creativity, personal, philosophy, psychology, spirituality

I’m going to act like I posted this before midnight

It has been almost three weeks since I have posted anything on this blog. During that time…there has been a lot happening. Not all of it am I prepared to share my innermost thoughts on, nor do I see an immediate tangible benefit to doing so. Because I’ve been like this for a few weeks…I’ve had something of a hesitance to write online.

It’s fairly obvious why I would feel some relief right now. Not enough to feel entirely safe, given the ugly and dangerous reality of the wider circumstances, but somewhat better. In particular, I felt better today. Of course. It was a dose of sanity. Of hope. A reset to the idea of rightness; that it could exist, that it did exist.

Of course, to mirror but reverse an idea from the Dao De Jing that has come up on my Reader: if you can see wrongness, you create rightness.

I haven’t felt totally safe since elementary school, to let you know. I have heard that this is a mental abnormality: that it is “normal” to feel safe in this world; that the feeling of the world not being a safe place…apparently ideally shouldn’t happen. But the world is the world, and to me the bare fact is that living in the world isn’t safe, and probably never has been safe. That safety is an illusion granted by privilege. The most apparent alternative to living in the world is being dead, however, and so you take what you can get.

About a week ago, I set an intention to focus just on self-care: cooking, eating, sleeping, exercise, and hygiene. To my surprise, after I set that intention…I gained the energy and motivation to work on my crafts. And not, you know, deride them as “just” crafts. They are crafts. But they’re elevated, now. I know I’m using quality materials. I know what I create has value. I know my workmanship and responsibility is sound. I know I’m not wasting my time. I know that just because a lot of women do it, that doesn’t make it trivial. The approach is different.

At first, it was just working on the face masks. I found a tutorial by Marcy Harriell (see below) which I’ve successfully altered to fit my face (at least), and…well, I’ve been waiting for a mandatory mask order to come down. It’s not like anyone’s going anywhere anytime soon anyway, but anyhow…it’s nice to be prepared.

(You see what I did there.)

Face mask tutorial by Marcy Harriell, as it has been passed along like a game of Telephone, through the Interwebs…

That, again, was why I had set my intention on being more active in our cooking. My being incompletely capable of taking care of myself was just adding an extra layer of stress to the Corona pandemic plus rule-by-meme. So…the thing I can do about that, is participate. And learn.

I’m pretty good at learning, after all.

The other thing I’ve been doing, aside from research on dealing with this whole potential self-employment thing — and washing my hands too much — is working with seed beads. I still don’t know why I love little glass beads so much. They don’t have a lot of intrinsic value…but they are pretty.

And I really don’t know why I place value on aesthetic pleasure. It…makes no logical sense to me. Aesthetic pleasure, period, doesn’t make sense to me. But maybe that’s just my left brain not understanding what my right brain is doing. My right brain has a mind of its own, however, and my left brain has never been able to completely crush it.

What I do know is that the art of making things is probably a core, fundamental trait of humanity. We live with the culmination of the accumulation of knowledge and technology that has been passed down to us over the ages. In that way, we’re incredibly lucky and privileged.

In the same way…have we forgotten our wisdom?

The development seems to go: data is the source of information; information is the source of knowledge; knowledge is the source of wisdom. (I don’t know where experience factors in there; it wasn’t so much on the plate in my Information Science program.) I forget who hypothesized this. However, it’s very clear what happens when the train is hijacked so that information is proposed which is based on biased, unclear, deliberately obfuscated, or no data…and people run with it.

I am constantly surprised, both in myself and in others, how much we tend to trust that the information which comes to us is fundamentally sound. For me, this is especially in regard to books. I still remember reading a Physical Anthropology text in High School which I assumed was true because I found it in my school library and I thought that I could trust that what was written — and what was in the library — was based on sound knowledge.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned that it was not a good idea to trust information in books just because of the manner of delivery of the message. Nor was it a good idea to trust information in the library just because it was in the library. There are reasons not to trust old Physical Anthropology texts. Primarily because they tended to forward the myth that 1) there were, “races,” 2) that some, “races,” were superior to others based on form, 3) that different, “races,” were intrinsically different in some way which explained what could alternately be explained by, a) culture, and, b) a legacy of structural and institutional racism — or, a history of treating people categorically differently based on their appearances.

(Which, by the way, also implicates sexism. But due to length, that’s probably another entry.)

These are things that even today we have a hard time arguing against, because everyone has been taught this. (Not to say that everyone believes it.) It is part of what Sociology understands as, “hegemony,” or the currently-accepted view of the world which holds in place its underlying power structures.

Of course, though, my school library wasn’t quite good enough to teach us about Intellectual Freedom and the idea that, “the solution to a bad book is a good book.” That American libraries lean away from censorship, in general; that, “the books on the shelves should be at war with each other.” That it was the reader’s task, not the library’s, to decide what they would accept and what they would reject. That it’s good to operate on the premise that no author is unbiased (after all, they had enough of an interest to write a book; it’s hard not to have an opinion on an obsession). That it’s good to question why this author wants me to believe what they’re saying — which may be a hidden proposition.

Then again…it’s known in the Library community that many school libraries are run by people who are not professional Librarians. I suppose there is a reason to require a degree.

But all of that has to do with the left brain — reason, logic, analysis; you know. Fact-checking. Reality. There is — at least — another entire side to the brain that has to do with things that are ineffable, indescribable; drives that we don’t understand, or that we don’t want to understand; maybe, don’t have the ability to understand. That which makes living so vibrant, and can be subverted to such catastrophic ends. Things like religion, devotion, life purposes, identity. Any one of these topics is rife to set someone off if they’re challenged on them.

A major problem here, however, is that the brain seems set up to believe its own hype. It’s rare to find a person who is willing to state that their own beliefs may be (or are) mistaken, though it’s exceedingly common to find fault in others’ beliefs. Both of these things cannot be simultaneously true for everyone, everywhere, all the time — at least, if you subscribe to the idea that we all live in the same world. (That idea can be — has been — questioned.)

These things, like identity, are also answers to very personal questions. I know; I’ve been through the wringer with them. At this time, at least, though…I can see the urgency here. Who am I? What do I want out of life? Why am I here? Does the world inside my head match up with what’s outside? Where am I totally off? How can I tell if my thoughts are accurate?

It goes on.

I’m not sure if these are Existentialist questions, but they very much sound like them, to me. The reason I’m unsure is that I have hardly been able to tolerate reading Existentialist authors to the point where I really understood them. Sometimes you just don’t want to understand, you know? Sometimes it just hurts too much, to try and see things the way the author saw them, because then you see their pain, the way they’re trapped. And you can’t do much of anything about it, or for them.

And then there is the question of whether these questions have arisen because of a relative vacuum of wisdom…particularly where it comes to the obliteration of traditional knowledge. And I don’t know if that’s linked to the intentional obliteration of cultures that we’ve experienced in this country. But filling that gap by worshiping the next thing that comes along, is extremely dangerous.

But that drive — to devote oneself to something or someone — I entirely understand. I also understand how that drive can be manipulated, how emotions can interfere with disentanglement.

I’ve spent a fairly large portion of my life trying to comprehend the problem of evil, as I was harmed in my formative years by people who treated me poorly and at the same time claimed goodness and righteousness for themselves. As an adult, now, I have a fairly clear picture of what evil is. I lament what had to happen in the world for that picture to become clearer.

