beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, glass beads, organization, seed beads

Reminders of the pleasures of life – 01

I have photos of my new storage system today, as I wanted to do something which wasn’t…academic, anymore. I have also been looking around at retailers, online.

I know certain things I need for at least one project, but right now I’m trying to figure out from whom to get them. Factoring into that is the selection the retailer carries, and what extra things they carry that I won’t be able to source elsewhere.

Also, a detractor is the fact that some bead retailers do not say which company manufactures a specific color or finish of bead. Fortunately or not, at least one of these companies has the widest selection of rocaille (round) seed beads I have ever seen. That’s great in terms of selection, not so great in terms of design.

I’ve also bought from this vendor, before, and there is the question of whether the manufacturer even matters, if I was okay prior without knowing the manufacturer (when buying from a local bead store), and if I’m okay with swapping out bead colors just because of those beads’ dimensions.

The size 6/0 rocailles that I’m most likely to use (Czech and Japanese)

Above is a photo of what I’m most likely to use in size 6° (also alternately notated, 6/0, which you may start seeing me use if I get tired of the “°” special character. I should probably just memorize the ASCII code). Most of them should be sourced from the Czech Republic, but some of the newer ones are Miyuki brand — which, I’ve noticed, don’t quite appeal as well to me, aesthetically speaking. They’re just more rectangular and less oval, in profile.

I’m thinking that it’s not as great for RAW (Right-Angle Weave), where the beads need to nest together. I question how they would look in Herringbone stitch, as well…but the most practical way to find out, is to try.

I also have two vials which I know are Toho 6°s, which are the light pink silverlined (upper right corner of the above photo), and Silver Galvanized (that isn’t in these photos). They appear closer to Miyukis than to the Czech 6°s (a characteristic example of which are those apple-green rounds, bottom row, third from the left).

For scale, each of these little containers is about 1″ in diameter.

Size 8/0 seed beads. Same size containers.

The photo right above, here, shows size 8° seed beads, slightly smaller than the size 6°. As the caption reads, the little containers are the same size. I’ve got to say that I’m happier with the color range I have in this size, even though you can see that I didn’t quite know how to organize them.

Both the size 8° and size 6° seed beads will easily fit onto the cord I use for micromacramé — I’ve heard that the brands of C-Lon and S-Lon are relatively interchangeable, though I just recently bought my first spool of S-Lon. (One of them — I won’t say which, just in case I’m wrong — is an off-brand of the other.)

Size 11/0 seed beads, same size container. (Japanese)

Most size 11° seed beads will also fit onto the regular size C-Lon cord, but it requires more work than using the size 8° or 6°. What I’ve done is paint the end of the cord with clear nail polish, then after it is dry, cut the tip at an angle to produce a self-needle stiff enough to pass through the bead holes.

Without doing this, you’re vulnerable to the end of the cord fraying, which will prevent it from being able to pass through this diameter bead hole (noting that the diameter of a bead hole, likely varies between brands). Of course, it’s possible just to cut a new tip…and let it fray again (I’ve been known to do this), but it’s kind of a lot of trouble.

It should go without saying that Czech bead sizing is different than Japanese bead sizing…but maybe that’s just because I’ve been doing this so long.

I’ve found places selling size 10° Czech beads, which — if my memory is right, should match up better to size 11° Japanese beads, than size 11° Czech seed beads (which are slightly smaller, and thus can’t be substituted one-for-one in a pattern utilizing Japanese seed beads). But I can’t really guarantee that. Most of my hanks of Czech seed beads haven’t been labeled as to size — I’ve just had to work out how to fit the different bead sizes together, on the fly. But looking at my collection now, it’s apparent that the shapes are different.

I have some beads which I believe are Czech silverlined light topaz 10°s — basically, transparent pale gold with foil on the inside of the bead hole. At the time I got them, I was still a high school student, and knew nothing about bead sizing — let alone that I should ask the vendor what size they were! This was also at a bead convention, and I don’t know at all, the company I would have bought them from.

Czech seed beads are more donut-shaped and flatter in profile than Japanese seed beads (which are more cylindrical), and they’re generally sold in a different form — that is, stranded and often in hanks (12 strands) or half-hanks (6 strands). Japanese seed beads, in contrast, are most often sold loose in vials, bags, or other plastic containers.

