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

Notes

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!

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, color, drawing, fine arts, jewelry design, painting, writing

Am I still making beadwork? I want to.

It’s been a while since I’ve used this blog.  I thought I’d send in an update.

Since Fall semester has ended, I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands.  I’ve been working on a portfolio for my Drawing class, for most of this week.  I think I made it through all right.

I now have one more semester to go before I’ll be able to get my AA in Art.  I’m really, really glad that I went this route, instead of going the route of computer-generated graphics.  This does, however, beg the question of just how I’m going to use the skills.  At this point, I’m not totally certain about that.  I went into this thinking that maybe I could be a book illustrator or graphic novel creator — because of my training, I’m more prepared than most to write and illustrate the same project.

However, it isn’t the easiest thing for me to write fiction, at this point.  I’m trying to think of when the last time was that I read a work of fiction, and I honestly can’t recall what it was, or when it was.  Subsequently it follows that I might forget how to be expressive in the medium of character.

As things go, though; today someone asked me to restring a couple of bracelets.  Relatively speaking, it’s a really simple thing to do.  But I forget sometimes that not everyone can do what I do.  Basically, what I’m looking at is getting some Soft Flex (I might have it already), a couple of spacer beads, and a clasp plus loop.  I know I have the crimp beads already in my supply.

It…was just interesting, I guess, to look at this piece and think to myself that I could probably make higher quality stuff (ducks from thrown furniture)…but I don’t think that my client would disagree.  I guess my stuff falls more into the “handcraft,” category, as versus “fashion.”  I drew away from the idea of making handcrafted jewelry after having gone on a career-orienting website and reading about how handcrafters make poverty wages.

However, the reasoning for this would likely revert back to the argument that mostly women handcraft, and women’s work is valued less than men’s work — not to mention that a lot of the stuff that is out there for sale as handcrafted jewelry is not done to a professional level.  I have seen work done to a professional level, plenty of it.  But for everyone who creates gorgeous original works out of cabochons, beads and Sculpey, there are more who just follow others’ designs.

Then there is the perennial, “but you didn’t make the beads” argument, which begs the counter, “but you didn’t smelt the ore,” argument.

But…yeah.  I have realized, in the meantime, and largely over social media, that what I do — even though my materials are humble — is essentially art.  I’m probably a step below Etsy, right now.  And I’d like to get back into things, but I worry that it’s a waste of time, unless I do totally become an artisan jeweler like I want to.  In that case, I’d be working with glass, metal, stone, and fiber.  I do have something of a vision.  But I need to commit to it if I want to make it into a reality.

I also met an old friend about two weeks ago, who suggested that I make jewelry for money (I’ve made her a couple of sets of earrings as gifts).  My major concern has been over copyright infringement, though until recently it was more of a good-natured desire not to infringe on others’ copyrights.  Now, I realize that I might be the one being copied…which every beader who shows or sells anything is vulnerable to.

The thing about this is that most of the reading I’ve been privy to about copyright infringement is all about how to avoid being copied, not how to avoid copying.  It seems like it would be really easy to do, either intentionally or by accident — and that what one would have to do to avoid it would be to graduate from the training books and start designing on one’s own — which most books don’t even touch on how to do.

(Well, of course; why would I continue to buy pattern books if I could design things myself?)

Guess why I went into Drawing and Painting?  The line between original work and mimesis is much, much clearer here — even though there are established traditions of copying older works in order to learn the craft.  And then there is the possibility of sending an expression through Art, which doesn’t always come through as clearly when one is making bodily adornments with which one wishes to embellish someone’s beauty.

In any case…I’m still looking for my preferred medium.  I’m getting really fairly decent at both drawing and painting (though it’s still usually hard), and painting…is something I wouldn’t have been as prepared for, without beadwork.  Color interactions, and all that.  Painting is something that I’m really enjoying, though the toxins scare me, and I’m really not sure whether I want to become a showing artist.  Actually — no — I do.  But I also want to draw and make jewelry, and I can’t give up writing without feeling like a piece of my life is missing.

Maybe I have something to write about, eh?

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, Business training, planning

Impracticality of making a living at beadwork

I think the title says it all.

