Gently stretching earlobes…and one more piece of a business model.

…and I mean, very gently, stretching earlobes!

Today I was able to find a new set of 14g spirals to put into my piercings, which would be the first earrings I’ve ever gotten at this gauge which are especially meant to be decorative.

I meant to ask about whether I should be concerned that when I went up to 14g after having the 16g in for a few weeks, I was playing with my piercing (sliding it back and forth to lubricate the ring and separate it from the skin) and heard a “pop”…Luckily, there was no oozing, no bleeding, no pain, no infection. Just a sound, and just once.

I was originally pierced at 14g (which is maybe 1.5-2mm wide?) and had gone down to nothing (22g is my finest earwire) and slowly back up to 14g, several times (maybe 4-6 times over something like a decade), so I thought maybe it was safe to accelerate things if my 16g earrings were loose and fine. I didn’t anticipate that my skin or scar itself might get moody and expand and shrink on me (which is what I think it did).

I don’t think I’ll be doing that in the future.

I’ve also experienced the feeling of a hook digging into my piercing from playing with it, as well (as though my fingernail had caught and torn the skin) — but again, no pain after that, no oozing, no bleeding, no infection.

These both happened on the left side. The latter sensation I can attribute to the possibility of a snag on a rough part of the earring (the piercer’s plier marks on the ring: these were the same rings I had been pierced with) — which is why I got new earrings. The former…? Well, I’ve heard that it’s normal for many tiny fractures and microtears to happen when gauging up, and am assuming it is that.

From advice online, I probably should have gone back down to 16g and waited out a healing period, but I didn’t. I’m hoping I’m not going to pay for that with a weak spot in my piercing forevermore (or until I get someone to punch out the surrounding tissue so it can heal correctly).

It’s also possible that my body is working out damage made over years, of trying and failing to find the actual hole in my ear, with my (sharp, largely mass-produced) earwires. I’m fairly certain that there should be some gratuitous scarring, though I can’t remember if I always had trouble finding the piercing on the right side, or the left side…but I’m thinking it was the left.

But today, I made it out to a quality body jewelry/piercing/tattoo place and purchased the tactilely (is that a word?) gorgeous surgical steel spirals I have in, now. Well, actually, M got them for me! They were $22, and I love them. There’s a beauty about them that is missing when someone makes an earring and tacks it onto a cheap, sharp, thin earwire (granted, they’re not all cheap and sharp, only the worst ones are — and I’ve found rare limited options in heavier “wires” [sometimes — as in the case of bronze — these are more likely cast units, not wires] up to 16g, but I think the general jeweling community stops, at that point).

Trying to find information on stretched piercings (and jewelry for such) online has got me thinking about targeting the large-gauge earring market, in between conventional jewelry (22g) and plugs/tunnels (let’s just say 0g/8mm, for now). I’m not sure if I mentioned this too often, before, but I have taken some Jewelry (silversmithing) classes, and I’ve been beading since I was 14 years old, so I’ve been through some minimal ropes where it comes to design, and construction. I also have a much better idea of where I stand as regards Intellectual Property than I used to (technique is no one’s property, unless it’s patented, and it usually isn’t).

I already know where to find heavy-gauge sterling and fine silver wire, and I know how to file and round the ends of wire, in addition to forging, annealing, hardening, pickling, and polishing. I also know where I can learn beginning lapidary, though I wouldn’t be quick to jump on that…powdered rock from sources unknown isn’t the safest thing to deal with, although carving is alluring.

I didn’t end up going into jewelry, because it’s hard to make a good living at being a jeweler, unless one is a Fine Jeweler and dealing with gold (allowing one to drastically raise the price of the finished product, introducing a large profit margin)…and gold extraction is known for being terrible for the environment (unless things have revolutionized within the last 10 years). This is why the group, Ethical Metalsmiths, was formed.

One of the reasons I let my piercings shrink up to wear conventional jewelry is that I had a concern that large-gauge earring options would disappear in the West during my lifetime. But if I fill that gap myself, there really isn’t anything to be concerned about — for myself, at least. And I know that there is a market. When I wear my own jewelry, clients find me. They literally see my jewelry and stop me.

