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5 questions with "Braider Bob" Galivan

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Bob Galivan, known to some as “Braider Bob,” is one of the founding board members of the American Kumihimo Society.

Photos courtesy of “Braider Bob” Galivan, South Florida Jewelry Arts Guild

Bob Galivan credits his wife, Myriam Ribenboim, for getting him started as a braider. “It’s all her fault,” he jokes. Myriam is an accomplished bead weaver and Bob, who works as a realtor by day, has long enjoyed carpentry and working with his hands. In 2012, Myriam talked Bob into taking a class on beaded braids, and he’s been braiding ever since. He has traveled to Japan to study with Makiko Tada, one of the world’s leading kumihimo artists, and more recently started concentrating on Andean braiding.

Bob, who lives in Miami, is the treasurer and one of the founding board members of the American Kumihimo Society, as well as the current president of the South Florida Jewelry Arts Guild. We asked “Braider Bob” – a name he goes by in braiding circles -- to talk to us about the newly minted AKS and about the rising popularity of braiding among jewelry makers.

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An Andean braid by Bob Galivan made with viscose sizing by Habu Textiles.
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One of Bob Galivan’s Andean braids, made with rayon fiber in a chevron pattern. 

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For this design, Bob Galivan chose a modified maru-yotsu kumihimo braid using hand-dyed rayon gimp from What-A-Knit, spiraled around a hand-made double loop-in-loop fine silver chain (450 individual links).

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Bob Galivan’s new kumihimo beaded bracelet design is an anda-gumi braid made on a foam plate using Toho Takumi #9 beads and Toho Amiet thread.

What’s a common misconception people have about kumihimo?

That kumihimo and braiding are the same thing, that kumihimo is done only on the foam disk, and that it’s primarily done with beads. Braiding has been practiced in many cultures for over five thousand years. It was originally utilitarian, used for tying and binding. In Japan and other Eurasian cultures, braiding evolved into more of a decorative art, while Andean braiding remains practical. Braiding as jewelry is a recent adaptation, probably within the last 20 years. The main braiding tradition used by jewelry makers today is kumihimo, the Japanese form of braiding. Braiding styles from other cultures are gaining in popularity; my current interest is the Andean form of braiding.

We chose to name our group The American Kumihimo Society because kumihimo is the term most people associate with braiding and jewelry making. The generic “braiding” has other associations, such as hair braiding.

How do you explain the rise in kumihimo’s popularity in recent years?

The short answer is, I think, that many people are looking for newer, more innovative techniques in jewelry making, while others are intimidated by the more time-consuming techniques, such as bead weaving. They’re looking for wearable art that’s easy and inexpensive to make. The kumihimo braid used for most beaded braids is easy to do, and the foam disk (a kumihimo tool) is very inexpensive. It’s quick and you can whip out a piece in a couple of hours. Also, even though most of the beaded braids are based on an 8-strand kumihimo braid called kongoh, there’s an amazing variation of results you can achieve by using different sizes, colors, shapes, and types of beads.

Any trends we should watch for?

I think fiber is going to get more popular. There are thousands of braid structures and patterns on the fiber side. The advanced braiders are starting to incorporate fiber into their designs because it allows for more possibilities. Many artists, like Adrienne Gaskell, Carolyn Kerr and Susan Basch, are now working with unusual and innovative materials in creating unique artistic braided jewelry.

The American Kumihimo Society was formed just this January – congratulations! What’s your primary mission?

We wanted to find a way to bring the kumihimo community to some common ground, by creating a repository of resources and knowledge about many styles of braiding, including kumihimo, for both fiber and beads. Our focus is on all of the Americas, not just the U.S., and because of the reach of the Internet, we hope to garner people from around the world to participate.

One last question: What creative project are you working on right now?

Funny you should ask. I am working on the projects I am submitting to teach at the Bead & Button Show next year! Aside from that, I am also studying Andean braids on the marudai [the braiding tool used in traditional kumihimo] using the core stand, which allows the artist to interchange different colored fibers within a braid.

To learn more about the American Kumihimo Society, visit amksoc.org or like the society’s Facebook page. Stay tuned for information about an inaugural AKS event tentatively scheduled for fall 2017.

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