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…

jewelry, metalsmithing, self care

18g earrings back in. Reconsidering metalsmithing. Procrastination or overwork (I’m not sure which).

Not much of note has happened in my life, recently. I did, last night, put in my 18 gauge earrings, which are basically circles of surgical steel wire. Because they’re so thin, they tend to deform rather than accept the (tiny) bead that is supposed to help them close. I realized last night that I didn’t actually need the bead for something this small, and just threaded them in and pinched them so that they wouldn’t fall out. I should have about six weeks before I know for a fact that I can increase the gauge. So I can go up to 16g on the 25th of August, or later; assuming I don’t take the 18g rings out, until then.

A long time ago, I did think it was OK to “gauge up” early (given that I’ve gone up and down in gauge ever since I was first pierced), but at this point I’m more reserved about it. For some reason, the piercings aren’t at the same level of looseness or tightness all the time…sometimes a scar will tighten for no foreseeable reason. When that happens, the piercing is fragile and vulnerable to microtears, which can lead to oozing or bleeding. That can further damage the piercing, if shards of dried fluid are pulled through when the ring is loosened. The last time that happened to me, I realized I had to take the larger wire out and put in a thinner one, so I wouldn’t inadvertently heal in a deformation. Then I had to wait for the piercing to heal sufficiently.

I’ve read to treat an expanded piercing just like a new one, but I think (at this point) that these two states aren’t exactly the same. If I had, for example, soaked the piercing in salt water twice a day before attempting to loosen the ring (as is recommended for fresh piercings, though that’s not medical advice), I wouldn’t have dragged dried blood through a tender site (which caused the pain that caused me to realize I had a microtear. I’m still not sure, however, whether it tore before and I didn’t notice it, or whether it tore when I felt the pain). Having had the piercings the first time was not really similar to letting them shrink down, and then re-opening them later. Had I not started at 14g (and then never gone above that), gauging up really might have been more similar to having a new piercing.

Also, the piercings I’m talking about are just basic earlobe piercings, not cartilage or body-type things. Because it’s easy for employers here to discriminate in hiring based on the number of piercings they can see on a person…there are reasons not to have too many.

Yesterday, I had the chance to wear earrings with standard posts, again: they were basically studs shaped like flowers. I had the misfortune of almost losing one…which meant that I had to pick up an earnut off the floor, then wash my hands, then wash my ear, then wash the earring…though the positive thing is, I realized I wasn’t too attached to it.

In contrast…my biggest hesitation about expanding my piercings has had to do with commitment. As for why it is that I keep taking my larger-gauge jewelry out, I think it has been because I wanted to wear the jewelry I had made before, which mostly has earwires between 22g and 18g. I also haven’t wanted my piercings to migrate because of using too fine a gauge in too large a piercing (though I’m not sure that would even happen). There’s nothing else I can think of which would be a reason.

It would probably be an easier decision for me if I were not a beadworker. To make jewelry for large-gauge piercings, I would basically need to move into metalsmithing. It’s not like it would be difficult, at least to make something like a ring, or a tunnel or plug (if I could find safe silicone o-rings). However…if I were to make anything more major, I’d be dealing with forging, and I’m not sure I have a torch strong enough to work with thick, solid metal.

I also only have the ability right now to work in silver, brass, or copper; most of the large-gauge jewelry I have, in contrast, is surgical steel. Moving into that means moving into blacksmithing. The addition of iron makes the process of forging…different. And I don’t know how to do it.

However, there are at least two or three local places that I know of (Silvera Jewelry School, the Richmond Art Center, and The Crucible), in which I could use more powerful torches than I have access to, here. I would basically have to drop into a lab, though.

Or, I could just resign myself (for now), to buying earrings, and using beadwork skills for necklaces and bracelets or anklets.

