Business, jewelry, money, organization

Additional income stream?

Now I am, again, thinking of selling my beadwork. Not because I have to, but because I can, and just probably, should. On top of that, even though I’m getting paid more at work, it’s still not enough to survive on. I still basically have to live with other people, because it costs so much to live here and because of my apparent economic developmental stage. (If someone has used the term before, I’m not intending to use their definition; I’m just saying that I’ve never had a full-time job with benefits and a living wage. I still don’t, and I think that’s something I’ve just got to figure out or experience, and see if I can handle it.)

Over the weekend (well…my weekend, given my schedule), I went to a bead convention and stocked up on…a lot of beads. As recently as two days before the event, I had resolved not to go, because I knew I would spend. Then I was unable to pick up a Substitute position for Friday, and it seemed a bit serendipitous.

Am I glad I went? Yes. Do I miss what I spent? Not yet. I’ll still have opportunities to pick up more work before the holidays, and I still have more than I did at my best times working just above minimum wage.

I also spent about what I would normally spend in two or three trips to the bead store.

I suppose that kind of puts it into perspective.

Tonight, Saturday night, I’ve been logging the actual items I got and how much they cost. Yesterday, I logged my receipts (there weren’t too many). So…I’m beginning to see how I could or might make a database, should I care to. I mean, just for practice and kicks. I could have a table for suppliers, one for receipts, one for my purchases within those receipts, one for sales (that gets deeper, if I want to track and keep clients), one for cost and description of items, likely one or two for taxes…at least, so I think without really writing it down or planning it out or getting back a seller’s permit (yet).

The latter impacts taxes (a seller’s permit allows me to pay taxes after sale of my items, not at point of purchase of materials to make those items; it also can allow me discounts) and also the initial outlay of funds. Then there are other costs, like setting up a P.O. Box and a Web presence, and maybe finding a photographer. ;)

The thing with databases is that in design, I’ve got to look at desired functionality, first. Because I haven’t handled things on the financial side so much, I mean particularly where it comes to taxes on gross income (State and Federal income; M handled it), I’m not totally sure about all sides of this. That is, I’m not sure of all the requirements.

I’m actually not even sure if I should use Etsy or maybe put some stuff up there and have my own web domain, as well. A lot of people I’ve seen, have been using Square for payment transactions, which makes me feel a little better. I had seen a lot of negative reviews for Square as well, but…it is the Internet; not everything is what it looks like. I’ve also historically been looking at web hosts, which is, well, really important. I’ve had one in mind which uses Square, but backed off of it after I read multiple complaints about people having their Square accounts frozen. However…like I said, I’ve seen a lot of people using it.

There’s also the point that I tend to avoid Etsy personally, because my computer sometimes acts like it’s picked up a bug after I visit. It’s a reason I might not sell there, if I can’t even look at things without having to run a series of scans afterward just to get things back to normal. Since adwcleaner also started removing bloatware, I’ve also become wary of using that tool too much or unnecessarily (out of fear it will remove my utilities, although one of mine spontaneously started working again).

But yeah, I guess that’s what happens when you actually use your computer.

Anyhow. Tonight was all about trying to organize the table that looked like a windstorm hit it, and I think I did a fairly good job. I had to log things before I could put them away, or risk not logging them. Thus, not knowing how much anything cost — which kind of puts a wrench into my pricing, by my not knowing if I’m losing money or gaining it. I’m getting better; I’m actually attempting to log quantities now, along with prices. :P (I need both, for the prices to have any validity.)

I feel bad about this as well, but I may have to want to look for additional storage. I know a place where I can get some sweet little boxes which were $0.50 each, the last time I found them. The problem is that…well, what good is storage if you don’t use the things you stored. I mean, it isn’t entirely about collecting. But the things I have in the little boxes are mostly “bead soup” (mixed colors and sizes of bead, in this case), and they are, amazingly, some of the most interesting and inspiring parts of everything I have.

