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, beadweaving, beadwork, Business training, color, glass beads, jewelry, metalsmithing, occupational hazards, seed beads, small business planning

Self-observation + Link to Matubo seed bead review

Observation first, before I forget.

I really like working with seed beads and fiber.  And I really like writing about seed beads and fiber.  I originally started the metalworking classes because I could see some things being done with seed beads which could be more cleanly and simply done with metal (like cabochon and faceted stone setting).  And I could see the use that those skills would open to me in doing something like making my own clasps.  But I don’t think at heart that I’m a silversmith (for the love of silver, at least).

Also, unless I went into enameling, and/or heavy use of colored stones, I probably wouldn’t want to really get into metalsmithing that deeply.  Enameling can be hazardous, which is a reason I’ve avoided it in the past.  In one of my classes, I observed someone blow powdered enamel (a.k.a. colored glass dust — “colored” meaning probably toxic to ingest; “glass” meaning tiny shrapnel which may shred your lungs and never get back out) off of her bench and into a cloud.  I held my breath as I walked past.  She still had a cough the next semester.

How do you really guard against stuff like that other than wearing a respirator the entire time you’re in class?  What if I hadn’t happened to see what was going on?  What if I didn’t know to look away every time the enameling kiln was open?  (An enameling kiln radiates infrared light when the door is open and it’s hot, and that can damage eyesight unless protection is worn when looking towards it.)

I still remember when I had to spend 10-15 minutes cursing over the pickle pot because someone dumped out my tiny copper rings into the pickling solution and it was so dim — and the pickle so saturated with copper (it turns deep blue-green instead of clear when it’s old) — that I couldn’t see them.  And I remember coughing for two weeks afterwards from the fumes, as well.

But let’s get back onto a positive note, shall we?

I have enough experience from my time in smithing classes (two semesters — more than that, and I didn’t want to put myself back into the situation) that I feel reasonably confident that I can construct and solder a toggle clasp on my own, or fabricate a clasp from sheet and wire.  It probably wouldn’t be the greatest-looking thing or the most creative thing (creativity is very much helped by fluency of skill), but it’s possible, and I know it’s possible.  I can also make custom closed jump rings from wire and solder — easy, with the right setup and materials.  Or, so I say now that I know how to cut the jump rings away en masse and cleanly.  If I’d used silver for my class project, I would have wasted about $60 worth of silver while I learned how to avoid twisting the saw.

Plus there is the bezel setting I learned at the end of first semester, which showed me that even though it looks simple to set a stone in a metal bezel, in reality there is a lot of work which goes into it, and it requires some finesse to avoid, say, melting your bezel into a puddle instead of closing it.  It also requires some finesse to achieve a secure seat for your stone, and to avoid inadvertently damaging the stone in the process of setting it.  This is not even getting into whether what you’re setting it on looks good or not — more often than not, this is a flat piece of sheet metal, sometimes with stamps, soldered buttresses or designs of wire, or, in some cases which I especially admire, bits of granulation.  I can’t do granulation yet, so of course, I’m impressed.  ;)

Form is explored in metalwork, but often at the expense of color.  Color dynamics are a big attractor and driving force for me.  My seed bead, colored pencil, and marker collections attest to it.  I have wanted to get into painting, but so far the only experience I have there is in one Color Dynamics class which used gouache, plus Continuing Drawing — there was an introduction to pastel painting at the very end of that session.

I know there are liver of sulfur and shakudo and shibuichi and the golds and coppers and brasses.  I even know that there are the reactive metals to work with, titanium and niobium, and these.  But do I really love metal?  At this point, my enjoyment of metalwork is not high enough for me to go out of my way to expose myself to the hazards of metalwork.  Hot metalwork, at least.  Cold connections are much less intimidating.

In addition, there seemed, in my metalsmithing class, to be some prejudice against beaders.  I inadvertently ran up against this when I started constructing a beadwoven chain for my metal pendant in class.

At this point, having done some work in design myself — I mean, beyond changing the colors of a pattern, and I mean — really taking a concept through multiple models to achieve a workable formula (that collar with the daggers may have to be altered so it curves more), I can see the point that people who work in metal may think that beaders are unoriginal because they/we stereotypically don’t take a project from concept to conclusion, but rather have to learn via patterns and mimicry before we can stand on our own two feet.

But where are you going to find a way to learn to bead unless a) you know someone who does it who is willing to teach you, b) you take classes at a bead store — if there is one near you, or c) you learn through finding pre-made patterns (in print and online) and following them?  I mean, seriously!

It wasn’t until I confronted the idea of going into business with my own jewelry start-up that I found I didn’t have the complete set of skills I’d need to do business in the way I’d want to do it.  I’m gaining that skill now, and I’m slowly de-shocking myself from the scare of potentially treading on someone else’s intellectual property rights.  In two to five years, maybe I could have a viable business.  But there are a lot of things to get in order, first.  Particularly, identity and my target market, plus maybe figuring out what lies behind the drive to bead.

There are a lot of things that I didn’t know about myself that I’m learning about myself, which could gain me a signature style, which could in turn become a brand that I’d be able to sell within the U.S. for U.S. level living-wage money.  Probably not urban living-wage money, unless I’m in a place I don’t want to be, but nonetheless.

