Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Beaders are Collectors

Beaders collect.  The most common situation is collecting beads!  You get a storage solution and organization…. and then find you have out grown it.  And this can happen pretty fast.  Then you redesign your storage and often your collection out grows that too.  Congratuations! You are a Beader!!!!  

Collecting beads is fun and allows us to play with those marvelous objects.  And, then there is that wonderful time when you have a project in mind and …. lo and behold!  all the beads you need for it are in your stash!   No delay for shopping or collecting, you just BEAD ON! 

Another collection for many beaders (including me) is to collect bead SKILLS.  When you start, the first skill to master is the dreaded “threading a beading needle”!  Let’s be honest, it is a skill and happiness is achieved when it is mastered.  There are standard stitches like peyote, brick, ladder, right angle weave and on and on.  We want to experience each one.  Live it, add it to our skills tool box, and move on to the next one.  We marvel at what can be achieved simply with some beads and thread. 

Then there are beading processes which necessitate other things.  By this I mean loom work which requires a tool (the loom) and the skills needed to work with that tool.  Another process is bead embroidery which requires materials other than just beads and thread.  There is a process with bead embroidery and steps to take in the journey that is beyond just mastering the stitches used. 

The fabulous thing about taking this journey of collecting skills is the confidence it provides us.  Not every stitch or process is easy and some are just tricky to learn for some people.  But we push through the difficult ones and, in the end, add it to our list of accomplishments.  We also learn which stitches or techniques are more fun to us.  Some beaders like the rhythm and pace of one stitch, other beaders are more enamored of a different stitch or process.  We learn what appeals most to us as an individual beader by taking this “skills collecting” journey. 

And through it all, we CREATE!   and we smile…….

So, if you want to improve or expand your skills with creating beaded fringe, You can join me in a live webinar  “Fringe Glorious Fringe – Techniques for Creating Stunning Beaded Fringe” on March 10.  Click on the link for more details and to sign up.

You can also read my new book:  Bead Play with Fringe – Techniques, Design and Projects available on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cost/Benefit of Bead Projects

What do you mean “Cost / Benefit of Bead Projects”?  Hey, beading is fun and using math and financial terms like “cost/benefit” just doesn’t seem right……………

Oh but it sometimes is!   When you make a project, there is the cost of the beads and your time.  The cost of the beads can’t be argued.  And your Time????  Actually, this can be a high cost if the time to create is LONG.  But, let’s review this.  IF you are having a great time doing it, IF you are enjoying yourself,  IF you want to do it versus anything else.  IF it is your hobby.  Then that cost is either 0 (zero) or negative. If, however, you are doing this to support yourself (it is your job), then your time always matters.

So here is my story in explanation.  We had hired a temporary clerk to catch up on some filing that was way overdue.  After a few hours she came into my office and wearily complained “This is Work!”.  I looked at her and calmly explained “Yes.  It is work and that is why we pay you. Because, if it was fun, You would be paying US.” (ok I may have had a bit of sarcasm in my voice….. but only a bit).  She seemed surprised at that as if that notion had never occurred to her.  Did I mention she did not return from lunch? 

Anyway my point is that regardless of time spent, if you are having fun and enjoying it, then that fact matters.  How much time you spend actually matters too.  In all honesty, I see some projects and I always evaluate how much I like it versus how much time it will take.  There are certain techniques and stitches that I don’t really enjoy doing,  so I would REALLY have to love the end product.  That evaluation helps me to make better decisions regarding “do I want to do this”.   After you’ve been beading long enough, you will invariably do a project that, while you love the end result, you proudly proclaim  “I’m NEVER doing That again!”.  When you get better at your cost/benefit analysis, then you probably can avoid this (and have fewer UFOs those unfinished projects…). 

In honor of the season.
Because you have little time and lots of presents to make
and I’m Honoring the Pay it Forward beaders are doing now

I am putting a free BEST COST/BENEFIT EVER project on my website. (at the top).  It is a simple Chevron stitch bracelet.  You can make Many really fast.  But by using great beads, changing up the shapes and colors, you can create a wonderful variety of bracelets that you can sell or give as gifts.  Cuz they work up really fast.  Cuz they have a wonderful “wow” factor.
Get this now, I don’t know how long I will leave it there. 
And have a Great Holiday Season!!!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Travel in the Beading Universe

How big is beading?  It is an entire universe and I for one intend to travel all of it!   What I love is that this universe keeps growing.  Oh sure, if you’ve seen discussions about design theft, etc , you will invariable get at least one person who proclaims that nothing is really new, unique and it’s all been done before in some way.  Well, if you are speaking in an esoteric philosophical or religious sense then sure.  Otherwise that is nonsense.  Stitches are not copyrighted and many stitches have been around for hundreds of years.  BUT what is also true is that the technology surrounding the making of beads is dramatically different than a hundred years ago.  The increase in the hole size and better uniformity of shape has presented opportunities for designs that simply were not possible long ago.  Not to mention all the new bead shapes, two holes, etc.     YOWZA is this a fun universe or what ?!?!