I’ve also got to consider taking out — I mean just taking out some of these vials of beads that I feel I’m never going to use, and re-purposing the vials with things I think I will use, or want to use. The question becomes, then, am I actually not going to use those other beads, or was it just a lack of artistic vision, or aesthetic error which caused me to cull them? Sometimes later additions to a collection will make beads that I thought I’d never use, something I would consider using, in an updated palette.

Then again, that doesn’t entirely justify having them take up space in my main storage. I could just as easily put those 10 grams of beads that would have been in a vial, into a plastic bag, and throw them in a different storage area…kind of like the surplus of size 6/0 beads I got a while back, which came in temporary sealed plastic (can I even call them bags?).

Since, though, I’ve actually bought pairs of earrings which were between $50-$70 from local artisans…I can see that if I make things people want (and don’t want to make, or can’t make, or which wouldn’t be cost-effective to make, themselves), I do have a chance of at least recouping my losses by selling beaded jewelry, if not making a profit. It probably won’t be as large an income stream as I would get just by being salaried, but I could occupy myself and build my skill — and not, you know, just have a total loss from buying beads with what I do earn from my job.

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, glass beads, jewelry

Art Jewelry vs. Craft Jewelry

OR, is Art really superior to Craft? About a decade ago, I recall reading something in one of my beading or jewelry magazines, about the differences between Art, Craft, Fine, and Fashion Jewelry. At this point, I would add in Body Jewelry to the mix — it was likely still fringe, at the time.

Exactly which magazine title it was, and which issue, is something that will take manual lookup — though I may have xeroxed the relevant pages out of a Library copy. I should really go through my archives. (Well — “archives” — they aren’t really incredibly organized or cataloged, just notes, records, and other things that I’ve considered worth saving over the years, as regards beadwork.)

I’ve started looking through my backlog, but I know it was in a magazine, and I have over ten pounds’ worth of magazines here (actually, about 13 lbs., if my scale is correct). I’m not entirely up to looking for it, right now.

What I do with beads, beadweaving, wire, and micro-macramé with seed beads, would be considered “craft jewelry”. Although it can range into “art jewelry”, which is generally more about one-of-a-kind pieces, stones (often including individual unique stones), and metalwork (for example: Designing From the Stone by Lisa Barth), I haven’t reached the point in my development where I can yet bezel a cabochon using a beaded method, and have the cabochon still show through to my satisfaction.

I do have some (as yet unimplemented) help in making beaded bezels, though. Jamie Cloud Eakin has a really nice book out called Dimensional Bead Embroidery, which clearly shows a number of methods of making beaded bezels. She also has another book out (Bead Embroidery Techniques: Bezels) which goes a little more deeply into bezels in specific, though it isn’t the only one of hers to mention the topic. Because of the nature of her type of work, which uses unique stones and unique designs, I’d say it does range into art jewelry.

I don’t know where I got this idea, but somehow there is this thought in my mind about art being “better than” craft. This was challenged, however, by a recent episode of A Craftsman’s Legacy, where the host (Eric Gorges) was interviewing an armorer (James Arlen) who said that armor made as “art” was generally less functional than armor made as “craft”. It’s not often that I hear someone defend craft in its own right (usually it is assumed that “art” is superior — I don’t fully know why, though I suspect it has to do with historically gendered practices and gender politics), so I do remember it. I also know that “Art Jewelry” is sometimes considered as “wearable art,” though not all of it is something one would want to wear.

As I’m writing this, I recall hearing about the Arts & Crafts Movement in my Art classes. I don’t remember all the information, but I know that those in this movement aspired to high-quality workmanship. This was in contrast, and likely in protest to, the advent of mass production after the Industrial Revolution. I wouldn’t be surprised if art jewelry is a continuation of this idea, though at present it is difficult to avoid working with mass-produced sheet and wire, unless you’re on the level of a traditionally-trained goldsmith and cast your own ingots.

