In July 2001 I accompanied Geoff Ellis of Brighton Bead Shop to Varanasi east of Delhi on the banks of the River Ganges in India. My mission was to show some craftsmen there a few new designs of glass beads which would then be exclusive to Brighton Bead Shop (for a time!)
Out of all the memories I brought back from India, this one of a little girl selling offerings on the banks of the Ganges in the dim light of a drizzly dawn is for me the most compelling.
This small person’s face is also imprinted on my memory. It belongs to one of the children who came out in droves in one of the outlying villages to see the strange beadmaker and buyer from England.
These are the four craftsmen that I worked with (Vinod, Suresh, Dinesh and Suraj, all brothers) in the dimly lit, tiny workshop at the factory. They are using antiquated burners which utilze kerosene burning wicks with a stream of air from a foot operated bellows. Their skill with this low tech equipment was amazing. It took me two days struggle in temperatures I found quite brutal to make a bead at all let alone demonstrate the new designs. The craftsmen seemed quite happy though.The weather that week was freakily hot and the situation was a temporary one set up for our benefit. I also had to rethink the techniques involved to get them to work but by the end of our twelve days and very long hours we had all the samples done and preliminary orders in place.
These are some of the hundreds of bead samples made by the craftsmen for Geoff to choose from. They all had to be about 8mm diameter – really small, which made the designs very hard to achieve.
After many months these little packets of the first beads for sale arrived. I was surprised by my feelings at seeing them. I knew where they had come from and how they were made – it felt like such a privilege to know their history, normally obscure, – it made them special to me.