beading, beadweaving, beadwork, Business training, color, glass beads, jewelry, metalsmithing, occupational hazards, seed beads, small business planning

Self-observation + Link to Matubo seed bead review

Observation first, before I forget.

I really like working with seed beads and fiber.  And I really like writing about seed beads and fiber.  I originally started the metalworking classes because I could see some things being done with seed beads which could be more cleanly and simply done with metal (like cabochon and faceted stone setting).  And I could see the use that those skills would open to me in doing something like making my own clasps.  But I don’t think at heart that I’m a silversmith (for the love of silver, at least).

Also, unless I went into enameling, and/or heavy use of colored stones, I probably wouldn’t want to really get into metalsmithing that deeply.  Enameling can be hazardous, which is a reason I’ve avoided it in the past.  In one of my classes, I observed someone blow powdered enamel (a.k.a. colored glass dust — “colored” meaning probably toxic to ingest; “glass” meaning tiny shrapnel which may shred your lungs and never get back out) off of her bench and into a cloud.  I held my breath as I walked past.  She still had a cough the next semester.

How do you really guard against stuff like that other than wearing a respirator the entire time you’re in class?  What if I hadn’t happened to see what was going on?  What if I didn’t know to look away every time the enameling kiln was open?  (An enameling kiln radiates infrared light when the door is open and it’s hot, and that can damage eyesight unless protection is worn when looking towards it.)

I still remember when I had to spend 10-15 minutes cursing over the pickle pot because someone dumped out my tiny copper rings into the pickling solution and it was so dim — and the pickle so saturated with copper (it turns deep blue-green instead of clear when it’s old) — that I couldn’t see them.  And I remember coughing for two weeks afterwards from the fumes, as well.

But let’s get back onto a positive note, shall we?

I have enough experience from my time in smithing classes (two semesters — more than that, and I didn’t want to put myself back into the situation) that I feel reasonably confident that I can construct and solder a toggle clasp on my own, or fabricate a clasp from sheet and wire.  It probably wouldn’t be the greatest-looking thing or the most creative thing (creativity is very much helped by fluency of skill), but it’s possible, and I know it’s possible.  I can also make custom closed jump rings from wire and solder — easy, with the right setup and materials.  Or, so I say now that I know how to cut the jump rings away en masse and cleanly.  If I’d used silver for my class project, I would have wasted about $60 worth of silver while I learned how to avoid twisting the saw.

Plus there is the bezel setting I learned at the end of first semester, which showed me that even though it looks simple to set a stone in a metal bezel, in reality there is a lot of work which goes into it, and it requires some finesse to avoid, say, melting your bezel into a puddle instead of closing it.  It also requires some finesse to achieve a secure seat for your stone, and to avoid inadvertently damaging the stone in the process of setting it.  This is not even getting into whether what you’re setting it on looks good or not — more often than not, this is a flat piece of sheet metal, sometimes with stamps, soldered buttresses or designs of wire, or, in some cases which I especially admire, bits of granulation.  I can’t do granulation yet, so of course, I’m impressed.  ;)

Form is explored in metalwork, but often at the expense of color.  Color dynamics are a big attractor and driving force for me.  My seed bead, colored pencil, and marker collections attest to it.  I have wanted to get into painting, but so far the only experience I have there is in one Color Dynamics class which used gouache, plus Continuing Drawing — there was an introduction to pastel painting at the very end of that session.

I know there are liver of sulfur and shakudo and shibuichi and the golds and coppers and brasses.  I even know that there are the reactive metals to work with, titanium and niobium, and these.  But do I really love metal?  At this point, my enjoyment of metalwork is not high enough for me to go out of my way to expose myself to the hazards of metalwork.  Hot metalwork, at least.  Cold connections are much less intimidating.

In addition, there seemed, in my metalsmithing class, to be some prejudice against beaders.  I inadvertently ran up against this when I started constructing a beadwoven chain for my metal pendant in class.