What I can say is that, unfortunately, my mind — as driven to pessimism as it is; as much as I may protest — can envision some fairly dark scenarios as regards what is not yet existent, and what may never be existent. I can see, that is, what some people wish this world to be — or, perhaps more to the point, don’t care if they turn it into. (It would take an actually malevolent person to intend to poison the water table, that is, or to intend to treat people as livestock, rather than doing it as a means to some end [like money]. As horrific as evil is, I’m coming to the opinion that evil at least does not begin as an end in itself. But then again, I don’t read a lot of True Crime, and I don’t have the relevant psychology to understand from within.)

There is the frank self-centeredness that allows some people to treat other people as tools to be used and discarded; the mental prisons that so many are trapped within. Wealth, power, control, destruction. For what reason? Or are there simply no ethical ground rules that cause one to value the lives of others, simply for the sake of those lives? Not for their use in one’s own personal game, not for the sake of one’s own fame and fortune, not for the use of them in attempted violent overthrows to put one into power? Life is holy. Do we not understand that?

And if one knows one is being used in this way, to be discarded, why does one tolerate it?

Right now: where I’m at, we are dealing with a trifecta of crises. There is the coronavirus pandemic. There is recent terrorist activity. There is a major economic downturn. They’re all interrelated and hazardous in their own ways. They’re all either due to, or made worse by, an abdication of responsible leadership which started a long time ago…if it ever began.

In this situation, I can’t be sure of what lies in the future. We have had a recent outbreak of a variant of SARS-CoV-2 titled L452R, due to a superspreader event in a local hospital which infected…I can’t even remember how many people. The number keeps rising. The latest count I find says 92.

In the face of possible death, for myself, for my caretakers: maybe accepting the fact of mortality is best. In light of that, perhaps it is best to look forward to living the most full, enjoyable, brilliant, vibrant life possible. While still, of course, keeping ourselves and each other, as safe as possible. Right now I have the possibility of doing what I love. Out of sheer love. It doesn’t take much. I don’t have to go out. And we have another year to weather, of calls to make, of video chats through which to nurture each other.

If this is the tail end of my time here, I’m not going to waste it.

Caring about each other, caring for ourselves — isn’t that the nature of love? Our lives are precious, and we don’t know how long they’ll continue. Right? Our ancestors must have known this. When the life expectancy is only 35 years…yeah, I mean…you take what you can get, you enjoy what you have, you trust that what brought you into being will not extinguish you…and if it does, you won’t be around to care. It’s odd that I would see that as a positive scenario, either way…but I’ve been suicidal, before. I’ve had a long time to think about this.

I’ve had time to prepare, to put my thoughts in order, to realize a mission. Even if I haven’t yet completed whatever I’m supposed to do, I know there’s a reason I’m here: even if I have to continue that mission after death. And I know now that there was truth to my visions as a youth. I know that I have value as myself. And I can walk further along the path of love and curiosity and do what I’m led to. The spirits don’t show me everything at once. They will only show me the next step. And I…can take the next step.

All of this is more than most people are granted. It’s just…how wonderful is it to be able to give oneself permission to be vibrant? To live?

Living…the task of living, is work. And it can be scary. But it can also be filled with joy.

If we trust.

art, beadwork, career, creativity, illustration, painting, writing

Wait…do I have, “artist problems?”

I started writing this post last night…and apparently the only thing on-topic, was the title. That happens when you’re up at 3 AM, I guess. What I had started out thinking on (when I need to be doing, not thinking), was organization. I am…having a bit of trouble with commitment to any one path, but that really has been my pattern overall, since I was a young adult. That’s why I majored in Creative Writing, and why I sought work in a Library. These things are not topic-specific.

As I’m thinking back on it now — I had intended to work with gouache today. I wanted to see if I could mix it with acrylic glazing medium to make it water-resistant. That…was entirely forgotten when I woke up, though.

  • As I expect to forget that I’ve purchased a book with the aim of learning how to design in beadwork, as versus copying others’ designs.
  • Or that a reason for desiring acrylic gouache in the first place, is to have more freedom in my work (via using opaque colors), in order to create conceptually abstract pieces, while being able to use my watercolor brushes and supports along with mixed media. The “acrylic” portion means, I hope, that the colors will not lift as gouache normally tends to.
  • Then there’s the fact that I am wholly intending upon taking a cut-paper approach to my journaling.

My mind was busy last night, you see.

Last night, I got my second stone ever, bezeled using beadwork stitches. It’s tough to be new at something, but then the newness was the reason I tried it. Making refinement after refinement on the same design — where you know the underlying mechanics — isn’t quite the same thing.

As for the bezel, it’s not my greatest work ever, but I was able to give it a shot, and that gives me a good basis for further work (I have points to work on, the next time I try).

I still have to end the second line of thread. My bead holes are filling up quickly via multiple thread passes, although that should stabilize the piece overall. It’s questionable whether I’ll have the space remaining to attach this thing to a necklace, however: I can see very clearly why people prefer to use cylinder beads (like Miyuki Delicas, Toho Treasures, Toho Aikos, etc.) for this, rather than regular seed beads. Cylinder beads just have a lot more space for their size than regular seed beads, particularly when you get down to the size 13/0 Czech Charlottes for the final rows…and have to use a very fine needle, possibly so fine that it’s difficult to thread. They’re also smoother on the outside, if you’re worried about contact damage to foil backings.

The good thing about this is that I can cut the stone loose and start over. What I need to watch out for is the degree of damage I’m making to the foil backing, which…seems like it would only happen in practicality, by scratching it with the needle. And then, it seems like it might only show with a relatively narrow bezel…not a beginner’s one!

I stopped last night when I jabbed myself pretty badly, and dinner had to be made. After I washed my hands, the bleeding stopped (I washed anything out of there pretty thoroughly: it didn’t hurt, toward the end).

Anyhow…I spent a good amount of time last night, looking for a planner. Then I realized that I could make my own with what I had, so…yeah. Time to get creative about tracking my creative time and projects. I need to hold myself more accountable both for what I’m spending, and for how much I’m not working. Or, at least, to build in some structure around it, so that I’m actually self-employed and not just being unemployed.

After I started getting into this, I realized I had enough markers and fineliners (and empty notebooks) to help with a Planner/Bullet Journal/Project Journal already. I did, however, realize that I can…well, make this more pleasant.

I’m thinking that time management and staying busy is probably an issue with most people who are attempting self-employment. I know that my own comfort zone is rather in writing and recording, moreso than in making art…but I realize also that there is some excitement in trying something I haven’t, before.

I wouldn’t have reached that point without having come to a dull point in beadwork, where I was basically working a process I knew. I had smoothed out production to the point that I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions…which is different than actively, you know, arting. It probably would have been arting, if I were looking for a way to make it better — or, at least, different.

But hey: I figured out a new clasp mechanism within the last three weeks. I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

Anyhow…last night I realized that I am struggling to be an artist, and then I realized that probably most artists are struggling to be artists. It’s not a given that everyone puts art at the top of their priority list; I in particular decided not to major in Art, for multiple reasons (some of which were appropriately childish). At this point…I’m looking at the skills my training has given me in research, in reading comprehension, in composition, in entrepreneurship. I did not just study to be, “a writer.”

Writing and language are just different forms of communication which are likely better established, due to the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and then the typewriter and then the QWERTY keyboard. Also due to the fact that most people understand art like I understand music: intuitively, we know when we like something; when it comes to composing, though, we tend not to do it very well.

I suppose that maybe I shouldn’t mourn not having been in Art in my Bachelor’s program; the fact is, I have the ability to work on my skills, now.

I mean, seriously.

And while I would have liked to have completed a BFA from CCA or Mills…in reality, I would have needed substantial Financial Aid, and then I would have trouble paying it off, if it wasn’t in grants. I’ve been told that it’s very difficult to get a job in the field without another angle besides Art. Even competition for Community College instructor positions is fierce, if I wanted to do that, and I’m not the type of person who would be good at it. I would be too concerned about crushing little souls. Art Librarianship is another…highly competitive, route. But at the time, I had no desire for extended learning beyond my Bachelor’s.

