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.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Design versus Style

Often these words are used interchangeably but that is not really correct, they are actually very different.

Design is:
“The elements and principles of design are the building blocks used to create a work of art. The elements of design can be thought of as the things that make up a painting, drawing, design etc. Good or bad - all paintings will contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design. The Principles of design can be thought of as what we do to the elements of design. How we apply the Principles of design determines how successful we are in creating a work of art.” As quoted from

The important point here is that this is more like a science with rules and concepts. You can learn about design by searching the internet, taking college or other courses in school. And, specifically for jewelry and beading, Margie Deeb has great books Beaders Guide to Color and The Beaders Color Palette that go in depth about one of the principles of design: color. So, just to tease you, I understand from Margie that she has a new book coming out next year about the other concepts in design specifically as they relate to jewelry! (me, I can hardly wait….)

Style is completely different. Style is more about emotion and personality. Examples work best here…. Masters of Style in bead embroidery include Sherry Serafini and Heidi Kummli and I doubt any would disagree. When you see a piece done by either of these two masters, you instantly recognize their creations. Their respective books (Sherry Serafini’s Sensational Bead Embroidery and Heidi Kummli's The Spirit of Bead Embroidery) and their joint endeavor (The Art of Bead Embroidery) show you how to duplicate their styles. But what I find more elevating is how they encourage you to use that as a starting point and grow on your own, develop your own style.

There are many styles – Victorian, grunge, western, contemporary, conservative, many different ethnics, ad infinitum…. Pure versions of any of these are usually easily recognizable. And of course there are blends. What is your style? How would you describe your wardrobe? Crafting a style that is all you and recognizable instantly is an art and often more difficult than you think. Human nature leads us to duplicate what we see, especially when learning. This is easiest to see in the master painters or potters and their students. The students work looks like the master until as time goes by, they develop their own unique twists and attributes. That is the goal, to become a master on their own.

So, I claim I don’t have a recognizable style. Friends have argued with me about this and claim they always can recognize my work. So here are some pieces out in the web world.

My contention is if you think the same person did those, then that person has multiple-personality-syndrome or is schizophrenic. Then they claim that there is a perfection of execution that is recognizable. Ok, flatter me and I’ll relent! But I still say there isn’t one “style”, I’m all over the place and this is on purpose. I’ve tried to spread the joy of the craft of bead embroidery and I want to talk to everyone, no matter their personal taste, and so I’ll channel someone else and do a design from their point of view. I’m trying to make it easier for students to find their own voice by muting mine.

So… why is this on my mind? You may know I have a new book Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects – Design and Construction, Ideas and Inspiration that has just been released. Each project/project variation was selected to teach/instruct about a principle of design or methodology in construction. Honestly, I don’t meet many bead embroidery people who want to exactly duplicate a project by someone else; rather they want to put their own spin, colors, focal selection, etc. in the design. So, the projects are made also as easy springboards for you to do just that. If you want to duplicate a project to concentrate on your technique then the instructions are there for you to do just that.

And, key to this is what I say in Exercise 2 on page 11… “Spend time looking at designs you don’t like….. What exactly is wrong…. … What changes would you make that could turn the necklace into one that you liked?” This will help you enormously to develop your own style. Maybe the point here is to pick the project you like least! That may help you grow the most.

I’ve seen negative reviews on this book, Sherry’s book and Heidi’s book and it is almost funny. They say they don’t like the projects. If you want to duplicate projects, then you should look at a book first to see if there are projects you want to duplicate. Isn’t that just common sense and true of any bead book? That isn’t the fault of the book, it’s your fault. Now, if the instructions and advice had errors, then that is the books fault but none of that is alleged in the reviews.

But if you want, instead, to learn processes, design concepts, and meanings from generous artists to help you grow as an artist and craftsperson, then just get these books and Absorb the wonderful information.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Unconscious Desiging Part 3

The Edge of Design

In the prior blogs in this series, I discussed unconscious designing from the point of view of the Whole piece and the surface design choices. Now it’s time to discuss the edge.