This hasn’t happened with large-gauge earrings (it’s a rather obvious assumption that I can’t blacksmith and that spring-loaded rings are likely specially made), but I know that when I wear what I do have, others with large-gauge piercings, notice — and are especially kind to me! (Well, I’m thinking of one recent person in particular, but I know a lot of people with expanded piercings.)

I’m writing this post because I can see a potential future in this, even though it will take work — a lot of work. But I’ve found a market gap, which is something I didn’t see, before. And crafting earrings is something I knew I would have to do if I did go into jeweling, because there is a much shorter time-frame for execution and thus a lower labor cost than for something like a necklace, bracelet, anklet, etc.

There’s also a lower materials cost, before we get into things like matched cut gems (though…transparent sparklies aren’t really my main aesthetic, anymore…well…fire opals excluded, let’s say!…but those are kind of niche, in themselves).

Those two things together mean that I can sell at a lower cost. That would assist me in reaching my target market (Millennials/Gen X/Gen Y), who in turn will likely be willing to pay more for something they know they can’t find, normally. All of this together means that I have a better chance of a profit margin that is healthy enough to stay alive on…and maybe the possibility of making jewelry that I’m really into (earrings and not)!

If, that is, I can find my market, which likely means targeting tattoo and piercing parlors to sell my work. It will also likely mean remaining urban. And getting down with people I might like…jewelers, lapidarists, customers.

Yes, there is a community aspect of this, though it’s loose. (It’s always good when it’s loose!)

I wonder if I should do some market research? And maybe, if I make some prototypes and/or designs, consult with the place where I bought my jewelry, today?


Sometimes things just fit together and you get a glimpse of the big picture:

Although I didn’t absolutely need a break from study and work, today — or, at least, didn’t think I did — it’s been nice to disengage from the career/training thing, for a bit.  Tonight I took a cue from what I had been writing about in an earlier draft of this post, and set to work on a few earrings I’ve wanted to repair for months, if not years.  I had stashed them away, and chose not to work on them, for one reason or another — even though in one case, the repair was incredibly easy (switching out sharp, steel earwires, for higher-quality silver ones).

What I’ve realized — and I’ve just earlier this week read a really, really interesting paper on Intellectual Property (IP) which in effect told me that I wasn’t violating anyone’s IP — is that the beadwork thing that I’ve been involved with is relatively…well, it’s niche.  It’s kind of like lacemaking, just not that niche (…I don’t think?).  🙂  It’s a craft and creative pursuit where the things that are made are not necessarily groundbreaking, and as such are relatively unaddressed in IP law.

Since I stopped making and selling beaded jewelry largely because I did not understand where I stood in regard to this…and now I know it’s OK to use techniques I’ve learned from books (just not to use patterns from books if I’m selling them for profit, re:  community regulations), and have a sense of a framework and where I stand (as part of a community of practice)…it’s kind of spurred off an enthusiasm that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Another reading I did, further back in the semester (I think we’re about halfway through, now), stated that most costs in manufacturing could be attributed to labor.  This was another thing which gave me some heart, because creating beaded objects is relatively inexpensive so far as materials go.  The vast majority of the cost is taken up in the time and skilled labor needed to produce these objects…and then there is the time taken up in managing a small (tiny) business.

And as a craft jeweler based in the U.S., I can’t compete in the same market as people who make beaded jewelry in other countries, and sell their jewelry in the U.S. for what is, in effect, below cost here.  If I make beaded jewelry, I’ll need to be strategic about it — and be willing to sell it for what it’s worth, meaning that I’ll need to make sure that my jewelry — in quality and added value — merits the cost I’ll be charging.

So…there’s this, and also the fact that my experiments in suminagashi, plus my recent experiment (one, so far) with linoleum block printing, plus my training in Digital Imaging, is paying off in my Web Design course:  I own the rights to files I’ve produced, to use as graphics in my Web pages — and those graphics are not born-digital, which I feel gives me a certain advantage.

I’m starting to see a theme, here:  I think it’s highly likely that I would be best off in a job in which I get to be creative.  Thus, Web Design is highly viable, as is Web Development with a Design component.  And, I can do it in a library setting, if I really want to contribute to a Public Good.  That is, I don’t have to leave Art and Design behind for Librarianship or Information Science:  there are ways to merge these paths, particularly where it comes to Info Science, plus Art and Design and technology.  And it is worth it to continue the pursuit of Art and Design, because creativity is what I’m actually “about.”  (I’ll need to work on that phrasing for my Elevator Speech.)

