Wednesday, September 20, 2017

local exhibit of my work

For those (few) of you who are in the Panama City area, I have an exhibit coming up at the Panama City Publishing Museum, on Beck Ave in St Andrews.  There's a Meet the Artist event this Friday from 6:30 till whenever.  The picture here is just one of the new pieces I'll be showing.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Origami idea

Before I start the main part of this post, I'd like to tell you that I just updated to a new web page.  The address is still, but the content and layout are new.  Check it out.  I'd love any comments.

This post is about another idea I've had kicking around in the back of my mind for ages.  I finally tried it and with interesting results, but they don't lend themselves to a piece I want to make right now.  So I'm memorializing it here for later reference.  The inspiration--and actually more than inspiration because it's more or less the actual design is a fountain done by Ruth Asawa that's origami done in stainless steel.  It's in San Francisco.  I've looked at it for a while, but only recently realized that all the triangles in it are right triangles.  Actually that makes sense, because it has to come from a flat sheet of, in this case, steel.  I reproduced the triangles in tubes and got picture 2.  Actually I made one change--I changed each pair of 2 smaller right triangles that are on the edges of the sheet to a single double sized one.  But, of course, this isn't origami, and there's no way to make the flat "sheet" of tubes stay "folded.
Then you get picture 2, which is pretty much like the origami structure and stays folded.  But the outside shapes are rectangles, and tube rectangles aren't rigid, so in picture 3 I made a pyramid out of each rectangle, and that makes it firm.
  There's one way my structure has an advantage over origami, in that I can adjust the lengths of my tubes to vary the structures.  Mainly I found that by shortening or lengthening the tube that is at the very center of each unit in the flat sheet, you change the angle of the curve.  A longer tube in that position gives you a tighter curve, and a shorter tube there gives a shallower curve, or, at some point, no curve at all.  So you could make a nice oval shaped necklace by varying the curve.

Friday, September 8, 2017

new ideas for a tet structure

  One thing I like about writing this blog is that it lets me memorialize ideas and structures that I might not use right away, but that I don't want to forget.  I make notes, but a picture is truly worth a thousand words.  Back when I worked with seed beads, and even round stone beads, I would keep structures that I had built but didn't plan to use any time soon. I have drawers full of "interesting" structures, an I'm sure many others of you do too.  But the silver tubes are too expensive, both in the cost of the silver tubing and in the time it takes to cut, debur and oxidize them, to do that.  So I'll be doing a couple of posts about ideas I've worked with that may or may not turn into something.
  I'm finding that the tet (tetrahedron) structure that I've been playing with for a while has some new variations for me.  I've learned now to think of it as 3 separate elements, as shown in the top picture.  First, at the left of the picture, there's a row of triangles.  Then I turn each of the triangles into a tet, in the middle of the picture.  Finally I join the top points of the tets together with a zigzag line of tubes.  Playing with the different elements affects different parts of the structure.
  I've had the idea for a while that if the zigzag outer row alternated between long and short tubes, then the structure would spiral up or down instead of returning to its start like a donut.  In pic 2 I turned that idea into a bracelet.  This is a piece that I like a lot and will certainly keep and sell.  I made 2 of them.  The 1st was a tight spiral made by alternating between 28mm and 25mm beads in the outer row.  All the rest of the tubes are 25mm.  In this 2nd one I alternated between 28 and 22mm tubes, which made the spiral longer, and also made the overall bracelet diameter larger.  As I have a small wrist I have a tendency to err on the side of bracelets that are pretty small, and I need to have a wider range.