At this point, having done some work in design myself — I mean, beyond changing the colors of a pattern, and I mean — really taking a concept through multiple models to achieve a workable formula (that collar with the daggers may have to be altered so it curves more), I can see the point that people who work in metal may think that beaders are unoriginal because they/we stereotypically don’t take a project from concept to conclusion, but rather have to learn via patterns and mimicry before we can stand on our own two feet.

But where are you going to find a way to learn to bead unless a) you know someone who does it who is willing to teach you, b) you take classes at a bead store — if there is one near you, or c) you learn through finding pre-made patterns (in print and online) and following them?  I mean, seriously!

It wasn’t until I confronted the idea of going into business with my own jewelry start-up that I found I didn’t have the complete set of skills I’d need to do business in the way I’d want to do it.  I’m gaining that skill now, and I’m slowly de-shocking myself from the scare of potentially treading on someone else’s intellectual property rights.  In two to five years, maybe I could have a viable business.  But there are a lot of things to get in order, first.  Particularly, identity and my target market, plus maybe figuring out what lies behind the drive to bead.

There are a lot of things that I didn’t know about myself that I’m learning about myself, which could gain me a signature style, which could in turn become a brand that I’d be able to sell within the U.S. for U.S. level living-wage money.  Probably not urban living-wage money, unless I’m in a place I don’t want to be, but nonetheless.

I think, though, that one of the reasons there are so many beading pattern books on the market is that really, handwoven beaded jewelry is…it’s expensive in terms of time and design, but not in terms of materials.  It’s also relatively fragile.  So maybe it seems more profitable to sell copies of the patterns and let people make the jewelry themselves, than it is to have a firm which produces and distributes finished beaded jewelry.  Otherwise, most of what I’ve seen comes from outside of this country, and really, how do you compete with a $10 daisy-chain bracelet?

Unless you have a distinct identity, that is — and you know what you’re selling, beyond your product.  Though, of course, that can easily go icky, if you jump to conclusions.  But the reality behind it maybe doesn’t have to be really that bad.  If you’re selling things because you want to celebrate femininity, hey, good on you, you know?  But know that’s what you’re doing, and know the cultural context it takes place in; and the possible problems resulting from the flawed system that your statement only makes sense within.  And know it’s very possible that others will see different meanings in your art than those which you intend.

I think that if I’m really creative — if I really take an unusual tack to what I want to be doing, and I do something which no one else in my part of the world is doing, or which maybe no one is doing anywhere — I think it’s possible to run a handmade jewelry business.  It would be tight, financially, and it would take a lot of time.  Plus, a lot of my attention would be expended on business as versus creation, at least unless I found a partner to manage that side for me.  This is at least a two-person venture, if it’s serious, and more likely eventually at least a 5-person venture.  But hey.  The culture?  The work?  It could turn out nice.

Anyhow, I’ve put this to the side for now as an auxiliary option.  I’m not married and don’t have plans to be, so I’ll have to support myself.  Right now I’m looking at writing and beadwork as things I love, can do relatively easily, and can do immediately.

I promised you a link to a review of Matubo seed beads.  That link is here.  I ran across this by accident; the author displays photos of these beads next to a couple of other brands which I had not seen in action prior, but which I’m considering trying out, now.  Presently, Matubos are only available in 7/0 size (in Czech sizing) — the size is quoted in the article; the difference between the Czech and Japanese sizing relations is something I’ve just inferred from past experience.

Anyhow, happy crafting (or whatever you do out there!)  Treat yourself nice.  :)

beading, beadwork, fiber arts, glass beads, jewelry design, macrame, seed beads, tatting

Adventures in neckpiece design

I was kick-started back into beading recently by someone asking me to make them a blue necklace of a certain length.  :)  This got me thinking on design — my tentative instinct is to go with Oglala (Butterfly) Stitch, a basic form of which I can see between the two versions I’ve seen in books.  Butterfly Stitch is just basically working one or more ruffles off of a center chain.  I’ll have to add at least 3/4″-1″ in length to account for the girth of the thing, but I’m still working on pattern ideas (particularly color placement).

