beading, craft, creativity, design, jewelry design, psychology, self care

Process over product?

Or, “process,” over, “hoarding,” maybe?

I began this post way too late to really be coherent, but after I had a jewelry design + construction session. I worked out a set of earrings in Onyx, Copper, and Hematite; and in trying to work out another set, formed the focal point of a necklace in Smoky Quartz, Citrine, and gold-plate.

Some other things have happened since then. I was contacted by HR, and now have some time set up to go back into work for training. I also was able to purchase some shoes which, hopefully, will help combat the tendency of my feet to hurt, these days. I’ll be wearing them around the house to see how my feet tolerate them.

I also have been notified that it seems I’m having a hard time coping with anxiety. So…it was possible that I would need to reschedule an appointment because of a surprise training session, but my appointment has been delayed at least twice already, making it now about four weeks past the time I initially agreed to return. I think it’s important that I not allow that to be pushed back any more.

It’s possible that making the jewelry helps take my mind off of other things that are going on in my life. I wasn’t in a great place, emotionally, when I made the earrings last night. There’s a certain energy that goes with them, which I didn’t find to be best for me today, when I was putting myself together this morning.

In particular, yesterday I had a lot of anger over a situation which occurred and — although I didn’t see it in quite these terms — others say it sounds like I was triggered, and continued to “seethe” afterward. So, what I made yesterday, looks “hard” to me, today.

Getting out of the “hard woman” role is one of the reasons I decided to stop comparing myself to women and aligning myself with feminine gender terms. Because if you’re a woman, it’s possible to be a hard woman…and if you’re a man, it’s possible to be a soft man. But if you’re female, and you look female, and want to be a soft man…it’s next to impossible to be seen that way. And when you’re not recognized that way, it’s very hard to maintain that identity.

And then I get angry, and I’m back into reinforcing “hard woman” territory, again. I don’t like being angry, or feeling forced into a role.

So then you get into identity erasure, and on top of that, not being given a chance to speak because of gender dynamics combined with racial dynamics. The bad thing about this is that at this point, I’m dealing with anger, regardless of whether I’m a man or a woman or other. And as I’ve learned, being seen as angry and black at the same time is not a combination that makes my life easier.

My issue…as it stands, is that I tend to get angry and stay angry over things that I see to be injustices, or systemic social patterns that I see to be wrong…which I may be more informed on, than most. I’m informed enough on it to know that focusing on it will likely lead to an early death from heart concerns or cancer. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the problem when you want to fix it, and think that if you think about it enough, you could understand and fix it. Often, though, the stress just ends up killing people.

I mean, I come from a background where people allow each other space to speak. I come from a background where “Step Forward/Step Back” is a basic ground rule of discussion. “Step Forward” invites people who are otherwise silent to contribute to the conversation. “Step Back” asks people who are dominating the conversation to quiet down and allow other people to speak — even if there are silences.

It’s a way to address the effects of power inequalities in spaces where group members experience differing power levels or cultural norms of conversation. Otherwise, it’s known that those who are accustomed to higher levels of power may take over and direct the conversation, often even talking over other people to maintain control. This silences others, perpetuates the current power dynamic, and deprives the group of the generativity it could experience if everyone were contributing.

The obvious argument is, “contribute if you want to contribute,” but that assumes that I’m comfortable with my contribution conflicting with or destroying the current dynamic, in which I’m a lower-powered member.

Anyhow. Aside from witnessing another episode of, “let’s watch the status quo in action,” I was able to put together the beginning of a necklace. It features a couple of Citrine beads I got in high school and never used, because the drill holes were so uneven that they wouldn’t even take a 24-gauge wire. I do have a bead reamer, though, so I held the beads under cool running tap water and twirled the reamer with gentle pressure (backing it out when it jammed, so I wouldn’t snap it off) until I could actually see that the hole widened enough to take a wire.

No, I didn’t intend to be gross about that. (I edited before posting.) Quiet, you. :P

Anyhow…it was easier than I anticipated, and left a cleaner drill hole than I anticipated. Another reason to ream a drill hole under running water is that it captures free particles of silicon dioxide, which I would expect to be hazardous to the lungs unless contained in something like water.

I’m thinking of using a wire-wrapping technique to wrap a teardrop-shaped cabochon of Smoky Quartz with Rutile inclusions. I’m not entirely sure right now, how I would do it; I just know that it’s possible. Maybe I should get some square wire to practice on, and, you know, see if I am better off making the earrings. :)

I also don’t quite know where I’ll find more Citrine…at least, in non-spherical shapes. The two specimens I have now, I bought loose — because, if I’m recalling correctly, they cost around $4 or $5 each. The entire strand was just an exorbitant price, for a teen (remember, I bought these in high school).

What’s weird is that both Smoky Quartz and Citrine are commonly colored by heating and/or irradiation, which…it’s just weird to me. Don’t mind me. They’re supposed to not be radioactive at point of sale, which I can just hope is true.

Anyhow, right now it’s mid-October, so the Bead Show will be here in about a month — if I can save up enough money to wait to buy a gorgeous Citrine strand, then. That, in turn, depends on how much I work, or am allowed to work (or how much I sell! I’m not overly attached to either of my last pieces, but I do need to document them — including cost of production).