  The last picture is a potential necklace that I like quite a bit, but I did so much ripping and redoing that it has way too many threads hanging out, and I don't think I could ever make a firm enough piece out of it.  More importantly, the idea was to put some contrasting color tubes in it to add interest.  I used light green tubes, and they just don't show up enough.  In the picture you can hardly see them.  There's an area at the bottom left and a smaller one midway up the right side, But they barely show.  Possibly my mistake was in only changing the color on the top layer of the area, instead of using all colored tubes there.
   But anyway, back to the structure.  That length of the tubes in that outer zigzag row determines how tight the curve is.  Longer tubes make for a tighter curve.  If the outer tubes are somewhere around 2/3 the length of the other tubes (in a structure that's otherwise equilateral) the structure won't bend at all, but will continue in a straight line.  Shorter that that and it curves inward.  That means you can put that initial "belt" of triangles in the middle of the structure.  Then you build tets on both the inside and the outside, and use short tubes to make a negative curve on the inside and long tubes for a positive curve on the outside.  That was the initial idea, and it worked.  The trouble and endless redoing came from making it curve and taper properly and also curve over your shoulder the way it should.  I've been wanting to take it apart and reuse the tubes, and now that I have a good picture and notes, I won't forget it and I can rip it . 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Unlearning what I've learned

  I'm pretty much a self-taught artist. Sometimes that means reinventing the wheel, and "figuring out" something that any teacher could have told me on day one. Still, I kind of like not knowing what the "you can't"s are. When I first started playing with beads, I was a rugweaver. Peyote stitch, which is often the first stitch people learn, seemed to me to be a way to make complex flat designs  I wasn't interested because I figured if I wanted to make a complex flat design I'd weave a rug. I wanted to do 3D stuff. Much later I learned about all the cool 3D things you can do with peyote ( like the contemporary geometric beadwork people do), but by then I was a long way down another path, and I still don't know peyote.
   I started out by reading an article in Ornament Magazine about David Chatt. I saw all the cool geometric things he was doing with right angle weave (RAW) and knew that was where I wanted to go. I got Valerie Hector's book, and from that learned to build a cube, a dodecahedron ( she calls it a Plato bead, and it
was a while before I knew that that was because it's a Platonic solid), and a truncated icosahedron ( Archimedes bead--same explanation).  That was pretty much it for my education, except for  the cool stuff I picked up from the beaded molecules blog.  Mostly I just played and learned
   This is a pretty long introduction to where I'm going here.  I started out, as most beaders do, using seed beads.  But as I got further into the geometry, I found that longer beads showed off the geometry better, and ended up using metal tubes.  I found that circles of 4, 5, 6 and even more beads worked great when using either seed beads or round stone beads. I didn't much like circles of 3 round beads because so much thread showed, although I used those on occasion. On the other hand, with tubes, just the opposite was true--triangles, which is what "circles" of 3 tubes became-- were great because a triangle is inherently rigid, but any larger circle was floppy and didn't maintain its shape. That meant no RAW with tube beads.  The first picture is a floppy necklace done in RAW with tube beads.
   Then I discovered that if I used a stiff thread, like monofilament nylon, it reduced the floppiness a lot. The shape still moved, and you couldn't build really complex structures, but for simple cubic RAW I liked it.  In particular I liked the way a piece could move, while still holding its shape.  Picture 2 shows one of these necklaces.
    But a couple of days ago, I was at the crafthaus website ( and that first picture scrolled by in the photo section. I hadn't looked at it in a long time, and I found I rather liked  the uber-floppiness of it.  It was on old picture from back when I was using oxidized copper tubes instead of the ox-silver ones I use now. And the copper tubes had a thicker wall which didn't leave room for several passes of monofilament, so I always used fireline. You can see that in the narrower parts of the necklace, toward the back, I used  a triangle cross-section for stiffness, and I still do that in my newer necklaces like picture 2. But I may have to do some more playing around with the  softer version of these necklaces.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