I’m not sure this is truly the case, but it certainly seems to be:  becoming an entrepreneur and starting my own business making beaded jewelry and selling it to clients is probably not something from which I’m going to be able to make a decent living.  I had half a mind not to write this post, but then I realized that it’s probably a big turning point so far as this blog is concerned.

I’ve just completed a semester of Marketing and a semester of Microeconomics.  Both of them together show that the opportunity cost of making beaded jewelry is too high, because I live in a country with high labor wages and a high cost of living.  Making jewelry is a time- and labor-intensive ordeal, and I live in a society which focuses on capital-intensive goods and services, not labor- or land-intensive goods and services.

Making labor-intensive goods in a society which has high labor wages because of a high cost and high standard of living means that imported goods of the same or higher quality could vastly undercut me in terms of what the public decides they’ll pay for it, because of what they’re used to paying for it.

If circumstances were different — say, if I were married or had any real prospects to be within the next 5 years, and my spouse were making enough money for the both of us, this would be a different situation; but I’ve got to be able to support myself on my own.

So because of this revelation, I again need to change career paths to something more profitable.  I’m wanting to enter the field of Information Technology.  This is a capital-intensive field which matches the environment that I live in fairly well.  The opportunity cost of this — that is, what I’m giving up in order to be pursuing it — is fairly low.

It doesn’t mean of necessity that I feel from here, it’s what I’d most like to do, but it’s acceptable.  In all honesty, the dream of making beaded jewelry and the reality of making beaded jewelry are not the same things, either.  If I did become an entrepreneur in making jewelry, in effect my time would largely be taken up with management and a host of other tasks related to the running of a small business which would leave me with little time actually devoted to doing what I want to do — making jewelry.  The people who would be able to make a lot of jewelry would be my employees, not me.

Anyhow, I’ve decided to give myself a break over this summer and not pursue the computer training immediately.  When I go back in Fall I should be taking 2 classes, which will amount to 8 units.  If I took the class I’d wanted to take over the summer, I’d be cramming a semester’s worth of a 4 unit class into 6 weeks and trying to jam in a bunch of work in addition so that I could pay my bills; after this semester, I don’t think I want to get right back into that, immediately.

I’ve also realized that I don’t particularly think I’m well cut-out for being a businessperson.  Out of all my Holland Code Scores, Social is dead last as, like, an 8 or something.  So I probably shouldn’t be in a primarily social occupation, as both my current job and the field of Business, are.

I’m going to take a break from writing at this point, though I do think it’s worth mentioning that someone influential to me is a very nose-to-the-grindstone person and had told me to work on my skills and figure out how I’ll use them, later.  They have also said that they “don’t know why” I’ve been taking Business courses.

Because of this, they don’t tend to think ahead like I do, and I can see how it’s affecting their ability to design.  They have a lot of false starts and a lot of energy put into beginning, and then don’t know what to do once they reach a certain point.  Whereas I tend to think ahead on everything and in contrast tend to ignore the present for the goal.

If I hadn’t thought ahead, I might still be on the Jewelry track now, and in a metalwork class over the summer, learning silversmithing.  Silversmithing, at least, does pay better than beadwork, but it’s not my true love.  Beadwork, in contrast, draws me more (because of the color dynamics potentially involved), but the end of that — I can see from listening in on others’ posts — is being overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.

This is in addition to being subject to copyright laws — I’m still not sure how much they cover, but I have been party to some rather angry moral proclamations about “copying”.  This has really discouraged me from making anything at all for fear that I’m treading on someone’s intellectual property and then that I could be sued for it.  Or, alternate scenario:  making something for practice out of someone else’s pattern and then having someone ask me to make one “just like it” for them. Which, of course, draws on my time and finances, possibly substantially, should I do it for free.

My country is known for its litigiousness, after all.

Maybe I can counter that by bartering for plushies or something.  I don’t know.

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!

beadwork, embroidery

On that bead show thing…

So…I’ve been saving (or trying to save) money for a bead show I’ll be attending soon.  As much as I would say “it can’t come soon enough,” I also have realized that I need to catch up on my studying beforehand.  Wasting time isn’t really a great option for me, right now.  (But I’m writing this…)

I just feel a need to get some part of this out, and reading 30 pages in my textbook?  …I’ve mentioned before (not here) that there are things that are pressing in my life now, other than classes.  And I’ve found that if I focus too much on things I don’t want to do (like catching up on my Marketing reading), it’s really detrimental to my health, because then I choose to do nothing, which advances nothing.  I’m sincerely considering not taking any graded, official classes during the summer so that I can focus on my beadwork and my health.

