Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Beading Books and Beyond....

What are you looking for when you buy a beading book?   I know that some people are just interested in projects, while others are looking for a deeper understanding of a stitch or technique.   But, beyond all that, how do you relate to a beading book?   For me, I love beading.  And I love beaders.  Bead books give me so many things and I’ll try to explain it…..

I saw a post a while ago where the person was asking beaders whether they preferred classes that were complicated projects (a project class) or one that concentrated more on teaching about a technique.  The comments showed the diversity you would expect in a group of people… some wanted a project, some a technique,  and others combined the two such that it was technique oriented but the Project was a direct application so they wanted both.   But there was one comment where the person simply said (and proudly proclaimed) they have never taken a class or bought a book.     wow….   This stopped me.

I’ve thought a lot about this response and my reaction is that I feel very sorry for this person.  It may stroke the ego to easily claim that you got where you are solely on your own.  But I think of the cost of this.  I love my craft, and there is no possible way on earth that any one person can have all the ideas out there.  The adoration of isolation in this comment is stunning to me (ok, this was online so let me also add it is delusional in the sense they are seeing pictures of what other people have done and let’s not pretend we are not influenced by our environment).   Anyway, back to my point.  

I love spending time with other beaders!   My gosh, what a wonderful group of people!  (ok, so there are some haters but those are minimal).  Spending time with beautiful, creative people who love to share and have an obsession that I can relate to (collecting beads…) is soooo fun.  When I get a beading book by someone I’ve never met, it is like I have a new friend.  Nice to meet you.  And thank you for sharing your passion, abilities and creativity!  You get an insight into someone you will probably never meet in the flesh but they are available to spend time with you, inspire you, inform you and entertain you anytime you want.  Bad Day?  Pick up a beading book, dive in and live in That world for a while with the friend-you-never-met who wrote the book.  

I recently got a new book.  In terms of techniques, there was nothing new for me.  And it was annoying that it instructed to do things in ways that I totally disagree with and in fact have instructed to NOT DO THAT in my books and classes.  I’ve never done a project, but I read projects.  I am educated by them in terms of “how” that person approached and constructed, what was done first, next, etc.  It is irrelevant that I won’t do That project, the teaching within the project is what I am looking for.   But beyond all that….. I have a new friend!  So what if I don’t agree with everything my new friend has said, that’s ok, happens all the time in life.   And it challenges me.  I don’t agree?  Makes me think about it and challenges me to not only have a position about something, but be able to support the “why” I have that position, helps me to clarify things for myself.  

In all honesty, I have many rationalizations to buy bead books.  I love them (and I’m worth it!).  I love to be informed (knowledge is power!).  I love to see what other beaders are reading (as an author myself, I need to see what my readers may see). 

And I love having a new friend!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Oh yes YOU ARE a designer!

If you are a beader, then you are a designer. You may say “Oh no, I only do projects that others have designed”. But many beaders in this category change the colors or something and this is a design decision. Or you may say “I only buy kits, so there are no design decisions”, but it was you who decided to do THAT kit versus all the other kits available… and that is a design decision.

Then there are people who are not beaders (really? what are you thinking! lol ) and so clearly “they” are not designers. Oh contraire! My guess is that sometime during the day you got dressed and chose That necklace or That bracelet with That outfit and that is a design decision. (insert: ok, you don’t have to BE a beader, but if you never even wear jewelry, then I can’t relate to you at all so you may stop reading…)

Clearly in this world there are many style preferences but regardless of the style you prefer, the design process and concepts apply and understanding the concepts of good design will improve your decisions. And, YEAH!!! there is help for ALL. The recently released book by Margie Deeb will inform and educate you, give you a vocabulary for your thoughts and improve your design decisions.

In the book description: “Here, finally, is a must-have guidebook to the fundamental principles of visual design. Focusing on jewelry, it helps beaders explore concepts such as unity, scale, proportion, balance, rhythm, volume, shape, pattern, texture, movement, drape, and color in their work.”

