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…