Book Review: Ancient Worlds, Modern Beads

By Jo Varney
Ancient Worlds, Modern Beads By Mortira Natasha vanPelt

Ancient Worlds, Modern Beads By Mortira Natasha vanPelt

Ancient Worlds, Modern Beads is essentially a beading guide produced by the popular craft publisher Search Press. It is perhaps a little different to others you may have encountered in that the premise is based solely on the Ancient Worlds of Egypt, Greece and Rome. The idea being to forge a link between the past and the present day through beading.

As with most Search Press publications, the teaching within the book is project based and split between 30 tasks; 10 which are Egypt inspired, 10 which are Greek inspired and 10 that are Roman inspired. These are all civilisations whose strong ornamental styles have been well documented thanks to artefacts discovered through the ages and it is this that the author is able to draw on.

Each project is given a difficulty rating either beginner, intermediate or advanced so you can choose according to your skill level. However, I should point out that there are only a couple of beginners projects per section. The bulk of which are at intermediate level, so some beading knowledge is definitely going to be an advantage when using this book.

After a fascinating introduction into each period, you go straight into the projects which are illustrated step-by-step with a photo of the finished piece. As well as a series of beading diagrams which depict each stage and include threading paths where relevant. These look quite complex to the untrained eye, so if you are a beginner, it would be advisable to work progressively through the book from the start rather than dipping randomly into the projects. Although, core techniques are covered at the back of the book and referred to throughout the text, so it’s worth reading through these a couple of times before you start too!

General equipment is covered separately with a page each devoted to beads, threads and tools to get you started. You will also have a materials list to work from with each project along with a colour palette as a guide. However, given the sheer volume of beads and threads available on the market today, you may well want to conduct your own additional research on materials which the author actively encourages.

Ms vanPelt prefers to work without metal where possible so clasps and fixings are also made from beads wherever this is feasible so don’t expect any quick solutions and fixings. (This is not a book for people who are time poor and wanting to produce something in a short space of time)

“The papyrus reeds that grew along the Nile were incredibly important in day-to-day life in Ancient Egypt. Among its other uses, the world’s first known writing material was made by layering strips of papyrus reeds at right angles to form sheets of fibrous paper”.

The joy of this book for me is the wealth of historical detail we are given from each period; the colours, the symbolism and the ideology all brought together into new pieces which are relevant and wearable today. It’s a clever and ambitious idea which I think has been achieved really well.

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