I do have a more interesting project (to me, right now, anyway) where I’m basically using two needles to make a netted collar — I’m not sure if it is even possible to make it with one needle.  Because I’m not working off of a pattern, other than a concept drawing of my own (which didn’t work out the way I’d planned), I’m thinking this is the way I’d design something to sell.  (And then make over and over and over?  ;P)  I mean, I didn’t even start out knowing that the piece would be netted, as versus using chevron stitch, for example.  It just kind of evolved that way.

In fact, I didn’t have much at all in the way of expectations when I started this project.  To me, it was play and a chance to get back into my seed beads.  What’s come of it is a pink/peach/red-violet netted thing with tiny daggers I got somewhere between two and five years ago (a specialty buy — they’re made of a mix of peach and cream glass) and never used.  I also ended up with peanut beads in the “base” row (if you can call it that — it’s woven widthwise, not lengthwise) for texture.  Amazingly, they all tend to orient in one direction.  Plus, the curve caused by the shortness of the “base” row is about right for a collar.  I think I’ve finally got the color scheme down now, unless I want to switch out cranberry for baby pink in the “base” row.

The reason for using the peach beads?  I thought it was a color I’d never use.  And then I started to use them, and realized that what I was making looked a lot like lace.  (See recent blog entries on wanting to make lace.)  At almost the same time I recognized one of my practice pieces from an online pattern (“Picot Delight”) to look like tatted lace (I think this is the time when I’d checked out nearly all of my library’s tatting books, so I had plenty of photos to get an idea of how these things typically looked).

And I mean, originally I started out with a lot of colors which just vaguely and probably coincidentally worked together — the focal point used to be a row of ruby AB teardrop beads (“ruby”-colored glass, not actual ruby).  Then I went through a number of reds, only to come out on the other side with a relatively desaturated red/violet as the focus (4mm Czech “fuchsia” fire-polished rounds), as versus ruby.

Well, let me say that they’re desaturated for this season’s color profile.  In others they would simply be a bit muted — but we have a lot of super-saturated and neon tones out this year.

Anyhow, I basically now have a few swatches — those that haven’t been recycled — which show different points in the design process.  I haven’t been sure how to record the different stages in the design process — through notes?  Photographs?  Drawings? Memory?  I have cut apart and reused the beads in at least 3 samples.  I’ve needed to — I have finite amounts of these beads, a lot of which I can’t depend on finding replacements for, should I run out.  Plus, it takes a lot of pressure off of me when I’m experimenting, to know that if I don’t like it I can just cut it apart, and the only loss will be a short length of thread (and some time — but it’s not time wasted if I learned something).

It’s very clear that my initial concept design isn’t identical to the piece as it will be made.  I could probably go on experimenting with color combinations forever, but the way it looked in the second-to-last trial appears good enough to make.

Speaking of thread, though…I got the idea last night of attaching the clasp with fiber instead of with a beaded loop.  Usually, there’s a loop at the end to catch a toggle or button, and it most often is covered in seed beads to protect a number of different lines of thread.

I was thinking about how to do this better.  I’ve never really liked putting clasps on things, because they take a while to figure out, not to mention that most toggles are beaded beads made of peyote or herringbone stitch.  (Yes! I did find a herringbone beaded-bead pattern, not that I can remember it now, though.)  This is almost always a headache for me, because I don’t like weaving in ends — or odd-count peyote.  And if I use something like one of the very common, very fine, super-strong polythylene threads — it’s known for not holding knots well.  So I have felt obligated to weave in over and over to hold the bead together through friction on the line.

I hate this.

Not only have I broken seed beads within larger beaded beads doing this (causing the entire beaded bead to be a wash), but also a beaded bead’s weave can be distorted depending on the path one takes with one’s needle while one is weaving in.  This is why I recently have taken to collecting buttons with which to finish off necklaces and bracelets.  The plastic ones are probably the ones to get — they’re inexpensive and they aren’t going to scratch the beadwork.  Not to say that I haven’t collected some nice shell and metal buttons.  But sometimes you don’t want metal; and shell can abrade glass.  Or glass can abrade shell.  I know something’s going on; I can hear it scraping.  ;)

But!  Guess what I realized last night?