I’m not entirely sure where the idea of, “art being better than craft,” came from…though I wouldn’t be surprised if it had to do with certain large craft stores stocking predominantly inexpensive (“cheap”) products. Charles Lewton-Brain has an article up on Ganoksin about the difference between art and craft. Lewton-Brain is a well-regarded authority where it comes to jeweling, and Ganoksin is a standard jeweling resource.

In any case, making jewelry out of pre-made components — like beads, and thread or cord — generally qualifies as craft (although, right now, I am coming to the realization that most if not all jewelry-making is craft, even if qualified by also being art). When I was in my silversmithing class, the work I was doing in this vein (a Dutch Spiral chain) wasn’t taken seriously by my instructor, even though it ended up being an integral part of my final design.

She didn’t say why — whether it was because she had no reference for it, whether it was because she couldn’t grade it, whether it was a safety hazard (broken beads on a concrete floor are crushed glass), or whether it was straight-out elitism. (I did, however, get people asking how I made it, and I could respond that it was a well-known technique, not a proprietary one.)

After all, it’s not like beaded jewelry, isn’t jewelry (regardless of the fact that the term, “jewelry,” used in the Jewelry field, typically refers to the products of metalwork). It performs the same function: to decorate someone’s body. I’m not sure the method of that decoration’s construction (in beadwork, at least) is really negatively judged by the people I would sell to.

It’s also a bit hypocritical to state that beaders or handcrafters rely on pre-made components (and that they thus are not as creative as jewelers), when I doubt that most jewelers find and hand-cut their own stones, or refine and process their own metals (normally into sheet, wire, or casting grain). I can’t pretend that there isn’t a lot of work put into finishing and polishing a metal piece, or that there isn’t more creative freedom in metalwork. However: it’s false to state that beaders are uncreative relative to jewelers, because of the materials or processes they work with.

There are also major differences in aesthetic relative to the different branches.

For instance, a lot of Fine Jewelry uses glittery cut gemstones that are not likely to show up in Art Jewelry to such a degree. The value of Fine Jewelry also in part rests in the perceived value of its materials (often gold or silver and gems, which allow a higher profit margin). As a Craft Jeweler, I can’t say the same to the latter; though I know at the same time that I am not a Fashion Jeweler. Fashion Jewelry is mostly inexpensive, mass-produced, on-trend jewelry which — like a lot of on-trend fashion clothing marketed to women — is not made to last. This is likely why so many cabochons (“cabs”) are glued into their settings, instead of actually set by rolling and smoothing the edge of the bezel over the cab. When something is just held in by glue, it tends to fall out.

In my own work, I’ve needed to look for more durable materials — given that threads are the most vulnerable part of any beadwoven work. For years, I used Nymo, which used to be industry-standard — until I saw one of my pieces fuzz out after two years of heavy wear — wear which I never expected and could not have predicted. Right now I’m using K.O./Miyuki thread for beadwoven items, and C-Lon for micro-macramé. We’ll see if they last.

A key reason I am as interested in beadwork as I am, are the colors and shapes available in beads, particularly glass seed beads. This is not something that I can easily attain in metalwork unless I 1) use reactive metals, 2) heavily use colored stones, or 3) use enamels. The use of colored stones is fairly self-evident, so I’ll move on to the other two.

Reactive metals are metals like titanium and niobium, which change color when subjected to certain processes like anodization. Although other metals can also change color when exposed to certain processes (like what results in a “fire patina” on copper), it’s fairly certain that color is not a central component of metalsmithing. Enameling is something I’ve considered, but there are two hazards I know of: 1) radiation from the kiln, and 2) harmful vapors from molten colored glass.

One of my friends works near a stained-glass supply, and has noted that people working with stained glass tend to get sick. I’m thinking that this has to do not only with glass dust, but also with glass colorants. Vapor of colored glass is likely another level of potential harm — and I say that having seen some of the potential of enamel. It can really be gorgeous. However, enameling requires the use of either a torch or a kiln…and as you may recognize from my past posts, I’m not too eager to use fire.