And from the review by Jean Yates (Amazon Top Reviewer): “If you want to learn more about the world, more about jewelry, more about yourself, and more about the beauty that is all around us and that we can understand and enhance our own creations with, get this book. There is absolutely no way you can resist this book if you love learning and you love jewelry!”

This is not a book with projects. It’s better. It is about every project you have ever done and will ever do in the future.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Different Way to Look At Needles

Beading needles are an essential part of beading, there is no argument there. I have often seen lots of discussions about the “best” needle. Some people love the John James brand, other beaders are faithful to the Pony brand, and still others love the price and use the Lance brand. I’ve noticed that most suppliers tell you the brand because they know it matters. And oh how those John James lovers are questioning their product. So, here’s the scoop on John James. In the past, all the needles were produced in England, then they got a factory in China. I for one loved the old needles and do NOT like the new ones… they just break in half Frequently. The needles made in England have a dragon logo on the package and the ones from China have a lotus flower on the package. So, if you have some with the dragon… yeah!

And when a new brand comes out with a needle, there is always lots of excitement. When Tulip needles came out, there was an immediate buzz… finally a needle that doesn’t get bent easily! This is simply not an issue for me, but I can see that many beaders value this as a criteria. (Personally, I look at my bent needles with the same fondness I have for my grey hairs!)

This discussion is not about which brand is best, that is a personal choice. But what I do want to offer for your consideration is to look at needles as a tool. The following is an excerpt from my new book Bead Play with Fringe:

“When beading with size 11/0 seed beads, the favorite needle size to use is a size 12. If you only want to stock one size needle in your stash, that is the recommended size. Another way to view needles is that they are a “tool” and having a variety of sizes including 10, 12 and 13 is useful. A size 10 needle is easier to thread and hold so use it to start projects. The added advantage of using a larger needle is that it will help cull out any beads with small holes since the needle won’t easily fit. This is especially true when later steps call for stitching through the beads again. Switch to a Size 12 needle when you perform the latter steps which call for stitching through beads several times. Have some size 13 needles available to use when you need to stitch through a bead again, but it is too tight for a size 12 needle. Replacing the needle to change the size is easy when working with single thread. If a process calls for doubled thread, just use the smaller size needle (size 12) since you can’t change the needle as you bead.”

The point here is that your beading tool box will have many sizes of needles in it and you would choose your needle depending upon what you were doing. In the past, I stocked and used a size 12 needle only. After all, isn’t that what beading projects call for? However I changed my perspective seeing the needle as a tool. So I expanded my inventory of needles (this is not expensive) including the other sizes (I even have some size 15 needles just in case. I haven’t used them yet but I know that when I need them that they will be there). When I am beading, I don’t just automatically pull out a needle. Instead, I’ll think about what stitch I am doing, or what I am making and choose the best needle for the task. As a general rule, I want to use that size 10 needle simply because it is so easy to thread. It helps to cull beads with a too small hole and is easy and comfortable to hold.

Another aspect of my “needle toolbox” is that I have different types of needles and lengths. So, I have some Big Eye needles. I use these when I need to weave in two tails and the holes of the beads are large enough to accommodate them. Big Eye needles let me thread both tail threads at one time – fast and easy. (I’m all for anything that saves me time!). Another needle I have is a 4 inch needle. Yes that is super long but I have had instances where I needed to go through beads that are longer than the average needle. I don’t like it when I have to stop working on a project and purchase something to be able to finish it… so I keep them in stock.

Needles=Tool. I hope this helps you in your beading life!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Been awhile right? I’ve been busy and here is why! …. I've been working on my new book which has just been listed on Amazon. The title is Bead Play with Fringe and it includes techniques, design and projects.

If you are having trouble finding it, just search for: Jamie Cloud Eakin and it will display all my books.