First, let’s discuss one design choice I’ve seen which is No edge beadwork, simply gluing the outer backing on and cutting it. Or, maybe even doing a whipstitch stitching the backing to the outerbacking. I’ve seen this justified by the mention that the surface beading goes all the way to the edge. This is an unacceptable justification since all surface beading should be all the way to the edge. The backing and outerbacking edges are NOT attractive. Edge beading covers it. If you want a good design, you must do edge beadwork, it is as simple as that. Look at how people examine a piece of jewelry – they look at the back, they look at the side and of course the front. To pretend that the front of the piece is the ONLY part that matters is, well, wrong. Unless you don’t care about the quality of your design (which in that case you can just stop reading).

The excellent designs that I have seen consider the piece as a whole with attention to each part of the piece, including technique choices within the surface, AND are designed for the entire piece, including the edge. The problem I see with many bead embroidery jewelry designs is that they just stopped at a raw edge (aka sunshine edge, or brick stitch edge). There are so many techniques for adding beads on to a raw edge. This completion of the design can provide for color balancing, and a frame that blends and completes the entire piece instead of just Stopping (which is what a raw edge does).

So, when does a raw edge work? If the design is linear, strong, clean, contemporary and bold and if the thread color completely matches the beads on the edge, then a raw edge can be the best design choice. However, even with these criteria, you should review the other edge techniques that are applied to a raw edge to see if the design could be elevated with use of another technique.

Another criteria is that the piece MUST be a necklace. Yes, the only type of jewelry that a raw edge is an acceptable design criteria is a necklace.

In other words, NEVER use the raw edge as a final edge on earrings or a bracelet. Yes you see it A LOT, and yes there are famous excellent teachers who do this. I’m saying: That doesn’t make it right. So, let me explain. When this edge is used on a necklace, it sits firmly on the body. The view of the edge showing the bead holes and thread is very limited. That limitation is important because the view of the holes and thread is simply NOT attractive. And if you think it is, then you are just accepting it and not making a conscious, critical evaluation, which is understandable since it is so prevalent and taught as the main edge by almost everyone. Take a minute and look at this edge trying to see it anew, really, it’s not very pretty…. So since you can’t see much of that view on a necklace, it is acceptable to use it.

That is not the case with a bracelet or earrings. The edge is Very visible.

There is a secondary reason to NOT use this edge on bracelets and earrings. When thread is exposed, it is vulnerable for breaking from wear and tear. This is a main tenant of ALL types of beadwork, to hide the thread, not only from an attractiveness point of view but a safety of construction perspective. And, let’s be honest - earrings are worn near the face, and faces often have makeup on them. Any rubbing of the earring on the face (dandle earrings, normal movement) can soil the thread. Ick.

So what is a conscious designer supposed to do?
1. Use the Clean Edge stitch instead of the raw edge. This provides the same lines and smooth design but the beads are turned so the hole doesn’t show. It provides for the same design line, but is attractive.
2. Add an edge technique on the raw edge. If you have a piece already made that you want to fix AND you still want a smooth clean line for the edge, use the Turn Bead Edge (pg 25 in Beading with Cabochons) with size 15 beads. This edge is performed like doing a backstitch on the edge. Use 15’s so you don’t change the size of the piece very much.
3. When you are making your design choices at the very start of the design process, include a consideration for the edge.

Creating good designs is not just about the colors you use, or the beads and components. It involves every aspect of your creation. First I wanted to create awareness which is what this series of blogs was intended to do.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Unconscious Designing Part 2

In the last post on “Unconscious Designing” I talked about design issues caused by the failure to look at the piece as a whole. This discussion centers in on the bead embroidered portion. I have a premise here which is “techniques are tools designers use to create”. My essential point is that designs are not just about the beads and focals, nor just about the color palette. Yes, those elements are critical aspects but it is also about how these are all assembled. The stitches and techniques selected and used are an integral and important part of the design.

When I see a design failure, it is most often pieces that constructed entirely of a peyote bezel and backstitch. While those techniques are enormously useful in creating bead embroidery, if those are the ONLY and ALWAYS used techniques in Every creation, then there is cause to investigate and consider “unconscious designing”. Yes, those can work in a design, my point is they don’t work in Every design, yet some beaders do just that. It almost seems that some designs are made with more thought about “How I do this stitch in this instance” than giving any thought to “Should I use this stitch in this instance”. Conscious designing always includes the “should I” question.

