Over the years, I have spent many a late night and ruined many a manicure tirelessly crafting beautiful creations to match the visions in my head. When I look at a metal headband that I’ve hammered by hand, or a bouquet full of hand strung beaded flowers, I appreciate what it took to get there.
I am very proud to offer various collections of bouquets that showcase the art of French beading. These dazzling bouquets make such a statement at a wedding. Though I use elements of silk, the gems accents and French beading put these bouquets above and beyond a fresh floral bouquet.
French Beading done well is hard to find these days, and I think it’s important to know about the process and its history to fully appreciate its place in modern weddings.
A history of French beading
Beadwork has been around as long as ancient Romans, Egyptians and other cultures have been adorning themselves with costumes and formal wear. Throughout history, beads are known to have been made out of anything from glass and stone to bone and ivory.
French beading is a specific technique of beadwork that is classified by stringing beads on to a wire and forming shapes. It is not known exactly when this technique originated, but it is estimated that it happened sometime around the 16th century where the beadwork was found in Venice, throughout continental Europe and the British Isles.
Some of the earliest French beading was created to make use of imperfect beads that we made for other uses. Rather than embroider the beads onto to ball gowns and jackets of the rich, Italian and French peasants would string imperfect beads that didn’t fit over their needles on horsehair or human hair. Once strung, the strands of beads were shaped into flowers and shapes. They were used to decorate church altars and brides on their wedding days. They also become a staple decoration around Easter and Christmas—especially when fresh flowers were not available.
French beaded flowers become a decorative mainstay after World War II. Production of the flowers had advanced after the Industrial Revolution was able to make materials more accessible. Instructional Kits and patterns made their way on to the market and found their way into stores like Marshall Fields and Bloomingdales.
Through French beading today is not commonly sold to the masses, it is still alive and well. The beauty and elegance of French beading is timeless. It is an art form that has grown since its inception, but still stays true to its intricate beginnings.
Just as they did in the 1700s, I string and shape these delicate flowers with tiny beads one at a time. I may not use horse hair and imperfect beads, but I stay true to painstaking process of creating each work of art by hand because nothing else compares to what these finished products look like.
Once you take in the process and history that goes into this magical art form, you understand how special the finished product really is.