beading, craft, creativity, macrame, metalsmithing, self care, sewing

Handwork: keeping myself together

(NOTE: This entry was largely composed, technically, yesterday: May 8, 2020.)

I think I’ve reached the point where I’ve realized I can’t be concerned about everything happening in the world, at once. The other night, I hit the point of recognizing that I might not make it through the next 60 years…which M recognized as a red flag for depression, and sent me to bed. So right now I’m on alert, and just trying to care for myself.

I’ve also been having some weirdness when I’ve tried to sleep. I keep going to bed, then waking in the very early morning, and napping through mid-morning and early afternoon (though sometimes, as today, that “nap” is actually the majority of my rest).

What I can say…about coping… I’m not doing as well as I want to. Sewing is basically keeping me grounded, though on days like today, when it’s over 85° F outside in the afternoon (and we have no air conditioning), I haven’t been in the mood to press fabrics. I’m learning from experience when to keep my hands away from the ironing board, after having hit myself with steam maybe eight times over the past few days. It’s okay to give my fingertips time to recover!

I’m still working on masks. I haven’t yet gotten back to the blouse…which is okay. I haven’t bet on having a COVID-19 souvenir — at the beginning of this, I was saying that I wouldn’t want to have gone through quarantine and had nothing to speak of at the end of it other than a new blouse. I feel like I’ve done what I could, though; and now, it’s time for me to take care of myself.

That’s more important than further studying. I mean, obviously.

So…what can I say. Life is fragile on an individual basis, but has endured thus far, overall. At this point…I’ve gotta say I’m disconcerted, but I’m not the only person in this. We’ll make it through together, or we won’t, is the feeling I get. But then, I’m fighting off depression; and depression affects cognition.

So far as anything having changed, goes? There have been some developments…particularly where it comes to materials, though I’m not quite ready to get into it, yet.

I’ve basically stopped my language study, having realized that so much of my own purpose for existence is derived from making things…not as much, reading things. Not to mention, the dismay at the effort required for basic communication, as versus my level of facility in English (which allows me to read at a much higher level, where I’m able to spend time deciphering and analyzing arguments; as versus trying to figure out a basic gist of what was intended).

Am I disconcerted in not knowing Japanese? Yes, but right now it isn’t looking like I’d move to Japan if I had a choice, and the necessity of understanding written Japanese just hasn’t been as pressing on me since I’ve had to stay indoors.

I also did have a dream about becoming someone who writes closed-captioning for Public Broadcasting. (I’ve seen a lot of bad closed-captioning.) That was new…but I could do it. I can type very quickly. :)

Since I decided to get back to making things…I’ve been busy, particularly where it comes to design. I was up for four hours early this morning, attempting to puzzle out a hand-fabricated closure for my masks that would work with 3/4″ wide ties, and not tangle in hair. I still don’t have it down. Is that the fun part? ;)

“Fabrication” is a term used in Silversmithing which is often used to designate making something out of metal sheet and wire (or casting, etc.). So far as I know, the term isn’t used as much in beadwork or micro-macramé. Usually when Jewelers use the term, they’re talking about…well, Silversmithing (which includes working with Brass and Copper) or Goldsmithing. Which are the big two categories I know of, that routinely fall under the title, “Jeweler” (with a capital “J”)…so that’s kind of a tautology, I guess.

There are also the Reactive Metals (Titanium, Niobium, etc., which change color with treatment like anodization), but they require different working techniques, and are kind of a specialty. (I’m not sure where bronzework [mostly casting, as bronze is brittle] or pewter-smithing falls in there, but now I’m just splitting hairs…)

I’m actually thinking of getting back into making jewelry (little “j”), again, after having realized I had two choices of pearl earrings today (both of which, I made)…which just have some really nice pearls. I had intended to make a series out of one design, though I haven’t gotten around to it. I already have the parts. I was just a bit disappointed in the fine gold-filled wire I got, though; it doesn’t look very — well — gold. My trial version was brass, and cheap (hardware-store) brass at that, so it leans to a green point. However, it still hasn’t tarnished.

