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.

art, craft, design, libraries, LIS, seed beads, self care, work

The importance of weekends

Today marks the last day of my first experience of working a 40-hour week. As long as I take care of food, water, hygiene, breaks, and sleep, I can make it. I really just need to care for myself, physically. It also helps to have family to help with food preparation.

Now that I have two days to myself, I’m also wondering how to spend it. Not to reference “Phineas & Ferb” or anything, but it’s a legitimate question. I have a binder full of stuff I can read, I need to figure out if I have any potential benefits, and I can review my notes.

I can also get back to my macramé; my seed beads and cord have been sitting out here for over a week (though they aren’t dusty yet), and I have a better handle on my design process, now: try different things. You won’t know what it looks like, unless you try different things. In this way, an idea develops from a rudimentary stab at embodying a concept, into multiple versions and pathways that you won’t be able to experience without seeing and feeling (and making) them in hard form.

Just thinking about possibilities isn’t going to work as well (if at all). Those thoughts are the seeds. The trials are the work; the trials are how things develop into reality. Without that, it’s all dreaming; no production, no creating.

And it is okay to work in Decorative Art. I realize that, now; and I also wonder whether the idea that it isn’t okay, is due to my Literature training (Fiction writing, I’ve found to be conflict- and message-driven), and my training in Fine Art (where we were always looking for underlying meaning behind our images).

It’s also okay to make things with my hands that aren’t pictures. Seriously. Craft is not below Art. It’s just a concept and practice that overlaps Art, though as to whether it is truly a different or separable thing (to me), is something I haven’t yet resolved. I did, however, read that most ancient art qualifies as, “Decorative,” now…I don’t know if you can know how good that makes me feel; that I’m not alone or isolated in wanting to make beautiful things.

Best-Maugard’s book, A Method for Creative Design, has helped with my design process — and I find design applies in both Art (for me right now, drawing) and Craft (for me, beadwork). I recently was able to obtain a used copy for about $25. The only drawback is that it came along with a previously unmentioned scent of tobacco smoke, and light though loving wear.

Journaling has also helped me keep track of (and account for) my own thoughts, though I highly doubt it would be as calming or helpful, if I made it to publish. I’ve noticed that I love my fine Pilot Metropolitan with green-blue ink and my calligraphy-nib Pilot Prera with red-orange ink. They kind of automatically help me apply graphic design principles to my writing, along with encouraging me to write by hand. If fountain pens aren’t used regularly, that is — and especially with those two, which I may only think because I’ve had them longer — the ink inside the converter (I’m not using cartridges) evaporates and concentrates. That’s not my goal, especially as my green-blue ink can turn almost black, when that happens.

At this time, I’m just wondering about the possibility of working 40 hours normally. Would I be able to do it? I’m hoping that I get the chance to find out. First, I have to get through this training, which will last for approximately the rest of the month. After that, I have six months of Probation…though I’m thinking everyone expects that to be a learning period.

I am glad to get out of being an Aide, though, primarily because Aide work is so physical, and I’m no longer a young adult. My body can’t handle what it used to. I also have a lot more to offer than my physical strength, and eye for detail and pattern recognition.

It will also be awesome to be able to read things that aren’t textbooks, again. And it will relate to my employment.

What I’ve noticed is that it is an almost completely different experience to serve in the Children’s Area, than it is to serve in the Adult Area…though I should be able to reflect further on that, later this weekend (I intend for it to be here, but it may not end up that way). I’ve only spent two hours so far in hands-on training in the Children’s Area…I just, well, have become in a way acclimated to being around kids from working as an Aide in a Public Library for as long as I have.

The major thing I’m thinking of is that I’ve known my share of Aides who do not like to shelve, or when they do shelve, they only like to shelve the Adult and Young Adult areas. Due to the local climate of my old library, the Shelvers were faced with a dilemma every time they worked in the Kids’ Section, which I don’t find to be of personal benefit to go into; but let it be known that I’ve found that library to be a bit unusual, now that I’m no longer there.

