Friday, May 18, 2007

The Million Bead Project

"I've told you a million times, no!!"

"I had a million and one things to do!”

"If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times!"

In times when hyperbole is standard in everyday speech, many of us use “million” carelessly.

But stop and think about a million…for a second. Or a million seconds. Counting at a rate of one number every second, it takes about 15 minutes to count to one thousand.

It would take a little over a month to count to one million!

And that brings me to Jeanne Leffingwell’s Million Bead Project.

Jeanne is an artist and teacher in Moscow, Idaho, and is nationally known for her architectural glass bead sculptures. She reveres and seeks to pass along the bead-working and craft techniques she has collected and learned all her life.

Jeanne worked with students from 22 schools in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to help them understand - firsthand - the full scope of a million, by assigning them projects involving glass beads. They had to track the number of beads used in each of their pieces.

The students range in age from elementary to college. Jeanne teaches them to weave on a simple loom made of recycled cardboard, using size 6/0 glass beads. They make a band to keep, then design and create one or more sections of bead weaving to be assembled into a group mosaic. Each student calculates his or her own total of beads woven, minus the piece s/he has kept. Classes then figure class totals, and from this the sum of beads used per group or school is calculated.

How long does it take to get 2400 students to use a million beads?

The project began two years ago, but on April 26th they reached the million mark!

The collective efforts of the project have been pieced together as one interconnected and fascinating mosaic, and goes on display today at the University of Idaho Prichard Art Gallery in downtown Moscow. It remains on exhibit through July 18th.

Jeanne tells me her next goal is to get to a billion!!

Good luck Jeanne, and a million thanks for your great work!

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