Handmade One-of-a-Kind Beaded Sequin Ornaments
History of the Crafter and Her Craft
About 60 years ago a mom (let's call her Betty), her two daughters (let's call them Carolyn and Jeanne), and her mom (let's call her Ma) were seeking a project to create family heirlooms. They drove far away, for way back then, and found a craft store that had some very special Christmas ornament kits and materials. So Betty bought three kits, a few supplies, and back home they went.
Well, Betty taught her girls to pin and pin, and learn to do it with a grin. Every week or two they would venture back to St. Louis and get more supplies and ideas for more ornaments. Ma always liked the ones with lots of gold and red sequins.
Family pear ornament creation ~ circa 1965
Family blue crystals on satin ornament ~ circa 1966
Every year the ornaments were placed on the old-fashioned Christmas tree with ever loving care and memories. Betty went home to heaven in 1993; still, every Christmas is so special because of these family treasures always hung with love and joy.
It was about in July of 2020 that Carolyn and her grandson, Austin were organizing when they came upon that box of ornaments. As Carolyn told Austin about how we made those ornaments so long ago and how special they are, they somehow got the bright idea that some new beaded sequin ornaments needed to be created once again.
Carolyn, in her moment of inspiration, found the makings for a jack-o-lantern pumpkin and not only got one for herself, but decided Jeanne needed to participate, too. So, she sent one to Jeanne. Geesh! Why on earth did she do that???
Jeanne pinning beads and sequins.
Whatever happened between Jeanne and the jack-o-lantern became an ultimate creative obsession of "What else can I create?" One ornament and season lead to another from an endeavor that began over 60 years ago.
Thanks to a mom who enjoyed crafting with her girls, a sister and great-nephew who decided it was a good project for Aunt Jeanne, and a rather obstinate jack-o-lantern; POOF! suddenly Jeanne's Originals was born.
Jeanne accepted the challenge. Thinking, "It's only been 60 or so years, I'll just whip this out in no time and be done with it." Well, not so fast . . . literally, not so fast. One pin in, four pins and sequins out. Add a bead, oh, I forgot. Pick a pin up, dang they're small. It only took 7 days at 7 hours a day (we won't even bring up the colorful expletives she cast into the airwaves) to finish that one jack-o-lantern from Hades.
Designed for every occasion . . . From concept to completion, each ornament is an original, handmade, artistic creation taking hours and hours to design and craft.
Look closely to see all of the intricate detail. Each unique and vibrant colored sequin is adorned with glass seed beads made by glass craftsmen from the Czech Republic.
Some designs feature hand-dyed novelty buttons, sparkling crystal embellishments, and fun clay sprinkltez shapes. Yes! Your eyes do not deceive as there are as many as six (6) beads and sequins in the design build creating a most unique work of art!
Did you know beading and sequins are an ancient art dating back more than 3,000 years? Read on . . .
A History of Beads, Sequins, and Buttons
Metal Beads and Glass Beads
It all began in Egypt. Beads are an ancient creation beloved through time. More than 5,000 years ago the first bead material literally fell from the sky. Yes, the beads were heaven sent as shooting stars to the earth in the form of meteors. The creative Egyptians made beads from meteoric iron and is the oldest form of metalwork known to man.
The iron workers of the day took fragments of meteors and heated them to form very thin sheets of metal into a tube. Because this iron is so brittle, it had to be cooled very slowly so it wouldn't crack. The beads were then cut from the tubes of iron, then heated, and finally hammered into their nugget-like form. These are known as meteorite beads.
3,000 yr. old mummy beads from Museum of Jewelry
Those crafty Egyptians couldn't stop there. They loved adornment, especially when sending their beloved ones into the afterlife; hence, the name "mummy beads." For these beads were discovered by archaeologists when digging up tombs and date back from 2,000 to 1,000 BC! Different kinds, colors and finishes of beads were created by grinding and adding different materials to an earthen paste.
Faience mummy beads from Museum of Jewelry
Some had more quartz elements (magnesium, copper, cobalt) to create a shiny pottery finished bead while others had more sand (silica), ash and limestone to create a more matte finish. The paste was dried in kiln ovens heated to over 1500 degrees so the different elements created unique veins, colors, and finishes to the beads. The glass-like finishes captured the essence of immortality. Even the more common folk were adorned with these beads for their journey into the afterlife.
Glass Seed Beads
Through the ages, beads were not only popular with all cultures, but also were symbolic for protection, union, growth, and good luck with the different colors emphasizing and adding to their positive powers. Celtic craftsmen began producing glass beads in Bohemia (which later became the Czech Republic) in the 3rd century B.C. The beads were used for trade and personal adornment and expressions of wealth.
