color, personal, psychology, writing

Writing with a purpose

I’ve gotten to the point where it’s hard to look at my blog and see that it hasn’t been updated for days. Some of that work is going offline — a lot of it, actually — but still…I feel isolated without my writings. It’s not like I can carry all my journals and pens around with me everywhere, though. In addition to the bulk, I don’t want to lose it. But I’m one of those freaks who thinks information is valuable.

I’m kind of wondering if I should start writing about risky things (intimacy, sexuality, gender variance, emotional pain, trauma, fears), in order to jump-start the content portion of my writing. I’m thinking that I keep concentrating on my handwriting and the form of my words, just to keep writing about anything, and because it isn’t emotionally vulnerable. I started off this post that way, and eventually wandered off into gender topics…

That is, I think I’m avoiding vulnerability, and that’s why it’s difficult to read fiction (I recently started reading Middlesex, 16 years after I bought it, which later incited crying from some childhood memory) or paint (which may force me to acknowledge an inconvenient gender and sexuality) or write (which will allow me to express parts of myself I’m not comfortable with and which don’t fit into my self-concept).

Of course, I can see someone about this, at the end of the month.

It’s just weird, though: getting to the age where taking risks is actually…risky (like, “can affect my livelihood”), is a different thing than being young and not knowing any better. I suppose if I’m lucky, I’ll make it to the age where I can be one of the cool old ladies who doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

From what I can tell…at work, it is being acknowledged that I’m different and that it’s OK to be different. I kind of straddle the line between butch lesbian and queer transgender male (not necessarily man-identified: and note, I am using the term “queer” in the U.S. reclaimed and subcultural sense [meaning not-cisgender and/or not-heterosexual] — not any pejorative sense with which it is used elsewhere in the world), which…well, it’s the only time in my life that I’ve been able to really not-hide that. Also, not-define it, which means not-over-defining it, meaning that I get that leeway to be who I am and show who I am, instead of trying to put it into words which inherently do violence to my being.

I’d learned not to talk about this stuff, online. I used to, but that was back when I didn’t have a community or support system. I do realize I could transition, you know, take testosterone. But there are more drawbacks than positives to that. If I were 23 again and didn’t think I was going to live to 30, so I would only be living with bi-weekly injections for 7 years, it might be an option. But the clear point is that I don’t consider myself a man or a woman (though I’m probably closer to the latter than the former). I’ve also passed the date by which I thought I would be gone, and am busy building the rest of my life.

Taking testosterone means coming out to everyone, and changing in front of everyone. And I won’t even be a man at the end, because that depends on the psyche, not the body. I could see doing it if I were transsexual, but I’m not. And it still won’t give me what I want. I just want to be fully male; I don’t want to be in-between, and I don’t want a feminized mind in a body that makes people expect me to be a man. Nor do I want my body torn up by surgery, because the options I have leave a lot to be desired.

The option I have — if I want to be fully myself — is to take testosterone and be seen as an openly gender-nonbinary trans* male. The thing is, “nonbinary” is only understood by a small fraction of the population, right now. There is even hostility within the trans* community towards nonbinary people (some trans* people who consider themselves fully men or fully women resent us for existing both because they can’t understand us, and because they see it as making things harder for them), so that also takes away a source of support.

I’ve been doing some experiments with color and handwriting as relates to my pens. I’ve found that I have to give myself permission to like things (like colors) that are seen as traditionally feminine. When I told M this, she shot back with incredulity: “You mean you don’t like things just because you see them as feminine?” I had to clarify that the case was more that I had been pushing those things away because I didn’t like how I was treated when I was associated with them. But I found I liked some of those things, anyway. And so I was giving myself permission to acknowledge it. (Also part of this thought stream, but one which I’m not sure I ever got to voice to her: I was acknowledging that I questioned whether cis women [as versus, say, men] ever had to give themselves permission to be feminine; this could be construed as evidence against my being cis.)

She seemed to accept that.

What I’m learning from M is that I think she’s gender-blind. She told me that there was no masculine or feminine except in my mind. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I’m also pretty sure that what she says doesn’t override what I think just because of her relation to me. In the ink-color experiments…there are some colors which have been designed to be gendered either masculine or feminine. Like literally, designed to evoke that point. Intentionally. I can tell. I don’t know that she can (or at least, that she can acknowledge that she can).

But what I’ve found is that I like the brighter colors better, roughly speaking. There are some that are terrible regardless of gender (by, for example, being unreadable); but the colors I thought I wouldn’t like, now look better than some of the alternatives. Particularly, Pilot’s Tsukushi — a dirt-brown color — I’ve found that I basically hate. I got it because I wanted to see what it would look like or feel like to write in a more subdued or neutral tone. I assumed it was aimed at men, whereas another color — Murasaki-Shikibu — obviously was aimed at women, both from its hue (an intense violet) and its naming (for a female author of the Heian era, the latter of which is noted as a brief time of peace in Japan’s history, and widely [among Japanese] considered feminine).

I also have been on a pink and red kick, because as long as I’m female, that means that the pink and red are allotted to me via my culture and ethnic background. For me, being seen as a female person (女の人) in Japanese culture is different than being seen as a “girl” in popular U.S. culture (which often feels dehumanizing and infantilizing to me). It’s like I prefer being referred to as a, “daughter,” than as a, “son,” but bristle at “girl,” and sometimes feel the need to qualify, “woman.” (“If you just mean by that, ‘adult female,’ then yes, I am an adult female [without implying anything about what an adult female is or should be].”) “Boy,” and, “man,” aren’t even on the table anymore.

If you had looked at me fifteen years ago, I would have been way more conflicted about liking pink. I would have been more conflicted all around, really. I also would have had a lot of shame around being gender-nonbinary, because I had known very few nonbinary people. At the time, I wanted to be a man. I now know that isn’t going to happen, simply because if it could happen, it likely would already be happening. Some things I just have to make peace with. And, you know, it helps to root out some of that internalized misogyny, too.