Not that I’ve made much jewelry at all, recently; I’ve been focused on lace. It is trying to devote time to this, however, where I have other things to be doing (for now), which are more important: like preparing for job interviews or searching for openings or building my LinkedIn account. However…the difficulty I’m having in taking time out for myself, somewhat indicates to me that I need to do it. I opted to write here tonight, instead of working on the lace…because for some reason (having been an English major) it seems less of a waste of time to write a blog post than it is to knot lace.

I know I could be working on my course, but the internet has been in and out all day. Besides…I’m getting tired of these courses, especially since I realize now that Cataloging is difficult for me. I know I probably should be working on my current course (or checking work in my past courses), but the thing is, “should” is a word that I’ve been trying to work out of my system, since I realized how much it was damaging me as a youth. (I was a severe overachiever, although that may be why I’m in the position I am [in regard to career prospects, and my relative lack of development in non-academic areas], now.)

Yeah, maybe I do need to stop working as hard as I can, as much as I can, just because I have a commitment or because I always expect more of myself. It’s interesting to take a vacation and then get back to work, and realize how much you appreciated not having to do it…

I also want to get back to my JavaScript course. How badly I want to get back to it? I’m not sure at this point. But I also want to get back to just basic coding. I just need to find something to build a site around…and, for now, to find the time to keep educating myself via the one serious book I’ve recently purchased. The reason I haven’t gotten back to it…is largely because I’m anxious about installing new programs on my machine. It’s always a risk, and usually a risk I don’t like to take. I do have ways of checking things; the entire process is just stressful.

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…

craft, fiber arts, tatting

Needing to work on my tension

(Note: this entry assumes some knowledge of tatting, because I don’t know it well enough to be able to communicate what exactly I’m doing.)

Tonight, I got back to my book on tatting (a.k.a. shuttle lace). What I found, in short, is that materials matter — just not in the way I expected. I have some Size 3 cotton “crochet thread” which I bought because I thought it would be better for tatting than the Size 5 perle cotton I already had.

Yeah, that was a mistake.

What I didn’t realize is that the thread I use has to have some slickness to it, so that I can easily invert the half-hitches that make up each double stitch. I was using “Aunt Lydia’s Crochet Thread” from Michael’s — not only is it unattractive, but it’s too rough for me. At this point, I’m not sure it’s even ideal for practice. I would count it as another hit against Michael’s, but the thing is, they also carry the DMC perle cotton (normally used for cross-stitch) that worked.

I also found, on attempting to make a tatted ring tonight, that my stitches were way too tight. They’re supposed to easily slide along the anchor thread; if the tension is too high, or one half of one of the stitches reverses (like at the very end of the ring — which is easy to accidentally “pop” out of position), it isn’t possible to draw the anchor thread up into a loop.

The perle cotton (DMC brand, size 5) is…much slicker than the thread I first tried to use, though it’s also prone to fuzz. I think my mistake when starting was just working with way too high of a tension (and ironically, blaming my materials rather than my experience — but then, I expected to find something more suitable, not less).

I’m thinking that my initial half-hitch is too tight when I try to reverse it by pulling on the anchor thread…because sometimes I have to pull really hard to reverse the half-hitch.

Got to work on that. But hey, at least I can work some kind of double stitch, now!

career, craft, creativity, fiber arts, jewelry, self care, work

Despite it: what do I *want* to do?

Hmm. You know, the question of what I really want to do has come up over the last few days. Not what would be profitable to do — but how I want to spend my time.

I think my life is becoming more clearly divided between work, professional development, and leisure…where I didn’t really have anything to compare “leisure” to, before. I wonder what it would have been like if I worked for years before going into University.

Most likely, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have made it through (unless I went through Community College first to maintain my study skills), but aside from that, it would have helped me to have had some work experience. That way, I could actually tell what kind of work I was interested in (and where I could be hired), in Undergrad, and aim my major and studies accordingly.

Still — I would not have likely ended up with as much education as I have now, because I would have had practical experience of life outside academia. I also might have been able to take a more direct route to a career. But that’s me looking back at my 18-year-old self from about two decades into the future. I suppose it’s easy to have regrets (or “regrets”), and to see where things could have gone differently.