The reasoning behind selling beads in hanks is that it’s much easier to see uniformity in bead size and shape when the beads are stranded and you can compare them to each other.

I’ve just realized that I didn’t even make an effort to photograph my Czech hanks…I’ll have to get around to that, another day. What I can say, though, is that they’re no less beautiful than the Japanese seed beads…and they’re also a reason for me to have gotten the storage I have, so that I can store them loose (and thus, eventually, use them).

I should also note that sometimes size 6° and larger Czech seed beads are sold loose, like Japanese seed beads. I think this is more for convenience and consistency in packaging, than anything. It can discourage use to keep beads on hanks, as well…I know I’m tempted to avoid using them just because they’re so pretty on the hanks, but making something out of them, necessitates cutting them apart.

The below image is of Czech fire-polished round beads. These, in addition to “druks” (round solid glass beads), are essential if you’re going to be doing small-scale bead weaving. I’m pretty sure that the lower row is all 3mm beads; the rest are between 3mm and 6mm (the latter of which, I didn’t even realize I put in here).

Fire-polished rounds, from 3mm to 6mm.

Like I’ve mentioned somewhere (…?) else, 5mm fire-polished rounds are somewhat rare, but they do exist. More common are the 6mm fire-polished rounds, a couple of which are in the very top of this photo (the transparent green and transparent “amethyst”, fourth and fifth from the left). The deep blue between the two greens in the top row (third from the left) is a 5mm size.

Sizes commonly go up through 8, 10, and 12mm…but I’ve found the very large sizes much more useful for stringing and other stand-alone applications (e.g. earrings), than for beadweaving.

I mentioned “druks” earlier. It would be normal that most readers here won’t know what I mean by that, so I’ve taken another photo and cropped it to those druks…which are spherical glass beads.


The very small beads at the bottom of the above photo are 2mm glass “pearls” — I’m not sure if they are technically categorized as druks. They’re very useful for filling tiny spaces where the thread would otherwise be exposed and vulnerable to cuts and abrasions (which are generally the death of well-loved beadwork). The drawback is that all of them I’ve found are vulnerable to the coating on the outside, peeling.

An alternative is using the very small 2 or 3mm Swarovski crystals, which I’ve used before when playing with patterns from bead magazines. I’ve found that these beads only come in a limited number of colors. The edges of their holes are also sharper, so using these necessitates using a tough thread like FireLine, lest the thread be cut while you’re still weaving the thing!

I haven’t yet looked into Chinese crystal for alternatives, though it’s good to know that Swarovski isn’t the only option available.

To the left of the 2mm glass pearls, are “3mm” druks, actually closer to 2.5mm, on measurement. Above them are 3mm druks; the green and purple iris [iridescent] beads on the upper right, are also 3mm, when they were sold as 4mm. The sky blue matte beads in the center, along with the green glass “pearls”, are actually 4mm.

Anyhow, spherical glass beads which are drilled down the center are called “druks”, and they’re again essential if you’re doing tiny bead-weaving which requires technical precision. The fire-polished rounds (so-called because they’re cut and then allowed to melt again slightly, producing their glossy appearance, if memory serves) are also really nice for texture and contrast.

I’ve been able to use fire-polished rounds down to 3mm with C-Lon standard cord for micromacramé, as well.

I know this blog doesn’t have a lot of followers, so for now I’m just putting this here to remind myself that I don’t have to be on the computer writing and studying, all the time. It’s good to weave in some offline content. It’s also been good to do some image-editing…and step out of academic thought, for a while.

beading, beadwork, craft, glass beads, organization, seed beads

Messing around with bead storage

Haaa…I really need to get back to work on an academic project. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem to do — it just requires time. And motivation. The thing is that I’m coming off of a 10-unit semester and a Summer class. It’s just been nice to have time which hasn’t been assigned to anything. It’s been nice not to be graded on anything. (I have to get this project done by this Winter, to graduate.)

Not to mention that I’ve found a nice way to see the palette of colors that I’m working with. I’ve realized something, as well: black, white, and red are colors that are really hard to blend with others.

They’re all high-contrast, in different ways, and easily overpower a piece. Something has to be done to bridge the contrast gap, when they are used — like in one set I’ve separated, which uses off-white beads in addition to silverlined clear. These, in turn, are contrasted against muted denim blue, teal, and blue iris. It also helps that there are a lot of different finishes in that set, from matte to luster, silverlined, and iris.

