craft, glass beads, seed beads

GAAAA…Washing beads.

So…in lieu of going to the Walnut Creek Bead & Design show this weekend, I found myself in San Francisco and took the opportunity to look inside General Bead, a store I’ve long known about and never visited. I have checked out their website, but I don’t remember having come away from it with a good feeling. I decided to look into their physical storefront today.

The store itself was on Minna, in the South of Market (SoMa) area. Minna in this area is kind of…run-down. The storefront almost seems to be off of an alley (the alley being Minna itself), in a way which very much reminded me of Mr. Zebra off of Telegraph in Berkeley (down to the spray-painted facade…and the local aroma, common to most urban areas here, which…anyone who lives here will know).

On going in, we were immediately greeted by an employee, who explained the method for ordering materials. This was kind. It was also nice that the store inside is not as modest as the storefront would suggest. In particular, they have a lot of Czech seed beads, in bags and in hanks. However, most of the stock is behind the counter and not accessible to the public. One fills out a form and the staff retrieve the items, which disallows close inspection prior to purchase.

It was noticeable that they had barely any multi-hole beads (though I did find some “Piggy” beads — just not in colors I would want), which is something that I can understand, as it’s difficult to tell which shape will be in demand at any one time (and new shapes are being continually introduced). I wouldn’t be surprised if trying to keep up with the multi-hole bead craze put some of the bead stores I’ve known (particularly Baubles & Beads, in Berkeley), out of business.

And, okay, I’m just going to put it out here right now: one of the packs of beads I got from them has what looks like part of the carapace of the abdomen, and two legs, of some kind of bug. I don’t want to post an image. I don’t want to remember it. At first I thought that it was a scale of a tiny pine cone. Then I identified two shed legs inside the package. So…thaaat is the gross part that I’ve been trying not to talk about so soon, but I might forget about it if I don’t mention it now.

But to be understanding, a lot of these beads came out of bulk packages behind the counter, in boxes, to be sealed up on exit in take-home packs…it would be incredibly easy for insects to live out their entire lives back there. Eating cardboard and stuff. Considering what the surrounding area looked like, I wasn’t entirely surprised…

That’s not to say that I didn’t like the experience, once inside the store. That’s to say that there are some bug issues, likely arising from the location.

I did take that hank of beads out (this was sealed at the store), and found a bunch of dust left behind inside the package. Then I went and got a fine plastic colander and bowl set that I purchased from the small Asian dollar store for $2 before it closed, and I used that as a large wash basin to wash the entire hank of beads. In Dawn dishwashing detergent. Twice.

I probably could have done more, but I passed the point of, “squeaky clean,” to the point that the oil from my hands began rubbing off on the beads. Because I am somewhat paranoid about germs…I didn’t want to wash these things until my hands cracked. There’s a fine line between being clean, and being so germ-phobic that one inadvertently exposes oneself to more than one has to.

These were rinsed many times, probably for about as long as I washed them, or longer.

Then I took them and put them in a little yogurt cup with some soft disposable hand towels, where they will be drying until at least tomorrow. I don’t recall having washed an entire hank of beads in this way in quite a long time, if I ever have at all. However, this is the third cup of beads I’ve washed, tonight.

Another was a set of what appear to be White Heart 4mm round druks from Michaels; that is, round beads with a white core (visible at the drill holes) and something red on the outside (red glass? a layer of dye?), which did bleed (brownish) a little. (Not all druks are white at the core; this is the first time I have bought a set like this, and it was accidental. I did buy actual solid-color transparent red druks, today. The thing is, it’s hard to tell that they’re red, because [as is my constant lament] the color is so intense. The White Hearts, on the other hand, are visibly red, which is why I got them.) I had set these aside primarily because I wasn’t sure if they were colorfast, but they’re seeming to hold up well.

The other wash round, this time, was two sets of Brown Iris Czech Ring beads (from General Bead), which I have since determined cannot be used with the inside of the hole, visible. This is largely because the beads themselves are not finished on the insides of the holes. The outside edges are fine. The inside edges are not. On top of that, I’ve noticed some crazing on the surface of most of these beads, probably from internal stress on the glass. They’ll just have to be used with that in mind. I have a use for them; I largely washed them because sometimes beads will just get dust on them, and it’s hard to see what they actually look like.

I’ve bought Ring beads on two other occasions, and can’t recall if they were similarly unfinished on the insides. The Olivine-color ones, which are 9.5x3mm and which I got a long time ago, are relatively fine on the outside and inside, and not crazed, though they also do look a little frosted and rough in the center. The Black ones I have, which are 8×2.5mm, look a little less finished on the inside edges, and I can’t tell if there is any crazing, because they’re black.

The ones I got this time, which are Brown Iris (basically a multicolored metallic finish, but more durable than Galvanized finishes at least were,at one time), are 7.5×2.5mm. Now that they’re drying, they don’t look too bad; rather like unfinished metal; but they still look unfinished, like the inside is not meant to be seen.

The big thing that I like about General Bead is its selection of size 6/0 Czech seed beads, which have been a bit difficult to find locally since Baubles & Beads went under. I believe the smallest pack of these available is 50 grams, which is about twice the size of a B&B vial (which I believe was 22 grams, though I’m not sure, especially as I don’t think it was noted at the store, and I don’t have a gram scale); the cost is also very decent, at around $3.50 for most of the 6/0 packs I bought. So that’s basically like paying $1.75 for a 25-gram tube (this could be the reason Yelp lists General Bead with only one “$” out of a possible “$$$$”).