So I went the route of majoring in Creative Writing…which also isn’t a rewarding path, monetarily; but it was an avenue of expression for me as a youth, and one of the only things that was constant in my life. As I’ve aged, the skills in composition that I have had have gone to figuring myself out, and to expository writing.

I didn’t know back then that I would have decades to find out who I was, and to work on the issues I had against myself. When I was in Undergrad, though…all of that stuff forced its way to the surface, and the mode of expression it found was within language. Granted that likely most of what intrigues me about writing is the problem of expressing what the limitations of the language itself prohibit one from expressing.

Of course, though: when you get a handle on what’s happening with you and you know the causes and the reasons why, and how it affects you…you get to build yourself from there, without having to scream out through your paintings or your writings.

Also: when you get a handle on who you are…when you find security in knowing yourself, there is less need to do this. Not that writing is inherently an outgrowth of insecurity…but when you’re looking at a very-young-adult’s writings, it’s hard to avoid insecurity in the formula. Especially if peer abuse factored into that kid’s self-image, and they don’t know yet (or love yet) who they are.

And, you know, looking back on all this: I am thinking of making illustrated books. Maybe not just for adults. Maybe for kids, too. I mean, I do kind of have a thing about animated series, and a drive to avoid psychic violence. At the same time, I am an adult now, which…means things that I didn’t understand when I was 7.

I haven’t really — to my knowledge — mentored a lot of kids…but I understand what kids are going through when they ask how I became so stable in my perspective and identity. It’s something that I’ve gained over the past 20 years…the question is how to explain it so that kids can understand it. Understand that they can be okay in who they are; that no matter how much they admire other people — and it’s okay to admire other people — wishing you were them is not necessarily where you want to go, because it devalues yourself. That you want to be the best version of yourself, whoever that may be, because you end up writing your own character in this life.

Your unique character. That is what you have control over. You don’t necessarily get to choose who you are or what you have to deal with; but you get to choose how to be that person, and how you’ll meet those challenges. You find you; you choose to be you as best as you can.

It’s a reason I’m going back to beadwork as a relatively advanced practitioner, when there’s so much more information I can find about painting. It’s also a reason I’m seeking out books for the intermediate-to-experienced crowd who want to know how to design, not just follow other peoples’ designs.

That’s actually…quite a possibility. I hadn’t thought of doing it because I can’t imagine having an easy time being — well, an adult person — and helping to write and illustrate a children’s book. But it’s possible to reach those little kids for whom that book will be their favorite book, and they’ll remember it long after. If I don’t write it, that never gets the chance to happen.

There have been more obnoxious Children’s writers…

In any case…these are all great dreams, but then what am I doing with my time? Living? That’s all? Ha! Yes, I’m savoring my time with family.

Because.

And no, I am never planning on being a Children’s Librarian. Nor am I the marrying or childbearing type. What I can do is help my communities, and youth happen to also be members of those communities. When I was young, I didn’t know about gender diversity. It would have helped.

Anyhow, as regards my orientation towards Art, and the struggle to maintain it: I have trained for a gainful second career through which to finance my life. I had forgotten that the promise of the ability to practice Art was one of my primary drives in persisting and succeeding in the Master’s Program. I’m not in Library Science because Library Science exists. There exist the food and housing and clothing and utilities and transportation motives.

In practicality, I’ve been unemployed for 10 months. It’s likely okay, now, for me to get back to my — actual — work…the reason I have done the other work

craft, creativity, jewelry design, small business planning, work

I write too much…

Yeah…I think it’s understandable why cyberspace has been so quiet, recently. As for what’s going on over here…I’m still dealing with a problematic creative pattern (grab onto a project like a pitbull and not let go until my body gives out, then avoid it the next day because my body doesn’t want to go through that again)…though I have realized that I have another beadweaving pattern I originated, which I had forgotten about until putting the earrings in as placeholders over Xmas.

Like I’ve said before: I make a lot of jewelry, I don’t necessarily wear a lot of jewelry. I’ve had these piercings for a while, but I still get a little…worried, that they’ll close up with disuse. I probably don’t have to worry about that quite so much, given that they were originally pierced at 14g. Yes, I do miss my surgical steel rings, but putting them back in means that either I forego wearing regular earrings, I constantly wear a nut on the back of all my earwires and deal with possible migration, or I fabricate custom 14g earwires for everything I wear…and trust me, silver isn’t that cheap. 14g wire is pretty expensive, that is, just from the sheer weight of it.

I do realize that if I want to run this jewelry thing as a microbusiness with significant returns, I’m going to have to work more. A lot more. Just slightly prior to Xmas, though, I did encounter the beginnings of a depressive episode, which is likely what has slowed me down over the past couple of weeks. (I’ve just realized that I’ve only been out of classes for three weeks, so far!) I had wanted to sew face coverings to give out over the holidays…but for multiple reasons, prime among them a very late start due to having my attention taken up with my University course, that didn’t happen.

“A very late start”…unless I jumped into making face coverings at the moment I thought of doing so and worked as hard and as fast as I could and sent them out as soon as I could, I would be late. And even then, I probably would still have been late. University conditions you, not to be late; that it can mean failure, to be late. (Unless you’re working with accommodations.) Of course, University matters because they’re reporting your grades to the Federal Government, which impacts any future Financial Aid. Making money through selling jewelry has no such penalty for lost time. Except, well: lost income.

I think that the realization that I wasn’t going to make the Xmas deadline/buying rush (for either gifts or sales) was probably the beginning of the episode — or the beginning of my noticing it, at least. I notice in my backfiles some information about OCD, as well…which was probably what was most easily visible. You deal with this stuff a while, and it gets easier to recognize when you’re experiencing symptoms.

Then there was the fact that I had hoped to be up and running with my beadwork, in time for the Xmas buying season. That, obviously, didn’t happen — although I did clarify some things for myself, like why I’m doing this, and what my goals are. I made the move to decide that there is, philosophically, value in the creation of beauty.

What’s really…interesting, is that when you’re working with an inclusive gender definition, it can be difficult to create gender expressions which are clearly intended for that definition. I mean…you make nice things, and those who want to, can wear them.

I’ve heard fairly commonly that people in the nonbinary community have a tendency to be slotted as cisgender men and women, though by this time, the trope is…well, used. No longer upsetting, that is, because you know it’s coming…and you know that the people saying it have their own issues to deal with. And I, at least, know enough NB people that I see a difference between cis and NB, even if nothing earth-shatteringly different appears on the outside. (Two things that do appear from within, are acceptance and understanding.) The thing is: nothing should have to appear different on the outside, for a person’s gender identity to be respected.

Right now…I’m in a stage of breaking out of being intentionally gender-neutral. In specific, there’s nothing wrong with pink. Or violet. Even if I’m biologically female. Even if mostly women will wear these. It’s OK. Nothing at all says that I have to or need to sell specifically to NB people (and if that had been part of my business plan, I would likely need to alter it — we’re not that incredibly common).

I’m hoping to use these colors, soon…and maybe I should do it. I mean, really plan on doing it. Like, purchase some stuff and set aside some blocks of time, to do it. That infers — well — planning…which I may be able to work out with one of my extra A5 notebooks, or by using a printed spreadsheet.

The thing I’m dealing with now is the tension between working on designs I have already created beforehand, and experimenting with new supplies and techniques. The latter takes a lot of time, but can involve totally new practices (which is exciting); the former allows me to refine previously set patterns and experiment specifically with color (but not so much with form).

