I have been focusing on making objects for Buddhist practitioners for some time, including symbolic alms bowls and malas, and shrine sets. I realised I wanted to create things which could be worn and not necessarily be used to aid practice but just be decorative with a reminder of the Dharma.
Inspired by making malas, I have started making stupa beads. A stupa is a complex symbol in Tibetan Buddhism which encompasses aspects in the journey to Enlightenment. The earliest stupa was created by the Buddha himself who when asked how he should be commemorated after his death, took off his outer monks robe and folded it carefully to make a cube and then placed his upturned alms bowl on top of it. Forms like this can be found in India and other Buddhist countries as architectural monuments used to house precious relics associated with the Buddha and his disciples. As seen in the diagram below (courtesy of shambhalamountain.org), the stupa correlates with the five elements which also represent the five Wisdoms of the five Buddhas.
Here are some stupa beads in progress. I put them on cocktail sticks to keep them together and to be able to match the sizes. They look like kebabs! I wanted to make them as small as possible but I discovered there was a limit to how small I could make them without them cracking and also to accommodate the hole!
Here they are after bisque firing along with other mala beads and some Kuan Yin pendants.
Each bead is glazed by hand with a brush, taking care not to get any glaze inside the holes otherwise they would fuse onto the rod during firing. I have had to take a hammer to stuck beads before so I am now extra careful! It's similarly vital that the beads don't touch each other on the firing rods for the same reason.
The fired beads are ready to be strung with waxed cotton cord and with a handmade ceramic button to fasten at the back of the neck.
Here are the finished stupa necklaces, with two styles to choose from. I've made these ones choker style but they will be custom made - just let me know your neck measurement or how long you'd like it to be!
Left: Horizontal stupa beads
Right: Vertical stupa beads
This is the first batch and numbers are limited so if you'd like to buy one, drop me a line via the CONTACT page on the website. They are £32 each plus delivery.