I’ve learned over the years to buy my pearls in-person, as getting them online is the luck of the draw, at best. At worst, your supplier knows enough to know that you don’t know what you’re getting (probably because you’re buying it from them *cough*), and takes advantage of that to send material that wouldn’t sell if you could see it before you bought it.

In particular…be careful to know what you’re buying. A lot of places sell glass and crystal pearls, and while these can even be better for some applications than real ones (because of size consistency — which is important in beadweaving — for instance), you don’t want to be buying faux pearls, thinking they’re real. Or be caught not knowing what a real pearl looks like. For that matter, it’s nice to know what is a natural color and what is dyed…but that gets into some sticky territory. Dyes can migrate to clothes or skin. Natural colors won’t, so far as I know…but the colors are limited (cream, peach, mauve, black, for example).

Of course, these days, the benefit of not gathering in groups likely is more important than getting quality pearls…in which case, you’d want to know your seller, and buy from quality sellers. What I’ve done with some success is to either go to a good bead store, or go to a bead convention (I’d also expect to see them at Gem & Jewelry Expos — I would write some of my contacts [like Aloha Pearls] to ask if they attend); but realistically right now, the danger of being together isn’t worth it.

It’s nice to find good-quality pearls at really inexpensive price points, at conventions. (I found a strand of pretty pink rice pearls for $8, last time.) But right now…the hazard is still there, and we need to have patience. Additionally: if you have a regional Bead Society, I’d think some of the members would know good pearl sources. I forgot to mention how I got into the convention circuit, in the first place! And I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re on Social Media.

I’ve been playing around with some C-Lon TEX tonight (it’s very heavy upholstery thread)…which has also got me thinking about getting back into micro-macramé. I have enough books and materials. I can teach myself a good amount.

Now, whether I’d have to fill my little torch (no, not a Smith Little Torch) and solder some seams in rings as macramé foundations…which would additionally require firebrick, flux, pickle, and a way to polish them…that could happen if I ran out of closed metal rings and didn’t want to pay to buy more finished ones. But I’m not at that point, yet. The major problem is what to do if I’m polishing a lot of small parts, like this; it can be hazardous to do them one-by-one, but investing in a tumbler would save a lot of frustration. (So far, M has been against this because of the noise factor; but we do have a garage, right now.)

I hadn’t been wearing earrings to work for hygienic reasons, but it may be worth it to make jewelry that I (or others) can wear on my off-hours. And not, you know, denigrate my off-hours as the days on which I don’t dress up.

I’m also considering helping out a small local business…not that I’ve gone to them with that, yet. I just kind of feel for them and their community (which I happen to be a part of).

So yeah, I’ve…apparently, been thinking about a lot. More than I had realized.

I’m also seeing that maybe this is where my heart is. In making things, I mean. I could just be a craftsperson at heart. It would explain why I can’t even really bear the thought of spending the rest of my isolation, reading and studying. It could also explain why “Art” is so difficult, at this point. Comparatively speaking, crafts have inbuilt limitations, which give them foundation and structure. I haven’t seen so much of that in Art, though I do wonder about the possibility of 3-D paintings and such. I’ve seen things approaching it in string sculptures, but Augmented Reality could also be interesting.

As regards choice of media: I did talk with my sibling, who has just told me to be aware of the drawbacks of each medium, but (basically) not to allow that to decide which I work within, as they all have drawbacks (this is my interpretation — or more likely, synthesis).

Of course, we were talking about watercolors (not wanting to discharge toxins into the environment) as versus digital media (cleaner, but like constantly using a pencil)…and I just can’t see giving up the former.

What I can see being impacted by my current inhibitions (wanting to create while also desiring ethical sourcing) is my use of gold…which is sparing, but still. I really don’t even know what happens when people make colored glass beads, and that’s been troubling me. It’s possibly also been the reason I stopped using them. But maybe I don’t have to care about everything, all the time?

