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, craft, design, jewelry

Am I doing too much?

While I had thought I would not go the the recent bead show, my folks insisted. This is largely because after having visited General Bead, I started looking again at the Garden of Beadin’s website, to see what I was missing. Unfortunately, that website was not entirely functional for me (which is the reason I’m not linking it), so we went to the bead show to pick up a paper catalog, in person.

That…was a good thing. The paper catalog is much easier to navigate than the website, and it’s possible to buy things without submitting any sensitive information. I also happened to find a table run by the daughter of the person who runs the store, Beads On Main — the latter of which, I recognized from the old Oakland bead shows.

So…because I hadn’t been through the entire show yet, I didn’t realize that she was one of the only vendors there who focused on multiple-hole beads. If I had a clearer idea of the entire convention, like if I had been there for more than a couple of hours, I probably would have bought more from her. As it was, I was trying to conserve my funds (in case there was something which I really wanted, and couldn’t otherwise obtain).

For better or worse, I did end up purchasing three little cabochons…for which, I will need to either make metal or bead settings. I spent some time going through these undrilled things that I’ve collected over the years…what stands out to me is the fact that the cabochons I’ve bought which were from beading suppliers are less regular in their shoulders (and backs) than the ones I’ve bought from jewelry (that is, metalsmithing) suppliers.

The “shoulder” of a cabochon is the transition zone between the edge of the cabochon and top of the cabochon. In an ideal piece, the shoulder would be present, and the same height all the way around, making it easy to roll a bezel wire over the edge. I didn’t know this when I picked up a couple of fused dichroic glass cabs (probably more than a decade ago); and obviously, neither did those who made the cabs I’m talking about.

In some areas, the shoulders in these pieces are much higher than in others, meaning that these cabs require special (looped) settings. I wouldn’t have been able to tell this, however, without using a caliper to go all the way around the edges. With a caliper, the difference between professional-grade stone cutting, and everything else, is obvious.

I do know now, however, which cabs to prioritize for bead settings: the ones with low or no shoulder, and the ones with irregular shoulders. These can be used in bead-embroidered settings. The thing that’s stopping me from using them right now is the fact that bead embroidery implies the use of adhesive to hold the cab in place while it’s being sewn in.

I do have adhesive that I believe will work; the thing is, I hate to glue anything if I don’t have to. (This is largely because I was cautioned away from it in Metalsmithing classes; it requires more work than glue to set a stone securely.) Also, my two strongest adhesives (E-6000, and G-S Hypo Cement) are both toxic before they cure, which is a deterrent to my using them.

I also know that there are some cabs (like jaspers and agates) which would probably look nicer in metal, to preserve as much of the front display area as possible. The only drawback to working with metal is the fact that I have to use fire with it (innately hazardous), unless I go for cold connections and wire wrapping or wire weaving, which I’m not planning on doing. It’s way too easy to chip a stone, or break a wire.

It’s not the end of the world to break a wire, it’s just frustrating. Keeping the wire supple and un-kinked throughout the weaving process requires a dowel (or pen) and awl, at least. I’ve just done enough of it to know how it ends up looking, and how tough it can be. Using fire might actually be easier.

I’m also a relative newcomer to designing metal components. I’ve done it before, it’s just that it’s an entirely different workflow than working with beads, so I’m not used to it. There is a lot more room for innovative design when you’re cutting all the pieces out of metal sheet and wire, rather than fitting together small pre-made components.

I’m thinking that my major challenge will be figuring out how to integrate beadwork and metalsmithing. I know it can work, I’ve done it before. I haven’t, however, seen too many other people doing it, likely because the skills are things you actually need classes or apprenticeships to learn. I do know of places where people can learn, and I’ve seen beadworkers using torches…but handheld butane torches are pretty much not comparable to acetylene (which is what I used in class). I haven’t yet tried propane.

Anyhow…since that time, a class I’m taking has kicked in, and I’ve been dealing with work stuff. A lot of the time since the weekend, I’ve just been studying about situations I’d need to deal with if I were a Librarian. This is compounded by the fact that I did take a Civil Service test for the latter position, and didn’t score too poorly on it…I really need to keep applying, though.

