Valerie Hector: The Art of Beadwork: Historic Inspiration, Contemporary Design – Book Review

Valerie Hector’s The Art of Beadwork: Historic Inspiration, Contemporary Design (ISBN 0-8320-0307-8) is an interesting combination of the historical and cultural analysis of various beadmaking traditions and the presentation of works by modern designers who were inspired by these traditions.

There are numerous books on contemporary bead designs, as well as many histories of beadmaking (which may go back as much as 75,000 years, see

The book looks at a number of ethnic and historical beadwork traditions:

  • Han Beadwork (Mainland China)
  • Ancient Japanese Beadwork
  • Kathi Beadwork (Guajarat State, India)
  • Sa’dan Toraja Beadwork (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
  • Straits Chinese Beadwork (Penang, Malaysia)
  • Kenyah Beadwork (Indonesian/Malaysian Borneo)
  • Ambai Island Beadwork (Indonesian New Guniea)
  • Ancient Egyptian Beadwork
  • Yoruba Beadwork (Nigeria)
  • Maasai Beadwork (Kenya)
  • Dinka Beadwork (Sudan)
  • Xhosa Beadwork (South Africa)
  • Ndebele Beadwork (South Africa)
  • Msinga (Zulu) Beadwork (South Africa)
  • Seventeenth Century English Beadwork
  • J. M. van Selow Beadwork (1760s Germany)
  • Wiener Werkstätte Beadwork (1920s Austria)
  • Funerary Beadwork (France)
  • Plains and Plateau Beadwork
  • Achomawi/Atsugewi Beadwork (California)
  • Huichol Beadwork (Mexico)
  • Chimu Beadwork (Peru)
  • Each chapter has a short description of the historical beading tradition, sometimes with fascinating anecdotes (I liked the one about the “bead trees” that beads supposedly come from), followed by projects by contemporary bead artists based on each of these traditions. Each project is shown with photos and detailed diagrams.

    The overall impression is one of awe at the incredible creativity of the human mind that has turned these small objects into dazzling and amazing creations in so many cultures and so many periods. Even if you are not interested in recreating any of the designs presented here, The Art of Beadwork is a fascinating book that you will most likely return to again and again.