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

Design work: Tri Stitch using C-Lon Micro Cord

For several hours, I worked last night on a design prototype for someone close to me. I got to use the new C-Lon Micro Cord that I got, not so long ago…and I’m honestly pretty amazed.

I was going to make an embellished Tri Stitch chain that is longer on the outside than at the core — when this is done, a ruffle or spiral should occur (the latter, if the twist is guided, instead of just left to bunch up). However, dealing with making the prototype out of the C-Lon Micro Cord, I found that it is really sturdy! That is, it’s really structurally more solid than when I use thread. It also doesn’t warp as easily. That said, I also have to watch my tension so that everything locks in, but so it’s still not too tight; there is a bit of stretch in the cord (even after pre-stretching) which can shrink up and distort the work. It’s reminiscent of Silamide (which I don’t use for this precise reason), but not as extreme.

What I didn’t realize until starting was that if I wanted to make a knotted or beaded bail at the center, I should do this at the center of the cord, before beginning the weave. Also, when using 8/0 beads, especially when using more than one color, it isn’t really necessary to embellish the chain.

Tri Stitch design work and experimentation. How much time would I have to do this if this were my main source of income?

I’ve switched from opaque turquoise and silverlined light topaz (left vertical portion), to silverlined teal and multiple colors of drop beads, ranging from chartreuse through green, to teal (diagonal right portion). Accidentally, I tested them out in a size gradation which was also a color gradation; right now I’m thinking of making the chain with that gradation as part of the design. The big thing is making it match a pendant that the recipient wanted to include. I think that if I make a beaded bail, I’ll want to loop back around the top of it with a drop spacer, in order to fix it into a V-position as regards the rest of the chain.

I’m not sure how much cord I’ll need to reserve in order to create something 16″-18″ long. Usually, in micromacramé, I use three armspans of cord (1.5 armspans for each doubled cord), but that’s for a bracelet — like 7″ long — with knotting, and plenty to spare. It would also be using standard size C-Lon, which is about 0.5 mm wide (from my own measurements). C-Lon Micro Cord is about 0.2 mm wide. Tri Stitch loops back on itself continually like a backstitch; it isn’t knotted, but I’m not sure of the amount of overlap, geometrically. It should also vary based on the length of the bead piercings.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been straight beadweaving!

Logically, I should be able to work the needed cord length out by weaving a measured amount (in Metric), then cutting the ends, undoing the work, and measuring the difference between the finished chain and the thread that went through it, then using the two measurements compared as a ratio. I would take the final desired length and compare that to the aforementioned ratio, leaving me free to solve for x, which would be the amount of cord I would need without additional handling length.

And yeah, I am kind of amazed at how I worked that out (I remember it from learning stoichiometry in Chemistry). It wouldn’t be as clean if I were using several different kinds of beads, though; I’d need to factor in extra room for play.

If I were doing this for money…it would have to be an addendum to my regular work. I couldn’t take this long to design in a micro-business environment where I were being timed, and I were trying to make a living off of it. (I could, however, do this if I were a commercial Designer and not an Artisan, though that’s a fine [negligible] distinction in my current setup.)

Right now, I’ve got to decide on overall length, color placement, and how I’m going to fit a wire bail onto the pendant I’ve got. Looking at it, it’s pretty evident that what’s on there now (a handmade open jump ring) can come off. Because of the pendant’s formation, I need to use an ice-pick bail style, which isn’t the most secure thing (but the pendant [which isn’t mine] isn’t the most sturdy thing, either). Because of this, I’ll want to make sure the pendant is not integrated into the chain, so that if the pendant breaks or is lost, my recipient will still be able to use the necklace portion.

I had thought of doing this an entirely different way, last night…but I realized today that to do what I had been planning on doing, I would need to weave half the chain, then put protective knotting at its base, and go back through the chain a second time to reinforce and hide the thread end. I am using 8/0s, but I have doubts about how many passes of this cord these beads can take. Given the heaviness of the cord, as well (which is still wider than most bead threads, including Power Pro), it’s sturdy enough as it is. Going through it twice would be overkill.