If I look at it now…I have several designs I’ve come up with totally on my own, which I know I came up with totally on my own. I’m not sure it’s worth it to go through the actual process of registering copyright, especially as the designs are refined and change, over time (a.k.a., constantly). It might be good enough just to mail myself copies of the schematics in preemptive defense, although I know copyright law says I’m good from the time of creation.

Ah, the concept of intellectual property. How…how annoying are you. Or maybe I should say, “concept of intellectual property, how easily you are misused….”

art, book arts, creative writing, drawing, graphic design, psychology, self care

Sparked

I’m not entirely sure what happened, except that I recalled — after having had a mood crash not even two weeks out of classes — how much I had been doing before that class started in order to keep my mood stable. In particular…writing, and art. And not just “writing” as in “journal writing,” writing as in Fiction writing: particularly, literature. I was trained in Literature, but…let’s just say that what I have to say about the world could be construed as libel if I should hold too close to reality (but not yet close enough).

Last night I realized that what I might be seeking in that area was SF/F, or for the uninitiated, Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’ve…had a very long relationship with the latter, not knowing it was the latter. Kind of like I was writing a gender-nonbinary character long before I had ever heard of nonbinary gender. Not to get stuck on that — I have gotten tired of Middlesex and Left Hand of Darkness supposedly being about gender — but…I can see where this (writing) could sustain me for a while, at least, psychologically.

There are two large places where my desire to write is being hampered. The first is with not reading enough. Fiction, I mean. I have what is, by now, the same old story rattling around in my head which I have not set toner to paper to, yet. This is mostly because it’s underdeveloped, and a good portion of that lack of development has to do with its being “a nice fantasy” without real-world problems being interjected into it. I haven’t, that is, wanted to burden my characters with suffering of the kind I have experienced. Although that, overall…if I hold to that, it could lead me to some interesting worldbuilding places.

“That,” meaning, my own experience with trying to find enough pleasure in life to willfully drive it to continue…and then the relief from medication with antidepressant action which concomitantly has at times felt…false? The problem is that the pain seems real even though it’s a symptom of a known psychiatric disorder; a problem with wiring and connectivity and feedback, if you will. Runaway focus on pain like tracks ground into hard dried mud. The issue is that the thing I have the most pain over is the state of the world, and that is something I cannot, “fix.” Because I can’t fix it, I have to do what I must so that I survive, despite it. Outwit the thanatos.

In my case, I’ve opted for psychiatric medications over street drugs or suicide: over street drugs, because I was told that going on them would be the worst possible thing I could do for myself. Over suicide, because suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. At least, they say it’s temporary. People being ****heads, though…that’s kind of a permanent problem, I think.

I also know that death is likely to come far too early for me. If things are going well, that is, and life remains worth living. We do tend to hope that things will go well…

The second place where I’m sabotaging myself has to do with creating worlds and relationships which are more hospitable to life than this reality…which in tandem with my tendency to depression, means that I can prefer living in that world to living in this one. And I know that, and that is a problem. Or maybe knowing it means that I can guard against growing closer in my proximity to self-annihilation, while still receiving the benefit of rest which fantasy can harbor.

Of course, it does also seem that a whole LOT of people are close to self-annihilation right now. Not going to lie.

Anyhow, D had me (re-)watch a program on bookbinding, tonight, which got me curious enough to make a small maquette of a binding design. It’s really nothing…huge. :) Simply a way to take a horizontal format and place it on a shelf so that the spine still shows the title, author, publisher, without sticking so far out of line that it becomes problematic to store. As a person who used to shelve books — A LOT of books — and have heavy art books occasionally try to fall on them, I know that this is a fairly perennial problem. You don’t want to be in the Arts & Music Folio section when an earthquake hits, let me just say (although places which actually do have Folio sections are likely to be safer, due to specialized shelving units).

This is actually a reason I was driven to learn Japanese language: I had mostly been exposed to manga, not English comics. The entire flow of the page is different in manga — more often vertical in nature, and from right to left. This makes sense for Japanese language, which can be written vertically, and read from right to left when in that vertical format. It remains a problem for the English-writer who is inspired by manga but cannot write legibly and vertically at the same time. This is where wide-format books come into play, as English runs horizontally.

So basically: I now have puzzled out that three columns of 2×4 units (horizontal x vertical) for each page, laid out horizontally, makes a total spread of 12×4 units which can be used variously as a relatively standard-appearing comic grid (when divided into 2×2 squares), six columns of text, or text interspersed with images — the last two of which, I think I’m going to be using.

This is a different way of thinking about things, but it should afford me some rest from having to draw out an entire world, along with granting me the capability of inserting images by design. It also should give me the chance to play with InDesign…if I really cared that much about it. However: I have the materials for this. I know what has to be done. The next step…hmm. Hadn’t thought about the next step.

I believe it would be scriptwriting, possibly combined with storyboarding. I did start to take a class in this, but there were crazy high race tensions in that class, probably because the instructor was trying to seem anti-racist and…I don’t think they knew the point of anti-racism. Depicting diversity alone isn’t anti-racist. Trying to be anti-racist so you look more woke on the street isn’t the point of…

Let’s not go there. Wusa.

Anyhow. Scriptwriting, storyboarding. In working with a grid format, I would be imposing some limitations on myself, as in how long I can take to complete a thought, or what I’d need to put in place so the reader turns the page. Also: font size. Though I’m thinking of hand-lettering. (I do have an Ames Lettering Guide…)

I also need to be reading, more. At this point, I am wondering how much reading is going to take me away from the beadwork, and whether I’ll realistically be able to juggle reading, writing, beadwork, and library science. It seems I should be able to, at least so long as I don’t have a paying job…and developing skills in InDesign and Photoshop…that will be worth it, especially if I start looking for gig work as a writer.

Gosh, I…forgot I’d be writing all this…!

Maybe it would be best to work it out in text, first, and draw alongside, then see which one comes out as more dominant…

personal, psychology, self care

The reason why I was in classes

It’s been a little less than two weeks since classes have ended, and I’m noticing warning signs that I’m headed into a depression. Though, truthfully — at an early stage, who can tell? It might be a number of other things.

To be honest, though, I feel like my OCD is going into overdrive, and that’s why my mood is collapsing. I need to be actually making things, or doing something to occupy my mind, to tone down the paranoia (I wouldn’t be surprised if my amygdala were responsible [I wonder how ironic it is to be angry at one’s own amygdala] but I don’t really know).

I mean, there’s, “appropriately concerned,” and then there’s, “overtly paranoid.” In the middle of a surge in the middle of a pandemic, from the inside of a mind that has had to deal with obsessive thoughts around contamination for the last 26 years or so, which for a long time have felt normal (though questionable enough now to voice)…it can be hard to really understand the difference between appropriate concern and irrational hyper-concern.

I would think people would say that it isn’t possible to be too concerned: but trust me, it is. When you wash your hands to the point of their cracking and bleeding so that they no longer form a barrier against the thing you’re scared of touching, that’s overdoing it.

I’m at the point where I’m pretty certain that I would not be functional in a job right now, and my Vocational program is an unwelcome intrusion in my life. I’m having a hard enough time dealing with things coming into the house, when I’m not even the main person touching those things. I’m having a hard time touching fabric (and letting that fabric touch other fabric) which has last touched another human besides myself, two weeks ago. Can I then safely put any of that up to my face and breathe through it? We’re talking about viral half-lives, not viral extinctions.

This is not…well…I guess I can understand now why this illness alone qualifies me as disabled.