I wouldn’t call what I have been doing, with the inks and pens, calligraphy. It really isn’t fancy; I haven’t designed it that way. But I have at least three different handwriting styles that I can see, which appear depending on whatever writing instrument I’m holding. I have, that is, a different script depending on whether I’m using a Fine or Extra-Fine nib, a Flex nib, or a Broad or Stub nib. I might also have a different hand with a gel pen, though that struck me as a surprise when I saw how I was writing (about a month ago). Having different hands with different tools might be apparent just from logic, but I didn’t realize until last night how heavily the tools influenced my letter-forms. (Might there be something to be said for context-sensitive adaptation?)

In addition, for some inks, I’ve needed to find the right paper. There is a cross-grid notebook I have; like a dot-grid, but with little crosses instead of dots or lines. These crosses are distracting with my normal (Fine to Medium and Flex nib) pens, but they really fall into the background with a broad or stub nib. As well, the paper doesn’t absorb the ink from the Murasaki-Shikibu-loaded stub nib pen, so the color remains vibrant.

I’m running low on time, here. In another entry, or in the future, maybe, in my notes — I should get back to the question of whether I’m actually asexual or just celibate. The truth is that I don’t know, however:

There’s just a lot of stuff that comes up when you’re female and people think you are sexually active (and not with a man), which can be sidestepped when you aren’t, and have no intention to be. But maybe I need to look at issues of guilt around being harangued as, “lesbian,” as a youth (like any of those kids knew what they were talking about — I doubt even most adults know anything about the content of their hate speech). That is…it’s very easy for someone who is female and attracted to women, to be made to feel like a predator because they’re attracted to someone who is a woman…whereas, if one is male, it’s supposed to be a good thing, I’m thinking. Even if it actually is predatory (or otherwise stupid) behavior.

That kind of polarization is one of the things I grappled with as a very young adult, who was beginning to realize that gender diversity existed. I haven’t dealt with that so much, recently. However…the question of whether I’ve identified as asexual (and lived as celibate) because of not wanting to be seen as a disgusting creep, is one worth exploring. Maybe not here, just yet; but, still.

I mean, I seriously know what it’s like to have men whom I’m in no way interested in or attracted to, try to force their way into my life. If I reverse that, maybe I can see why some people have responded as they have, to me. Only, it’s like one in 15 will actually even have the potential to be interested, if I’m remembering that figure correctly…

Then, there’s the question of how much the exterior really matters…

art, art media, color, illustration, painting

Watercolors and testing and pigments and inks

I’ve been doing experiments with watercolors…and, I think, I’m on the right track where it comes to what I want to be doing. I’m much happier with inks and wet media than with pencils (I still haven’t been brave enough to break back into the pastels, due to the dust factor). I’ve also been experimenting with inks and “transparent watercolors” (specifically the Ecoline brand, which I had been lusting after, probably for over a year).

The Ecoline stuff hasn’t been going wonderfully, but it’s good that I know that there are more suitable materials than this (for me) out there. I’ve been looking at transparent liquid watercolor (which I assume are aniline dyes) as a sort of middle ground between markers and painting. Right now, I think that’s pretty accurate, and is likely the reason why there are so many pre-mixed colors. I still haven’t extensively tested Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Liquid Watercolor, or their Hydrus. At this point, I’m not entirely certain I will. These liquid things, I’ve read, tend to fade more easily than pigmented paints. Of course, that doesn’t matter if you’re working for reproduction.

If I do get back into comic, or, more pointedly: illustration work, the Ecoline is suited. It’s reliably transparent (at least, with the six colors I’ve been using), so any dark line work won’t become clouded by overpainting. (I also have tried Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb India Ink with this, which I can get into later. Long story short: it works better with Ecoline than Blick Black Cat, due to the fact that Black Cat repels water and the Ecoline.) However, when using the Ecoline colors like regular watercolors, they are incredibly thin. I believe this is due to the amount of water carried in my brush — I didn’t dry it after rinsing and before dipping it into the dye on my palette, so the color became diluted.

I would probably want to use one of those palettes with tons of tiny wells (I should photograph this if I still have mine; I’m not sure if my meaning is coming across) if I used this for illustration work, as well: the “liquid” part of this means that the dyes really…they really get messed up if one is dipping around and mixing colors, and rinsing the paintbrush and not drying it off afterward. Worse so, than regular tube or pan watercolors. There’s just no going back once you get cyan in your magenta. It just isn’t happening. :) Just kiss that magenta goodbye and say hello to violet. Seriously.

That may, in fact, be why the Ecoline watercolors are so varied as to the formulations in their bottles: they may be more of a pain to mix than bargained for. I am, however, now curious about their effect if used as drawing inks…I have a couple of old bamboo drawing pens which I can try. Of course, though…at least one is stained with sepia. I’d probably want to separate out what I dip that pen into.

So, right now, the back-to-school sales are in effect; I used the opportunity to purchase a high-end palette (which I’ve wanted since at least 2016) at something like 60% off, which…I mean, it’s nice, but do I need it in addition? I’ve been using a Mijello palette recently — it’s where all my dried paints are — and have found that the position of the paints may not matter as much as I thought it did (so long as I know what went, where). It’s also nice to have a well that is at least 3/4″ wide, as I can fit a wide wash brush in there. Comparatively, I’d have to get an empty full-size pan to do the same, and I’m not convinced the experience would be similar, due to the corners and depth of standard pans.

Have I just grown to appreciate the Mijello’s pan design over the organization of my colors? Possibly. It helps that I haven’t painted en plein air in a very, very long time. However: the design of the Mijello also keeps it from being convenient as a plein air palette, so it’s like a, “chicken or egg,” thing.

Of course, if I take out the Winsor & Newton (W&N) Burnt Umber rock which keeps knocking around in there and getting dried-up Burnt Umber pieces in my precious clean yellows…it is likely to be more appealing to use. W&N Burnt Umber separates from its well after it has dried and rattles around inside the closed palette, hence why I call it a “rock.” I hear that Viridian does the same thing (which is why I have four different versions), though I can’t remember if it has yet happened to me. It would have been in a very old palette, like my Mijello Silver Nano. I discovered that having wells on the roof of a palette which is bordering on non-stick (it’s anti-microbial, hence “Silver Nano”), doesn’t work that well.

