Salt and Pepper
Fabric Free Two-Piece Beaded Fringe Ensemble
Gail Be, American, United States, 2005
This amazing 25-pound design is made exclusively from over half-a-million vintage, German, special-cut seed beads and Japanese silver-lined beads. It does not contain one stitch of fabric; was completely done by hand and took five people more than 1500 hours over a period of nine months to complete.
The foundation of this dress is made from Japanese, silver-lined glass beads that give an underlying diamond like appeal to the whole outfit. Hundreds of thousands of vintage German beads and Japanese beads were then strung, cut and individually hand layered on top to become the hundreds of fringes of this ensemble.
The accessories are made with black onyx and vintage and modern Swarovski crystal beads. The headpiece is made from spun black chicken feathers and specially stripped rooster tail feathers.
When we first presented this design at an AIDS Benefit Fashion Show we had to get a padded chair for Helen, the model, to sit down in while she waited to go on stage. This skirt is so heavy that we used 3 people to hold it up while someone else fastened it. It takes a real pro to make this ensemble look weightless (check out on the DVD) most people would be crying wearing 25 pounds of dead weight.
I don’t use seed beads often because I think they are too "ordinary." But when I was able to get large quantities of vintage special 3-cut seed beads, these were a far cry from boring so I decided to go for it and make something extraordinary. The sheer scope of creating an outfit with no fabric and 500,000 beads I believe far exceeded that goal.
I don't use seed beads often because I think they are too "ordinary." But when I was able to get large quantities of vintage, special 3-cut seed beads that were manufactured in Germany before 1950, these were a far cry from your every day run-of-the-mill beads.
By making this design I am able to preserve those wonderful 3-cut diamond, vintage, German beads in a beautiful way. Many of the factories are now closed and this is a wonderful way to see a part of bead history live on.