History of Beads
“Bead” is a generic name for “a ball with a hole” made of various materials such as stone, bone, seeds, shells, glass or plastic. The origin of the word came from Old English gebed and also from Middle Dutch bede both meaning “prayer.” From ancient time, beads were used as ritual tools and were treated something sacred. With time, beads became a symbol of power and wealth and were used as currency during the Age of Discovery.
Beads are used for decorating bags, national costumes, and jewelry and the history of beads art itself is as old as beads. Through many centuries, different races all over the world used only beads and thread to create intricate patterns. The origin of the beads art can be easily detected by the materials, the craft technique and the use of the product. The oldest bead craft known today is a shell craft of about 100,000 years ago.
In Japan beads art are found in some tumulus. This fact indicates that beads were appreciated as decorative items and amulets for women. Glass beads were made from the mid Yayoi period. Over a few-hundred-thousand glass beads are stored in Shosoin Temple as precious historical information.
Glass beads manufacturing technique was brought to Japan from Venice or Netherland through Dutch and Chinese trading companies in Edo period. Beads are cited as “Dutch ball” or “Foreign ball” in documents in mid Edo period. Glass beads made during the Edo period are called “Edo Tombo Ball” and were used for many decorative items such as Netsuke, Obi banding, hair accessories, Obi clips, or strings used to wrap dishes.
The Japanese-made glass beads that we use at Kashiwa Beads are called seed beads because of the small size as plant seeds. They are considered as the world’s best in its class for their perfect forms, bright colors and rich variations of over 20,000 types.
Practical beads bags were made in late 16th century in Europe as the beads manufacturing technique improved. In the 6th century along with the introduction of Buddhism, embroidered Buddha statue came to Japan and it is said to be the origin of Japanese embroidery. These two elements traveled time in different areas and became to flourish together in our beads products.
It is said that it was after the war, in the mid 1940s when Japanese-made seed beads took the current form. Before that, craftsmen were using foreign beads to repair imported beads bags. They, then, started to study the structure of bead embroidery and developed a method of mixing beads with traditional Japanese embroidery technique to create smoother and stronger products.
Beads Art technique of Kashiwa Beads
The craftsman who started Kashiwa Beads, Masao Senda, was one of those craftsmen. He was trained in a long-established luxury Kimono accessory shop in Asakusa, and in 1936 started to have his own shop. He learned the traditional Japanese embroidery technique from a professional and learned the beads bag technique from the bags he repaired and started to apply beads embroidery to some bags that he made. Bead bags were considered luxury item back then, and he was mesmerized by its beauty and wanted to create them himself.
Through trials and error craftsmen mixed beads art and Japanese embroidery techniques and came up with the best method of bead embroidery: sew only two beads at a time. This technique takes more time and effort but the beads are sewn firmly and at the same time create smooth touch. The final product naturally emanates high quality luxury. Our craftsmen carefully sew two small beads (1.4mm to 1.9mm) at a time on to the fabric.
In China and Southeast Asia generally 3 to 5 beads are sewn in at a time. This way it takes much shorter time to complete the product, but the middle beads are not touching the fabric and they can easily be damaged. The beads that are used in China and Southeast Asia are bigger and irregular in shape than Japanese-made beads that we use.
Bags by Kashiwa Beads
How much embroidery a craftsman can do in a day depends on the intricacy of the pattern, numbers of colors used, and the size of the beads. If it’s a simple pattern, a craftsman can sew about a postcard size in a day.
For a custom full-order bag, we discuss design and beads choice with a customer and stay in close touch with the customer throughout the process. Therefore it usually takes 6 months to a year to complete the product.
It is our strength to manage every process of bag-making ourselves from design, embroidery, sewing to finishing. We can work closely with our clients to work every detail at every stage. It is our pride and happiness to meet your satisfaction.
How to take care of your bag
Beads are carefully hand-sewn using double cotton threads.
After use, lightly brush the surface of the bag with a soft brush and gently wipe with soft dry cloth. This way hand sweat or dirt can be removed from the surface and the surface of the beads will remain shining.
When storing, stuff the bag with paper to keep the shape. And please refrain from using insect repellent for it may change the color of the bag.
About Kashiwa Beads
Kashiwa Beads was established in 1936 in Asakusa, Tokyo, as a handbag manufacturer and retailer. We moved to Kashiwa in 1949. Ever since the start of the business we have had passion and pride in bag making. Our work was recognized by Chiba prefecture and was designated as “traditional craft art” by Chiba prefecture.
For the past 80 years we have been specialized in glass bead bags by combining high quality made-in-japan glass beads and the traditional Japanese embroidery techniques.
In 2014, the second generation president Shuichi Senda was given the “Master Craftsman” award by Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare. Also he received “Yellow Ribbon Medal” the following year in 2015.
We are in charge of every process of bag-making and do it all from designing to finishing. Our main products are hand bags, coin purses, wallets, eyeglass cases. We also make custom products.
Our craftsmen make our products carefully and with passion.
We hope our products stay wit you for many generations.
|The first generation head craftsman: Masao Senda
1936 Established business
|The second generation head craftsman: Shuichi Senda
1993 Received “Prominent Craftsman in Chiba Prefecture” award
2014 Received “Modern Master Craftsman” Award
2015 Received Yellow Ribbon Medal
|The third generation head craftsman: Kazumasa Senda
2005 Became CEO
|Staff craftswoman: Mutsuko Kishimoto
2011 Received “Prominent Craftsman in Chiba Prefecture” award
“Beadwork: A World Guide” by Caroline Crabtree and Pam Stallebrass, translated by Masako Fukui