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Explaining Art Beads, Bead Art and Bead Jewelry

Explaining Art Beads, Bead Art and Bead Jewelry

I was talking to a non-beading friend the other day about all the different arts and crafts and beading we each do. She is much more into the “art” scene and is actually quite the painter while I’ve pretty much stuck to beading and jewelry-making and a little digital scrapbooking from time to time. Out of the blue she asked me if there was a difference between bead art, art beads and bead jewelry.

“Isn’t it all still beads?” she asked.

I was stuck for a moment because I realized that many people who don’t visit bead stores every week and read beading magazines every month may definitely be a little lost by all the different things you can do with beads! I explained the best I could and then I decided I try to give a quick explanation of bead art vs art beads vs bead jewelry here! Most of the differences are pretty obvious when you think about them, but there are clearly some overlapping, especially when you’re talking about how art beads and bead art all overlap.

Art Beads – This is a pretty general term and it’s used a lot to describe all sorts of beads, but when I think of the term Art Bead I usually think of a single bead (or series of beads) which beautiful and intricate and tiny works of art all unto themselves! Art beads can be glass lampwork beads, hand-painted or custom sculpted beads, or any other bead that could be admired just by itself. I personally consider Chamilia Beads, Troll Beads, and Pandora Beads to be art beads, even though they are not necessarily one-of-a-kind beads.

The excellent Art Bead Scene Blog covers a ton of great art beads and just about everything else about beading. An art bead can be use a single pendant, incorporated in an elaborate piece of jewelry, placed on a bookshelf or used anywhere where it can be admired for simply being! Art beads are, to put it simply…works of art!

Bead Art –

When I think of the term Bead Art I usually think of people using beads to weave or string together a pattern or picture made of tiny beads. I’ve seen bead dolls, bead bookmarks and all sorts of clever pictures, beaded masks, and artistic collages of art made by using hundreds if not thousands of faceted beads in intricate and mind-boggling patterns! Often Native American bead jewelry will be combined with pieces of clothing which serve as an entire canvas for bead art. While I can appreciate the amazing talent and skill that is needed to create bead art I don’t personally make much myself because, well, I’m not just that talented and patient!

Bead Jewelry –

Bead jewelry is, as the name implies, jewelry made with or containing beads! In fact, some of the earliest forms of jewelry ever discovered are actually made from ancient beads! While jewelry making as been around for thousands of years, I tend to think that being able to get the jewelry supplies and beads to make bead jewelry at home has really only been a reality for the past 15 years or so. The entire bead jewelry business has completely exploded and it shows no signs of slowing down!

That’s how I define art beads, bead art and bead jewelry. But there’s plenty of overlap between the three beading terms! A piece of bead jewelry can definitely contain one or more art beads and that string of beads could be considered bead art by some! I’ve seen bead art pieces strung into jewelry and I’ve seen bead jewelry necklaces and bracelets attached to bead art pieces to add some really amazing dimensions and color to a piece of beaded art!

The bottom line is that whether you’re working with art beads, bead art or even bead jewelry it doesn’t matter because as my friend said, “It’s all still beads!”

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