Czech bead craftsmen were passionate about their craft and cultivated their glass making techniques and expertise by learning well-guarded secrets of Italian glass makers as well as through their own exceptional inventiveness. The rich resources of water, quartz, and sand gave them perfect elements to become world renowned for their craft and fine glass beads.
Jablonex Heritage Archive photo of a cottage with the tall chimney and roof vents needed in bead manufacturing.
Jablonex Heritage Archive photo craftsmen in their glass bead pressing workshop.
The craftsmen refined and experimented with perfecting the highest quality beads that would last a long time. Bead manufacturing became a true cottage industry for small villages throughout the land became known for families of bead manufacturers creating their fine products in their tiny cottage homes.
In the 1830s the first machines were invented for glass bead production. Josef Riedel became known as the glass king of the Jizera Mountains when he built and immense glass bead company that offered not only 19 bead sizes, but also over 200 colors. Czech beads are machine pressed and fire-polished, making them the most desirable beads for fine bead work.
PAS Jablonec factory, the largest manufacturer of exquisite traditional and modern glass beads in the Czech Republic built in 1905 - photographed 1910.
Now we must step back in time even earlier than the time of King Tut and enter the Bronze Age and the civilization of the Indus Valley people. It seems appropriate that the history of a sparkly spangle is more than 5,000 years old. It's area includes parts of Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. Perhaps this is why, to this day, some of the most beautiful and elegant sequins in the world are manufactured in India.
Pure gold sequins shimmered in the hot Egyptian sun and adorned the garments of King Tutankhamun. It was thought the shimmery discs would ward off evil spirits by the Egyptians, Indians, Peruvians, and many other cultures as well.
Metal discs were displayed throughout history to not only proclaim and display the wealth of an individual or family, but also to keep their riches close at hand especially for ancient nomadic cultures.
There is some discrepancy regarding the origin of the word “sequin.” Some claim it originates from the Arabic word "sikka," which means coin while others claim it originates from the Venetian word "zecchino" meaning ducat coin. By the late 16th century, it is agreed it morphed into the French word, sequin.
The gold sequined tunic found in King Tut's tomb - Photo: The Textile Museum of Sweden
The Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus,
a device for making sequins
Even Leonardo da Vinci had a passion for sequins and invented a device for making sequins.
By the 1920s sequins were all the rage for aristocratic ball gowns and added sparkle and glitz to flapper's dresses. Sequins were becoming so popular for ordinary folk to add some sparkle glitter to their clothing, there had to be a way to meet the demand with a less expensive and lighter weight product.
In the 1930s manufacturers were able to mass produce sequins made from gelatin produced from animal carcasses and electroplated with gold, silver, and copper finishes. The new discs were lightweight and easy to make. There was one major problem with the gelatin-based sequins. They melted when they got wet or even from the low heat of body temperature. This did not stop the obsession for the sparkly adornments. A new way had to be found.
During World War II sequin production in Europe ceased. What to do? Sequins were needed by everyone from movie stars to the performers of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
Vintage gelatin sequins from the 1920s are still available today.
The major supplier and apparel manufacturer, Algy Trimmings Co. founder, Alfred Lieberman came up with the solution. He had to learn how to make sequins himself due to the shortage from Europe. He was able to get his sequin material custom made out of clear plastic used by Eastman Kodak camera company. His son, Herbert explained,
“Eastman Kodak was producing acetate for their film stock. They plated it on one side with real silver. They coated the silver with a clear ink of the color we desired. They colored the other side as well ... The light would penetrate through the color, hit the silver, and reflect back.”
Although the new sequins were fragile and could crack like glass, they were more versatile and less fragile than the gelatin-made ones. By the 1950s Lieberman began sandwiching his sequins with a new product manufactured by Dupont, mylar. Now his sequins were washable, non-melting and non-metal.
Sequins not only became popular for rock, pop, and country stars like Michael Jackson, Buck Owens, and Elvis Presley, as well as celebrities of every ilk; but, because of 1920's Norwegian three-time Olympic figure skating champion, Sonja Henie, the sequin is a staple in competitive skating and dancing worldwide.
Close-up of some of the remarkable
premium sequins Jeanne uses.
It's amazing how such a tiny little disc as the sequin adds the flare of glitz and sparkle to our everyday lives.
From Cockel Shell to Tagua Nut
a fastener that joins two pieces of fabric together by slipping through a loop or by sliding through a buttonhole
Once again we enter the Bronze Age and the civilization of the Indus Valley people. The oldest buttons date back to 2,000 BCE and are made of curved shell. They were found in the Mohenjo-daro region in the Indus Valley, now known as modern day Pakistan. In that period of time, buttons were never arranged in a vertical row (as garment buttons would in the future), but were used as decorative flourish to display wealth and status in the community.