I’ve thought up the possibility of — while we’re still closed — creating some designs for a number of the cabochons I’ve collected, over the years. That way, when we open up (we still don’t have a membership at the Art Center, which is good because the membership will go farther now), I can get right on making them.

Business, craft, creativity, design, money, writing

What is it that I liked about Web Design?

Looking over recent job ads, I find that I have the beginnings of varied job paths — lots of areas to explore. The thing is, they’re lots of beginnings! What I have continuing practice in is, largely, writing. Surprise. ;) There’s that, and various arts and crafts that I’ve tasted…most of which, I’ve loved (I have the dubious distinction of being interested in, and wanting to do, way more than I can allocate time and resources to). The question has been, what it is that I can do with those skills that will make the investment of time, money, and energy, worth it.

I just got the idea of working the arts and crafts (and/or writing) into my immediate future employment plans, by seeking out employment at local stores, like fabric and yarn and art supply and bead stores. (I’ve recently been told that my parents have nothing against my taking a retail job, though that came as a surprise to me.) The thing is, my interest in retail is limited to what I’m interested in…it’s not retail for retail’s sake, it’s retail for community’s sake.

I don’t know if that plan is going to work, but customer service skills are of use in libraries, no kidding. Library training will also help me in customer service, it’s fairly obvious to me at this point.

If I’m planning (or hoping) to be a professional writer, like a copywriter (in addition to being a part-time library worker), it makes sense to keep up a portfolio site. I’m pretty sure I have several months before my creative writing site goes down. (There’s not a lot on it — I haven’t had it in me to generate fiction, recently. I’m pretty sure a lot of it has to do with not reading a lot of fiction, other than some literary magazine stuff.)

And, of course, what I do with a professional online presence, really depends on my Web Development skills. I’m somewhat torn between self-hosting and using wordpress.com, for that. I have experience with both; wordpress.com is convenient, but self-hosting provides many more options, including the ability to build the site from the ground up.

After I end this last Library Science class, I’ll be able to get back to my JavaScript course, and to my self-study (PHP, JavaScript, MySQL), although I’m aware that the back end of tech work isn’t my favorite place to be. I am also aware that I give up a lot of control if I don’t know how it works, and depend on a third party to moderate my interaction with it.

Granted that there are different levels of moderation. Working on the back-end of a site which just happens to include a WordPress installation, is different from trying to coax WordPress into doing what I want it to do, as my only option. It works, if you’re wholly focused on content, but if you want to tweak and customize everything…it’s more direct to just self-host.

Knowing at least one Web Programming language is the last key to my knowing if I want to work with Web Development at all, as versus Web Design or Web Production. I mean — you know. If we’re talking about the Web and its Webular Webaliciousness (okay, I’ll stop).

I do have issues with wanting to have as much personal control over my creations as I can. Thus, I can see the use in learning the back end of website production…though I think that the parts of making sites that I like…are the design of the site, and the production of content (text, images [when I can use image editors that are intuitive]; I haven’t gone into video or audio, yet). I still get a sense of accomplishment or something, when I see that I’ve built something new, and I feel the need to keep updating. In that case…constructing Web sites is like any other craft for me, only it’s virtual.

In other words, I have fun making the human-facing parts. The technical stuff, like the programming behind the scenes beyond HTML and CSS (which aren’t actually programming languages, they’re markup and styling), I’m not as into, largely because it requires the use of rigorous logic. I’m not entirely…satisfied? with logic. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’d rather be talking to people with complex minds, than talking to a machine which only knows two digits.

That could be it…

(Or maybe it’s a community thing here, too?)

I know there’s some pattern — maybe interest in the Humanities (arts, crafts, writing) versus interest in Computer Science? I’m not getting the connection totally, but it’s almost midnight. How can I expect my mind to function right now? :)

I’ll come back to it later, hopefully. :)

craft, fiber arts, tatting

Tatting practice.