One of my sensitivities is the Always use of a peyote bezel. In reality, MANY designs start with an amazing focal (bead, cabochon, donut, button, etc). This focal was often purchased at a dear price, and is clearly the focus not only of the jewelry piece, but the focus of the inspiration of the beader. When a peyote bezel is used… and it covers more of the focal than other techniques and its design is not smooth so it “fights” with the focal for attention. Probably the worst is when it invades into the picture area of some focal (eg covers the hair of a cameo, pokes the eye on a face, or covers the ears of an animal). I see other focals that are amazing, beautiful stones that I know cost a pretty penny, yet, a peyote bezel was used and covers much of the surface. I am actually mystified by the choice of using this particular technique for these focals and the only way I can make sense of it is to attribute it to unconscious designing. There was no “choice” to use this technique because no thought at all was given to alternatives, this technique is just always used.

So, back to my premise “techniques are tools designers use to create”. This is also like “knowledge is power”. When you expand your tool chest to include a variety of techniques, this will improve your designs because you can make conscious choices and choose a technique that enhances the appearance. You can look at each focal and each square inch of the surface and identify what you want to accomplish. Think about the best way to bezel to make the focal the star. Think about how you want the eye to travel over the surface of the beadwork design. Create interest not only by the surface lines but also the surface highs and lows (topography).

It’s your design, make it your choice….. not a default.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Unconcious Designing Part 1

Are you an Unconscious Designer?

First let me say, this blog may sound like criticism, but it is meant to be helpful.  So, now that I’ve explained my motivation, put any hurt feelings aside and let’s talk. And while this discussion relates primarily to bead embroidery designs, it can have application to other bead techniques. 

The most common design error I see with bead embroidered designs is a lack of proportion.  Good design concepts include PROPORTION AND BALANCE.

“Proportion is the relationship of two or more elements in a design and how they compare with one another. Proportion is said to be harmonious when a correct or desirable relationship exists between the elements with respect to size, color, quantity, degree, or setting. Good proportion adds harmony, symmetry, or balance among the parts of a design.”  From

 Sure, you can bend the rules to achieve a shock with a design, but the pieces I see that violate this design concept aren’t trying to do that. 

There are two commonly seen errors:  One is a bead embroidered pendant type design that is hanging from a tiny strand of beads.  The other is when joining bead embroidered sections and using a tiny design for the connection point(s).  I totally understand that the construction may be sufficient such that the piece will not fall apart (strong thread, numerous stitches)  BUT…..

 it LOOKS like it will fall apart!

The only explanation I have for these designs is that the designer was so focused on the bead embroidered portion that the design as a whole wasn’t even looked at.  This is easy to do.  The fun part of the design is the bead embroidery and this is where the main focus is.  However, your design is not complete until the entire necklace/bracelet/earring is finished.  Other people will look at the design in its totality, not just a section of it.  If the proportion is off for these other parts of the design, then the whole design fails.  Sorry, it is just a fact.

So, if you think it doesn’t matter, take a picture of the design with that tiny strand of beads.  Now redo it and use AT LEAST a 6mm round (if not 8mm..) and take a picture. Don’t ask a beader (they can make the same error as you and look only at the bead embroidered section) instead ask your husband or some other non-beader friend which picture they like better.  They will always choose the redone version because the proportion of the piece is corrected.  And really, you can’t just show the piece to hubby and ask if he likes it; that’s like asking if you look fat in those jeans.  Unless they a person that never learns, he knows how he needs to answer. So, you need to make it safe for the person you are asking an opinion of… they can pick from two different pictures so no insult is implied. 

Getting compliments on your necklace or “likes” on facebook is not a good tool to evaluate your design.  People will give you compliments because they like you and you made it.  People want to encourage you.  Likes on facebook don’t explain whether the person likes the whole, or just part of it.

Good design is a fuzzy thing…. People have different tastes.  There can always be an aspect of something that speaks to someone’s unique experience creating a unique bond.  In other words, as my sister and I have observed “There is nothing so ugly that it won’t sell”.  But, there truly are rules for GOOD design and one of them is proportion.  Criticize your own work and try to be honest.  When you are finished, ask yourself if you have violated this fundamental principle.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects Book

Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects: Design and Construction, Ideas and Inspiration

What’s it all about? 

I have a new bead embroidery book coming out with an official release date of Nov 1, 2013 and I see from the pre-orders on Amazon, it is doing pretty well.  So….. I thought it might be a good time to explain what this book is (and what it is not).

