Sunday, July 31, 2011

The long-overdue post about the magnificent book Beaded Colorways

Several weeks back I made mention of the book Beaded Colorways and how I intended to blog about it, but was having computer difficulties at the time. Well the keyboard's fixed, the crafts show is long past, so here is my tribute.

I want to declare up front that I don't know the author Beverly Ash Gilbert; I had never even heard of her until I plucked this book off the shelf at my local Borders. (And let's wander off-topic for a sec and all shed a tear for the fact that none of us will be plucking books off Borders shelves anymore.) It's just that I am too novice a beader to be able to offer lots of firsthand advice, so the best way I can make this blog useful is to trumpet a golden resource when I stumble across one.

The cover grabbed me right away--I thought, wow, I want to make THAT. It was exactly what I had been looking for--some way to marry my structural seed bead weaving with the many other types of beads I have--pearls, crystals, random glass beads, stone chips, nuggets.

The necklace on the cover is freeform netting. I have seen lots of freeform beadweaving projects in the beading mags, but frankly, most looked, well, messy to me. Unbalanced. Clashing colors. Perilously constructed. But thanks to Beverly's clear instructions and color guidance, I was able to produce the necklace below as my very first attempt at freeform netting:

Obviously, my piece is monochromatic and does not have the shifting color gradations of hers. But I had confidence in my bead soup mix, thanks to her step-by-step instructions for building complex bead soups with "shadows," "highlights" and "sparkle."

There are tons of books out there on color theory, and some tailored specifically to beads (complementary colors, triads, yada yada), but Beverly gives the clearest explanation I've seen anywhere about the importance of saturation and value. The book also comes with color wheels in the back for you to play with.

Another imaginative feature of the book is to show lovely photographs and then how Beverly builds bead soups from them. The montage below illustrates how she assembled her bead soup from the reds and purples of the grapes and the wine, with sprinkles of green and other hues mixed in for interest.

I have tended to stick with monochromatic color schemes because that's what I feel most comfortable with, but this book is giving me the courage to play with other combinations. I think my first step will be to find some pleasing photographs and build bead soups around them. (I know there are lots of color palette generators out there--anyone have a favorite?)

OK, end of the commercial. I also have to confess I am using this book as a rationale for building up my seed bead stash (Oh, this bead soup would be much more complex if I had THREE shades of rose to add, instead of just one...) And the one bit of personal advice I can throw in, based on my sole freeform beadweaving experience, is to make WAY more bead soup than you think you'll need. For my sea monster above, I kept adding to the soup and ran out of beads in several colors before I was finished.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Some new-ish work

Black Beauty
Somebody remind me again why I decided six months ago that it would be a good idea to (a) launch an online store, (b) start a blog, (c) continue going to graduate school and (d) keep my full-time day job.

I finished several pieces in time for the crafts show last month, but haven't had time to take photos until today.

Above is the first beaded rope that I have made entirely on a marudai, not a handheld foam disk thingy. It was inspired by this necklace, which was made on a foam disk thingy. That piece had so many admirers that I knew I wanted to made more versions of it.

The previous necklace, as explained in the April post, was made in two parts. My original plan was to make this new necklace long enough that I could simply tie it into a square knot, lariat-style.

It's plenty long, but the knot proved clunky. So I decided to simply join the necklace by adding a slider made with Czech fire polish in a simple right-angle weave band.

Here are some closeups, but I must say the silver-lined beads are so glittery that they make this piece hard to photograph well:

One of the reasons I wanted to learn to use the marudai is because everyone said braiding went so much faster on the stand than on a foam disk, because you move both hands at once. That's true for textile braids, as I learned in the kumi workshop I took, but when you're making an eight-strand braid and dropping a bead at every turn, it's less so. You can try to move two strands at once, but you have to make sure the beads "catch"--i.e., that they're in the proper position at the point of braiding so that subsequent strands lock them into place. For me, that translated into dropping one of the tama (bobbins) at almost every turn to poke the bead into place with my finger. 

I'm sure I'll get faster with practice. Eventually, I'd love to take a kumi workshop that focuses specifically on beaded braids so that I can make jewelry like the amazing Adrienne Gaskell (which probably means, duh, taking a class from her. I've been eying her touring schedule for months to see if she's coming anywhere near me.)

And here's a non-kumihimo project--a Cellini spiral necklace that I blogged about back in April. It was going to be my donation to a silent auction at my daughter's high school, but it was taking so damn long I was afraid I wouldn't finish in time. 

