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Cyclops by Laura McCabe

L aura McCabe’s elaborately beaded necklaces, collars, and other body adornments raise the functional craft of beadwork to the status of art. She combines contemporary materials and color schemes with Native American, African Zulu, and Victorian bead weaving techniques.

“It is in this history of ancient traditions, spiritual importance, timeless handcraft, and human commonality that the art of beads can be found. They represent more than precision handwork, personal adornment, or social significance. Each bead, beneath its lustrous surface, tells an age-old story of human fear, human desire, and the human need for beauty,” she says.

McCabe’s interest in beading began as a student in costume restoration and reproduction at UConn in 1996. Inspired by the garments in the historical costume and textile collection, particularly the elaborately beaded Victorian and early twentieth century gowns, she began to reproduce what she had seen, in the form of garment embellishment. Mostly self-taught, she progressed from simple embroidery to more complicated, offloom, woven jewelry. Soon, her creations took on a life of their own, drawing inspiration from both historical costume and modern organic forms like flowers, leaves and berries, as well as anemones and other sea creatures.

After the historical costume program closed, McCabe left the University to pursue beading, which led to research and speculation on the cultural significance of beads and beadwork. She returned to UConn in 2002 to finish her undergraduate degree, this time in anthropology, and now works part time as a bead researcher for Connecticut’s Public Archaeological Survey Team while exhibiting her work in national and international beadwork exhibitions. For more information, see:

October 23 – December 30, 2005
Babbidge Library, Gallery on the Plaza
• Curator: Michele Palmer