What I’ve found is that I do really love making things, but I’m not too attached to the little pieces of jewelry I have after I’m done making them. One of my friends was telling me that she was addicted to the process of making, but then has all these things that pile up after she’s done, that she has to get rid of. I’m kind of feeling like that. Certainly, at the time I began this post, that’s how I was feeling. I mean, what I made is nice — but I can do better, and I will. And I want to see that. And…income from selling what I’ve made will help me see that.

I also got a gaiwan today (a little teacup-brewer). It isn’t as pretty as I would like, but it is a porcelain gaiwan, I can upend it comfortably, and it didn’t come with a Prop 65 Warning on carcinogens. At this point, I don’t know how much more I can ask for…

beading, jewelry, jewelry design

Untitled; completed 10-12-2019

I’ve completed another necklace, and though I do have all the tools I need to figure out how much it cost to make (in materials, at least), I haven’t yet calculated that out. What I know is that it wasn’t cheap; materials from four different strands of gemstones went into it.

Making this piece has reminded me of why I stopped working in stone and precious metal: it gets very expensive, very quickly. This is mostly due to the cost of precious metal parts. If I tried to circumvent this by using base metal, I would be stuck working in brass, copper, and silver-plate…which are all vulnerable to tarnish. The negative thing about silver-plate is that it can be worn off, for example, by polishing off that tarnish. For this reason, I’ve tried to work in sterling or gold-fill, where it matters most. (Using solid karat gold is so expensive that it isn’t a realistic option.)

This photo came out closest to true-color, likely because of the background…

The above necklace is a 21″ strand made of Aquamarine, Hematite, Pink Botswana Agate, and Dogtooth Amethyst. The clasp and strung beads are all sterling, except for the crimp beads, which are silver-plated brass; and the wire guards and jump rings.

Detail of the clasp area

I used crimps and wire guards to finish this necklace because I needed to use steel cable to string it (Soft Flex Medium weight, 49-strand). I don’t really have a good way to weigh it, not that its exact weight would matter, but it’s fairly heavy. Also, because of the width of the cable, I had to file down the insides of the holes on each of the sterling bead caps. I couldn’t use the round silver spacers at the very ends of the strands because they wouldn’t allow me to double back through the rest of the beads. Doubling back enables me to hide and protect the end of the cable, which would otherwise become an irritant to the wearer.

If I had just gone down a size in cable, there is a chance that the cable may have eventually worn through: gemstone beads, like “crystal” beads such as Swarovski and Preciosa, are known for having sharp holes, and with the weight of this thing, I wouldn’t have wanted to take the chance. If it breaks, that is, these beads are going to scatter. If I were to make this again, it’s possible I could have hidden small crimp beads on the insides of the bead caps. That would mean that if the cable broke, only a small portion of the strand would be potentially lost — if I could fit them under there.

Apologies for the lighting and failed attempt at color-correction. It looked better in-person.

I’ve…got to get better at digital photography. It doesn’t help that by the time I remembered to take photos today, it was after 6 PM, and the sun was setting.

I have more to say, but it’s unrelated to this. Right now, I’m tired and I need to get back to bed…

ceramics, personal, work

Good tea amidst stressors…

Today, we actually got to visit Teance’s new headquarters in Berkeley. That was the good thing. The…not so good thing, is that I did check in with HR, and apparently they feel I could benefit from more training in working with children. They didn’t tell me this until I initiated contact today (after a week of near-silence). Should I be looking to work within an Academic Library setting? (That is, a College or University library setting: I might be more comfortable with the patrons, there, whereas Public Library settings, I’m seeing now to revolve around babies, children, and teens.)

Another not so good thing: our visitor has to leave pretty soon, and I don’t know if anyone is really happy with that. The third not-so-good thing: our power company has instituted rolling blackouts and threatened to cut off the power last night (which never happened). This is likely because they’ve been implicated in causing two large-scale fires with death tolls relatively recently…it’s not like I can remember the names of either of them, though.

Also, I’m supposed to go and take my test to regain my Learner’s Permit, tomorrow (EDIT: later today). So I can, you know, drive. Again.

I have also recalled why I stopped making gemstone and sterling jewelry (expensive — not from the stones, so much as the metals). And there’s talk of my relative now moving out of the country. The latter makes me question why it was that we were planning to move out-of-state to join them if they’re only going to move again…

Good part first (turned into “good part, only”): Teance is now open, and their Yin Hao Jasmine Green tea is pretty good. The location is also very close to the place we normally get tea from, so it’s easy to stop off there and get some higher-quality tea.

I’ve been doing some research on East Asian tea ware: I do like some teas like Tieguanyin and Chrysanthemum, both of which are more characteristically Chinese than Japanese…so I was thinking that they may work better (have evolved along) with Chinese ware, more than Japanese ware.

