beading, beadwork, career, design, jewelry design, libraries, personal, self care, work

Back to reality

Today was the first day I’ve had outside in a week and a half. I got to taste strange cheeses (live and active cultures? seriously, what the…), and realize that even at 170 lbs. (I’ve stabilized, here), I don’t look so bad. At least, when my clothes fit properly. And…I’m not sure, but my fat distribution may have changed a little — or the pants I just got are actually a little large. (I suppose it would help explain my viewpoint to mention that I’ve been underweight for most of my life, not by choice.)

Apparently, I had the beginnings of a sinus infection in addition to a cold, and I think the only reason I haven’t lost weight is that I drank a lot of liquid sugars in the form of juices. The medication I’m on tends to cause me to slowly gain weight if I drink more than a minimal amount of juice or soda, and then don’t balance that with exercise. This is why I’ve been trying to shift to teas (green, oolong, and herbal) and carbonated water, if not straight water (which I am willing to appreciate for its low cost and lack of calories and sweetness — I’ve actually considered drinking broth in the past, which is how much I get disturbed by the constant sweetness). However, while I was sick, I didn’t really have the energy to care. (I also wasn’t eating that much.)

Right now I’m trialing an antihistamine to see if it will fight the lingering head cold symptoms, as I’m planning on being active again tomorrow. It looks like I will be OK where it comes to sinus infections, but I hear from others that I still sound stuffy, and I have a bit of congestion. I also am a little tired, and I have a lot of stuff coming up with homework from my classes and job applications and graduation ceremonies. I hadn’t planned to be out of commission for a week and a half (I actually did get some good work done on Monday two weeks ago, before I got a sore throat on Tuesday morning — for future reference [if it is unclear] this is the second Friday night since then).

About work: having applied for a Clerk position and having seen how much they get paid, I’m feeling not so bad about having the job title I do, now. Of course, I’m in the lowest-ranking paid job I can be in at my Library, but Clerks (the next step up) don’t get paid much more (the difference is that they’re considered for benefits, and can work full-time). Right now I’m normally working 18 hours a week, which has meant that even without paid sick leave, I have enough to not worry about having been out sick for more than half of a pay period.

So, I’ve been comforted with the knowledge that I do not have to find a better-paying job immediately, because I’m already making payments on my loans (I’m just not the person that handles the legwork, there, so I didn’t know).

I’m also realizing more the concrete difference between working in an Academic Library as versus Public…and I have been told that I don’t have to study for my job interviews, though the book I just finished on homelessness and libraries was actually really illuminating. I want to deal with the Robert Bacal book next, though, because he has a different viewpoint (one focused on protecting the person who has to enforce the rules, rather than helping other people to heed the rules).

I have one more book on Public Service I can read, right here next to me. The thing is that so much of my world is revolving around libraries, at this point. I think it’s understandable that I could be reaching my limit, especially seeing how some systems take advantage of humanitarian urges. I do want to get back to my Cataloging classes (this is wholly on my own terms, as it isn’t through a University), but at the same time, I’ve already been introduced to the issues in that class, so this isn’t new. It is possible that I could play around with the Web interface, which might help more…and I should. But part of that can be homework…

I also want to get back to my JavaScript training, though this would be easier if I had a concrete goal to work towards, with which the training would help me. I don’t have that, at this point. Same thing with Japanese language — though I could be a bilingual Librarian in the future, and it might be a shoe-in if I were one of the few people who could speak and understand Japanese language fluently, it’s a lot of work to get to that point. If I learned the language for the love of the language, that’s one thing…but learning it so I can be a more effective Public Servant? Ehh?

Learning it so I can move to Japan? I’m mixed-race, and have had enough problems with that from people close to me; I don’t expect living in Japan to be easy for me, even if I did pass the JLPT to a high enough degree to be employed there. Even if I did, I’d probably have to deal with people thinking I’m “exotic” around the clock (and there are fewer legal protections for females in Japan). If I had a concrete goal — like, hey, I want to be able to read Japanese craft books — now that is something. But this kind of hazy, “I want to learn Japanese so I can understand more of my heritage,” thing, is kind of too amorphous; because for one thing, I question my motives (much easier when your family is being dysfunctional and you’ve become aware of how constant this has been).

I also really want and/or need to get back to my beadwork, though I tend to run off on some tangent about my job every time I mention it, like it isn’t important. But I have been given permission to keep buying materials as long as I sell what I make with them. That…is tempting! But I’ll make some stuff first before I go and buy more. I have a number of projects in progress, and enough basic instructions and materials to play around for a good long time. Unless I make it really different in some way that I can only hypothesize on now, it would likely be what I’ve called, “common work;” that is, stuff that anyone who has access to the information and materials I do, would be able to easily reproduce. The thing is, the bridge from common work to work that shows my own imagination, craft and skill…that isn’t so clear.

Anyhow…this comes after a while of looking for information on how to design jewelry. There are a lot of beading, “recipe books,” out there; but few which actually will teach one how to become a designer — like a person who would make a recipe book. Particularly so, where it comes to beadwork (this doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem in metalsmithing). This is something that I’ve had a problem with, for a while. I have the thought that the books on how to design aren’t out there because if people could make their own designs, then beading design books might not be as popular — or that could be what the major presses believe.