The drawback I can see here is that a lot of their stock is either solid-color and opaque, or solid-color and transparent, without much funny surface treatment like Vitrail or Celsian or Apollo, or foil- or color-lining. Not that I miss the color-lining. :) However, transparent beads (even large ones) have a tendency to drop back in compositions. Solids tend to advance, as do metal-lined beads. But still, it is nice to have some subtle effects…like the Copper-Lined Rose Matte (Aurora Borealis?) beads I left there because I was pretty sure they were dyed.

I have read a lot of things about surface treatments not being permanent on Czech seed beads, however (and have had this issue before with Picasso beads, which are mottled from a surface treatment [some of which rubbed off, especially on my thread, while others did not]), so this could be a durability issue.

They did have some nice finds there, though, like bobbins of Super-Lon beading thread and Conso beading thread. I picked up a sample of each, to see if I like working with either. Also, there are odd sizes of Czech seed beads below size 6/0, almost down to the size of freakin’ sand; where you go, “how does anyone see these/fit a needle through these?” Their selection of druks and Fire-Polished beads is decent. They also have — man! — glass cabochons! In different colors! I picked up a few of these, just to practice bead embroidered bezels.

With that, I think I’m gonna go, for now. I realize I haven’t put up photos…I will either post a separate entry with photos, or come back to this entry and insert photos, later. I should have time tomorrow, before the sun sets.

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

Hyperfocus.

I wanted to write this last night, but by the time I was willing to call it quits, it was 2:30 AM. Also, as I have an unofficial policy of not taking photos of my work after sundown…sleep was preferable to staying up further into the early morning. I’ve had severe problems with sleep dysregulation before, and I have responsibilities, so taking care of myself has to come in sometime (even if I’m hyper-focused!).

Last night, I learned a number of things…the largest of which, relates to my preferred color schemes…the second largest of which, encompassed two rules:

  1. Don’t tie off a macramé pattern directly to a clasp, or you get the disadvantage of built-in stiffness on the connection. Tying off to a metal ring, then attaching the ring to another ring, alleviates the stress on that join.
  2. Don’t cut the excess cord off of knots before sealing those knots, first. Otherwise, your knots will unravel and your work will start to fall apart (at the very end!).

Today, I’ve basically been working all day at making jewelry. My folks call it a, “hobby,” moreso than a, “side hustle.” Is a hobby this serious? I don’t know.

About the color combinations…I’ve found that I want to stay away from monochromatic color schemes. This was surprising. In the past — as a youth, I had been much more hesitant about using color, so it would be more likely for me to stick with blues and greys. Hematite (an iron ore) was a particular favorite material, as it easily integrates with silver, has a nice weight and heft, plus a gunmetal metallic luster, and has been relatively inexpensive (for a natural stone).

It was relatively amazing that I was able to figure out the optimal pattern for this bracelet and write it down and then follow it. When I look at the knotting pattern on the sample I was working out initially, I can see it was trial-and-error; all over the place. I had to unravel a good amount of the work I did when I first started yesterday. This is because reversing the three-knot pattern (which reverses between every bead) essentially messes up the spacing of the beads.

Although I’ve made it to the point where I use some colors more enthusiastically than others, I also have certain hues that I am more attracted to, than others. Looking at my little bead palette things, which I’ve posted about before on this blog (scroll down), I see a lot of warm blues, greens, and violets, ranging into violet-pink…not so many yellows or oranges — or the browns that I intensely want to use. I already know that I’m not even trying to use reds, because reds are generally so intense that they overpower everything else. Pinks are also difficult to use, because of the fact that they are often either dyed (thus possibly not lightfast), or because they tend to be extremely pale.

The first trial version of this bracelet style, I made in a color palette extremely similar to the one above, but I used Capri Blue and Capri Blue Silverlined (S/L) for two of the three 6/0 bead colors that I used. The second trial bracelet (above) used Transparent Emerald (a blue-leaning green) in place of the Capri Blue S/L, and because of the lack of silver lining in the bead hole, the green falls back much more and becomes very subtle.

I’m planning to remake the first trial. I basically ruined it by cutting the threads before sealing the knots, which caused the piece to begin to unravel. I also tied it directly to the clasp, which I shouldn’t have done. I have three options:

  1. Wear the bracelet until it randomly falls apart and then remake it
  2. Cut the bracelet apart and re-knot it properly
  3. Buy another string of 4mm green iris fire-polished Czech rounds, give up the extra gold-luster 8/0s, and make a duplicate.

Although S/L beads are eye-catching in the store, they can overpower a piece if used indiscriminately. When I was a youth, I would use a lot of these, and so maybe it’s this that causes me to look at some bead combinations and think that they look like something I would have made at 16 years old.

I’ve also found that I have a tendency to like luster beads, especially Gold Luster; that opaque beads are much more useful than I would expect, advancing in compositions; that matte beads are welcome contrasts to metallic and glossy beads; that iris beads can be the foundation of a piece; and that transparent beads often fall back in a piece, while S/Ls advance.

Cobalt Blue is also extremely difficult for me to use, on par with red, because of its intensity and nearness to violet.

On top of all this, I find myself hesitant to use dyed and color-lined beads, because I’m pretty sure they’re categorically susceptible to fading (even though many colors cannot be made without these options).

I need to keep a journal on this information, including information about knotting patterns. Right now, my design notes are on temporary papers. I need to do something better.

There’s more I have to say — in regard to using SuperDuos and MiniDuos — but it will have to wait for another night. I’ve worked out two more swatches of a pattern than my initial two so far, using a double-needle technique which is much easier than I predicted (with the main issues being accidental loops, and going through the right piercings in the right directions). The third and fourth iterations (using Magatamas, Fringe beads, and Demi Round and O-beads) are very interesting, but I don’t have photos, right now.

