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Making of the Beads

The damp and dark clay is prepared by kneading gently prior to pinching a small amount to be formed. Hands and small tools are used to create the final form of each bead according to the preliminary sketches. Once the final form is attained, the beads are set aside to dry or until they become lighter in color. The beads are now ready to be drilled to receive the knotted cord. Each of the beads is gently sanded prior to being bisque fired by Babette's brother Ira.

Glazing of the Beads

Master glazer Ira Winarsky, responsible for glazing BabetteBeads, carefully applies his unique iridescent lustre glazes to each of the beads on the bead hangers prior to placing them in the kiln for their final firing. He describes the colors as “alive … they change constantly in the light in response to your movement, and change in the viewing angle. They reflect your light - and redefine it.” Like a peacock’s feathers, these glazes change color depending on the surrounding light. This quality is especially auspicious in jewelry as the color of the piece changes in tone or sheen depending on the person who wears it, or their surroundings. The transformative beauty of these glazed beads make the jewelry an extremely versatile complement to a wide range of clothing colors and styles.

Assemblage of the Necklaces

A single cord (often 14ft. in length) ties BabetteBeads together. Most designs are enhanced with decorative Chinese knots. The art of Chinese knotting is an ancient and prized skill. Knots were first used for practical purposes, such as fastening and wrapping, and even for keeping records before language existed.

The final touch on a BabetteBeads creation is achieved by Chinese knot artist and teacher Mann-lih Huang. Born in Shanghai, China, Mann-lih grew up in Taiwan, where she learned the ancient art of Chinese weaving from her mother and aunts. In 1972, she married and came to the United States. In 1982, she began teaching Chinese culture and knotting in the 4-H Chinese School in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Her creative prowess is endless, as she integrates new twists on age-old designs like the Pan Chang and butterfly knots, continuing to challenge and perfect texture and form. Mann-lih conducts workshops on Chinese culture and knotting at fairs and in libraries across New Jersey.

Roll over animation to see Mann-lih at work.