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April 28, 2006

Get a Life—April 28

Growing up in the liberal mecca of Northern California, my high school was too progressive and too egalitarian to offer Home Economics—a euphemistic term that put housewifery in the realm of the serious male world that we women so yearn to be a part of. As a result, I can’t cook, I can’t sew, and I break something every time I try to do the dishes.

Instead of taking a cooking or sewing class—or, had they had one, a How to Not Break Things class—I decided to combine my hippie upbringing with my hidden desire to be a home economist and take a beading class. Caravan Beads in Lakeview offers an intimidating array of classes. I was a little frightened reading their brochure, in which they list (among dozens of others) the following classes: “Intermediate PMC–Setting Stones and Syringe Work,” “Non-soldered Chains (Spiral 1),” “Fooling Around with Free Form Peyote,” and “Ndebele.” What!? I’m afraid of needles. I have no idea what a soldered chain is, let alone a non-soldered chain. Is fooling around with peyote sanitary? And Ndebele? If I can’t pronounce the class, I certainly should not be allowed to take it.

I had initially gone into Caravan Beads thinking I knew a thing or two about beading. The first time I went in with my friend Sara, she started asking the employees questions about assembling the materials she bought. She had them direct their responses at me, knowing that I had made some earrings in the past (read: I can bend wire with pliers). Of course I nodded like I knew what I was talking about, even when the woman working behind the counter said things like: “You should use a tin cup knot and then finish off with a cone. Chain nose pliers are a must, and make sure for the wire that you get the 22 gauge and not the 24, you know?”

“Yes, of course, the 22. 24? Ha! What kind of idiot…” I trail off before she figures out that I’m a complete fraud.

So, my first few experiences at Caravan Beads were quite humbling, making me a little nervous about taking any classes. Last weekend they were having an all-day workshop on wire working, in which they offered five classes back-to-back. Beading, from 10:30 until 5:30 straight. I signed up for two. That seemed about all I could handle in one day. And the names were straightforward enough—“Beginning Wire Working” and “Intermediate Wire Working.” I know what those words mean. I can pronounce them. Done. Sign me up.

When I showed up at 10:30 for the first class, coffee in hand, they guided us to a small room off the back of the store. The instructor sat us around a rectangular table and took her place at the dry-erase board in the front of the classroom. “Us” means me and six other novice beaders of all ages, shapes, and colors, with one thing in common. All women. Not a male among us, and I could tell by the rhetoric of the instructor that this was not an anomaly: “Beautiful work, ladies,” she cooed. “You ladies are all doing so well,” she said another time. “Ladies, see, you have to use the round-nose pliers so you don’t crimp the wire…” In my post-post-feminist righteousness, I should have stormed out of the room quoting Betty Friedan and Judith Butler, but, to be honest—and my angry feminazi roommate Bridget will hate me for saying this—I kind of liked it. That sense of female camaraderie was nice; that sense of being able to make something moderately domestic all by myself was fun. Three hours of domesticity—of home economy—was just what I needed on a Saturday morning. I returned to my non-cooking, non-sewing, non-being-able-to-handle-breakables world happier, more skilled, and a few earrings richer than I had left it.

Caravan Beads