Then, there’s also the issue with intellectual property (IP) where it comes to handcrafts, which isn’t clear because of the fact that the concept of “intellectual property” was meant to protect new ideas, not to apply to old or traditional ones. While it’s clear to me now that “copyright” protects patterns, but does not apply to technique; and that if any IP concept could apply at all to handcrafts, it would likely be patent — and then in very rare cases would someone actually have the ability to enforce it. Patent itself is only applicable to novel uses of materials which would be unlikely to be stumbled upon by anyone else. The validity of the utilization of the “copyright” tool is up to the courts, and that on a case-by-case basis, taking into account a number of factors which I don’t have the space to go into, here.

So basically, I’ve had to deal with knowing I will be mimicked and with knowing that I can’t help but be similar in some way to others working in the same field with the same materials and the same knowledge base. It’s a reason why I’ve stopped posting images of my work online. There’s basically no way to protect it, and no reason to show it unless I’m selling (or trying to get name recognition). In some ways one is better off publishing through a press, because then at least one gets some return for their design work, and at least everyone knows who originated what design…and there’s no ambiguity around the question of who saw what, when. If it’s public, it’s public; and if you went through a press, they likely have a legal team that actually knows what it’s doing. Laypeople, on the other hand…

I once had a rather uncomfortable exchange with a person who told me that I shouldn’t sell until I did not have to refer to design books; but obviously neglected to say what I should do with the piles of jewelry I produced as learning aids, in the meantime. This is another time in my life where I look back and say, “I shouldn’t have listened to that person.” At all. I probably shouldn’t have even talked to them, because that gave them a platform to throw around more of this nonsense (like the idea that contacting the author of a beading pattern to ask permission to sell something made using it, and under which conditions [credit to the pattern author, a cut of the profits, etc.], would be confronted with hostility, even though the act of reaching out for permission is one of goodwill).

Like the time I mentioned wanting to take Ceramics and was told, “only old people do that;” or the time I wanted to try out Graphic Design and was told that I, “could do more,” or the time I was making a Dutch Spiral chain for my pendant in Metals class and was told, “no beading in class.” Or, for that matter, the time I mentioned wanting to take Biology and was told, “only girls do that.” (It was obvious that I didn’t like the “teenage girl” image, at the time; which, given the fact that the information given to me is obviously false [from the point of view of an adult], was likely the other child’s motivation.) Like, what the ****. Where would I be if I had been hardheaded enough not to listen to these people, or at least enough to throw out their invalidations of my desires once I got home?

The one time (of the above examples) when I was hardheaded enough to keep going and know that I was doing what I wanted to do — when I was following my own desire and did not let myself be diverted — was when I finished that Dutch Spiral chain. (People still ask me how I did it, and I can say that it’s a popularly known technique.) The angry person I mention above in the context of the ethical use of patterns, actually threw me off my course for a number of years, because I wanted to be a good person. Thus, I didn’t make jewelry to sell with which I had gotten help from a pattern. This was before I got into Library School and read deeper on the issue. It’s also before I got back into my pattern and instructional books and realized how much I could accelerate my own growth by learning from others. What it looks like to me — and all it looks like, now — is an attempt to sabotage my development, which is even worse when you consider that the person was throwing themselves out there as a mentor.

I did have a (metal) pendant design come to me the other night as I was trying to get to sleep, and have wanted to make a maquette of it. A maquette is basically a paper model, which I would make using stiff card. I should have done it last night when I thought of it — I haven’t had the energy to do it yet, today. The form is kind of cosmic, with interlocking crescents. Kinda (not) like Sailor Moon, though I have entertained buying a black oxidized naja and making a circlet with it, and dressing up as a member of the Dark Kingdom for Halloween. I’m aware that this is not the cultural context of its intended use…it’s just that I’ve seen some examples which look very much like the symbol in Sailor Moon books and anime, to the point that I wonder if they took and duplicated the exact dimensions.

I do wonder if I’m crazy enough to do that. Am I that…crazy…

While I think of the design (interlocking crescents) as like a black hole, it’s likely closer to a magnetic field…or a vishva vajra. Realizing that made me start thinking on the validity of Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle Buddhism) last night, and the possible connection with singularities. (There was some show on gravitational lensing, dark matter, and dark energy, the other night.) I don’t think I could be an adherent of Vajrayana Buddhism in this life, save finding an actual appropriate teacher. From all accounts, it’s intense, and I’m not a person who puts a lot of faith in faith anymore, so my motives would be questionable (fear? grasping at immortality?)…and you kind of need a strong motive to put yourself through that.

I would also be more than irritated if there were no reason for it.

Anyhow…I think I’ve finally reached the end of this train of thought. Thanks for getting through it with me! Right now, it’s about 10:30 PM my time, so I should probably start doing something else than talking online…

beading, beadwork, craft, jewelry, jewelry design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

beading, beadweaving, beadwork, 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.