I’m just really happy that I get to help the kids in a way I couldn’t, before.

Maybe I should have picked up more jobs at different libraries before even applying for a position as a Library Assistant, but I’m here now. Multiple people have told me that I can’t live in the past, and just to do my best, moving forward. It applies with ergonomics; it applies with regretting not having become a Library Assistant sooner; and it applies with certain mistakes I’ve made in my history. I just can’t linger over those errors for the rest of my life; I’ve seen that happen in other people, and I realize that it keeps them from developing beyond it. Reliving those experiences over and over again for years or decades doesn’t, actually, help solve the problems they present.

My present consideration — as regards work — is whether to opt for more time on the Kids’ Service Desk, just because it’s more difficult, or whether to take the easy way out and stay mostly in the Adult section. I don’t know, that is, whether my Manager rewards risk-taking and growth (doing the hard stuff so that I can learn), or comfort and success with what’s already known (stepping a little out of my comfort zone, but minorly so; easing into the work). I might want to consult with her, on that; though I never have intended to be a Children’s Librarian.

It’s just a very, very different experience between the two Service Desks. I also know that most of the entry-level Public Librarian openings I’ve seen, have to do with Youth, Teen, or Children’s Librarian positions. I can’t do that without having experience working with kids; but, having experience in that area may qualify me for further work, there. Now do I want that?

I’ll have the opportunity to find out, won’t I? :)

As a final note, my Career person has told me that it’s hard to get a job just because you’ve taken classes in the subject. So I shouldn’t say that my MLIS was the end-all and be-all of being a Librarian; in fact, it was only the beginning, in a way that my current training is only the beginning. I’ve been told that it can take 6 months to become truly comfortable with Reference.

I…just think I am lucky to be working with such nice people. I’ve also found that there are many people around me who are in similar situations to my own.

It’s helping me.

art, craft, seed beads, self care, technology

Taking account: Humanities/Social Sciences/Arts/Crafts…yeah,

I’m not a Hard Sciences person, and I shouldn’t try to be one for the sake of being like my dad. I’m not him.

Today, instead of JavaScript training, it’s back to tiny tiny beads for me, and macramé. Micromacramé. Nanomacramé? ;) I have been using size 11° seed beads, 3mm Czech fire-polished beads, and C-Lon Micro, which are all very tiny, and kind of made for each other.

I didn’t even realize before breaking back into my 11°s that they’re basically about 2mm across. Using a pattern that looks like a macramé version of Daisy Chain (without the roundabouts), I’ve been able to tinker my way to a smaller version of what I was working on last with standard C-Lon and 8° beads. I don’t know if I’ve posted images of it here, yet — or if that was on an alternate blog (which is down, for now).

Right now I’m not even sure as to whether I should go back to Photoshop. I think I would post a lot more images if it were easier to modify them…though what I’m using now has a lot of options (and likely more technical options than at least PS Elements), it isn’t the most intuitive program. Its UX isn’t great.

I’ve been reading Adolfo Best-Maugard’s A Method for Creative Design (first published in 1926). It’s been interesting, though at this point (30 pages from the end of the book), I don’t think I’ll purchase it. There is some interesting content, but the book is based on a pretty idiosyncratic viewpoint which I’m not sure I buy into. I mean, it’s interesting to read, but whether I accept the author’s argument is something else.

There’s also this thing about the context of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that seems to resonate with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author was influenced by Spiritualism, which was active around the same time period. Both reflect a desire to seek out what is common between all the world’s peoples, at an early stage of globalization.

Best-Maugard essentially analyzed world or “primitive” art and broke down many of the designs he found into simple constituent elements which could be rearranged into various two-dimensional representations. What’s disappointing for me about this book is that it seems he is only teaching a method based on one form — the spiral — meaning that there is a lot more that he holds back. I would have preferred a longer edition with fewer drawings, explaining or demonstrating further these other primitive forms. As it is, I haven’t so far seen him speak about the latter; only that they exist, and that he isn’t going into them.

