beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, glass beads, jewelry

Art Jewelry vs. Craft Jewelry

OR, is Art really superior to Craft? About a decade ago, I recall reading something in one of my beading or jewelry magazines, about the differences between Art, Craft, Fine, and Fashion Jewelry. At this point, I would add in Body Jewelry to the mix — it was likely still fringe, at the time.

Exactly which magazine title it was, and which issue, is something that will take manual lookup — though I may have xeroxed the relevant pages out of a Library copy. I should really go through my archives. (Well — “archives” — they aren’t really incredibly organized or cataloged, just notes, records, and other things that I’ve considered worth saving over the years, as regards beadwork.)

I’ve started looking through my backlog, but I know it was in a magazine, and I have over ten pounds’ worth of magazines here (actually, about 13 lbs., if my scale is correct). I’m not entirely up to looking for it, right now.

What I do with beads, beadweaving, wire, and micro-macramé with seed beads, would be considered “craft jewelry”. Although it can range into “art jewelry”, which is generally more about one-of-a-kind pieces, stones (often including individual unique stones), and metalwork (for example: Designing From the Stone by Lisa Barth), I haven’t reached the point in my development where I can yet bezel a cabochon using a beaded method, and have the cabochon still show through to my satisfaction.

I do have some (as yet unimplemented) help in making beaded bezels, though. Jamie Cloud Eakin has a really nice book out called Dimensional Bead Embroidery, which clearly shows a number of methods of making beaded bezels. She also has another book out (Bead Embroidery Techniques: Bezels) which goes a little more deeply into bezels in specific, though it isn’t the only one of hers to mention the topic. Because of the nature of her type of work, which uses unique stones and unique designs, I’d say it does range into art jewelry.

I don’t know where I got this idea, but somehow there is this thought in my mind about art being “better than” craft. This was challenged, however, by a recent episode of A Craftsman’s Legacy, where the host (Eric Gorges) was interviewing an armorer (James Arlen) who said that armor made as “art” was generally less functional than armor made as “craft”. It’s not often that I hear someone defend craft in its own right (usually it is assumed that “art” is superior — I don’t fully know why, though I suspect it has to do with historically gendered practices and gender politics), so I do remember it. I also know that “Art Jewelry” is sometimes considered as “wearable art,” though not all of it is something one would want to wear.

As I’m writing this, I recall hearing about the Arts & Crafts Movement in my Art classes. I don’t remember all the information, but I know that those in this movement aspired to high-quality workmanship. This was in contrast, and likely in protest to, the advent of mass production after the Industrial Revolution. I wouldn’t be surprised if art jewelry is a continuation of this idea, though at present it is difficult to avoid working with mass-produced sheet and wire, unless you’re on the level of a traditionally-trained goldsmith and cast your own ingots.

I’m not entirely sure where the idea of, “art being better than craft,” came from…though I wouldn’t be surprised if it had to do with certain large craft stores stocking predominantly inexpensive (“cheap”) products. Charles Lewton-Brain has an article up on Ganoksin about the difference between art and craft. Lewton-Brain is a well-regarded authority where it comes to jeweling, and Ganoksin is a standard jeweling resource.

In any case, making jewelry out of pre-made components — like beads, and thread or cord — generally qualifies as craft (although, right now, I am coming to the realization that most if not all jewelry-making is craft, even if qualified by also being art). When I was in my silversmithing class, the work I was doing in this vein (a Dutch Spiral chain) wasn’t taken seriously by my instructor, even though it ended up being an integral part of my final design.

She didn’t say why — whether it was because she had no reference for it, whether it was because she couldn’t grade it, whether it was a safety hazard (broken beads on a concrete floor are crushed glass), or whether it was straight-out elitism. (I did, however, get people asking how I made it, and I could respond that it was a well-known technique, not a proprietary one.)

After all, it’s not like beaded jewelry, isn’t jewelry (regardless of the fact that the term, “jewelry,” used in the Jewelry field, typically refers to the products of metalwork). It performs the same function: to decorate someone’s body. I’m not sure the method of that decoration’s construction (in beadwork, at least) is really negatively judged by the people I would sell to.

It’s also a bit hypocritical to state that beaders or handcrafters rely on pre-made components (and that they thus are not as creative as jewelers), when I doubt that most jewelers find and hand-cut their own stones, or refine and process their own metals (normally into sheet, wire, or casting grain). I can’t pretend that there isn’t a lot of work put into finishing and polishing a metal piece, or that there isn’t more creative freedom in metalwork. However: it’s false to state that beaders are uncreative relative to jewelers, because of the materials or processes they work with.

There are also major differences in aesthetic relative to the different branches.

For instance, a lot of Fine Jewelry uses glittery cut gemstones that are not likely to show up in Art Jewelry to such a degree. The value of Fine Jewelry also in part rests in the perceived value of its materials (often gold or silver and gems, which allow a higher profit margin). As a Craft Jeweler, I can’t say the same to the latter; though I know at the same time that I am not a Fashion Jeweler. Fashion Jewelry is mostly inexpensive, mass-produced, on-trend jewelry which — like a lot of on-trend fashion clothing marketed to women — is not made to last. This is likely why so many cabochons (“cabs”) are glued into their settings, instead of actually set by rolling and smoothing the edge of the bezel over the cab. When something is just held in by glue, it tends to fall out.