I did find a Taiwanese oolong that I’m curious about…it was mid-range expensive, which means that it wasn’t extravagant, but that it should be high-quality. I haven’t yet opened it. Even though I only got one ounce, it takes up a lot of space in its package. I also inadvertently crushed some of the leaves doing something, today, that I can’t even remember anymore. I only regret this because when I opened the Yin Hao, it was full-leaf. So, I mean, I was really crushing stuff.

So…the Yin Hao is very nice, less astringent than most green teas I’ve tried, although on first brewing it did initially smell like baking soda. It’s a good thing that I only brewed a very small amount in a little bit of hot water initially, as I could then rebrew (and rebrew…and rebrew…) the same leaves without losing a lot of flavor (though some mellowing does happen, as I’ve found with many teas). Anyway, I don’t feel I lost anything by brewing just a small amount of leaves. At this rate, one ounce will last a while.

Anyhow, I noticed that the Taiwanese oolong recommended a Yixing or porcelain teapot, whereas the other two I got (Yin Hao Jasmine [Jasmine-scented Green] and a Genmaicha [Green, with roasted rice]) were okay to brew in glass. I also did get a Longjing (Dragon Well) from a separate grocery, as I’ve forgotten what it even tastes like.

I started looking up Yixing ware and that led me to gaiwan brewers. Gaiwan…I’ve seen before, though I don’t own one, and haven’t used one yet, myself. Upon reading around, I found that instead of going for a Yixing teapot, a porcelain or glass gaiwan set would be better for my tea-drinking habits.

(The reason I’m looking at a different way to brew this stuff is that it’s kind of clumsy to try and clean out either of my tall, narrow Pyrex teapots.)

Well, and for the Japanese teas, I probably won’t have to worry about finding a genuine zisha (purple sand) clay pot, as I drink lighter and herbal teas. I did, however, realize that one of the more notable teapots I found in Japantown this last time, was likely related more closely to a gaiwan than to a normal Japanese teapot. This would explain why it was unglazed, lacked a handle, and was meant to be lifted by its edges. It was beautiful, but it was also $85…

I’ll think about it, okay? (Maybe.)

The major reason why I wouldn’t get a teapot like that, is concern about what minerals or metals would seep or leach into my tea. This teapot in particular was also black…which sounds like some kind of basaltic clay (or soot from the firing), unless a coloring agent was added.

The thing about teapots that get seasoned with use is also apparently that, being porous, they impart flavors from past brewings into future brewings, so it isn’t great to switch around with different types of tea. It’s like there is one pot for Taiwanese oolong, a different pot for Tieguanyin, etc.

I also don’t drink intensely flavored teas (black teas or dark oolongs) much at all (they’re just too strong for me), which means I probably don’t need an unglazed teapot to season. Yes, apparently they do need to be seasoned! And I’m not really a formal-tea-ritual type of person.

I’m also still tasting a lot, which implies that a gaiwan would be best for me, until I settle into a favorite type (over Jasmine, I guess, which would also be great in a gaiwan).

I also learned a new term: tisane, which refers to an infused drink like a tea, which is not made of camellia sinensis.

Anyhow — I should get some rest, but I wanted to post this. I am not sure how much going over things in my life which I don’t like but can’t change, will help. And, tomorrow I will be able to work at my driving stuff. Things go on, I have foundations to build. And I haven’t been fired yet. :) Even if I am, I have the active backing of a vocational program. And, my family. It should be OK.

creative writing, LIS, personal, self care, work, writing

Reading, boredom, and other people’s lives

I am still waiting for the go-ahead from my County to go back to work. It’s a little…unsettling. For the past couple of days, I haven’t been doing much aside from eating and sleeping. I did realize, either yesterday or today, that I could be studying my employer’s website for content, or that I could be reading in any of the literary magazines I’ve just obtained, or working on my Japanese language acquisition. Or: writing, but it’s hard to write when you don’t have a lot to write about.

Actually, it isn’t the case that I don’t have a lot to write about; it’s that I have a number of things that I feel I can’t write about, due to an attempt to respect the privacy of others. If I were to write a memoir, you bet I’d have a lot of stuff to write about. There are people relatively close to me whose lives are like a slow-motion train wreck that never ends. It’s just that when people do messed-up things, you know, often they don’t want anyone else to know about what they’re doing.

I do recall getting a book recently that was talking about just this which was saying that, essentially, if people didn’t want the author to speak badly about them, then maybe they should be better people. I just went to check my shelf and I have several different unread books on writing. One of them is Ursula LeGuin’s Conversations on Writing. I’m not sure if that’s the book I’m now thinking of, but I believe it was a female author.

So…it is the case that perhaps I can start reading again. Not necessarily entirely focused on my job (or my health)…but it has been such a long time since I’ve been able to read things that I’ve chosen for myself (as versus textbooks), that I may have lost the habit of reading for pleasure. Of course, my current job does reward the practice of reading.

I believe the biggest thing in between myself and reading is likely the fact that 1) I trained as a writer first, not as a reader, and 2) print books aren’t animated like the ****ing computer screen. Of course, though, it’s possible that reading physical books won’t have the same degrading effect on my vision that reading the computer screen does.

