Posted on Leave a comment

My Beaded Square Project

Pandora's Box, my beaded square project by Katie Dean

Well, having had over a year to do this, I finally completed my beaded square project yesterday! I’m not normally a ‘last-minute’ merchant, but… So, now it is on its way to the Beadwork Museum. I’m keeping fingers tightly crossed that it arrives safely. And, in the meantime, I thought I would share my efforts with you…

What is this project all about?

In case you haven’t heard about this, the beaded square project is a wonderful community beading project that launched in March 2020. It is being run by The Museum of Beadwork. I’ll give you a brief overview, but if you would like to see the official project brief, you can take a look at the project page at this link.

The museum’s mission is to explore the many ways in which beads link communities and cultures. This particular project is the idea of Nancy Josephson. It is all about exploring the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us.

The project organisers invited beaders from anywhere in the world to create a 6″ square. It has been up to us to choose our beading technique(s) and decide on what we wanted to make.

The only criteria to follow were that the square has to be exactly 6″ along each side, and the beadwork must be backed on a stable 6″ board. Beyond that, we’ve been free to choose design, colours, stitches, and even whether we go flat or 3-D. So, guess what I did…?

Pandora's Box, my beaded square project by Katie Dean

My Beaded Square Project

I’ve entitled my beaded square ‘Pandora’s Box’.

And, this is the meaning behind my piece:

During this time many of us are feeling confused, out of balance, off centre, chaotic and overwhelmed. So, it is all too easy to become sucked into darkness and focus on the negativity. The legend that inspired my square speaks of Pandora opening a forbidden urn (more often translated as ‘box’) which released evil and suffering into the world. But one thing remained inside the urn/box: hope. We all need to hold onto hope and focus on the light, even though we may feel sucked into darkness and despair.

I hope people will be able to find their own messages and interpretations from within this. But I will share a few additional thoughts about my inspiration and creation process.

Inspiration and creation

I thought about a lot of different ideas and interpretations for this theme. But I knew from the beginning that I wanted to add something of a ‘signature’ for me. So, a beaded box seemed obvious.

I have also been fascinated by the story of Pandora’s box. It’s something I’ve been contemplating exploring in beads for many years. So, somehow this project felt like the right place to do that.

Now, you may not know this, but the original Greek story actually talks about an urn. That would have been a common storage vessel in those days. It seems that somewhere down the line, the ‘urn’ was translated into ‘box’. So, although the meaning is similar, this obviously has a dramatic impact on the look of the object.

So, I decided to try and reflect both ideas in my choice of this beaded box. It is most definitely a box, but it’s style and shape possibly makes a little nod towards the more traditional urn.

Story elements

Now, if you don’t know the story, it’s goes something like this:

Pandora is given an urn to safeguard and told not to open it. But nobody tells her what is inside or why she must keep it closed. Needless to say, she opens it. To her horror, once the lid is lifted, all the evils of the world fly out. The story specifically mentions ‘death, sickness, jealousy, hatred, famine and passion’.

Pandora then realises that not quite everything has escaped. Tucked in a little corner of the urn is a quivering figure: hope.

So, all of this struck a chord with how I am feeling, and I suspect how others feel.

Every way we turn at the moment is doom and gloom. Whether it’s death and illness from COVID, jealousy, hatred and injustice within the arenas of gender (#MeToo), race (#BlackLivesMatter), religion or sexuality. Even natural disasters and, of course, climate change.

So, I used some of the words from the original story, but also added in words that I feel reflect our modern crises.

Pandora's Box, beaded square project by Katie Dean

Visual ideas

I wanted to play around with the idea of light and dark. Specifically, darkness encroaching on or swallowing up the light. So, I hope you can see that reflected in the square.

I also wanted to create something that appears a little chaotic and unbalanced. So, I have arranged all the elements in a way that invites you to wish for order, but is actually not ordered. The box is a little off-centre. I haven’t spaced the words evenly. You can look for patterns, but you may find something more chaotic.

So, at first glance, this may seem a rather dark, perhaps ugly piece of work. But I hope you will be drawn to look further, to the box, to the message of Hope inside it, and to rest on the light and bright that surrounds the darkness.

Yes, we may all be feeling a lot of negative emotions right now. But if we take the time to look closely, we can still find much to enjoy and for which we can feel grateful each day.

And, more than that, if we cling onto hope and try to act wisely, and together, we have every chance of overcoming all of the challenges that our planet is facing right now.

So, I hope this meaning speaks to others too. It has been a privilege to take part in this wonderful project. And please do follow this link to the Museum of Beadwork’s website and see all the squares coming together into the giant quilt that will provide a lasting impression of these extraordinary times.

Leave a Reply