Right now I’m working on a new earring design which I came up with a couple of nights ago.  I can see where it needs to be tweaked; I can also see where the beads I’m using are inferior.  I don’t have photos now, but I should be able to take some, soon.  Essentially, the bright metallic coating on some of my glass beads (SuperDuos) rubbed off in the short time I was handling them in order to weave the pattern!  Kind of disappointing…unless they’re meant to be fatigued (like stonewashed denim)?  I’m not sure.

There is an upcoming bead show, but I’m uncertain as to whether I’ll actually be able to have the time to do it.  That’s all in the future, though:  for now, I’ll focus on what’s in front of me, and try not to deny myself too many opportunities for creativity.  ❤


yeah, I needed this.

Well, this was a much-needed day of rest, relatively.

I was able to recover a project which I started in 2011.  This is a bracelet based on a necklace pattern that I had noticed M making.  She has decided to rework her necklace, and…somehow, maybe it was the recent bead reorganization I’ve been going through, or the fact that she was going through her stock, but I recognized two tubes of small bugle beads that I had loaned her.  Then I realized that I had the rest of the set for that bracelet ready to go, and had bought additional materials with the thought of making it.  It’s basically a kit, but stored dynamically instead of together.

I actually even have part of the project in the beginning stages, done already.  Apparently my wrist hasn’t changed too much in size, in six years!  I was working on an alternate version of the design, as the initial design sprung very much from the pattern someone else made (although it just took principles, pretty much:  the aesthetics are different from what I’ve seen of the other person’s work).

This incorporates rows of ladder stitch connected with netting and/or peyote stitch (in my version it’s basically peyote, because the gap is so small), with picot fringe.  All of this has to be tiny, because the bugle (tube) beads I’m using are tiny (they are as wide as a Japanese 15º round seed bead…and I can’t deviate from using 15ºs, without changing the spacing between the bugle beads).  I’m pretty sure they are size #1 (bugle beads are sized differently than other beads considered “seed beads”) — they appear less than 1/4″ long.

Aside from the fact that I had written down the color combinations I used in my sample; that I included the beads for the one woven button I thought I would have to make, and also included a xerox of the relevant pattern for that button…the kicker is the color work.  Plus, I was able to find all the pieces to go to this, which date back to at least 2011 (when I recorded the names of the beads which went together).

I’m sure, though, that I will have to make two buttons, at this point — the buttons are beautiful (and well-designed) enough that it would seem somewhat cheap to just use a mass-produced clasp.  I do have a gold-plated metal box clasp which is actually really beautiful, but the problem is the fact that I would have to narrow down my weaving to one point of contact, instead of two, and the attachment would be weaker if I used a ready-made clasp.

I’m making this in dark blue-green, along with …I think the color name is Smoky Topaz AB, which bridges over into mauve and red-violet.  “AB” is short for Aurora Borealis, and is the name of a rainbow coating on the outside of the bead.  Smoky Topaz is the base color of the bead, which is a smoky brown.  Together, they make a bead which appears reddish-violet, except when the light shines through the bead (smoky brown), instead of reflecting off the surface of the bead (red-violet).

Taking that into consideration, I have enough materials (if I don’t count the buttons) to make two versions of this:  one heavily blue-green one with red-violet accents, and one which is predominantly red-violet and green (I found the “Dark Copper” colored tiny bugles [really, they appear more Burgundy to me] along with the “Moss Green” tiny bugles).  Both of the bugle types are really glossy (nearly metallic), and from the swatch I made, I’m really certain they will work well together.

As for the buttons…I’ll have to either use violet for the next set after the ones for this bracelet, or buy new 4mm crystals — I’ve basically looked through the places where they’re most likely to be in my bead stash, and I can’t find any more Erinite-color bicones or whatever it was I got to replace them (the latter of which are more yellowish).  If I take apart and reconstruct my trial button, I should be able to have two buttons which are reasonably similar, but they won’t be identical…because I can’t find the rest of my Erinite beads (I need two more, having found two on a trial strand), and I suspect that the color formulation has changed in the last six years.  I know that the cut has most likely changed since then (we’re on Xilion Bicones now, instead of just Bicones, and I think that change happened after 2011…but I’m not sure).