Hello again! I got to meet a lot of new family over the holiday weekend, and took some time off without the computer. I also forced myself to stay away from study, which meant that I had time to practice tatting — which, for those who haven’t read my backposts, is a form of knotted lacework. :)

a series of tatted rings in peacock DMC #5 thread
Figure 1: A series of tatted rings.

Before I came here tonight, I was catching up on my coursework. I’m roughly where I should be, now. Although at the time of this writing it’s 11:15 PM locally (I’ve just finished last week’s work), I started this post last night and still haven’t worked on it. I also went to bed late last night, which I’m not proud of. It seems I’m on track again tonight to stay up late; that’s largely because I’ve been working all day, and it would kind of not be ideal to do all this work and not have a chance to do something for myself.

A tatted border sample in ecr
Figure 2: Trim samples.

Anyhow, as you can see, I decided to finally log something with photos. :) Accordingly, I also had to get used to a different method of upload, practice my image-editing skills, and figure out how to strip unwanted metadata.

The image to the left is what I was toying with, last week. (I haven’t been able to get any tatting done today.) The samples are basically my attempt at linking rings together using picots. I am getting better, as I can see what happens when I begin in a certain fashion.

I think my biggest hangup at this time (illustrated in Figure 2) is remembering how many picots there are on each ring. In the upper left corner of Figure 2, you can see that I only was thinking of three picots plus a join…I totally left out the fifth loop thing and the three double stitches that came after it, so the ring is too small and everything basically lopped over.

I’m also not too good at loosening and undoing my work right now, either, which means that an error like this could mean that it’s time to restart. :P (I am using DMC perle cotton #5, though, which is basically generally used for cross-stitch.)

The work is based on a learning aid in the book Learn to Tat, by Janette Baker. I am appreciating this book, because Baker seems to have a good handle on instructional design: skills build on each other, and she anticipates the problems beginners have. The book is thin, but it’s divided into nine lessons: I’m about to start Lesson 4, if I can ever get off of this butterfly.

A tatted butterfly in ecru DMC #5 thread
Figure 3: Butterfly.

The tatted butterfly to the right (Figure 3) was what I came up with on my second completed try of Lesson Three. Ideally, I’m thinking that the center space I can see here, actually isn’t supposed to be there. In the book, the butterfly wings are closer together, though I squished these together as best I could, and there’s still space. Maybe I’m drawing the rings up too tightly?

I’m thinking that the use of a beading awl may help, in snugging the rings together (apparently, the first half of the first stitch made after completing the previous ring is really important to get super close to that last ring).

Or, maybe I should make the consecutive rings in such a manner that I don’t bend each new ring into position before beginning to stitch it. I mean, maybe they are supposed to be basically crushed together until the last moment. :)

I can try again (the pattern is easy to remember), though I think I’m getting a little obsessive…

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, creativity, design, seed beads

Design work: Embellished Tri Stitch

It’s actually fairly amazing, the things that come from just playing around with beads. I was able to get back to my design work, today. In the process, I was able to test out some S-Lon beading thread that I got a while back from General Bead, and to cut into one of my half-hanks of size 8/0 Czech seed beads.

The thing about beadwork is that it’s not always feasible to start out with a drawing, and assume that the drawing will work out into a real-world prototype which will mirror the drawing exactly. The dimensions and shapes of beads are just too precise, or sometimes idiosyncratic. I’ve found that even with beads which I assume are from the same manufacturer (for example, 3mm Miyuki-brand magatama drop beads), the shapes and sizes are not exactly the same. The exception to this could be if my supplier has at least two different sources for beads which are sold under the same name. Until I visited General Bead, though, the only types of teardrop-style seed beads I knew of were Czech fringe beads, and Miyuki 3mm Magatamas.

Embellished tri-chain swatch.