I can use my skills with knotting to slide a C-Lon cord through a larger bead hole or set of bead holes, then use macrame to secure the ends of the cord.  This way, the beadwoven piece can stand on its own.  There will be two loops of macrame holding on the button and the buttonhole, but if they stretch or break, just cut them off and make new loops; don’t worry about remaking the entire bracelet or necklace.

I actually got the idea from having used wire connections through seed bead holes to finish the ends of ropes before.  If you can put thread through it, you might be able to put cord or wire through it.  The hole just has to be big enough and the bead wall strong and smooth enough to take the pressure.  Also, the thread connecting that bead to the rest of the beads has to be strong enough, so it will probably need reinforcing.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems very promising.  Just don’t do it poorly and make the rest of us look bad!  ;D  *laughs*  (Oh my, I’m not going to go there, am I?  [I’m being cynical.  If you knew me and my posture on elitism, you’d know why.])

I did get a digital camera a while ago, so I might be eventually able to post a tutorial on here or something.  I figure the more of us who do it and do it well, maybe the better buttons will be made.  :D  And that would be totally awesome!

beading, glass beads, macrame, seed beads

Easter beading

In other arenas:

I need to buy a new roll of Alligator Tape; I was knotting today for the first time in weeks, and my skin was showing it.  The roll of Alligator Tape that is already here has somehow fused together into a solid mass.  It would have worked if someone had left part of the tape hanging loose, but as it was, it was…unusable.

The thing is, I’m so used to blisters on my pinky fingers in the same exact spot that by now, it doesn’t even really hurt anymore.  My only concern, really, is causing a break in the skin and getting an infection.  From my experiences in ice skating, and guitar, I know the only real annoyance or concern would be if I continued to irritate the area, or ruptured the skin.  I generally get my hands dirty when I go to work (the work I get paid for, that is), so the latter would be a cause for concern — but the only cause for concern.  And more likely it would just be the irritation of having to change a wet Band-Aid.

I did stop knotting tonight because my hands really couldn’t take it very well, and the Alligator Tape was useless.  I would like to be doing this more often, though — experimenting with beads, that is; not getting blisters.  I’m still inspired from the bead show from yesterday, and want to ride the high while I can.  So many people gathered around a love of beads!  This is why I was knotting tonight instead of reading for Marketing.  Because Marketing isn’t going to help a whole lot if I don’t build my skills and experience — unless I want to work full-time as a Marketer, and the thought is kind of…not my cup of tea.  To build skills and experience takes drive and work; and I felt moved to work today.  Because what I want to be doing is creating.  Not, particularly, convincing people that what I’ve made will fulfill their needs.  If I could have someone competent and ethical with integrity, who would be willing to do that for the salary I might eventually be able to pay, I’d gladly hand that part of the job off.

Today I was trying to learn how to tie basic horizontal half-hitches (from left and right) in a Cavandoli style, taking a cue from my wireweaving books.  Horizontal half-hitches, I am feeling confident enough on; though it still helps to look at the diagrams every once in a while to ensure I’m doing them correctly.  I started out trying to make a basic strap with scrap C-Lon and one new cord in a different color, totaling 8 strands.  Eventually, this turned into a “wonder if I can make a zigzag with beaded arcs” thing, and I broke out the 8/0 and 6/0 seed beads and fire-polished rounds and druks.

The good thing is that my druks and fire-polished beads do fit on the C-Lon (standard width) — the 8/0s and 6/0s, I already knew would.  Another good thing is that I finally figured out one good sizing formula for what beads to use where in order to make the arcs symmetrical and looking like they fit together.  It did take me a while (and two messed-up repeats) to be able to see how things should look if they’re correct, however.  When the center beads line up with each other, you’re basically golden.  It took a couple of hours, and the revelation that I could move repeats from side to side in order to place them at an appropriate “width” point, to be able to get there, though.  That is, it may not work to put a 6/0 at the minimum section of the sinnet’s arc, but it may work to put it one cord further in.

