of Mutant Beads and Demon Spawn: or - there are no mutant beads

Mutant Beads and Demon Spawn. "Hmmm...." Certainly attention getting, but what would the two have to do with each other?

The group I beaded with for several years has a tradition: When someone finds a mis-shapen or irregular bead, they call out "Mutant!" The bead is then tossed over the shoulder, as a sacrifice to the hungry carpet gods, who demand such things for appeasement. (Or risk having them devour 25 grams of that size 15 charlotte cut, silver bead you just bought for that special project....)

I have always found myself reluctant to share in this tradition, quietly stashing my mutants in a separate container I keep to the side. Sometimes, if I chanced upon discarded mutants while looking for that dropped needle, I would pick them up and add them to my stash of irregulars.

But that still doesn't explain the connection, does it?

Let's back track for a moment. I have three daughters, whom I love very much. Often they have been the reason for me still being here. My oldest, who is thirteen, has Aspergers, a condition that is on the autism spectrum. For many years, she was undiagnosed. I knew from the time she was very small that there was something, but mostly just struggled to care for and teach her as best I knew how. There was the point where from 3 to seven years of age, she only would wear black. Other colours would start her to screaming in what could only be described as absolute terror. Even now, she prefers dark solids.

(It turned out when she was old enough to elucidate her thoughts, it WAS pure terror. Even today, the colour pink is an anathema to her "It's evil!" is her final word. To a mom who loves colours - the brighter the better - this was something I just couldn't understand.)

When she was in Kindergarten, we began to see doctors, and more doctors, and still more doctors. Since my husband is a doctor, and I have always had a sort of "a doctor can make it all better attitude" it became increasing more frustrating. Especially when I heard everything from "She may be psychotic." or "She may be oppositional defiant." or even "she may be Schizophrenic." All very frighting, with no real solutions or help coming forward.

In the meantime, I was dealing with a child who at seven, would go three days without sleeping, climb out on the roof of my second story home to dance naked, have screaming thrashing rages that were dangerous to herself and the rest of us. By this time, I had two other toddlers to care for, a husband who worked 90 hours a week, and a sense of impending doom (Sounds exaggerated, but trust me...) I opted for behavioral management therapy, which to some degree I had already been using at home. I felt it was better to deal with the symptoms, rather than worry too much about the cause.

It was at this point, that my friends, the teachers, and even most of the neighbourhood knew something was different about my child. She wasn't normal. I found myself avoiding public places with her. "Friends" would often ask about the "demon spawn," and how she was doing, or how I was coping. I began to resent the implications of the term "demon spawn" with all of its derogatory implications upon myself and my child. I was advised by well meaning people to institutionlize her and give up.

Essentially, I should see her as a "mutant bead" better tossed over the shoulder as a sacrifice to the hungry carpet gods of life.

I knew that she would never have a chance in life if I "threw her away." In testing she had shown an IQ of 138. She has tremendous artistic skills - she was recreating cubism when she was 6. Her teachers admitted her vocabulary was better than theirs, even though she tended to speak with a computer-like precision. I saw a potential of a really cool person, who seemed to be drowning in fear and anxiety. I felt if I could just help her break through some of that fear, she could really blossom into someone worth while.

When the war began and my husband was activated, my family moved to Charleston, to be close to his post. We were fortunate to find a doctor who was a specialist in child psychology and autism disorders. We learned in time, that she not only had aspergers, but ways to work with her to teach her how to deal with many of her rituals and fears


We began medical therapy as well. The doctor realized that many of her "rages," were in reality mid-temporal lobe seizures. She was placed on seizure medication. It was at this point that my daughter truely began to improve in her day to day life.

I began to realize that a pervasive developemental delay is just that: a delay. It doesn't mean she won't ever get there: it just means the journey takes longer. I began to believe my daughter may someday grow up and be able to live on her own. She will always need help with somethings, but I can hope for her to have a full life, under her own inertia.

I have strived to teach her that normal is highly over rated. Normal is just average. As any creative, artistic person knows, normal is boring and bland. Your average person has an average I.Q., an average mentality, an average everything - and usually is quite content to be average. Average people never think about being creative, or philosophical. They don't try to challenge the world and change things for the better. They always think inside the box.

Not being neuro typical means seeing the world in a different way. It means looking at things from a completely different perspective. It's believed that Bill Gates and Albert Einstein would be diagnosed as having Aspergers, if they were children today.

I know that with perserverance, my daughter will find a place in this world and make it better. Melinda doesn't just think outside the box - for her there is no box! She will probably work with animals - zoo-ology and history are her two passions. She may be an artist or a cartoonist, since she draws daily. I find it interesting: the expressions she has such hard time conveying with her own face and understanding in others, she often conveys in poignant simplicity in the characters she draws.

But what about mutant beads? How does this all tie in somehow?

Just as I was reluctant to throw my daughter away, because I saw such potential where others did not; I am reluctant to throw away mutant beads. I see potential in all of them - the too small hole, the mis-shapen or odd sized, the doubled siamese twin beads ... I save them all, always keeping a small container nearby I use just for these mis-fits, or mutants. I have found they are at times more useful than the "regular" beads we so carefull cull for.

Bead Embroidery is where I mostly use these beads. They help fill in just the right size space or nook. They often fit where a regular bead wouldn't. Sometimes the shape is just right to help accent what I am depicting.

When working in round peyote or increasing while crocheting with beads, there are times when a non-regular bead is just right. When one bead is too small and two beads are too big: when you need that 1 1/2 size bead, a "mutant" presents the perfect solution.

So I suggest that next time you come across a mutant bead, rather than call out "Mutant!" and tossing it over your shoulder to the carpet gods, to reconsider. Take a moment to appreciate a non-regular bead and put it away in a stash of other non-regulars. Make an effort to pull that stash out and see where they might enhance your work. Challenge yourself to use these non-conformist beads.


All of the digital artwork and scanned drawings in this post were created by my daughter, Melinda. They represent examples of her work over about a four year time period. The mandala, very notably has pink in it. This piece was done during a time when her seizures were particularily bad, her medication was being adjusted, and she would resort to "rituals" to try and keep the seizures away. She explained to me that "Pink is so bad, sometimes it's okay to use it to keep other bad things away. It's so evil; it's anti-evil."

Most of her works over the last five or six years have been of "monsters" - creatures that are fantastical and winged, often with fierce claws and fangs. She explains "they are monsters from my world [her imaginary world] and they keep me safe."

Part of Aspergers is perseveration; in other words the person continually will keep going back to the same topic or an event - sometimes even years after the event occurred. For Melinda drawing these creatures is one of the forms her perseveration takes.

While we have become accustomed to her style of drawing, often a new sitter, friend or teacher (we home school these days) would be started by the fierocity of some of her work. Interestingly, as her stress levels have decreased over time, her more recent works have mellowed a bit. They still have claws and fangs, but now she focuses more on whether the wing looks right, or if she articulated the form okay.


Adriana said...

Not too long ago I started saving my Mutant beads too. After reading your piece I am encouraged to go back and ponder just where to apply these "treasures".

G Leigh said...

Adriana - I know whatever you apply them too will be beautiful! you need to send me some pictures of your work to share on the blog with everyone!

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