Recently, I was able to obtain a Da Vinci Cobalt Blue which disperses much better (to my tastes) than the Winsor & Newton Cobalt Blue I had before, which had basically made me not want to use the pigment. Like at all. Or ever again.

The Da Vinci Cobalt Blue, though…when mixed with Ultramarine Violet or Ultramarine Pink, it makes really lovely soft violets (and I rarely use the word, “lovely”). These violets are much softer than Dioxazine Violet, which is so powerful that it can be difficult for me to use.

I’ve just now discovered the Da Vinci paints. I’ve actually…just recently realized that it isn’t to my benefit to have brand loyalty where it comes to any one tube watercolor manufacturer. Paints vary in quality, but they vary within paint brands — like M. Graham & Co. Ultramarine Pink vs M. Graham & Co. Viridian; not to mention between lines within brands — like W&N Cotman (student grade) vs. W&N Professional; as well as between paint brands, like Sennelier vs. Daniel Smith vs. Da Vinci.

So Da Vinci and Daniel Smith could both put out their own versions of Viridian and Prussian Blue, and one may judge the Daniel Smith Prussian Blue to be far superior to the Da Vinci (or indeed, any other Prussian Blue one has tried), while the Da Vinci Viridian is far superior to the Daniel Smith Viridian (or any other Viridian one has tried). I don’t know exactly why this happens; I just know that it does. But one of my artist friends did tell me a while back, that paint consistencies differed, depending on the pigments in them.

So…I am not certain there is any way to really tell what paints one likes, other than trying them out. I did go and buy like four different types of Prussian Blue and Viridian from different lines, so I indeed can (and likely should) show you my results. Viewing that may save the reader here money in the long run, though unfortunately, I didn’t check for blogger reviews of these paints, before going out to try them. So now I have like three extra tubes of each color, having picked out the paint that I love the most.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know how to record and upload video, so I can’t show you how the colors race away from the brush (wet-in-wet) with each of the colors I like. That doesn’t happen, with the others. It’s something I look for, which doesn’t happen predictably; and I’m not even certain yet if it happens repeatably, with the exact same pigment, manufacturer, and paint line.

I should send the other paints on for re-use. After I record my experiments, and make sure I have all my names in order. I’m sure that someone is going to appreciate the fact that they’ll be able to at least try out the paints for free. It’s not like they’re awful or unusable; they just aren’t things that I prefer. Having good paints just greatly enhances the experience of painting, for me.

I’m also getting more relaxed around the toxin factor of working with these paints. I just need to keep myself clean, and I’ll be OK. Today I went and replaced an Aureolin (Cobalt Yellow) despite the fact that I know it’s very toxic, because nothing else I’ve tried, mixes greens quite like it. Of course, I know there must be at least 9 or so different commonly used chemical formulations for yellows in watercolors. I assume they all have their own different mixing properties (and precautions…which is why I don’t use Nickel Azo Yellow — I’m already sensitized to Nickel).

There is also the fact that I’m using Chromium colors as well as other Cobalt salts, in other places in my palette. Both Chromium and Cobalt are heavy metals, and toxic. I have historically stayed away from the Cadmiums (generally red through yellow, though I’ve seen “Cadmium Green”), though at this point I might be getting a little less paranoid about them. Basically, any heavy metal salt I can absorb through my skin (that is, any water-soluble salt with a heavy metal component) is something I don’t want to deal with. Something I have to ingest to be poisoned by, though? I am a clean person to the point of dysfunction. And I have at least one nail brush. I’ll be fine.

I also spent years trying to find suitable replacements for the Cadmium family of pigments, which led me to the Pyrrole colors (these can be genuinely awesome, though inconsistently named [“Pyrrol Scarlet” and “Scarlet Pyrrol” are two different pigments — and two different hues — in two different brands]) and the Hansa colors (M. Graham’s Hansa Yellow is still one of my favorite paints). But I’ve spent, literally, years talking about Cadmium-based paints…right now, though, I feel like I should do more research before getting back into the whole paranoia thing I had before.

It’s kind of like, if you know what it does and how it gets into you, then just don’t do things that would let it get into you. This is why I have been wary of the pastels: it’s much harder to contain dust. I think it’s also why I’m getting better with the paints: at least with the paints, nothing gets airborne or ground into my skin. Also: paints are mixable. And the essence of paint, for me at least, is color. As someone who is enamored with color and has been frustrated with contact points which I can’t change, it seems to be a good medium.

I mentioned the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb ink, earlier in this post. It’s…really, pretty great. Waterproof, doesn’t move under water or Ecoline. (I didn’t care enough to try Copics.) It also doesn’t repel Ecoline, which is what the Black Cat, did. I haven’t yet tried it with the tube watercolors, and I’m seriously not even sure that I should…but if the goal is to do my own thing with the art (and stop deprecating myself for not being like other artists), I might try it.

In the coming days, I’m hoping to get some of this stuff photographed or scanned so that you can see what I’m talking about; just words, can’t get everything across. In particular, I should show you those Viridian and Prussian Blue tests, though I’m going to do them over again. And no, it will not be on Arches paper. ;) Though I have some, now. I have some, and I have realized that it’s worth working with correctly, so I got some kraft tape and a soaking vat and some sponges and an impermeable board, to properly stretch the paper. Time to get serious.

Disclaimer: No one paid or otherwise compensated me to write this. I got nothing free. What you do with this information is your responsibility, and I gain nothing personally from it.

beading, beadwork, color, craft, creativity, glass beads, jewelry design, seed beads, tatting

Still got it?

Here I finished two strands of the necklace by threading them through a wire coil, then back where they came from. I knotted them off and cemented them.
Tying off the two lines to end the work.