I do have a workable plan, with that now; and I’m thinking that, just to practice, I may make this pattern with the beads and cords I have.  The colors are kind of mishmash between bronze and green and seafoam and turquoise — the latter, because they were the only 3mm firepolished beads I had.  It works out, though.  I suppose that the colors may actually be linked via the presence of copper — I’m just not sure about the apple greens.  But then, I’m not sure of the colorants for most of the glasses I work with, with the exception of gold for pinks and reds, a high probability of copper for the aquas, plus cobalt for cobalt blue.  …The latter of which, I just remembered, I have stashed for a specific project.  I tend to forget these things until I see them again.

Last night, at about 3 AM, I was still running off of tea, and building a design for a stone donut that I’ve had unused for years.  I can still work on that design, but I don’t think that the pattern I made tonight with the knotting, is really one that would show off the pendant I made to best effect.  It distracts the eye too much from the donut itself.  I’m thinking of making a multistrand necklace for the latter, but I can only do this to best effect by attaching a backing, and then embroidering on an edging of beads through which to attach the necklace and fringe.  As I contemplated doing that, I realized that I didn’t have to sew on the central component so strongly or obviously.  If there would be backing, a central component can be sewn down through the backing and back out the top of the component without the need for tight and secure lacing.  As it is, there’s a weak spot in the donut where one of the drill holes is; there’s a fracture which runs parallel to it, which I didn’t see or feel until tonight.  I’m not sure if that’s my doing, or not.

What I want to do with that pendant is make a choker.  Maybe I will just resort to strands coming off the sides, plus fringe.  It would definitely be easier than trying to work macrame into the strap.  I also should have a good number of green firepolished beads around here…somewhere.  If I use glass, I could make it economical; if I matched the stone, I might be able to make it more elegant.  Or then, as I just recalled, I could make a beadwoven band out of something like …those bronzy-pink 11/0s and green iris 11/0s I have…Dutch Spiral stitch?  Regular spiral?  I could attach the cords, then, directly to the lacings on the stone.  And because it isn’t just a straight patterned stitch with no imagination, and the above stitches may be Public Domain (considering I’ve seen them everywhere), I might be able to sell the finished product.  But more likely, it will go into a portfolio.

I should not really assume “Public Domain.”  I should look it up, especially given that only a few publishers dominate the beading-pattern business (Kalmbach, Lark, and Interweave).  I may run across something proprietary without knowing it.

Things to think about…

beading, beadwork

color/finish interactions in beadwork

You know, I’ve been looking for a book on color and finish interactions in beadwork for a while.  I’ve found a number of books on color, but most that have caught my eye are related either to painting or to graphic design.  I do have two books on color in beadwork that I think I can list here.  One is _Beaded Colorways_ by Beverly Ash Gilbert.  The other is _Beader’s Guide to Color_ by Margie Deeb.

Both of these, I wish had been longer and more in-depth.  Gilbert’s book focuses on the uses of “bead soup” (mixtures of beads) and freeform off-loom weaving; Deeb’s book lists specific color combinations from an extremely specific listing of colors/finishes — using the Delica system, which is used in the book much like I’ve seen Pantone swatches used in Graphic Design books on color.  The thing with the latter is that I’m unsure how far a limited set of color “recipes” will really get me in making my own creations, though they would most assuredly help push me out of a rut.

The really helpful thing that I’ve liked to play around with in Gilbert’s book has been the color wheels in back…even though there is a drawback here in that I would have liked to have seen different bases for the color wheels.  That is, not all greens will harmonize with all blues — at least, without beads to bridge the tones — and so I would have liked to have gone deeper with pastels, shades, and saturated tones; warm tones versus cool tones versus complex neutrals, and have dealt with overtones more…because I’ve found that the color overtones need to harmonize with each other as much as the base tones themselves, do.  If you have a green with strong warm yellow/brown overtones (say, what I’ve seen as “Asparagus”), and try and match that with a blue/violet, it may not work if the yellow/brown and violet don’t harmonize.  Even though green and blue are the dominant tones and relatively adjacent.

