Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vintage Beads. Works of Art With Provenance

Main Entry: prov·e·nance

Etymology: French, from provenir to come forth, originate, from Latin provenire, from pro- forth + venire to come — more at pro-, come
1 : origin, source
2 : the history of ownership of a valued object or work of art or literature

In April, Bumbershoot Supplies expanded our vintage glass West German beads stock, and I want to share a bit about the history and provenance of these beads. We strive to find the best possible vintage components for your art, and I hope you enjoy hearing a bit about their history.

The concept of provenance is usually applied to great works of art, but the way I see it, it can also be applied to vintage beads.  Clearly, these gorgeous vintage bits of glass, lucite, mother of pearl, etc. are definitely valued objects and works of art in and of themselves, at least that is how I think of them.  But we also think of provenance as conveying a sense of time and place, history and ownership.  In art circles, the better the provenance, the more information we have about a piece of art, and the more confident we are that we understand its history and that it is what it is thought to be.  

Of course, beads are not of the same monetary value as a putative Cezanne, or Picasso, or Van Gogh, and they are a different type of art object entirely.  Much of the time, their provenance is quite murky, and we must rely on scanty information and expert opinion (just as in the art world) to understand where they came from and how old they really are.

However, sometimes you can really luck out!  Most of the vintage glass West German beads currently offered at Bumbershoot Supplies have a clear provenance. They were made in Kaufbeuren, in southern Germany, southwest of Munich. 
They were made in the 1950’s and remained in a warehouse there for decades, until the warehouse was closed and the contents of the warehouse were purchased by the supplier who provided the beads to me. Not too many steps involved, and a clear provenance.  Sweet!

At Bumbershoot Supplies, we usually know the decade and country of origin of the supplies we offer, because we choose our suppliers and products very carefully. We deal with reliable suppliers who can answer our questions about the origin of the supplies. We research our supplies in various ways, both online and through hard copy resource books and materials. We purchase as close to the source as possible. And we are constantly learning. The vintage West German glass beads are a real treat, since we know details about them, and that makes them special.

As we continue to bring in new vintage delights, I'll continue to share information about our supplies and what we have learned about them, in the hopes that this information enhances your experience of working with these remarkable vintage treasures.

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