Alright, I’m posting this now. Time to get back to work!

beading, beadwork, craft, jewelry, jewelry design

I’ll be using this blog more in the future.

Recently, my priorities have shifted in regard to my online presence. Mostly, this is due to growing older and resolving to act with more wisdom, now and in the future. I have decided to keep this part of my presence active, as the content here is noncontroversial, and more than that, points back to part of myself which is durable.

The major reason I’ve spent so long invested in gaining an education — causing my time to be diverted for the last two years — has been so that I would be able to work on creative activities. One of my oldest creative outlets (for the last 25 years) has been beadwork, and that’s part of the focus of this blog. I’ve realized, after going through an Art program and a Writing program, the differences of some of these modes of creative expression. What I’m dealing with, though…is something slightly different. It’s design.

Pearl necklace in green and violet.
freshwater pearl and Czech glass necklace with silver detail

Unfortunately, possibly, beadwork is one of those things for which it’s hard to find classes or design programs. These days, there are the Web, books and magazines, and there are bead stores. There are also local in-person bead societies, if you happen to be lucky enough to live within range of one or more, and bead conventions.

I was fortunate to live in the vicinity of a bead shop when I was very young, so I didn’t have to stick with fabric and craft store materials, for long. Fabric stores and craft stores often have beads, but in my experience, the beads tend to be generally of lower quality and more limited selection than can be found elsewhere.

Art supply stores and some jeweler’s supply stores (for silversmithing and goldsmithing) also carry beads, and though they tend to be of higher quality (even moreso, sometimes, than bead stores), they are rarely a central part of the collection. I’ve also in the past found beads from a leather-craft retailer, but on a quick lookup, I don’t find much worth mentioning.

I also was fortunate to have a mother who nurtured me in my creative and artistic pursuits. I still remember getting one of my first beading books. The back of one of those books had a list of resources, one of which was a good, basic online bead store which I still use, though at this point I know not to expect to find everything there.

I actually started out on seed bead loomwork as a child. I moved on to learning even-count peyote stitch once I took a project off the loom, and realized that I had no idea how to finish it. (Loomwork leaves one with a bunch of separate warp threads [and at least two weft] which have to be woven in at the end of the project; peyote stitch, in its simplest form, leaves two.)

Since then, I’ve found — I guess I actually have researched, and found — a lot of information on a lot of different ways of combining beads, thread or cord, and wire. I’ve reached the point of, with assistance, being able to design my own work from a pile of parts. I’ve also taken two silversmithing classes, and am glad I didn’t become a bench jeweler.

Silversmithing is generally more about form than color, whereas color is much more forward in beadwork — at least, in the beadwork that I do. I’ve realized that when I’m designing, I have a tendency to start with color, rather than starting with form; though I have a bit of a mind to get a sample of all the different sizes and shapes of beads I can, experiment in fitting them together, and then worry about the color scheme after I’ve mapped out the form.

The biggest problem I’ve found is the task of learning how to learn, and separating modern Western intellectual property norms (like copyright and patent), from the fact that beadwork seems to have been essentially a traditional learned craft for as long as it has existed.

What I can say is that there should be no shame attached to learning how to bead through following instructions, just as we don’t ask someone to drape a dress form before we ever ask them to follow a pattern. This is especially as one may have no other route to obtain the skills needed, other than through tutorials and books.

Of course, though, for me at least, it gets more satisfying when I can design things myself. The necklace in the image above, is my latest work. I pretty much spent all of Friday working on the design of the pendant. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll sell it to recoup my losses, or keep it as an example of what I can do, and as a portfolio piece.

I still need to take a photo of it on a display. I have photos of myself wearing it, but I kind of don’t want my own form detracting from the jewelry itself. Not to mention that getting a straight-on photo is harder than it looks!