I recently completed a necklace, an 18″ design made of fire-polished glass, MiniDuos, 11/0 seed beads, and 11/0 Delica seed beads (which are slightly smaller). To create the structure of the piece, it was important to have a variety of bead sizes. I strung it on C-Lon Micro, using a tatting (shuttle lace) technique to make a button loop (which was actually…exciting; this is part of the reason why I learned tatting), and then running both lines through a coil of gimp and a shank button, before threading it back into the work, tying it off, and cementing the lines.

This is a detail image of the buttonhole I formed with a lace-making technique.
clasp detail

I was happy to get back into this — and to see how far I’ve come, since the time I started (25 years ago!). Especially as I had experienced doubts about my ability to see a project through to completion.

The design took about two days to work out (and a number of different tries before I got the loop right), but I’ve realized that since I was using standard-sized materials, I can echo the design in different colorways…and not necessarily charge an exorbitant rate for the time it took for me to work out the pattern, the first time. I guess that’s what happens when you know it’s okay to re-use past work, as versus aiming to make everything unique. (Uniqueness will still come; it’s just that it isn’t necessary to kill the seed you’ve planted, after its first fruiting.)

I also now have a project box which began with the thought of the Aquamarine and Pink Botswana Agate beads. It expanded far beyond what I had expected, and uses no stone in this final form (as versus another final form).

Reasons to go on

I have also remembered some more reasons to sell jewelry. For one thing, I like to make jewelry so much that were I to keep it all, it would be in excess of what I would use. I’ve also realized that having made the pattern — or structural form — for this piece, it gives me the ability to expand on that initial trial and work a number of different projects in different colorways, extremely easily.

Over my palm, you can see alternating single and double Czech fire-polished beads, in teal, violet, and orange.
Basic pattern. I extended this over 18″ to make a Princess-length necklace.

There might not be justification for that if I were just making things for myself, but if I’m doing it because I want to do it, not just to decorate myself (that is, if I’m enjoying the process more than the product), it probably doesn’t hurt to sell some of the extras (or, “experiments;” or, “trials;” I don’t know if anyone would really want to hear they’re buying an “experiment,” although that’s basically what a lot of — maybe most of — art is), and recoup some costs.

I can also then try making different decisions at specific points in the pattern, and by doing that, develop derivative works, or families of pieces which work along different creative pathways. This lets me expand the initial idea into a family in which each member is a record of a different, iterative thought (or design) process.

Also: I’ve been working on the design of another piece; using Smoky Quartz, the Pink Botswana Agate, and Hematite. (The Aquamarine is too pale to work in this scenario.) I did purchase some sterling bead caps…which, now that I see them, I realize are fairly expensive, for what I got. I suppose it could be worse: I could have gotten the sterling version of what I already had in pewter, and paid around $5 per cap for 6-8 repeats (each containing two caps), making the cost at least $70 (with tax and shipping). For 12-16 caps. That are tiny. Which I think I would have had to buy in multiples of 6. The silver isn’t even the focal point.

No, that…that wasn’t happening.

The bead caps I had which were pewter…I honestly don’t know where the rest of these guys are, but they’re likely locked up in projects which I won’t wear and have not worn. (When you’re a beginner, it isn’t unusual to make things you won’t wear…or to buy things you think look great, which look gaudy at a later point in time.) Originally, they weren’t expensive — they were from a fabric or craft store. It’s just that the exact same design — the exact same design — is in sterling silver, and I can’t find the pewter version, anymore.

The ones I did get were close to $22 for eight…meaning they’re $2.75 each. That’s fine if you’re buying a couple for earrings, but if you need 7 repeats at a minimum for an 18″ necklace, each 2.5″ repeat using two, and you have to buy in multiples of 8: 16 caps are $44. Before tax and shipping. That still kind of makes me clench my teeth, especially when they’re so tiny, but…well, hopefully, they won’t tarnish — which is the only reason, aside from safety and allergy concerns, to get Sterling. Granted, those safety and allergy concerns are likely well-placed.

(Maybe I should have taken advantage of that recent Trunk Show…)

In any case, the fifth reason to sell things is the process of buying strands of beads to make into things, and then as you’re assembling, you realize that you’re only using like 1/5th of the strand…meaning you have 4/5ths unused. If you aren’t just making for yourself, you can make for someone else, and have fun at the same time.

Part of my newer bead collection.
All Toho 11/0s, except the two vials in the lower right: the grey label is a 15/0 vial. The one below it, I purchased from a supplier who doesn’t label by brand, but which I think may be Miyuki (as its name is, “Teal Duracoat,” which so far as I know is proprietary).

So anyway, to detract from the frustration of having spent so much on so little, I also did purchase a bunch of little 11/0 Toho beads in order to gain a bulk discount (which…unfortunately, did not include free shipping). Buying seed beads online is often…more difficult than doing it in person. It’s because you’re depending on photography to give you an accurate idea of color…and as I learned in Intro to Graphic Design, neither computer screens nor print can replicate all of the colors we can see (“color gamut” is the name for the range each technology can produce).

So…when buying a complicated color that you know is probably complicated, because it has a name like Cosmos or Polaris…online…you just pretty much know the color is a best guess.

Three tubes of bead colors that are very hard to use: yellow, yellow-orange, and red-orange.
The frosted orange in the center, may make it into some work. The others…???

I have a set of four vials which are likely not to make it into any work, though. Three look like they’re colored with Cadmium salts (opaque yellow, orange, and red-orange [see right]). I got them because I realized that my own color gamut did not include these colors, and hence I was limiting my own creative options by not including an entire spectrum. I can somewhat see why I don’t use these colors now, though: they’re just too basic.

Also, I should let you know that the above photo of those opaque beads between yellow and red, didn’t turn out with true color…I am not entirely sure why (if it was because they were too bright, or the background fooled my camera), but I don’t feel like tinkering with the settings right now.

The fourth vial, I suspect I have used before, and that it faded (Aqua, Gold-Lined). I do have photos of it, but none turned out too well, as I didn’t unwrap them (I could use store credit, but then again, it costs money to ship them back. There’s always the Center for Creative Re-Use).