First buttons dating to 2000 BCE ~ photo True Indology
The possibility of buttons pre-dating the Indus Valley civilization has come to light with the discovery of button-like objects in the Tomb of Eagles located in Orkney, Scotland. The tomb was discovered by a farmer in 1976 and has been dated to 2400 - 2250 BCE. However, it has recently come to light that the tomb was built and used for 1,000 years prior to the original archaeological dating; thereby suggesting buttons were used as adornments and as seals even earlier than the Indus Valley civilization.
Ancient buttons used to display wealth and status.
Photo ~ King & Allen Bespoke Tailoring
An elaborately-designed golden fibula (brooch) with the Latin inscription "VTERE FELIX" ("use [this] with luck"), late 3rd century AD, from the Osztropataka Vandal burial site.
The Ancient Romans used buttons for a more practical purpose. Because of the design of their flowing garments and weight of the fabrics used, they needed a much heftier button made of wood, horn, or bronze. Buttons soon fell to disfavor because their use left unsightly holes in the garments, hence the invention of the first fibula or predecessor to the modern day safety pin.
As buttons became the new functional asset of the day in Medieval Europe due to the new styles of close fitting garments, they became an important fashion statement and were saved and reused as garments wore out.
Next, the Victorian Age gave us the most ornate and beautiful buttons that are valuable collectibles today. These buttons depicted the romantic era of the queen and her courtship as well as her fascination with the rage of the day, botanical naturalism.
Victorian picture buttons, often with multiple layers, featured detailed scenes from Classical art and European fairytales. Dragons, mythical beasts, and Classical heroes are common themes. Photo from Compass Rose Design
There are several reasons given for why women's buttons are positioned on the left of shirts and dresses, while men's garments position button on the right. Buttons were usually worn by aristocrats and the wealthy. Because of the complexity of the women's outfits having layers of petticoats, corsets, and bustles and considering these women had servants and maids dressing them (who were usually right-handed), the buttons were placed on the left so it would be easier for the servants to dress the lady of the house as they faced them.
Circa 1870s British Anglo Zulu War Officers Tunic
Men's outfits, still taking into consideration that most were right-handed, had buttons on the left, making it easier to button the garment.
According to the authors of “The Art of Chivalry: European Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art”:
“To insure that an enemy's lance point would not slip between the plates, they overlapped from left to right, since it was standard fighting practice that the left side, protected by the shield, was turned toward the enemy. Thus, men's jackets button left to right even to the present day.”
As weapons were drawn from the left to the right (also why horses are mounted from the left, because the sword hung on the left making it easier to mount) it was easier for men to adjust and unbutton with their free left hand while in the throes of war wielding a weapon.
We must also take societal norms into consideration. Fashion historian, Chloe Chapin notes:
“In the 1880s, it was fashionable for women’s clothing to look more traditionally masculine. However, it was illegal in many places to be dressed like a man in public, so perhaps having a difference in buttoning confirmed that you were wearing a female dress.”
Of course, we cannot explore the history of the button without learning about the etymology of the word. From Etymology.com we share:
c. 1300, "knob or ball attached to another body," especially as used to hold together different parts of a garment by being passed through a slit or loop (surname Botouner "button-maker" attested from mid-13c.), from Old French boton "a button," originally "a bud" (12c., Modern French bouton), from bouter, boter "to thrust, strike, push," common Romanic (cognate with Spanish boton, Italian bottone), ultimately from a Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *buttan, from PIE root *bhau- "to strike." Thus a button is, etymologically, something that pushes up, or thrusts out.
Meaning "point of the chin" is pugilistic slang, by 1921. A button as a round protuberance you depress to create an effect by closing an (electrical) circuit is attested from 1840s. Button-pusher as "deliberately annoying or provocative person" is attested by 1990 (in reference to Bill Gates, in "InfoWorld" magazine, Nov. 19). In the 1980s it meant "photographer."
late 14c., "to furnish with buttons;" early 15c., "to fasten with buttons" (of a garment,) from button (n.) or from Old French botoner (Modern French boutonner), from boton (n.) "button," which is from the same Germanic source as the English word. Related: Buttoned; buttoning. Button-down (adj.) in reference to shirt collars is from 1916.
Today, ivory buttons have been replaced by vegetable ivory, a.k.a. the tagua nut, a product made from the very hard white endosperm of the seeds of certain palm trees.
Finally, we must credit the simple little button with the advancements of computers and our state-of-the-art technology. Yes, indeed, it is because of Koumpounophobia (the fear of buttons and disgust of encountering buttons either visually or physically) that we have the most advanced touch screen computers.
How could that possibly be, you ask?
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., suffered from koumpounophobia. Many believe and speculate that his condition influenced the trend towards touch screens and virtual keyboards in the design of Apple devices.
Close-up of some of the novelty button embellishments used and hand-painted by Jeanne.