Right now, I’ve got two sets of little samples of beads — mostly, any color I’d be likely to use — in little clear containers in little clear boxes. It makes it easy enough for me to be able to see what colors I have, which is something I’ve needed fairly badly. I’ve had to make some executive decisions as to which tubes to exclude from these sets — silverlined clear, matte black, transparent red. It’s not hard, due to experience.

Red may be usable if I blend it with Hyacinth (red-orange) and orange hues, which can almost match the vibrancy of the red.

Given the color trends I’ve seen recently, though, I don’t think an intense blood or ruby red is going to be popular. These beads are from a long time ago.

I also have some clue of what to separate out, if I need any more containers (silverlined transparent red, blue/green Picasso). I’ve noted when a bead is from Toho and I’ve known it; I’ve also noted when a bead is the last of its vial and I wouldn’t remember which vial, unless I put a label on the new container. I was torn about whether to include a Miyuki label on the beads I have which I know for a fact, are Miyuki; but referencing the bead back to the original vial will give me that information.

Also, from looking at it, it seems that comparing all of the size 6º beads together, knowing which are Miyuki, will tell me which others are Miyuki (they’re kind of distinctive, next to Toho and Czech size 6º seed beads: they’re larger).

Some bead distributors won’t note the brand of a seed bead, which can pose a problem where it comes to, “recipes,” or patterns. I was also at a fabric store today, and found some Czech “Twin” beads which looked like Twins used to look (like beans), years ago. I’ve seen them to look more like SuperDuos (like diamonds) most recently, unless I’m mistaken; which leads me to believe that there is more than one Czech company manufacturing, “Twins,” with more than one model. I didn’t think to check the country of origin, though, which could have shed some light on the issue.

At this time, I don’t have to immediately get half-size vials, as the small Toho vials I’ve just emptied, may account for all the over-half-empty tubes of seed beads. (As a note: the last two times I bought Toho beads, the vials were much less full than how they used to be packed. On looking at the vial weight, I see that two [likely the older ones] are labeled 9g, while the others [likely new] read 7g. The vial dimensions are the same.) I also found my stash of other empty full-size and functional vials, along with my small plastic bags and stash of experimental samples.

I’ve just been looking for alternative storage, seeing that my older storage tubes are beginning to biodegrade (particularly, the caps).

As for actually doing anything with the beads — I want to rework the necklace I’m wearing, now; fairly badly. But I’ll need to either buy another scarab bead or cut this necklace apart, to make that. I’m not entirely certain where to get it, either…or what else to buy to make the exchange, worth it.

Anyhow…I do have better things to be doing. I’m struggling with feelings of guilt for avoiding them and a bit of concern over the fact that using my free time this way may need to be paid for, this Fall.

Hmm. Well. At least I feel like I’m reconnecting with who I actually am, outside of school…

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, jewelry, jewelry design

Returning to this blog. Intellectual Property re: beadwork.

I’m not entirely sure how to start this entry. It’s been well over two years since I used this blog. I’m nearing the end of a graduate program and having an extended period of “free time” for the first time in a while. It’s been a long route to getting back to doing what I’ve actually wanted to do.

I can’t at this point remember why it was that I migrated away from beadwork, though I am thinking that it was concerns over inadvertently violating intellectual property. I’ve gone over this elsewhere, and maybe I’ll eventually link it here, but I’ve gotten additional information (and experience) between my last post and now. It makes me feel better about beading.

Techniques can’t be copyrighted. I don’t think it matters if you learn the technique from a book or online or in-person. I believe the copyright is on the media in which the information is transferred (so, for example, the form of a paper pattern is copyrighted: what you learn from it — the information — isn’t, necessarily). There are community norms in place which help manage what information is used and how…but whether something violates copyright or not, is a grey legal area that takes a number of factors into account.

Technically, the form of intellectual property protection that it seems would even apply, where it comes to using knowledge of technique, is patent. So far as I know, patents are only granted to unique and innovative designs that would be hard to come to on one’s own.