What I can say is that for some reason, beadweaving is less stressful for me than micro-macramé, likely because I’m abrading my hands less (even though I did give myself a pretty nasty scratch by storing a needle in the fabric of my pants)…

beading, craft, design, glass beads, seed beads

Priorities.

I’ve been looking through my backposts…and have found information on where, about five years ago, I thought I’d be going with my jewelry. What I’m looking at in particular is information I noted while in the Business program at a nearby Community College. There was a bead show around that time period, and accordingly, I was trying to find an identity so that I could focus my purchases.

In my area, the local Bead Society used to be closely involved in two annual bead shows: I believe this was the “Bay Area Bead Extravanganza!” (or BABE!) and the Whole Bead Show. BABE! ceased operations in 2017. The Whole Bead Show is still around, but isn’t convening in my area again, until this November.

These shows used to be spaced out so that one would happen approximately in May (I think? I keep getting March and May mixed up), and one in November. The BSNC (Bead Society of Northern California) would advertise both of these, but it seems there has generally been a downturn in interest, participation, or just awareness, within the last few years.

I have been thinking, however, that local sellers would seek alternate local venues. One of them, now passed for me, is Stitches West (the link will take you to their upcoming shows — they’re all over the country). The only reason I know about them is that Marion (of jewelsinfiber.com) had linked to them from her website.

I didn’t go to Stitches West, but from what I gather, it was basically focused around fiber arts (knitting, crochet, weaving, embroidery, etc…though that’s just what I gather as an uninformed outsider).

Anyhow, there’s a Bead & Design Show in Walnut Creek, in about three weeks. I missed Stitches West (which I would have gone to simply for C-Lon, which is silly, I know now), but I don’t plan to miss the Bead & Design Show. I would be going to this show majorly to visit one known vendor, which is the Garden of Beadin’.

I would link you to the Garden of Beadin’s website, but it lacks a bit of intended functionality (inability to delete all items from one’s shopping cart, at least); and I’m not sure if it was the source of some computer trouble a while back, now that I think of it. (This also could have been because of other online bead retailers’ websites, however: I know for a fact that at least one of them is giving me some gunk.) Because of this, it’s best to visit them in person. They also have a print catalog, which may take the place of a functional website…I’m not sure, as I haven’t seen it yet.

However: when you see their displays, you’ll know why people buy from them. They have a lot of Czech seed beads, and some Japanese seed beads, which are majorly the reason I’ve gone to them.

Now that the bead store, Baubles & Beads — formerly on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley — is closed, it’s not so easy to locally source Czech seed beads in size 6/0. I prefer the Czech 6/0 beads because they’re more donut-shaped than cylinder-shaped (like Japanese 6/0 seed beads are), so they are good for uses in which Japanese beads aren’t as aesthetically pleasant (like Right-Angle Weave).

There was also a store in Pinole called Peggy’s Perfections which would sell strands of Czech beads in different sizes. From what I can tell, I think Peggy’s business also went under, though I can’t say how long ago without doing some extraneous research.

I should note that I’m fairly certain these stores closed because of online competition, though when you’re buying beads to the tune of once a week, having a brick-and-mortar place to visit is important as well as convenient. Because so many local East Bay bead stores have closed, I’m kind of leaning towards telling you about a couple that I have visited.

Right now, Beadazzled on Solano in Berkeley is getting a lot of my time…and money, fortunately for the shop owner! I’m basically happy that there’s again someone in the Berkeley area who has decided to set up shop. They have a good selection of seed beads and some of the newer multihole beads, plus specialty ones like Czech O-Beads…and basically a wall of Czech glass. Because I’m into bead weaving and micro-macramé, I go there for things like these.

The other place that I visit occasionally is Blue Door Beads, in Piedmont. It’s been so long since I’ve been there that I don’t feel entirely comfortable giving too much of an idea of their stock, but I know they sell stone beads (moreso than Beadazzled), individually and in strands. I also got a lot of my 3mm and 4mm fire-polished beads from there.

There is also a shop in Concord called Just Bead It!, which (along with Beadazzled on Solano) sells the elusive 5mm Czech fire-polished rounds. At the time I last visited, they also had some of the rarer beads like Dragonscales (the glass ones)…though I still haven’t used mine. They’re tiny and delicate, and have tiny and delicate holes.

Anyhow, I started out this post talking about, basically, trying to find a brand identity, which I’m much, much closer to, now (if I have not already sussed out what I need to in order to begin). Over the years…I’ve found myself drawn most to beadweaving and micro-macramé. I also find wirework very much to be of use, however; some of my favorite creations could not have been done just using thread or cord (I may have to upload some photos here to help remind myself — I’m particularly thinking of earrings).

I may want to get into hot metalwork in order to do things like construct my own clasps…the thing is, the setup for that is so involved, and can be expensive and hazardous. The upshot is that metals sellers sometimes sell metal at market (commodity) value, meaning that it’s — in the long run — likely cheaper to make things oneself, than it is to repeatedly buy things like clasps and earwires (which can be outlandishly priced).

Right now I’m looking at trying my hand at bead embroidery (in the vein of Jamie Cloud Eakin), but to be honest, I doubt I have ever done it, and I don’t know if I’ll like it. If I don’t like it, I may be turning back to hot metalwork.

In a similar vein, I can see myself eventually getting a kiln to work with ceramics and Precious Metal Clay (PMC). The drawback to this is bi-fold: first, will I be allergic to PMC like I’m allergic to Fimo? second, the kiln — any kiln — is expensive. However, I already know that I have skill at ceramics. I also already know that I like ceramics.