In my own work, I’ve needed to look for more durable materials — given that threads are the most vulnerable part of any beadwoven work. For years, I used Nymo, which used to be industry-standard — until I saw one of my pieces fuzz out after two years of heavy wear — wear which I never expected and could not have predicted. Right now I’m using K.O./Miyuki thread for beadwoven items, and C-Lon for micro-macramé. We’ll see if they last.

A key reason I am as interested in beadwork as I am, are the colors and shapes available in beads, particularly glass seed beads. This is not something that I can easily attain in metalwork unless I 1) use reactive metals, 2) heavily use colored stones, or 3) use enamels. The use of colored stones is fairly self-evident, so I’ll move on to the other two.

Reactive metals are metals like titanium and niobium, which change color when subjected to certain processes like anodization. Although other metals can also change color when exposed to certain processes (like what results in a “fire patina” on copper), it’s fairly certain that color is not a central component of metalsmithing. Enameling is something I’ve considered, but there are two hazards I know of: 1) radiation from the kiln, and 2) harmful vapors from molten colored glass.

One of my friends works near a stained-glass supply, and has noted that people working with stained glass tend to get sick. I’m thinking that this has to do not only with glass dust, but also with glass colorants. Vapor of colored glass is likely another level of potential harm — and I say that having seen some of the potential of enamel. It can really be gorgeous. However, enameling requires the use of either a torch or a kiln…and as you may recognize from my past posts, I’m not too eager to use fire.

There is also the danger of burning out one’s retinas from staring into a hot kiln (this is the “radiation” problem)…if I’m correct and that is a risk with enamel, as well as with lampwork. There are protective goggles one can get; but that still won’t protect one’s lungs (I would suspect a danger of silicosis); and kilns are expensive, so I should be sure I want to enamel, before I invest in one.

Though I do like working with glass beads, we do still have a long way to go, where it comes to glass colorants. There are some colors, that is, that are just difficult (or prohibitively expensive) to create. Colorants can extend all the way through the glass, be added on to the outside of a bead as a coating (these have various levels of quality and durability, and range from what looks like paint, to metallics, to some gorgeous specialty coatings), be applied as a dye, or be applied to the inside of a bead hole, allowing color to show through to the outside (these are called “color-lined” beads).

Unfortunately, for example, it’s difficult to create a base color of violet for glass, so many violet beads are actually dyed or color-lined. (Both of these methods have problems with longevity.) However, with the new coatings that are being developed for use with glass, it’s possible to have a bead with a base color of blue or brown, and have an iridescent sheen on the surface which causes the bead to appear as violet, even a reddish violet. (I’m not entirely sure of the optical explanation for this; I just know it happens.)

There are also glass colors which are apparently really easy to make, and very common and beautiful. Teal is one of these colors, as is (yellow) topaz. Cobalt Blue is another representative color, which is close to an uncoated blue-violet. Reds and pinks contain gold as part of their formulation and so are relatively expensive, but are an interesting example in how glass colors are made. Though I can speculate, I don’t know the chemistry of glass formulations yet. Maybe if I got into lampwork, I could; though I don’t use many lampwork beads.

The fact also remains that those who are making jewelry out of beads, are depending on the prior work of crafters and manufacturers, and it would be arrogant to ignore that. The problem, I see, is that “craft” connotes low quality, whereas “art” implies something valuable and refined. There is also the issue of interdependence with others, and creation as a collective task, as versus the American myth of total and complete individualism.

At this point, having written, seen, and read all this (and in addition what I reference below), I do feel better about calling what I do, “craft work,” especially considering that I’ve realized that on a level — at least in handmade jewelry, as a decorative art — all art work is also craft work.

There is also the fact that, in Japanese society (I’ve been studying this and have Japanese influence in my cultural background), there is value and pride placed in being (and excelling as) a craftsperson; and as I read at Britannica.com, the distinction between fine art, and, “decorative art,” is a recent one. See the second paragraph of, “High and low art,” which may shed some initial light on the history (if, that is, it is accurate). This is the first time I’ve actually seen someone speak to the source of this, as occurring in the 18th century.

It would be interesting to research the history of this categorization of fine art as versus craft, and compare it with the timing of the Industrial Revolution and the Arts and Crafts Movement, which according to Wikipedia (accessed July 31st, 2019), flourished in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The question for me at this point, though possibly a misled and irrelevant one, is what differentiates craft which is also art, from craft which is simply craft: a deeper message? an emotional response? liberated (or ineffectual) design? For that matter: I never really considered myself a decorative artist. I don’t think it would help, though maybe if I subtracted my feelings on the mildly pejorative “decorative” (as though jewelry is only for aesthetic pleasure; not identity, or message, or the enhancement of beauty; and then what is the aesthetic, why does it have value, and are beauty, identity, communications, and aesthetics frivolous; and if so, on what grounds) from the title and kept the definition, it might.

At this point, it seems that the distinction between high art and decorative art is academic and irrelevant — to a crafter. It’s more relevant if I’m trying to distinguish myself from being a crafter, though the major gains from that would be monetary.

