Bead Behavior: Shape-Shifting, Transforming, and Mimicry in Contemporary Beadwork - Kathryn Shriver

Beads are slippery, unsettled objects with histories and material qualities that are hard to pin down. This presentation will look at the ways that the unique material qualities of beads allow them to accumulate into strange, exciting materials, to transform and crawl over surfaces, and to shiftily camouflage with everyday objects. These ideas will be discussed through the work of the presenter, Kathryn Shriver, and the practices of contemporary artists to whom she owes so much of her knowledge about beading, Nico Williams and Nadia Myre. Kathryn will introduce her own work and history with beading to talk about how she combines large-scale loom beading with performance, sculpture, and painting to make unruly glass fabrics, weird garments, and artworks with double identities. Nico Williams’ sculptural work will be discussed for the way it pushes the boundaries of both math and mimicry in beads, springing tiny glass Delicas to life into trompe-l’oeil sculptures of everyday objects and complex geometric forms. Finally, Nadia Myre’s work with glass seed beads as well as handmade ceramic pipe beads will be explored for the way it addresses hybridity in beadwork and shows beads’ ability to take on different roles, shift from large to small scale, and create exciting new textiles. These artists and ideas are brought together in this presentation to propose a future of beadwork that is not only expansive and exciting, but is also grounded in a sense of cultural and creative history—knowing who we are beading with, and what we are bringing to beading is the future.

About Kathryn

Kathryn Shriver is a visual artist from Western New York. Her work spans across painting, sculpture, drawing, video, and writing, but is founded in the methods and legacies of the fiber arts. Introduced to the pleasures of domestic fiber craft early on by her mother and grandmother, Kathryn taught herself to bead at 8 years old, lured by beads’ ability to evade the old-fashioned, ‘country’ aesthetics that surrounded her. Since then, her relationship to beadwork has been a key guide in coming to understand her relationships with taste and making as a woman from a white, working-class family steeped in values of bootstrapping, social climbing, and self-assimilation. 

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