Midoriworld Designs was born due to a trip to Sedona, Ariz., that Sedalian Linda Schwermer made a few years back, opening a new art world for her in jewelry made with mostly African beads.
While in Sedona she found a import shop selling jewelry made with Asian and Indian beads. She said she and her friends Jan McNeil and Rozanne Coble couldn’t afford the jewelry, but they could afford the beads.
“They were carved bone, mostly Asian and a few Indian,” she said. “They had Chinese pottery that had silver bezel around them that you could use on a pendant. I don’t how many beads we bought, because we thought there must be something we missed. So we brought all these beads back.”
She searched online to learn more and began to create pieces that were more than just bead work but one of a kind wearable art.
“After that I was hooked,” she said.
Previously Schwermer owned an interior design business in Sedalia, Linray Interiors, for 10 years before retiring. With creativity still flowing she found an outlet with beaded jewelry two years ago. Her search for beads led her to research their history, to keep notes on the variety of names, where they originated from and how they were made.
She is fascinated with the variety of beads worldwide and the history and cultural heritage they bring with them through the years, especially African beads and jewelry material.
“My first love is Asian,” she said. “Since I was a little girl, like 9 or 10-years-old, I was always looking for something that was Asian. But I’ve learned that I can mix the beads and I’ve found out through my reading that when the countries began trading with each other that a lot of the Asian beads flowed into Africa. So they were using jade and they were using ivory and they were using a lot of the Mediterranean beads as well as the Asian beads. So it’s like the Silk Road, that type of thing.
“Africa goes way, way back with their beads,” she added. “They were making beads like 20,000 years ago.”
Schwermer said in Africa they made jewelry with what they had available such as ostrich eggs, breaking them, drilling holes and stringing the pieces together.
“Of course African beads were a status,” she said. “They used them to trade for whatever they wanted, if they needed food from another country or needed any kind of fabric or anything that they wanted brought into their country. So beads were very important, it also showed social status and religious status.”
Her journey into buying authentic African beads began when she visited the Rock and Gem Show in Kansas City and met the Kabba brothers. Ebrima, seven-foot tall and imposing-looking, and his much smaller brother Mohamed both come from Africa but live in Bronx, N.Y.
“He is the sweetest man,” she said of Ebrima. “He speaks with a British accent, very proper, very soft spoken. You know things are meant to be sometimes.”
By looking online she found out the brothers have an African bead warehouse in Los Angeles. She decided to go there while visiting her son in California. Traveling to the warehouse location was a little dicey, but once there she was in heaven.
“When he opens the doors, oh my gosh, to the ceiling are these big plastic containers,” she said. “I was just overwhelmed, so we go in, and immediately I found snake vertebrae. I knew this was a big deal. And I bought a strand of fish vertebrae. And then of course I bought all these wonderful beads.”
Since beginning two years ago Schwermer has created 279 jewelry pieces, mostly necklaces and bracelets. Recently she’s began making what she calls wearable art by making a frame, then using colorful paper and fibers inside it and then hanging the jewelry piece onto a hook inside the frame. The “framed” piece can be hung on the wall like art and the jewelry can be easily removed to wear.
Presently her work is being sold near Kansas City at World’s Window in Brookside. She attends four to five art shows a year selling her pieces and also sells them from her home in south Sedalia.
Creating the jewelry, sometimes made with mostly natural materials such as waxed cotton cord, leather, rubber, carved bone and horn beads and imported artifacts, can take a few hours to a few days.
“I try to use everything natural,” she said. “Sometimes I can make three (pieces) a night and sometimes it takes me two nights to make one. It doesn’t take me long once I get the idea. It’s figuring out how to put them together, because anybody can just string beads — I think they need to have some interest and they need to pop a bit. And when you put them on, people need to notice that you have them on. That’s what I strive for, a conversation piece.”
Delving into the world of African beads has opened artistic creativity for Schwermer in more ways than one.
“I’ve always enjoyed different cultures,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in other people’s differences, the way they dress, the way they talk, the food they eat, what their customs are. And Africa, I’ve always had kind of a draw to Africa, because I think it’s just such an awesome country. It’s broadened my whole scope.
“And then of course the search for the pieces,” she added.
For more information, Schwermer can be contacted by calling 827-0393 or on Facebook at Midoriworld Designs or on Etsy at Midoriworld.