For the last 20 years I have been waiting for this book. I thought someone else would write it, but that just didn’t happen. I was complaining that there wasn’t a reference book for fringe, you know, one that you would keep next to your work table, with all the styles and instructions in one easy place. I find reference materials to be very valuable to keep nearby. This helps me as I design so that my work stays fresh and interesting, so I don’t just keep doing the same thing all the time. It is very easy to fall into that trap. After all, it is comfortable and convenient to do something you have done many times before. However, this also can put you into a trap….

As I’m complaining a friend said “So write one.” Picture the hand hitting the forehead like in the V-8 commercials…..

So I did.

This really is a reference book (totally not a coffee table book). There are all the favorite fringe styles plus many you are not familiar with. Since my motivation is to raise the beading IQ for people who read my books, you can be sure there are lots of illustrations, tips, and of course designing issues are discussed.

Monday, December 23, 2013

An Example of the Design Process

There is no single correct way to embark on a design.

Most of the time, I start with a bead, cabochon, or other component that is the kicker in my design process. Another favorite of mine is a “challenge”… this can be wanting to use a particular technique or stitch, or include a type of bead or other non-typical component in bead embroidery. These approaches are fun to play in the “what if” and “let’s try” area of my imagination. I supplement the imagination process with pencil and paper and/or moving beads around my bead mat and it’s a generally good time! The particular design I am going to talk about today is a combination of these approaches.

The start of this design was actually a bead embroidered cuff bracelet I saw that was done on leather. There was a center cluster design and much of the leather was left open, a style I refer to as “relief beading”. This term is borrowed from printing crafts where protruding surface faces of the printing plate or block are inked while the recessed areas are ink free. Or, as it relates to bead embroidery, there are places where beads are applied, but also areas that are left bead free. As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of this primarily because I am suspicious of the sustainability of that open surface to remain clean and look good over a long period of time. However, it is an interesting technique with a unique look. The bracelet I saw was left open (unbeaded) to the edge and as a result, threads from stitching on the edge row were on display. Let’s just say I am NOT a fan of seeing threads when they are not a part of the design but simply a part of the construction process.

The threads bothered me. But I also know seeing things in person can be a totally different experience than seeing a picture of the same thing. I needed to do one myself and see this thread issue in person to really decide. While I was checking in with looking for sales on ultrasuede and I saw some “Faux Leather Look synthetic fabric” (like a vinyl) in burgundy that was interesting and a good price. I ordered. The good and bad thing about this vinyl was it was thin…. So it was easy to get a needle through it but was floppy so it would be difficult to manage tension while beading. Since I was going to do a metal cuff insert, I decided to leave it raw and bead it. Here is the bracelet:

This experiment was really about how I felt looking at this edge with the threads; to judge it in person so to speak. I decided I actually don’t like seeing the threads but, on the other hand, if the thread color is a good match it isn’t terribly offensive either, so it’s a judgment call. I think the obvious solution is to do a row of backstitch on the edge which will hide the threads. Technically, this would best be done before adding the backing and edge row but could also be done after… if you worked very carefully so the backside didn’t have lots of thread showing.

My goodness that piece I bought is big…. What to do with it?

I’ve had a design rumbling around in my head that might be a fun way to use this material. The design is a paneled collar. One of the things I tried to convey in Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects (BEJP) is a vocabulary and thought process for categories or types of designs. I find it useful to run through types of designs (pendant, totem, collar, bib, pieced collar, panel collar, etc.) in my search for what design to do. It isn’t unusual for me to first select the type of design and refine it from there. I love the concept of a paneled collar (pg 52); distinct design areas, comfortable to wear and doesn’t retain heat like a full collar. I want to take this concept and explore different shapes for the panels. In fact my head is seeing shapes so different from the project on pg 52, that, even though that's the design concept I want to use, I didn’t use it to develop my panels. Instead I drew a collar like on pg 80 and I reviewed the lesson for cut-outs on pg 91 and I’m ready. My plan is to attach the panels like the project on pg 52 so I don’t adhere strictly to the cut-out instructions.

