Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Karen Hill Tribe Silver: a story of a people

As the prices of precious metals soar, and ricochet across analyst's graphs it is clear that the demand for gold has made silver an even more precious metal. Curiosity has served us well in that a few years back when we were exposed to different silver beads and silver work, we searched and continue to search for where an item was made, who made it and how was it created. This proved to be intriguing and allowed for the justification of a journey or a diverted route.

This was the case in particular, as through my business dealings for another job in my other life, business required that a trip to Thailand take place and to a region in the north called Chiang Mai. A heavenly place that a certain community called the Karen Hill Tribe, created with the most rudimentary tools, and had faced extreme poverty and economic strife called their home. Simply put, the artistic creations of the Karen Hill Tribe craftsmen are unlike any silver work on the planet.

It has been documented that there presence in Thailand was since the 12th Century and it is believed that the Karen originally came from Tibet, through China, Myanmar (Burma) and then to Thailand. They are subsistence farmers who live at peace with nature and the forests. The Karen settled in what is termed the 'middle level' in the mountains, namely between 800 and 1,800 meters.

It is the beads that they have been making for hundreds of years that sustained them and actually allowed these communities to avoid displacement to a certain extent and some form of economic stability in their own abodes.

They live in an area covering four countries in the famed Golden Triangle covering Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. They do not possess the sophisticated tools, machinery and the latest innovative technology that we rely on so heavily. Instead, due to these limitations and challenges a very distinct voice, style and imagery have emerged.

On my last trip to Chiang Mai, I was able to purchase beautiful samples of Karen Hill Tribe Silver and we will increase the range and expand the collection. The pieces are sold by grams and are sterling silver.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Workshop: Bohemian Delight Earrings

This is one of our first workshops on offer this season and will be repeated throughout. You will begin with basic stringing techniques and exploring color palettes through the project. There are over 10 color palettes to choose from and you will be able to complete your pair with ease. All the beads and crystals in this project are from the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic and were hand selected by both Bettina and I, hence the name Bohemian Delight.

Once you have completed the set, you can easily transfer the technique to other projects such as pendants, bracelets and necklaces. All tools, materials and workshop details will be coming your way in an upcoming post.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

LB o J'zazz Workshops

When the concept of LB o J'zazz germinated a few years ago, one of the main activities both Bettina and I were adamant and passionate about was workshops, and lots of them. Covering a variety of mediums, techniques and approaches.

When you visit our shop in Shaab el Bahry you not only get to peruse,touch, feel and discover beads from all over the planet, you can sign up for an evening workshop. Once you signed up and attended- a few hours later you can easily walk out with a finished project. Everything from your own unique take on a key chain, simple or bold earrings, bracelets, hejab brooches, necklaces, mesbahs and more will be offered weekly to you.

The workshop fees include the essential materials kit, illustrated instructions and a material list of additional items such as tools and task lamps in order to complete the projects with ease. If you do not have the items required in the material list, they can be purchased at our Shaab el Bahry location.

Both Bettina and I have developed beautiful kits and projects that will allow you to complete a project and to start as many new pieces on your own.

Photograph taken by Laura Boushnak March 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beading Thread At Its Best

One would think that all threads were created equal, however, after hours of frustrating experiences of constant fraying, splitting, breaking and extreme tangles and knots we would try another brand and keep on going in search of a reasonably priced yet, hassle free and dependable beading thread. After close to five years of experimenting, we can recommend C-Lon Beading Thread in AA and D sizes as ideally priced and dependable, in addition to having an amazing range of colors. It is manufactured in the USA and LB o J'zazz now offers it at our shop. For any projects requiring beading thread and in our workshop kits, C-Lon will be the thread of choice.

I use it extensively in my elaborate bead embroiderered objects, off loom weaving such as Peyote suffs, Ndebele stitch and the Spiral stitch to name a few. Depending on the project and stitches employed, you can condition your thread with Thread Heaven or Microcrystalline Wax. In many cases, beaders prefer not to condition their thread.LB o J'zazz offers over twenty two colors to choose from.