No Strings: Online Exhibition

‘Beads in a Modern Context’

The first glass beads were made one at a time by winding hot glass around a metal rod. To support a faster and greater production process, molten glass was blown and drawn out to form long, hollow tubes, which were cooled and cut into small, even beads (rocaille). In the 15th century, this technique was refined by the master glassmakers on Murano in Italy to make tiny beads for embroidery, an industry which continued well into the 20th century in Italy, Czechoslovakia, Germany and France. Today, glass beads are primarily made in countries including India, the Czech Republic, Japan, China and Taiwan.

‘No Strings’ features the work of seven international artists working with glass beads in unconventional ways. The exhibition includes a beaded burger and coke by Faranak Sohi, an evening dress made using beads and safety pins by Shige Fujishiro and a beaded chicken showing his gymnastic prowess on the rings by Felieke van der Leest.

Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Demark presented the first iteration of the exhibition ‘No Strings’ featuring a number of artists including Faranak Sohi, Jim Skull, Shige Fujishiro and David Chatt. We have added the work of Felieke van der Leest, Caroline Broadhead and Ran Hwang to this version of the exhibition. The National Glass Centre team would like to thank the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft team for all their help in realising this show. 

Video Tour 

No Strings should have opened to the public back in March 2020 but was unable to due to the Covid-19 closure of National Glass Centre. Our curator Julia Stephenson has recorded a short video tour of the new exhibition allowing you to ‘visit’ from the comfort of home. We hope you enjoy it.

Artist Profiles

  • Faranak Sohi (Demark/Iran)

    Faranak Sohi recreates objects and images of everyday items adding new meaning and value.

    Faranak Sohi was born in Iran. She came to Denmark in 1984, and lives and works in Odder, south of Aarhus. Faranak Sohi trained as a graphic artist, and has worked with many different materials, including painting, collage, drawing, embroidery, street art, photography, sound and video.

    Her art work draws on her own life. She often comments and discusses the problems of cultural clashes, based on her own experiences in Iran and Denmark.

    A fundamental experience is a bazaar, which forms a backdrop for her work, playing on all the senses with colour, sounds, smells, and an abundance of multicoloured visual patterns, people’s clothes, and beads in all sorts of colours. Faranak Sohi refers to the visual richness of the Middle East, taking in traditional Iranian embroidery when she embroiders everyday motifs in brilliantly coloured beads on cardboard: an alarm clock, a hairdryer, a motor saw, a Danish Kähler vase – objects that could have been taken from a Danish home magazine or an advertising catalogue. Her works are humorous and surprising pictures of everyday things we find around us, but which gain a new meaning when they are depicted in beads. Faranak Sohi’s beaded works link up with a world of motifs and an idiom found in pop-art, where everyday objects – washing powder and cans of soup – are presented in a style drawn from the world of advertising. By combining it with bead technique, Faranak Sohi alludes at the same time to embroidery as a traditional craft for women.

    With thanks to Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, Denmark, who presented the first iteration of this exhibition.

    Faranak Sohi, Fried Egg, Bread and Orange

  • Jim Skull (France)

    Jim Skull, in line with his name, has created a range of skulls adorned with glass beads.

    Jim Skull is an artist who, as his name suggests, works with human skull forms. Working with models (rather than real skulls) the artist adds decoration creating references to culture, ritual and values. At the age of eight, Jim Skull found a human skull and this, alongside an interest in the way people think about death, has led to a life-long fascination.

    Jim Skull lives and works in Paris.

    With thanks to Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, Denmark, who presented the first iteration of this exhibition

    Video courtesy of the artist /

  • Felieke van der Leest (Norway/The Netherlands)

    Felieke van der Leest is a jeweller who combines crochet and beadwork to make her exquisite, unique and humorous work.

    Felieke van der Leest is a jeweller whose work is beautifully made and extremely distinctive. Using crochet, beading and metalwork Felieke breathes life, character and new values into plastic animals that started out as children’s toys. With great humour and skill Felieke van der Leest gives these small figures human interests, characteristics and eccentricities that are beyond the imagination of most people. Results include Yellow Kelly, a necklace featuring a beaded and crotched chicken demonstrating his gymnastic prowess on the rings and Incognitos Anonymous, another necklace that brings new meaning to the kind of big surprise you may get if you go down to the woods today.

    Felieke van der Leest is from the Netherlands and lives in Norway. She says:

    ‘When I am working with colours I feel like a painter.

    When I am working with metal I feel like a constructor.

    And when I am working with toys, I feel like a child.’

    Felieke van der Leest, Prairie Pioneer

  • Caroline Broadhead (Britain)

    Caroline Broadhead has worked with glass beads to make work including a piece with painterly qualities that has both intricate and distorted detail.

    The London based artist, Caroline Broadhead says of her work:

    ‘For more than forty-five years, I have been concerned with objects that come into contact with and interact with the body. Recurrent themes are the boundaries of an individual or object; be that between surface and interior, presence and absence, public and private, or the definition of a sense of territory and personal space. The work has also explored outer extents of the body as seen through light, shadows, reflections and movement. Larger scale and collaborative working with ideas about space and boundaries between people develop atmospheres that elicit subjective emotional responses.’