From an overall perspective,  I see this book as the final in a series, a trilogy, for bead embroidery.  The first is Beading with Cabochons (2005).  This book simply and gently takes you from “I’ve never done any of this technique” to a confident successful bead embroider.  Between the photos, illustration and text, you will be able to proceed with confidence and expand your understanding…..  Oh and by the way, probably become a bead embroidery addict!  You will want to keep this book in your library to refer to the numerous techniques for bezels, attachment methods and edges.

The second book in the trilogy is Dimensional Bead Embroidery (2011).  This book contains MANY techniques, not only new bezels, attachments and edges, but expands to include many surface stitches.  Again, it is a useful reference book you’ll want to refer to as you create your own designs. 

Although each of the above books contain projects, the lasting value is because of all of the techniques they have (and they don’t have duplicates).  I have observed that most bead embroidery is one-of-a-kind, in other words, most people who do bead embroidery are not primarily interested in doing a project from a book.  However, the value of the projects is still important because they show how to use the techniques, show the techniques in action so-to-speak.  

My philosophy is that techniques are the “tools” we use to create our designs and the more tools (techniques) that are available to us, the easier and more successful our designs can be.  This is the value of the first two books.  I have created an index that includes both books which you can download.   It shows a small photo of the technique and includes which book it is in and the page number.  I keep this printout right by me in the studio…. So I can easily see the options when I am creating a piece.  It helps me to keep my designs fresh and not just do the same thing all of the time!

In order to fully and completely explain all of the techniques, there is very little room left in the book for projects or explain designing.  This is where the final book in the trilogy comes into play…..

So first let me say it is an unusual book because there is not a Basics section like you are used to seeing which explains beads, thread, tools, etc.  Nor will you find a section on how to do the stitches.  This is really a continuation of the previous books     AND     the stitches and techniques are fully explained in those  books, so…. Do you really need another section on how to do Backstitch? Instead, the Basics section relates to the basics of design and the basics of construction.  How to design, do’s and don’ts with construction, how to make templates for collars, etc.

Yes this is a book that contains over 30 projects.  AND they are fully explained projects so you can simply do them or you can easily use them to create your own interpretation.  What is different is that besides the projects, there is information on how that projects’ design was developed so you can easily develop your own unique designs.   The book begins with necklaces designated as “The One” (basically pendant designs) and proceeds to Totem designs, followed by “the Many”, then designing using a bead collections and also doing Asymmetrical designs.   After necklaces are chapters for earrings, pins and bracelets.  Each have a discussion of their unique design and construction issues.

What makes this book different is what you are learning.  Each project was selected to specifically teach a design process or something about construction methods.  Like my previous books there are many “TIPS” included.  But beyond tips, there are “Lessons” which are more full discussions, or steps and further explanations about the design or construction methodology. 

So, if you know how to do bead embroidery stitches, this takes the next step to using them in designing jewelry.  There is an index in back that shows the stitches but it really is a reference for understanding and communicating since many stitches have different names to different people.  I may use a stitch in a project and I may refer to is as one name, but you know it as another name; this index will help in that communication issue. (yes, I am anticipating the Amazon review that complains they don’t have enough information to do the stitches even though the intro and other areas SAY it doesn’t have that…. )

And it’s 160 pages.  (look at your other bead books, most are 128 pages… )



It is for anyone who knows basic stitches, both beginners and advanced bead embroiders.  This will be a resource for how to use those basic stitches to create jewelry designs.

 Even if you’ve been doing bead embroidery for a long time, there are valuable tips and techniques you’ll want to have….. Not to mention, it will be a great resource to expand your design possibilities and get you over a hump when you are having a creative block. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bead Therapy

You may not be surprised that beading is used by many organizations as part of therapy.  From promoting eye-hand coordination to mood stabilization and elevation, the magic of beading helps us.  ……And I DO self-medicate!

Why does beading affect us and our moods?  Well, really, who cares as long as it works!  I do however have a few theories.  The first relates to that old-tried-and-true advice to count to 10 before you speak when you are angry.  Simply counting provides a discipline and rhythm that calms us.  Extend this theory to beading, and then recognize how often you are counting as you bead and you can see how performing beadwork can have a calming effect.  It is difficult to count and concentrate and hold on to strong negative feelings.