I also may need to drape that display with muslin, or something…

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, glass beads, seed beads

Colors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

blue and topaz beadweaving sample.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Messing around with bead storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, Business training, color, glass beads, jewelry, metalsmithing, occupational hazards, seed beads, small business planning

Self-observation + Link to Matubo seed bead review

Observation first, before I forget.

I really like working with seed beads and fiber.  And I really like writing about seed beads and fiber.  I originally started the metalworking classes because I could see some things being done with seed beads which could be more cleanly and simply done with metal (like cabochon and faceted stone setting).  And I could see the use that those skills would open to me in doing something like making my own clasps.  But I don’t think at heart that I’m a silversmith (for the love of silver, at least).

Also, unless I went into enameling, and/or heavy use of colored stones, I probably wouldn’t want to really get into metalsmithing that deeply.  Enameling can be hazardous, which is a reason I’ve avoided it in the past.  In one of my classes, I observed someone blow powdered enamel (a.k.a. colored glass dust — “colored” meaning probably toxic to ingest; “glass” meaning tiny shrapnel which may shred your lungs and never get back out) off of her bench and into a cloud.  I held my breath as I walked past.  She still had a cough the next semester.

How do you really guard against stuff like that other than wearing a respirator the entire time you’re in class?  What if I hadn’t happened to see what was going on?  What if I didn’t know to look away every time the enameling kiln was open?  (An enameling kiln radiates infrared light when the door is open and it’s hot, and that can damage eyesight unless protection is worn when looking towards it.)

I still remember when I had to spend 10-15 minutes cursing over the pickle pot because someone dumped out my tiny copper rings into the pickling solution and it was so dim — and the pickle so saturated with copper (it turns deep blue-green instead of clear when it’s old) — that I couldn’t see them.  And I remember coughing for two weeks afterwards from the fumes, as well.

But let’s get back onto a positive note, shall we?

I have enough experience from my time in smithing classes (two semesters — more than that, and I didn’t want to put myself back into the situation) that I feel reasonably confident that I can construct and solder a toggle clasp on my own, or fabricate a clasp from sheet and wire.  It probably wouldn’t be the greatest-looking thing or the most creative thing (creativity is very much helped by fluency of skill), but it’s possible, and I know it’s possible.  I can also make custom closed jump rings from wire and solder — easy, with the right setup and materials.  Or, so I say now that I know how to cut the jump rings away en masse and cleanly.  If I’d used silver for my class project, I would have wasted about $60 worth of silver while I learned how to avoid twisting the saw.

Plus there is the bezel setting I learned at the end of first semester, which showed me that even though it looks simple to set a stone in a metal bezel, in reality there is a lot of work which goes into it, and it requires some finesse to avoid, say, melting your bezel into a puddle instead of closing it.  It also requires some finesse to achieve a secure seat for your stone, and to avoid inadvertently damaging the stone in the process of setting it.  This is not even getting into whether what you’re setting it on looks good or not — more often than not, this is a flat piece of sheet metal, sometimes with stamps, soldered buttresses or designs of wire, or, in some cases which I especially admire, bits of granulation.  I can’t do granulation yet, so of course, I’m impressed.  ;)

Form is explored in metalwork, but often at the expense of color.  Color dynamics are a big attractor and driving force for me.  My seed bead, colored pencil, and marker collections attest to it.  I have wanted to get into painting, but so far the only experience I have there is in one Color Dynamics class which used gouache, plus Continuing Drawing — there was an introduction to pastel painting at the very end of that session.

I know there are liver of sulfur and shakudo and shibuichi and the golds and coppers and brasses.  I even know that there are the reactive metals to work with, titanium and niobium, and these.  But do I really love metal?  At this point, my enjoyment of metalwork is not high enough for me to go out of my way to expose myself to the hazards of metalwork.  Hot metalwork, at least.  Cold connections are much less intimidating.

