You may have seen those bumper stickers that say, “Get Your Beads Drilled in the Poconos.”
When I was over to see Etidorpha I was curious and asked her how she came to learn to drill wampum beads.
It is not anything that I have ever heard that people do in modern days and it is not a craft that is taught at the Bullamanka Community College (BCC), not even in the remedial adult section. Though one would think that bead drilling would fit in well with traditional trade related classes on how to mount a flash drive. So I was curious about how she learned the art and the tools and I even wanted to know if there is maybe a bead driller guru that has a Masters or a PhD in wampum bead drilling. I like to learn by reading or peripheral subconscious osmosis, it is so much easier than doing.
Or maybe there is an international organization of wampum bead drillers and they have motel conventions with heavily attended workshops and long winded speeches about bead drilling case studies. As in powderpoint these beads, yeah! Beads of the Ozarks. Rise and fall of the Persian bead. Many many beads I have known.
Conflagrations of bead drillers that get kinky and intertwine their wetware networks in places like Albuquerque and a glossy magazine full of provocative advertisements with scantily clad bead drillers who pretend to drill beads while they smile at us with their tanned expressions of pure ecstatic joy while they suck their loose appendages and a bi-lingual newsletter for the hard-core aficionados, considering the number of 3rd World bead drillers, and they have an internet web forum where avid practitioners discuss the finer points of the ancient craft of bead drilling.
Maybe they complain about the degradation of wampum not being quite what it used to be in the pre-Columbian era back before the good whelk and quahog shells got scarce. I bet they can go on for a month arguing over the best recipes for spittle and bead goo.
T-shirts that say, “Bead Drillers Tap Tiny Holes.” And wampum driller’s poetry, too, they have to have doggerel about it since there are songs and poems already about embroidery, needle point, rug pulling, pot holder weaving, bird house carpentry, how to whittle a corn cob pipe, and the sewing on of buttons by hand and darning of socks and ironing on of store bought pant knee patches and other domestic avocations -- The Saga of the Bucket of One Million Beads. What an adventure story!
“And then after much arduous passage/ a sharp pain that shot up my right arm/ when I came to drill bead number 1,356/ nearly exhausted and dehydrated/ my eyes in pain I wanted a drink/ on my knees/ the phone rang/ Mildred Spanbottom/ who called about the gas flames/ that shoot out of her.../ kitchen faucet.// On bead number 345,927/ hot water kettle whistle/ woke me up.// We nearly near the nearest/ end of the end/ when near the end/the bead bowl tipped over.”
So much of life happens in the brief time it takes for a wampum bead to be drilled.
They must be very very tiny drills to do that with and I can only imagine it requires a good lighted magnifying glass and a rotatable 5-position handi-vice or some sort of miniature means to grasp the wampum beads steady while the driller is mounted.
I suppose a traditional purist in search of authenticity of craft would use their fingers.
Bloody fingers, you can always tell a wampum bead driller by the tips of their bloody red fingers stuck with tiny bead drills like fledgling insect quills. Very tight tolerances must be required, if you ask me even though I know that you didn’t. So I asked her while I picked black squirrel hair out from between my molars. Her baking is tasty but if she does not wear her glasses you never know what will end up in the oven.
Etidorpha reached down behind the wood stove where the coffee congealed. Altuna, I sense maybe sensing there was going to be a crash and thud onto the floor where he had been up to then asleep, skittered into the pantry. She reached down to her stack of dry periodicals in the galvanized wash tub and after a bit of rummage and fumble and fart she pulled out and showed me her Miracle Poospatuck Manufactured Restoration-Arts & Crafts Native-American Doo-Dads Inc. Specialty Annual Bead Catalog #103.
Here were two-hundred and seventy-eight pages of beads and bead related paraphernalia of all shapes, sizes, colors, dimensions and possible materials known to humanity, with full and highly detailed descriptions of each type of bead, and sequin, including biographies of famous historical figures in the bead world. It had never previously occurred to me that William James Sidis had a bead fetish.
And patterns, we always need good patterns, beading patterns like I have never seen ever in my life. They were cubic, they were realistic, they were fractal, three-dimensional, four and five-dimensional, and they were fantastically resplendent, ignited in molten fire and quenched in serpentine baths of absinthe and myrrh. It was here in this one catalog more information packed into such a tiny space than I ever even knew there was that much information about to be had, learned, enunciated, read or knowed about the amazing world of beads.
This overwhelming wealth of surplus cognitive junk quickly in my mind put the universal glory of the commonality of their cousin, the button to shame. I would never ever look at a button quite the same again without a first thought of how it had all started with little tiny beads until the beads got bigger, then bigger, then stuck through the cloth on a thong then eventually with the evolution of utility they got squashed into wafers and from an insignificant bead a button was born. Be aware, we do not even know this level of technological development in the invention of the wheel as we know for the transition from humble bead to the bold statement of buttons. Buttons, rule, man! But a bead, a bead is the sublime elegance of clothing. It is an element of design that can be affixed to our nose. It was a miraculous epiphany and as I begged and borrowed Etidorpha let me take the catalog and as I clutched the mighty catalog tightly to protect it from the rain and the tornado and the flying tree and those really weird goats on the walk home I took it into my life and spent several hours over several days over several weeks to peruse the captive of its highly informative pages.
Here all this time I thought wampum was made from shells and I find out it is made from plastic and comes already with the holes drilled in it, at least, the wampum that Etidorpha uses in her handicraft art work. But I did find out that her raccoon pecker bones come from real raccoons, not the domesticated ones but free range all-natural raccoons. The porcupine quills come in little bundles with a rubber band around them and can be got in natural shades or a pre-died range of colors. I happen to like the ones that glow in the dark.