…Though one of them I love extensively more than the other.
I do have to get on job applications again, but after work on Wednesday, I was more excited that there was still sunlight (I thought I was working from 9-6, but I wasn’t), and started playing with the beads I got on Tuesday, and didn’t tell you about.
I went to a newer bead store in the area for silk thread, and ended up coming away with $45 in colored glass fire-polished beads (retail, not wholesale; their wholesale value is probably about $20, considering I did get the silk thread). These beads have facets ground into them and then are reheated so they melt a little and get this gorgeous flashy (“vitreous”) surface. Some of these beads have surface treatments, though most are transparent (I am not sure about the little 3mm lavender ones I got; they may be a little milky).
Because I went to a bead store (and not Michael’s), I’m confident that the beads are not just coated in dye. There are online sellers for this stuff too (Czech fire-polished glass beads), but it’s an entirely different workflow than designing in the bead store itself.
So I ended up spending a little more than half an hour in there, making critical color and purchasing decisions (in person!) which worked out pretty well, once I got the beads home and matched them with my pearls (the ones I got in Honolulu for $75 retail, meaning I’ve invested about $100 in the piece I’m working on now [not either of the two sets of earrings]…for which I’m still trying to design a decent layout. It’s going to take some playing around to get to a working conclusion, though).
See, this is why I got a Master’s degree, because this stuff is expensive and not affordable unless:
- it’s an occasional indulgence,
- I’m selling,
- I’m already set up with tools and materials, or
- I have a discretionary fund gained from having family subsidize my living expenses while I have a stable job.
Numbers 2, 3, and 4 may be something that come to fruition if I get a gainful Library job, stay with family, and have enough free money to purchase supplies in bulk (as versus groceries, utilities, clothing, incidentals, and rent). It’s really not a big thing to get a resale license; it just means submitting taxes quarterly on any income.
If I became an Adult Services Librarian in a Public Library setting, I could also teach this stuff for free and thus share my enthusiasm, build community, and learn from other beaders. I say “Adult Services” because a lot of these materials are not meant for use by people under the age of 14 — developing brains might be harmed.
From working with paints, I understand that a lot of colorants may be specifically unsafe for use with children. If I were planning on ever getting pregnant, it might also give me pause to expose my own body to these materials, but that is likely nowhere in my future.
Anyhow, I was able to use some other pearls I had from before to make a pair of earrings I really, really like. I mean…these are top-drilled pearls, basically rice-shaped and teardrop pearls (though on this strand, it was the odd teardrop) which are drilled in the short direction, across one end. They’re not easy to use because of the chaos factor; it’s never really known what direction they will point.
I had some round gold-filled spacer beads in my stash — two sizes — which I used to fill the gaps between the top-drilled pearls, and bent the thread line so that both ends came out through another bead at the top. I ended up, however, using brass wire (I think it’s 28-gauge, though there’s an off-chance it may be 26) to go through the thread path, then bending that top bead over, looping both open ends of the wire around the first established wire loop, then threading both ends back up through the top bead and finishing with a wrapped loop.
The finished item has some movement to it, but not enough to really detract from the overall design-as-worn. They’re actually super-cute, and a creative way to use a bead that is not meant to be inherently symmetrical.
Right now, I’m trying to figure out whether I want to buy a decent amount of gold-filled round wire so that I can do more stuff like this, without using something that will tarnish. Fine gauges of wire are actually surprisingly affordable (for anything containing precious metal), as they don’t use a lot of material.
You still want to practice first with the cheap stuff, though. I have brass and copper; and hardware-store material is fine or even preferable, here. Silver-plated wire, I just avoid; even “non-tarnish” wire will tarnish, and badly; or you’re dealing with, “Nickel Silver,” which I take to mean, “white metal with nickel in it,” and I’m allergic to nickel. Then there’s steel, which is an entirely different animal.
I use gold-fill wire and beads instead of gold-plate (when I can, or in projects I especially care about) because I don’t want the gold on the outside to flake off from applied pressure. I’m very familiar with the latter on gold-plated findings (metal bits used in jewelry) and focals, though usually cheap gold-colored wire is just brass (or brass-plate, if we want to get cheaper; I’ve even seen copper-plate wire. I mean, how cheap does it have to be?! I can get pure copper wire at the hardware store, and it’s not expensive!).
The reason to use gold instead of brass is the fact that brass will tarnish, and polishing something like this (with tiny tiny hooks from the wire ends) with a polishing cloth, will likely damage it. Ultrasonic cleaning will likely damage the pearls. Gold-fill wire will not tarnish, eliminating that variable, and making the piece harder-wearing.
As for the cost of gold itself…it’s so expensive that it’s out of the question to use solid gold wire (at least until I get my own atelier and sell in Nordstrom or something; at which point I’d likely be using something more expensive than glass [think Cubic Zirconia or lab emerald], for that center bead).
The economics of this did become clear to me today, though. If I used gold-filled wire, those earrings wouldn’t really cost me that much to make, and all of the gold would be gold-plate or gold-fill. Aside from that, I used three pearls and a firepolished glass bead for each earring. That’s not a lot of money I’m putting out, but I could easily sell them for at least $25-$35/pair, as I’m using real gold (even if it’s not solid) and real pearls. (I should remember, though, the wasted 28-gauge [28g] wire that is just used to hold onto the rest of it. There are places to recycle this, though. With the amount of damage gold mining does to the environment, it’s a little bit of relief.)
The fragility of 28g wire isn’t even an issue here, because earrings don’t get bent up like necklaces, bracelets, and rings, do — especially if the bottom edge has no jagged ends sticking out to get caught in something like a knit sweater.
I did come to the realization when first considering selling, that I’d have to move a lot of earrings to come out ahead, financially. This is because earrings don’t take a long time to make or design, relatively; they also use a relatively small amount of materials. On top of that, the personality of a set of earrings changes greatly depending on their color scheme, meaning I could use the same pattern in different ways, and thus save some time on the design aspect.
At this point, it is 1 AM my time. I will wait until tomorrow to photograph my work and upload images, but being the instant-gratification-yearning person I am, I will post this and then go to bed. Someone on the other side of the globe will like it. 🙂
I also made a pair of earrings using a macrame technique and some titanium-fumed Crystal Quartz…which I didn’t even get around to. Tomorrow.
And, right, there was the realization that the seed beads were no match for the fire-polished rounds in sophistication…I just don’t want to forget that I noticed this…