Here is what I first came up by using a dot and then developing an image.

Drawing by Meredith Eliassen

Drawing by Meredith Eliassen

Jamey D. Allen traces cane production for millefiori beads to the late 1400s in “Cane Manufacture for Mosaic Glass Beads: Part II,” Ornament 6: 1, pages 13 and 23.

Marie-Francois Deloarodiere describes how Mautauria beadmakers try to imitate millefiori beads to this day in “Mautaurian Beads,” Ornament 8: 3, pages 27-32. This article profiles the work of Lalla Aichia, one of the few remaining beadmakers in Oualata. In the same issue, Robert K. Liu examines how cylindrical millefiori trade beads were broken into smaller pieces and perforated for stringing by Mauritanian women in “African-Made Glass Beads: Survey and Experimental results,” pages 52-57. Koli (cooked) beads were cooked in a pot with vegetable matter and then ground, turning opaque, so that they would be more aesthetically acceptable to Ghanaian consumers.

Peter Francis Jr. offers up a humorous look at the industry of forging beads in “Bead Report XIV: A Collection of ‘Phoenician’ Beads,” Ornament 8: 4, pages 45-48.

“Special Pictorial: Historic Photographs of a Venetian Bead Factory,” Ornament 9:3: pages 50-53.

Trade Wind Bead Books

January 12, 2015

Trade wind beads, beads that migrated along trade routes where ships utilized wind currents, and are studied in connection with ancient glassmaking techniques. There is a vast amount of information on trade wind beads in general, but there are only a limited number of authorities in the field.

Vanaka Malagasy discusses beads from different regions that were traded in Madagascar and later manufactured there in Perles Lagaches: Traveaux et Documents VI (Madagascar: Musee d’art et d’archeologie de l’University de Madagascar, 1918). It is the only source I have found that traces where millefiore beads were traded around the Indian Ocean.

G. N. van der Sleen created a wonderful introduction to antique trade beads that is simple and straightforward. Originally published in 1967 by the Journees Internationles du Verre at the Museum of Glass in Liege, Belgium. Handbook on Beads (York, PA.: Liberty Cap Books, 1973) discusses classification of beads and techniques for manufacturing beads. Modern variations of the millefiori bead are illustrated. This pamphlet contains a useful glossary of terms used in describing beads with translations in French, German, Italian, Dutch, and Polish.

Peter Francis Jr. provides an overall history of beadmaking along with a background of the beadmaking industry in “Some Thoughts on Glass Beadmaking,” Proceedings of the 1982 Glass Trade Bead Conference, edited by Charles F. Hayes, III (Rochester, N.Y.: Rochester Museum of Science Center, 1983): 193-202.

Hard to find, but Magdelena Tempemann-Maczynska created an authoritative work on all kinds of beads made in central Europe that were influenced by Roman technology in Die Perlen der Romanischen Keiserzeit und der fruhen Phase der Volkerwandersein im Mittleeuropaischen Barbaricum (Mainz am Rheine: P. von Zabern, 1985). She traces millefiori back to early Roman designs and includes maps, illustrations, and plates.

Marilyn Jenkins of the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art provides a basic history of the early Islamic glassmaking based upon 92 objects from the Museum’s collections in “Islamic Glass: A Brief History,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 44: 2 (Fall 1986). The history of glassmaking is traced from the early Islamic period 7th to 10th century to Venice in the late period from the 16th to 19th centuries. She explains how the technology travelled back to Persia as products (mirrors, beads, and windowpanes) via trade routes, and glass products were used as currency.

I talked to my dad last night and he suggested an exercise for loosening up with drawing: draw a dot on a sheet of paper and then visualize a picture… let your mind’s eye compose what goes on the page… well he said it better, and I am going to give it a try this weekend. I will post anything that is interesting… thanks Dad!

Jamey D. Allen provides a highly technical article on bead manufacturing in “Manufacture of Intricate Glass Canes and a New Perspective on the Relationship between Chevron-Star Beads and Mosaic-Millefiori Beads,” Proceedings of the 1982 Glass Trade Bead Conference, edited by Charles F. Hays, III (Rochester, NY: Rochester Museum of Science Center, 1983) Allen defines millefiori and describes the use of floral canes, which are used to cover or compose a mosaic glass item. He contrasts the modern millefiore beads with ancient ones and describes the three attributes that a millefiori must have. He also clearly defines the differences between millefiore and mosaic motifs with diagrams of variations for different molds.