The fact remains that in my own work, I’ve chosen to deal with creating things, regardless of whether that leads me to work with fiber, or beads, or paint, or pens and graphite, or digital media, or the written word.

Of course, there are still some media I prefer over others, for reasons I’m not entirely aware of (other than my knowledge that I value precision). I’m just going to have to let these reasons show themselves, as I continue working…

Business, craft, creativity, design, money, writing

What is it that I liked about Web Design?

Looking over recent job ads, I find that I have the beginnings of varied job paths — lots of areas to explore. The thing is, they’re lots of beginnings! What I have continuing practice in is, largely, writing. Surprise. ;) There’s that, and various arts and crafts that I’ve tasted…most of which, I’ve loved (I have the dubious distinction of being interested in, and wanting to do, way more than I can allocate time and resources to). The question has been, what it is that I can do with those skills that will make the investment of time, money, and energy, worth it.

I just got the idea of working the arts and crafts (and/or writing) into my immediate future employment plans, by seeking out employment at local stores, like fabric and yarn and art supply and bead stores. (I’ve recently been told that my parents have nothing against my taking a retail job, though that came as a surprise to me.) The thing is, my interest in retail is limited to what I’m interested in…it’s not retail for retail’s sake, it’s retail for community’s sake.

I don’t know if that plan is going to work, but customer service skills are of use in libraries, no kidding. Library training will also help me in customer service, it’s fairly obvious to me at this point.

If I’m planning (or hoping) to be a professional writer, like a copywriter (in addition to being a part-time library worker), it makes sense to keep up a portfolio site. I’m pretty sure I have several months before my creative writing site goes down. (There’s not a lot on it — I haven’t had it in me to generate fiction, recently. I’m pretty sure a lot of it has to do with not reading a lot of fiction, other than some literary magazine stuff.)

And, of course, what I do with a professional online presence, really depends on my Web Development skills. I’m somewhat torn between self-hosting and using wordpress.com, for that. I have experience with both; wordpress.com is convenient, but self-hosting provides many more options, including the ability to build the site from the ground up.

After I end this last Library Science class, I’ll be able to get back to my JavaScript course, and to my self-study (PHP, JavaScript, MySQL), although I’m aware that the back end of tech work isn’t my favorite place to be. I am also aware that I give up a lot of control if I don’t know how it works, and depend on a third party to moderate my interaction with it.

Granted that there are different levels of moderation. Working on the back-end of a site which just happens to include a WordPress installation, is different from trying to coax WordPress into doing what I want it to do, as my only option. It works, if you’re wholly focused on content, but if you want to tweak and customize everything…it’s more direct to just self-host.

Knowing at least one Web Programming language is the last key to my knowing if I want to work with Web Development at all, as versus Web Design or Web Production. I mean — you know. If we’re talking about the Web and its Webular Webaliciousness (okay, I’ll stop).

I do have issues with wanting to have as much personal control over my creations as I can. Thus, I can see the use in learning the back end of website production…though I think that the parts of making sites that I like…are the design of the site, and the production of content (text, images [when I can use image editors that are intuitive]; I haven’t gone into video or audio, yet). I still get a sense of accomplishment or something, when I see that I’ve built something new, and I feel the need to keep updating. In that case…constructing Web sites is like any other craft for me, only it’s virtual.

In other words, I have fun making the human-facing parts. The technical stuff, like the programming behind the scenes beyond HTML and CSS (which aren’t actually programming languages, they’re markup and styling), I’m not as into, largely because it requires the use of rigorous logic. I’m not entirely…satisfied? with logic. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’d rather be talking to people with complex minds, than talking to a machine which only knows two digits.

That could be it…

(Or maybe it’s a community thing here, too?)

I know there’s some pattern — maybe interest in the Humanities (arts, crafts, writing) versus interest in Computer Science? I’m not getting the connection totally, but it’s almost midnight. How can I expect my mind to function right now? :)

I’ll come back to it later, hopefully. :)

art, craft, creativity, food, needlework, painting, paper crafts, personal, sewing

Switching between modes?

Now that I know there are no additional assignments for my course and the end is in sight, I’m feeling a good deal better about it. For the past few days, I’ve been chipping away at this, trying to get it done before I need to. The bright spot here is that I’m now ahead of schedule, to the point that I can relax a bit.

By next Friday, I hope to be totally done, though through Tuesday (it’s currently Friday), I’ll have at least half-day commitments.

I’ve decided to use library computers for my ongoing job research; at least, where it comes to accessing previously unknown websites. Although I’m using a relatively high amount of security on my computer, I encounter enough broken links to make me cautious. (Actually, the cautiousness pre-dates the security — it was just validated by my need to keep myself online while I was in school.)

I’ve also written my last thank-you note from Graduation. :) That was more fun than I expected…I got to draw with translucent and opaque markers on top of a printed card. I also included one of my tatted butterflies (which seemed to legitimate the process of having made it). So the paper-crafting…I’m wondering about combining it with sewing. I don’t know how that would eventually work out, but I got the idea by using one of my awls to punch holes in the card, in order to tie on the butterfly (which I did with a needle and thread).