I'm having fun with bracelets just now.  I haven't done as much with them as I probably should have in the past for several reasons.  First of all, I don't tend to wear bracelets myself, which is probably not a good reason, but I like to wear my jewelry, and bracelets just seem to get in the way too much (and I have to admit that the 3-D-ness of my pieces tends to make them get in the way more than some other bracelets would). Second, I'm often working with repeating modules, and they tend to be big ones.  If your unit is 1" long, 
adding an extra unit or 2 will make a moderate change in a necklace but it will make a bracelet completely unwearable.  Half an inch is a big change in the length of a bracelet.
  Third reason--clasps.  I hadn't found a clasp I really liked.  I've made quite a few bracelets without a clasp, but in order not to fall off it has to be pretty tight going over your wrist to get it on, and that's a worry.  Lots of people who do work that feels similar to mine make bracelets without clasps (I'm thinking, as an example, of one of my favorite jewelry artists, Donna D'Aquino) but they're
building their structures out of soldered wire, so the strain is borne by metal.  In mine the strain is on the thread that holds the tubes together, and at some point that will be a problem.  I fix them, of course, if anything breaks, but I don't like it.
But just lately I found a clasp from Halstead Bead that I really like.  It's clean, geometric, slides right over one of my tubes and only adds about half and inch to the piece. I also found that If my "units" are based on 20mm beads, then 10 of them plus a clasp is a pretty good size.  So now I'm making bracelets.
The first one is just in here because I like it.  I'm not sure if pearls on leather cords is a big thing everywhere or just around here, but everyone has them here and I've gotten tired of them.  But those same bit hole pearls will also fit over my tubes (1.5mm diameter) and I like that use of them.  So just a simple structure  with tubes of 20 mm (on average) on the inside and longer ones on the outside.
The 2nd and 3rd bracelets come back to the issue or regular repeating designs versus irregular ones.  They're basically the same bracelet, only in one case the hexagon shapes ( actually each is made of 6 tets sharing a central hub tube) are identical and in the other they're all different.  I think I like the irregular one better, but they both seem to work.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Design and color

 I've been thinking design thoughts lately.  Partly that's because one of the things I miss from my rugweaving days is working with color.  And partly because I've started adding some gold to my pieces and the price dictates that I get maximum impact for the colored (i.e. gold) tubes I use.
First conclusion I've reached--always subject to change--Where a piece has a really interesting shape, and particularly an interesting outline, like the first piece shown, it works quite well in just oxidized silver. I could add areas of color if I wanted, but I don't have to. This would apply to my charm pieces as well.  But where a piece is really regular some color helps to break things up, like in piece 2. And I tend to like having the color offset, not at the center of things.
The next issue--placing the color.  If I use a lot of colored tubes, I can do whatever I want and it will show well, but the problem arises when I don't want to use so many tubes.  My regular and mathematical mind wants to use them to highlight the geometry I've spent so much time creating.  But doing that usually means distributing a limited amount of color over the whole necklace, and sometimes it sort of loses it's impact. In the 3rd picture I have a piece where I think that spreading out the color really works.  You just wouldn't see how the arms of the pinwheel spiral without those gold tubes indicating it. But more often I think that massing it, as I did in the piece with red tubes, is a better bet.  I'd love to get others' opinions on this.  What do you think?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Necklace part 3

   Since I've been blogging about this necklace as I've been working on it, I thought I ought to show the final piece.  I ended up using double tetrahedra between the individual links.  I said in my last post that I didn't think that would work because the tubes on corners of the links would need to be all parallel to one another, and they're not. 
   But then I realized that my brain, which tends toward regular, repeating stuff, was assuming I  had to join a corner of one link to a corner of the next one.  But the outside edges zigzag, so if the corner tube points northeast/southwest, the tube next to it (I'll call it the edge tube) would point sorthwest/southeast.  So I could join a corner to an edge and it would work out.  It diminishes the square look of the links, which wasn't my preference. But on the other hand, it moves the junction away from the center of the links, so that they extend more to the outside, rather than into your neck, which is good.
  At the end I made one more change.  Although I liked the openness of the big bottom link, I decided it was just too wobbly, so I added diagonal tubes at each corner to firm up the right angles.  It's still quite open and much firmer than it was.  Anyway, that's the final product.  It's larger than what I normally wear myself, but I was looking for a more dramatic piece, and I think the size gives it that extra bit of drama.