In any case, I have plenty of free time right now. My concern is that I don’t know when it will end, and I’ll be able to go back to work. I have to pass a number of screenings that I have no input on, get my photo taken, and then get into the substitute interface. I’m just hoping that they didn’t send my affirmation to my work email, which I can’t access from home. I’m also hoping that there wasn’t something missing in what I was supposed to do (or not do) that I now need to rectify…after someone advises me of it.

I also have three more days before our guest leaves, but they’re on a working vacation, so yesterday and today, I haven’t seen much of them. I do need to get a haircut, but with my hair, I can’t bet on that being cheap. I have a hard time spending a lot of money on something like that…but on the other hand, it has been at least 10 months since I last had a trim.

And…my hair is getting long enough that I’m inadvertently getting it into things behind me. Not to mention that I’m finding (and making) a lot of split ends. Maybe I will make an appointment.

Let’s see…

I think having this extended period of nothing to do is worse after having worked three 40-hour weeks in a row. Whenever something like that happens, whether it’s related to work or school, it leaves me without an established routine when it suddenly ends. After, you know, it has been taking up the vast majority of my time. I had to really center my work, and focus on being ready for it day after day, in order to keep going for as long as I did.

Not to mention that I think I was doing better as regards self-care, when I was off of the computer. When I got back on here to do that post about the necklace I made, that was when my routine started to degrade. I need to remember to live for me, not for an audience. I mean, I’ve had times where I was actually making posts that were getting a lot of hits, but that doesn’t happen without posting regularly, for an extended period of time. That takes a lot of effort, and some planning. Especially when I’m including images.

I should note that I did find some Japanese-language readers at Kinokuniya, but I put off buying them because I know they’re above my level, right now. I do need to get back on my Japanese-language study. So maybe I should prioritize reading. Also, soon I should be able to get some materials for the Hematite + Smoky Quartz necklace that is now in progress on the living room table.

I’ve just got to remember that I do have some things in progress, and I shouldn’t just wait for things to come to me; I should do something in the meantime, while I’m waiting.

personal

Another day in Nihon Machi

I swear I didn’t initiate another trip to Japantown, today. It just sort of happened. Whether or not I ended up materially gaining anything from that trip (or losing money from same) is a different question. I stuck to spending cash so that I wouldn’t go overboard.

You know…a short while ago, we did get a Zojirushi. For the uninitiated, this is a hot water heater. Which for some reason has an elephant for a logo. But it’s not just any hot water heater. It will heat up up to two liters of water, and keep it hot. For things like tea. TEA!!!

We’ve been drinking a lot of tea. I think the habit (drinking tea instead of juices or sodas) is causing weight loss. M recently found my Chrysanthemum tea from Teance, which I had been searching for — it’s a year old, but I unsealed it from its foil just earlier this month. It is so good. It’s enough to make me want to go herbal with my tea drinking (not to mention, opening my Lupicia low-caffeine teas).

Chrysanthemum tea used to be a favorite of my grandmother, who would ask for it at Chinese restaurants. I’m used to it tasting something like what I imagine unflavored artichoke steaming water, would taste like (if the lemon, rosemary, salt, and garlic weren’t there). The Teance stuff…you can actually taste the nectar in the chrysanthemums as it steeps into the liquid. It’s sweet, but mildly sweet. The liquor is golden. The whole blossoms expand with hot water, which I can watch through my Pyrex teapots. It’s just kind of magical.

The first day, I did have some itching in my throat (I’m allergic to pollen), but this subsided with drinking straight water, and after the first two cups of tea. It also didn’t bother me the next day, when I drank more. Chrysanthemum is supposed to help take down inflammation and allergies — I’m not sure whether this is an actual benefit, but it makes sense. Like eating local honey will expose a person to low levels of pollen, and that’s supposed to help desensitize them to hay fever. (It has been a while since I’ve had bad allergies…I blame it on moving away from the freeway’s tire dust, and away from constant mold and eucalyptus. After I moved to a well-lit suburban area [as versus a shaded hillside near a freeway and industrial steam], my allergies and associated ills [asthma, eczema] essentially disappeared…not to say that everyone will have that experience.)

The day after I drank this, I went back to Organic Jasmine Pearls (a bulk item from the local grocery), then ended up dumping out that pot and steeping these chrysanthemum blossoms, instead. I mean, if I was going to drink something, I wanted to drink something I enjoyed.

I started out with two ounces in the little pouch I got from Teance. I don’t know how many I have left, but it’s a lot, even after I dropped too many blossoms into my teapot, the first time. (That teapot holds over 600 ml of hot water.) I realize I went high-end with my tea, here, and that another pouch of this will not come cheaply. But it is so worth it.

Having a convenient source of hot water has also gotten me to realize that I don’t have to use a high-volume teapot anymore. Today I was at Cha-To by Kinokuniya bookstore, waiting and looking at the little Pyrex teapots. (It helps to bring people back, the fact that they welcome you with a little cup of iced tea.) Then I realized…if I have a ready source of hot water, I don’t actually have to use Pyrex. I can use an actual handmade ceramic or iron teapot.