While looking for someone else’s repair projects, I did find a number of stashes of beaded jewelry I made while a child and teen…which had some seed beads included which are a pale, translucent bluish grey, now. I do see that it appears they were matte; also silver-lined. I don’t know if I should settle for glass jewelry being pretty in the moment and not lasting, or if I should really avoid things I know might fade.

However, the set of beads I was using at the time (from the fabric/craft store or the bead store), I no longer recall. For years, into high school, even, I played around with Darice seed beads (which I wouldn’t recommend for professional work…but as I was a teen just experimenting, that was something else).

I doubt that I was thoroughly using the more quality stuff from the bead store, at that time, given that I recall being in 9th grade and having a necklace made of Darice beads, dental floss, and a lampwork pendant from the bead store, explode from around my neck one day in the locker room. (This was after it had hit me in my teeth, which is where I think a mysteriously missing chip from a front tooth may have gone.)

I knew fabric-store seed beads to have color that rubbed off on my fingertips; which is probably why I have a (likely unfortunate) bias against dyed glass, at this point. Yes, I know the lilac (a.k.a. Silver-Lined Milky Amethyst) in the fourth image above is likely dyed. I also suspect those beautiful Gold Luster Raspberry beads above them to be dyed. I just like them too much to care.

I should say that Darice isn’t all bad. They have some storage solutions which I do appreciate. And certainly, they are an inexpensive entryway into the craft, which in my case was invaluable — at least because I’ve continued to do this for 25 years. It’s just one of those things where once you get your sea legs as a beadworker, you find other options, and learn ways to gauge benefits and drawbacks.

This is a greyish necklace I made when I was young, with highlights of violet and blue from Amethyst, Labradorite, dyed pearls, and Swarovski Crystal.
I made this as a child. Apologies for the poor lighting and color inaccuracies.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out what to do with this little necklace (see above) — keep it as a keepsake? Give it to someone little but over 14 years of age? ;) (All of this stuff says not to deal with it if you’re under 14 years old, likely because it could interfere with a child’s development…though I have been using these since I was 11 or 12. Not to say that anyone should.) This thing is basically Amethyst, Labradorite (a flecked grey stone with blue internal flashes), Hematite (gunmetal grey), dyed freshwater pearl, and Swarovski Crystal, in a Y-necklace form. It’s only 14″ long. I don’t remember if I used Sterling wire or craft wire, but it’s still shiny (the clasp is not).

I’m still not sure about whether it would mean more to me to keep it, or to someone else, should I gift it. The deal with the latter is that if I give it up, it could easily be destroyed (or pawned), and I’ve got to grapple with whether I’d be okay with that. I’m thinking the answer is, “no,” which tells me what to do, there.

Anyhow, creating this entry has been a nice thing for me, if a bit of an obsessive project: I haven’t used my camera or image-editing software, in a while. It’s nice to know the computer is of more use than as a notepad. :)

Speaking of which, I did find my old project journal. I needed to make more drawings than I did. When the earliest entry is in 2010, maybe — back in 2010 — I could have remembered what the project looked like. But. In 2019, almost a full decade later? It doesn’t do me a great deal of good to note which beads I used, without images to show the way in which I used them.

That…could be a good use of this blog. Photographs are easier to work than design sketches; I’d just have to remember that this is public, and that I am showing my process.

Yeah. That could be nice!

beading, beadwork, color, glass beads, jewelry design, seed beads

A very long beading design post…

I actually have been able to get some design work done, recently. Essentially, I was able to visit a bead store — like a real-life, in-person bead store. I’ve said before that I have hesitated to work with natural stones because things can get very expensive, very fast. That’s still true.

There’s also the fact that as I’m working, I realize that it isn’t entirely worth it to make things to sell…unless, that is, I’m using some leftovers of other projects that I otherwise would not. Because of the time it takes to design things, and the time it takes to construct things, and then unmake and remake projects as I revise the design…it costs me so much in time that what I make becomes prohibitively expensive, if I’m charging by the hour. I’d rather not be designing against the clock, especially when I could regain the money lost in design more easily, simply by going to work more.

In any case…I have an Amazonite puffed square cabochon that I got at a recent convention. It’s a pastel green with blue overtones, white-streaked, glossy, with a hairline fracture. I’ve decided to pair it with some Aquamarine 8mm rounds (pale green-blue, displaying some silver internal reflections; mostly otherwise opaque), and some Pink Botswana Agate 6mm rounds (pale salmon-pink, mauve and white, opaque). These are now the center, anchoring elements of this piece.

So essentially…I’m designing around a cabochon; particularly where it comes to color and texture. I am echoing the color and gloss of the Amazonite cabochon with the Aquamarine (which is slightly paler than the Amazonite), and contrasting that with a secondary supporting point in the Botswana Agate. That’s why the Agates are smaller than the Aquamarines. When working with natural stones, it can be hard to find them in usable shapes (other than rounds)…

When I got these home, I did start looking through my project box to weed out some beads that were too warm. I know that “warm” when it comes to blues, means “violet” tending (as violet is closer to red — green is considered a “cooler” color, though that’s counterintuitive to me); in this case, I weeded violets which were closer to Cobalt Blue (a deep, intense blue-violet when in glass). I kept greens and blues which were substantially greener, ranging more towards yellow. I also added a good amount of pinks, warm white ranging to pale gold, violet which is closer to red, ambers, and browns (“Smokey [sic] Topaz”, “Crystal Celsian”).

This was a generative task, not a selection task. It is, however, much more stimulating and inspiring than what I had before. The next task is to try putting some of these together; most of the designs that I’ve made which really made leaps in innovative construction, have occurred when I’ve just tried to assemble things in any way I could (keeping in mind that threads need protection, and that bugle beads, unless something is done to stop them, will easily shear thread in two: these are practical constraints). There has been a basic idea of what I’ve been going for, but it has often been abandoned as I found better ways to do what I’m trying to do…or an alternate path to success.

I decided to go for stranding as a possibility, as I’ve realized that a more complicated design is not necessarily a better design.