The major thing to hold me back here, besides the capital investment, is the fact that I may have to deal with silica vapor from firing ceramics…which is not a good thing to breathe in, but I didn’t have a problem with it, in high school. Of course, I probably didn’t realize my own mortality in high school…

However, the possibility of making my own ceramic components is interesting…and possibly productive, in the future (especially as I’m into micro-macramé, at this point). After, that is, I figure out where to live.

Right now, for the short-term, I need to be looking at glass beads: particularly Czech glass beads, Japanese and Czech seed beads (particularly sizes 6/0, 8/0, and 15/0), druks, and likely crystals (like Swarovski, which stopped using lead in its lead crystal, and as such can’t be called “lead crystal” anymore). I should also be looking at cabochons — large and inexpensive ones — with which to practice bead embroidery.

All of that sounds solid. There’s also the issue, though, of color schemes. Right now, my color palettes lean towards blue, green, violet, brown, and some reds. Yellow and orange aren’t as present, though I do have a lot of nicely muted colors. When working with paint, I realized that sometimes a bit of a color which you didn’t think you needed was actually necessary for something to turn out the way you wanted. I should keep this in mind…

The reason for leaning away from gemstone beads is the fact that gemstone jewelry gets very expensive, very quickly. I don’t know if I have to say more on that…

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, glass beads, seed beads

Colors.

Last night — or yesterday, rather — M and I made a run to the quilt store. We went there instead of the big box fabric store, as (given an easy choice) I would rather give my money to support local small business, than to grow a large corporation. There’s that, and the quality of the fabrics at the quilt store is really nice (even if they mostly have cottons and silks). It may just be me being a color nut, but also; just looking at all the different shades of fabric is awesome.

It can, however, be a bit intimidating when you’re choosing just what color scheme to use in a project! I was able to help M out with color selection, and pick up a nice batik to use in the side slits in the Nepali Blouse. The way it’s turning out, I may have a minor skirt at the bottom of this blouse! (If, that is, it becomes necessary to raise the side slits back to their original position, and insert a panel to cover my skin.)

Because I would only be going to a certain convention this time around to pick up C-Lon cording, we decided against it. I was able to find a different supplier, which is a good thing!

The other thing interesting, yesterday, was breaking back into my beadwork. There’s a friend who gave me a couple of bracelets to mend, although I said at the outset that I doubted I could fix them.

A while ago (2011), I tried fixing one, requiring some disassembly, and realized the thing had been made with a double-needle netting technique (which I still don’t know, though I could probably figure it out). That in itself was only part of the problem; the larger part is that the beads are so faded and tiny that I can’t tell which color is which, unless they’re pre-grouped.

M suggested that I return this attempt and make this friend a new bracelet (basically an apology bracelet, like the apology earrings I’ve now realized I have no record of on WordPress, as versus in my archives). The below is the swatch I produced by toying around with stuff last night. I brought together a set of colors which is obviously intended both to be beautiful, creative, and relatively gender-neutral.

blue and topaz beadweaving sample.

To the left, here, is a photo of that trial swatch. I basically knew I wanted to try something with SuperDuos…and I had these cream SuperDuos and blue MiniDuos. I really didn’t know if they would work together, but it was worth a shot; and it seems they do!

SuperDuos — or maybe I should say, beads that I’ve seen sold as SuperDuos — can vary in shape, from bean-looking things, to almost DiamonDuo or GemDuo shape (that is, rhombuses). SuperDuos are a bit more curvy in their edges, than either DiamonDuos or GemDuos, though; at least if I’m correct. Of course, though, I have SuperDuos from the early days, meaning I may have some very old-model beads!

I’m going to have to remove the “root beer” bead in between the two amber 3mm Magatama drops, in order for this to turn out flat. Right now, the fringes are overlapping a bit, as the three-bead fringe (two 3mm Magatamas and one matte Fringe bead, possibly Czech in origin) is slightly wider than one full-size SuperDuo. If I repeated the three-bead blue fringe every time I could, the overlap would be noticeable.

Tonight, D and I went out to an Asian discount store which is closing its doors; I found two “Quilting Totebags” for about $2.50 each, and brought home three smaller chirimen bags which are still big enough to contain tubes of beads, and projects. I’ve been wanting to take this stuff to work, and this seems like a good way in which to do so.

One thing I’ve learned over the course of years is that the method of storage affects the use of what is stored: if two things are stored far apart or segregated by size or shape, for example, it is less likely they’ll find it into combination, unless measures are taken to counter this.

I also realized that right now, with my design, I have a tendency to start with color and color combinations, and combine everything I can find into a desired color scheme, then take what shapes I have in those colors, and attempt to assemble them into a form. (It’s kind of a creative exercise.)

In the future, I may attempt to get all the shapes I can in some neutral shade, and work at the form first, before choosing the colors.

I feel the need to note some things about design, for myself in the future:

  • Beadweaving is kind of like using Legos. Structurally (aside from cabochons and bead embroidery, the latter of which can range into sewing), you generally have two main design elements: piercings, and lines.
  • Any line must go through or around a bead, which has one or more piercings through which a line may pass.
  • That line must then either wrap around another line (as with Brick Stitch), or pass through a piercing.
  • In bead weaving, we generally attempt to cover exposed threads with beads, in order to avoid damage to those threads.
  • In beaded micromacramé, not all cords must be covered, as the cords themselves are a visual as well as structural design element (with the possibility of becoming a dominant design element). These cords are also generally strong enough to withstand exposure.

Right now, I absolutely know I need a shower before tomorrow, so I’m going to end this, here. I will note, however, that I have a lot of new reading material from the bookstore…it would be nice to get around to it!