I think I got the yellow-green ones at the beginning of my warm-green kick…

Anyhow…I did do some design work last night, but I think I’ll work on the original idea, first; it’s a really nice design, and I already know how to do it (or did know, at one time — and left notes for myself).  I’ve been hammered by alternate design options in the meantime by sorting through all of my greens and blue-greens…the nice thing is that I should be able to have the time to work on this, soon.  I couldn’t really bring myself to do much more than the homework for tonight (which I didn’t know was even assigned, until this afternoon).  It’s done now, but still…I don’t recall being told that the work week started on Monday (last semester, most of my classes turned over on Thursday), and I was kind of burned out and stressed, so I didn’t check.

I have been working out, though, so that much is good.  🙂  It’s better than foregoing exercise to do homework…

OMG I can draw…(!)

I’ve been looking back over my postings with regard to art, and it’s actually been really inspiring.  Today I drew for the first time in a while…trying to finesse a design that must have come to me at 2 AM when I was trying to sleep.  It does take less time (and fewer resources) to sit down and draw, than it does to plan and execute a jewelry design — a reason I’m thinking of getting back into it again.

Also, drawing helps to design, although with beads, it really isn’t very exact…there are specific sizes and ratios to manufactured beads, along with other limitations like hole diameter(s), that don’t work out totally in freehand drawings.  However…the skill should be very useful where it comes to bead embroidery design.

Apologies for my nonstandard and stream-of-consciousness use of punctuation, along with my total skirting of current politics, here.  I’ve tried to edit the former out; and there is a reason for the latter, which I should get used to.

Anyhow, with my Library and Information Science classes starting up again, I’ve needed to go back to creative activities in order to stay balanced.  I can easily get overwhelmed by incoming information and then blank for hours afterwards, not knowing what to express — especially if I’ve been reading for hours.  In this case, it’s easier to play around with beads and colors…and pencils…than it is to write or fully speak…and I have so many colored pencils and regular pencils and aquarelles and charcoals and pastels (and paints, though I think that 30″x30″ canvas is really intimidating me) around here that…it’s really tempting to get back into that, again.  Not to intend to make any great art, but just for the joy of it.

I have also found that there is likely a place in my life for recreational reading (that is, reading without the goal of writing in mind).  I didn’t come to this conclusion, though, until after having done some of my homework.  I realize now that my exposure to books in the stacks via my job as a Student Assistant, and to authors via my English/Creative Writing education, actually does afford me some knowledge as to how to find my way around a library catalog, as a patron.  Given that two of my classes are focused on cataloging and metadata, this looks like it will be a semester full of insights!

I actually really am liking the one class which has already started in earnest…because it’s like a more intense treasure-hunt than that which I experienced as a Volunteer.  It’s like, “using all of your capabilities and these clues, find this item (which you haven’t been given the name of),” which is something that I’m not permitted to do in my current position at work.  I can only expect the restrictions to become more intense as I move up the ranks, if I move up the ranks — at least in a Public Library.  This is related to serving all people, not a selective group determined by my own personal biases.  Given that this is directly related to professionalism…

Okay, I’m about to say too much, so I’ll stop.  🙂

The trouble seems to lie in having gone into this field for reasons related to my own values, and then having to rein in the free expression of some of those values in order to be “professional,” at least on the job.  But I would expect and appreciate the effort to remain politically neutral as regarded job duties (“professional”) if I consulted a Librarian who had very different political values than my own, so I can look at it that way.  Same thing if I had to access a free clinic:  I wouldn’t want to be denied services or given inferior service because the person caring for me personally didn’t agree with my choices.  The principle cuts both ways.  I cannot advocate my personal views as a library professional (should I become a professional), but I can advocate them as a person — outside of my job duties.

Of course, this is a personal blog, not a professional one (THANKFULLY!!!).  I’d still err on the side of caution when talking politics, though:  just because I have had a taste of what it is like to be looked up to, and I can’t speak with the authority of the ALA behind me here, nor imply it.

