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!

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…


reviewing the mini-library…

One note for the sake of posterity:

I realize that a lot of the people reading this blog may not know what I mean by certain terms, like “seed beads” or “cabochons”.  It’s OK to ask about what I mean, here.  I won’t be offended.  :)  A lot of stuff is easily findable online, which is why I didn’t see the necessity to put this disclaimer in last night, but I realize today that I may be speaking a language others find difficult to understand.  It’s OK to bring this to my attention, especially if you can’t easily find what I’m talking about online, because I’d rather share this with you than have you bewildered.  :)

Last night I did a pretty in-depth review of my jewelry and beadwork library.  I didn’t go over everything, as it was late at night and I had to get to work the next day; however, I went over a good large amount of it.  What I didn’t go over were my sewing, knitting, crochet, bookbinding, and mixed-media beadmaking books.  Particularly the polymer clay one…I don’t seem to remember where that is, but I think I may know who has it.

This (and reviewing the books’ accompanying legal warnings) has me thinking that there are certain paths which are relatively “safer” than others when it comes to producing items to sell.

The big, big one of these is metalwork — for me, this would be combined with colored stone-setting, as I don’t want to work wholly in metal, if I can help it.  Enameling would also fall in here, but to do that really well, I think I’d need a kiln, and I’m quite far from that, at the moment — an inexpensive one runs around $600.  I know where I can get one — well, two places (at least) where I could get one…but I need to do more research.  I’d also need a kiln for Precious Metal Clay (PMC/Art Clay), which is finely ground metal mixed with a water-soluble binder which can be shaped and joined like clay, and then fired to produce a solid metal object.

One step down from that and we’ve got wirework and wireweaving, which I might need a tumbler for, to best advantage.  (Actually, even if I used PMC, a tumbler would be of great help.)  However, if I bead these pieces, I may not be able to tumble-polish them without harming the beads, so there is that to consider, too.  Then there are macrame and braiding; combined with wirework and beadwork, this could turn out really nice.  And then there is bead embroidery; and the combination of wire connections and embellishments, with beadwoven pieces.

Well, the combination of wire connections and embellishments with macrame and beadwork and bead embroidery…this is seeming a bit much to take in at the moment.  The useful point is that basically,  with seed beads size 8/0 and up, any hole one can put a thread through, one can put a wire through.  I’ve used elementary connections like this in the past, and am looking forward to the demonstration of that potential.

Straight beadweaving, however…it’s useful for honing skills, but even the simplest designs might be under copyright protection — either this, or they’re Public Domain.  I lean towards the latter in my own judgment, with the techniques I would be likely to use.  But now I know why I don’t see many pieces which look simple, anywhere I’ve seen beaded bracelets sold; and why no one is selling, say, straight spiral-stitch necklaces without pendants.  There’s probably a push there to try something different, so as to avoid even the specter of the thought of copyright infringement.  I’m told not to worry about this from one quarter, while I have angry artists in my other ear.

But anyhow…I can revise that list I came up with, last time.  Given what I see now, there are some adjustments I’d make to what I’ll be looking for at the bead show.

  • Cabochons:  still at the top of my list.  This includes glass, stone, and polymer clay pieces.  I’ll try and find low-dome if I can, but last time a lot of the material was high-dome, so I’m not betting on being able to find a good cache of these.  For that, I might have to attend a Gem & Jewelry show, which happens often enough in my area.
  • C-Lon:  this is a bonded nylon cord which can be used for knotting in micro-macrame pieces.  I’ve also given thought to trying some of the Micro C-Lon, which I might be able to use in beadweaving.  These come in such a great array of colors, it’s dizzying.  I should check and see colors I might be missing, giving thought to the warm/cool tone color chart that I’ve mentioned in backposts.
  • Stone beads:  these guys moved up to the top of my list, when I realized that I might be working in wire and metal.  I’m thinking of 4-mm to 8-mm rounds and coins, in particular.  Flattened rectangles or ovals or barrels would also work.  I’m going to try and stay away from the rondelles this time, if I can help it.  :P  (Yeah, they look nice, but can I use them?  If so, with what?)
  • Shell:  Paua and abalone would be really nice to focus on, this time around.  Mother-of-pearl also falls in here — and I’ve been kind of thirsting to work with the unbleached stuff.  I’ve really been wanting to work with pearls again (particularly the teardrop-shaped ones, drilled lengthwise), but they’re so delicate that it’s hard not to make jewelry that comes off as really femme, when they are used as focal components.  Their shades are also so difficult to match that it’s hard to make a piece out of several different strands…
  • Large-hole beads:  essential for beaded macrame.  Findable in polymer clay, lampwork glass, and ceramic.  Double-underline, ceramic.  I may end up buying a battery-operated bead reamer (to enlarge bead holes so I can use them in macrame), but I’ll have to see how much that will cost, first.  I also may end up making my own beads out of polymer, after I see if I am still allergic to the binders used.  There is just too much of a chance that this could turn out spectacular, not to try.  And we do have the toaster oven to cure polymer.  It’s just that after my experience with Fimo as a tween, I’ve been hesitant (I ended up getting contact dermatitis where I touched the clay).