It gets more complex than this; I am certain I can’t communicate all the intricacies of my current understanding, at this time. While there is some truth to the idea that a person wants to be relatively fluent in technique before beginning to sell — just for the sake of their own development (client pressure for more and more of the same can deter growth) — it’s not necessary to know everything, either. I don’t see the sense in prohibiting sales for reasonably unique — no — common work (not specific individual designs that others have taught you how to do), that would otherwise happen — which is what I felt was being promoted to me, which caused me to try and get out of the field.

By, “common work,” I mean work which doesn’t take a great deal of innovation to achieve; which those who know the technique could easily reproduce. And I mean work that isn’t a precise design that someone else taught you how to do.

I don’t mean that the work isn’t unique. There are a lot of unique ways to use common techniques. Most of the possible ways to use them, are. It’s the few ways through which people teach you how to do the technique, which I feel are questionable to duplicate for money; if not off-limits. That is a courtesy that I try to hold to.

Once you have enough practice at constructing basic pieces of jewelry, the techniques you know become a knowledge base you can draw off of when designing things that are your own. But if you don’t practice because you don’t want to follow a pattern, it’s learning the hard way. As you progress, though, there is a natural movement away from instructions and into simply playing and seeing what you can come up with.

At every step there are multiple directions one can take. Making one decision differently from the one in the instructions, or more than one…there’s no crime in that. It’s just that there are many more ways to make things that don’t work, than things that do. :) Experimenting is the only way to find original ways to put things together, though. And research is important to learn more techniques.

Aside from this, beadwork is a relatively expensive hobby. However…doing other things that share traits in common with beadwork (for me this has been painting and sewing) also aren’t the same. Painting requires some thought as to subject matter, even though it has heavy use of color in common with beadwork. Sewing is generally the manipulation of two-dimensional surfaces through the use of needle and thread, and can powerfully integrate color. Bead weaving also uses needle and thread, but in a different way.

In a class where I got to experience making 3-D computer models, I learned that a three-dimensional form with one pierced hole is called a, “torus.” In bead weaving and micromacrame, you’re working with threads, cord, and pierced shapes (though there are beads out now with up to four piercings; I don’t know what shapes with two, three, or four piercings, are called!). The threads (or lines, as I like to think of them) go through the holes of beads or around other threads which are already established in the pattern. There is a certain aspect of what feels like engineering (I use the term “engineering” loosely), in fitting beads together to make a design (whether that’s shaped or flat).

Also, there’s the possibility of using metals with beads and fiber, though these days that generally means wire and sheet. Casting is something else, which I have never carried through all the way. (I’ve made wax models, and I think I’ve poured the plaster, but I don’t think I went through burnout of the model, or the actual casting, let alone finishing.) Casting, though, is a way to make forms in metal which would be very difficult to fabricate, otherwise.

Still, though, silversmithing is not the same thing as beading, even though both can result in the production of jewelry.

I’ve also gotta put in a disclaimer, here. Those who know me from my personal blog, would know that I am planning to go into an Information profession. The preceding post is not legal advice. Even if I were a professional at this point, I would not be able to give legal advice as a member of my profession (as versus, as a person). I am not a lawyer or in any way a specialist in any legal system, so keep that in mind. All risk as to your own decisions lies with you.

What I’m describing here is part of my trying to figure out how to navigate intellectual property territory as a craft jeweler/handcrafter (my decision to adopt or own these term[s], are another post). Writing things out, in most cases, helps me get my thoughts together. The Intellectual Property aside is something I feel the need to record, as it’s been so prominent in my own decisions as to where to exercise my creative abilities. It also evolves as I age, and as I gain more knowledge and experience.

In that sense, these records are valuable to me, as I can see what I used to believe, and how that led to what I think, now. But I can’t predict what I will think, in the future. And I can’t say it won’t be better. So on that note, let me just leave you with the note that I know I’m fallible, and I know that my own understanding is a process, not a product.

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, color, drawing, fine arts, jewelry design, painting, writing

Am I still making beadwork? I want to.

It’s been a while since I’ve used this blog.  I thought I’d send in an update.

Since Fall semester has ended, I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands.  I’ve been working on a portfolio for my Drawing class, for most of this week.  I think I made it through all right.

I now have one more semester to go before I’ll be able to get my AA in Art.  I’m really, really glad that I went this route, instead of going the route of computer-generated graphics.  This does, however, beg the question of just how I’m going to use the skills.  At this point, I’m not totally certain about that.  I went into this thinking that maybe I could be a book illustrator or graphic novel creator — because of my training, I’m more prepared than most to write and illustrate the same project.