And the seed beads…

Having said that, I still want to try St. Petersburg Chain. I’ve been looking for some excuse to try it; I’m just not sure if this is the right project for it. I’ve separated out some colors of Czech seed beads which echo the Botswana Agate…but to be honest, they’re a little dull against the Japanese ones. For instance, I have an old tube of “Ceylon Lt Peach” (unknown brand, likely Japanese) 11/0 seed beads, which are just…brighter, than my Cheyenne Pink 8/0 Czech seed beads. I could still use them together, but I should not overuse anything too dull.

No, I don’t know why the half-hanks of Czech seed beads I have, are duller than the Czech fire-polished crystals I have…and the Czech pressed-glass SuperDuos and MiniDuos. When I got them, I was looking for a solid color throughout the glass, which is normally more resistant to fading, while sacrificing some of the bright colors of surface-dyed or color-lined beads (which are known to be more often susceptible to fading or other color change).

Note that I don’t consider surface dyeing (like the use of Sol-Gel) to be the same thing as a surface treatment such as Aurora Borealis (AB), Luster, Iris, Vitrail, Capri (I have some opinions about Capri’s durability…but, later), or Ceylon. At least, that’s not what I mean by it. I also realize that my Light Peach Ceylon beads may indeed be surface-dyed. It was so long ago that I didn’t think to mark the vial as permanent or possibly prone to fading. I probably also didn’t think that I’d be trying to remember any cautions at the store, 10 or more years later.

But no, I did not expect to find a clean, bright pink or a clean mauve-grey in an affordable stone, either. These both match the Japanese beads better.

There is, still, a range of quality, here…it’s important when buying stranded beads, to look for size uniformity (at minimum), unless you aren’t doing anything (like a beading stitch/weave) that depends on things being even. That is: not all “Czech” seed beads are the same quality. I’ve even seen half-hanks of beads with other beads of the same color stuck to their outsides, which look like there was paint that dried with two beads touching. (I don’t particularly like glass beads which look like they have paint on them…it’s a reason I don’t use a lot of the newer multi-hole beads.)

The only way that I really can even tell that they’re Czech (or from someone trying to pass themselves off as Czech) is either through the catalog description (when purchased online), or through the method of sale. Czech seed beads are generally sold stranded and tied together in bundles of 6 or 12 strands. Japanese seed beads are generally sold loose, in vials or bags. They have different brands, sizing regulations and shape standards…and apparently, at least somewhat different methods of attaining their colors, or a different aesthetic which causes the companies to aim to produce different palettes.

In buying beads at conventions, however…you may not know who made what, unless you ask. Vendors may also not recall their sourcing, on top of it (especially if they’re a Mom-and-Pop operation). Right now, I only know one rocaille (round, uncut seed bead) manufacturer from the Czech Republic, which is Preciosa Ornela. (I’m not counting manufacturers of shaped seed beads.) However, I am very sure that they aren’t the only game in town.

I also wouldn’t put it past other manufacturers to try and pass their material off as though it has the quality that “Czech” beads are known for. Though I intend only to use Japanese and Czech seed beads in my work, that doesn’t mean that my suppliers are paying attention to how their customers think about quality.

I’m thinking that some people would rather get a low price than a quality product. The problem with that: low-priced products can also easily be low-quality products, and I don’t know that anyone on the receiving end is overtly asking for anything more. Raised prices for low-quality products would mean that the higher-quality products win out because they are higher-quality (and then there is no reason not to buy the higher quality instead). You can see how that works.

I did, once, buy a terrifyingly expensive half-hank of Dark Copper (I’ll just call them that) 8/0s: $17 for 6 strands. Very even in width; uniform, beautiful finish. They get higher than that — for instance, when there’s a special metallic coating which requires gold — but in the majority of cases, they don’t range higher than $15-$20 per half-hank. My low end of the 8/0s is currently $4.25 for six strands of something that looks like Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, just in glass. Keep in mind, though, I don’t have a sample of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise here to compare and see if it’s any more intense; the beads just bring it to mind.

I got the 8/0s to make knotted bracelets. More on that another time, hopefully.

So, the half-hank of Cheyenne Pink 8/0s ($7.50 for 6 strands) are beautiful on their own. The only thing is, the Pink Botswana Agate outshines them and makes them look dull in comparison. With too many of the glass beads, I could also unintentionally dull down the stones. The colors in the stones are just much cleaner. Why? I really don’t know. I might have to be a chemist to know. I have seen at least one text on the chemistry of glass colors…and I am not interested enough in how they’re made, to go back into a hard science.

That’s another reason to buy stones that you can see in-person, before purchase, though. It’s much easier to mix-and-match a dominant stone against a wall of other stones and find a perfect complement, than it is to flip back and forth between online windows, or bring up multiple windows showing multiple products (and then hope the photography is reasonably true-to-life).

I’ve delayed posting this because I have wanted to add images…it would be of use to me to remember what this particular project box looks like. There’s a lot of information, that is, in just seeing what I’m dealing with (and how it differs from what I was dealing with before — which I did not photograph, because it was that uninspiring). Adding the pink and violet, along with that pale green, it helps a lot. They’re all unified, in a design sense, because they’re all pastel tones.

However, because I’m still in training at my job, I’ve been working a lot of the time, and studying, eating, and sleeping for a lot of the rest of the time. That is: I haven’t had a lot of time to write, much less to take and optimize photos. I was lucky I had time enough to go out on the weekend…

This current writing, I began on Sunday. I’ll get beyond the point of relevance, if I delay for much longer. The obvious choice would be to hold off on posting until Friday or Saturday…but this is aging in my consciousness, and nagging me and causing me to waste time filling it out further. I should post.

color, craft, design, glass beads, macrame, occupational hazards, seed beads, spirituality

Beaded micromacrame yearnings

It’s early Sunday morning for me, now, and I’m coming off of a day of food shopping and eating, mostly. I feel like I should get back to the binder of training materials, but I haven’t wanted to spoil the day by filling an extended session of free time with work concerns which have taken up the majority of the week.

So…I just haven’t. I’ve actually been forcing myself away from dealing with it. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do.