I really really really want to do something with a needle and thread. I’m not sure whether this will be hand stitching (like quilting or garment work), or embroidery — or beadweaving — though maybe I shouldn’t categorize it, at this point. Maybe I should just start piecing things, or embroidering samples to be stitched together later. I did see some really nice counted-thread needlework at the State Fair which encompassed shapes (curves) that I didn’t expect; but I’m not sure I’m that precision-focused.

What I did do today was practice my tatting. I’m still working on combining rings and chains, and haven’t yet had to restart my current sample (though I want to do it in pink and red instead of ecru and green). I’ve learned to watch for having put in the correct number of double stitches and picots before closing loops, and to keep from inadvertently catching threads within those loops before closing them. Because the pattern I’m working with now always has four double stitches before a picot (loop) or a join or turn, it’s easy to remember. And I am getting better — my hands mostly remembered the motions.

The really good point about this? I’m using DMC #5 perle cotton, which comes in tons of colors and is super cheap, so I don’t feel bad about using up expensive thread while learning. Really, the most expensive things are the tatting shuttles, and they’re reusable.

Since Wednesday, I haven’t physically worked on painting at all (unless you consider buying pads of quality watercolor paper, work; I’ve learned not to), though I have watched some instructional videos on painting. I suppose it’s easier to keep doing something I’m already doing (working on the computer), than it is to switch modes into something else.

However…let’s see. What have I been doing for the last three days?

So Wednesday, I was basically studying. Yesterday (Thursday) I did some produce shopping, specifically after things I could cook and eat, which weren’t sweet. Today (Friday) was the gym, and cooking. That was long beans with mild (Italian?) sausage, onion, green onion, a little hoisin, a little soy sauce, and a little sesame oil. It turned out surprisingly well, though D suggests using ground pork next time, so that I can tweak the seasonings myself (instead of having to deal with the sausage, which had some surprising flavors of salt and anise — although I have had Chinese recipes with star anise before [like Red-Cooked Chicken]).

I still need to shower, wash my clothes, and maybe change my sheets. Tomorrow, I might be able to hit the Farmer’s Market for stone fruit. We bought maybe 10 lbs. (D estimated) of stone fruit last week, and I’ve eaten the majority of it (that is, I haven’t had to toss much moldy fruit from that batch). That has had some odd consequences for my digestion and my weight, but I haven’t gotten upset stomach, yet. (That can happen.) The thing about Farmer’s Markets is that they have fresher and riper fruit than most of the stores.

I picked up some kale and Savoy cabbage to cook with bacon; I also bought materials for mushroom chicken (yellow, zucchini, and white zucchini squash; we have the mushrooms and frozen chicken breast). I’m thinking the kale is going to be the next thing to become unusable, though, meaning I should probably aim to prepare it as soon as feasible. (It generally just gets wilted and mildewy [fresh kale should never smell like mildew at the store], but it’s easy to replace.) The Savoy cabbage is the regular Savoy (a compact head), not Salad Savoy (a blossom-looking thing), so it will likely last longer.

EDIT: Actually, mushroom chicken with rice, sounds good for tomorrow’s dinner.

And, right: I got Poblano chiles and onion, to try and make rajas. I found out when making corn salsa last week, that scorched Poblanos with the skins peeled off are really delicious. You just take the seeds and ribs out and put them face-up under the broiler until the skin blisters and darkens and pulls away, then you can take the skin off (after they cool)…and the chile tastes excellent, just like that. I was really surprised. Rajas, as I’ve gotten them in restaurants, have Poblanos and roasted onion, though I am not sure how to do the onion, yet; I’m planning to try and broil them with the Poblanos.

On a wide scale, I’m looking at the probability of switching between modes of thought and behavior, moreso than now. I’m wondering if it will be possible to do detail and system-oriented technical work for my job, and not let that have an effect where I’m impacted in my creativity, at home and in my art. I mean, actually, work on not letting that have an effect, as a goal, and reason to pursue the Art.

Maybe my art can be my time to break loose from systems and precise, regimented thinking.

Well — there’s also a gradual transition here from being a student, into becoming a fully-functioning adult…which is a place I haven’t fully occupied, before. That is a good thing (the former, not the latter)! I mean, if I look at what I’ve been doing today, it’s normal life stuff. That hasn’t been “normal” for me, for a long time, if I’ve ever even been in a place like this, before…

art, career, creativity, fine arts, painting, psychology

Other people and their rules ;)

I think I’ve been learning some stuff about myself, particularly through the observation of workplace dynamics; and getting into both Cataloging and watercolors — and realizing what strengths each draw off of. It’s kind of instructive, actually, getting to know where people are coming from, which gives insight into why they say what they do.

One of these people is an artist, and the other is very focused on rules and propriety. Though they’re both very social, the tension between them is hard to ignore. In turn, I can see this as an outward reflection of my own tendencies (especially where it has been obvious they have each connected with and encouraged me in areas in which they specialize, or want to specialize).

I recently signed up for a Watercolor class in order to invest some time in my right-hemispherical thinking. I mean: I’ve done this for work. Why wouldn’t I do it for myself? (As a side note, it was much easier to get back to work on the Cataloging homework, after I had done this.)