So, forgive me if I do not go into politics right here and now.  Even though I am generally a deep thinker and so would not immediately advocate any position in most cases, I also should not do so in a way where I might lead one to believe I were speaking for anyone but myself.  I would hope that I would be read to speak only for myself, anyway, though!

And dang.  I only have about five hours until dawn.  Okay, I should at least get ready for bed.  😛  I did surprise myself today, though:  my little drawing that I did to expand on a late-night scrawl of a chain design…actually looks…passable?  😉

Ah, I’ve got to try that pattern out in physical materials, now…

Liking the new wire…

This won’t be a long post:  it’s midnight here, and I’ve got an early morning and long day, tomorrow.  What happened is that tonight, I broke into my new red brass wire…and actually used the flat-nose pliers I’ve just purchased.

Oh my gosh, you guys, the wire.

I got 18g dead soft raw red brass wire — not craft wire, but the kind I can torch, pickle, and polish.  (Craft wire, when colored or coated, gives off [relatively highly] toxic fumes when torched, a.k.a. “brazed.”)  “Dead soft” refers to the softness of the metal — it is the softest grade, then come half-hard and full-hard variations.  It’s easy to harden wire (it hardens as it is worked or compressed), but to soften it, it has to be heated.  Heating patinas the metal, which then has to be pickled (treated with chemicals to remove oxidation) and polished to regain a bright finish.

I’m lucky that I did get dead soft wire, because, for one thing, this is 18g — about 1mm wide — and brass is not the easiest metal to bend in the first place:  something I remembered tonight.  (Copper and silver have both seemed softer, to me.)  Something I realized tonight is that flat-nose pliers are good for flattening wirework, but not ideal for making spirals…at least, not these.  The wire crushed and pivoted as I held it, and the brass actually rubbed off onto the steel plier jaws (if I’m remembering correctly, this brass alloy contains a small amount [up to 0.5%] of lead, which may account for its properties).

I’ve not had flat-nose pliers in relation to jeweling for, basically, my life until now; and at this point I’m glad I didn’t spend the extra $10 to get a different pair.  The ones I’ve got are functional, but necessary?  They will be useful where my nylon-jaw pliers would be harmed…otherwise, I have more than one pair of needlenose pliers, which are more accurate, less marring, and with a smaller footprint on the wire.  Mirror-polished flatnose pliers would be a different thing, totally…

Granted, though, I haven’t tried forming the two pendants I have in line, yet, so I don’t know if I can make a cleaner, closer bend with the flatnose pliers than I can with the needlenose (which is the initial reason I got the former).

Right now I’m burning out, so I’ll try and get some sleep; but as a note to myself for tomorrow, I do want to photograph and show what I was working on, tonight…

Trying to work out the logistics of copyright RE: crafting. This is not legal advice…

…rather, it is me trying to figure out, out loud, what is meant by the differentiation of “technique” and “pattern.”  (Writing helps me get my thoughts in order.)

I should note that I am not an authority on copyright law; I’m just a crafter who has been struggling with the question of what is “right” and “wrong” in regard to the ethics of making jewelry to sell, for years.

I did go to work today, and it wasn’t bad — amazingly, it seems to help me.  Even though I do still struggle with shyness, the social contact seems to benefit me, and I often feel better after I leave than I did before arriving.  At work, one of my co-workers (who had noticed my new collar) asked me if there was a reason I wasn’t selling on Etsy.  I couldn’t…quite…give her a good response!  Though I realize that a lot of it has to do with being a little wigged out over the possibility of unintentional copyright infringement.

Now that I realize more clearly, though, what goes into creating a specific design, the difference between technique and design becomes clearer.  With my last collar design, I realized what in fact was my work (that is, my design), and what I had help in doing…which was just a basic knowledge of sinnets which I had to know (or be taught) in order to construct the beaded straps which helped complete it.  However, the overall message and feel and content of the piece was not contained in that sinnet.

This is not legal advice, but just my current understanding:  Design seems to be something that I create for a specific purpose, with a specific message in mind, with specific materials.  Technique (also possibly more helpfully considered “construction technique”), includes the elements (like beadweaving stitches; parallel this to embroidery stitches [and yes, those two can cross over]) which are used to substantiate the design.  Technique cannot be copyrighted.  Design can.