Like, a real teapot. A real, actually nice, teapot. A NICE TEAPOT. And I can actually only brew what I’ll immediately drink (over and over and over again) and extend the life of my good tea. And maybe I can get it in dimensions that will be easy to clean out, unlike the two tall Pyrex pots I have.

Good tea is…I mean, it can be really good. And with bad tea, it’s like, “why am I drinking this?” I mean, just drinking water is often better than drinking bad tea.

So…now I have to find a good Iron Goddess (Tieguanyin) tea again: I tossed mine because it looked like it had expired three years ago (the label I put on it said, “’16,” as in, “20…’16,” though I don’t know if I bought it in 2016 or it expired in 2016)…being an oolong (partially fermented) tea, I was wary of using it (microbes!), though I’m now told it basically lasts a really long time when it’s kept dry and sealed (which it was; we have too many tea tins).

I am now thinking, though, of going herbal. Jardin Sauvage from Lupicia is another tea that I’ve liked, which has no camellia leaves in it (“true” teas — black [called “red” in China, IIRC], oolong [called “black” in China, IIRC], green, and white — are all camellia leaves). Camellia sinensis is the plant that normally gives regular tea its caffeine content. “Herbal” teas are anything that is not camellia, regardless of whether it is medicinal or not.

So, technically, at least in my region, Yerba Mate would be herbal, even though it also is a stimulant. Tulsi (Holy Basil) is the same way. I don’t think they work the same way in one’s system, though…not to mention that some teas (like Tulsi) will interact with medications, as they are essentially medications, themselves.

Disclaimer: I just need to let you know to do your research and take responsibility for your own health before drinking an extract of anything you don’t understand, as there’s a possibility it could harm you, especially if you’re on other drugs (even prescription ones).

There’s also a chance that if you’re allergic to preservatives, you could have a reaction (possibly severe) to things like dried fruit which have been added to teas and also treated with preservatives. I’ve personally had my throat start to close up because of eating Golden Raisins (which, like standard dried apricots [which I also can’t eat], are treated with sulfites to preserve their color and flavor). I’ve been driven to vomit from eating dried apple slices which have been treated with preservatives. I just, at this point, know that my body doesn’t play nice with sulfites (at the least).

Note that I am saying this as a person, not a Librarian, and I am not representing anyone other than myself on this! Every time you choose to put something in your body, you take your life and health in your own hands. This is true for food; this is even true for tea.

In any case, Jardin Sauvage is a blended herbal tea from Lupicia (basically, a high-end tea company which you’ll probably only be able to mail-order from) with a base of Green Rooibos. It does have dried fruit in it, and also flower petals. Rooibos is an African plant which is usually oxidized, and makes a caffeine-free, red liquor. Green Rooibos is not treated the same way as regular Rooibos…I’m not sure if I can describe the difference in taste or aesthetic, as I still haven’t broken into my straight Green Rooibos herbal tea. I’ve also tasted such different qualities of Rooibos (sometimes also called “Honeybush”; and I am still unclear on the difference between the two), that I have no standard baseline to compare it to.

However…Rooibos can be good. Jardin Sauvage is just particularly…nice. At least, to me. I generally don’t drink flavored teas, either. Even though I am allergic to sulfites, and there is dried fruit (mango?) in this tea, I can still drink it (at least, so far). Not everyone will have the same reaction, though.

Elderflower is also something that I’ve had good luck with…we still have a tiny bit of Elderflower + Chamomile here, which is a gorgeous tea, flavor-wise. It also has that effect of putting people to sleep. :) Should I go to sleep? It’s almost 1:30 in the morning, right now…

I…there’s just something about this that makes me feel like I actually am Asian-American, which I know I am, but still: I’ve felt excluded for a fairly long time, because of the race thing. It wasn’t really until getting into the fact that I am, ethnically, different from most of the professors I had in college…that I did start investigating this.

Some things you grow up around, and you don’t realize until late in the game that not everyone is like you. Not everyone eats yokan at New Year’s. Most people don’t know what yokan is. Not everyone sees New Year’s as a thing to celebrate, and I’ve been participating in osechi for decades without knowing the word, “osechi.”

By the second generation, it’s common for children of first-generation immigrants not to pass on their parents’ native languages to their own children. Even though English is the only language I’m currently skilled in to the point of functionality (same with my parents), that doesn’t mean I can’t or don’t have a cultural background that originates outside the U.S. It also means that maybe the people who do speak those other languages might not be so different from me.

Grandma may have tried to be, “American,” but that didn’t erase the environment and family she grew up in, or the training that her parents had. They provided the context of her life in her formative years. That has to leave a mark on someone.

That’s not to ignore culture from my other side, or the experience I have had of growing up in this area. It is just that I think the parent I’m thinking of now, did want me to have a cultural grounding…which is not always easy to come by for someone whose historical reference to a “home” outside the U.S. was essentially obliterated. What culture there is, we made, and we inherited. Without necessarily knowing that was what we were doing. That there was something different that other people did, or that we did, and that it made us, as a community, unique.