It doesn’t help, though, when there is some validity to the paranoia, and my paranoia in fact may help keep me alive (which is likely the reason it still exists in humans). That doesn’t mean it’s easy to live with, or that it isn’t instigating other mental disorders like depression. Anxiety — let alone constant anxiety — can do that.

I’m thinking I need to be doing something — anything (that isn’t drugs or eating or sodas or shopping sprees…or, sleep) — to be dealing with this. Even video games might be a step up, though I question how much a certain favorite game is going to alleviate the pain. :) Somehow, being trapped in a constantly morphing prison full of death doesn’t sound like wholesome fare when I’m feeling like this. Kudos if you know what game I’m talking about.

Of course, though: I was supposed to exercise earlier, and just didn’t. I got involved in something else. I did take Vitamins B-Complex and D, however…which should help. (I’ll take them again, tomorrow.) So should actually getting some sleep…it’s 12:50 AM here, at the moment, though I got out of bed sometime around 1:30 PM, if my memory’s correct.

Yeah, maybe tomorrow…I’ll make a point out of working with the beads (not the masks, unless I’m really OK with it) and getting some exercise and taking a shower. Even though I don’t really…feel like exercising. But that’s probably normal, when you haven’t exercised in weeks. My weight has been edging up due to inactivity and my medications. If I can consistently hold to 5 or 6 lbs. below my current weight, average — the weight I was at, at the beginning of lockdown — that would at least be a start. (I tend to set my goals too high, and then get demoralized and never even really try to reach them.)

Or maybe I should just designate a time to work out and stretch and get my heart rate up — and shower — every other day or so, without worrying about the weight component. The issue is that I work out and then crave sugar. That worked when I had a 20-year-old metabolism; not so much, now. Somehow I don’t think that eating the equivalent of two dinners, after working out and walking everywhere, is going to fly, now.

Of course…no, I haven’t tried walking everywhere…but there’s nowhere to walk to for any purpose, around here. It helps to walk when there are, you know, things within walking distance…but such is not the case at this point.

And, I suppose, it is possible that we’ll all make it through this, alive. It’s telling that I never even thought of that, until just now…

money, personal, self care, small business planning

Still alive.

Thankfully, yes, life still continues in my corner of the world.

I’ve been doing a lot of jewelry design work and, concomitantly, a lot of beadwork. I’ve got three piles of fabric to iron (I was afraid washing yellows with any other color might dull them: so there were blue + green, violet + red, and yellow + orange, loads). At the outset of lockdown, I didn’t realize that buying a relatively small amount of elastic would make it so that I wouldn’t have to spend 40 minutes per face covering (?), and I-don’t-even-want-to-count how many yards of fabric, making ties.

Winter weather has set in, meaning that now, rain and cold temperatures (as cold as it normally gets, here) are normal. Today Yesterday, the first loads of vaccine were shipped out, and the President-Elect was officially voted into office. I also learned what “dumpster fire” meant, a few days ago…and realized why some people were using the term…!

So even though it’s cold and rainy, things aren’t really so bad. Both my parents are still alive, no one’s sick (that I know of). Even though I did lose two of my older relatives earlier in COVID lockdown, and two other relatives are either going through chemotherapy or healing from injuries that could have killed them had the spirits not been with them…we haven’t lost anyone else, so far.

I also haven’t been applying for jobs. I’ve been, well, making things. Of course, one of my first pieces went out to a new friend who should be testing out the clasp mechanism for me. I haven’t quite…clarified?…that with them, though?

So, Xmas is just about 10 days away. I’ve had the idea to make a bunch of face coverings and send them out so people can look stylish as they protect themselves and others from the virus…the thing is…Xmas is about 10 days away. And we aren’t meeting. That means I have to depend on deliveries…which take time. I’m probably going to miss the Xmas deadline, but hey: it’s not like anyone is desperately awaiting a face covering they don’t know is coming. I hope.

Today was spent cleaning out a section of the living quarters — for me particularly: my bedroom, my bathroom, and my study. I really wish there were some better way of cleaning the tops of books, other than with a vacuum and brush attachment. (I still didn’t do it, though. Didn’t even try.)

As we get deeper into this…well…I’ve been spending a lot more time actually doing things with my hands, principally cleaning, preparing food, and crafting. I suppose you could say it’s pretty grounding…which can be necessary, these days. It’s really not until I came back here today that I realized how much I hadn’t been keeping up with the blog circuit. I mean, there were days worth of posts that I hadn’t seen!

In any case…it’s been pretty clear — to me — that I’ve been going back and forth over whether to have an open online presence (with, you know, opinions), or whether to go mostly private for things like communications with friends, in logging my progress (on whatever), etc., while maintaining a separate business presence. The major issue is not knowing whether it will actually ever be possible for me to have a Web presence while constantly keeping my opinions to myself. Especially as I have a tendency to be a very inward-directed and intimate writer: most of my life is internal, not external.

That is, is establishing a Web presence devoid of my own personality a goal that can (or should) be achieved? I can think of at least one obvious Web presence that doesn’t even try to separate personal opinion and business. They have strong branding, but at the same time, turn off a lot of people who don’t agree with their politics…which could also be said for a soap company I tried and didn’t fall in love with. The fact that I had to ignore their writing plastered all over the outside of the bottle…didn’t help.

The question would seem to be what demographic I’m going for as regards my audience. “Highly politicized” is not my demographic. And, I mean, I know I’m left-wing, but I also know where that can fail. I guess maybe it isn’t an issue until people start to be offended…and we just have to discount the people who are easily offended by free speech (by people like myself) in general.

On the other hand…being a presence by and for people who are just trying to live their lives fully and in peace, that’s something else. I mean, seriously: what I’ve documented on this site is just me living my life. That includes my coming into my own as a nonbinary person (I’m going to avoid getting into subtypes right now…I know what I am, but not how to name it or think of it in a way that makes sense to others), and my ongoing cultural discoveries as a mixed-race person who was not exempt from dysfunctional interracial (and intra-racial, for that matter) dynamics in my extended families.

As I write this, I’m thinking that…I’m much calmer right now than I’ve been in months, if not years. I’m not certain if that’s because I’ve spent all day cleaning my spaces, if it’s because I haven’t gone in to work, if it’s because I’m doing what I want to be doing, if it’s because of the presence of hope…? Of gratitude that I have what I do right now, even if I’ve barely been out in the last nine months…?

Seriously, this trial has been like…not a vacation, so much, as an extended Thanksgiving. You know each time your dad laughs at some silly little thing which happens, or each time your mom offers to help you, that it’s not a given and has never been a given that you would get that — or that you’ll continue to get it. So you appreciate it in the moment, knowing that you won’t always have it. Which makes it more…special. Precious.

Stringing and knotting together little beads is like this…they’re not worth much on their own, but together they can make something beautiful. Even if its value isn’t high to anyone except the people who love and appreciate what you’ve done. And they’re the people that should matter. They are your market…if you can make and sell these things in a way in which they can afford to pay you what you need to be paid, to keep doing what you’re doing.

That’s like an exchange of love. It feels like an exchange of love.

(And of course, there are the sweet people who are overjoyed at getting something for free!)

I wonder how much of this is me feeling relieved…hopeful. sekai no naka ni chiisai ii desu.

If I thought…at all…that there were any future for me in Japan, I might not have dropped off of my Japanese language lessons. Unfortunately, I’m not at all sure of that. I’m planning to take up Spanish lessons again. Not tonight. But soon. We’ll see how far I can get before the gendered nouns catch up to me…if I can think of “gender” as more of a grammatical designation and think less about how gendered nouns seem to deeply impact thought processes…I might be able to do it.