Another theory I have relates to tension.  Good beadwork always has an aspect of the proper measured tension in it.  Some methods like free form peyote are best with a tight tension, while other stitches like right angle weave are more measured and firm and others want looseness.  Regardless of the stitch, it is US, the beader, who controls the tension.  Hey, wouldn’t you love to be able to control the tension in the rest of your life?  Beading provides us with a unique opportunity to do that.

Music is often recognized as being able to affect how people feel which brings me to another one of my theories.  Music has lyrics, melody and the rhythm.  While performing beadwork doesn’t have any lyrics, there is a poetry to the colors being used and an undeniable rhythm to performing the beading.  We can relax into the rhythm and enjoy the visual sensation of the colors.  Those who also knit or crochet will chime in here about the relaxing effect of the rhythm of those tasks.

Let’s not forget that beading also allows us to Play with our toys.  Looking at and stroking all those beads whether they are bright and shiny or matte and mysterious is fun.  We can imagine all the possibilities of what they can become, or just enjoy their current state.  The point here is that you can adjust your mood without even picking up a needle.  Simply “visit” your beads, enjoy their company (they never talk back, insult you or criticize you).  Touch them, stroke them, introduce them to other beads you have and you may even come up with a design you hadn’t thought of before.  Beads accept us, gotta luv em.

Another type of bead therapy is to create something to work through an issue you may have in your life.  One of my cats died in the middle of the night from a previously unknown heart defect.  Finding her in the morning was tragic and I was thrust totally unprepared into mourning.  I created this necklace to help me in the mourning process.  It is completely out of my comfort zone, I actually don’t like the skulls, eyeballs, and spikes stuff, but I had this bone skull pendant in my stash and it just felt right for my state of mind.  Yes, it had to be dark colors to work through my mood. I knew I may never wear it, but that wasn’t the point anyway.  I did wear it once, and fondly remembered my Dookie cat, but will not wear it again.  When I’m ready, I have someone in mind to give it to who enjoys this type of design.

This example is about working through a negative issue, but remember that beading can also be used to celebrate a wonderful event too.  Reward yourself for a promotion or other achievement.  Engage in the joy of a wedding by creating some jewelry for the wedding party. 

Along this line, I recommend Heidi Kummli’s new book The Spirit of Bead Embroidery.  This is excellent for showing how you can experiment beyond the beads, and end result… you can design a deeper meaning into your beadwork. 

As she says in her intro, “a feeling of healing peace and tranquility flows through me.  My spirit is at one with the universe and the beads.”  This is a wonderful goal.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thread Talk

Last post, I talked about seed beads… so now it must be time to discuss thread!  The two essential beading materials (that end up in the final piece) are the beads, and the thread.  Both are important.

My favorite threads to recommend are Nymo and Silamide.  However, I only recommend Silamide on a spool, since I find the kinks with the ones wrapped on a card make it much more difficult to use.  I use both threads, and have an extensive array of colors.  I have tried the new Sono thread.. and I’ll admit I love it and love how it behaves and the grey/silver is an awesome color and very useful.  However, it is just too expensive for me to recommend.

I have many criteria I use to judge threads.

One is cost.  Until I win the lottery, I have a budget and I would rather spend my money on Beads!   Both Nymo and Silamide satisfy my frugality.  I can easily afford a wide array of colors in these threads.  The color of the thread used on a piece does matter, especially with transparent beads.  I’ll use a matching color, or a contrasting color depending on the effect I’m trying to achieve.   

Quality is important….  So, I want a thread that is tested.  My version of “tested” may be extreme but it is what I am comfortable with.  “Tested” means it has to have a long period of use, with no problems.  Long for me means at least 20 years.  Now you may argue with that, but when you spend MANY hours on a piece, you really don’t want it to fall apart after 10 years…. You actually think about them as heirloom jewelry.  So, it’s time to tell you Why I have this criteria. Years ago, a new thread was being sold… Kevlar.  The idea was, oh my, what a great beading thread, so strong it can stop bullets! (Yes, the same thread used to make bullet proof Kevlar vests…).  Sure makes sense right?  So I, along with many others paid the premium for this wonderful product.  The problem didn’t show up for a few years…. The problem was that material becomes brittle over time.  So, all those waving, swinging fringes fell apart as the brittle thread inside broke.  This was a horrifying, expensive lesson, and I’m thankful I only sent a few pieces that used this thread to galleries for sale.  And yes, they fell apart and came back.  Talk about embarrassing and a loss of respect at the galleries.  I won’t make that mistake again.  My recommended threads have been around and used successfully for decades. 