A large issue I’m dealing with in my Art is the perceived need to plan, and killing spontaneity. I’m pretty sure this has to do with trying to pigeonhole and rationalize everything and make it methodical and rule-bound and systematic, which is a tendency encouraged by my study and my work. I’m trying to get away from it, though it’s difficult.

It may be made more difficult by medication which brings the rational part of my mind forward. When I was younger, unmedicated, and dealing with a couple of different diagnoses, it was much easier to be creative. Right now, though, I’m trying to work through a block, which makes it hard to even sit down to paint. I know I could be doing other things with my time, on which I would get more of a monetary return…but then the question is, does everything in life have to be directly about money? Or business? Or survival?

I guess that’s what a semester of Microeconomics will get you. That, in turn, descends from a dream of being able to make a living doing what you love. Making money off of what you love means monetizing it; meaning either you’ve gotta get creative and you’ve gotta have a lot of hope, (or be married or independently wealthy,) or it’s probably not going to happen.

Or, I could just be negative on this point. What I see is that being a professional artist entails a lot of risk — more risk than I’m willing to bear. From what I hear, it’s also hard to repay art-school loans, because of low returns after graduation.

Then there’s the question of why I wouldn’t invest in myself and my own happiness, and what I want to do in my life, besides work. It’s kind of obvious why I would want to take a watercolor class, because I could use assistance in restarting. However, I don’t think that community college is the way to go, this time.

For one thing, I’ve already gotten an AA in Art…though I could take higher levels of Watercolor and get back into Drawing, I’m not sure of the use of that without access to upper-division and Master’s levels of work. There’s also the question of where or how I would use the skills, which makes the cost of tuition seem unreasonable. In addition to that, I haven’t heard anyone say how much they appreciated art school (not community college, but art school); the ones I’ve known (college instructors) seem to think that it put in too many barriers between them and what they wanted to create.

I know that in my case, there were a lot of personal preferences passed down from my instructors’ instructors, that got emplaced as gospel for the entire class…which started as just one person’s personal preference. I mean, I heard a lot of stuff (I’m paraphrasing, here) like, “paint from life, not from a photograph,” “always paint the edges of your canvas,” “loosen up,” “what are you afraid of,” “don’t make sketchy marks, find a line and commit to it,” “don’t draw anime in that teacher’s class,” “don’t use opaque white in watercolors,” “draw the entire image at once, not one section at a time,” etc.

To people who know what the art-speak above means, it might be seen as helpful, even if just because it’s culturally ingrained; however, what is unhelpful is the fact that your students (especially at community-college/lower-division undergraduate level) may not understand that art-speak; and all these rules that you’re giving them, should they take them to heart while not understanding them; why you said them; what you meant; what the history is behind what you meant; or how to do what you’re asking them to do; are likely to impede what would otherwise be their natural growth. Growing on their own may cause them to shed what you see as bad habits, in the future, by themselves. But your discouragement and insistence that they be masters now, risks freezing their process so they never reach that point.

This is in addition to all the would-be teachers on the Internet who have their own opinions and angles and judgments of other peoples’ work and process and why theirs is better (and, likely fortunately, I can’t remember what I was referencing, here — other than minor incidents). The issue is that if you take everyone’s opinions to heart, you just basically can’t do jack without doing it in some way that someone will call wrong, and you would accept it as wrong, because you’ve already decided to let those peoples’ self-serving opinions override your own judgments of quality. So then, taken to an extreme: if you internalized every criticism someone leveled on process online, you couldn’t ever do anything “right.”

Giving a list of forbidden practices instills a sense of inferiority in someone who is just trying to help themselves develop. There is a case for pruning back bad habits, but you don’t prune a sapling back until it’s a stick and expect it to flourish (though sometimes it happens, if you get one with enough life force).

And doing things, “right,” or, “according to the rules,” makes some people feel safer. As in Cataloging, which is an extremely regimented method of making sense out of content, with the dual aims of access, and uniformity. My coworker who is apparently into Cataloging has expressed a fondness for rules which I don’t share, except when they allow me to shift the blame of enforcing a rule (which I didn’t make) off of myself, onto Library policy. (Bureaucracy at work…)

An example — an easy one — is the question of whether motor vehicle accidents would still happen if everyone followed the rules of the road. Most people do, most of the time, which is probably why the roads aren’t more full of carnage. But there’s an assumption that if everyone followed the rules, no one would get hurt. Is it true? I’m not sure. (What I can be sure of is that it’s a good thing that most people follow most of the rules, most of the time, because it makes things largely predictable, except for the errant vehicles which pop up on a daily basis…)

Then there’s the question of whether some rules are justified, or impact certain groups more than others. For example, the question of whether two people of the same sex can marry, which disproportionately affects non-straight people; or the question of whether abortion is ever a morally justifiable option, which almost exclusively affects women (I say, “almost,” because there are female people who do not consider themselves women, and there are men who were born with female anatomy, who can still carry children).