However, it isn’t the easiest thing for me to write fiction, at this point.  I’m trying to think of when the last time was that I read a work of fiction, and I honestly can’t recall what it was, or when it was.  Subsequently it follows that I might forget how to be expressive in the medium of character.

As things go, though; today someone asked me to restring a couple of bracelets.  Relatively speaking, it’s a really simple thing to do.  But I forget sometimes that not everyone can do what I do.  Basically, what I’m looking at is getting some Soft Flex (I might have it already), a couple of spacer beads, and a clasp plus loop.  I know I have the crimp beads already in my supply.

It…was just interesting, I guess, to look at this piece and think to myself that I could probably make higher quality stuff (ducks from thrown furniture)…but I don’t think that my client would disagree.  I guess my stuff falls more into the “handcraft,” category, as versus “fashion.”  I drew away from the idea of making handcrafted jewelry after having gone on a career-orienting website and reading about how handcrafters make poverty wages.

However, the reasoning for this would likely revert back to the argument that mostly women handcraft, and women’s work is valued less than men’s work — not to mention that a lot of the stuff that is out there for sale as handcrafted jewelry is not done to a professional level.  I have seen work done to a professional level, plenty of it.  But for everyone who creates gorgeous original works out of cabochons, beads and Sculpey, there are more who just follow others’ designs.

Then there is the perennial, “but you didn’t make the beads” argument, which begs the counter, “but you didn’t smelt the ore,” argument.

But…yeah.  I have realized, in the meantime, and largely over social media, that what I do — even though my materials are humble — is essentially art.  I’m probably a step below Etsy, right now.  And I’d like to get back into things, but I worry that it’s a waste of time, unless I do totally become an artisan jeweler like I want to.  In that case, I’d be working with glass, metal, stone, and fiber.  I do have something of a vision.  But I need to commit to it if I want to make it into a reality.

I also met an old friend about two weeks ago, who suggested that I make jewelry for money (I’ve made her a couple of sets of earrings as gifts).  My major concern has been over copyright infringement, though until recently it was more of a good-natured desire not to infringe on others’ copyrights.  Now, I realize that I might be the one being copied…which every beader who shows or sells anything is vulnerable to.

The thing about this is that most of the reading I’ve been privy to about copyright infringement is all about how to avoid being copied, not how to avoid copying.  It seems like it would be really easy to do, either intentionally or by accident — and that what one would have to do to avoid it would be to graduate from the training books and start designing on one’s own — which most books don’t even touch on how to do.

(Well, of course; why would I continue to buy pattern books if I could design things myself?)

Guess why I went into Drawing and Painting?  The line between original work and mimesis is much, much clearer here — even though there are established traditions of copying older works in order to learn the craft.  And then there is the possibility of sending an expression through Art, which doesn’t always come through as clearly when one is making bodily adornments with which one wishes to embellish someone’s beauty.

In any case…I’m still looking for my preferred medium.  I’m getting really fairly decent at both drawing and painting (though it’s still usually hard), and painting…is something I wouldn’t have been as prepared for, without beadwork.  Color interactions, and all that.  Painting is something that I’m really enjoying, though the toxins scare me, and I’m really not sure whether I want to become a showing artist.  Actually — no — I do.  But I also want to draw and make jewelry, and I can’t give up writing without feeling like a piece of my life is missing.

Maybe I have something to write about, eh?

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, Business training, color, glass beads, jewelry, metalsmithing, occupational hazards, seed beads, small business planning

Self-observation + Link to Matubo seed bead review

Observation first, before I forget.

I really like working with seed beads and fiber.  And I really like writing about seed beads and fiber.  I originally started the metalworking classes because I could see some things being done with seed beads which could be more cleanly and simply done with metal (like cabochon and faceted stone setting).  And I could see the use that those skills would open to me in doing something like making my own clasps.  But I don’t think at heart that I’m a silversmith (for the love of silver, at least).