So many of those early decisions powerfully affect what comes later, at least if one allows them to. For instance, I shunted myself out of a career in the Hard Sciences early, by opting not to take University-level Math. This placed me squarely in the Social Sciences and Humanities, which happened to be where my then-current interests lay. However, those interests were influenced by never before having had the opportunity to learn these things, and also by an early experience of unexplained dysfunctional social dynamics.

In any case, not everything I do (at least, now) has to be marketable, or something I plan to or can make money on: writing is an example. Yes, I had an undergraduate major in Creative Writing, but that decision affected two years in my early twenties. Ironically, I didn’t know much about myself, then. It shouldn’t define the rest of my life.

I think that up until now, most — if not all — of my time was primarily focused on academic pursuits and work. Right now, I’m not in college anymore (for the first time in years), and I have the hope of a higher-paying career, which won’t require me to have a second (or possibly third) job.

Earlier, I was reading and realized how much easier it was to take in information than to put out information. If I do this Librarianship thing for real, reading is much more important than writing. Like, way more. Writing does help, but unless I work in an Academic Library, publishing probably isn’t a huge pressure. If I did work in an Academic Library, it’s unlikely that I’d be asked to write fiction.

Out of this, I realize that it…likely is okay for me to do what I want to, with my free time (apart from work, reading, and Professional Development). That includes crafts, and it doesn’t have to include Illustration, regardless of whether or not I got a degree in Art.

All of this has been wonderfully enriching, but it doesn’t mean I have to hold to the same pattern for the rest of my life. I know that I appreciate the arts; I also know that I appreciate well-crafted writing. I found community in Art; from both of these pursuits I’ve learned how important it is to me to have creative output. It’s basically really hard for me to live without making things. Without records, the days run together, and I lose track of what has happened — which is a major underlying reason for my own blogging.

The thing is, my career path as it stands now is not exactly a creative one. I don’t, however, have to make all my waking hours about my job and my career — right now I still have space for free time. Assuming success with my job and career, there isn’t any need for what I do during that free time, to be profitable.

So, I finally was able to begin practicing tatting, the other night. For those who haven’t been following this blog, tatting is a form of lacemaking. And…I do think I’ve earned enough time to be able to do something that’s just about me, and not about money.

The beadwork I had been doing, had been migrating from being a pleasurable pastime, to being a microbusiness…and I’m not thinking that my designs come quickly enough for that work to be decently profitable. Of course, I can still teach the designs to others…

For that matter, I might become capable of teaching other creative pastimes, without the need for those pastimes to be commercially profitable.

As for writing, and the whole graphic novel thing…I shouldn’t force it. It’s been a very long time since I’ve written any fiction (actually, I believe Christmas was the last attempt); right now, I’m angled more towards nonfiction. Essays. Blogging. I also haven’t been drawing. While it’s attractive to restart the latter, drawing an entire graphic novel is very different than just doing one-off sketches. A graphic novel requires drawing much more — including things one doesn’t want to draw, or possibly see — than making images in general.

Right now…there are still a lot of things I want to work on. The two things I have wanted to work on today — other than logging this — have been practicing the tatting, and working on the blouse project I left off of. There is also the embroidery issue, which I’ve been dealing with for years…I’ve just been wondering what I could make for myself that includes such. (That I would wear, I mean…)

It is true I do have a lot of beads. I also have a number of designs to try out…but I shouldn’t push myself to work on them, too hard. They’ll be here. And right now, I’ve invested more than I would get back from sales. Maybe I’m making it too hard for myself to get back to working on my beadwork, by giving myself too many options, going through too much to set myself up in hopes of success. I’m not just forging ahead without a thought to the future, which, ironically, is likely a much more productive stance in the short-term.