In addition, there seemed, in my metalsmithing class, to be some prejudice against beaders.  I inadvertently ran up against this when I started constructing a beadwoven chain for my metal pendant in class.

At this point, having done some work in design myself — I mean, beyond changing the colors of a pattern, and I mean — really taking a concept through multiple models to achieve a workable formula (that collar with the daggers may have to be altered so it curves more), I can see the point that people who work in metal may think that beaders are unoriginal because they/we stereotypically don’t take a project from concept to conclusion, but rather have to learn via patterns and mimicry before we can stand on our own two feet.

But where are you going to find a way to learn to bead unless a) you know someone who does it who is willing to teach you, b) you take classes at a bead store — if there is one near you, or c) you learn through finding pre-made patterns (in print and online) and following them?  I mean, seriously!

It wasn’t until I confronted the idea of going into business with my own jewelry start-up that I found I didn’t have the complete set of skills I’d need to do business in the way I’d want to do it.  I’m gaining that skill now, and I’m slowly de-shocking myself from the scare of potentially treading on someone else’s intellectual property rights.  In two to five years, maybe I could have a viable business.  But there are a lot of things to get in order, first.  Particularly, identity and my target market, plus maybe figuring out what lies behind the drive to bead.

There are a lot of things that I didn’t know about myself that I’m learning about myself, which could gain me a signature style, which could in turn become a brand that I’d be able to sell within the U.S. for U.S. level living-wage money.  Probably not urban living-wage money, unless I’m in a place I don’t want to be, but nonetheless.

I think, though, that one of the reasons there are so many beading pattern books on the market is that really, handwoven beaded jewelry is…it’s expensive in terms of time and design, but not in terms of materials.  It’s also relatively fragile.  So maybe it seems more profitable to sell copies of the patterns and let people make the jewelry themselves, than it is to have a firm which produces and distributes finished beaded jewelry.  Otherwise, most of what I’ve seen comes from outside of this country, and really, how do you compete with a $10 daisy-chain bracelet?

Unless you have a distinct identity, that is — and you know what you’re selling, beyond your product.  Though, of course, that can easily go icky, if you jump to conclusions.  But the reality behind it maybe doesn’t have to be really that bad.  If you’re selling things because you want to celebrate femininity, hey, good on you, you know?  But know that’s what you’re doing, and know the cultural context it takes place in; and the possible problems resulting from the flawed system that your statement only makes sense within.  And know it’s very possible that others will see different meanings in your art than those which you intend.

I think that if I’m really creative — if I really take an unusual tack to what I want to be doing, and I do something which no one else in my part of the world is doing, or which maybe no one is doing anywhere — I think it’s possible to run a handmade jewelry business.  It would be tight, financially, and it would take a lot of time.  Plus, a lot of my attention would be expended on business as versus creation, at least unless I found a partner to manage that side for me.  This is at least a two-person venture, if it’s serious, and more likely eventually at least a 5-person venture.  But hey.  The culture?  The work?  It could turn out nice.

Anyhow, I’ve put this to the side for now as an auxiliary option.  I’m not married and don’t have plans to be, so I’ll have to support myself.  Right now I’m looking at writing and beadwork as things I love, can do relatively easily, and can do immediately.

I promised you a link to a review of Matubo seed beads.  That link is here.  I ran across this by accident; the author displays photos of these beads next to a couple of other brands which I had not seen in action prior, but which I’m considering trying out, now.  Presently, Matubos are only available in 7/0 size (in Czech sizing) — the size is quoted in the article; the difference between the Czech and Japanese sizing relations is something I’ve just inferred from past experience.

Anyhow, happy crafting (or whatever you do out there!)  Treat yourself nice.  :)

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

Adventures in neckpiece design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hate this.

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

But!  Guess what I realized last night?

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

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

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

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

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.