My exploration of the beading universe is not only as a collector of beads but as an explorer of techniques.  For me (and I suspect many others) this exploration is a critical part of the joy and success in the beading universe.   For example, I believe it is important to explore each planet…  planet peyote, planet brick stitch, planet right-angle-weave,  planet bead embroidery, etc.  You get the picture.  Each planet has its own recreational facilities, atmosphere and challenges.  Go to each planet and stay there for a while until you learn the language and rules of its society.  You may want to stay there a long time and investigate each and every part of that planet.  You may enjoy it sooo much that you want to take up permanent residence (yes I live on planet bead embroidery!).  Or, you can simply take that knowledge and move on. 

Even if you choose to take up residence on one planet, it will help you to take vacations and explore ALL the planets.  The skills you learn in these other areas are never lost.  They may help you improve your needle or thread skills, bead color selection, or even design issues.  And, you might enjoy yourself so much that you want dual residency on that other planet!  The process of learning is a valuable process in and of itself.  You learn to push through difficulties and can celebrate success.  Even if you choose to never go back to that planet (you simply didn’t enjoy that particular process) you have the confidence of knowledge about it.  It’s your beading and your choice!  

And let’s not forget the “moons” of the planets….and by that I mean the techniques that cross all planets like fringe, embellishment techniques, basic construction methods etc.   Sure, you can think of each of these as separate planets just don’t forget these areas to improve your knowledge and expertise.  And of course to have Fun!

I have my travel itinerary,  do you have yours?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Party on with All Colors

Like most beaders- I love color.
Like most beaders- I tend to use some colors more than others.
Like most beaders- I tend to avoid some colors more than others.

Hey!  That is OK!!!! 
Beading is something that I love to do so it only natural that I tend to use the colors I like the most rather than other colors.  I enjoy these more, so I let myself party-on!   If and when you want to branch out to other colors, there are many resources to help you do this (My personal favorite is The Beaders Color Palette by Margie Deeb).  Or you can simply test and investigate yourself. 

So what is the point?  My point here is to use colors you love and enjoy yourself.  Yes, there are groups of people who will give you a set of colors like the Pantone colors for the season.  And, they will also name a color of the year.  You will start to see these colors in the stores as you buy new clothing, but you will also see the colors for last season and the season before.  With all of these choices, chances are pretty good you will find something in a color you like and can wear.  These declared colors are taken as “direction” by clothing designers and manufacturers….. but, as a beader, You can use these colors or IGNORE them, it is all up to you.  But there is also another key point I want to make……

I hear far too many times a beader lament that they really love a color BUT it isn’t a color they can wear.  Therefore they don’t use that color in their beadwork.  Recently an intense tangerine orange was the color of the year and even more recently was an orchid/lavender color.  Personally I look terrible in both those colors.  You know what I’m talking about:  when you find many people asking you if you are tired or sick?   You are actually feeling pretty good, but the colors do not play well with your complexion or hair color.   Most people have experienced this, and so they simply avoid that color altogether.  Let me just say “NONSENSE” people!   This is Jewelry so you can use and wear anything you love!   So, unless you are running around naked except for your jewelry then you can wear that color… In Jewelry.   Don’t buy a sweater in that color or a t-shirt.  But ABSOLUTELY you can wear a beaded necklace or bracelet in that color. 

The framing of your face, the reflection off whatever top/blouse you are wearing is much more heavily influenced by your clothing leaving you free to have fun with that “forbidden” color with your jewelry.  If nothing else, get a cream, eggshell, white, or pale grey that looks good with your complexion, then wear jewelry in that orange or orchid (or whatever color is terrible on you) with that sweater.  You will feel wonderful and get compliments… and you won’t be depriving yourself of having a good time with a color you love.

Conclusion:   Party on with your beadwork and jewelry… the world of ALL colors is your oyster! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Genuine Stones and the Games they Play

I love gemstones.  I have my favorites that seem to have an ability to charm and enchant me such that I can just stare at them in a hypnotic trance.  I have been using genuine stones for decades and still am excited about them.  It seems there are always new discoveries, new stones, new looks.   Gemstones/genuine stones have a learning curve like most things in life.  You learn to recognize them by name and the learning grows and continues.  But here are some things I’ve observed that you might find useful if you are new to using genuine stones in your beading or you just love them.