I’m also planning on seeing through these last two courses. Maybe after those are over, I can deal with producing jewelry to sell (though I highly doubt that, if I got a full-time job, or even a part-time job in a higher position that required training and study, I would have enough time or energy to deal with it, either). I suspect that…given time and a lack of pressure, I will likely go back to it.

Right now, though…I want to try and deal with the fiber work, and the sewing. I don’t know why. But I suspect that cross-medium capability in micromacramé, lacework, embroidery, and beadweaving together, could lead to something really nice. I’ve seen examples of the beautiful things that can be made with beaded lace…which is obviously very distant from me, right now. But it’s enough to help spur me on. The thing is, I’m not sure how much time I would have to explore these things, if I were producing work for money.

I think that’s the real issue. Time, and allowing myself the latitude to explore.

beading, Business, career, craft, creativity, jewelry design

Showing up.

Well, I was able to restart my beading. I’m working on a project from (what at least feels like) years ago. The dominant colors are bronze, brown, and green, though I’m also working a little deep red into it, with some success. (Luckily, it doesn’t matter if anyone can recognize it as red, or not! It’s very subtle.) I am having a couple of problems, though:

  1. Just like trying to restart painting from zero, or restart writing from zero, trying to restart beading from zero comes with its own difficulties. I wouldn’t say I’m, “stymied,” just yet, but there’s definitely some practice that will have to come before I can get back into my stride.
  2. I’ve realized how core to my personality my creativity is, so it’s kind of…hard, after having been forced away from it (timewise), for so long.
    And, well, then there’s this one:
  3. I find myself more interested in this than I realized; part of the reason I did continue on with the Library training was to gain entrepreneurial skills. Actually, part of the reason to start the Library training at all, was to support my beadwork and jeweling. It’s not obvious, but being a handcrafter is not a lucrative position to be in; most handcrafters make poverty wages. Nor is being a jeweler, even though the items produced are essentially luxury items.

For the last two or three days, I’ve been moving things around. I’ve freed up a lot of space in my storage, more than I could have ever imagined. The major thing is having to depend on my own documentation to be able to tell what everything is and the cost of each little thing (which isn’t even possible to exactly know, without the initial quantities of each item).

Estimations are kind of crucial, here, when dealing with backstock which is not labeled as to its cost or value. With new stock it’s easier, but that data has to be recorded pretty much as soon as possible and in as much detail as possible, before memory fades (a lot of places don’t give itemized receipts). That is something I learned from an early Library Science class.

Particularly…working in a bead store or helping an established jeweler/beadworker/fiber artist is kind of a dream job, sad as that is. (I would also take fabric store or art-supply store.)

The illuminating part is that I’m more interested in doing informational interviews with small-business owners where it comes to jewelers, beaders, fiber artists, and suppliers, than I am interested in doing informational interviews with Librarians.

Essentially, I’m setting up to run a small business (which I know I can do now) at the same time as I’m dealing with trying to find a job as a Librarian. I’m not sure what liberties I can take in describing my current frustrations with my job, so I won’t. Given the last day or so of being sick (I’ll spare you the details), I didn’t opt to go in, today — which is good, because I was exhausted as it was. The weird thing is that cooperating with people at my job and knowing that I’m providing a helpful service to a community, is most of what’s keeping me there. And that’s bizarre for me to say, because before I started that job, I was basically a loner. However, I was a loner for a reason, which is not valid in adult society.

So I’m kind of dealing with this split but overlapping vision.

I’m realizing the need for cataloging where I got things from, the names of things, the locations of things, the prices and quantities of things, and finding quality vendors. That’s before getting to actually using the things. But it is typical in a small business (in this case, a micro-business) that most of one’s time is spent running the business, not producing the goods.

I’m actually glad that I have taken Business classes, in that way, because now I know that. If I don’t get a job soon, I’m now thinking about taking more Business classes to stave off loan repayment and sharpen my business acumen…though obviously, that’s a last-resort type of thing. From what I’ve heard, I should be able to make the loan repayments and cover them with my current job…we’ll see. I have Summer semester to work it out.