Right now…I have also gotten a book on basic beadweaving stitches, which includes St. Petersburg and Chenille stitches. I am not practiced on either of the latter, so I’ve been wanting to get into it. Why I haven’t, I’m not sure, except for the fact that I’m fatigued…I guess from work, the job search, the research for the job, and this class.

When I put it like that, it looks reasonable…

beading, beadwork, craft, design, jewelry, jewelry design


My attempt to be concise has failed: the intro, here, is what’s going on locally. The rest is about beadwork and jewelry-making as a micro business.

Today was bearable, partially because I’m learning it’s okay not to overwork myself; what to do when I am in danger of overworking myself; and that I don’t have to keep my personal and work lives fully separate. I just have to avoid oversharing.

I guess it’s kind of like my Web presence.

Tomorrow…I need to re-pot my dwarf Umbrella Plant before it falls over. :) Meaning that I should water it, tonight. I also want to work on some coding, and start some kind of beading project — whether that’s bead embroidery, or working on the SuperDuo bracelet (cream, blue and amber), or working on the bronze and green project (which I’ve decided is okay if I do just use the two-hole beads as spacers for a double-stranded necklace — I really want to make a double-stranded necklace!).

I’ve spent the majority of my free time today either reading beadwork books, or browsing beadwork books. I don’t know what this place is going to look like, if I keep collecting these things.

I’m still torn on whether or not to put the project I photographed in my last post for sale…for one thing because I’m not wholly satisfied with it even now, and for another thing, because it has special significance to me. The pearls I used in it, I purchased on my last trip to visit family in Hawai’i.

I could make another version of it with far less personal significance, and likely sell it for less than this one. I’m attached enough to the one I have now, that I’ve decided that I’m not letting it go for less than $85. I predict I should be asking more, but like most beginning crafters, may undervalue my product (the upper limit above which it just gets ridiculous, is $145; $120 is middling but compensates me well for my skill and labor, and pays off everything I bought to make this).

The same place I bought the large pearl from, has told me that they will ship to the mainland; I have half a mind to ask for a 12-mm Tahitian black pearl, to make another version of this necklace. I don’t entirely know how much that would cost, however (I’m guessing between $12-$24 at retail), and the black pearls I saw there last time weren’t really iridescent. (I have a thing for rainbow sheen on pearls, but I don’t know if that sheen is artificial [like an Aurora Borealis (AB) coating on glass] or not…)

I had wanted to work on the collar project with the pink netting, but I know I still have more design work to do on it (I’ve realized how to make it curve), and that it will likely work out best if I do not attempt to incorporate the cabochon, at this point. The distortion caused by attaching a netted collar to a mounted oval cabochon…I’d have to conceal, and I’m not entirely certain how, yet (especially as that join is at the focal point of the necklace).

However…I can do a netted collar without the cabochon…or incorporate the cabochon as part of the clasp, and wear the clasp in the front. That…would make sense! Hmm. I’ll have to think, on that.

I can work on the body of the netting as-is, and see if I even have enough beads to encircle a neck comfortably…

So before Tuesday night, I want to have some stuff finished (a friend has asked me to show some of my work that night…which could get interesting). Particularly, the pink bracelet and a violet version, would be the easiest entry points into that. Working with cabochons is almost starting from zero, for me (I’ve only mounted two undrilled cabochon-like stones ever, and one of those was in a metal bezel, not a beaded one).

And…yes, basically everyone is saying I need to be selling on Etsy! I’m pretty sure I’ll need to take them up on that…

The pearl drop necklace (on chain) is in hiatus until I figure out if my chain is much too delicate to be hanging anything off of…it’s 1.3mm wide. It’s tiny. And stretchy.

28g wire will fit through a link, but with 17 of those drops…will the chain break??? The problem is that the links are so small that I have to wire the drops directly to the chain. That means that if the chain deforms or breaks, to avoid undoing my work, I’ll have to cut the chain rather than cut the drops. One or the other has to happen, and I’m not looking forward to either, because this is utilizing gold-fill and gold-plate, not pure brass.

Though, I would have a good set of tarnish-resistant chains for tassels or earrings, later…

Yeah. I need to be selling this stuff…the major issue right now is making stuff so nice that I want to hold onto it…but I hardly wear any jewelry, normally! Really!