ceramics, planning

One more dream…

…and that is the thought of making my own ceramic beads.  I caught wind of a group of artists running some site with multiple kilns, nearby; I can’t remember the name of it, though.  I might be able to find them on a search…or by looking back through my bookmarks.  Originally I noted them for M’s benefit, but M wasn’t interested.  I might be able to gain this group’s help if I wanted to experiment with ceramic beads and glazes.

Before I get into the latter part of this, I want to be clear:  at this point, this is all stuff I’m just going through in my head.  I am in no way here intending to ask for money!  I’m just trying to think things through in writing.

If the start-up costs of making ceramic beads weren’t so high (this is majorly for the kiln — kilns start out being expensive and only get more expensive), I’d really be more gung-ho about working this out myself.  I’m thinking that the costs of overhead may ramp up, though.  So we are slowly collecting tools useful for jewelry and wirework, depending on classes and projects.  What I can see which would be useful, which we don’t yet have, are:

  • Flat-nose pliers (easy buy — $7-$40)
  • Tumbler ($100-$200)
  • Large-flame torch — probably Butane, at this point ($50-$60) — but this can upgrade and easily get much more expensive, if I get more serious
  • Bracelet, ring, and ear cuff mandrels ($30-$50, $25, $40)
  • Liver of Sulfur (inexpensive)

These would allow me to move into territory like filigree; polish and work-harden metal, and patinate metals.

If I obtained a small kiln useful for PMC and enameling (I think there are some which are like this), I would have the equipment to create enameled jewelry and Metal Clay pieces.  If I combined filigree with enamel, there we have Cloisonne.

Of course, there are likely other hidden costs and other hidden routes that I’m presently unaware of because I haven’t been involved in the actual work, yet.  (Or, as in the case of — for example — a flex-shaft machine [good for rotary cutting, polishing, drilling, etc.], I have a workable substitute [Dremel] which will do until my commitment is proven.  Same thing with the torch setup.)  One of the reasons I’m even going over this is because in one of my classes, we’re supposed to make a business plan, and that involves predicting costs.  Predicting costs involves thinking about the future.  (Of course, though, I have a tendency to live in the future…)  So in a way, I’m kind of doing part of my homework now!  :D

But!  If I am successful at my jewelry, and I’m still then inclined in the direction of knotting, I may one day be able to purchase a ceramics kiln, with which I’d be able to make ceramic components.  I don’t have to use all these myself — I could sell a lot of ceramic beads, I’m thinking.  This is because there is a general lack of large-holed beads on the market which are suitable for knotted designs.

But why do that if you can do everything else?  Wouldn’t enameled or Cloisonne beads really draw more attention?  Or fine-silver small-scale sculptures?  And if I had an enameling kiln, I could very well eventually make and sinter (heat-treat so they don’t explode) my own lampwork glass beads, thus evading the issue of needing to make beads out of ceramic (though of course, I’d really need to take care of my lungs, at that point [meaning, respirator]…my friend A has pointed out that a lot of stained-glass workers contract illnesses from chemical exposure; hot glass [and especially hot colored glass] isn’t anything to take casually).  But even though I could do lampwork…is that really what I want to do?  Will working with PMC/Art Clay and polymer clay satisfy the need to make things with my hands, in that way?

Hey, so it’s almost 1 AM where I’m at, and I should really get going!


reviewing the mini-library…

One note for the sake of posterity:

I realize that a lot of the people reading this blog may not know what I mean by certain terms, like “seed beads” or “cabochons”.  It’s OK to ask about what I mean, here.  I won’t be offended.  :)  A lot of stuff is easily findable online, which is why I didn’t see the necessity to put this disclaimer in last night, but I realize today that I may be speaking a language others find difficult to understand.  It’s OK to bring this to my attention, especially if you can’t easily find what I’m talking about online, because I’d rather share this with you than have you bewildered.  :)

Last night I did a pretty in-depth review of my jewelry and beadwork library.  I didn’t go over everything, as it was late at night and I had to get to work the next day; however, I went over a good large amount of it.  What I didn’t go over were my sewing, knitting, crochet, bookbinding, and mixed-media beadmaking books.  Particularly the polymer clay one…I don’t seem to remember where that is, but I think I may know who has it.

This (and reviewing the books’ accompanying legal warnings) has me thinking that there are certain paths which are relatively “safer” than others when it comes to producing items to sell.

