Bead Embroidery Technique to Try: Teeth

For this new technique to try I wanted to come up with a good way to create beaded teeth. I didn't have access to actual glass bead teeth and they probably wouldn't be the right size for what I was making anyway. While digging through my beads I came across some dentilium shells.

If you don't know, dentilium shells are a popular material used in indigenous beadwork as they were available long before factory made glass seed beads were. They are still often used in earrings and necklaces. The larger the shell, the more prized they are and dentilium shells that are colored are also popular. In Athabascan beadwork, large dentilim shells are used in making Chiefs necklaces.

Dentilium shells that are small can be difficult to work with due to the small end's hole tapering down to such a small diamter that a needle can't pass through. In order to work around this fault, bits of the small end of the shell must be broken away until the hole diamter is large enough for the needle to pass through. Also, the big end of the shell may have a wavy uneven edge or the edge could have chips which don't look very good on a finished product. To remedy this, bits need to be broken off or the end must be sanded down somehow to even the edge out.

Another issue when working with dentiliums shells is getting all of them to be the same length. Dentilium shells are a product of nature that comes from a living thing. Therefore, they vary in size and shape. Getting perfectly even shells together is a long tedious process. If you are looking for a quality product to buy from an artist, dentilium shell earrings or necklaces take a lot of dedication to create and you are sure to get your money's worth!

Because these shells resemble teeth, I chose to use them for my Cheshire Cat brooch. I've always liked the Alice in Wonderland stories and the smily Cheshire Cat is one of my favorite characters. My interpretation of this character was crazy looking on purpose with his crazy googly eyes and big wonky grin. I knew that using regular seed beads wasn't enough to match his big glass eyes so I chose to use these shells because they are an interesting material. It took some time and careful breaking to size and position each shell. I used my needle nose pliers to break each shell down to the right size.

Dentilium shells for teeth

I filled in the spaces between the teeth with black seed beads. For seed bead fills I prefer to use Ming Tree brand seed beads because their size varies. Perfectly uniform seed beads do not work as well as the varied type of seed beads. Because the size of the shells vary, a varied fill bead is needed. I buy my Ming Tree size 11 seed beads from Fire Mountain Gems. They are super affordable and come in many amounts.

Dentilium shell toothed Cheshire Cat

After gluing on the glass eyes and sewing on the dentilium shell teeth, I finished the other colors of beads on the rest of this cat's head. I just love how my Cheshire Cat beaded brooch turned out. I used a printed image from the internet as a base for where to place each outline but the style and coloring I made up as I went along.

Glass Beaded Cheshite Cat brooch or pin

After writing all of this, I just realised I've been mis-spelling DENTALIUM the whole time! I've also been mis-pronouncing it - lol