Design is something difficult to put a finger on before you do it, but after you’ve done it…especially after you’ve done it for years without realizing it — and then you face the possibility of publishing it, and start wondering if someone will mimic your work with no knowledge or understanding of its underlying logic, for monetary gain…it’s perfectly clear.

Generally speaking, designs are sold for personal use:  that is, it may be OK with me if you follow my design to make yourself a collar, but it is not OK with me if you use it for commercial purposes without asking, or thinking of reimbursing, me.  With me, this is largely because I struggled to put that design together, and because a part of myself is invested in that design.  When you follow a pattern, a large part of the work is already done for you.  It would be best to consider them tutorials, though:  a step on the way to gaining the knowledge and skill you need to design your own work (which is, even when simple, immensely more satisfying).

There’s effort that’s gone to in order to choose and combine elements and materials, to fit them to each other, to choose and execute construction techniques, to build a feel and aura and message or concept behind the finished piece, to translate one’s process into words and images that others can understand.  The finished piece is, thus, the result of a set combination of decisions.  If these decisions are replicated without question (sin making the instructions; I doubt anyone would replicate that and think it was all right), the finished product is substantially similar to the original — even if its deeper significance is not grasped.

The more decisions diverge, the less like the original design the piece happens to be; however, if the design is based on an original design by someone else (say, like online Buffy fanfiction is based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer; is not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but substantially profits from Buffy’s name recognition and branding, and still follows Buffy’s groundwork — especially if it competes with Buffy for viewers), then the best route to take before entering into an enterprise where substantial profit may be gained from its sale is to consult with the original designer (whom one might helpfully consider a partner for this one item, as they may ask for a cut of your sales in exchange for their labor, which in turn saved you labor) for permission to move ahead.

And I ask myself if it’s clear enough for me, now.  The reason why this isn’t legal advice is that it’s just what I seem to have figured out by myself in the absence of substantial trustworthy help.  Most work I’ve seen has been how to avoid having others replicate one’s own designs, not how to avoid inadvertently replicating the designs of others.  (And yes, two or more people can hold copyrights to the same design, if they originated independently.)

The clearest thing I’ve found is that judgment as to whether penalties apply for the supposed violation of copyright law is a subjective (and complex) human decision and often based on a matter of degree and (possibly) intentionality (such as one case where even a photograph was ripped from someone’s website and used to advertise an off-brand’s goods)…and so the easiest way to avoid violating copyright is to learn a number of basic techniques (and I will say it’s hard to learn these without following instructions, at first:  which then gets confusing [“is this a pattern or just a technique?”]), then with the skills learned and the principles behind why they work becoming clearer, just play around with the beads, cords, threads, wires, etc., as versus following a pattern.

Trust me, it’s much, much more satisfying to build a thing yourself, when you get to the point where you can stand on your own two feet.  But the vast majority of us have to crawl before we can stand.

“Patterns” are usually visible because they make at least one large diversion from popularly disseminated technique instructions (which are visible in a number of places — particularly online, and in print).  They are easy to see after you’ve been around the scene for about 10-15 years, because if you look in a number of beadweaving, wireweaving, bead embroidery, chainmaille, macrame, etc., books and magazines, you’ll see the same basic foundations repeated over and over again (within each craft category, of course; although at times some work, such as micromacrame and wireweaving, do cross over with each other where it comes to aesthetics).

These basic foundations, distilled out of ten or so, “recipes,” I’d say are generally safe to use (I really don’t think anyone can be said to own Brick or Peyote Stitch at this point:  although they do originate with multiple Aboriginal groups…as far as I know, they did originate in different places at different times, not necessarily with contact between those groups, and are part of the basic core of a beadweaver’s repertoire.  The sad fact is, though, that a lot of techniques were transferred long ago from people who didn’t, and don’t, have the power to demand compensation).  The, “recipes,” themselves, though, used in their entirety and without derivation, are something I’d try to keep my own hands off of, where it comes to sales.