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, glass beads, organization, seed beads

Reminders of the pleasures of life – 01

I have photos of my new storage system today, as I wanted to do something which wasn’t…academic, anymore. I have also been looking around at retailers, online.

I know certain things I need for at least one project, but right now I’m trying to figure out from whom to get them. Factoring into that is the selection the retailer carries, and what extra things they carry that I won’t be able to source elsewhere.

Also, a detractor is the fact that some bead retailers do not say which company manufactures a specific color or finish of bead. Fortunately or not, at least one of these companies has the widest selection of rocaille (round) seed beads I have ever seen. That’s great in terms of selection, not so great in terms of design.

I’ve also bought from this vendor, before, and there is the question of whether the manufacturer even matters, if I was okay prior without knowing the manufacturer (when buying from a local bead store), and if I’m okay with swapping out bead colors just because of those beads’ dimensions.

IMG_4100w
The size 6/0 rocailles that I’m most likely to use (Czech and Japanese)

Above is a photo of what I’m most likely to use in size 6° (also alternately notated, 6/0, which you may start seeing me use if I get tired of the “°” special character. I should probably just memorize the ASCII code). Most of them should be sourced from the Czech Republic, but some of the newer ones are Miyuki brand — which, I’ve noticed, don’t quite appeal as well to me, aesthetically speaking. They’re just more rectangular and less oval, in profile.

I’m thinking that it’s not as great for RAW (Right-Angle Weave), where the beads need to nest together. I question how they would look in Herringbone stitch, as well…but the most practical way to find out, is to try.

I also have two vials which I know are Toho 6°s, which are the light pink silverlined (upper right corner of the above photo), and Silver Galvanized (that isn’t in these photos). They appear closer to Miyukis than to the Czech 6°s (a characteristic example of which are those apple-green rounds, bottom row, third from the left).

For scale, each of these little containers is about 1″ in diameter.

IMG_4103w
Size 8/0 seed beads. Same size containers.

The photo right above, here, shows size 8° seed beads, slightly smaller than the size 6°. As the caption reads, the little containers are the same size. I’ve got to say that I’m happier with the color range I have in this size, even though you can see that I didn’t quite know how to organize them.

Both the size 8° and size 6° seed beads will easily fit onto the cord I use for micromacramé — I’ve heard that the brands of C-Lon and S-Lon are relatively interchangeable, though I just recently bought my first spool of S-Lon. (One of them — I won’t say which, just in case I’m wrong — is an off-brand of the other.)

IMG_4105w
Size 11/0 seed beads, same size container. (Japanese)

Most size 11° seed beads will also fit onto the regular size C-Lon cord, but it requires more work than using the size 8° or 6°. What I’ve done is paint the end of the cord with clear nail polish, then after it is dry, cut the tip at an angle to produce a self-needle stiff enough to pass through the bead holes.

Without doing this, you’re vulnerable to the end of the cord fraying, which will prevent it from being able to pass through this diameter bead hole (noting that the diameter of a bead hole, likely varies between brands). Of course, it’s possible just to cut a new tip…and let it fray again (I’ve been known to do this), but it’s kind of a lot of trouble.

It should go without saying that Czech bead sizing is different than Japanese bead sizing…but maybe that’s just because I’ve been doing this so long.

I’ve found places selling size 10° Czech beads, which — if my memory is right, should match up better to size 11° Japanese beads, than size 11° Czech seed beads (which are slightly smaller, and thus can’t be substituted one-for-one in a pattern utilizing Japanese seed beads). But I can’t really guarantee that. Most of my hanks of Czech seed beads haven’t been labeled as to size — I’ve just had to work out how to fit the different bead sizes together, on the fly. But looking at my collection now, it’s apparent that the shapes are different.

I have some beads which I believe are Czech silverlined light topaz 10°s — basically, transparent pale gold with foil on the inside of the bead hole. At the time I got them, I was still a high school student, and knew nothing about bead sizing — let alone that I should ask the vendor what size they were! This was also at a bead convention, and I don’t know at all, the company I would have bought them from.

Czech seed beads are more donut-shaped and flatter in profile than Japanese seed beads (which are more cylindrical), and they’re generally sold in a different form — that is, stranded and often in hanks (12 strands) or half-hanks (6 strands). Japanese seed beads, in contrast, are most often sold loose in vials, bags, or other plastic containers.

The reasoning behind selling beads in hanks is that it’s much easier to see uniformity in bead size and shape when the beads are stranded and you can compare them to each other.

I’ve just realized that I didn’t even make an effort to photograph my Czech hanks…I’ll have to get around to that, another day. What I can say, though, is that they’re no less beautiful than the Japanese seed beads…and they’re also a reason for me to have gotten the storage I have, so that I can store them loose (and thus, eventually, use them).

I should also note that sometimes size 6° and larger Czech seed beads are sold loose, like Japanese seed beads. I think this is more for convenience and consistency in packaging, than anything. It can discourage use to keep beads on hanks, as well…I know I’m tempted to avoid using them just because they’re so pretty on the hanks, but making something out of them, necessitates cutting them apart.

The below image is of Czech fire-polished round beads. These, in addition to “druks” (round solid glass beads), are essential if you’re going to be doing small-scale bead weaving. I’m pretty sure that the lower row is all 3mm beads; the rest are between 3mm and 6mm (the latter of which, I didn’t even realize I put in here).

IMG_4107w
Fire-polished rounds, from 3mm to 6mm.

Like I’ve mentioned somewhere (…?) else, 5mm fire-polished rounds are somewhat rare, but they do exist. More common are the 6mm fire-polished rounds, a couple of which are in the very top of this photo (the transparent green and transparent “amethyst”, fourth and fifth from the left). The deep blue between the two greens in the top row (third from the left) is a 5mm size.