Also, unless I went into enameling, and/or heavy use of colored stones, I probably wouldn’t want to really get into metalsmithing that deeply.  Enameling can be hazardous, which is a reason I’ve avoided it in the past.  In one of my classes, I observed someone blow powdered enamel (a.k.a. colored glass dust — “colored” meaning probably toxic to ingest; “glass” meaning tiny shrapnel which may shred your lungs and never get back out) off of her bench and into a cloud.  I held my breath as I walked past.  She still had a cough the next semester.

How do you really guard against stuff like that other than wearing a respirator the entire time you’re in class?  What if I hadn’t happened to see what was going on?  What if I didn’t know to look away every time the enameling kiln was open?  (An enameling kiln radiates infrared light when the door is open and it’s hot, and that can damage eyesight unless protection is worn when looking towards it.)

I still remember when I had to spend 10-15 minutes cursing over the pickle pot because someone dumped out my tiny copper rings into the pickling solution and it was so dim — and the pickle so saturated with copper (it turns deep blue-green instead of clear when it’s old) — that I couldn’t see them.  And I remember coughing for two weeks afterwards from the fumes, as well.

But let’s get back onto a positive note, shall we?

I have enough experience from my time in smithing classes (two semesters — more than that, and I didn’t want to put myself back into the situation) that I feel reasonably confident that I can construct and solder a toggle clasp on my own, or fabricate a clasp from sheet and wire.  It probably wouldn’t be the greatest-looking thing or the most creative thing (creativity is very much helped by fluency of skill), but it’s possible, and I know it’s possible.  I can also make custom closed jump rings from wire and solder — easy, with the right setup and materials.  Or, so I say now that I know how to cut the jump rings away en masse and cleanly.  If I’d used silver for my class project, I would have wasted about $60 worth of silver while I learned how to avoid twisting the saw.

Plus there is the bezel setting I learned at the end of first semester, which showed me that even though it looks simple to set a stone in a metal bezel, in reality there is a lot of work which goes into it, and it requires some finesse to avoid, say, melting your bezel into a puddle instead of closing it.  It also requires some finesse to achieve a secure seat for your stone, and to avoid inadvertently damaging the stone in the process of setting it.  This is not even getting into whether what you’re setting it on looks good or not — more often than not, this is a flat piece of sheet metal, sometimes with stamps, soldered buttresses or designs of wire, or, in some cases which I especially admire, bits of granulation.  I can’t do granulation yet, so of course, I’m impressed.  ;)

Form is explored in metalwork, but often at the expense of color.  Color dynamics are a big attractor and driving force for me.  My seed bead, colored pencil, and marker collections attest to it.  I have wanted to get into painting, but so far the only experience I have there is in one Color Dynamics class which used gouache, plus Continuing Drawing — there was an introduction to pastel painting at the very end of that session.

I know there are liver of sulfur and shakudo and shibuichi and the golds and coppers and brasses.  I even know that there are the reactive metals to work with, titanium and niobium, and these.  But do I really love metal?  At this point, my enjoyment of metalwork is not high enough for me to go out of my way to expose myself to the hazards of metalwork.  Hot metalwork, at least.  Cold connections are much less intimidating.

In addition, there seemed, in my metalsmithing class, to be some prejudice against beaders.  I inadvertently ran up against this when I started constructing a beadwoven chain for my metal pendant in class.

At this point, having done some work in design myself — I mean, beyond changing the colors of a pattern, and I mean — really taking a concept through multiple models to achieve a workable formula (that collar with the daggers may have to be altered so it curves more), I can see the point that people who work in metal may think that beaders are unoriginal because they/we stereotypically don’t take a project from concept to conclusion, but rather have to learn via patterns and mimicry before we can stand on our own two feet.

But where are you going to find a way to learn to bead unless a) you know someone who does it who is willing to teach you, b) you take classes at a bead store — if there is one near you, or c) you learn through finding pre-made patterns (in print and online) and following them?  I mean, seriously!

It wasn’t until I confronted the idea of going into business with my own jewelry start-up that I found I didn’t have the complete set of skills I’d need to do business in the way I’d want to do it.  I’m gaining that skill now, and I’m slowly de-shocking myself from the scare of potentially treading on someone else’s intellectual property rights.  In two to five years, maybe I could have a viable business.  But there are a lot of things to get in order, first.  Particularly, identity and my target market, plus maybe figuring out what lies behind the drive to bead.