I’ve wanted to get back to my beadwork/macramé, but there are a couple of things I know I need to address: 1) the fact that I might need to set up my easel to work (my macramé ergonomics are not great: I’ve been propping the board on my thigh), and 2) I feel like it would be time wasted. Though I guess I’ve earned the privilege of wasting some time.

I think there’s also a third level of something here, which is either trepidation or fear, and I can’t immediately tell why it’s there (except for the fact that I used to spiritualize the majority of my creativity, and just worked through it while freaking myself out).

I did spend some time, though, looking up what the colorants are in glass. Apparently, if I try looking for such online in regard to beads, I can’t immediately find much that’s useful, but once I start looking up stained glass, I start to get hits. It actually mirrors what I’ve been seeing in regard to crystal colorations.

It’s interesting. It also makes me wonder whether I actually have been working with serious “art supplies” all this time: metal salts, oxides, and sulfides are apparently widely used. I found some stuff on transition elements and rare earth metals. But I couldn’t get a good hit on this as it refers to beads. Seed beads are what I’m particularly after: most of these materials are intended for people 14 years of age and older…which obviously begs the question, “why?” (I think it may be linked to developmental concerns, which is why I didn’t make a bracelet for a small relative when she asked.)

However, apparently this information is hard to find because the glass formulations and treatments and coatings are trade secrets. So…yes. I can use the materials, it’s just maybe I’ll want to not eat while using the materials, and to wash my hands before eating, afterward. Even though the risk seems minimal. After all, the compounds are likely mostly locked in the glass, and I am usually not grinding the glass or inhaling it or swallowing it. If I did, I’d have more immediate concerns than poisoning.

I had been hoping that working with colored glass beads was in some way better for the environment than mining for stones, but at this point in time, I’m not sure that’s the case. Not least, because the components of glass have to be gathered and refined. It’s basically chemistry.

And I really, really so bad want to use the little Toho beads I got a really long time ago. I’m just having trouble in breaking out of the safety of an analogous color scheme.

It’s easy enough just to try. Why I’m afraid to, I’m not sure; especially when I can cut the work apart and recover the beads. The only thing I lose, then, is time and cord. And organization, I guess.

But, one step at a time. I need to get back to my handwork first, before I start criticizing myself about not taking enough risks. Over time, I’ve gradually taken more risks with color. My color sense should develop further as I work, though. When I first started out, I was really into hematite — grey and silver — which is not at all where I’m at, now. I do feel a little stuck, but I also need to start where I am.

beading, color, craft, creativity, fiber arts, jewelry design, macrame, tatting

That’s it.

I’m doing a macramé bezel for those two cabochons I mentioned last post. Do you know how freakin’ easy a macramé bezel would be, in comparison with either bead embroidery or wire wrapping? And WHY was it that I got the C-Lon Micro, if not for stuff like this?

I actually have two colors which are perfect for this: Turquoise, and White (so I didn’t waste money getting minorly different shades of green!). I’ll use the Turquoise on the Moonstone, and the White on the Amazonite. (I never thought I’d end up using that white C-Lon, either…)

The best part is that this fits my current skill set. I won’t have to deal with anxiety over wasting expensive wire. I am not yet too skilled at wire wrapping (beyond wrapped loops and drops), but I won’t have to worry about that, here. There is no danger of eventual oxidation. Neither will I have to use adhesive, or worry about sourcing leather or Ultrasuede. I can rework things easily, if they don’t turn out. Plus, I think that this will show off the cabochons better (the edges of which, are beautiful).

I thought of doing a macramé bezel last night while I was in bed, and then realized that I could also make a wire-wrapped setting. Earlier tonight I was thinking about a tabbed Fine Silver bezel, though that requires at least two seams, unless I’m doing cold connections: one to a backing, and one to close the bezel itself.

I’ve just been searching for macramé bezel instructions, however, and have been sitting here for over an hour watching videos on how to do it. I’ve found two pretty simple versions.

On top of this…I now have the ability to incorporate lacework into a necklace, on top of macramé techniques. The C-Lon allows for that (as does my recent study of tatting).

If I know I’m going for something organic, that infers that I could drop the idea of using bugle beads. Unless…I want contrast. I was just looking at these and envisioning using them in a chevron pattern (where they are set off by patterned seed beads), or in a peyote stitch (though the latter sounds as though it will cut the thread).

But yeah…instead of…instead of making multiple strands coming off of the pendant, I could just work lace, there. (I had the idea to do it before, attaching the strands by picots, and just didn’t entertain actually doing it.) I might need to vacate a couple of shuttles, but I can do that — especially as I now have larger bobbins.

Do I still put beads around the back side??? Do I, that is, transition from lace to bead stringing? (For some reason, I don’t like bead stringing as much as I used to.)

I’m starting to move out of the generative phase of creativity into the selective one. I have most of the stuff I need in a little project box, now, after having eliminated most of my greens and golds, and the blues which were too violet. The palette is various shades of blue-green with pale amber and white.

Right now, I’ve got to think of whether I want to use buttons to transition (and close) the necklace: this means going out to match my materials. It may not happen until the middle of the week. That gives me time to practice making bezels for cabochons (which I can do in any color, as I’ll be using the throwaway googly-eye ovals).

That also means that it isn’t a waste of time to practice the tatting: particularly, thread joins. I know more than I used to, but I’m still on a steep learning curve.

I should also start drawing out what I want the lace to look like. A little intimidating, though I hate to say it. This is also going to be fun, though! :) It’s one of those things where you don’t know exactly what’s going to turn out at the end; though you know you’re off to a good start (and that even failure isn’t terrible: just cut it apart and try a different route).

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

Brainstorming a new design

I’m back into jewelry design and beadwork! :D I was playing around with some cabochons last night and came up with a couple of designs. Right now I’m busy still collecting parts that I might be able to use for a necklace. By chance, I found a set of faceted glass rice beads from a really long time ago, that I ended up not using because they were too large and glittery. They might work well for the back of this necklace, though, at least so if I space them out. I’ve also thought of using beaded beads (beadwoven beads made out of smaller beads). Though that hasn’t gone anywhere yet, it’s still a possibility.