Sizes commonly go up through 8, 10, and 12mm…but I’ve found the very large sizes much more useful for stringing and other stand-alone applications (e.g. earrings), than for beadweaving.

I mentioned “druks” earlier. It would be normal that most readers here won’t know what I mean by that, so I’ve taken another photo and cropped it to those druks…which are spherical glass beads.

IMG_4109w

The very small beads at the bottom of the above photo are 2mm glass “pearls” — I’m not sure if they are technically categorized as druks. They’re very useful for filling tiny spaces where the thread would otherwise be exposed and vulnerable to cuts and abrasions (which are generally the death of well-loved beadwork). The drawback is that all of them I’ve found are vulnerable to the coating on the outside, peeling.

An alternative is using the very small 2 or 3mm Swarovski crystals, which I’ve used before when playing with patterns from bead magazines. I’ve found that these beads only come in a limited number of colors. The edges of their holes are also sharper, so using these necessitates using a tough thread like FireLine, lest the thread be cut while you’re still weaving the thing!

I haven’t yet looked into Chinese crystal for alternatives, though it’s good to know that Swarovski isn’t the only option available.

To the left of the 2mm glass pearls, are “3mm” druks, actually closer to 2.5mm, on measurement. Above them are 3mm druks; the green and purple iris [iridescent] beads on the upper right, are also 3mm, when they were sold as 4mm. The sky blue matte beads in the center, along with the green glass “pearls”, are actually 4mm.

Anyhow, spherical glass beads which are drilled down the center are called “druks”, and they’re again essential if you’re doing tiny bead-weaving which requires technical precision. The fire-polished rounds (so-called because they’re cut and then allowed to melt again slightly, producing their glossy appearance, if memory serves) are also really nice for texture and contrast.

I’ve been able to use fire-polished rounds down to 3mm with C-Lon standard cord for micromacramé, as well.

I know this blog doesn’t have a lot of followers, so for now I’m just putting this here to remind myself that I don’t have to be on the computer writing and studying, all the time. It’s good to weave in some offline content. It’s also been good to do some image-editing…and step out of academic thought, for a while.

beading, beadwork, craft, glass beads, organization, seed beads

Messing around with bead storage

Haaa…I really need to get back to work on an academic project. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem to do — it just requires time. And motivation. The thing is that I’m coming off of a 10-unit semester and a Summer class. It’s just been nice to have time which hasn’t been assigned to anything. It’s been nice not to be graded on anything. (I have to get this project done by this Winter, to graduate.)

Not to mention that I’ve found a nice way to see the palette of colors that I’m working with. I’ve realized something, as well: black, white, and red are colors that are really hard to blend with others.

They’re all high-contrast, in different ways, and easily overpower a piece. Something has to be done to bridge the contrast gap, when they are used — like in one set I’ve separated, which uses off-white beads in addition to silverlined clear. These, in turn, are contrasted against muted denim blue, teal, and blue iris. It also helps that there are a lot of different finishes in that set, from matte to luster, silverlined, and iris.

Right now, I’ve got two sets of little samples of beads — mostly, any color I’d be likely to use — in little clear containers in little clear boxes. It makes it easy enough for me to be able to see what colors I have, which is something I’ve needed fairly badly. I’ve had to make some executive decisions as to which tubes to exclude from these sets — silverlined clear, matte black, transparent red. It’s not hard, due to experience.

Red may be usable if I blend it with Hyacinth (red-orange) and orange hues, which can almost match the vibrancy of the red.

Given the color trends I’ve seen recently, though, I don’t think an intense blood or ruby red is going to be popular. These beads are from a long time ago.

I also have some clue of what to separate out, if I need any more containers (silverlined transparent red, blue/green Picasso). I’ve noted when a bead is from Toho and I’ve known it; I’ve also noted when a bead is the last of its vial and I wouldn’t remember which vial, unless I put a label on the new container. I was torn about whether to include a Miyuki label on the beads I have which I know for a fact, are Miyuki; but referencing the bead back to the original vial will give me that information.

Also, from looking at it, it seems that comparing all of the size 6º beads together, knowing which are Miyuki, will tell me which others are Miyuki (they’re kind of distinctive, next to Toho and Czech size 6º seed beads: they’re larger).

Some bead distributors won’t note the brand of a seed bead, which can pose a problem where it comes to, “recipes,” or patterns. I was also at a fabric store today, and found some Czech “Twin” beads which looked like Twins used to look (like beans), years ago. I’ve seen them to look more like SuperDuos (like diamonds) most recently, unless I’m mistaken; which leads me to believe that there is more than one Czech company manufacturing, “Twins,” with more than one model. I didn’t think to check the country of origin, though, which could have shed some light on the issue.

At this time, I don’t have to immediately get half-size vials, as the small Toho vials I’ve just emptied, may account for all the over-half-empty tubes of seed beads. (As a note: the last two times I bought Toho beads, the vials were much less full than how they used to be packed. On looking at the vial weight, I see that two [likely the older ones] are labeled 9g, while the others [likely new] read 7g. The vial dimensions are the same.) I also found my stash of other empty full-size and functional vials, along with my small plastic bags and stash of experimental samples.

I’ve just been looking for alternative storage, seeing that my older storage tubes are beginning to biodegrade (particularly, the caps).

As for actually doing anything with the beads — I want to rework the necklace I’m wearing, now; fairly badly. But I’ll need to either buy another scarab bead or cut this necklace apart, to make that. I’m not entirely certain where to get it, either…or what else to buy to make the exchange, worth it.

Anyhow…I do have better things to be doing. I’m struggling with feelings of guilt for avoiding them and a bit of concern over the fact that using my free time this way may need to be paid for, this Fall.