Some books on millefiore

January 8, 2015


Design of millefiori by Meredith Eliassen.

Glassmaker John Burton discusses modern techniques for producing glass in Glass Philosophy and Method (New York: Bonanza Books, 1967) Burton chronicles the history and development of certain techniques and illustrates with photographs how to make millefiori glass.

Axel von Saldren concentrates on the early manufacturing of glass in Ancient Glass in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1968). He theorizes that glass originated in Egypt and Mesopotamia as vessels and traces the migration of the glassmaking industry. The millefiori motif is traces to Mesopotamia in the 15th century BCE, to the early Roman Empire when monochrome elements were used, and then to Venice. Glass beads are discussed but not in connection to the millefiori motif. Photographs illustrate many examples of millefiori in Museum collection pieces.

Donald M. Harden provides an excellent overview of early glass in “Ancient Glass, Part 1: Pre-Roman,” Archeological Journal 125 (1969): 46-72. For the person interested in a detailed history of early glass, this is probably the most comprehensive paper published on this complicated early period.

Paul N. Perrot, Paul V. Gardiner, and James S Plant profile the work of Frederick Carder (1863-1963), founder of Steuben Glass works that later became a division of Corning Glass Works in Steuben: Seventy Years of American Glassmaking (New York: Preager Publishers, 1974). In Carder’s early designs, he developed the modern variation on the millefiori motif for glass manufacturing, the creating an American variation on the Venetian millefiori motif.

Sidney M. Goldstein traces the millefiori design motif to the earliest periods of glassmaking in Pre-Roman and Early Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass, 1979). Such sites as Tel-A Rimas, ‘Aqar Quf, and Marlik in Western Asia are discussed. Goldstein expounds on various glass making techniques. The catalog shows the vast Corning Collection containing examples of millefiori dishes, petalla cups and fragments of Roman glass revetments and mosaic glass inlay but non of the beads are millefiori.



January 7, 2015

Millefiori, which literally translates to “thousand flowers,” is a motif that dates back thousands of years. Originally used in early glass and tile making, the design became a natural motif in bead making. The method for making millefiori is at once a decorative and manufacturing process and has been used in a number of different media. Millefiore is often grouped with mosaic glassmaking, although the manufacturing technique is similar, the two motifs are very distinct. Millefiori is a flower motif that dates back to the 1st-3rd centuries BCE and mosaic motifs are geometric and figurative that date back to the 15th century BCE.

Lois Sherr Dubin discusses the symbolic and cultural nature of beads in History of Beads from 30,000 BC to the Present (New York: Harry H. Abrams, Inc., 1987). Beautifully illustrated, this book shows an abundance of beads from all over the world. Graphics include a map of the Roman World; distribution of bead and bead materials from 1 BCE to 1 CE; bead migration; and a time line of bead history. The writing is ambiguous: millefiori, mosaic, and eye beads are lumped together when they are three significantly different styles. The graphics are more informative than the text.

Gustave E. Pazaurec shows how beads were used in fashion and craft in Glasperien und Perlenarbeiten in Alter und Neuer Zeit (Darmstadt: A. Koch, 1911). Pazaurek enables the reader to see beads in historic context; it contains only a brief discussion of millefiore beads with pictures of Roman beads.

Flowers weave through the natural trellis in handmade paper. Drawing by Meredith Eliassen

Flowers weave through the natural trellis in handmade paper. Drawing by Meredith Eliassen

Grandma’s treasure trove

January 6, 2015

When we are children, primitive things can capture the imagination… for me, a trip to my grandmother’s jewelry store started a journey of dreams that continues to this day. She handed me a small collection of African beads, and I played with those beads for hours, playing with pattern. Some were rough to the touch (they did not conform to the sensibility that jewelry should always be sparkly or pretty), some had odd odors, and they were unique in the sensual sense. The small collection became a gift that brought me joy in the years that followed as I traded them with friends and added odds and ends from my own travels. I discovered at a young age that beads were not toys, trade wind beads influenced the course of history and changed lives, and many cases lives were lost or placed into situations of involuntary servitude over this commodity.

Bead Stash

African beads.