In other words…questions of right and wrong are being brought up in my life, right now, I suppose. It’s clear to me that I do consider myself a very ethically integral person, but I also know that sometimes ethical integrity means breaking rules (as rules aren’t always neutral, beneficial, or morally justifiable; they’re just rules). Dealing with the Art, and the avoidance of the Art, along with observing the psychologies of my co-workers, and dealing with the possibility of becoming a Librarian, is bringing this up for me.

Though I’m pretty sure that systematizing my thought isn’t something that I want to aim for, at this point. After all, I’m not a machine…

color, creativity, painting

So…I did start painting, again.

It’s nothing much, and I don’t have photos to share at this time (nor am I rushing to photograph things this late at night); but I wanted to note that I actually have started watercolor painting, again. Yesterday, I broke back in with a number of semi-random color gradients and one of the Neptune round brushes I bought months and months ago, and didn’t prioritize time to try out.

The upshot is that the Neptune brushes are actually pretty sweet. Today I went and bought a number of specialty brushes from this line (bulk discount of over 50%) — by that I mean, not flats or rounds. It’s interesting to see how they perform. In particular, I’m interested in a 3/4″ wash brush which makes painting in watercolor almost feel like painting in acrylic, and a “dagger” brush which is cut at an angle, making it capable of tiny fine lines and broad swaths in the same stroke, while carrying and slowly releasing a heavy paint load.

My largest watercolor brush before having gotten the 3/4″ Neptune flat today, has been an ox-hair 1″ flat (I believe this was a Utrecht brush, from before the time at which Utrecht was acquired by Blick). The ox-hair holds a lot of water, so it’s great for wetting down sheets of paper; but it also holds way too much paint to be able to easily use for anything other than washes. It also…to the best of my memory, doesn’t have as much snap as any of my other brushes. It’s more like the soft, natural-hair rounds I used as a kid, that had no real point to their tips, and little recovery. (I believe these are called “camel-hair” brushes…but realistically, I have no idea what type of filament those were, other than natural hair: I could feel the one-directional nap of the hair’s scales.)

Of course, then, the most I was doing were little watercolors of fish with Prangs, and those little paint-by-number things that activate with water. :)

I actually had a conversation with M about her frustration that I haven’t gone as quickly back to painting as she would have hoped. It has been seven months since the work for my Master’s degree concluded. I find it not out of the realm of possibility that I’ve been slow to get back to this, in part, because I’m having to accelerate from zero.

I did not do any drawing or painting while I was working on my degree…and it’s tough to restart a creative practice, from nothing. It’s especially not reasonable to expect someone to return to the level they were at before they were forced away from their work, immediately upon concluding the thing that took up all their time (and which they are used to taking up all their time).

Anyhow…what I’ve been doing is largely trying to figure out how my brushes work, again, and how my paints work, again — and, you know, which paints I used where in my palette, as I stupidly did not make a palette sheet that was exactly correct and notated, during all the times at which I was painting out samples. So, for example, I had to color-match new swatches with Holbein Isoindolinone Yellow Deep, to know that it wasn’t Winsor Yellow Deep; or Winsor & Newton, “Indian Yellow;” or Daniel Smith Permanent Yellow Deep.

(I’ve gone to efforts to procure warm tones that are less toxic than cadmium pigments, so that’s why you’ll see me refer to various yellows and oranges, in particular, such as the Pyrrole colors and Hansa Yellows. I have not yet made my way into the duller colors such as the Perinones…I’m thinking it’s easy enough to dull down a color, though I’ve seen beautiful mixes made with colors like Perinone Violet and Transparent Red Oxide.)

I am also realizing the inefficacy of Sap Green as used unmixed, and the beautiful mix I was able to make with Prussian Blue (a muted greenish blue) plus Green Gold plus a bit of Viridian. It’s as close as I’ve been able to come to a deep, jewel-tone green…and I love it. It’s so weird, because Green Gold is a very distasteful color (to me) on its own, but it renders gorgeous greens when added on top of either another green, or blue; maybe with a yellow added in at the end (granted there are different yellows). This outcome is the reason why I’m willing to try (in the future) the Perinones, and other colors I wouldn’t use on their own.

It’s also kind of funny how Cobalt Turquoise Light (the color of a tropical lagoon) makes a violet, together with Magenta. I’ve looked at other people’s mixing charts, but I don’t think I’ll be making one, as each mix really…is variable, depending on the ratios of two pigments to each other, and it only gets more complicated when you start mixing three or more colors. I can’t seriously suggest (even to myself) that one color is the final outcome of a mixture of any two paints.

Of course, though, unless I had practiced just straight color mixing (in a watercolor class, at the time), I wouldn’t have known that Phthalo Green with Permanent Rose made such a stunning array of colors!

And yes, I do feel silly for having so many different pigments when I could do with just three primaries; but I’m seriously really into color, and I find it one of the most interesting aspects of image-making. M kind of doesn’t understand this…I have a habit of collecting different colors in pretty much every art and craft medium I’ve used, with the exception of ceramics. I know it’s annoying.

It’s late for me here; I should really get some rest. I didn’t intend to sit here writing, all night…I just got into the color topic. :) I can kind of go on and on about color…so I’ll stop myself here.