Hmm. Well. At least I feel like I’m reconnecting with who I actually am, outside of school…

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.  :)

beading, beadwork, fiber arts, glass beads, jewelry design, macrame, seed beads, tatting

Adventures in neckpiece design

I was kick-started back into beading recently by someone asking me to make them a blue necklace of a certain length.  :)  This got me thinking on design — my tentative instinct is to go with Oglala (Butterfly) Stitch, a basic form of which I can see between the two versions I’ve seen in books.  Butterfly Stitch is just basically working one or more ruffles off of a center chain.  I’ll have to add at least 3/4″-1″ in length to account for the girth of the thing, but I’m still working on pattern ideas (particularly color placement).

I do have a more interesting project (to me, right now, anyway) where I’m basically using two needles to make a netted collar — I’m not sure if it is even possible to make it with one needle.  Because I’m not working off of a pattern, other than a concept drawing of my own (which didn’t work out the way I’d planned), I’m thinking this is the way I’d design something to sell.  (And then make over and over and over?  ;P)  I mean, I didn’t even start out knowing that the piece would be netted, as versus using chevron stitch, for example.  It just kind of evolved that way.

In fact, I didn’t have much at all in the way of expectations when I started this project.  To me, it was play and a chance to get back into my seed beads.  What’s come of it is a pink/peach/red-violet netted thing with tiny daggers I got somewhere between two and five years ago (a specialty buy — they’re made of a mix of peach and cream glass) and never used.  I also ended up with peanut beads in the “base” row (if you can call it that — it’s woven widthwise, not lengthwise) for texture.  Amazingly, they all tend to orient in one direction.  Plus, the curve caused by the shortness of the “base” row is about right for a collar.  I think I’ve finally got the color scheme down now, unless I want to switch out cranberry for baby pink in the “base” row.

The reason for using the peach beads?  I thought it was a color I’d never use.  And then I started to use them, and realized that what I was making looked a lot like lace.  (See recent blog entries on wanting to make lace.)  At almost the same time I recognized one of my practice pieces from an online pattern (“Picot Delight”) to look like tatted lace (I think this is the time when I’d checked out nearly all of my library’s tatting books, so I had plenty of photos to get an idea of how these things typically looked).

And I mean, originally I started out with a lot of colors which just vaguely and probably coincidentally worked together — the focal point used to be a row of ruby AB teardrop beads (“ruby”-colored glass, not actual ruby).  Then I went through a number of reds, only to come out on the other side with a relatively desaturated red/violet as the focus (4mm Czech “fuchsia” fire-polished rounds), as versus ruby.

Well, let me say that they’re desaturated for this season’s color profile.  In others they would simply be a bit muted — but we have a lot of super-saturated and neon tones out this year.

Anyhow, I basically now have a few swatches — those that haven’t been recycled — which show different points in the design process.  I haven’t been sure how to record the different stages in the design process — through notes?  Photographs?  Drawings? Memory?  I have cut apart and reused the beads in at least 3 samples.  I’ve needed to — I have finite amounts of these beads, a lot of which I can’t depend on finding replacements for, should I run out.  Plus, it takes a lot of pressure off of me when I’m experimenting, to know that if I don’t like it I can just cut it apart, and the only loss will be a short length of thread (and some time — but it’s not time wasted if I learned something).

It’s very clear that my initial concept design isn’t identical to the piece as it will be made.  I could probably go on experimenting with color combinations forever, but the way it looked in the second-to-last trial appears good enough to make.

Speaking of thread, though…I got the idea last night of attaching the clasp with fiber instead of with a beaded loop.  Usually, there’s a loop at the end to catch a toggle or button, and it most often is covered in seed beads to protect a number of different lines of thread.

I was thinking about how to do this better.  I’ve never really liked putting clasps on things, because they take a while to figure out, not to mention that most toggles are beaded beads made of peyote or herringbone stitch.  (Yes! I did find a herringbone beaded-bead pattern, not that I can remember it now, though.)  This is almost always a headache for me, because I don’t like weaving in ends — or odd-count peyote.  And if I use something like one of the very common, very fine, super-strong polythylene threads — it’s known for not holding knots well.  So I have felt obligated to weave in over and over to hold the bead together through friction on the line.

I hate this.

Not only have I broken seed beads within larger beaded beads doing this (causing the entire beaded bead to be a wash), but also a beaded bead’s weave can be distorted depending on the path one takes with one’s needle while one is weaving in.  This is why I recently have taken to collecting buttons with which to finish off necklaces and bracelets.  The plastic ones are probably the ones to get — they’re inexpensive and they aren’t going to scratch the beadwork.  Not to say that I haven’t collected some nice shell and metal buttons.  But sometimes you don’t want metal; and shell can abrade glass.  Or glass can abrade shell.  I know something’s going on; I can hear it scraping.  ;)

But!  Guess what I realized last night?

I can use my skills with knotting to slide a C-Lon cord through a larger bead hole or set of bead holes, then use macrame to secure the ends of the cord.  This way, the beadwoven piece can stand on its own.  There will be two loops of macrame holding on the button and the buttonhole, but if they stretch or break, just cut them off and make new loops; don’t worry about remaking the entire bracelet or necklace.

I actually got the idea from having used wire connections through seed bead holes to finish the ends of ropes before.  If you can put thread through it, you might be able to put cord or wire through it.  The hole just has to be big enough and the bead wall strong and smooth enough to take the pressure.  Also, the thread connecting that bead to the rest of the beads has to be strong enough, so it will probably need reinforcing.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems very promising.  Just don’t do it poorly and make the rest of us look bad!  ;D  *laughs*  (Oh my, I’m not going to go there, am I?  [I’m being cynical.  If you knew me and my posture on elitism, you’d know why.])