Besides, Japan isn’t the greatest place in the world, just because I’m related to people there…and I need to realize that there are “woke” hispanohablantes. In particular…there are other members of the African Diaspora in Spanish-speaking countries…I wouldn’t be alone. Of course, I wouldn’t have reached this stage without seeing that one guy on NHK World who was talking about being bullied for his race in Argentina — and being able to understand most of what he was saying, in Spanish.

And sites like afrofeminas.com, which I was led to by Repeating Islands.

Wow, I’m just a mishmash of cultures, aren’t I…? But I guess when you grow up in a place and situation like mine…you realize that there’s much to be lost in only learning the cultural heritage associated with your lineage…or one of your lineages, as the case may be…that what one may be physically related to, is not necessarily the greatest thing in the world just because of one’s disputable membership in its group.

But I can get into that another time (I’m thinking of martial arts [I’ve trained in four different styles], and my experience in Undergrad [Ethnic Studies!], for future reference).

career, writing

Using your words

When you know you’re in the right, but claiming the ability to act as a full person still takes bravery.

Over…likely, the past month, my efforts have shifted from honing my writing skills, to craft and design. I have realized that becoming a freelance writer is more than within my grasp. I am more than capable. The question has been whether I want to take the repercussions of speaking my mind. The problem is, whenever anyone says something that’s important to anybody, someone else has a problem with it — because knowledge is power, and the denial of accurate, clear, usable, validating information is the denial of power, and denial of agency, to that person who finds it important.

And I know I can help the people who find what I say, important. I know, that is, that I’m on a side I can live in peace with. I didn’t always know that, but my view has gotten much clearer, recently.

I can see that when I was younger, I had a much more simplistic idea of potential anonymity as an author. These days, it’s very apparent to me that anonymity doesn’t necessarily exist, when writing for publication. Perhaps before the Internet existed, that was possible…it isn’t, now. Not without some type of global privacy regulations that could be applied to the owners of sites which distribute other peoples’ private information…and not without in some way disabling the tracking of aliases of authors who have not committed crimes.

(Of course, to some, the “wrong people” writing and speaking, might as well be considered a crime…and the Library of Congress is not exempt from politics. It is the Library of Congress. Not a national library. Not the people’s library.)

The obvious issue is that elements protecting the privacy of authors can be circumvented, and we trust strangers on the Internet, far too much. Tim Berners-Lee’s original Internet, that is…doesn’t seem to have included protections for information that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Perhaps it wasn’t intended to have grown as large as it has, or to include the people it does. As far as I can see, it involved utopian ideals, but…utopias can fail. Especially where failure was never expected; where the ideal was implicit that people would be decent and responsible, not malicious.

In other words…we do not live in a utopia, even given the chance to live in a utopia. The most brilliant and insightful ideas can still be bent towards destroying our own kind and utilized by the most inept, ignorant and callous among us — because of how our societies are set up.

What I’m taking as my provisional reality is the assumption that if someone wants to know who I am, that information is not impossible to obtain. There is also the question of whether I actually do want to be known for my ideas; if “good trouble” is not a bad thing to get into.

I am aware of the First Amendment. I am also aware that a portion of this society is biased against me because of what I am, and that laws are not applied even-handedly. They’re applied by people with biases, assisted by computers which have likewise been programmed by people with biases. Both those factors — and others, like poor school funding sourced from low property taxes which relate to intergenerational poverty and a history of segregation (among other skewed variables), reinforce systematic outcomes of inequity which are then blamed on factors such as race and essentialism: that what people look like defines who they are and what they can be and become.

The issue I have been dealing with is the relative peace of my life since I got out of the main fray that I was dealing with as a young adult. I’m moving out of the phase of being a student, into the phase of being a working adult, hoping to eventually become an independent working adult…which has other attendant, “issues.” Like the rewards (and penalties) of conformity, and silence.

But writing implies communication. Communication infers saying things that not everyone may agree with — at least, at first.

In essence, it ensures conflict. I’m not a person who seeks conflict. But I can see that there are some things worth fighting for, that the world can be better than it is; that we can be better than we are. In this world, change is preceded by conflict; and not everyone right now is living in a state which guarantees a sustainable, hopeful future.

I guess part of that is my utopian idealization. But if you’re going to have to fight, it’s good to know your ultimate goal. What you’re fighting for is one of those questions that can’t be avoided if you want to keep up your pace and your work. Even when a life of quiet, dull, closeted obscurity beckons.

DISCLAIMER: This entry is not meant to represent the views of any organization, professional or otherwise; I am representing myself, and myself alone.

art, beading, beadwork, craft, design, jewelry design

Speculation

Craft, art, and design

And yes, I do see that all three of those words can look negative. :) In the sense of, “artifice,” I mean; or, “craftiness,” or, “making designs,” on something or someone. It seems the English language doesn’t trust creativity too much. ;) The below may be overanalysis of my own work; I can’t really tell. People just say I try to analyze things too much…

For reasons that would likely be understandable if I were to relate them, I’ve been away from this blog for about two weeks. A lot of this has to do with breaking out of my habit of writing about life instead of actually living it. In particular…I’ve been doing more beadwork than is normal for me. I wouldn’t call it, “a lot of beadwork,” though it probably would be so by the measure of most people.

There are a number of skills which go into beadwork: there’s an element which reminds me of my engineering projects from when I was a kid (what fits together?); there’s the color element; the attention to detail; hazard awareness (fire, chemicals, flying metal, pointy things); and problem-solving. I’m getting more of an understanding of the process of design, where you have basically an infinite number of paths, a smaller number of paths which will work, and an even smaller amount which accomplish your goals at the same time as they work. Right now I’m looking at jewelry as wearable art…it just makes more sense to me.

There are a number of things being at the bench (or table) recently, has taught me…prime among them that the work requires just the basic task of showing up and putting in hours. That’s something I was told in the Art Program…that the greater part of success is tenacity, not talent. Talent really doesn’t mean much if it isn’t applied. That advice isn’t specific to one art; it’s just kind of a truism. It applies to every art I’ve dealt with. Every art, regardless of medium.

I also think I’m beginning to understand the difference between art and craft, and art and design…though it’s slow going. “Art” denotes many more decision-points than craft, while craft can be generated from a design with no loss of its craft status, and design is generated out of a set of basic restrictions that can’t be violated.

I’m still figuring it out, as I have been for years (I’m in no way an authority on this); but it’s interesting to meditate on while making something I’ve never made before, and which I know I’ve never seen before, which no one taught me how to make. That mode is basically art and design, or design + engineering. The “art” part comes in when I’m trying to cognize what my next step could be; while “design” comes in when I’m trying to figure out what will work in this context. If I were doing it from the perspective of following someone else’s directions toward a predetermined endpoint, that’s craft — until I start going into unknown territory, where art and design factor in.

As I see it currently, it’s like this: generativity (art) + constraints (design) + technique (craft) = production (of…?). I hope I’ve got that somewhere in the ballpark of reality — no one taught me this. I’ve seen people make sculptures with beads, so we aren’t limited to jewelry in what we can make, in terms of beaded objects. (I deleted a term, “possibilities”, above, as regards art, and just wanted to mention it here, in case it turns out to matter.)

Anyhow: beadwork contains all three of these things. I obviously started off as a crafter (everyone has to learn the basics of needle, thread, beads, and wire; and most people learn from books, tutorials, and maybe other people), but if I keep going in this direction, I could be more thoroughly an artist and designer in the same field. That is, there’s nothing about beadwork that makes it inherently a, “craft,” and not an, “art,” as I’m looking at it, now.