The thread needs to be easy to use.  This criteria needs some further explanation.  Any time you are learning, there is a learning curve.  One of the issues I have noticed in the decades of teaching beading to adults is that adults have a lower tolerance of the struggles of learning.  This isn’t really surprising since once you reach adulthood, you spend your life “knowing”.  Whether you are driving, cooking dinner, etc, you know what you are doing in a very fundamental way.  You’ll try new things, but for the most part, it is a variation of what you already know and you stay at your comfort level.  When you first start beading, however, you are a child again.  You have new materials, tools, and techniques…. A new world.  And often there are some struggles, not the least of which is threading that dang needle. 

So, you struggle with managing the thread, learning and executing techniques, and beat yourself up when you do it wrong.  Not everyone does this but too many do.  My advice… Relax. It will come.  Some beaders switch to a Fireline or similar type of thread since it doesn’t behave like the threads they were having problems with.  I advise against this.  These materials are plastics and coated wires. What happens to plastic over time? It drys out and crumbles. What happens to metals when bent and moved? It becomes brittle and breaks.  These new “threads” simply haven’t been around long enough for me to use them.  They don’t come in the wonderful variety of colors.  And, they are More expensive. 

So, take some time to learn the skills of using, for instance, Nymo.  It is less expensive, comes in a vast array of colors and is proven over time.  You can do it! And it’s worth it!  So here are some tips to try to help you when using these Nymo.
  1. Try waxing it.  Don’t go too heavy, just gently wax and re-apply as needed.
  2. If that doesn’t work for you, try Thread Heaven.  This is a conditioner to the thread that has an anti-static, repelling aspect.
  3. Pay attention to which end you are threading.  So, as it comes off the spool, are you putting the needle on where you just cut? Or the other end?  All beaders have a slight twist when they are beading, and threads have a twist.  You may find your situation is solved by always threading at the cut end or the other end depending on your twist situation.
  4. Be patient with yourself… you are learning a skill.
  5. Don’t use lengths over 2 yards (if possible) when you are learning and perfecting your skills.

There was a time that using a flexible beading wire when stringing was an automatic dismissal for any beading competition because it was judged as an interior material not used by a serious artist.  This has definitely changed and it is acceptable (unless Tiger Tail was used which is a no-no).  However, there is a  difference in execution time and effort involved with stringing versus bead weaving.  So, go ahead and use these materials for stringing…. If there is a problem, it can easily be redone…. That can’t be said for a wide peyote weave bracelet or bead embroidered collar.

This is all “Just my opinion”.  What is great about the beading community is that it embraces all opinions and you can certainly do what you want.  Feel free to post your opposition to my opinion in the comments!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Seed Bead Cautions

I thought I’d take a moment for this week’s blog to talk about things to consider about seed beads.  First and foremost,  I LOVE ‘EM!  But some seed beads I avoid all together, and others I’m very careful about.  Seed beads are created from glass, but the colors that are available just can’t satisfy the appetites for all beaders… so manufacturers of seed beads “do things” to the glass to expand the colors and appearances of the beads.  This includes:

  • Treating with dye to create a color.
  • Applying a lining inside the hole.  This not only increases the available colors, but also creates a unique appearance.
  • Coating the seed bead, either with a color or a metal.
What should occur to you is that this can create a danger when using these beads.  Coatings can wear off, dyes can fade, linings can wear off.   All of these things are true.  So, what can you do to protect your wonderful creations from downside risks?

First, KNOW what you are buying and using.  Some vendors very clearly label all their seed beads and note that there is a dye or coating.  The easiest ones to identify are the “lined” beads, they typically say “color lined” or “silver lined”.  There are many different metal coatings including “galvanized” or the new “dura coat”.  If you are unsure…. ASK!    Once you’ve determined that the beads are in any of these categories, be sure to keep that information with the beads if you decide to purchase them.