There are a lot of things that I didn’t know about myself that I’m learning about myself, which could gain me a signature style, which could in turn become a brand that I’d be able to sell within the U.S. for U.S. level living-wage money.  Probably not urban living-wage money, unless I’m in a place I don’t want to be, but nonetheless.

I think, though, that one of the reasons there are so many beading pattern books on the market is that really, handwoven beaded jewelry is…it’s expensive in terms of time and design, but not in terms of materials.  It’s also relatively fragile.  So maybe it seems more profitable to sell copies of the patterns and let people make the jewelry themselves, than it is to have a firm which produces and distributes finished beaded jewelry.  Otherwise, most of what I’ve seen comes from outside of this country, and really, how do you compete with a $10 daisy-chain bracelet?

Unless you have a distinct identity, that is — and you know what you’re selling, beyond your product.  Though, of course, that can easily go icky, if you jump to conclusions.  But the reality behind it maybe doesn’t have to be really that bad.  If you’re selling things because you want to celebrate femininity, hey, good on you, you know?  But know that’s what you’re doing, and know the cultural context it takes place in; and the possible problems resulting from the flawed system that your statement only makes sense within.  And know it’s very possible that others will see different meanings in your art than those which you intend.

I think that if I’m really creative — if I really take an unusual tack to what I want to be doing, and I do something which no one else in my part of the world is doing, or which maybe no one is doing anywhere — I think it’s possible to run a handmade jewelry business.  It would be tight, financially, and it would take a lot of time.  Plus, a lot of my attention would be expended on business as versus creation, at least unless I found a partner to manage that side for me.  This is at least a two-person venture, if it’s serious, and more likely eventually at least a 5-person venture.  But hey.  The culture?  The work?  It could turn out nice.

Anyhow, I’ve put this to the side for now as an auxiliary option.  I’m not married and don’t have plans to be, so I’ll have to support myself.  Right now I’m looking at writing and beadwork as things I love, can do relatively easily, and can do immediately.

I promised you a link to a review of Matubo seed beads.  That link is here.  I ran across this by accident; the author displays photos of these beads next to a couple of other brands which I had not seen in action prior, but which I’m considering trying out, now.  Presently, Matubos are only available in 7/0 size (in Czech sizing) — the size is quoted in the article; the difference between the Czech and Japanese sizing relations is something I’ve just inferred from past experience.

Anyhow, happy crafting (or whatever you do out there!)  Treat yourself nice.  :)

beading, beadwork, fiber arts, glass beads, jewelry design, macrame, seed beads, tatting

Adventures in neckpiece design

I was kick-started back into beading recently by someone asking me to make them a blue necklace of a certain length.  :)  This got me thinking on design — my tentative instinct is to go with Oglala (Butterfly) Stitch, a basic form of which I can see between the two versions I’ve seen in books.  Butterfly Stitch is just basically working one or more ruffles off of a center chain.  I’ll have to add at least 3/4″-1″ in length to account for the girth of the thing, but I’m still working on pattern ideas (particularly color placement).

I do have a more interesting project (to me, right now, anyway) where I’m basically using two needles to make a netted collar — I’m not sure if it is even possible to make it with one needle.  Because I’m not working off of a pattern, other than a concept drawing of my own (which didn’t work out the way I’d planned), I’m thinking this is the way I’d design something to sell.  (And then make over and over and over?  ;P)  I mean, I didn’t even start out knowing that the piece would be netted, as versus using chevron stitch, for example.  It just kind of evolved that way.

In fact, I didn’t have much at all in the way of expectations when I started this project.  To me, it was play and a chance to get back into my seed beads.  What’s come of it is a pink/peach/red-violet netted thing with tiny daggers I got somewhere between two and five years ago (a specialty buy — they’re made of a mix of peach and cream glass) and never used.  I also ended up with peanut beads in the “base” row (if you can call it that — it’s woven widthwise, not lengthwise) for texture.  Amazingly, they all tend to orient in one direction.  Plus, the curve caused by the shortness of the “base” row is about right for a collar.  I think I’ve finally got the color scheme down now, unless I want to switch out cranberry for baby pink in the “base” row.