Tonight I was working with Tri Stitch, which I tried to reteach to myself before I finally realized I was beginning the chain wrong (I was looping through all three beads to begin, instead of just two), and had to resort to looking at instructions to begin. My source: Seed bead stitching: Creative variations on traditional techniques, by Beth Stone, © 2007.

The reason that the photo here doesn’t look like much is that this sample is tiny — about three inches long — and not only did I have to deal with troublesome light sources (it’s night) and difficulty focusing (the colors here are washed out, and none of my photos came out crisp, probably because I was too close), but the beads I used were mostly from a set of beads that I’ve set aside because they are either 1) the most inexpensive beads I had in a certain shape and size, 2) the beads have gotten dusty from sitting out too long and thus I’m disinclined to use them in jewelry someone will wear (without washing), or 3) the beads are likely to fade because of the method of their coloring.

The larger turquoise beads are my least-expensive and easiest-to-replace Czech 8/0s, while the drop beads at the top are color-lined, meaning they have, in this case, a bronzish paint on the inside of their hole which may change color or fade. The beads at the bottom? The amber ones are Czech 11/0s left over from some forgotten project, while the picots (loops) are size 15/0 Medium Topaz Toho beads which I used as a test to see whether the silver lining would come out.

I have another set of 15/0s (unknown brand, old) which are slightly lighter, but their silver linings shed on my fingertips– I was trying to see if it was due to age or the abrasion of the Big-Eye Needle I used. I think it was the needle. Big-Eyes have two spring-steel wires soldered together and sharpened; they’re easy to thread and use, but they aren’t as smooth to the inside of a bead’s piercing(s) as regular beading needles. They also tend to shred one’s thread into its constituent fibers, and jam up. This is magnified when using a bead as small as 15/0. It also isn’t (as much of) an issue with a regular beading needle.

I went through three swatches before I got the above (the trials were fairly…well, learning experiences). I found out relatively early that I would have to use Czech beads for some aspects of this pattern, because the Japanese 8/0 beads I first tried were far too cylindrical to nestle into each other properly. I keep saying that Czech beads are more donut-shaped…this causes them to be friendlier to stitches like Tri Stitch and Right-Angle Weave, because the edges of the beads have more rounded transitions between the walls and the tops and bottoms.

I also didn’t expect at all to have a place to use size 15/0 beads, but for little delicate embellishments like picots, they’re perfect. These are Tohos, which are a Japanese brand, which doesn’t matter all that much, in context. I do have some Czech size 13/0, but the Czech beads can get so tiny (down to the size where they look like sand) that it’s really either amazing or discouraging. :) Maybe both. I have Czech 13/0s that look just as small as Japanese 15/0s.

Yeah, I don’t know, either.

It was good to get back to this, today. I find it slightly strange that work done in design is unpredictable at the point of beginning. That is, I may have an idea of what I want in mind, but the plan has to evolve for anything to get done, especially when dealing with beads (which are pre-made, and thus have their dimensions already determined; the skill and fun comes in where one figures out how to fit them together in some way that looks nice, is durable, and isn’t a mess).

As for the S-Lon beading thread…I like it enough to consider buying C-Lon beading thread, which I’ve heard is basically the same thing. It still shreds if abused, but not as easily as Nymo (which used to be industry-standard). I know where to find both brands (different sources)…I’m just not sure which, or how many, colors to get. Having too many color choices can be as bad as having too few. In any case, I was using an olive tone of thread tonight, and it doesn’t look bad, really. I mean, it’s not black or white or red, which are the colors which would stand out most. I think that because the beads I used were greenish, and the thread was greenish and muted, it dropped back nicely.

I did just get a bunch of C-Lon Micro Cord, which I’ve wanted to use for micromacrame, but haven’t gotten the chance to play with it yet, what with job applications, and graduation, and reading, and my own continuing study. Maybe I should make it a priority to have days where I work with my beads, or paints, or on my writing…

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…