There is also the danger of burning out one’s retinas from staring into a hot kiln (this is the “radiation” problem)…if I’m correct and that is a risk with enamel, as well as with lampwork. There are protective goggles one can get; but that still won’t protect one’s lungs (I would suspect a danger of silicosis); and kilns are expensive, so I should be sure I want to enamel, before I invest in one.

Though I do like working with glass beads, we do still have a long way to go, where it comes to glass colorants. There are some colors, that is, that are just difficult (or prohibitively expensive) to create. Colorants can extend all the way through the glass, be added on to the outside of a bead as a coating (these have various levels of quality and durability, and range from what looks like paint, to metallics, to some gorgeous specialty coatings), be applied as a dye, or be applied to the inside of a bead hole, allowing color to show through to the outside (these are called “color-lined” beads).

Unfortunately, for example, it’s difficult to create a base color of violet for glass, so many violet beads are actually dyed or color-lined. (Both of these methods have problems with longevity.) However, with the new coatings that are being developed for use with glass, it’s possible to have a bead with a base color of blue or brown, and have an iridescent sheen on the surface which causes the bead to appear as violet, even a reddish violet. (I’m not entirely sure of the optical explanation for this; I just know it happens.)

There are also glass colors which are apparently really easy to make, and very common and beautiful. Teal is one of these colors, as is (yellow) topaz. Cobalt Blue is another representative color, which is close to an uncoated blue-violet. Reds and pinks contain gold as part of their formulation and so are relatively expensive, but are an interesting example in how glass colors are made. Though I can speculate, I don’t know the chemistry of glass formulations yet. Maybe if I got into lampwork, I could; though I don’t use many lampwork beads.

The fact also remains that those who are making jewelry out of beads, are depending on the prior work of crafters and manufacturers, and it would be arrogant to ignore that. The problem, I see, is that “craft” connotes low quality, whereas “art” implies something valuable and refined. There is also the issue of interdependence with others, and creation as a collective task, as versus the American myth of total and complete individualism.

At this point, having written, seen, and read all this (and in addition what I reference below), I do feel better about calling what I do, “craft work,” especially considering that I’ve realized that on a level — at least in handmade jewelry, as a decorative art — all art work is also craft work.

There is also the fact that, in Japanese society (I’ve been studying this and have Japanese influence in my cultural background), there is value and pride placed in being (and excelling as) a craftsperson; and as I read at Britannica.com, the distinction between fine art, and, “decorative art,” is a recent one. See the second paragraph of, “High and low art,” which may shed some initial light on the history (if, that is, it is accurate). This is the first time I’ve actually seen someone speak to the source of this, as occurring in the 18th century.

It would be interesting to research the history of this categorization of fine art as versus craft, and compare it with the timing of the Industrial Revolution and the Arts and Crafts Movement, which according to Wikipedia (accessed July 31st, 2019), flourished in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The question for me at this point, though possibly a misled and irrelevant one, is what differentiates craft which is also art, from craft which is simply craft: a deeper message? an emotional response? liberated (or ineffectual) design? For that matter: I never really considered myself a decorative artist. I don’t think it would help, though maybe if I subtracted my feelings on the mildly pejorative “decorative” (as though jewelry is only for aesthetic pleasure; not identity, or message, or the enhancement of beauty; and then what is the aesthetic, why does it have value, and are beauty, identity, communications, and aesthetics frivolous; and if so, on what grounds) from the title and kept the definition, it might.

At this point, it seems that the distinction between high art and decorative art is academic and irrelevant — to a crafter. It’s more relevant if I’m trying to distinguish myself from being a crafter, though the major gains from that would be monetary.

The fact remains that in my own work, I’ve chosen to deal with creating things, regardless of whether that leads me to work with fiber, or beads, or paint, or pens and graphite, or digital media, or the written word.

Of course, there are still some media I prefer over others, for reasons I’m not entirely aware of (other than my knowledge that I value precision). I’m just going to have to let these reasons show themselves, as I continue working…