Here is my design:

In terms of construction, the faux leather base material is very thin and, in my judgment, too thin to support my beading plan. So I first attach thin-weight ultra-suede to the back. I used SoFro fabric glue to attach it because it is a very thin runny glue which I knew I could spread very thin and it would stick. It worked great. Getting a needle through it was easier than some leathers I’ve worked with. You can see from the finished necklace that I did a row of backstitch around the edge to hide the threads from the edge beading and also hide the threads where the panels were attached to each other. I selected the sunshine edge stitch (aka brick stitch edge) for the edge for two reasons. First of all, that edge technique results in a stiffer final beadwork piece and I wanted that stiffness. Second, while I planned to combine only at the top, I wanted to have the option to stitch combination sections all the way down the panels and I didn’t want to decide till the end. I could have used the clean edge, but that is not as stiff and it doesn’t provide for a good base for combination. A raw sunshine edge is not optimal but, since this is a necklace it is acceptable and it has other advantages as previously mentioned.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fried Brain Beading

What do you do when your brain is fried? Beading can be therapeutic as I’ve written before but a fried brain presents unique problems. First, let me explain what I mean by a “fried brain”. This is typically a result of extreme stress, the kind that happens when very important things in your life are not going well like disasters, health issues for loved ones, beloved pets are sick, etc. You feel like your adrenaline is on high alert, your stomach keeps doing summersaults, and you are generally on edge. Beading can provide a refuge and a way to calm your mood and mind. But, if you are like me, you “bead your own thing”. Even if you are following a pattern, there are many changes, the least of which is color. But when your brain is fried it is difficult if not impossible to make good design decisions (at least for me). I know from the past that I have a strong tendency to make bad decisions when I am in this condition. So…. What to do?
I know that doing beadwork will help my stress level and be a calming influence so I Really Want to bead! Here was my solution.

First, I go through my stash and pick something I like and will enjoy working with. I have numerous strands of chevron amethyst in many shapes of puffed, flat beads. I selected an assortment of these in various sizes and shapes. For the surrounding beadwork, I am going to stay monochromatic in purple and include a gold metallic accent. (easy, safe decisions here…)

Next, as far as what I want to create, I know it needs to be something on the large side; a bib or collar type of large. Why? Because I want it to be a big project. I want it to take time. This needs to occupy me for a while because I know this brain-fry won’t be leaving soon….

So, with these parameters, I am going to rely on the tip in the asymmetrical bib project (pg 93) in Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects. This tip says that you can start with a bib shape and fit the focals (which requires planning)…. OR… start with a collection of focals and see what shape that presents (no planning). No-planning sounds just right for me now so that is where I start, my selection of chevron amethyst focals. I have roughly 15 of them selected and most of them are on the large side (30 to 40mm). I will bead each of these as separate components and worry about how this will all work later. This helps with two things. First, I can easily create each component so there is a satisfying comfort level there. I can just enjoy the process. Second I get a steady sense of accomplishment as I complete each component. I can spend my time in a comfort level and delay any design decisions until I think I am ready for them.

You may think I need to plan this out but I don’t. Once I have all my components done I’ll work on how it is all going to be assembled. If my design requires a few more, I can make more. If I have leftover components, they can easily be worked into other items (as mentioned in the discussion of pieced totems vs consolidated backing totems, pg 37 the last point). As such, I have a sense of freedom and relief from making a bad decision! How great… I don’t have to “work smart”!

This was great therapy, with my beading providing a refuge from chaos and stress. Finally I had the components beaded. I grabbed my neck form page (pg 12) and played with layouts. Originally I wanted to do something asymmetrical, but I think my objective in providing some order into my life over-rode that. So here is my creation. I am pleased with it.