And that’s complicated. As is the difference between myself as nikkeijin (Japanese-of-foreign-birth) and the experience someone who grew up in Japan, would have. It’s not a bad difference, or a “wrong” difference, but it is a difference. (The word for “to be different” in Japanese language is “chigau:” it also means “to be wrong.”) And yeah, that’s something I’ve grown up with, too! People thinking that I am wrong, or that I shouldn’t exist, because I am different (in some way that mattered to them, but was based on appearances — on race — not deeper realities of culture or family. Or clan).

But my experience is an authentic experience, for me. How often have I even been able to think, that I am something that I can identify? That I can point to, and say, “that is me”?

It hasn’t been often. But maybe I’m growing into myself.

And yes, I am glad to be with family, family I connect with, again.

organization, personal, work

Languages and migration: a.k.a. Too much free time

As of last Friday, I completed my initial three weeks of full-time training. I went in to work one time this week to be signed off. Other than that, I haven’t been practicing. I’m kind of scared that I’m going to lose some of what I’ve learned…though a few days on desk for the amount of time I have experienced on a daily basis, should kick that right back in, for me.

I could also be reviewing my notes, from those last three weeks. Even with my attempt to write down only that which I did not know or recall, I filled up enough pages that I had to buy a bigger binder. Don’t worry, it’s done…and apparently a Kokuyo 20-hole binder for A5 paper will also fit Maruman 20-hole A5 paper. Don’t quote me on that, though.

Right now we have a guest, which has me thinking on the actuality of the possibility of taking a job nearer to them. This has caused me to remember plans for joining them, and the potential relevance of my learning Japanese language. It’s almost useless where I am now, but would be used daily at the place to which we’re considering moving.

So…this week has given me the opportunity to check out what I actually will want to do for the foreseeable future. Let’s say the next 5 years. This would impact me especially where it comes to furthering my acquisition of a second language. I have a choice between español (Spanish) or nihongo (Japanese), for a language I would have a head start in picking up. Which I choose, depends on where I expect myself to be in the future.

Based on my experience in learning Spanish language in middle and high school…I would say that most of my discouragement in learning the language, aside from a certain integral component (the fact that all nouns have a gender, which profoundly impacts me as a person who now considers themselves gender-nonbinary), has been in not wanting to be like my teachers. That sounds kind of harsh, but in my experience (in three out of five teachers — and one of the other two teachers was a native speaker, until he got fired) there was definitely a certain type of person — in my school district — who became a Spanish-language teacher.

Nor am I really confident in my Spanish-language skills. But I know enough so that when I start to read something written in Spanish language, I can get the gist of what’s meant. My major difficulty is then with vocabulary. There is also the point that the people I’ve known who have natively spoken Spanish, have been a lot more down-to-earth than my past teachers.

It wasn’t quite until I began reading things in English that looked like they had originally been written for Spanish speakers, that I started to take interest in the language again (I had originally chosen Spanish over French because it was more widely applicable in the Americas; these two languages were the only two I had access to in my regular public school setting). Then there is the issue of International Relations which are just being trashed with Latin America right now…it wasn’t great to be estadounidense in Central and South America before: I don’t expect it to be easier, now.

On the other hand — with Japanese language…the biggest barriers are now 1) kanji (Chinese characters integrated into Japanese writing), which I have not systematically studied; 2) counters; and, 3) practice partners. Apparently, as there is such a shortage of sounds within nihongo itself, differing counters are appended to differing types of objects being counted, in order to tell what the number applies to. There’s that, and the fact that the pronunciation of a number changes, depending on the counter paired with it.

This comes up early…which kind of makes me fear that people in Japan test foreigners by asking them to count things appropriately. (Counting things in a basic way is understandable, but generally only done by small children.) That, in turn…doesn’t have me thinking that nihonjin (Japanese-from-Japan) are really welcoming to foreigners. There’s that, in addition to the fact that I’ve lived the experience of a hapa (mixed-race) nikkeijin (Japanese-of-foreign-birth)…and have experienced issues with racism from within my own family, ostensibly caused by the race of my non-Japanese parent. I say, “ostensibly,” because no minority brings the experience of racism upon themselves. Others visit it upon them, whatever their excuse.

Having said that, I’ve also experienced racial tensions all through my life in University…so I suppose it may come with the package of this rebirth.

The issue for me — when I was taking Japanese-language classes — was the bizarreness factor of being in class with a bunch of anime (Japanese animation) and J-pop (Japanese pop music) fans who just wanted to understand their lyrics or lines…and myself, who wanted to know more about my heritage, and what had helped give form to me.

In short, my drive to learn nihongo, early on, was a drive to understand more about myself and my social, cultural, and historical context. I knew I did like Japanese pop culture (and appreciated what of Japanese culture I did participate in due to family influence), but I didn’t know why. I have a lot more of a clue about that, at this time.

I just can’t see giving up Japanese language study for Spanish, just because Spanish is easier (being closer to English). Spanish would give me a better window into European cultures and American Indigenous cultures…the thing is, I’m not heavily interested in European cultures, compared to my interest in China, Japan, Korea, or Tibet. (I don’t know much about Southeast Asia at this point, but I can see myself curious about that, once I get a baseline understanding of the more northerly territories. There’s also Polynesia, though French may be of more use, there.)