I just want to add, as possible fodder for a future post, the way that painting can grow organically out of drawing…I know what I mean by that, and have some clue as to how it happened, for me. It’s tough to start back into painting, having been out of practice at even (!) drawing, for months or years…

painting, philosophy, psychology

Getting sick of English language

I’m not sure if it’s the effect of having had to read so much technical and academic writing (actually, it likely is), but I’m beginning to have a sort of dread toward reading in English. It’s also possible that my current vision is…well, I know it isn’t good, and that isn’t helping. I’ve just ordered a couple of pairs of new glasses, but still: my current prescription is the same as the last.

I’m not entirely assured that it’s accurate, particularly as it was done by a student, after a night where I stayed up much too late, devouring a couple of eBooks. So…I’m not entirely certain what was up with my eyes, that day. (My previous prescription was stronger than what the student would have given me, so she deferred to the prior prescription.)

Anyhow…it will be nice, once I’m able to read things for pleasure, again — without my eyes burning. The glasses I’m using now have anti-blue-light coating but no tint outdoors, after years of having gone with Transitions lenses…which normally have a slight tint, even indoors. It’s kind of tough to have no sunglasses which one can see through, let alone drive in…

Right now, for pleasure reading, I’ve got some stuff lined up on why evil exists (seen through a lens of biology — which is much less triggering than reading about failures of certain political projects), and the apparent human tendency to be delusional.

The annoying point is that the person leveling the claims to the latter only relates it back to religious faith, claiming that irrationality is religion’s fault. No, religion is an outgrowth of inherent human irrationality. On top of that, irrationality isn’t always a bad thing — I say as someone who has lived much of their life studying the Humanities: religion, philosophy, language, culture. (But I have to say that, or else my life so far has been wasted, you see.)

I’ve also had to deal with delusions, before. This is to the extent that I can now recognize the basis of it, in the normal human population. The biggest issue I can see as regards the danger of faith, relates to a kind of slippery-slope fallacy, which leads me to the question: If we are able and willing to believe one thing without proof (or in the face of vastly inherent improbability, keeping in mind that life existing is also apparently inherently vastly improbable), how many other things will we also accept as reality, without proof?

And for that matter, what counts as proof? When you’re a writer, the supposed magic behind the writing and organization of a work — I mean, writing and literacy does still kind of seem like magic to me, largely because I still don’t understand how learning works — it’s still a little far to claim that anything expressed in writing is of necessity, holy, because of the form of its transmission.

At the point of having reached the question of where we draw the line as to claims we accept as real without verification, I’m led to question the motivations behind the claims. I think in a normal debate, though, we would be worried only with the claims, not the motivation of the person making the claims. The question of qui bono is there, and that’s a good thing, but I’m thinking…it may be too limited for my purposes, which is to figure out the motivation behind claims and actions, instead of taking those claims and actions at face value (as though they came from a machine, or other logical source).

Although…that kind of gets into the question of why anyone writes, or says, anything; why we create meaning around ourselves in the world, even when we know that we’re only doing it because not to do it means facing the reality of what, before the advent of our being able to wipe out the majority of life on the planet, had been our temporality, insignificance, ignorance (we are so ignorant!), and fear, in the eyes of a hypothetical Nature. (Though, to look at it from a naturalistic perspective, we and this planet may still be insignificant; a sad loss, should we wipe ourselves [and our potential] out, but not one that has, to our knowledge, so far impacted other planetary life. Even if we had, our reach would be, of necessity, limited.)

The problem with assuming the source, here, to be logical: to assume that also means to recognize that sometimes it intentionally displays deception, with a potential for hostility that a machine (at this time) doesn’t have. When that part of the story is uncovered, it may feel safer to believe that the source is simply out-of-control and insane: an insane person (someone who is legally incapable of telling right from wrong) wouldn’t recognize what they were doing. They wouldn’t intentionally be evil.

But I don’t really know what to think about this, anymore. I used to not think that evil was a thing. Then, you know, I lived a little — or came out of my denial a little — and some of the things I’ve witnessed kind of fit under that heading.

Before anyone guesses, yes, I have attempted to psychologically analyze my own writing, before. It’s a major part of why I initially stopped writing. :) (I am assuming that “psychological analysis” means something different and more generic than “psychoanalysis,” which was largely the realm of Freud and Jung, in the late 19th, into the 20th century.) It’s possible to be way too close to your own work to be able to work out why you said what, when; and then it is also possible to be so judgmental towards yourself that you think you know why, and that you need to stop that mess from coming out of you before you make the world an even worse place to live.

But, I think, everyone’s a mess, initially; and I don’t think anyone is really wholly exempt from being (or becoming) a mess. I guess that’s why lovingkindness exists, though I’ve never been too good at that. (I mean, seriously. Just…)

In any case, I started this off thinking that I really need to get back to painting. I am not sure of my motivations, except for the fact that so much of my life has had to do with language, recently, that I really just want to deal again with shape and color. (I’m not sure if “form” fits in there, seriously.) I just need to get back to my colors, and my brushes, and properly not worry about people claiming that I “saved” my painting with the addition of gouache. Just…no.

jewelry, metalsmithing, self care

18g earrings back in. Reconsidering metalsmithing. Procrastination or overwork (I’m not sure which).

