beading, beadwork

color/finish interactions in beadwork

You know, I’ve been looking for a book on color and finish interactions in beadwork for a while.  I’ve found a number of books on color, but most that have caught my eye are related either to painting or to graphic design.  I do have two books on color in beadwork that I think I can list here.  One is _Beaded Colorways_ by Beverly Ash Gilbert.  The other is _Beader’s Guide to Color_ by Margie Deeb.

Both of these, I wish had been longer and more in-depth.  Gilbert’s book focuses on the uses of “bead soup” (mixtures of beads) and freeform off-loom weaving; Deeb’s book lists specific color combinations from an extremely specific listing of colors/finishes — using the Delica system, which is used in the book much like I’ve seen Pantone swatches used in Graphic Design books on color.  The thing with the latter is that I’m unsure how far a limited set of color “recipes” will really get me in making my own creations, though they would most assuredly help push me out of a rut.

The really helpful thing that I’ve liked to play around with in Gilbert’s book has been the color wheels in back…even though there is a drawback here in that I would have liked to have seen different bases for the color wheels.  That is, not all greens will harmonize with all blues — at least, without beads to bridge the tones — and so I would have liked to have gone deeper with pastels, shades, and saturated tones; warm tones versus cool tones versus complex neutrals, and have dealt with overtones more…because I’ve found that the color overtones need to harmonize with each other as much as the base tones themselves, do.  If you have a green with strong warm yellow/brown overtones (say, what I’ve seen as “Asparagus”), and try and match that with a blue/violet, it may not work if the yellow/brown and violet don’t harmonize.  Even though green and blue are the dominant tones and relatively adjacent.

I know I’m stretching this a little here, as a warm dirty olive green isn’t really adjacent to blue/violet.  It’s just to illustrate my point.  If you have a green with warm blue overtones and you want to match it with a blue with cool green overtones, it may work out better though — if we’re going for harmony.  Problem in this scenario isn’t how to bridge the colors though, it’s how to keep them from all blending together.

But I’ve found that with these books on beading, everyone seems to have their own specific…I don’t know if I’d call them reasons to work with beads, but they have their own angle of attack.  So some people will focus largely on color; some will focus on texture and try to see how far they can push a stitch before it breaks; some will almost never use metal findings and won’t give good instructions on how to incorporate them; some will have everything in a book based on one stitch; etc.  So in every book (which I use, at least) that I’ve gotten, there are strong points, or focal points; and points which are weaker.

The thing is that it doesn’t seem really possible to replicate exactly the tone and finish (for example, luster) of a bead on paper.  This is really clear in Deeb’s book…as is the problem of trying to rationalize a fundamentally irrational response, which would be the feelings that certain colors evoke (or are said to evoke), in people.

There are some beads that I have — in particular a few AB (aurora borealis) and Gold Luster colors, where the base color of the bead itself looks nothing like the color that reflects off of the surface of the bead.  Look through the bead to a diffuse light source, and it’s blue; look at the light reflecting off of it, and it’s raspberry red.  How is translucence represented on paper?  How are metallics represented with a flat swatch?  And what about those beads which contain more than one color?

Or how about the color-changing variants of Austrian crystal?  Do we photograph them in cool light?  Warm light?  Daylight?  And how do we photograph and reprint these photos so that what is seen on the page actually looks like what is seen by the eye?  (With a photography expert, a computer graphics expert, and a printing expert?)

And then we have color interactions — how the same color will look different depending on its immediate neighbors, and what colors (and finishes!) will “pop”, or “recede”, depending on the beads they’re paired with.  As, say, matte beads are known to relatively recede; and silverlined, and opaque, to jump forward.

What I see a need for is a book that shows how to combine different colors and finishes with an eye to design, by an author who can actually put words to why some combinations work and why others don’t.  The major problems I can see, are 1) the cost of making such a book (can you imagine the number of ink colors needed to print it?), 2) the close collaboration and expertise required to even be able to produce the book and have it be worth anything, and 3) how quickly such a book would become outdated, given that color trends change from year to year.

Maybe I need to make my own reference, and pair it with bead samples (and hope the samples don’t fade?)  Or, I need to be with others who are experimenting with the same thing.  It just seems like there should be a better way to learn this than through trial-and-error…

Disclaimer:  No, I’m not getting paid for this.  I’m just someone who likes to work with beads, and is experiencing an increasing desire to share my joy with others…

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