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, 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

more earrings (no pix, sorry)

There was a trip to the bead store.  I pulled off enough materials for two sets of earrings for under $20 (without tax).  At present, I’ve only made one pair, which is a set using what looks like nickel-free brass and charoite (I might as well note what it is, since I might forget, and writing “violet stone” isn’t really keeping that much more anonymity).

This is my first time using the nickel-free brass.  It’s actually really soft — not bad to work with.  I haven’t used it in ear wires, yet.  I have a bit of hesitation there because of my allergies (I know I’m sensitive to nickel, but I realistically have no idea what is in the nickel-free brass besides copper and tin), and because brass in general tends to discolor (skin) where it is next to skin.

This doesn’t really matter if I’m only using it for parts that will not be next to skin, as is the case with these earrings.  I do have a site scoped out where I can pick up a little material to experiment with, but for now these are on gold-filled earwires.

beading

just made new pearl earrings

So I actually have something to write about here?!

I wasn’t even thinking of blogging about it as I was doing it, but I now have a new pair of pearl earrings.  I haven’t yet signed up with an image-hosting service, so I’m afraid you can’t see them (;D) …nor do I really feel it would be wise for me to show them to you…but basically they’re a work in gold-fill, blue crystal, and two colors of pearls.

One of them has a kind of kinked loop in one of the dangles (I wire-wrapped all of the loops, including the ones which held other loops, which led to a slip), which the perfectionist in me says I would want to rework if I were going to sell them.  My better sense says to leave it as it is and it’s unlikely anyone will notice.  :)  The minute amount of greater diameter in the kinked loop makes one of the earrings very, very slightly longer than the other.  Like less than a millimeter longer.  But I’m very attentive to detail, and to be honest, I’m probably not going to have my head perfectly level all the time anyway.  (That…doesn’t sound right…)

One of the things I noted to myself is that using higher quality earwires really shows.  Since I took out my CBRs, I’ve mainly been wearing two different pairs of earrings, both of which are warm tone.  I can actually see that the earwires are cheap, in those.  It isn’t so bad with the crystal set, but when the earwires are totally plain, and it’s next to something relatively plain like Cloisonné, I notice.

I’ve also noticed that my more successful designs are made using natural materials, metal, and crystal.  I have a lot of glass — I started out on the jewelry-making thing as a shiny-hoarding teen — but the colors in glass tend to be less intense (or just not to match clothing), if we take the whole spectrum into account.  In addition, the fire in glass is less intense than in lead crystal, CZ, or natural stones (compare a rhinestone to cubic zirconia and you’ll see what I mean); and the results with glass tend to have a more gaudy, “costume jewelry” type effect.

Not to mention that glass often can be poorly drilled; so in the past when I’ve tried using, say, cobalt blue cube beads, one could really see where the drill-hole was, because it was the site of whitish discoloration caused by fragments of glass left in the hole.

I should say that I don’t have a lot of experience with lampwork beads, though I have run across some which set off my “shiny” meter.  Thing is that I’ve learned to try and avoid buying beads of which I have no immediate ideas for use.  I learned that after about a decade of collecting beads; I’m now about 15 years in.

Anyway.  Since my designs largely tend more toward “classic” type stuff, having focal pieces which are natural tends to play down the “costume jewelry” effect that can come with using cut or pressed glass as focals.  Stone is good because it’s subdued and subtle — it doesn’t call a lot of attention to itself, but it can still make glass look really bad if you pair them haphazardly.

Stones — especially the veined or mottled or included ones like jasper or agate — most of the time, look very refined in comparison to glass.  At least, in comparison to transparent glass.  I believe this is at least in part due to the complex and fine nature of the process the stone went through to form.  (I am, however, learning to stay away from transparent and weakly-colored materials generally, and this is mostly because they get washed out on me.)

And though I’ve seen some faux pearls which are very attractive, most of the time it’s apparent when a pearl is real and when it is not — a real pearl will have a rainbow-like sheen which a faux one won’t.  Even the best faux pearls — or the ones I like best, anyway — tend further towards the “metallic” end than cultured freshwater ones (which, I’m guessing from the price, are the ones I’m getting).  After having seen a lot of real and faux pearls, I can now kind of tell this way.  (That’s not to say that faux pearls are necessarily bad.  I think there is a time and place to use the high-quality faux pearls over nacre pearls.  I’d just not assume they were interchangeable.)  I can also, now, tell something of the quality of a nacre pearl by its sheen, iridescence, and reflectivity.  It’s one of the reasons I’m reluctant to buy pearls online — I have little idea what I’m getting, and cultured pearls vary widely in their quality.

I hadn’t been thinking of getting focal pieces like natural-crystal briolettes for earrings, until I made this last pair and saw how well they turned out.  Well, I also have a pair utilizing natural-stone briolettes, which also turned out really, really well, despite their simplicity.

So I may be out buying crystals soon to make another pair, although making earrings is clearly a “want” and a hobby, not a necessity.

I want to do more work in cooler tones, as this is the only pair I have in gold-fill wire which is not somewhere in the very warm range.  Though I also know I want to experiment with an orange-blue pairing as well.

I should also note:  24-gauge dead soft wire is really soft.  It’s what I had on hand for these earrings, and I was almost unprepared for the way the wire deformed so easily.  I should probably stiffen it a little next time.

One more thing:  I’m thinking about adding micro-macrame to my list of skills, but as of yet I have not tried this.  I think the biggest things holding me back are having to get a macrame board, having to find beads with large holes, and having to find tools with which to burn the ends of nylon cord.