I know I’m stretching this a little here, as a warm dirty olive green isn’t really adjacent to blue/violet.  It’s just to illustrate my point.  If you have a green with warm blue overtones and you want to match it with a blue with cool green overtones, it may work out better though — if we’re going for harmony.  Problem in this scenario isn’t how to bridge the colors though, it’s how to keep them from all blending together.

But I’ve found that with these books on beading, everyone seems to have their own specific…I don’t know if I’d call them reasons to work with beads, but they have their own angle of attack.  So some people will focus largely on color; some will focus on texture and try to see how far they can push a stitch before it breaks; some will almost never use metal findings and won’t give good instructions on how to incorporate them; some will have everything in a book based on one stitch; etc.  So in every book (which I use, at least) that I’ve gotten, there are strong points, or focal points; and points which are weaker.

The thing is that it doesn’t seem really possible to replicate exactly the tone and finish (for example, luster) of a bead on paper.  This is really clear in Deeb’s book…as is the problem of trying to rationalize a fundamentally irrational response, which would be the feelings that certain colors evoke (or are said to evoke), in people.

There are some beads that I have — in particular a few AB (aurora borealis) and Gold Luster colors, where the base color of the bead itself looks nothing like the color that reflects off of the surface of the bead.  Look through the bead to a diffuse light source, and it’s blue; look at the light reflecting off of it, and it’s raspberry red.  How is translucence represented on paper?  How are metallics represented with a flat swatch?  And what about those beads which contain more than one color?

Or how about the color-changing variants of Austrian crystal?  Do we photograph them in cool light?  Warm light?  Daylight?  And how do we photograph and reprint these photos so that what is seen on the page actually looks like what is seen by the eye?  (With a photography expert, a computer graphics expert, and a printing expert?)

And then we have color interactions — how the same color will look different depending on its immediate neighbors, and what colors (and finishes!) will “pop”, or “recede”, depending on the beads they’re paired with.  As, say, matte beads are known to relatively recede; and silverlined, and opaque, to jump forward.

What I see a need for is a book that shows how to combine different colors and finishes with an eye to design, by an author who can actually put words to why some combinations work and why others don’t.  The major problems I can see, are 1) the cost of making such a book (can you imagine the number of ink colors needed to print it?), 2) the close collaboration and expertise required to even be able to produce the book and have it be worth anything, and 3) how quickly such a book would become outdated, given that color trends change from year to year.

Maybe I need to make my own reference, and pair it with bead samples (and hope the samples don’t fade?)  Or, I need to be with others who are experimenting with the same thing.  It just seems like there should be a better way to learn this than through trial-and-error…

Disclaimer:  No, I’m not getting paid for this.  I’m just someone who likes to work with beads, and is experiencing an increasing desire to share my joy with others…

beading, beadwork, creative writing, drawing

I’m back?

Hello!

I’m back after about a year-and-a-half hiatus or something?  I was writing a new “About,” page and started to get into how yesterday was spent organizing all of my little bags of Czech 3- and 4-mm beads into transparent vials.  And then most of my seed bead remnants.  And then fitting them into boxes.  But, you know, I didn’t want to spill over into something so quotidian there, so I’m writing about it here.

I LOVE MY FR’KIN LITTLE TINY BEADS.

In addition to writing about beadwork (as referenced in that most recent “About” page), I might be doing some writing on drawing, as I’ve started up again…and I’m finding it not as scary as I thought.

I’m not sure if anything about the story that came to my mind the other day will be published here or not — I’m thinking “not,” to keep First Publishing Rights open (and hence not have to self-publish) — but if I get really desperate to have public feedback (and don’t want to get up to go to a Writer’s Workshop; or want to hone my skills before I attempt a Writer’s Workshop), you might see some storytelling.  Premises, likely not in total — that’s for me.  But snapshots.

Sometimes I forget how peaceful little corners of the Internet can be, eh?