However: If I wrote a book to tell others exactly how I did what I did, so they can do exactly what I do, without holding my reasons for doing so as organizing elements in the background of their thoughts; then I would be a designer, and the reader would be a crafter — if they followed the directions to the letter. Working my design would give them an insight into how I do things, but it won’t teach them how they do things. (Trust me, they can be different, and likely should be, if one is following their own aesthetic drive, personality, and experience.) It may only lead them closer to an understanding of how and why they were attracted to the work, and what they would change: and that can slingshot them off onto a trajectory of becoming an artist.

If they played with the design I gave them, and changed some things, that might be considered derivative work: but I should note that playing with designs in this way is often expected, and sometimes encouraged. Especially if a beadwork design is super-simple (like a specific, unremarkable version of an extremely common stitch which is demonstrated for the purposes of teaching), it’s unrealistic for a designer to claim ownership of it. After you’ve been doing this for a while, you can see when someone is just demonstrating because they want to broaden your approach to the work; not saying that they’ll sue you if you copy any of their versions. Unless I overestimate the benevolence of the author/teacher, that was never the point.

That’s…still, not legal advice. None of this can be; I’m not qualified to give it. But there are many authors who write books for the purposes of teaching. Not the purposes of litigation.

Now if this new beader, with the knowledge of the mechanics of the stitches they’ve learned, takes what they know about the function of each motion and anchor in beadwork to create something totally new that can’t necessarily and clearly be documented or slotted as, “right-angle weave,” or, “two-drop peyote,” or, “herringbone,” or, “brick stitch,” for example, then that looks clearly like artist territory to me. If they document their work and teach others how to make the exact same thing they made, given that it’s not the exact same (or close to the exact same, or derived from the exact same) pattern someone else taught them, then they would seem to be designers.

I should note, though, that it can take quite a while to reach that stage. I’m just starting to draw out simple legible patterns now, and I’ve been at this for over 25 years.

In other words: there’s way more that can be done in beaded jewelry than what published patterns demonstrate. One’s ability to see these possibilities depends one one’s horizons and familiarity with other crafts (techniques) which can and should intermesh, if one can find a way to do so and still create a strong product. We aren’t stuck with just stringing and beadweaving, that is: there are also wirework, knitting (including colorwork) and crochet, knotting (including micromacramé), lacemaking, embroidery, ceramics, leatherwork; and even silversmithing can theoretically be integrated, though I haven’t yet tried it. I also wonder about enameling…but I’ve not practiced that; I’ve only seen it in action. Then, there’s lapidary…for those special few who can actually work (and want to work) that field.


Swarovski Professional

I have wanted to mention something about Swarovski ending its sales of beads to the craft community with the anticipated shutdown of Swarovski Professional. Sam of Wescott Jewelry published something on this about 10 days ago: the comments in that thread, substantiate the rumors. I won’t repeat that thread here; hop on over to Wescott Jewelry for more information.

Since that time, I’ve been taking an in-depth look at Swarovski offerings and prices. What I can say is that I found another warning on this from 2016, and a third from 2013, which makes me wonder if we’re being subject to market manipulation, more than an actual threat. I’ve also been doing some digging around possible alternatives.

I haven’t used cut crystal beads so much in the past, because 1) they’re expensive; 2) they’re sharp, and can cut thread a bit more easily than I’d like. However: finding out that Swarovski is reportedly planning to discontinue distribution of their beads, led me to get some while I could. There are a lot of woven “recipes” (designs) which rely on tiny bicones, for example.

What I can say is that attempting to “stock up” doesn’t seem like an altogether cost-effective measure. Especially if one generally doesn’t use them, anyway. “Stocking up,” in this sense, is more like, “getting a sampler set,” because one won’t be able to truly stock up on this stuff if they’re moving a lot of inventory and don’t already know the colors they’ll use. (Or, as in my case, are unwilling to drop thousands of dollars on buying up existing stock for some as-yet-unknown purpose.) It’s possible to use up over 100 3mm beads on one St. Petersburg chain bracelet alone (though that’s a casual estimation; which you all should know I’m not great at, by now). With Swarovski as expensive as it is already, that means the cost of said bracelet is going to be, well, high. That, in turn, probably doesn’t matter too much, unless you intend to sell it.

In my case, I have heavily used Czech fire-polished glass beads, which I’ve experimented with minorly over the past couple of days (particularly looking at Right-Angle Weave), and they look different, but not inferior. It’s kind of like using a CzechMates Tile instead of a Miyuki Tila: the hard lines aren’t there, and maybe you don’t want them to be there.

The major difference between glass and crystal, however, is fire. Austrian crystal just reflects a lot of light, and can make glass look dull, next to it.

The big thing I can see coming up is a lack of replacement for Swarovski’s rose montées, which have perpendicular drill spaces that allow special design options. However: there are also Czech glass versions of these…and to be honest, getting a “silver-plated” rose montée doesn’t really reek of quality to me, when the only base (i.e. non-precious) metal in the piece is on the Austrian crystal component. Which may tarnish, I don’t know yet. But I’d rather the back be Sterling-filled or Sterling (or Fine) silver, so that the customers wouldn’t have to worry about rubbing the silver off when polishing it. Which I predict will need to happen. Because it’s just silver-plate.

I mean, if we’re going to make the stuff, shouldn’t we make it well?

From my own comparisons: Swarovski is reliably more expensive than Preciosa, for example (I’m going to avoid a ballpark comparison; it’s viewable online), which offers comparable crystal components. I have some Preciosa crystals, and they don’t disappoint me in terms of color or cut, though I have yet to try weaving with them.

Where Preciosa doesn’t touch Swarovski at this moment is in the wider range of colors, cuts, and special finishes that the latter currently offers. However: the consumer very much pays for this variety. In terms of cost for comparable merchandise, Swarovski cannot compete with Preciosa.

Then there is Chinese cut crystal, which I don’t have much experience with, other than some components I’ve purchased at craft stores — which are beautiful; it’s just that they’re a bit large and gaudy for my taste (they have a tendency to out-sparkle everything else). I am thinking, however, that both Preciosa and the Chinese crystal producers are going to rush into the void left by Swarovski. Plus, Swarovski is likely to put some manufacturers out of work…who will know how to make the stuff, even if they don’t have the capital to buy the machines to make the stuff.

For now, I don’t know what to say about this, so far as any recommendations go; I wouldn’t have even known it was happening, except for contacts online. I did, however, want to say something…

beadwork, craft, creativity, design, fashion design

Switching modes…is difficult.

As is making even not-so-difficult decisions about whether to accept an interview (for a temporary position) offered by HR. The HR that let me go, after 10 years of service. That HR.

Then there is my Vocational program assuming that I’ll either be in college or working…when right now I’m re-evaluating my life and what I want to do with it (a.k.a. finding reasons to stay alive — which is important)…which doesn’t quite involve them.

And then there is University, which I’m only in to get an inroad into a job I may actually be able to tolerate long-term, where we’ve entered the end phase of tons of group work and have stopped communicating. I want to ask when we will get started…

Then there is my personal life, which is beginning to turn over into creative work: particularly, sewing and beadwork. I’ve gotten enough together that I could make a good return beading…though I wonder, at this point, if I would be willing to sell patterns as well as (or instead of) finished objects.

The major issue with either is that many beadwork patterns are easy to deconstruct, if you know what you’re doing…and I’d venture to say that all can be replicated, with the right skill set. But I have bought some self-published books that are as good as, or better than, books coming from the major publishers…which would be Kalmbach, Interweave, and Lark Crafts, for beadwork.

There are some decent books from other publishers, too, but as we move from craft domain to domain — the publishers change. The people who publish books on silversmithing might not be into bead knitting, for example. So far as I can see, those are totally different market segments, with different motivations, different investments, and different levels of familiarity with different technologies. But both of them can make a bracelet.