Anyhow: as much as I appreciate the fine arts, and love the color mutability possible in painting…painting isn’t easy for me at this point. I’ve been attempting to get back into it…but for some reason…flowers aside, I’m not drawn to common subjects, like portraits or landscapes or figures. I just don’t see the point. I can appreciate art made with these subjects, but it’s not my art.

That could be me coming from a writer’s background, too. In writing, conflict and tension are the main drive behind the narrative: in fine arts, it seems people reproduce (or create) the placid and agreeable a lot of the time, and I haven’t been able to reconcile these two modes or methods.

One of the things that has struck me is that it’s possible my native method is more lexical; as stringing different colors of beads on colored thread and tying those threads together, echoes the form of language or parallel processing. It’s just a thought: I’m not even totally sure about it yet.

But one thing I realized today is that I really did not want to get back to my JavaScript training. I got to my course, looked at it, and decided to do something else. I know I focused on Digital Services in school, but I think the experience of training under that method has made it clear how little I like to interface with computers in computer-language. It’s not quite arcane; it’s more binary.

And the beads were staring me in the face (I bought maybe 14 little 7.5 gram vials recently: no point in getting a whole lot of any one color when I hadn’t seen them), and I had bought a lot of tiny C-Lon, so I just went and got the stuff out. No reason to get the stuff if I’m never going to use it.

For some reason…dealing with beads and cords and color…it’s relaxing. Whereas work on the computer is more often than not, tension- and anxiety-inducing. Not to mention that it’s likely in the process of destroying my eyesight.

Before going to an online Master’s program, I thought it would be OK to be on the computer more. But being intensively on the computer for 6+ hours a day is something I don’t think I could tolerate.

But really, the Digital Services path only really determined seven to eight classes out of the twenty I took.

Yeah, I guess that’s a lot. Like, a third.

Maybe what I need is really to decompress and stop taking classes for a bit. It would be ironic if taking these classes taught me that I didn’t like the subjects the classes were about.

It really wasn’t too bad, until I took Database Management and Fundamentals of Programming. Then…I was like, “what did I get into?” I also don’t have a Computer Science or IT background (or even a Hard Sciences one after high school, although I still love Geology and Astronomy), so I’m at something of a disadvantage in the digital field. I know that if I want to stay current in Web Development, it will take constant acquisition of new skills to keep up with the pace of technological change. I’m not sure that I care enough to actively choose to do that for the rest of my life.

Maybe that’s why the people in those positions get paid so well.

At this point, I’m clearer that I am a Humanities and Social Sciences person, although I don’t think Sociology is where I want to be. I attempted that for a couple of years in my undergraduate training. It was depressing.

Psychology was easier and more engaging, but I never really went deeply into it. History was amazing — particularly World History. I loved that: being able to fit pieces of thoughts together into a coherent image. I also loved Ethnic Studies, even though I took classes just different enough from my own position to be able to expand my view. Though I somewhat regret not having taken Japanese-American Literature, I also know that I’m immersed enough that nothing in an undergraduate class on it would have been new to me.

I also regret not having bitten the bullet and taken Japanese Language & Literature as my undergraduate major. I don’t regret having honed my English writing skills, but I am irritated that people devalue good writing so much. There is also the issue of being able to ever find work or a way of being in Japan in which I wouldn’t be exploited, being a dark-skinned female (kokujin, or “black person,” is still an accepted term in lieu of amerikajin, even if the “black person” is also “American”) with no plans on marriage or children…but yeah, insider stuff.

It was likely my experience with my birth family — and trying to be included in an Asian clique — which caused me to lean against learning Japanese language, though.

I could get further into that, but I won’t.

In any case…I’ve been finding people just kind of randomly on the Reader who do things that no one else does. Like the person who paints silk scarves, or the person encouraging me in tatting. There are a few of us who do regularly post on beadwork, but not many. I get many more “Likes” on my painting posts than on my beadwork posts…but that doesn’t mean I should work on my painting, instead.

