Checking in: bead heaven

Things have been going relatively well.  School does start up in about a week, and I’m not thrilled about that; particularly as I’ve started to get used to not needing to do anything on an urgent basis.  The exception to this is work, which has been a grounding force for me, but maybe I’ve just gotten spoiled with being able to take four days off in a row if I worked three in a row.  (I’ve gotten most of my textbooks already, and am a bit…intimidated by the subject matter.  But I should be able to tell if Cataloging will be comfortable for me by the end of the semester.)

Well — I think I know the real culprit, actually, and that is having the time to be able to invest in making jewelry…which is one of the select, rare things that I dove into which I had been granted implicit permission to explore as female.  I had doubted myself and wondered whether I was only in it because I was trying to find anything good about being female…but there are other good things, too; not all of them easily nameable.

I’ve worked my way up to metalworking (that is, Jeweling/Silversmithing) classes (though I mostly used copper [which I kind of love] and brass), but it’s not easy to make a life as a jeweler.  What I can say is that to succeed at it, you really need to love what you do.  This is not an issue for me; but the sheer time, effort, and money (plus management, marketing, and administrative) skills needed to run a small business, is.  This is not to mention the faith that it will get easier, someday.

I had been trying pretty hard at the two-dimensional art…which is just a term I use for drawing and painting (I sometimes use the term “flat art” to myself, but rarely aloud, because it sounds pejorative [but familiar]), though I suppose if one got creative, one could do this on three-dimensional forms, as well.  🙂  I’ve thought of the latter, but haven’t taken a ceramics or sculpture class in years (I did spend two years [or was it semesters?] of high school in Ceramics/Mixed Media, though!…and now that I think of it, at least one or two semesters of middle school in Wood Shop.  Huh.  Didn’t realize I had that alternate path going, there…jewelry design and construction seems a rather organic parallel and/or outgrowth).

Anyhow, I say, “trying,” because I …now that I think about it, I think I actually did start learning beadwork prior to trying to learn how to draw well (first, loomwork; then, peyote stitch)… but the reason I got back into the Fine Art path was related to trying to salvage something of my first degree in English.  I wanted to make a graphic novel (or more likely, if it turned out I liked it, more than one).  I didn’t know, however, if I even liked to draw anymore.  I had done drawings, but had gotten bored with them (I didn’t care to see yet another anime face [which I and everyone else already knew I could draw], and as time went on, my expressions had become more and more limited), and so re-entered classes around art to see if I could revive whatever drove me to draw in the first place.

And what was that?  I’m not entirely certain.  It would have been an interesting question to ask myself at 14, but I am sure that it relates to anime, manga, and visual storytelling…particularly storytelling that came from a culture different from my own (it’s different to be nikkeijin than nihonjin).  In particular, I saw a level of compassion for the antagonists in some series (like Sailormoon and Slayers) which did not exist in American media; this happened at about the same time as I was struggling with being outcast.

I’m not sure if that’s just excellent marketing to a specific target audience or what, but it left a favorable impression on me.  It probably also ties in with what I was saying before about appreciating international media (including writing).  I’m fairly certain that animation was my first in-road to two-dimensional art (I was 14, what can I say), but at the same time, there is no way that I want to work in Animation, now (though I do have one Certificate (something like a ground-level certificate) in it; and right now I question my ability to tell a good story and not lead myself into madness in the process.

In this case, the classes were kind of a test, like last semester was kind of a test, like this upcoming semester is kind of a test.  I’m a little intimidated by the latter, if only because these two classes may be the final classes intended for my track…I’m not sure; maybe I should ask an Advisor…but I did read to take Beginning Cataloging as soon as possible, if interested; this is probably because it weeds out a lot of people.

Back to the original story, though:  jewelry, particularly when it works with color, is something that strongly engages me.  I got out of it because of concerns over environmental damage perpetuated by mining companies — particularly those mining metals.  In addition, there is the somewhat ridiculous culture which insists that gems which all look alike (as though mass-produced) are the most valuable.  This is in Fine Jewelry, though (the kind one finds in department stores); I am more of an Art Jewelry and/or Craft Jewelry person.

And…I just realized probably no one but me knows the difference between Art, Craft, and Fine Jewelry, here…gah, do I have the energy to explain it?  It’s kind of an aside, and I’m not even sure if I have all the particulars correct.  Art Jewelry is one-of-a-kind, usually handmade and unique, using unique stones.  Craft jewelry incorporates materials like fibers and beads, wire, and PMC (Precious Metal Clay) and may be woven or knotted, typically handmade.  Fine Jewelry is what is typically thought of as jewelry:  diamond earrings, gold engagement rings, standard wedding rings, etc. — I’ve seen a lot of CAD/CAM (Computer-Aided-Design/Computer-Aided-Manufacturing) work to this end.  There’s also Fashion Jewelry, which tends to be inexpensive, mass-produced, and low-quality.

In any case…I was drawing the other night and kind of lamenting that this seems so uncreative, to stick with painting and drawing as my art forms, as though I knew nothing else.  Then I remembered my beads…which I’ve been collecting since I was about 12.  And my cords, which relate back to what has been called micro-macrame, because of its delicate nature when compared with macrame of the U.S. 1970’s.

I had been shunning the beads after a series of run-ins with one of the established, “if it’s been done before, you can’t do it,” voices in regard to copyright and (even if unintended) copyright-infringement.  Then there’s the whole, “if you have to consult instructions, you’re not ready to sell,” stuff, and the, “but you didn’t make those components, you’re just an assembler,” argument.  I realize now that listening to these voices is not doing me any good, because all it is, is “I do unique work/I’m skilled/I’m actually creative (UNLIKE YOU).”  Ultimately, this reads, though, “I’m insecure and am afraid you’ll be competition/better at this than I am, and so I’m going to try and make sure you never continue in this path.”

Unfortunately, sometimes one has to withdraw from groups with these people in order to get out from under their grip, especially if they’re presenting themselves as mentors.

In beadwork, the line between public-domain and copyrighted design, and what constitutes “design”, is pretty unclear:  until you actually start wholeheartedly designing things.  Now that I’ve started really consciously getting into design, it becomes clearer:  technique help is OK to consult when constructing something to sell; wholesale mimicking someone else’s work and claiming it as your own when selling it, isn’t.  That’s just the impression I get, not legal advice; but it becomes clearer when one stops following patterns and only consults one’s library for technique help and some inspiration (which will not be directly followed by copying what inspired one, to sell for money).

Of course, though, then it gets difficult when someone sells a book with an extremely basic design that you probably would have thought of yourself at some time in your life…and then, what do you do?  Hands-off forever?  Write to the author for permission to use the design?  Maybe the latter, eh?

I do have more to say in regard to buying more materials — and then, last night, unstringing years of collected beads and loading them all into small vials, which I then put into a couple of clear plastic boxes with drawers so that I could see them all and color-match…but that will be easier for me to work on tomorrow; not at 2:20 AM.  I’ve already eaten an entire bag of Gummi Worms; I think I should get to bed!

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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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