The big, big one of these is metalwork — for me, this would be combined with colored stone-setting, as I don’t want to work wholly in metal, if I can help it.  Enameling would also fall in here, but to do that really well, I think I’d need a kiln, and I’m quite far from that, at the moment — an inexpensive one runs around $600.  I know where I can get one — well, two places (at least) where I could get one…but I need to do more research.  I’d also need a kiln for Precious Metal Clay (PMC/Art Clay), which is finely ground metal mixed with a water-soluble binder which can be shaped and joined like clay, and then fired to produce a solid metal object.

One step down from that and we’ve got wirework and wireweaving, which I might need a tumbler for, to best advantage.  (Actually, even if I used PMC, a tumbler would be of great help.)  However, if I bead these pieces, I may not be able to tumble-polish them without harming the beads, so there is that to consider, too.  Then there are macrame and braiding; combined with wirework and beadwork, this could turn out really nice.  And then there is bead embroidery; and the combination of wire connections and embellishments, with beadwoven pieces.

Well, the combination of wire connections and embellishments with macrame and beadwork and bead embroidery…this is seeming a bit much to take in at the moment.  The useful point is that basically,  with seed beads size 8/0 and up, any hole one can put a thread through, one can put a wire through.  I’ve used elementary connections like this in the past, and am looking forward to the demonstration of that potential.

Straight beadweaving, however…it’s useful for honing skills, but even the simplest designs might be under copyright protection — either this, or they’re Public Domain.  I lean towards the latter in my own judgment, with the techniques I would be likely to use.  But now I know why I don’t see many pieces which look simple, anywhere I’ve seen beaded bracelets sold; and why no one is selling, say, straight spiral-stitch necklaces without pendants.  There’s probably a push there to try something different, so as to avoid even the specter of the thought of copyright infringement.  I’m told not to worry about this from one quarter, while I have angry artists in my other ear.

But anyhow…I can revise that list I came up with, last time.  Given what I see now, there are some adjustments I’d make to what I’ll be looking for at the bead show.

  • Cabochons:  still at the top of my list.  This includes glass, stone, and polymer clay pieces.  I’ll try and find low-dome if I can, but last time a lot of the material was high-dome, so I’m not betting on being able to find a good cache of these.  For that, I might have to attend a Gem & Jewelry show, which happens often enough in my area.
  • C-Lon:  this is a bonded nylon cord which can be used for knotting in micro-macrame pieces.  I’ve also given thought to trying some of the Micro C-Lon, which I might be able to use in beadweaving.  These come in such a great array of colors, it’s dizzying.  I should check and see colors I might be missing, giving thought to the warm/cool tone color chart that I’ve mentioned in backposts.
  • Stone beads:  these guys moved up to the top of my list, when I realized that I might be working in wire and metal.  I’m thinking of 4-mm to 8-mm rounds and coins, in particular.  Flattened rectangles or ovals or barrels would also work.  I’m going to try and stay away from the rondelles this time, if I can help it.  :P  (Yeah, they look nice, but can I use them?  If so, with what?)
  • Shell:  Paua and abalone would be really nice to focus on, this time around.  Mother-of-pearl also falls in here — and I’ve been kind of thirsting to work with the unbleached stuff.  I’ve really been wanting to work with pearls again (particularly the teardrop-shaped ones, drilled lengthwise), but they’re so delicate that it’s hard not to make jewelry that comes off as really femme, when they are used as focal components.  Their shades are also so difficult to match that it’s hard to make a piece out of several different strands…
  • Large-hole beads:  essential for beaded macrame.  Findable in polymer clay, lampwork glass, and ceramic.  Double-underline, ceramic.  I may end up buying a battery-operated bead reamer (to enlarge bead holes so I can use them in macrame), but I’ll have to see how much that will cost, first.  I also may end up making my own beads out of polymer, after I see if I am still allergic to the binders used.  There is just too much of a chance that this could turn out spectacular, not to try.  And we do have the toaster oven to cure polymer.  It’s just that after my experience with Fimo as a tween, I’ve been hesitant (I ended up getting contact dermatitis where I touched the clay).

I do still have some air-dry actual ceramic clay lying around, and so I can play with that and see what comes of it.  I wonder if I can use my wax-shaping tools on ceramic, or if that will scratch them too much?

Anyhow, I’ve got to run.  But I will see you back here again!