Golden Glow

At the crafts fair last month, this was the bling on my table that stopped people in their tracks and made them come over to stroke it, squeeze it, study it to see how it was made. (But no one bought it.) 

I made matching earrings using some clever findings from Fire Mountain Gems-- tiny perforated beading disks that fit into post earring findings. They, too, had admirers (including my daughter), but no takers. 

They remind me of fireworks--so much so that I had planned to post a pic of them on the 4th of July. But Hell already has enough roads leading to it that are paved with good intentions, so I'll take a detour.

I've completed some other pieces as well, but these were all I had time to photograph and list in my Artfire shop. (And the next task on my to-do list is to to figure out why my pics look so dark and crappy on ArtFire. They look better on my blog. Are there otherArtFire artists out there who can solve this riddle for me?)

I know that learning to take great photos of jewelry is an art in itself. This blog has already made me a better photographer. (Lesson 1: Turn off the flash. Lesson 2: Find the macro setting on your camera. Lesson 3: Clear your local Target's shelves of daylight-spectrum lightbulbs and commandeer every small lamp in your house when attempting to take photos with no natural light available.) See?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How do you know your obsession with Swarovski crystals has gone too far?

When you think this is a good idea:

I wish I could tell you that this image has been Photoshopped, but jewel-encrusted contact lenses are a real product--and not even new. I learned about this from a September 2008 Beading Gem blog post . (OK, I'll admit--they are probably are easier to find if you lose one.)

I suppose you could also title this blog entry "how do you know when you have too much money?" 

Can you come up with others?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The kindness of bloggers

Titiana's Folly by Lisa Sittniewski

The end of June marked six months since I launched this blog. I remember my trepidation setting up the Blogger account and the first few posts--should I use my real name in the bio? How personal should I allow my posts to be? Will creepy people start spamming me? My worries seem so silly now.

Because what I've discovered in my six months as a blogger--and oh, maybe 18 months as a bead blog reader--is what a special community you are.

At left is the bracelet that inspired this post. It may look familiar to readers who blog-hopped their way through the Fairy Tale bead swap organized by Lori Anderson of Pretty Things. Lisa Sittniewski of Alterity made it from the beads I sent her--then mailed it to me as a surprise gift because she knew the button I had included in the bead mix was special to me. I was so touched by the kindness of an artist who didn't even know me a few weeks before.

And that got me to thinking about all the other bloggers who have touched me with their generous spirit and wisdom and guidance. First there is Lori, whose Pretty Things was one of the first bead blogs I stumbled upon well over a year ago. I so felt that I knew her that I sought her out to introduce myself when she participated in a local crafts show. She was as charming and encouraging in person as she was online and invited me to join the bead swap group. That fairy tale challenge was one of the funnest things I've done and exposed me to a whole new community.

Then there is Mortira of Inspirational Beading. I hardly ever comment on her blog (my bad--I'm still trying to move from lurker to participant on the many bead blogs I read and love), so she probably has no idea what a huge influence her blog has been on me. Like Pretty Things, Inspirational Beading was one of the earliest blogs I discovered, and Mortira's beadweaving tutorials are a model of clarity. I love her curated collections as well, not to mention following her bead self-challenges, like the bracelet-a-week one she's on now.

Then there's Mandy of Bead for Brains. I started reading her blog a couple of months ago when the Beading Gem's Journal blogged about her quest to tackle a new bead project every day for a year. At the time--it was probably around day 60 or 80 of her journey--I thought that she and I were on about the same skill level of beading. But she has since lapped me many times over in her fearless pursuit of knowledge. She has generously shared her discoveries--great bead books, online tutorials, marvelous blogs--as well as documenting both her foibles and feats of wonder. Her latest adventures have taken her to Russian and Hungarian sites, where she has conquered beading patterns thanks to her uncanny ability to decipher photos and the often whimsical translations provided by Google Chrome. Thanks to Mandy, I know not to "sweat under the buru"!

There are so many more bloggers and I can't name them all, but I want to give a shout-out to all the wonderful participants in the Kumi2 Yahoo Group for their wonderful guidance as well--Janis and Wheat and Carol and Adrienne are just some of the many kumihimo experts who have shared their knowledge and passion with me and so many others.

So thank you all, you passionate and generous artists who take the time and effort to share with others in the beading blogosphere,