I’ve had, at the very least, 3-4 people ask me over the last 6 months as to whether I make jewelry, and then as to whether I sell it, who were willing to take a look at my backstock and possibly make a purchase.  However, I don’t really have a backstock at this time, because I’ve sold or given away most of it, and classes don’t leave much time to be creative.  This is Spring Break for me, and as nice as it is not to have to go to classes, my time is taken up with catching up…and dreaming of things I could be doing but am not.  I’ve largely been spending time in bookstores and online and — ! — sleeping.  Things that I normally don’t have the time to do (but sometimes do, anyway, this being why I’m behind in classes).

As I was telling M the other day, it feels like I’ve spent the vast majority of my life preparing to do…and as versus moving forward out of this stage, I just keep preparing, and preparing.  Maybe the time is right to stop preparing to do, and to start doing.

Anyhow.  Last night was actually the first night that I realized I should make some priorities for what I actually want to purchase at the bead show.  So far, I’ve got:

  • Cabochons
  • Seed beads
  • C-Lon
  • Lampwork focals

I wasn’t going to focus on seed beads so much, this time, as versus:

  • Stone beads

…which would be helpful if I were moving in a direction where I’d be making a lot of wirework jewelry.  I do have some stones that I want to make wire frames for, and I have invested a good deal of resources into beginning to study and commence wirework.  And actually, it does make sense for me to focus on stone, if I’m going in a metal+stone direction…which, until very recently, I thought I was going to do.

The thing is, cabochons can also be mounted in bead embroidery, which usually use seed beads (and to a lesser extent, Czech glass beads) as major components.  I’ve picked up a copy of a really good book recently, on this.  (It’s called Dimensional Bead Embroidery, by Jamie Cloud Eakin.)  I’ve also, for some reason, wanted very badly to work with needle and thread again.  I’m not entirely sure why or what’s behind it…but it’s what I wanted to do earlier.  I found an awesome library book on embroidery stitches, as well, which I really want to play with.  Because if I’m going to be working more heavily with fiber and weaving and knotting in my designs, why not move just straight into embroidery?

It could be an interesting direction to branch into, and it would take advantage of my Color Dynamics training.  I really love working with color; it’s the major reason I’m into beadwork, and seed beads in particular.  This then spills over into having multiple sets of colored pencils, colored markers, fineliners, etc.  I just haven’t so far been brave enough to use them in any meaningful way…at least, since I was young and idealistic (i.e. not concerned about the social repercussions of my creations).  And then, you know, I’ve been into braiding and macrame as well, and really see potential in those areas — magnified, if combined with embroidery and beadwork.

Both of these directions focus majorly on design.  The differences lie in the actual processes of making.  Metalwork is a completely different animal from beadwork, however, they both can result in the production of jewelry.  The major problem I see with metalwork is that there seem to be some problems with elitism, to be to-the-point.  This ranges from my being at one time forbidden to construct a beadwoven chain for my metalworked pendant in my Jewelry class, to people claiming that if one has seen a design before, they’re forbidden to make anything like it, to people claiming that jewelry made with PMC (Precious Metal Clay) looks “fake.”

Of course, though, in Beading, there are a limited number of ways of connecting beads, and most people who are into it have probably done plenty of tutorials to teach themselves how to get started.  This is to the point that it’s hard to find any books at all which focus on the process of design in beadwork, as versus publishers distributing patterns to follow which have been produced by others, and several techniques which are probably so common as to be public domain.

I’m thinking that maybe — maybe, I shouldn’t be giving the Jewelry communities (by this they would mean what I’d call “metalsmithing” communities) so much sway in my mind.  I’ve just recently decided to go private as regards my Jewelry classes, in pursuit of a higher quality of teaching.  Does this mean to lean off of the wirework, too?  Probably not — but I can see that I’ll need to understand where my priorities lie.