Thursday, June 22, 2017

Earring Marathon

Every once in a while I engage in an earring marathon. I might have said “indulge” but that is not the way I feel about it. Making earrings is work. Good work, but still, toil.

Why is this?  You would think earrings would be the ultimate immediately gratifying act of jewelry creation: Ta-DAH!  But it doesn’t always turn out like that.

There are some good sides to making earrings - it’s a great way to get reacquainted with your bead stash. The down side is the same: getting reacquainted with your bead stash. It’s an embrace that can quickly pall if you are doing it on a large scale, as I do in making earrings to sell.

Selecting your beads is the mere tip of the iceberg. Then you have to decide what color of metal you want for your findings:  gold (and would that be pale gold, yellow gold, lemon gold) or silver (and would that be white silver, yellow silver, antique silver) brass (antique, shiny, matte) copper (ditto), or gunmetal and would you like fries with that?

Before you know it, the bead room is awash in small plastic bags and tubes that the cat wants to lie down in, and you want to join him. For something so small and easily made, your basic earring requires an amazing amount of thought and planning. Finding le bead juste for a single pair of earrings is fun. Finding the same for two dozen will send you screaming from the house.

There are some things I have learned over the years to manage this process in order to engage in a sane earring marathon.

A while back someone on one of the beading blogs I subscribe to described the Muffin Tin Method. This is a great way to produce earrings efficiently, well, more efficiently than the Mount Trashmore approach. Start with one or two interesting beads that go well together and toss them into one of the muffin cups, add your findings and accent beads and stir. Pretty soon you have twelve pots of potential earrings. Ta-DAH!

A second method I have begun to use is what I’ll call the gold panning method. It works best if you focus on a central color scheme, such as turquoise, one of my favorites. My friend Barb, bless her, recently brought me a large shallow lidless cardboard box with a Styrofoam base insert that is perfect for this. Pile everything relevant to your colorway into the box. Sit it in your lap and sift out the specific beads you want to use and put them in a smaller box and make your earrings from that. Essentially you are creating a manageable bead stash you can dip into without getting overwhelmed. When you finish with that colorway, you can assemble another.

So here are the results of my latest Muffin Tin marathon:

Whew! I’m exhausted just writing about this.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Overdoing It

One of the hardest things for any artist to learn is knowing when to stop. It’s especially hard for beaders because we like to lay embellishment on with a trowel.  On the other hand, you learn something when you overdo it that is useful for when you try again, which you will inevitably do. After all, for many beaders, if you can bead one of something, why not bead more? Why not bead seven, yes, isn’t seven the most powerfully magical number, wouldn’t seven-- oops, sorry, wandered off into a Harry Potter flashback there. Of course Voldemort didn’t know when to stop either.

Where was I? Oh yes, here’s a design that started out well. Some bead embroidery around a piece of brass filigree I had painted and added a glittery cabochon in its center.

I started with the O beads, spacing them out fairly evenly and had in mind a kind of spreading peacock’s tail, but wound up with this delightful asymmetrical design. I could see this as a necklace with one strap extending from the filigree and another from the adjacent point.

But for some reason I didn’t leave it here, I decided to add beads to create a more even edging which would make it easier to cut out and finish. Here’s the result:

Not quite as interesting as the first draft. The edging smoothed it down a little too much and the filigree looks a bit lost among the seed beads. Though I will note that such might be a desirable effect, depending. Next time around, I’m still going to bead a border that smooths everything out, but I’m going to use black beads. That will give it more shape and drama while still allowing me to cut it out easily.  OK, back to the horcrux drawing board….

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Throwing Beads Against the Wall

I have two beading buddies, Bobbi and Karen. We met when I was teaching beading classes at a local bead shop. The shop closed, but they wanted to bead on, so Bobbi generously offered to host us at her house and we’ve been beading there for well over seven years now.

We have learned each other’s bead crotchets – Bobbi doesn’t like the color purple, Karen doesn’t like freeform beadwork, I don’t like hearts or holiday designs. But we have a lot more things we like in common or we wouldn’t have stayed together this long. 

Our beading sessions tend to follow a certain rhythm– someone will propose a project and if the other two say yes, then we go for it. Karen is an ace bead pattern sleuth, finding amazing designs in a variety of foreign languages or interesting online blogs, websites, Facebook, you name it.

Pattern in hand, we get together and there ensues much discussion (i.e. wailing, ritually consigning to the flames, and celebration) of our color choices, the quality of the directions, and other beady topics. Then as we get to work the muttering and moaning starts up and before too long Bobbi announces she’s going to throw her piece against the wall if the beads don’t start behaving.

Curses fly, and much laughter and eventually Bobbi brings out some fabulous dessert for us to fall on like starving, well, like starving beaders. Beads and food, oddly enough, go very well together.

And eventually, though it may take a while, we arrive at: “hey I like this project!”  And the sun blazes forth and music fills the spheres and all is contentment.  Until the next project and we start this all over again.  There’s nothing more satisfying then hanging out with others who share your passion. We speak the same beady language, we have a level of mastery so that we can tackle all kinds of projects, and we love playing show and tell.

Karen and Bobbi – here’s to you!