I actually have been able to get some design work done, recently. Essentially, I was able to visit a bead store — like a real-life, in-person bead store. I’ve said before that I have hesitated to work with natural stones because things can get very expensive, very fast. That’s still true.
There’s also the fact that as I’m working, I realize that it isn’t entirely worth it to make things to sell…unless, that is, I’m using some leftovers of other projects that I otherwise would not. Because of the time it takes to design things, and the time it takes to construct things, and then unmake and remake projects as I revise the design…it costs me so much in time that what I make becomes prohibitively expensive, if I’m charging by the hour. I’d rather not be designing against the clock, especially when I could regain the money lost in design more easily, simply by going to work more.
In any case…I have an Amazonite puffed square cabochon that I got at a recent convention. It’s a pastel green with blue overtones, white-streaked, glossy, with a hairline fracture. I’ve decided to pair it with some Aquamarine 8mm rounds (pale green-blue, displaying some silver internal reflections; mostly otherwise opaque), and some Pink Botswana Agate 6mm rounds (pale salmon-pink, mauve and white, opaque). These are now the center, anchoring elements of this piece.
So essentially…I’m designing around a cabochon; particularly where it comes to color and texture. I am echoing the color and gloss of the Amazonite cabochon with the Aquamarine (which is slightly paler than the Amazonite), and contrasting that with a secondary supporting point in the Botswana Agate. That’s why the Agates are smaller than the Aquamarines. When working with natural stones, it can be hard to find them in usable shapes (other than rounds)…
When I got these home, I did start looking through my project box to weed out some beads that were too warm. I know that “warm” when it comes to blues, means “violet” tending (as violet is closer to red — green is considered a “cooler” color, though that’s counterintuitive to me); in this case, I weeded violets which were closer to Cobalt Blue (a deep, intense blue-violet when in glass). I kept greens and blues which were substantially greener, ranging more towards yellow. I also added a good amount of pinks, warm white ranging to pale gold, violet which is closer to red, ambers, and browns (“Smokey [sic] Topaz”, “Crystal Celsian”).
This was a generative task, not a selection task. It is, however, much more stimulating and inspiring than what I had before. The next task is to try putting some of these together; most of the designs that I’ve made which really made leaps in innovative construction, have occurred when I’ve just tried to assemble things in any way I could (keeping in mind that threads need protection, and that bugle beads, unless something is done to stop them, will easily shear thread in two: these are practical constraints). There has been a basic idea of what I’ve been going for, but it has often been abandoned as I found better ways to do what I’m trying to do…or an alternate path to success.
I decided to go for stranding as a possibility, as I’ve realized that a more complicated design is not necessarily a better design.
And the seed beads…
Having said that, I still want to try St. Petersburg Chain. I’ve been looking for some excuse to try it; I’m just not sure if this is the right project for it. I’ve separated out some colors of Czech seed beads which echo the Botswana Agate…but to be honest, they’re a little dull against the Japanese ones. For instance, I have an old tube of “Ceylon Lt Peach” (unknown brand, likely Japanese) 11/0 seed beads, which are just…brighter, than my Cheyenne Pink 8/0 Czech seed beads. I could still use them together, but I should not overuse anything too dull.
No, I don’t know why the half-hanks of Czech seed beads I have, are duller than the Czech fire-polished crystals I have…and the Czech pressed-glass SuperDuos and MiniDuos. When I got them, I was looking for a solid color throughout the glass, which is normally more resistant to fading, while sacrificing some of the bright colors of surface-dyed or color-lined beads (which are known to be more often susceptible to fading or other color change).
Note that I don’t consider surface dyeing (like the use of Sol-Gel) to be the same thing as a surface treatment such as Aurora Borealis (AB), Luster, Iris, Vitrail, Capri (I have some opinions about Capri’s durability…but, later), or Ceylon. At least, that’s not what I mean by it. I also realize that my Light Peach Ceylon beads may indeed be surface-dyed. It was so long ago that I didn’t think to mark the vial as permanent or possibly prone to fading. I probably also didn’t think that I’d be trying to remember any cautions at the store, 10 or more years later.
But no, I did not expect to find a clean, bright pink or a clean mauve-grey in an affordable stone, either. These both match the Japanese beads better.