    Incomplete Image, one of two works by Caroline Broadhead in the exhibition, shows a woman absorbed in her sewing. She is sitting inside a room and it appears, in her own world. The image has the quality of a highly realistic painting, however it is made from beads put together in a grid like structure and when the piece is moved the image breaks apart.

    In Skin a stool appears to have cast off its skin like a snake. Regular visitors to National Glass Centre may recall that our last exhibition, Through the Looking Glass, featured the work of Caroline Broadhead and Maisie Broadhead. Caroline made a new piece for this exhibition called Stool with Glass Legs. Skin gives the impression that the surface of this piece was left behind at the end of this show to continue into the next exhibition using only the unstructured skin to reflect its absence.

    Caroline Broadhead, Incomplete Image

  • Shige Fujishiro (Germany/Japan)

    Shige Fujishiro creates an extraordinary range of objects using safety pins and glass beads. His work includes highly detailed recreations of carrier bags making the non-precious precious.

    Shige Fujishiro was born in Japan, and lives and works in Hannover, Germany. Like the other artists in this exhibition, he likes the slow, almost meditative task of threading minute beads. In his case, he threads them onto safety pins. The basic material in his work is in fact beads on safety pins, which he then sews together into three-dimensional objects. The bead works are often included in larger conceptual installations, together with found objects and other everyday items. With his bead works, Shige Fujishiro creates contrasts and surprising clashes between motifs and meaning. He combines traditional Japanese motifs, such as cherry blossom and butterflies with Western motifs like hunting trophies or carrier bags, and he challenges our perception of the world around us, as for example in the carrier bag project which he started in 2009. In this project, Shige Fujishiro made replicas of carrier bags with recognisable logos from H&M, McDonald’s, Lidl, Chanel and others, using beads and safety pins. He exhibited them together with photographs, where for instance he appeared, collecting bottles with his Lidl bag made of glass beads. Shige Fujishiro exclusively uses TOHO beads from Hiroshima, because of their intense colour and quality.

    As part of the display of his work at National Glass Centre Shige has made a football scarf that is half Sunderland Association Football Club and half Hannover 96 for our permanent collection. By combining the names of the teams’ the scarf reads ‘Sunderlover’!

    With thanks to Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, Denmark, who presented the first iteration of this exhibition.

    Shige Fujishiro, Enemy Today

  • David Chatt (USA)

    David Chatt encases items in beads to make everyday items jewel like.

    David Chatt’s single-coloured works covered in beads tell personal stories about his childhood, his mother, his relationship with his father, and about being young in the USA in the 1980s. The work and the process itself are an important element in creating the content: time, so to speak, is sewn into the works. His latest works are not so much concerned with the aesthetic qualities of glass as with the totally absorbing nature of the task of sewing. “In a constantly accelerating world, where ‘faster is better’, it can be quite hypnotising to sew thousands of tiny beads together, one by one, in a process that cannot be hurried,” he says. “The glass beads attract the eye, but the thread binding them together is a visible trace of the time that was invested in the work.” The process makes the viewer stop and wonder, so there is a chance to tell stories through the pieces. At the same time, the process can transform an object that in itself is easily overlooked into something precious, or into a record of a time, place or experience. David Chatt hopes viewers will be prompted to reflect over events from their own lives, and continue the story.

    At National Glass Centre Davit Chatt is showing three necklaces and a piece called The Crows Collection. He says:

    ‘This collection is inspired by the memory of a pet crow that shared the affection of my family when I was a child. I recently read about a young girl who had similarly befriended the crows where she lived. She set up feeding stations and began to notice gifts were being left in the feeders for her to find. She saved these items and they became the collection that inspired mine.

    I am more interested in concrete than trees. Nature is lovely but I am attracted to what humans make when we employ the furthest reaches of our potential. In contrast, I have spent most of 2018 remembering my crow friend and watching his kind as I walk and find items for this collection.

    This work is a collaboration with an imagined crow companion. Since that relationship exists only in my imagination, I have alternated roles between the giver and the recipient of these items. I have enjoyed trying to see as a crow might see and incorporating these collected treasures into this composition.’

    With thanks to Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, Denmark, who presented the first iteration of this exhibition.

    David Chatt, The Crow’s Collection (detail)

  • Ran Hwang (South Korea/ USA)

    Ran Hwang has used a technique that draws on eastern meditative values to create an image of an object with western origins.

    Born in Korea, Ran Hwang is an artist who is based in both Seoul and New York City. She is best known for her large scale, wall-based installations made in this instance, by pinning beads and buttons one by one to a background creating iconic figures.

    For the piece shown in ‘No Strings’, the images of a chandelier and spider webs on translucent sheets of Plexiglas creates a ghostly shadow of fantastic environments. The webs become the strings of the chandelier, and the chandelier becomes spider webs. This is to visualize the thought that being and not-being can exist at the same time. The technique Ran Hwang uses is linked to her lifetime practice of meditation, she says “The process of building large installations [is] time consuming and repetitive,” – “And it requires manual effort, which provides a form of self-meditation.”

    Ran Hwang uses everyday materials. For the piece shown in ‘No Strings’, she has used She uses beads, pins, buttons, and threads to express her interest in the resilience of nature and cyclical life, the beauty of a transient moment, the fashion industry and female identities in popular culture.

    Ran Hwang, Secret Anxiety_BL

Artist inspired family activities


Image Gallery


Photography © National Glass Centre

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