Beadwork (often) entails a love of color, while hot metalwork entails a love of form and fire (and is relatively starved of color work, in my experience — with the exception of enameling, and working with brass and copper [which also technically fall under “silversmithing”, as non-ferrous metalworking which is not goldsmithing]).

I would only expect the love of color and texture to be magnified in bead knitting, which is kind of a hybrid between straight-out beadwork and the tactile and meditative pleasures of knitting…but I haven’t yet tried it. I do have a set of Size 1 knitting needles now, though. I also know a couple of places where I can get (heavyweight) spooled silk beading thread.

The thing is, to do this, you have to have interest and skill in knitting, which is an area I touch on tangentially, not fully. Lacemaking is another area I’m touching on, specifically with tatting — because I could see its application in craft jewelry.

A while back, I taught myself shuttle tatting, though that’s harder to do in a jewelry context than needle tatting. I started working with the latter just recently to see what I could do, without having to wind a shuttle to the middle of the work. Right now, I know I can make button loops with C-Lon Standard (TEX 210) and the heavyweight C-Lon TEX 400. This is with Sizes #5 and #3 tatting needles, respectively.

The resulting buttonholes are large, round, and relatively stiff…not that much of an improvement over making my own toggles out of glass seed beads (which I’m always afraid will crush or chip [after having heard the squeal of Mother-of-Pearl against glass]), but definitely more finished-appearing than a braided loop.

Using anything finer than TEX 210 and 400 basically requires using a shuttle…the needles I’ve been using (Handy Hands) just aren’t the right diameter. In shuttle tatting, you’re wrapping the thread around another loop of thread; in needle tatting, you’re wrapping it around the needle, which may not be the same diameter as the thread. With something like C-Lon, which doesn’t have a lot of stretch, that means it’s hard, with finer diameters, to slide the knots off of the needle and onto the thread itself.

It makes sense now, intuitively, as to why the heavier diameters would be easier to use: you get a lot more wiggle room in relation to the size of the cord. The cord is also harder to flex to create the double knots, which gives extra space next to the needle.

C-Lon Micro (TEX 70), for example…doesn’t work well with any of the needles I have, as it catches at the eye of the most appropriate-sized tatting needle. It will, however, work with a shuttle. C-Lon Fine (TEX 135) also doesn’t work with any of my needles. Either the needle is too wide (causing a “scrunchie effect” once completed), or I can’t fit the thread through the needle’s eye.

I have also tried working with Milliner’s needles, prior to having broken down and bought the Tatting needles: it works, but I question if they’re long enough. (Milliner’s needles are also much sharper, so you have to be careful not to scratch or stab yourself when forming the hitches.)

If I hadn’t tried this, I’d still be thinking of the possibility, but not the reality, of using tatting to form buttonholes for clasps. I still can do it, but the possibility is now limited, in my mind. Either use TEX 210 and 400 with tatting needles, or try TEX 135 or 70 with a shuttle…and keep in mind that you may get a stiff and very round buttonhole.

The other route is to find a set of tatting needles which will work with finer threads, meaning that the eyes have to be especially fine. Given how firm all forms of C-Lon cord I’ve used are, I’m not betting that I’ll be able to fit something like that through (or over) those needles. Tatting (to make lace) is generally done with softer threads — which beads may damage.

On the other hand, I’ve just finished a necklace which has been years in the making. Using the C-Lon Micro for it seems to have been a very good choice: it feels tough, and was thick enough to hold knots at the terminations. As I’ve been using clamshell bead tips to finish the work, I was glad when the knots were large enough not to slip through the holes.

Finding out possibilities and what they actually look and feel like in action, is extremely important. At least so, from a design + construction perspective. Thinking up dreams of, “what could be,” is something I did for years; it doesn’t necessarily get anything done. It takes experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I should say, it takes the risk of failure, to find out what works, and what doesn’t.

The forgiving thing about beadwork is that if your design doesn’t work out, you can clip your piece apart and try again.

It feels difficult to get myself out of Academic Mode and into Creative Mode. It’s even harder to let go of Creative Mode, once I’m in it, and slide back into Academic Mode: I want to stay where I am. I get involved with my projects. This happens even knowing I have to get back into Academics at some time, which tends to fill me with dread and anxiety. It’s hard to get out of Academic Mode in the first place, because I have a level of guilt for not spending my time studying.

I’m thinking that’s not a good way to enjoy living. Especially if what you’re studying, in order to earn a livable salary, doesn’t fit your core drives (or relieve your core banes: like uncleanliness, and random social interaction with strangers). It’s just something you do so you aren’t homeless or dependent. It’s not like you actually want to do it, or in a perfect world, would choose to do it. At least not after you’ve encountered the reality of the job and environment.

And it’s like, how many more years, how much more of my resources, am I going to commit to this? For the sake of a salary?

There are other things I can do, if cash is my only motivator. I may not be able to afford to live in the San Francisco Bay Area while I’m doing it…but to be honest, most of the world can’t afford to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’re dealing with an inflated economy and gentrification, with high-wage earners moving in from outside, displacing the people who made the place what it was: the people who made this a nice place to live. What I can see is that someday — when technology shifts again, or when the climate shifts more completely — this area risks becoming another ghost region.

Early morning, on November 2nd — I began writing a post after having had a conversation with relatives. Its details should likely go into another, separate post, but I realized that through my clothing and jewelry, I could develop my own identity expression. I could also help others define theirs, or at least give them more options.

I’ve had a consistent problem with being able to present myself as I wish, with ready-to-wear clothing. The problem is that the clothes which fit my body usually also code me as a woman, socially — which is not something I’m set on. I began thinking on how to alter that. It’s not like it isn’t possible. It just requires creative thought, and the ability to realize those thoughts in reality.

That is, it’s possible to create clothes cut for and which will fit female bodies, without also making them to code as, “feminine.” It’s not like there isn’t a market for this: or there wouldn’t be so many people who are assumed to be, “women”, wearing men’s clothes. The problem is, after one reaches a certain point in their maturity, men’s clothes don’t quite fit correctly. At least, that’s been my experience. The body type I had in my early 20’s is not the body type I have in my late 30’s.

The point is that there is cultural space and coding made for cisgender men and cisgender women which signify their gender to people on sight. If you’re a gender minority, however: that isn’t necessarily the case. Not only are there no words to describe who you are, but there are no special signifiers that positively match your identity. And if there were, I’m not sure it would be safe…but, progress is being made.

I’d hope that in 40-50 years, there will be vocabulary and a safe place for people who are gender-nonbinary or third-gender, or otherwise currently not provided with correctly-coded tools with which to present. I would also hope that the erasure of gender minorities in the English language and cultural sphere, finds a way to cease in a respectful manner.

The night before last, I realized that I could and should get back to work on the “blouse” I’ve been trying to make for 10 years. I got about halfway through construction (having cut and marked the pieces previously), though I still have some alterations to make. This is Folkwear #111, “Nepali Blouse,” which I’m altering to have a much longer hem, and side inserts. I appreciated the toile, but it was much too short and revealing, for me.

The pattern itself is for something worn as an undergarment in Nepal, which makes sense if you live there, and it’s cold! Instead of the traditional fabric choices, though, I’m going for a dark cotton batik. After this is done, I can work on some outer layers.

And no, I don’t know the gender status of those who would be wearing this, normally. The pattern and styling is just something I like.

At this time, though, I find myself required to get back to my graded work…which I don’t want to do. Of course. Writing this, is kind of edging me back into thinking in words…which I need.

Wow, though. I mean, wow.

I am wondering when the last time was that I was so reticent about getting back into schoolwork…