I also have heard that it takes an enormous personal commitment to establish a small business (and can take upwards of 60 hours of work per week [do I say, “hey, that’s just 10 hours per day”?]), but in this case it would be doing something I love (even if I’m not all that confident in my own creativity, all the time).

There are also the upshots that I have a good idea of the kind of work I want to do, where my niche market might lie, the tools I would need, the suppliers I would employ, the people skills involved (networking! How often can I be excited about that???), the community, places to learn, and ideas of places to start to sell (fairs, farmers’ markets, boutiques, flea markets, online). I also have experience, skill, stock, and tools. Which, particularly in silversmithing, aren’t really…things one would think of?

In silversmithing, it’s basically extremely helpful to take classes or apprentice to know what you’re doing, with which tools, in a safe manner…though it’s kind of a back-pocket thing for me, right now. I don’t want to do it, but I may need to, at some point: for instance, if I start getting gouged where it comes to buying pre-made components.

My main bead store for years consistently had overpriced metals, which I didn’t fully realize until I started making my own earwires. It’s also not difficult to hard-solder jump rings, but you need to know how to pick-solder, which I didn’t, for years. You also need to know how to quickly clean up and polish that stuff after it’s made, because time is money, and trust me, it looks horrible after having been blasted with fire.

(And yes, I did eventually look up how to do granulation, online: it isn’t looking easy. But I wonder if one could get a granulated-look from macramé plus bead embroidery?)

I think the major issues I would have, would be financial; like which web host to use, or which payment processor to employ.

So I know that I’m not going to be a goldsmith, and I’m looking at being a beadworker with the enhancements of fiber work and minor silversmithing. Basically, a major reason to go into Public Library work is that I’d be able to use my experience here to help other people, and thus have a reason to continue pouring resources and time into this current, “hobby.”

And yet, I’m spending so little time actually beading. I realized today that I couldn’t even remember yesterday (my computer told me I’d been off of it for two days, today), and then I realized that I had been sorting loads of beads into tiny containers for most of the amount of time I had been up.

Well — sorting and labeling. Probably like most crafters, I feel like I do more stashing than actually using what I have. In Art, we hear that most of the work is just showing up to the bench, every day. That gives the possibility of making, “good art,” but not the guarantee. The thing is, not showing up at all means there is no possibility.

Of course, “good art,” is subjective; “good design,” not to such a degree. But still…at least I engaged with my materials, and I can see pairings of beads jumping out at me, now (from colors I never thought I’d use)! Right now I have the forward side section of this necklace worked out; I’m not sure if I should be thinking of it like music with different verses…I just am. I don’t know if it will help, though.

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, jewelry, jewelry design

Returning to this blog. Intellectual Property re: beadwork.

I’m not entirely sure how to start this entry. It’s been well over two years since I used this blog. I’m nearing the end of a graduate program and having an extended period of “free time” for the first time in a while. It’s been a long route to getting back to doing what I’ve actually wanted to do.

I can’t at this point remember why it was that I migrated away from beadwork, though I am thinking that it was concerns over inadvertently violating intellectual property. I’ve gone over this elsewhere, and maybe I’ll eventually link it here, but I’ve gotten additional information (and experience) between my last post and now. It makes me feel better about beading.

Techniques can’t be copyrighted. I don’t think it matters if you learn the technique from a book or online or in-person. I believe the copyright is on the media in which the information is transferred (so, for example, the form of a paper pattern is copyrighted: what you learn from it — the information — isn’t, necessarily). There are community norms in place which help manage what information is used and how…but whether something violates copyright or not, is a grey legal area that takes a number of factors into account.

Technically, the form of intellectual property protection that it seems would even apply, where it comes to using knowledge of technique, is patent. So far as I know, patents are only granted to unique and innovative designs that would be hard to come to on one’s own.