Finding information on American Indigenous cultures is so far from my present capability that I really don’t know how long it will be before I can even source words from the people I want to hear from, or tell whether it would be recorded en español or in their specific native languages. I suppose it makes sense that I would be more interested in regions connected to my diaspora.

Anyhow. I…have restarted my nihongo practice via my library. I can work through the 12 classes, and then see where I am. After all, it’s not like the español knowledge is just going to evaporate. It has hung around for two decades, after all.

And Japanese is so beautiful when written. It just will take some practice to learn. And I have time.

beading, beadwork, color, craft, creativity, glass beads, jewelry design, seed beads, tatting

Still got it?

Here I finished two strands of the necklace by threading them through a wire coil, then back where they came from. I knotted them off and cemented them.
Tying off the two lines to end the work.

I recently completed a necklace, an 18″ design made of fire-polished glass, MiniDuos, 11/0 seed beads, and 11/0 Delica seed beads (which are slightly smaller). To create the structure of the piece, it was important to have a variety of bead sizes. I strung it on C-Lon Micro, using a tatting (shuttle lace) technique to make a button loop (which was actually…exciting; this is part of the reason why I learned tatting), and then running both lines through a coil of gimp and a shank button, before threading it back into the work, tying it off, and cementing the lines.

This is a detail image of the buttonhole I formed with a lace-making technique.
clasp detail

I was happy to get back into this — and to see how far I’ve come, since the time I started (25 years ago!). Especially as I had experienced doubts about my ability to see a project through to completion.

The design took about two days to work out (and a number of different tries before I got the loop right), but I’ve realized that since I was using standard-sized materials, I can echo the design in different colorways…and not necessarily charge an exorbitant rate for the time it took for me to work out the pattern, the first time. I guess that’s what happens when you know it’s okay to re-use past work, as versus aiming to make everything unique. (Uniqueness will still come; it’s just that it isn’t necessary to kill the seed you’ve planted, after its first fruiting.)

I also now have a project box which began with the thought of the Aquamarine and Pink Botswana Agate beads. It expanded far beyond what I had expected, and uses no stone in this final form (as versus another final form).

Reasons to go on

I have also remembered some more reasons to sell jewelry. For one thing, I like to make jewelry so much that were I to keep it all, it would be in excess of what I would use. I’ve also realized that having made the pattern — or structural form — for this piece, it gives me the ability to expand on that initial trial and work a number of different projects in different colorways, extremely easily.

Over my palm, you can see alternating single and double Czech fire-polished beads, in teal, violet, and orange.
Basic pattern. I extended this over 18″ to make a Princess-length necklace.

There might not be justification for that if I were just making things for myself, but if I’m doing it because I want to do it, not just to decorate myself (that is, if I’m enjoying the process more than the product), it probably doesn’t hurt to sell some of the extras (or, “experiments;” or, “trials;” I don’t know if anyone would really want to hear they’re buying an “experiment,” although that’s basically what a lot of — maybe most of — art is), and recoup some costs.

I can also then try making different decisions at specific points in the pattern, and by doing that, develop derivative works, or families of pieces which work along different creative pathways. This lets me expand the initial idea into a family in which each member is a record of a different, iterative thought (or design) process.

Also: I’ve been working on the design of another piece; using Smoky Quartz, the Pink Botswana Agate, and Hematite. (The Aquamarine is too pale to work in this scenario.) I did purchase some sterling bead caps…which, now that I see them, I realize are fairly expensive, for what I got. I suppose it could be worse: I could have gotten the sterling version of what I already had in pewter, and paid around $5 per cap for 6-8 repeats (each containing two caps), making the cost at least $70 (with tax and shipping). For 12-16 caps. That are tiny. Which I think I would have had to buy in multiples of 6. The silver isn’t even the focal point.

No, that…that wasn’t happening.

The bead caps I had which were pewter…I honestly don’t know where the rest of these guys are, but they’re likely locked up in projects which I won’t wear and have not worn. (When you’re a beginner, it isn’t unusual to make things you won’t wear…or to buy things you think look great, which look gaudy at a later point in time.) Originally, they weren’t expensive — they were from a fabric or craft store. It’s just that the exact same design — the exact same design — is in sterling silver, and I can’t find the pewter version, anymore.

The ones I did get were close to $22 for eight…meaning they’re $2.75 each. That’s fine if you’re buying a couple for earrings, but if you need 7 repeats at a minimum for an 18″ necklace, each 2.5″ repeat using two, and you have to buy in multiples of 8: 16 caps are $44. Before tax and shipping. That still kind of makes me clench my teeth, especially when they’re so tiny, but…well, hopefully, they won’t tarnish — which is the only reason, aside from safety and allergy concerns, to get Sterling. Granted, those safety and allergy concerns are likely well-placed.

(Maybe I should have taken advantage of that recent Trunk Show…)

In any case, the fifth reason to sell things is the process of buying strands of beads to make into things, and then as you’re assembling, you realize that you’re only using like 1/5th of the strand…meaning you have 4/5ths unused. If you aren’t just making for yourself, you can make for someone else, and have fun at the same time.

