Side hustle

I’m giving very heavy thought to restarting my jewelry as a, “side hustle,” regardless of the fact that no one really needs jewelry. Also regardless of the fact that I’ve known people who design with glass beads to be looked down upon by metalsmiths.

EDIT: for those who don’t know, a, “side hustle,” is something one does on the side of one’s primary employment for extra income.

We are considered, “craft jewelers,” or, “handcrafters,” or rarely, “artisans” (as I would be likely to call myself). We’re known for working hard, and being underpaid and underappreciated. Because handworked jewelry takes so long to make, in a capital-based (and not labor-based) economy with a high cost and high standard of living, the sheer cost of labor makes each piece expensive. Competition from labor-based economies outside of the U.S. drives prices for comparable items down. The lack of use of precious metals and gems leaves us without justification for price inflation. There is often no official training for any of this. All of this combines to the point that most U.S. handcrafters work hard and long for what are poverty wages in the U.S.

However, for me it is just a side hustle, for now. If I’m going to do it (or want to do it) anyway, the act of doing it could be reward in itself. I’m also getting much, much closer to having a signature style. This is why I’m going back to beading instead of metalwork or painting. It’s what I want to do. The drawback would be becoming so advanced that I am no longer able to design and make, but end up teaching and running a business rather than playing with colors and beads.

Last night and today, I’ve been working again at beaded micro-macrame. At this point, I’m very likely to get blisters if I continue knotting, so I decided to hold off on working further on my prototype, for now. (This is the project in pink and blue-green that I had mentioned in an earlier post.)

Image of a workspace and macrame pad.
Working version to the right. It’s interesting what you come up with when choosing beads for structure rather than color…like the center “Green Opal” 6/0 beads.

I have found that I prefer C-Lon cord over S-Lon. The brands are kind of hard to tell apart; according to one source, Marion Jewels In Fiber, S-Lon is likely an off-brand of C-Lon. Marion states that they seem to be the same product from different brands.

My present experience with known S-Lon shows slightly different working properties; it seems slightly stretchier (though that could just be me), and the S-Lon I’m using (pink, above) shredded lengthwise as I pulled it from the spool. This isn’t something I’ve seen at all from the C-Lon I’ve used (for example, the yellow cord on the left in the above image).

However, the color is a dustier pink than the C-Lon cord I have now, as it’s from a closer fashion season. (I don’t even remember the year — or season — in which I got most of my stock: I just recall that it was through a local bead convention.) Because of color considerations, if I re-make this in pink, I might use the same cord…though I seriously need to refresh my cord color palette.

Beaded bracelet in ice greens and pinks.
Sorry about that white pin messing up the shot. No, not the one on the left. The other one.

This kind of design is hard to do without actually playing with cords and beads, until something snaps into place like it was meant to be there. I had to mess around with knotting and re-knotting cords until I got something that looked symmetrical and regular, and just generally O.K. Even at this point, there are errors remaining, though I might be the only person to notice them.

The upshot of working with beads is that they can always be cut apart and re-strung or -knotted, though. The loss is mainly time, and whatever thread or cord or wire that was used (though that time loss can be legitimately counted as time spent in design). You can also recycle precious metal scrap, though I haven’t tried it yet (most of my precious metal is sterling silver, and it isn’t really that expensive, compared to gold). In metal shop, we also used to recycle brass and copper scrap, but I honestly don’t know where that stuff was sent.

It’s also weird how changing the stringing material affects the pattern. I tried working something in yellow cord at first, which the fuchsia beads stood out against. When using the dusty pink cord, though, the fuchsia beads fall into the background. I thought it looked kind of tacky with the yellow, but maybe it’s just a fashion risk?

I guess it just means that when I change cord colors, I need to change the bead colors, too…

It’s kind of surprising how much of an effort I had to raise in order to work with my hands today and yesterday, rather than read or work on job search or job applications. (This is a job [albeit self-employment], these are job skills.)

I’m not entirely sure what’s behind the reticence to work with my hands, kind of like I’m not entirely sure how or why there seem to be no places to learn skills like I’ve learned, outside of books and magazines and bead stores. I would think that this would be interesting to people…if I became a Public Librarian, I would really like to put on Bead Nights and stuff like this.

In comparison to knitting, I would think it would cost less. Is the interest too ethnic to be accessible to a wider audience? Do people just not like getting stabbed with needles? 😉

But really, I’ve been doing this since I was 11, so…


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