It gets more complex than this; I am certain I can’t communicate all the intricacies of my current understanding, at this time. While there is some truth to the idea that a person wants to be relatively fluent in technique before beginning to sell — just for the sake of their own development (client pressure for more and more of the same can deter growth) — it’s not necessary to know everything, either. I don’t see the sense in prohibiting sales for reasonably unique — no — common work (not specific individual designs that others have taught you how to do), that would otherwise happen — which is what I felt was being promoted to me, which caused me to try and get out of the field.

By, “common work,” I mean work which doesn’t take a great deal of innovation to achieve; which those who know the technique could easily reproduce. And I mean work that isn’t a precise design that someone else taught you how to do.

I don’t mean that the work isn’t unique. There are a lot of unique ways to use common techniques. Most of the possible ways to use them, are. It’s the few ways through which people teach you how to do the technique, which I feel are questionable to duplicate for money; if not off-limits. That is a courtesy that I try to hold to.

Once you have enough practice at constructing basic pieces of jewelry, the techniques you know become a knowledge base you can draw off of when designing things that are your own. But if you don’t practice because you don’t want to follow a pattern, it’s learning the hard way. As you progress, though, there is a natural movement away from instructions and into simply playing and seeing what you can come up with.

At every step there are multiple directions one can take. Making one decision differently from the one in the instructions, or more than one…there’s no crime in that. It’s just that there are many more ways to make things that don’t work, than things that do. :) Experimenting is the only way to find original ways to put things together, though. And research is important to learn more techniques.

Aside from this, beadwork is a relatively expensive hobby. However…doing other things that share traits in common with beadwork (for me this has been painting and sewing) also aren’t the same. Painting requires some thought as to subject matter, even though it has heavy use of color in common with beadwork. Sewing is generally the manipulation of two-dimensional surfaces through the use of needle and thread, and can powerfully integrate color. Bead weaving also uses needle and thread, but in a different way.

In a class where I got to experience making 3-D computer models, I learned that a three-dimensional form with one pierced hole is called a, “torus.” In bead weaving and micromacrame, you’re working with threads, cord, and pierced shapes (though there are beads out now with up to four piercings; I don’t know what shapes with two, three, or four piercings, are called!). The threads (or lines, as I like to think of them) go through the holes of beads or around other threads which are already established in the pattern. There is a certain aspect of what feels like engineering (I use the term “engineering” loosely), in fitting beads together to make a design (whether that’s shaped or flat).

Also, there’s the possibility of using metals with beads and fiber, though these days that generally means wire and sheet. Casting is something else, which I have never carried through all the way. (I’ve made wax models, and I think I’ve poured the plaster, but I don’t think I went through burnout of the model, or the actual casting, let alone finishing.) Casting, though, is a way to make forms in metal which would be very difficult to fabricate, otherwise.

Still, though, silversmithing is not the same thing as beading, even though both can result in the production of jewelry.

I’ve also gotta put in a disclaimer, here. Those who know me from my personal blog, would know that I am planning to go into an Information profession. The preceding post is not legal advice. Even if I were a professional at this point, I would not be able to give legal advice as a member of my profession (as versus, as a person). I am not a lawyer or in any way a specialist in any legal system, so keep that in mind. All risk as to your own decisions lies with you.

What I’m describing here is part of my trying to figure out how to navigate intellectual property territory as a craft jeweler/handcrafter (my decision to adopt or own these term[s], are another post). Writing things out, in most cases, helps me get my thoughts together. The Intellectual Property aside is something I feel the need to record, as it’s been so prominent in my own decisions as to where to exercise my creative abilities. It also evolves as I age, and as I gain more knowledge and experience.

In that sense, these records are valuable to me, as I can see what I used to believe, and how that led to what I think, now. But I can’t predict what I will think, in the future. And I can’t say it won’t be better. So on that note, let me just leave you with the note that I know I’m fallible, and I know that my own understanding is a process, not a product.