I do still have some air-dry actual ceramic clay lying around, and so I can play with that and see what comes of it.  I wonder if I can use my wax-shaping tools on ceramic, or if that will scratch them too much?

Anyhow, I’ve got to run.  But I will see you back here again!

beading, continuity

Going offline

Alright, so I’m new to the updated layout, here.

I’m writing this post to remind myself that I haven’t actually stopped crafting. Since December I’ve gotten heavily back into beading, but I haven’t been recording my notes on WP, or anywhere online. Rather, because there’s no reason for me to publish my working notes if no one is going to comment on them — and because I’m wary — and because the design part of this calls for drawing — I’ve gone to physical records to note my progress.

I think that’s about all I’ll say, this time…


back into beading

It’s been quite a while since I’ve attended to this blog.  I’m writing now because I got back into the jewelry for the first time in a long time, a couple of days ago.

To be quick about this:  I ended up making a replacement bracelet for someone who accidentally broke one of mine.  I couldn’t remember the original color scheme all too clearly…so I ended up using Alexandrite Swarovski crystal beads in place of what I think was some sort of reddish purple in the last bracelet (probably Amethyst).  The Alexandrite color changes between a clear, light blue and reddish lilac, depending on the makeup of the light source under which it’s viewed.

I didn’t charge very much for the bracelet — basically I was just barely over recouping the cost of materials.  But hey — I got paid!  :D  It wasn’t fully out of pocket!  It was my first commissioned piece, so I’m happy.

I also made a couple of pairs of earrings.  One of them is made of Crystal AB Swarovski drops with rondelles above them, on sterling wire — a very simple earring, but also very nice.  They stand out well against my hair and clothing.

The other set used what I believe are Light Colorado Topaz and Golden Shadow rondelles, with some kind of very dark red (I think Garnet, from a quick lookup) Swarovski drops, on gold-filled wire.  The look reminds me of something vampiric.  Both the sets are really elegant-looking, but also wearable on a daily basis, I believe (I’ve only worn the silver ones, so far — I still have to see what those deep red briolettes are going to do in the sunlight[!]).

Last time I was at the bead store, I couldn’t help but pick up 21 little crystals for a Fall bracelet.  Unfortunately it looks like Fall will be over before I get anything done (^_-), but while I have the color table brought up, I might as well try and identify the colors.  The bracelet is basically a color gradation between Indian Red and Fern Green, if my monitor and color identification are correct.

I think the progression goes:

Fern Green — Olivine — Lime — Topaz — Indian Red

…and then repeats in reverse, then forward again, then reverse, then forward.  I was going to put all of these on gold-filled wire, but I believe the wire I have is 24 gauge.  I’m not willing, at this point, to shell out $30-sth. in order to get a harder, thicker wire in a bulk package from my local store…so I’m thinking of trying to find some brass-tone Soft Flex (which shouldn’t tarnish, it’s coated), and use either galvanized seed beads in a goldish tone, or the Burnt Orange Topaz Luster beads I have here, to space them out.

Two more things before I end this entry.  First, I’m thinking of setting up an inventory to take to the bead store when I’m about to design a new piece of jewelry.  That is, setting aside small samples of what I have, and stringing them and tying them off, so that I’ll be able to effectively color-match and avoid buying duplicates (especially of seed beads, but this applies to Swarovski as well).  I can put these, and my more unique beads, into a small bag and take them with me, so I won’t get caught in the trap of assuming my rocailles will work when they actually make the entire thing look cheap, etc.

Second.  I’m thinking, instead of writing totally new entries every time I’m here, of setting pingbacks to earlier entries and then updating the old topics with fresh information.  I think the only person to have commented on anything here is myself, heh, ;) so why not?


more earrings (no pix, sorry)

There was a trip to the bead store.  I pulled off enough materials for two sets of earrings for under $20 (without tax).  At present, I’ve only made one pair, which is a set using what looks like nickel-free brass and charoite (I might as well note what it is, since I might forget, and writing “violet stone” isn’t really keeping that much more anonymity).

This is my first time using the nickel-free brass.  It’s actually really soft — not bad to work with.  I haven’t used it in ear wires, yet.  I have a bit of hesitation there because of my allergies (I know I’m sensitive to nickel, but I realistically have no idea what is in the nickel-free brass besides copper and tin), and because brass in general tends to discolor (skin) where it is next to skin.

This doesn’t really matter if I’m only using it for parts that will not be next to skin, as is the case with these earrings.  I do have a site scoped out where I can pick up a little material to experiment with, but for now these are on gold-filled earwires.