I think, though, that one of the reasons there are so many beading pattern books on the market is that really, handwoven beaded jewelry is…it’s expensive in terms of time and design, but not in terms of materials.  It’s also relatively fragile.  So maybe it seems more profitable to sell copies of the patterns and let people make the jewelry themselves, than it is to have a firm which produces and distributes finished beaded jewelry.  Otherwise, most of what I’ve seen comes from outside of this country, and really, how do you compete with a $10 daisy-chain bracelet?

Unless you have a distinct identity, that is — and you know what you’re selling, beyond your product.  Though, of course, that can easily go icky, if you jump to conclusions.  But the reality behind it maybe doesn’t have to be really that bad.  If you’re selling things because you want to celebrate femininity, hey, good on you, you know?  But know that’s what you’re doing, and know the cultural context it takes place in; and the possible problems resulting from the flawed system that your statement only makes sense within.  And know it’s very possible that others will see different meanings in your art than those which you intend.

I think that if I’m really creative — if I really take an unusual tack to what I want to be doing, and I do something which no one else in my part of the world is doing, or which maybe no one is doing anywhere — I think it’s possible to run a handmade jewelry business.  It would be tight, financially, and it would take a lot of time.  Plus, a lot of my attention would be expended on business as versus creation, at least unless I found a partner to manage that side for me.  This is at least a two-person venture, if it’s serious, and more likely eventually at least a 5-person venture.  But hey.  The culture?  The work?  It could turn out nice.

Anyhow, I’ve put this to the side for now as an auxiliary option.  I’m not married and don’t have plans to be, so I’ll have to support myself.  Right now I’m looking at writing and beadwork as things I love, can do relatively easily, and can do immediately.

I promised you a link to a review of Matubo seed beads.  That link is here.  I ran across this by accident; the author displays photos of these beads next to a couple of other brands which I had not seen in action prior, but which I’m considering trying out, now.  Presently, Matubos are only available in 7/0 size (in Czech sizing) — the size is quoted in the article; the difference between the Czech and Japanese sizing relations is something I’ve just inferred from past experience.

Anyhow, happy crafting (or whatever you do out there!)  Treat yourself nice.  :)

fiber arts, occupational hazards

Butterfly 10 + 4mm circulars

So I went to a LYS and found that the pattern I’d been practicing — the Cloverleaf Cable one — is really advanced for the amount of time I’ve been knitting. The pattern includes an SSK, and undoing an SSK was messing me up. I found out that when undertaking a project with a new stitch, you have to know both how to knit it, and how to unknit it. Since I barely know how to do an SSK anyway…well, you can see my problem.

I did find a thread on Ravelry that can be searched under “tinking SSK” which gives a lot of different methods for undoing an SSK without damaging the work more than necessary. But I think that for now I’m probably not going to do the Cloverleaf Cable.

I did find a Diagonal Lace stitch pattern (no SSKs) which I want to use with the Misti Alpaca laceweight, held double. This note still needs to be marked on my pattern sheet, though. This last time of attempting something with that yarn, though — I learned that with the Diagonal Stitch pattern, I need to put in a lifeline every pattern repeat (every 6 rows). Undoing a pattern which includes YOs and SKPs is…well, I can say that I messed up the pattern more by trying to undo my work than it was messed up to begin with. If I’d had a lifeline, I would have been able to just rip back one and a half rows, given that the yarn didn’t tangle itself into a knot instead of ripping back. And this yarn really does like to knot instead of coming undone, unlike the Butterfly.

Right now I have some new yarn — Butterfly 10; mercerized cotton, DK weight. Plus a set of flexible plastic 4mm circulars which I used a hair dryer to straighten (much easier than using tap water, even though I warped one section of the cable). I was told by the LYS person that they would be easier on my wrists than metal or bamboo circulars, which she said could cause RSI (though this might not be an issue unless you’re knitting a *lot*).

The only thing I can say about them so far is that I need to keep my tension looser than I did in order for the loops to move over the join between needle and cable smoothly; plus the feel in one’s hands (and the scraping between the points in the method of knitting I’m using, which polishes bamboo points but may wear on these) takes some getting used to. I do, however, like the concave taper on the points. I can look up the brand if anyone’s interested.

I also picked up a pattern for a cable scarf and charted out the pattern last night so I could see how it worked. I think if I add on one more cable and one more in-between panel, it should be workable in the smaller yarn. It’s easy to see now why so many of the scarves in LYSs are narrow and long — it’s easier to undo because there are less stitches to drop or tink.

I really have no idea why the Butterfly is so much easier to unravel than the Misti Alpaca, except it’s larger and so it’s more difficult for a tiny strand to get caught and cause the unraveling to stop. Plus it’s mercerized, so it’s kind of shiny and smooth.

The Misti Alpaca which I broke off — I’d been using it for samples, which is how I know it works well held double for the Diagonal Lace pattern. But it really does wear when it’s ripped back, plus it knots; so now I have a bunch of fuzzy, tiny waste yarn. I’m going to use it for lifelines, as I did when trying to see if the Butterfly 10 looked good in the Diagonal Lace pattern (it doesn’t).

But the Butterfly 10 — it cost me $4 a hank. I’d hate to use it for dishcloths — it’s soft and shiny enough to be garment material. Of course there is that issue with cotton absorbing pesticides while growing which I heard about in my Fibers class, so the poison can’t be washed away…but really, most of my clothes are cotton, so I’m not entirely certain I should be overly concerned about the yarn in specific.

There is one LYS store within driving distance which sources locally-grown, organic cotton. I’ll have to check that out.