Seriously. I think more people can just connect with painting, whereas bead weaving or beaded micromacramé is relatively niche (which is a good thing so far as niche markets are concerned, but)…

It’s just kind of tough to be disconnected. I should probably go out of my way to join a beadwork forum or two, though as my specialization is beaded micromacramé at this point…yeah, that’s…that’s kind of special. (I was inspired with the macramé bug by someone working with cords and gemstones, though what I do is much different from their work.)

I wonder if giving resources would help others get involved in the hobby? I’ve been reluctant to do so, for my own reasons…

craft, fiber arts, tatting

Progress re: shuttle lace technique

Earlier today I had to spend significant time in a waiting room, and…during that time, I learned how to manage over-tatting thread tails. Particularly when beginning a piece of tatting (a.k.a. shuttle lace), this means that I can start without having to tie a knot between two pieces of thread. Knowing this also is the first step to knowing how to join a new piece of thread when I run out. (I still haven’t tried that, yet. One step at a time.)

As mentioned before, I’m using the book Learn to Tat by Janette Baker, though I haven’t looked at the DVD it comes with, yet. (Who has a DVD player?) Because of this — and because of the fact that the relevant illustrations number exactly two (and are not helped by the thread shown being dark green), I’ve been working a bit by trial-and-error when following the instructions.

From working with beads and self-needles (thread hardened with glue), after my first couple of rough attempts at this (one or two weeks ago, I think), I took it upon myself to find and use a needle for the end of the thread I needed to bury. (This is not a step covered in the book.) Earlier I was using a needle with a sharp tip, but today I was able to get one with a rounded end, which shouldn’t split the cotton (I’m using DMC #5 perle cotton) as easily. It also, for some reason, fits into (and comes out of) a pincushion fine, which is unexpected.

So the secret of successfully over-tatting a thread tail is apparently to run the thread tail through the loop one is closing, in the exact same orientation as the shuttle thread. I don’t know if anyone will know what I’m saying by that, but basically you just run the thread tail exactly in parallel to the thread that’s already going through the flipped half-hitch. Although it seems like it might be more secure to run it through that loop so that the threads scissor closed around both sides of the loop, this is going to make a bumpy tight knot that doesn’t look, or feel, all that great.

When I first started, I was putting the thread through any which way, which meant that some of my knots were bumpy, and some were smooth. It took me a little while to reason out what was going on, which I theorized while trying to sleep one night. Today I tested it in full. I was right.

I did get a pincushion which ties to the wrist a few days ago, but with this method, it’s easy to just lay the thread with the needle on it to the side, over the back of the non-dominant hand. When the half-hitch has been tied and flipped, then just pull the needle forward over the hand, align it through the knot exactly in parallel with the shuttle thread, pull it gently through, and close the loop over both threads. Then replace the needle over the back of the non-dominant hand. Easy.

It should still allow the ring (if one is making a ring) to slide properly. It should also show that characteristic Lark’s Head Knot look…though I think a Lark’s Head Knot is actually a different thing than a Double Stitch, in tatting.

I had skipped over most of this lesson (Number 5, I think), in favor of getting to the Josephine Knot edging. Impatient. But today I was okay with going back and re-trying the join. And it worked!

I’m still having some issues with remembering all the steps — like snugging up the Chain stitches before starting a new Ring; or which shuttle to use when, when using a two-shuttle technique; or the difference between holding the thread for a Ring (all the way around the hand) as versus for a Chain (only over the top of the fingers), but I’m getting there!

And yes, this is something not taught in New Tatting. In New Tatting, they tell you to tie a knot to join a new thread, and then glue down the thread tails.

(no glue, please) It’s probably the reason why my local lace supply store does not sell that book.

Anyhow, I should get going. I just felt the urge to record this before I forgot it. It seems relatively advanced, but then, everything new in tatting seems relatively advanced. :)

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? ;)

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…