Fabric-Free Swarovski Crystal and Venetian Glass Ensemble
Gail Be, American, United States, 2007-2008
This world class, one-of-a-kind crystal ensemble took me over 3,500 hours to complete. It measures five layers and a full inch thick. It weighs an amazing 28 pounds and is made exclusively from over 50,000 beads and 500 feet of beading wire.
The base of this dress was made from larger (10-20mm) vintage and modern Swarovski crystal, 24kt Venetian glass beads and Chinese silver-lined beads. On top of this base I painstakingly wove 4 more layers. Every single bead had to fit like a piece into a puzzle to make sure it fit perfectly into this tightly woven maze.
The playful fringe of this dress are actually blown glass tubes that where originally made as chandelier or lampshade detailing. They were made by master Italian bead makers during the 1960’s--in a factory that has since closed on the Isle of Murano.
From a personal standpoint, this museum-quality piece of art, was the most challenging design I have ever made and it is the one I am most proud of. Not only was this design the most complicated structurally, but physically it was also the most taxing.
Because of its great intricacy, multiple layers and the extreme weight which I had to hold up throughout the entire process, my hands would literally curl into lobster claws after the several hours of intense weaving. I worked on this dress nonstop for many hours a night for a year. In the last three months in order for me to complete this sculpture I underwent at least 5 hours of physical therapy a week to keep my hands, forearms and shoulders loosened up.
As soon as we completed the photo shoot with Shandara wearing this design for my website DVD, I stopped beading completely to give my hands a rest. But my hands had gone past the point of no return and the pain became even more pronounced when I quit working. Even with the preventative care I had developed severe carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of the laborious and intense hours. I eventually underwent surgery on both of my hands in the summer of 2008. Chandelier Marina is truly a labor of love and perseverance.
I fondly named this design after my Venetian friend, Marina Brusa, who helped me "score" the vintage blown glass tubes, for the beautiful fringe for this design. It was my respect, for their great history of bead-making, that I dedicated myself to design such a formidable ensemble for these amazing glass tubes to hang from.
As soon as I got back to the U.S. the beads started calling to me "demanding to be put into a design they could show proudly in." Seriously, they were persistent and loud. As an Artist I feel I honored them with this design, because the dress technique I created did push me to the depth of my creative ability.
If you have the skilled eye of a master beader you will have an additional reverent respect for the intricacy and complexity of the construction of this design. I feel like a great architect when I stand in front of her. She is truly Bellissima!