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Corning Museum of Glass exhibit explores beads

Courtesy Corning Museum of Glass

CORNING, New York — A major exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass explores glass beads and beaded objects made by various cultures, representing 3,500 years of human history.

On view until Jan. 5, 2014, “Life on a String: 35 Centuries of the Glass Bead” showcases, for the first time, many important works from the large historical glass bead collection of the Corning Museum of Glass, as well as objects on loan from seven institutions.

“Glass beads are truly remarkable objects — they are the miniature masterpieces of the museum’s collection,” says Karol Wight, executive director and curator of ancient and Islamic glass. “These works are important not only for their artistry, but also for the way they are used to convey social and political messages, and for the manner in which beading traditions have been carried on over many centuries.”

The exhibition’s nearly 200 objects explore the use of glass beads for fashion and ornament, as symbols of power and wealth, as traded goods, and as objects of ritual.

Highlights of the exhibition include early Venetian chevron and millefiori beads, Roman mosaic beads, West Africa bodom beads, Egyptian eye beads, Chinese horned eye beads, Japanese magatama beads, Bohemian beads imitating precious stones, North American beadworked garments, and contemporary beaded objects by Joyce Scott and David Chatt.

A loom for beading and molds used to make powdered glass bodom beads illustrate the processes of beadmaking and beadworking.

During the run of the exhibition, the museum will offer special narrated flameworking demonstrations to show techniques used to make glass beads, and visitors will have the opportunity to create beads in hands-on experiences.