BEADED BLANKETS STORY – BEAD-A-THON
By Robert Streeter
Blanket Creators – Christine Cox-Hayes, Kathryn Usher, Nadine Charity, and Nick Cave
With help from the dozens of volunteers at Bead-a-thon events including Mercy Center
A bead is just a bead. Put beads through a shoelace and you have a string of beads. Put strings of beads together and you create art.
Much the same way, a person is just a person. Bring people together and you create friendships and a community that can create.
Mix people together with beads and you can create a blanket. This one is called Bead-a-thon. It is very unique in the Beaded Blankets collection. What makes it so special is that world renown fabric sculptor and performance artist Nick Cave had a hand in it. He came to Shreveport for the project “As Is.” In addition to the soundsuit performance, he started the project of creating blankets to be put on display. Bead-a-thon is the first and only blanket that Nick worked on. He laid down the framework while Christine Cox-Hayes, Kathryn Usher, and Nadine Charity finished the blanket.
SRAC set aside several opportunities for the public to come in and help string beads together. These bead-a-thons, for which this blanket was named for, provided the foundation for many of the blankets used in SRAC exhibitions. Individuals, families, sororities, civic groups, charitable organizations, and many more answered the call. Friendships were forged over good food, good times, shoelaces, and beads. There were many nights dedicated to bead-stringing at the Central ARTStation as well as exhibition openings and during a Texas Avenue Makers Fair. Bringing the community together was one of the goals of the blanket project. Several Shreveport Common organizations assisted in the beading including Providence House and Mercy Center.
People who came for the first time to bead, really enjoyed the camaraderie. Many returned for several sessions. Storms couldn’t keep those who fell in love with the project away. Friendly competitions emerged to see who could string the most beads. Disciplines battled to see how many strings they could create. Under the supervision of the lead blanket designers, miles of beaded string were fashioned. A few who showed up and beaded became so involved that they can be credited with the creation of a few blankets on display. One such artist is Christine Cox-Hayes. She became a critical piece to this team.
This Bead-a-thon blanket had its beginnings with the hands of Nick Cave. Nick started with the top of the blanket to demonstrate what could be done. He could not finish the blanket in the limited time he had in Shreveport. It sat on a table only about a quarter finished. No one else worked on it. Over time, Kathryn and Nadine started to notice that this unfinished artwork needed some love and attention. They took up the cause and started to add more strings. Christine joined them and lent her hands. She added another 25% of the total blanket. Kathryn and Nadine finished out Bead-a-thon as the deadline to turn in the blankets approached.
The blanket creators felt a great sense of accomplishment when the job was done. Bead-a-thon was one of many that Nadine and Kathryn worked on collaboratively. Working on the whole series of blankets helped them grow and expand into new materials and realize that simplicity can work. Not every blanket they produced had to be extravagant and richly detailed. Bead-a-thon is a simple blanket with lots of colored beads. The colors you see can represent the different people that came together to form friendships and a community that’s unique. A community that can create an incredible piece of art.