Beading may actually be *my* true joy.

I was actually up making jewelry prototypes, late last night. I’ve decided not to pursue any particular form of expression because of its gender status (anymore), but because I like it. Beading is one of those things I got into, early on. I was 11 when I started learning off-loom beadweaving (I think this was even-count Peyote Stitch, during the Summer before 6th grade).

I had been trying to get away from it — craft jewelers don’t really have a high amount of esteem regarded to them (except, at times, by their clients), and they don’t make a lot of money. But one thing I’ve learned: when I’m choosing things to do to make myself happy, don’t use popular opinion or projected monetary return to guide myself as to the best possible use of time. This isn’t Economics class.

If there are people who can make (or at least recoup) money doing quilts, there are people who can make (or at least, recoup) money, beading.

Last night, when I was working through finding everything, I found a vial of glass beads which smelled (stank) strongly of Parmesan, when I opened the lid. There were two different types of beads in there. Below is an image of one type of bead (these are glass rondelles), which I washed in Dawn and warm water (swishing in a little cup does wonders), and let dry overnight. These ones remind me of the little “gems” one would get in the Pirate LEGO sets for the treasure chest…I don’t care if they’re glass, they’re pretty!

newly washed rondelle beads

I think it was the other set that was in the same vial (glass leaves with colors similar to these, but with a brightly colored metallic coating on one side) which really stank, though. I remember having used those beads in a sculpture for my Color Dynamics class, which dates them back to at least 2007. That means they’re 11 years old at the youngest!

I had been storing them in a clear polystyrene vial with some sort of soft plastic lid (see the smaller vials with white lids, below). I’m not sure if there was a chemical reaction that had gone on, or if some moisture had been trapped in there with them, but washing them got rid of the smell.

I guess if I’m lucky, it was just mold.

Vials full of different colored beads.
Brainstorming a color scheme.

The above image, I just took in order to remind myself of the color scheme I had planned for a necklace. I had imagined or envisioned making small micromacrame or beadwoven components, and chaining them together to fit around a neck. However, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do this.

(And I should note, the bronze Tohos and the cube beads next to them, I got out of another project bin. They need to go back there, eventually.)

I started out with those ceramic beads in the upper left corner (they can take two passes of 1mm twine), and a lampwork glass rondelle that I didn’t photograph, which is black with blue metallic stonelike markings around its center. Both of them had a “warm blue” thing going on (the glaze on the ceramic reaches blue around the equator of some beads). The blue in the centerpiece had a vitrail-looking element to it, which meant that some of those iridescent beads (like the ones in the lower right corner of the above photo) worked.

The thing is, the more I worked on it, the more options I had: but most of my beads won’t accommodate macramé cord, at least without alteration (meaning grinding glass). I’d have to find another way to assemble the chain.

Right now I’m looking at brass wire…but I haven’t set anything in stone, yet.

Speaking of stone, there’s a purple dyed stone bead that I tried as a pendant (I think it will go well with the earthiness of the ceramic), which enabled me to more fully bring in the purple iris beads at the top right of the above photo. I’ll have to use them sparingly so they don’t overpower the piece, but it could be a nice “pop” of color.

Aqua beadwoven components, utilizing Twin beads.

So, the other thing that I was working on:

I realized that the way forward into a design wasn’t through intellectualization. With that in mind, I started playing around with some Twin beads I got a while ago. I had noticed that they would make a “V” if attached at one end, so I decided to see what I could do with this.

Apparently, I have skills?

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone before me has run across exactly this same design solution, but it was fun to puzzle through how to make the first one of these, and then how to grow the second off of the first. I had to use 3mm fire-polished rounds for the vertical portions, while the Teal Luster drop beads in the center of the right component are, I believe, 3mm × 4mm. Those fill the space better than the 3mm Magatama drops (the tan ones on the left component), which are a little looser.

I’m feeling a lot better about experimenting with multi-hole beads, now. They offer a lot of design possibilities that just were not on the table, before. The major issue for me is which ones to get, and where to get them from. I’m thinking that having a foundation of fire-polished, druk, and glass pearl beads between 2mm and 4mm, plus 15°, 11°, 8°, and 6° seed beads, and an assortment of tiny crystal beads (round and bicone) between 2mm and 4mm will really help if I want to get back into beadweaving. My major gap here is with the small glass non-seed beads, and the size 15° seeds. The multihole beads are then just like the stars that I can build everything else around.

Sometimes Czech size 13° Charlotte beads show up (they have one facet ground into a side), but I wonder how different they are in size from Japanese 11°s. I have some, in copper; I can check.

And having a little bit of randomness as to what color goes where, may actually be a blessing. In constructing the above, the size of each bead was more important a design specification, than the color. That is: I didn’t totally plan out that color scheme.

I had some trepidation about getting back into work with glass beads, as working with them is different than working with precious or semiprecious stone or pearl/shell/horn, etc. Depending on what you get, they can be cheaper (for example, Cobalt Blue) or considerably expensive (for example, Gold Luster). But there are a lot of design possibilities with glass that are just fun to play around with.

I’ve found nowhere near the diversity of shapes and styles of bead, in semiprecious stone; and non-glass/non-crystal items tend to be drilled to keep as much mass as possible. This means tiny drill holes, which means I can’t use them for micromacramé (without alteration).

My major problem — if I have one — is that I haven’t been doing this for so long, that I need to consult my library for technique advice and demonstration (and I’m no longer intimately familiar with the contents of that library). A long time ago, someone convinced me that doing this (looking for help) and then selling was unethical (a reason I diverted my energies into Art), but at this time, I’m considering that person, themselves, to be unethical.

It’s like, how much time did I waste training in Art when I could have been beading (though I know it wasn’t a waste, it was just a decision based on partial information, which left me vulnerable to being affected by bad information). I have since found material (as an assigned reading in my grad program) which guts this person’s argument.

And what’s wrong with not calling it Art, right? 😉