Most stones are enhanced.  Typically, they are dyed to bring out the color or smooth it by coloring areas that are lighter.  Some stones take dye very well and this is not an issue related to the future appearance, the dye permeates the stone and it will look the same today as 50 years in the future.  Others don’t take dye as well and if exposed to sunlight (like in a window display in a store) may change the color by either fading or changing the hue.  Unfortunately dyed stones are almost impossible to avoid since there is no requirement to label the stones as dyed.  And sometimes it doesn’t matter since the dye is so permanent.  I have observed that dyes that are pinks, reds, and purples tend to be the most sensitive to sunlight exposure.  And… one of my general rules is:  If the stone is pink (especially hot pink), bright red, or purple AND if it isn’t super expensive, then the color is a result of a dye.  This is because nature rarely produces these colors so while they do exist, they are really expensive.  (lol, my general rule is if I can afford it, it probably is not natural!).  

Only gemstone grade garnets are natural.  ALL other garnets are dyed.  Always wash any garnet beads in soapy water before using them in your designs.  If you don’t, you will find any neck sweat will quickly turn your neck red…

Labels Labels Labels.  As I said before there is no requirement about labeling stones as dyed or enhanced in any way.  You can purchase your stones from a trusted source, but I have found issues there too… They can only report what they know and sometimes they simply are not told the truth.  So, it is not a bad idea to wash every stone strand you purchase in soapy water….  Or, do as I do: wash all garnets, wash all pinks and purples, and wash anything else that I have even a suspicion of.  It won’t hurt the stones and could be a help.  If you see the water tinting to a color, you know you were right!

Names of stones:
This is a pet peeve of mine, but I also recognize it is a complicated area.  So, first let me explain the complication.  A stone is scientifically identified by its molecular components. It has a MOH (hardness) rating and a structure for the stone.  Quartz for example has a crystalline structure. You can take the same recipe of stuff that is in quartz and lab-create something… the problem is that it won’t have the crystalline structure which typically can only be tested by crushing the piece.  This became an issue with Strawberry Quartz which is a natural stone BUT is very expensive and was re-created in glass and labeled as “Strawberry Quartz” in quotes.  But the quotes typically didn’t make it on the label.  Many stores/suppliers began to call these created pieces Strawberry Quartz Glass but not all did.  This is one type of complication.

Another type is the “assembled” type of complication.  The best example of this is amber.  Amber is very soft.  When you carve or otherwise shape a piece of amber into a round bead or other form, then there are leftover shavings/scraps.  You can take these scraps and press them together is form a new piece of amber.  This is “reconstituted” amber.   Natural amber and reconstituted amber are both expensive (it’s amber after all…. ) and you have no way of proving that reconstituted amber is not natural, there is no test that differentiates the two. So trust in your supplier is the key here.  While both are expensive, natural amber is even more expensive. 

This same issue is involved with turquoise versus chalk turquoise.  Turquoise is an extremely soft stone, therefore it is always permeated with a resin.  If it wasn’t, it would simply crumble.  So, natural turquoise bead or cabs are made of turquoise and resin.  Chalk turquoise is the remnants, of carving/shaping turquoise and is infused with resin and reconstituted.  Typically, dye is also added.  If you do a chemical test on each you get the same answer: turquoise with resin.  And there is no requirement to label chalk turquoise as chalk turquoise versus just saying turquoise.  If this matters to you, then check with your supplier but keep in mind, they may have been misled too. 

Another complicated factor is that some stones scientifically are one stone but can have many appearances.  Probably the best example of this is Serpentine.  So, from a practical point of view for beaders, it isn’t helpful or useful to call it all Serpentine when one piece looks so different from another.  Therefore, Serpentine has nick-names depending on its appearance.   Yellow Turquoise, New Jade, and Olive Jade are all examples of Serpentine.  This is NOT Turquoise that is yellow any more than it is Jade.  Again, these names are in “quotes” but the quotes get left off, they are all Serpentine.   Rhyolite is another stone with many appearances and has nicknames for the various looks such as Rain Forest Jasper and Noondrite.

So, this brings me to a pet peeve of mine.  You will quickly notice that nicknames and new names for stones (you find it, you name it) are intentionally misleading.  Key words people use are jade and opal because there is a familiarity and general belief in the value of these stones.  So, call Serpentine “New Jade” or brown-green chalcedony “Green Opal”.  This elevates people’s opinion of the stone but it is not real.   I at least understand a certain need here to more adequately describe the appearance of a stone, but in the case of “Blue Labradorite” there is no such need.  This is actually Larvikite and is mined in only one area…. it has only ONE appearance and this nick-name is solely (IMHO) to mislead.

So now I will get off my soapbox (which is carved chalk turquoise with inlaid mother of pearl – gorgeous!)  and hope you have learned a few things.  Remember, you can always do some web-searching to explore or learn… just do it with a lapidary or scientific site that doesn’t sell anything so they have no other motivations.