My advice:
Silver lined beads:  I avoid these altogether.  Yes, it really is silver that is used inside the hole.  Silver will tarnish.  I have pieces that I made years ago and were a bright shiny color at the time…. They are black beads now.  There is no way to clean inside those holes.  I did experiment however…. I took one and let it sit in a bath of pure bleach for 15 minutes.  This dissolved the silver, so it is just glass now.  I rinsed it REALLY well and let soak in clean water for an hour too.  I did this 2 years ago and the thread (I used Nymo) has held up to the bleach assault…. Crossing my fingers. 
If you use silver lined beads, be sure to store the beadwork in an air-tight container, and it’s best to include an anti-tarnish strip.  You may notice that you have some silver lined beads you bought years ago and still haven’t used and they are still beautiful… hey! They are in a sealed container!  Trust me, they will tarnish if you take them out of that container.
I took all silver lined beads in my stash and segregated them (why didn’t I just throw them away? Hmm can it be I’m obsessed with beads? ).  I have used them for a beaded snowflake pattern… because the final step in this project is to dip it into floor wax to stiffen the piece, this also seals the silver away from air.  I’m pleased to report that after 5 years they remain shiny and the floor wax shows no yellowing.  Other than this use, I avoid these beads like the plague (and the bugles are worse and tarnish faster). I don’t buy any more, and will only use in a circumstance like this.
Tip:  There is a new bead that mixes silver with glass and then coats the hole.  The description I’ve seen is a “shimmer” bead.  I have used these very successfully.  The appearance is not quite as glowing as a silver lined, but it’s close and it’s not dangerous.

Color lined beads:  Gosh, the variety of colors and appearance of these beads is sooo intriguing.  However, the thread or stringing material used with these beads can rub off the color inside.  So, I am careful about how I use these beads.  I love using these on the surface of bead embroidery but do not use in the necklace strand and am even cautious about using in fringe. 

Coatings:  Anyone who has been beading for a while has experienced a trauma with these beads (or know another beader who has).  Sometimes, the coating will even rub off in your hands as you are beading… you haven’t even finished it and it’s ruined.  Be careful using these beads.  Again, like color lined beads, be aware of where you are using them and what stresses they will be subjected to.  So, some parts of surface beadwork in bead embroidery will not create a problem, but obviously a peyote  bracelet using these beads will be a disaster.  And, it should be equally obvious, if it is coated with silver, well… it will tarnish (see above discussion of silver lined beads)
One exception:  There are new beads from Japan that are coated with metal and then coated with a protective coating over that!  That outer coating will prevent the silver from tarnishing.  The outer coating also protects the metal coating.  So, you can use these in areas that won’t have excessive rubbing that would rub off that coating.  Or, just know that the lifespan of the beadwork will be longer than without the coating but still limited.  (and they come in 15/0 too!)  I love using these with bead embroidery.

Dyed beads:  It would be great to be able to avoid these beads, but the result is that you simply will be limiting your color palette.  Dark Fuchsia?  It is dyed.   If the dye is coming off in your hands as you bead, you probably should stop and throw them away.  Typically this doesn’t happen though.  It is often as simple as adjusting your care and maintenance of the beadwork to avoid direct sunlight and store in a dark place (like your jewelry box which is not exactly a hardship).  But these pieces should not be stored on a wall, constantly exposed to light.  And of course, don’t leave them on the dashboard of your car….

Summing it up:
Know what you are buying.  Make a conscious decision about the use of these beads and Use Your Common Sense!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Evolution of a Beader

This blog is about the evolution of a beader and, as a group, how our behavior can be described.  While this is Not a scientific study (please, it’s BEADS, let’s not get TOO technical…), it is based on my personal observation over decades.  Those tiny (and big) glorious things with holes in them affect us but not always in the same way.  Some people evolve quickly through the stages.  Others seem to stay in one level.   Not everyone is the same and there no estimates or averages for the time spent at any given level;   individuality rules.       So….. Where are you in the evolution process? 

This is the beginning stage where the magic of beads is introduced.  People in this stage experiment with some techniques, buy a book or two and may even take a few classes.  Bead purchases relate to the projects that are undertaken, in other words, beads are purchased as needed and there isn’t a real “stash” of beads.  Often, casual beaders buy kits, a self-contained package where the beads and instructions are all there so the time investment is controlled (often necessitated by life circumstances). This is the fun, exploratory stage where the wonders of the bead world are revealed.

