TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deerwoman Designs Uses Beads from Afghan Tribal Arts

Carnelian, Jade and Turquoise Necklace 

Normally, I try to keep this blog's subject matters closely tied to themes that address textiles or fiber art.  But, I have two friends who have small businesses where beads dominate the scene.  Anita Ghaemi of Deerwoman Designs makes the beautiful jewelry shown in this post and Abdul Wardak of Afghan Tribal Arts supplies her and other jewelry makers and bead stores around the country with his hand-carved, natural beads from Afghanistan.  Actually, beads do not really stray far from the textile/fiber art road, as many of us love to incorporate them into our pieces.

Abdul has been my buddy for a long, long time now.  We used to be partners in a Chicago Gallery, Dara Tribal Village.  After I moved to Kentucky, I continued to sell online and he travels around wholesaling his products from Afghan Tribal Arts.  I have been helping him develop an online presence.  Abdul is a wonderful storyteller, but can't spell worth a dime.  He now has a store on Etsy and I have just loaded a bunch of his beads there. 

Flat Oval Jade Beads from Afghan Tribal Arts 
now available on Etsy!

These beads from Afghanistan have been hand-carved from semi-precious stones like jade, carnelian, lapis lazuli and onyx.  Afghanistan has long supplied artisans all over the world with its vast mineral natural resources.  The coveted lapis lazuli, only found there and in Chile, made its way into glass work, inlay, mosaics, and illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages.  Today's bead market has changed a great deal since those days as synthetics, dyes and cheap imitations undermine the value of these natural stones.  We decided to list the beads on Etsy as strands instead of selling them as single beads partly because it is easier for me to keep track of his inventory this way.  So, a strand can cost between $10-$100, depending on the value of the stone, the cut and its length.

Deerwoman Designs uses lapis heishi with sterling silver spacers 
and semi-precious stones as focal beads.

The cost of the beads can be quite an investment, yet the beauty of these stones are easily seen when compared to their cheaper competitors.  Unpolished stones like these take on a deep luster as they are worn, absorbing the oils of the skin.  And, to those who also look for the healing properties found in the stones, minerals and fluids have greater exchange values in the raw state.

Jade heishi beads from Afghan Tribal Arts.

The bigger stones usually take center stage over smaller, simpler ones.  Yet, examine Anita's necklaces closely and look at how she uses the tiny heishi beads to emphasize the larger focal ones.  Glass seed beads, a much cheaper option, would also look fine, but don't you think that these natural heishis complement the larger beads perfectly?  Artists like Anita help us see these components in a new way, illustrating how an assortment of stones can be made into wonderful wearable art!

Deerwoman Designs also makes great use of tribal pendants.  I have listed a few, but have several more in line, waiting for their turn.  For example, this Turkman pendant would be quite the eye catcher as the main jewel on a beaded necklace:

Turkman pendant from Afghan Tribal Arts.
A gazelle, once abundant in Afghanistan, carved into turquoise.

A Turkman pendant adorns this strand of mixed 
stones by Deerwoman Designs.

Afghan Tribal Arts has a website with samples of beads that are usually in stock.  Go take a look and if you see something you really like, send me a request.  Copy and paste the photo into an email so that I can have a visual.  Abdul makes regular stops by my house and if he has the beads you want on his van, I can add them on to the Etsy selection.  We have decided that instead of adding a shopping cart to his website, we would use Etsy as the retail platform.  If you have a tax id # and want to buy in quantities, you can also send me wholesale requests and I will pass those on to him.  (My email is on the top right hand corner of this blog.)

A beautiful lapis lazuli necklace by 

Deerwoman Designs has a retail store on Artisans Market and on Etsy.  You can also follow her through her blog.



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