An example of a “technique” would be RAW (Right-Angle Weave), Spiral Stitch, or Russian Spiral Stitch, as recently showed up in my Reader.  (Thank you, Sam!  And if you see this, can you tell me if you feel I’m correct or off?  [Granted, I know we’re all finding our own way, but as you do design professionally, I’m thinking you might know more than I do.])  Specific variations, such as CRAW (Cubic Right-Angle Weave), I am uncertain of the legality of using, because the variation (or this variation of it, at least) originated at one specific (recent) time in history.  However, going by the “technique is okay to copy/use” and “design is not okay to copy” rule, I would believe it would be safe to use CRAW in your own designs.  The absolute safest route, would be to write to the person who originated CRAW and ask, though the technique is so widespread now that I wouldn’t think it necessary.

Patterns are fine to play with and learn (particularly technique) from — and by, “pattern,” I mean some kind of set of instructions which differentiates itself in a major way from the techniques which are so known and widespread as to be basically public domain.  But it’s best to get permission before selling items made fully or partially based on or from patterns, for profit — especially if you end up making a lot of money off of a design which didn’t originate with you.  (Of course, some pattern designers will say it’s OK to use their designs for profit, and if they say that, it’s OK, too.)

This can creep up on you, though:  be careful, particularly if someone says, “I want you to make me one like that,” referring to something you’re wearing which you can construct from instructions, but did not design.  Being a beadworker who is trying to be ethical, you let them know you did not design the piece and let them know where they can find the instructions for it.  They don’t want to make it themselves.  They then pay you for your labor (uh oh) and wear it, and other people again want you to make them “one like that.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I believe this is where you can get into trouble, particularly if you end up making a lot of items with very little brainpower exerted in design.  But “design” (and the difference between “design” and “technique”) can be a hard thing to wrap your head around, especially if you haven’t had a lot of art training!  And really especially, if you haven’t been around long enough to know what the basic techniques are, and how to deduce them from the sea of instructions around you.

Using a half-hitch or a petal stitch (embroidery term creeping in there) or Cavandoli knotting (macrame term) is not forbidden, just because you had to learn from someone.  You don’t have to go it alone.  You do, however, have something of an obligation to at least ask the people who taught you if they would like compensation, if you sell something they designed for profit.  If you just used what they taught you but didn’t use it in the exact method of their tutorial, though — and this is not legal advice, but — I’d say you’re probably OK.

And again, this is just what I’ve puzzled out over the period of time during which I’ve been trying to figure out what is safe to sell as my own work.

Helpful commentary, not destructive commentary, is welcome.

A craft jeweler’s stock management

Two things that have happened recently are having obtained supplies for jewelry making; and then, storage solutions for the same supplies.  I was able to visit the Japanese dollar store yesterday and pick up a few sets of small clear polystyrene boxes with drawers.  These cost about $3 each.  Then I stopped by the plastics store and picked up more clear polystyrene vials than necessary…I ended up using about $9 worth of vials (the extra small size of vial was $0.20 each), whereas I bought many more than I needed because of not knowing how many I did need.  I should note to myself that the variant of vial I have termed “extra small” (out of XS, S, M, and L) is the one I used the most of, by far (I wonder if they would let me exchange the bigger ones for more tiny ones?).

I specify “polystyrene” because it’s something I’d want to remember; it struck me as odd but logical that I would find two instances of the more optically clear plastics and that both would be the same material.  These aren’t white polystyrene foam (a.k.a. Styrofoam); they seem to be made of the same material CD jewel case covers are made of, according to Wikipedia and some conjecture.

The largest benefit to using these is that it makes it very apparent what my stock consists of, enabling me to forego using multiple tiny plastic bags (which I usually have used until they fogged up and shredded apart, or no longer zipped shut).  With the system I have now, it’s very clear what I have to work with…and the vials are reusable.  The only drawback is that they don’t cushion the beads from knocking against the inner walls.

I also have been kind of torturing myself with looking over beads…I have the either fortune or misfortune of knowing several reputable bead suppliers online, which have been in business for years.  Since my regular two bead stores closed down, it’s been kind of a pain to get access to quality, low-cost (or unique) beads and components (I don’t assume craft or fabric stores to have quality beading supplies, though these are the materials I started out with as a child); right now it is apparent that the prices of designer beads are also…not cheap.

However, I’m seeing that most places sell these in small quantities (10g, which is not a lot; I’d say this is a 3″ vial?…or in multiples of 30 or 50, if I’m recalling correctly).  The benefit of this is that it’s possible to buy very small quantities of beads in large color ranges, and not, say, have to buy an entire hank or half-hank of Czech seed beads or 30 grams of Japanese seed beads, if you only need a little.  The great advantage of this is that you aren’t stuck with an entire 30 gram vial of a color you’re never going to use, if you get home and realize under natural lighting that the colors you’ve chosen for a project don’t actually coordinate.