Stage 2:  USER
In this stage, the appetite for learning techniques is increased as is the appetite for beads.  This is evidenced by the appearance of a bead stash.  The size of the stash is not critical and is often impacted by the level of disposable income, the key thing is that there is a stash.  More techniques are explored, more books are purchased, more classes are taken.  New friends are made of other people in the bead world, joined by the common interest in beading.  This is very helpful to more quickly and easily understand the terminology of the bead world: “how is that pronounced?”    “so that’s a top-drilled bead!”  “seed bead sizes? “
This stage is very fun, new techniques, new beads, new friends and the seeds of addiction are sown….

Stage 3:  ADDICT
Hello, My name is Jamie and I am a beadaholic.
There are many attributes for this stage, not all beaders have All of the symptoms, but they have more than a few.

  • The bead stash grows.   No longer is a shoebox sufficient to hold those beauties.  Some addicts even need an entire room in the home, commonly referred to as “the studio”, the existence of which is envied by other addicts.  Decorating tips, storage tips give a whole new opportunity for “bead talk”.
  • Purchases of beads are celebrated with other beaders, but often are hidden from family, a spouse and non-beading friends.  Not out of shame….but really, it gets tiresome to answer “So, what are you going to do with that?”. If a fellow beader asks that question, and you answer “I don’t know”, they will respond “COOL!” then they drool over the beads and ask “Where can I get some?”
  • You can’t leave a bead store without a purchase .  The size of the purchase is often dictated by financial circumstances, however, the draw of the beads, (ooohhh that color) (oooohh that shape), (ooohh ETC!) is too strong to ignore totally.
  • You used to buy jewelry to finish an outfit, now you buy the outfit to wear with the jewelry.
  • Budgets are manipulated to accommodate bead related purchases… who Really needs to eat lunch when those new beads are beckoning?
  • You spend more time with enablers.  Bead friends, bead clubs, blogs, online bead friends are all enablers that understand and applaud your position in this evolution of a beader, because they are there too! Ahhh, validation!

Stage 4: PUSHER
Come on….. you know who you are!   Bead vendors, authors, beading teachers, you all must admit you are in this stage.  Yes, you are often still an Addict, but you have gone beyond that to helping to create new addicts.  So, instead of spending the entire day at the local bead show mixing with the other addicts, you are now behind the counter, still spending all day there but now selling or demonstrating.  Very satisfying.

So where are you in the evolution process?  Be sure to take my survey (you already know where I am!)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Welcome to my blog!

I am new at this so I hope to get better as time goes by.  While I may not post daily, I am hoping to regularly post.  I started this blog because I love beads, beadwork, beading and especially Beaders!  It is remarkable and fun that this craft is enjoyed by so many people and there is so much sharing of ideas, opinions, and inspirations. This created a desire in me to jump into that pool... people who know me well know that I have no shortage of opinions!

I want to start by honoring all beaders.  Whether you create exclusively with beads or embellish other crafts with beads.... a Big Hello, fellow beader!  As a "seasoned" beader, I am interested in all types of beads, beadwork and information about beads.  I love the history of beads and eagerly read when I find articles about vintage, historic "finds" that include beads.  Ever since there have been people, there have been beads.  All cultures, diverse over periods of time and geography all have had beads. I find this remarkable and believe it speaks to something basic in our nature.  Almost all of those articles, books, etc talk about the beads themselves - the material used, the use of technologies available in that time, the bead shapes and how these all evolved.  What I want to emphatically point out to you is ....

if there was a bead
if there was beadwork
THEN THERE WAS A BEADER!  We are part of a legacy that is phenomenal! 

Give yourself a gracious bow or curtsy or gentle nod, you are a part of human history, I honor that.

I have sometimes heard people say "oh, I just string"..... Hey wait a minute...there is no "just" about it!  You are a beader like all of us and part of our wonderful community.  The act of creation is transforming, whether you are creating a strand or a massive woven/embroidered peice.  We all are creating and putting part of ourselves into it.  Of course what I love is jewelry so, in addition, I get to wear it or see others wear it.  Fun, satisfaction, economy, originality.....what could be better?

Beaders Rule!!!!