Just in case you were doing the math, I did have 2 pieces left over….. which were two 30mm round pieces. So here is what I did with them ( you may recognize they are variations of projects on pgs 34 and 45).

If you do bead embroidery, you can duplicate this process. If you don’t do bead embroidery, you can still bead with a fried brain… simply pick one of your favorite beaded bead or other component style beading projects and do a bunch of the parts. Assemble them later when your brain can handle it and your journey will often help to get your brain un-fried faster than if you weren’t beading.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Change your design approach

Changing how you approach your design process can help you in your creative process. It is very typical in bead embroidery to start with an amazing focal and create a design to use it. Whether that focal is a cabochon, a large bead, shell or other wonderful object, it is the source of focus and inspiration. In fact, the ability of bead embroidery techniques to create a fabulous jewelry piece using this approach is what gets many people learning bead embroidery. This type of beading celebrates the unique and provides a vehicle to showcase that amazing thing you have.

While this is the standard starting point, it is certainly not the only one. So, for a design exercise, try a different approach and start by selecting a strand of beads. You know what I mean, that strand you saw, loved and had to buy (sometimes even though it was too expensive!). That strand. The one that you have, but haven’t used yet. Yes, start with that. The project on pg 23 in Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects does just that.

So, for this necklace, the start was a beautiful strand of flat oval millefiori beads. These beads dictated the color palette and completely influenced the design from choosing a simple pendant type of necklace (they said I’m the STAR, let ME shine, don’t compete with me), to the selection of the flower bezel technique (millefiori=thousand flowers), to finally the subtle Side Petal Edge. The result is a necklace that is easily wearable, soft and feminine.

For my second example, I start with a strand of 8mm round beads made of magnesite chips in resin. Hot, bold….the red was screaming at me! Again, since there was so much pattern in the beads, I selected a solid color cabochon (mountain jade dyed a deep red) and 8mm buri nut round beads. I selected a Twisted Bezel to introduce texture around the bold red cabochon and used some white seed beads in the surrounding rows to mimic the chips in my inspiration bead strand. I finished with a Side Petal edge and attached with a Herringbone Loop, side variation. My bold design will look absolutely fabulous on a white top and is even bold enough to handle a top with a pattern in the fabric.

In my next example I selected an Amazonite Fan bead strand. I want to focus the fan in the center, emphasize the fan shape (not use it on a bead embroidered surface). So, I chose a design variation of the project on pg 97. That project is asymmetrical, but I chose to do it as a symmetrical piece. I filled in with other Amazonite beads and Tiger Eye. Here is my design and the project I based it on.

In the next example I started with a strand of small sea urchin shells. There are many colors in these shells, but I selected the rust tones, copper, and plum. I ignore the white in the shell. This is often an effective approach (ignoring) when there are many colors. Again, this design is based on the approach in the previous mentioned project on pg 97. And, oh my, I had some left over... so of course a new design.

Oh how I love coral sticks! Often they are top drilled, but I got a strand of center drilled…. Yes, excitement that means I NEED to use ‘em! What could be better that accenting with turquoise and blending with orange calcite? I strung the necklace strand first and then worked and decided on the rest of the design. This looks so good on my chocolate brown sweater I could eat it!

Genuine stone chips are easy to find, buy and they are economical. Personally, I love the organic look they give… every chip is a little different…. freedom. However, since some are fat, others skinny, it can be challenging to use them in designs. The solution is to create designs with some freedom with the form. This piece started with a strand of New Jade chips adding in black for accent and wardrobe wear ability. It is an interpretation of the Midnight Waterfall necklace in Dimensional Bead Embroidery pg 123.

Ok, here is my point. Sometimes to kick our creative juices into a flow it is helpful to change up your approach. So stop staring at that cabochon and wondering what you are going to do with it. Instead, take a break, grab a strand of beads that you love and start the juices flowing! Get in touch with your inner stringer and honor the strand. Work it into a design and let this change in approach open your creative eye.