Welcome the Year of the Dog with beads

February 16, 2018, ushers in the Chinese New Year’s Year of the Dog. What a great reason to incorporate a pack of poodles, a litter of Labradors, or a bunch of beaded basenjis into your jewelry designs!
When I was young, my family journeyed to Chicago’s Chinatown for special occasions. Along with the fabulous food were sights and sounds that delighted me. I loved seeing the red silk tapestries and chunky green jewelry, plus hearing brass cricket cages clink together. Everything looked and sounded so exotic. From reading paper place mats under my bowls of wonton soup and plates of shrimp toast, I learned early on that I was born in the Year of the Rabbit. While rabbits are adorable, I always wished I was born in the Year of the Dog, simply because I liked dogs better. When I was about eight, a kind restaurateur pulled up a chair and explained the Zodiac characters to me. 

The Zodiac story unfolds like a grand fairy tale. It has many versions, but this, for the most part, is what she told me:



A long time ago, in a kingdom far away, a fair and great leader, named the Jade Emperor, held a race over land and water. He invited all the creatures in his kingdom, but only a few accepted the honor to appear before him. The twelve that arrived – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig – were all noble beasts in their own way. Mischief and merriment followed as the personalities of the creatures shone as the 12 scurried and swam. When each critter finished the race, the Jade Emperor honored them by denoting their place in the Chinese Zodiac calendar. The first year of the Chinese calendar therefore related to the cunning rat that won the race. In eleventh place came the dog. While the dog was a fast runner and strong swimmer, he was also playful in nature. He splashed in the river, became distracted, and nearly lost track of the task at hand.

To make this "Ode to Mort" embroidery piece, I filled my cut-out fabric with sewed-on beads, sewed the fabric together, and "sealed" the layers with a fringe edging that I made up and called "party fringe." 
For all those who have zest for life or simply appreciate a happy hound, this is the year for you. You’ll find many ways to incorporate dog themes into your jewelry. When I first started beading, my basenji – a small hunting breed from Africa – passed away at 15½ years old while I was at my first Bead&Button Show. To honor him, I made a bead-embroidered basenji. At that time, I didn’t know couching or even beaded backstitch, but that didn’t stop me. 

Morty, the basenji. 

My current pooch, Finnick, is a Great Pyrenees, Doberman Pinscher, and Chihuahua mix, or Great Doberhuahua, as I like to say.
I still wear my basenji beadwork to most Bead&Button Show days and probably always will. Even though I’ve had many pups since my beloved Morty passed away, this handmade piece will always special to me.
Find this whimsical copper pendant, by Patricia Healey, at Lima Beads.
Many great charms, patterns, and finished jewlry exist online for beading dog-lovers. Here are a few of my favorites:
Visit Diana Grygo’s Etsy site to view her clever patterns and finished jewelry that celebrate our fuzzy companions, such as these fox terrier earrings. 
I love the way Diana Grygo stacks her beads to imitate the movement of fur and tails, such as this Havanese pin.


One more: Look at the great feathering Diana G. made with fringe to create this beautiful borzoi.
I love the movement in Nina Hänninen's running greyhound.
Nina Hänninen is from Finland, were she makes and sells wonderful the 3-D beaded creatures, including basenjis! Find them on Nina's website.
Africanolodie has a variety of these quirky handmade glass bead dogs from a Zimbabwean beader, who made these 3-D sculpures of a poodle and terrier trio
ArtBeads sells this adorable sterling silver Schnauzer charm.
Don’t overlook your local bead stores or online favorites when shopping for dog charms. Shipwreck Beads offers a pack of Chihuahuas, among others. 
For Fido-Inspired findings, look to Fire Mountain Gems for this collar and bone clasp. 
For a great selection of breed-specific charms, such as this Irish setter, go to Fire Mountain Gems.
In case you are wondering, the lucky rabbit, my Chinese Zodiac creature, finished fourth, fairing far better than the playful dog, after hopping from rock to rock across the river in the race. If you aren’t sure what your Chinese zodiac sign is or if you crave more info, explore these sites on the zodiac calendar and ancient traditions.
FIND MORE: beads , bead weaving , embroidery

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