I emailed over my second cup asking if he had last minute room for us the following week, and quickly got an affirmative reply. I literally jumped up and down. I was so excited all week telling friends about the private tour to Jablonec, I started worrying it would be disappointing because my expectations were so high. Not the case!
The day finally arrived and Keith from Bananas4Beads met us at our apartment right on time. He has a spacious van and off we went. Our first stop was in a small town of Železnÿ on the way to Jablonec where a woman who once worked for a larger bead-making company opened up a small lamp work factory and sells finished jewelry and beads to stores and individual beads to customers who visit.
We were invited into the back to watch three women making the beads with torches and long glass rods. Keith explained the process and translated any questions we had, then we were able to make our own bead with the help of one of the bead makers. I'd never made a bead before--it's a little nerve-wracking for the first time, but I think I smiled through the whole process. I'd do it again tomorrow if given the chance. Matthew was a natural and she complimented him on how well he did.
|I have no pictures of myself on my iPhone, so I took a picture from Matthew's camera. Not a bad idea when all else fails.|
|Firing and creating...|
|my finished bead!|
|Some samples of lamp work beads I bought. A range of prices from $2 up and some under $1 for small beads.|
|Matthew and Keith waiting patiently though Matthew did buy some animal beads.|
|Goat cheese for sale, of course...|
|All the beads here are 'leftover' from wholesale orders. When a company orders beads, extras are always made in case they need more or there's a problem with some of them. This way, they always are prepared, then they also have beads to sell to others.|
|One aisle of several...then there was another room! I only bought 8 kilos. uh, well, that's about 17+ lb. Keith asked before I started if I needed a basket or a cart. well....|
|They were bagged in sizes, so I tried finding the smallest size in what I wanted. In one case, I really wanted the beads, but the bags were huge, so they created a smaller bag for me. I was given a 40% discount because of being brought by Bananas4Beads, and if I paid cash, no 21% tax. Keith suggested I empty my purse, which I did, and he would drive me to an ATM so I could pay him...because much of the cash I had was going to him.|
|Some of what I bought....|
We left Matthew off at the museum with plans on returning to join him if I was fast enough. Ha! The next stop had one time been a fabric factory. The Czechs had a huge fabric business at one time, but it has all died away. The same could happen to the bead industry because young people aren't getting into the trade, it pays very poorly, and China has overtaken the market with cheaply made beads.
The factory and store were in different buildings and walking into this one is more like a showroom or regular bead shop. The proprietor is a lovely woman who also teaches jewelry classes to the women on Keith's longer tours. Each factory makes their own unique style of beads, so I found some here that were different from what I'd already seen. They were in strands and I was given a basket with a price list. The strands were tagged with a letter that matched the price on the list. They also had many packages of beads, which I skipped.
|In the center, what I bought at the last stop (Matthew really enjoyed the museum, by the way, and I was sorry to have missed it, but hope to return one day). The lampwork is on the outer edges. Last picture is the fire polished beads in many colors and shapes.|
We had two very busy, awesome days in Prague that got me thinking. I might consider leading a tour group here next year. We would fly into Prague and spend 2-3 days here, then have Keith bring us to Jablonec (with a couple of stops on the way) for 3 days. A beading class (and maybe Kumihimo?) could be in the plan, shopping, and seeing nearby sites, including art glass factories. I know you're thinking how crazy, does she really need more beads in a year (no, I have enough to last me many years), but I want to promote the Czech glass bead industry. I would hate to see this centuries-old tradition die out. People have to be willing to support and nurture these types of industries or we'll all be only wearing and using things made in China.
Who's with me?