art, craft, design, libraries, LIS, seed beads, self care, work

The importance of weekends

Today marks the last day of my first experience of working a 40-hour week. As long as I take care of food, water, hygiene, breaks, and sleep, I can make it. I really just need to care for myself, physically. It also helps to have family to help with food preparation.

Now that I have two days to myself, I’m also wondering how to spend it. Not to reference “Phineas & Ferb” or anything, but it’s a legitimate question. I have a binder full of stuff I can read, I need to figure out if I have any potential benefits, and I can review my notes.

I can also get back to my macramé; my seed beads and cord have been sitting out here for over a week (though they aren’t dusty yet), and I have a better handle on my design process, now: try different things. You won’t know what it looks like, unless you try different things. In this way, an idea develops from a rudimentary stab at embodying a concept, into multiple versions and pathways that you won’t be able to experience without seeing and feeling (and making) them in hard form.

Just thinking about possibilities isn’t going to work as well (if at all). Those thoughts are the seeds. The trials are the work; the trials are how things develop into reality. Without that, it’s all dreaming; no production, no creating.

And it is okay to work in Decorative Art. I realize that, now; and I also wonder whether the idea that it isn’t okay, is due to my Literature training (Fiction writing, I’ve found to be conflict- and message-driven), and my training in Fine Art (where we were always looking for underlying meaning behind our images).

It’s also okay to make things with my hands that aren’t pictures. Seriously. Craft is not below Art. It’s just a concept and practice that overlaps Art, though as to whether it is truly a different or separable thing (to me), is something I haven’t yet resolved. I did, however, read that most ancient art qualifies as, “Decorative,” now…I don’t know if you can know how good that makes me feel; that I’m not alone or isolated in wanting to make beautiful things.

Best-Maugard’s book, A Method for Creative Design, has helped with my design process — and I find design applies in both Art (for me right now, drawing) and Craft (for me, beadwork). I recently was able to obtain a used copy for about $25. The only drawback is that it came along with a previously unmentioned scent of tobacco smoke, and light though loving wear.

Journaling has also helped me keep track of (and account for) my own thoughts, though I highly doubt it would be as calming or helpful, if I made it to publish. I’ve noticed that I love my fine Pilot Metropolitan with green-blue ink and my calligraphy-nib Pilot Prera with red-orange ink. They kind of automatically help me apply graphic design principles to my writing, along with encouraging me to write by hand. If fountain pens aren’t used regularly, that is — and especially with those two, which I may only think because I’ve had them longer — the ink inside the converter (I’m not using cartridges) evaporates and concentrates. That’s not my goal, especially as my green-blue ink can turn almost black, when that happens.

At this time, I’m just wondering about the possibility of working 40 hours normally. Would I be able to do it? I’m hoping that I get the chance to find out. First, I have to get through this training, which will last for approximately the rest of the month. After that, I have six months of Probation…though I’m thinking everyone expects that to be a learning period.

I am glad to get out of being an Aide, though, primarily because Aide work is so physical, and I’m no longer a young adult. My body can’t handle what it used to. I also have a lot more to offer than my physical strength, and eye for detail and pattern recognition.

It will also be awesome to be able to read things that aren’t textbooks, again. And it will relate to my employment.

What I’ve noticed is that it is an almost completely different experience to serve in the Children’s Area, than it is to serve in the Adult Area…though I should be able to reflect further on that, later this weekend (I intend for it to be here, but it may not end up that way). I’ve only spent two hours so far in hands-on training in the Children’s Area…I just, well, have become in a way acclimated to being around kids from working as an Aide in a Public Library for as long as I have.

The major thing I’m thinking of is that I’ve known my share of Aides who do not like to shelve, or when they do shelve, they only like to shelve the Adult and Young Adult areas. Due to the local climate of my old library, the Shelvers were faced with a dilemma every time they worked in the Kids’ Section, which I don’t find to be of personal benefit to go into; but let it be known that I’ve found that library to be a bit unusual, now that I’m no longer there.

I’m just really happy that I get to help the kids in a way I couldn’t, before.

Maybe I should have picked up more jobs at different libraries before even applying for a position as a Library Assistant, but I’m here now. Multiple people have told me that I can’t live in the past, and just to do my best, moving forward. It applies with ergonomics; it applies with regretting not having become a Library Assistant sooner; and it applies with certain mistakes I’ve made in my history. I just can’t linger over those errors for the rest of my life; I’ve seen that happen in other people, and I realize that it keeps them from developing beyond it. Reliving those experiences over and over again for years or decades doesn’t, actually, help solve the problems they present.

My present consideration — as regards work — is whether to opt for more time on the Kids’ Service Desk, just because it’s more difficult, or whether to take the easy way out and stay mostly in the Adult section. I don’t know, that is, whether my Manager rewards risk-taking and growth (doing the hard stuff so that I can learn), or comfort and success with what’s already known (stepping a little out of my comfort zone, but minorly so; easing into the work). I might want to consult with her, on that; though I never have intended to be a Children’s Librarian.

It’s just a very, very different experience between the two Service Desks. I also know that most of the entry-level Public Librarian openings I’ve seen, have to do with Youth, Teen, or Children’s Librarian positions. I can’t do that without having experience working with kids; but, having experience in that area may qualify me for further work, there. Now do I want that?

I’ll have the opportunity to find out, won’t I? :)

As a final note, my Career person has told me that it’s hard to get a job just because you’ve taken classes in the subject. So I shouldn’t say that my MLIS was the end-all and be-all of being a Librarian; in fact, it was only the beginning, in a way that my current training is only the beginning. I’ve been told that it can take 6 months to become truly comfortable with Reference.

I…just think I am lucky to be working with such nice people. I’ve also found that there are many people around me who are in similar situations to my own.

It’s helping me.

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

Art Jewelry vs. Craft Jewelry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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