Not much of note has happened in my life, recently. I did, last night, put in my 18 gauge earrings, which are basically circles of surgical steel wire. Because they’re so thin, they tend to deform rather than accept the (tiny) bead that is supposed to help them close. I realized last night that I didn’t actually need the bead for something this small, and just threaded them in and pinched them so that they wouldn’t fall out. I should have about six weeks before I know for a fact that I can increase the gauge. So I can go up to 16g on the 25th of August, or later; assuming I don’t take the 18g rings out, until then.

A long time ago, I did think it was OK to “gauge up” early (given that I’ve gone up and down in gauge ever since I was first pierced), but at this point I’m more reserved about it. For some reason, the piercings aren’t at the same level of looseness or tightness all the time…sometimes a scar will tighten for no foreseeable reason. When that happens, the piercing is fragile and vulnerable to microtears, which can lead to oozing or bleeding. That can further damage the piercing, if shards of dried fluid are pulled through when the ring is loosened. The last time that happened to me, I realized I had to take the larger wire out and put in a thinner one, so I wouldn’t inadvertently heal in a deformation. Then I had to wait for the piercing to heal sufficiently.

I’ve read to treat an expanded piercing just like a new one, but I think (at this point) that these two states aren’t exactly the same. If I had, for example, soaked the piercing in salt water twice a day before attempting to loosen the ring (as is recommended for fresh piercings, though that’s not medical advice), I wouldn’t have dragged dried blood through a tender site (which caused the pain that caused me to realize I had a microtear. I’m still not sure, however, whether it tore before and I didn’t notice it, or whether it tore when I felt the pain). Having had the piercings the first time was not really similar to letting them shrink down, and then re-opening them later. Had I not started at 14g (and then never gone above that), gauging up really might have been more similar to having a new piercing.

Also, the piercings I’m talking about are just basic earlobe piercings, not cartilage or body-type things. Because it’s easy for employers here to discriminate in hiring based on the number of piercings they can see on a person…there are reasons not to have too many.

Yesterday, I had the chance to wear earrings with standard posts, again: they were basically studs shaped like flowers. I had the misfortune of almost losing one…which meant that I had to pick up an earnut off the floor, then wash my hands, then wash my ear, then wash the earring…though the positive thing is, I realized I wasn’t too attached to it.

In contrast…my biggest hesitation about expanding my piercings has had to do with commitment. As for why it is that I keep taking my larger-gauge jewelry out, I think it has been because I wanted to wear the jewelry I had made before, which mostly has earwires between 22g and 18g. I also haven’t wanted my piercings to migrate because of using too fine a gauge in too large a piercing (though I’m not sure that would even happen). There’s nothing else I can think of which would be a reason.

It would probably be an easier decision for me if I were not a beadworker. To make jewelry for large-gauge piercings, I would basically need to move into metalsmithing. It’s not like it would be difficult, at least to make something like a ring, or a tunnel or plug (if I could find safe silicone o-rings). However…if I were to make anything more major, I’d be dealing with forging, and I’m not sure I have a torch strong enough to work with thick, solid metal.

I also only have the ability right now to work in silver, brass, or copper; most of the large-gauge jewelry I have, in contrast, is surgical steel. Moving into that means moving into blacksmithing. The addition of iron makes the process of forging…different. And I don’t know how to do it.

However, there are at least two or three local places that I know of (Silvera Jewelry School, the Richmond Art Center, and The Crucible), in which I could use more powerful torches than I have access to, here. I would basically have to drop into a lab, though.

Or, I could just resign myself (for now), to buying earrings, and using beadwork skills for necklaces and bracelets or anklets.

Not that I’ve made much jewelry at all, recently; I’ve been focused on lace. It is trying to devote time to this, however, where I have other things to be doing (for now), which are more important: like preparing for job interviews or searching for openings or building my LinkedIn account. However…the difficulty I’m having in taking time out for myself, somewhat indicates to me that I need to do it. I opted to write here tonight, instead of working on the lace…because for some reason (having been an English major) it seems less of a waste of time to write a blog post than it is to knot lace.

I know I could be working on my course, but the internet has been in and out all day. Besides…I’m getting tired of these courses, especially since I realize now that Cataloging is difficult for me. I know I probably should be working on my current course (or checking work in my past courses), but the thing is, “should” is a word that I’ve been trying to work out of my system, since I realized how much it was damaging me as a youth. (I was a severe overachiever, although that may be why I’m in the position I am [in regard to career prospects, and my relative lack of development in non-academic areas], now.)

Yeah, maybe I do need to stop working as hard as I can, as much as I can, just because I have a commitment or because I always expect more of myself. It’s interesting to take a vacation and then get back to work, and realize how much you appreciated not having to do it…

I also want to get back to my JavaScript course. How badly I want to get back to it? I’m not sure at this point. But I also want to get back to just basic coding. I just need to find something to build a site around…and, for now, to find the time to keep educating myself via the one serious book I’ve recently purchased. The reason I haven’t gotten back to it…is largely because I’m anxious about installing new programs on my machine. It’s always a risk, and usually a risk I don’t like to take. I do have ways of checking things; the entire process is just stressful.