I did get a digital camera a while ago, so I might be eventually able to post a tutorial on here or something.  I figure the more of us who do it and do it well, maybe the better buttons will be made.  :D  And that would be totally awesome!

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

Surveying the field…or a part of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does sewing have to be a gendered activity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

beading, glass beads, macrame, seed beads

Easter beading

In other arenas:

I need to buy a new roll of Alligator Tape; I was knotting today for the first time in weeks, and my skin was showing it.  The roll of Alligator Tape that is already here has somehow fused together into a solid mass.  It would have worked if someone had left part of the tape hanging loose, but as it was, it was…unusable.

The thing is, I’m so used to blisters on my pinky fingers in the same exact spot that by now, it doesn’t even really hurt anymore.  My only concern, really, is causing a break in the skin and getting an infection.  From my experiences in ice skating, and guitar, I know the only real annoyance or concern would be if I continued to irritate the area, or ruptured the skin.  I generally get my hands dirty when I go to work (the work I get paid for, that is), so the latter would be a cause for concern — but the only cause for concern.  And more likely it would just be the irritation of having to change a wet Band-Aid.

I did stop knotting tonight because my hands really couldn’t take it very well, and the Alligator Tape was useless.  I would like to be doing this more often, though — experimenting with beads, that is; not getting blisters.  I’m still inspired from the bead show from yesterday, and want to ride the high while I can.  So many people gathered around a love of beads!  This is why I was knotting tonight instead of reading for Marketing.  Because Marketing isn’t going to help a whole lot if I don’t build my skills and experience — unless I want to work full-time as a Marketer, and the thought is kind of…not my cup of tea.  To build skills and experience takes drive and work; and I felt moved to work today.  Because what I want to be doing is creating.  Not, particularly, convincing people that what I’ve made will fulfill their needs.  If I could have someone competent and ethical with integrity, who would be willing to do that for the salary I might eventually be able to pay, I’d gladly hand that part of the job off.

Today I was trying to learn how to tie basic horizontal half-hitches (from left and right) in a Cavandoli style, taking a cue from my wireweaving books.  Horizontal half-hitches, I am feeling confident enough on; though it still helps to look at the diagrams every once in a while to ensure I’m doing them correctly.  I started out trying to make a basic strap with scrap C-Lon and one new cord in a different color, totaling 8 strands.  Eventually, this turned into a “wonder if I can make a zigzag with beaded arcs” thing, and I broke out the 8/0 and 6/0 seed beads and fire-polished rounds and druks.

The good thing is that my druks and fire-polished beads do fit on the C-Lon (standard width) — the 8/0s and 6/0s, I already knew would.  Another good thing is that I finally figured out one good sizing formula for what beads to use where in order to make the arcs symmetrical and looking like they fit together.  It did take me a while (and two messed-up repeats) to be able to see how things should look if they’re correct, however.  When the center beads line up with each other, you’re basically golden.  It took a couple of hours, and the revelation that I could move repeats from side to side in order to place them at an appropriate “width” point, to be able to get there, though.  That is, it may not work to put a 6/0 at the minimum section of the sinnet’s arc, but it may work to put it one cord further in.

I do have a workable plan, with that now; and I’m thinking that, just to practice, I may make this pattern with the beads and cords I have.  The colors are kind of mishmash between bronze and green and seafoam and turquoise — the latter, because they were the only 3mm firepolished beads I had.  It works out, though.  I suppose that the colors may actually be linked via the presence of copper — I’m just not sure about the apple greens.  But then, I’m not sure of the colorants for most of the glasses I work with, with the exception of gold for pinks and reds, a high probability of copper for the aquas, plus cobalt for cobalt blue.  …The latter of which, I just remembered, I have stashed for a specific project.  I tend to forget these things until I see them again.

Last night, at about 3 AM, I was still running off of tea, and building a design for a stone donut that I’ve had unused for years.  I can still work on that design, but I don’t think that the pattern I made tonight with the knotting, is really one that would show off the pendant I made to best effect.  It distracts the eye too much from the donut itself.  I’m thinking of making a multistrand necklace for the latter, but I can only do this to best effect by attaching a backing, and then embroidering on an edging of beads through which to attach the necklace and fringe.  As I contemplated doing that, I realized that I didn’t have to sew on the central component so strongly or obviously.  If there would be backing, a central component can be sewn down through the backing and back out the top of the component without the need for tight and secure lacing.  As it is, there’s a weak spot in the donut where one of the drill holes is; there’s a fracture which runs parallel to it, which I didn’t see or feel until tonight.  I’m not sure if that’s my doing, or not.

What I want to do with that pendant is make a choker.  Maybe I will just resort to strands coming off the sides, plus fringe.  It would definitely be easier than trying to work macrame into the strap.  I also should have a good number of green firepolished beads around here…somewhere.  If I use glass, I could make it economical; if I matched the stone, I might be able to make it more elegant.  Or then, as I just recalled, I could make a beadwoven band out of something like …those bronzy-pink 11/0s and green iris 11/0s I have…Dutch Spiral stitch?  Regular spiral?  I could attach the cords, then, directly to the lacings on the stone.  And because it isn’t just a straight patterned stitch with no imagination, and the above stitches may be Public Domain (considering I’ve seen them everywhere), I might be able to sell the finished product.  But more likely, it will go into a portfolio.

I should not really assume “Public Domain.”  I should look it up, especially given that only a few publishers dominate the beading-pattern business (Kalmbach, Lark, and Interweave).  I may run across something proprietary without knowing it.

Things to think about…