The reason for using the peach beads?  I thought it was a color I’d never use.  And then I started to use them, and realized that what I was making looked a lot like lace.  (See recent blog entries on wanting to make lace.)  At almost the same time I recognized one of my practice pieces from an online pattern (“Picot Delight”) to look like tatted lace (I think this is the time when I’d checked out nearly all of my library’s tatting books, so I had plenty of photos to get an idea of how these things typically looked).

And I mean, originally I started out with a lot of colors which just vaguely and probably coincidentally worked together — the focal point used to be a row of ruby AB teardrop beads (“ruby”-colored glass, not actual ruby).  Then I went through a number of reds, only to come out on the other side with a relatively desaturated red/violet as the focus (4mm Czech “fuchsia” fire-polished rounds), as versus ruby.

Well, let me say that they’re desaturated for this season’s color profile.  In others they would simply be a bit muted — but we have a lot of super-saturated and neon tones out this year.

Anyhow, I basically now have a few swatches — those that haven’t been recycled — which show different points in the design process.  I haven’t been sure how to record the different stages in the design process — through notes?  Photographs?  Drawings? Memory?  I have cut apart and reused the beads in at least 3 samples.  I’ve needed to — I have finite amounts of these beads, a lot of which I can’t depend on finding replacements for, should I run out.  Plus, it takes a lot of pressure off of me when I’m experimenting, to know that if I don’t like it I can just cut it apart, and the only loss will be a short length of thread (and some time — but it’s not time wasted if I learned something).

It’s very clear that my initial concept design isn’t identical to the piece as it will be made.  I could probably go on experimenting with color combinations forever, but the way it looked in the second-to-last trial appears good enough to make.

Speaking of thread, though…I got the idea last night of attaching the clasp with fiber instead of with a beaded loop.  Usually, there’s a loop at the end to catch a toggle or button, and it most often is covered in seed beads to protect a number of different lines of thread.

I was thinking about how to do this better.  I’ve never really liked putting clasps on things, because they take a while to figure out, not to mention that most toggles are beaded beads made of peyote or herringbone stitch.  (Yes! I did find a herringbone beaded-bead pattern, not that I can remember it now, though.)  This is almost always a headache for me, because I don’t like weaving in ends — or odd-count peyote.  And if I use something like one of the very common, very fine, super-strong polythylene threads — it’s known for not holding knots well.  So I have felt obligated to weave in over and over to hold the bead together through friction on the line.

I hate this.

Not only have I broken seed beads within larger beaded beads doing this (causing the entire beaded bead to be a wash), but also a beaded bead’s weave can be distorted depending on the path one takes with one’s needle while one is weaving in.  This is why I recently have taken to collecting buttons with which to finish off necklaces and bracelets.  The plastic ones are probably the ones to get — they’re inexpensive and they aren’t going to scratch the beadwork.  Not to say that I haven’t collected some nice shell and metal buttons.  But sometimes you don’t want metal; and shell can abrade glass.  Or glass can abrade shell.  I know something’s going on; I can hear it scraping.  ;)

But!  Guess what I realized last night?

I can use my skills with knotting to slide a C-Lon cord through a larger bead hole or set of bead holes, then use macrame to secure the ends of the cord.  This way, the beadwoven piece can stand on its own.  There will be two loops of macrame holding on the button and the buttonhole, but if they stretch or break, just cut them off and make new loops; don’t worry about remaking the entire bracelet or necklace.

I actually got the idea from having used wire connections through seed bead holes to finish the ends of ropes before.  If you can put thread through it, you might be able to put cord or wire through it.  The hole just has to be big enough and the bead wall strong and smooth enough to take the pressure.  Also, the thread connecting that bead to the rest of the beads has to be strong enough, so it will probably need reinforcing.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems very promising.  Just don’t do it poorly and make the rest of us look bad!  ;D  *laughs*  (Oh my, I’m not going to go there, am I?  [I’m being cynical.  If you knew me and my posture on elitism, you’d know why.])

I did get a digital camera a while ago, so I might be eventually able to post a tutorial on here or something.  I figure the more of us who do it and do it well, maybe the better buttons will be made.  :D  And that would be totally awesome!


This blog now open to search engines.


This blog just went public.  Search engines are now granted permission to index it.

I figured that since the one visitor I got every 2-3 days was probably linked to the clickjacking warning I kept getting whenever I test-clicked “Like,” (which is the reason there are no more “Likes” on this blog for now), it was like, hey, why not let Google see it?