beading, beadwork, embroidery, fiber arts, glass beads, macrame, seed beads, sewing

Surveying the field…or a part of it.

When I started the Business certificate program, I had the idea of going into business as someone who made jewelry out of seed beads and fiber.  Then I transitioned into “maybe it would be better to do silversmithing,” and after this last bead show, I’ve found that I really do like working with glass, for its versatility and economy.  There’s also the unnecessary drama in and around metals, for me.

So I’m coming back around to “seed beads and fiber,” whether that is knotted, woven, braided, or embroidered.  I just don’t think I realized until Easter (when I was knotting) that a lot of the beaded projects I’ve seen in — well, to be honest, particularly the one knotting book I have which teaches Cavandoli — the designs are actually primarily fiber projects, with beads to accentuate them.  They aren’t primarily beadwork; they’re primarily fiber art, with beads.

For beadwork itself, there’s nothing better (to me, and at this point, anyway) than beadweaving.  I’ve read that techniques in and of themselves cannot be copyrighted, only specific designs can be.  I really hope that’s true.  The most significant difference to me between beaded macrame and beadwoven work is the role of the fiber.  In beadweaving, the fiber itself is generally supposed to be unobtrusive and fall back or nigh-disappear while the beads take center stage; while in macrame, the fibers which the beads are threaded onto are design elements of their own.

Then there is beaded embroidery/bead embroidery, which I really hope to try soon.  I don’t think I’ve ever done it before.  This is a bit more specialized than embroidering on fabric with beads as a design element for a garment (which is what comes to my mind when I write “beaded embroidery”).  This is using beads, thread, and nonwoven fabric to mount stones and create jewelry (which is what comes to my mind when I think of “bead embroidery”).

I’ve also thought of branching out into just plain embroidery, given that the wonderful color mixes of threads are there, tempting me just like a wall of multicolored seed beads does.  If I do this well — and/or if I can get past my gender-related block to sew, this could turn out some really nice stuff.

By the gender thing, I mean in particular that it hasn’t always been the easiest thing for me to deal with being female, and many of the clothing patterns I’ve seen have been strongly gendered in a way that…shows me that I’m not in the designer’s target market.  There are some cooler things, like Folkwear patterns (I still haven’t finished that Nepali blouse mockup), but what I really would like to do would be to alter patterns to suit my own tastes (and body).  I’m just not that good yet.

It would be great for me, if I could disassociate prepackaged, commercialized and marketed femininity — not my version of femininity, but someone else’s — from what I create on the sewing machine.  Unfortunately, though, that kind of mindset gets a lot of external bolstering.  But this doesn’t have to be the way it is.  As, what about men who want to sew for themselves, for starters?  Where are the patterns for them, and/or when we do find those patterns, why is it assumed that a woman will make it for him?

Why does sewing have to be a gendered activity?

Or maybe I just haven’t spent enough time browsing pattern catalogs to find designers fully targeting myself, yet.  Wherever they are, they certainly aren’t easy to find.  Maybe I’d have better luck in a big city sewing store.

Anyhow, I’ll get off the soapbox, now.

But yes.  Little embroidered purses would be an excellent trial, given that I can assemble something coherent out of the multitude of embroidery stitches I’ve found!  I collect cool little purses, so I bet this is why I think it’s a great idea.  ;)

So I’ve said this much about beads and fiber.  I haven’t included kumihimo (Japanese loom braiding) or Chinese or Korean knotting, here, because they’re really on the periphery of my focus, at the moment.  Maybe not forever, but for now, at least.  I mean, I still can’t tie a Garakji, and I did try for a while (it helped to use a tapestry needle).  These things are just a lot harder without a teacher there to help.  I’m seriously lucky I finally figured out the Dorae knot…which took two books together, and hours (and hours) of troubleshooting.

…and, I just realized, I totally forgot about knitting and crochet.  Knitting is probably definitely out, except for spool knitting; crochet, not totally.  There are methods for adding beads to textile works like shawls, and there is bead crochet which, while somewhat predictable, does look nice.  The difficulties come with finishing the ends of the work, in jewelry-making processes.  I don’t like to be overly dependent on commercial findings or adhesives; and that applies to trying to finish kumihimo as well as crochet.

Anyhow.  The third element to this, which I thought of when I realized that I’m dealing with pierced items and things which in a modular or sequential fashion, thread through pierced items, is wire.  Wire can be used in weaving and in other textile processes like knitting, braiding, and crochet.  What is nice about it is that it holds its shape (at least, when hardened), it can be formed and forged, and because of these things, it can add visual and textural interest.

The drawback to any form of metalworking is that it requires specialized tools.  I’m lucky in that I’ve been messing around with jewelry since I was a kid, so I have a bunch of tools already.  Still, though; the setup costs can be relatively expensive.  This goes triple or quadruple when you’re intending to embark on a full-fledged metalwork run, let alone when you’re working in precious metals.

I do have some ideas as to where to pursue private classes in silversmithing, which look pretty good about now.  I’m so new to the field, though, that I can’t really tell what lies ahead, here.  I know that I don’t want to go to an ultra-expensive elite school at this time — not until I’m sure that it’s what I want to do.  And I’m not that sure.  I already made that mistake once, with the Master’s program I bailed on because I thought I wanted to be in the industry, before discovering that it wasn’t as good a match as I’d hoped.  I am not about to pretend that I can practice for a short amount of time and come out the other end of the curriculum as a silversmith or goldsmith.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve found a smaller, competing school, which is about half as expensive as the professional one, and does not require the purchase of any outside tools or materials except for consumable supplies (like lubricant and solder).  One of the classes they give that I know I want to take, is filigree.  But I’m going to have to wait a while, for that one — it has a prerequisite.  At the very least, though, it’s something to keep my eye on.  And then there are the Art Center courses, which are much less expensive than the above, being not-for-profit…also something to keep my eye on!

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