Part of my newer bead collection.
All Toho 11/0s, except the two vials in the lower right: the grey label is a 15/0 vial. The one below it, I purchased from a supplier who doesn’t label by brand, but which I think may be Miyuki (as its name is, “Teal Duracoat,” which so far as I know is proprietary).

So anyway, to detract from the frustration of having spent so much on so little, I also did purchase a bunch of little 11/0 Toho beads in order to gain a bulk discount (which…unfortunately, did not include free shipping). Buying seed beads online is often…more difficult than doing it in person. It’s because you’re depending on photography to give you an accurate idea of color…and as I learned in Intro to Graphic Design, neither computer screens nor print can replicate all of the colors we can see (“color gamut” is the name for the range each technology can produce).

So…when buying a complicated color that you know is probably complicated, because it has a name like Cosmos or Polaris…online…you just pretty much know the color is a best guess.

Three tubes of bead colors that are very hard to use: yellow, yellow-orange, and red-orange.
The frosted orange in the center, may make it into some work. The others…???

I have a set of four vials which are likely not to make it into any work, though. Three look like they’re colored with Cadmium salts (opaque yellow, orange, and red-orange [see right]). I got them because I realized that my own color gamut did not include these colors, and hence I was limiting my own creative options by not including an entire spectrum. I can somewhat see why I don’t use these colors now, though: they’re just too basic.

Also, I should let you know that the above photo of those opaque beads between yellow and red, didn’t turn out with true color…I am not entirely sure why (if it was because they were too bright, or the background fooled my camera), but I don’t feel like tinkering with the settings right now.

The fourth vial, I suspect I have used before, and that it faded (Aqua, Gold-Lined). I do have photos of it, but none turned out too well, as I didn’t unwrap them (I could use store credit, but then again, it costs money to ship them back. There’s always the Center for Creative Re-Use).

While looking for someone else’s repair projects, I did find a number of stashes of beaded jewelry I made while a child and teen…which had some seed beads included which are a pale, translucent bluish grey, now. I do see that it appears they were matte; also silver-lined. I don’t know if I should settle for glass jewelry being pretty in the moment and not lasting, or if I should really avoid things I know might fade.

However, the set of beads I was using at the time (from the fabric/craft store or the bead store), I no longer recall. For years, into high school, even, I played around with Darice seed beads (which I wouldn’t recommend for professional work…but as I was a teen just experimenting, that was something else).

I doubt that I was thoroughly using the more quality stuff from the bead store, at that time, given that I recall being in 9th grade and having a necklace made of Darice beads, dental floss, and a lampwork pendant from the bead store, explode from around my neck one day in the locker room. (This was after it had hit me in my teeth, which is where I think a mysteriously missing chip from a front tooth may have gone.)

I knew fabric-store seed beads to have color that rubbed off on my fingertips; which is probably why I have a (likely unfortunate) bias against dyed glass, at this point. Yes, I know the lilac (a.k.a. Silver-Lined Milky Amethyst) in the fourth image above is likely dyed. I also suspect those beautiful Gold Luster Raspberry beads above them to be dyed. I just like them too much to care.

I should say that Darice isn’t all bad. They have some storage solutions which I do appreciate. And certainly, they are an inexpensive entryway into the craft, which in my case was invaluable — at least because I’ve continued to do this for 25 years. It’s just one of those things where once you get your sea legs as a beadworker, you find other options, and learn ways to gauge benefits and drawbacks.

This is a greyish necklace I made when I was young, with highlights of violet and blue from Amethyst, Labradorite, dyed pearls, and Swarovski Crystal.
I made this as a child. Apologies for the poor lighting and color inaccuracies.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out what to do with this little necklace (see above) — keep it as a keepsake? Give it to someone little but over 14 years of age? ;) (All of this stuff says not to deal with it if you’re under 14 years old, likely because it could interfere with a child’s development…though I have been using these since I was 11 or 12. Not to say that anyone should.) This thing is basically Amethyst, Labradorite (a flecked grey stone with blue internal flashes), Hematite (gunmetal grey), dyed freshwater pearl, and Swarovski Crystal, in a Y-necklace form. It’s only 14″ long. I don’t remember if I used Sterling wire or craft wire, but it’s still shiny (the clasp is not).

I’m still not sure about whether it would mean more to me to keep it, or to someone else, should I gift it. The deal with the latter is that if I give it up, it could easily be destroyed (or pawned), and I’ve got to grapple with whether I’d be okay with that. I’m thinking the answer is, “no,” which tells me what to do, there.

Anyhow, creating this entry has been a nice thing for me, if a bit of an obsessive project: I haven’t used my camera or image-editing software, in a while. It’s nice to know the computer is of more use than as a notepad. :)

Speaking of which, I did find my old project journal. I needed to make more drawings than I did. When the earliest entry is in 2010, maybe — back in 2010 — I could have remembered what the project looked like. But. In 2019, almost a full decade later? It doesn’t do me a great deal of good to note which beads I used, without images to show the way in which I used them.

That…could be a good use of this blog. Photographs are easier to work than design sketches; I’d just have to remember that this is public, and that I am showing my process.

Yeah. That could be nice!