subtle scent especially when worn against the skin.
But there is a deeper mystery to the beads that I make, whether they are from flowers, wood, seed, or bone. The beads are designed to have specific functions in the body that are effected through the resonances of each individual bead and the materials from which they are crafted, along with the overall combination of beads on the strand. Quantum physics has shown that quantum particles, which make up matter, can behave like particles, located in a single place, or they can act like waves, distributed in several places at once, causing a basic conundrum about the nature of material reality. This conundrum is understood and harnessed by those who work with energy, whether they be medicine people, traditional healers, shamans and the like. Those waves that make up matter are a form of vibration or resonance, and because matter has resonance, resonance can be used to affect matter.
Each bead carries a specific resonance that develops out of the materials it is crafted from in combination with the crafting process. These resonances exist in every living thing, but when that living material is shaped and combined it with other living materials into a string of beads the string takes on its own resonance which effects changes in the body when worn.