There is, still, a range of quality, here…it’s important when buying stranded beads, to look for size uniformity (at minimum), unless you aren’t doing anything (like a beading stitch/weave) that depends on things being even. That is: not all “Czech” seed beads are the same quality. I’ve even seen half-hanks of beads with other beads of the same color stuck to their outsides, which look like there was paint that dried with two beads touching. (I don’t particularly like glass beads which look like they have paint on them…it’s a reason I don’t use a lot of the newer multi-hole beads.)
The only way that I really can even tell that they’re Czech (or from someone trying to pass themselves off as Czech) is either through the catalog description (when purchased online), or through the method of sale. Czech seed beads are generally sold stranded and tied together in bundles of 6 or 12 strands. Japanese seed beads are generally sold loose, in vials or bags. They have different brands, sizing regulations and shape standards…and apparently, at least somewhat different methods of attaining their colors, or a different aesthetic which causes the companies to aim to produce different palettes.
In buying beads at conventions, however…you may not know who made what, unless you ask. Vendors may also not recall their sourcing, on top of it (especially if they’re a Mom-and-Pop operation). Right now, I only know one rocaille (round, uncut seed bead) manufacturer from the Czech Republic, which is Preciosa Ornela. (I’m not counting manufacturers of shaped seed beads.) However, I am very sure that they aren’t the only game in town.
I also wouldn’t put it past other manufacturers to try and pass their material off as though it has the quality that “Czech” beads are known for. Though I intend only to use Japanese and Czech seed beads in my work, that doesn’t mean that my suppliers are paying attention to how their customers think about quality.
I’m thinking that some people would rather get a low price than a quality product. The problem with that: low-priced products can also easily be low-quality products, and I don’t know that anyone on the receiving end is overtly asking for anything more. Raised prices for low-quality products would mean that the higher-quality products win out because they are higher-quality (and then there is no reason not to buy the higher quality instead). You can see how that works.
I did, once, buy a terrifyingly expensive half-hank of Dark Copper (I’ll just call them that) 8/0s: $17 for 6 strands. Very even in width; uniform, beautiful finish. They get higher than that — for instance, when there’s a special metallic coating which requires gold — but in the majority of cases, they don’t range higher than $15-$20 per half-hank. My low end of the 8/0s is currently $4.25 for six strands of something that looks like Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, just in glass. Keep in mind, though, I don’t have a sample of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise here to compare and see if it’s any more intense; the beads just bring it to mind.
I got the 8/0s to make knotted bracelets. More on that another time, hopefully.
So, the half-hank of Cheyenne Pink 8/0s ($7.50 for 6 strands) are beautiful on their own. The only thing is, the Pink Botswana Agate outshines them and makes them look dull in comparison. With too many of the glass beads, I could also unintentionally dull down the stones. The colors in the stones are just much cleaner. Why? I really don’t know. I might have to be a chemist to know. I have seen at least one text on the chemistry of glass colors…and I am not interested enough in how they’re made, to go back into a hard science.
That’s another reason to buy stones that you can see in-person, before purchase, though. It’s much easier to mix-and-match a dominant stone against a wall of other stones and find a perfect complement, than it is to flip back and forth between online windows, or bring up multiple windows showing multiple products (and then hope the photography is reasonably true-to-life).
I’ve delayed posting this because I have wanted to add images…it would be of use to me to remember what this particular project box looks like. There’s a lot of information, that is, in just seeing what I’m dealing with (and how it differs from what I was dealing with before — which I did not photograph, because it was that uninspiring). Adding the pink and violet, along with that pale green, it helps a lot. They’re all unified, in a design sense, because they’re all pastel tones.
However, because I’m still in training at my job, I’ve been working a lot of the time, and studying, eating, and sleeping for a lot of the rest of the time. That is: I haven’t had a lot of time to write, much less to take and optimize photos. I was lucky I had time enough to go out on the weekend…
This current writing, I began on Sunday. I’ll get beyond the point of relevance, if I delay for much longer. The obvious choice would be to hold off on posting until Friday or Saturday…but this is aging in my consciousness, and nagging me and causing me to waste time filling it out further. I should post.