an open source architectural beadwork project from Kate McKinnon and a worldwide team of innovators
One of the things we’ve been working with for our academic textbook is how differently light and colour are described in various fields of study. In the physical art world we discuss colour in terms of pigments, and stuff like fibers and fabrics, glass, surfaces and paints, but when we work with light as a medium color is another thing entirely, and the combinations used to achieve mixed colours and contrasts are different. The language and the colour wheels are unique to the jobs being done.
In our beads (which have many different surfaces) colour has all of these properties. We have silverlined, white-lined, colour-lined beads, transparents, opaque colours, mattes, metals and metallics, we can facet the glass, coat surfaces with different textures and finishes, we can use conductive thread or coloured thread to attach them together…almost any property of colour, light or charge can be leveraged in glass beadwork.
photos of street tile and a glass cafe window in Barcelona by Kate, feel free to use or share
It is a sufficient challenge for us to find words that can communicate colour and light to different artistic disciplines. If a painter, a ceramicist, a beader and a lighting designer can agree on what we say, we feel like winners.
Colour may present keys to deeper understanding of ancient art as well. In our designs, in addition to expressing artistically, each of these colours could signify a different frequency or speed of light. If we were looking for this type of mapping, what might we be able to discern in ancient beadwork, or convey in our contemporary work? Certainly we could choose to embed any data in our work in this way.
The job of communicating about light beyond art and colour is an even bigger one. To stretch into science and optics and discuss the many possibilities of the frequencies of light is frustrating and enlightening. Studying the spectrum displayed by a simple prism has given me entirely new (and humorously ancient) ideas about the fundamental nature of light itself and I am now entirely dissatisfied with the way people from all fields speak and teach about “breaking” light into frequencies, or that light is “made up of” all frequencies. Denying the most magical thing we know a fundamental reality simply because we can use a prism to slow light and show the visual spectrum seems silly.
Light can convert to or express at any frequency, and that is a powerful reality.
Speaking of “breaking” light into frequencies feels a lot like using the words “sunrise” and “sunset” to describe the glorious choreography of spin, rotation and orbit that make up the dance of the stars and planets. I can’t guess why we limit ourselves or our children by speaking of our Sun and Moon as Sky Puppets, rising and falling from our Earthly stage. This bugs me. The fertile minds of children can easily cope with the idea of a celestial dance, they don’t need us to use misleading words for their comfort.
I am not at odds with science in the way I think of light, sunrises or sunsets; my only problem is with the limiting words that they commonly use to discuss them. When we limit our language, we limit discovery.
I feel that we can do much better not only in the way we speak about light and colour, but also in the way that we speak of new ideas, and how we speak of the creative reaching that goes into new breakthroughs. So much of successful discovery is getting people to accept a change of perspective. If no one will listen to new thoughts, then the discoveries themselves do not take on life. It is only by skilllfully communicating new ideas to others and having them accepted that we progress.
If we are willing as a society to value discovery, and if we spend the time to ask real questions about our inbred assumptions, we can pilot ourselves into a good future. If we are not willing to put in the effort, or if we forget the importance of asking original questions, we will surely spiral into irrelevance.
I’ll be back soon with more colourwork and word charts tomorrow, and some chat about the many different ways to lay out and build a Kaleidocycle. Today, I am caught up in what a poor performance humans are giving overall and I am deeply thankful for those of you who never give up questing, hoping, working, striving, learning, growing and caring.
You are my solace and my inspiration.