The alternative is utilizing a set of Amazonite beads which I haven’t bought, yet. Minimum size, 8mm in one direction, looking for a fluted oval (this is an oval with a square cross-section which twists). I’ve been looking around online, though unfortunately I don’t have a great catalog of stone suppliers, as I primarily work with seed beads. Most of the stones I have were bought a long time ago, with the exception of several cabochons. That, in turn, is due to the relatively high cost of quality natural stones, plus the fact that if I use one stone I often have to pair it with metal and other natural stones and crystals — as versus synthetic material like glass. That multiplies the cost of a piece, several times over.

Though I could use inexpensive suppliers from overseas…it’s really hard to trust mail-order. Especially mail-order from the other side of the world. I’d be looking at local bead stores and local conventions, first.

Also an issue here is the fact that with buying things like stones and pearls online, I don’t get to examine the goods before purchasing them…which affects quality significantly. It’s also a reason I’ve told myself that I am not going to buy any more (grubby) pearls online. And a reason not to buy cabochons online (I can’t tell if the base is all the way flat and if the shoulders are even, even if I can see the patterning in the stone via an individual listing). Even if stones look like they’re cut well, small unseen irregularities can appear through the sense of touch.

I still need to design the bezels for the main two stones, though I’ve worked out that I want to have multiple threads leading away from the upper one. I also know what the base row should look like, and that I’ll need to cement down the cab before beginning work (which I am extremely reluctant to do, especially as one is translucent, and I don’t know if E-6000 will cleanly release from a mirror-polished surface).

The upper cabochon is an aqua-blue puffed square Amazonite, and the lower is a pear-shaped Moonstone, which I feel is too valuable to glue down to something…but the alternative is to create a custom bezel out of Fine silver, which requires the use of fire. If also done for the upper cabochon, it also complicates the process of attaching that cab to the rest of the necklace.

I’m going to practice my beaded bezels on a couple of mail-order cabs I will likely not use for actual jewelry, because they look too much like googly eyes. I should try gluing down and releasing one, to see if I even can separate them. I don’t want to use 2-part epoxy. It sounds like heresy to do that to a Moonstone (and most of the time, I don’t care about heresy). I would really hate it — unless, it worked; or unless I could undo it, if it didn’t.

Right now the palette for the potential necklace heavily depends on Capri Blue, playing off of the schiller (rainbow) in the Moonstone and the aqua blue of the Amazonite. I’m also using white/Crystal (clear: I need to see if Rock Crystal [quartz] has a different refraction index than glass, and if so, do I want to use it instead [a quick lookup says yes]), Light Topaz (light yellow — which also appears in the Moonstone), and green (the latter, if the design needs a slight contrast — though I’m hoping it would be very slight).

I haven’t continued the design writ large from last night, given that I was busy earlier and needed to rest afterward. I also only remembered that I had Japanese size 15/0 beads in Capri Blue and Light Topaz, last night in bed. I find in my stash, limited amounts of size 13/0 Czech seed beads in Galvanized (metallic) gold, iris green, and a half-hank in pale pink; another in Galvanized copper. I might need those for the bezels.

I’m really not sure anymore that I want to continue using copper, as it tarnishes so easily…and I’m pretty much over nickel-free Antique Brass (although I have a project in-process that uses it). I should note as well that Galvanized colors often have issues with wear, where the metal rubs off. There are newer variants of it which sometimes do also contain the word “Galvanized”, but which are longer-lasting. The thing is, their names are brand-specific, so as with anything, do your research.

Last night I cleaned off all the earwires of my old earrings which I took in to a showing, due to concerns about the cleanliness of the venue, and to guard against too many bacteria getting into my piercings. I’ve decided — at this point — not to install the heavier-gauge earwires into my own ears. That’s largely due to realizing that I can go “alternative” with my jewelry in other ways, such as through the use of anodized niobium earwires (I found a good source), or the use of unusual color combinations. If I put in the heavy earrings, I’ll only be able to wear what other people make, or things that are like what other people make…and spirals seem to be becoming a bit cliché.

I have 12 pairs of earrings that I’ve made over time, that I consider successful. I also have a few more pairs which can be deconstructed and redesigned into other things. Getting them out of my jewelry drawer felt (actually) good.

One of those sets of earrings have what I believe are Bali sterling silver cones (they were sold by the Troy ounce, which likely wouldn’t have been the case if they were only silver-plated). They’ve never been the most convenient things to wear, because they’re heavy. I had been thinking of using them for this necklace, but right now — I’m thinking about a different transition between the front and back of the necklace (like buttons). Particularly, as they would be some of the only silver pieces on this necklace (aside from silver-lined beads).

Bali silver — last I saw — was notoriously expensive, but very recognizable, and very beautiful. The hard part is trying to find Bali silver beads without having to buy in bulk (by the strand…which, given the fact that they’re individually heavy, on strands about 18″ long, and sold by weight, obviously infers their expense).

AND…I’ve just realized that I have some white pearls here that I can use! They’re pretty old; I took them from a pearl and rock-crystal necklace I didn’t often wear (it was too formal). The pearls themselves might (still) be too formal, but there’s at least that possibility of use. I had also separated out some tiny green pearls last night (they’re about 3mm long), but I forgot about them until just now. There are also at least 12 slightly-green pear-shaped pearls I can use, but (unless I also undo my practice stringing, which I probably should) that will be the last of them.

I went through my (limited collection of) bugle beads, today. I’m not sure that I want to use them; bugles are notorious for cutting through thread (I would have to use Fireline or C-Lon). They also lend a geometric look to whatever they’re used in, which isn’t what I’m aiming for at all (it’s also a reason I shied away from Miyuki brand, this last time I bought beads: I just don’t like the machined look). They are in the right colors, though: Capri, Light Topaz, a warm green (though I may need a cool green, if I use green at all: I’m thinking, ocean, sky, sand, seaweed: in that order). I basically got them out so I wouldn’t narrow down my design options too much, at this beginning stage.

And…I need to get to bed. You didn’t think I’d say that, did you? ;)