The brick-and-mortar bead store that used to be closest to me used to unbind hanks of the Czech seed beads (I think there are 12 strands per hank?) and sell them by the strand — which was super convenient, and probably saved me a lot of money, in the short term (while still allowing the store owner to make a sizable profit — though I am not certain it was sizable enough to keep her in business).

Of course, do I need six entire strands of size 13º gold Charlotte beads when I’m just trying out a button pattern I found in a magazine, or is that overkill?  (Size 13º is very small, a little bigger than a poppyseed; the designation “Charlotte” indicates that there is one facet ground into one side of the bead.)  Gold, by the way, is one of the more expensive finishes…half a hank is an investment!  I wouldn’t want to work with anything smaller than 15º beads, which are smaller than 13ºs…at that size, it’s easy to split a bead with a needle that’s too wide.  Then, also, the thread and/or wire has to be really fine to go through beads this size…and at that diameter, things can be really fragile; both the beads, and what they’re strung on.  I’ve also broken needles — fine needles, even! — trying to pull them through beads.  Size 15ºs should probably be strung or woven with an ultrafine steel twisted wire needle…which won’t break just because it’s bent.

The bead sizes go smaller, but it’s hard enough to see the 11ºs (larger than 13ºs), which are basically the standard size you would be most likely to encounter, followed closely by size 8ºs, and more rarely, size 6ºs — the latter of which I think are also called “E” Beads.  I have very rarely seen 3ºs, which appear like plastic pony beads (except I think they’re usually glass if they’re given an “aught” size — that little “º” reads as “aught,” so 11º reads as “eleven-aught”), and are large enough to be strung onto braids (hence, the term “pony bead.”).

I wouldn’t put these onto a kid’s hair, though:  the plastic beads are much safer and lighter.  There’s the danger of glass chips (even flying glass chips) from the beads knocking together, and stress on the scalp, if a lot of the glass ones are used to decorate braids.  Of course, though, when I was a kid and had braids, I wanted this.  I don’t think we ever did it.  (Of course, though, now I know how to add wrapped ends to the ends of my braids!…though that doesn’t really help the bead angle.  I wonder how they would stay on…?  I’d probably need a seam ripper to remove the wraps, as well…)

Anyway, I started out this post thinking about the two-hole beads I bought, recently.  I only got very small amounts, but it’s really made me want to get more; the design possibilities are just…something I hadn’t thought of.  In addition, the designer Czech beads (which I personally prefer to most of the more angular, Art-Deco-looking Miyuki two-hole beads; the exceptions being the Magatama lines) are going on and off of the market all of the time.  There are some beads that are not easy to find, now, which were common a year ago, and new ones are out now that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in-person.

On the other hand, from looking up a lot of this stuff just briefly, I think that the real issue is that each individual online outlet only carries a specific range of beads; so to get a diversity of them, it’s necessary to target a number of different outlets.  I think the companies that make the beads (as versus the ones that sell them) are trying to drum up new business and interest in beadwork, but the sudden introduction of new beads all the time can be disorienting.  It used to be that we were just working with bicones and rounds and ovals and drops and cubes, and now it’s really…it can get overwhelming.

That’s not to say that it isn’t nice:  new bead shapes and bead hole placements, and creative use of multiple holes, are a goldmine where it comes to designing — especially with the finishes available now (especially if I compare them to my fabric-store beads in sixth grade which had colors which obviously rubbed off).  It’s just really a challenging process to be given what basically amount to new Lego blocks every few months, and be competing with published and accomplished designers to find excellent uses of them.

Actually, I did kind of withdraw from the beading scene after my magazines started putting out designs which relied upon the two-hole and specially shaped beads, many of which were only available online.  I’m not an early adopter…I already know this.  🙂  And I’m really cautious online, which is probably the biggest pain about any of this.  I kind of just don’t trust the Internet in the first place, though it’s relatively easy to see why this is:  my formative online years were not sheltered.

Another reason why I almost permanently Withdrew from my online program…