Wednesday, December 6, 2017

changing necklaces

This post is essentially an addendum to my last post.  I've done a couple of art festivals in recent weeks, and I'm reacting to some problems that showed up.  Basically, I tend to size things to myself.  I have a pretty small neck, so that means that what I think of as a short necklace is actually too short for lots of people.  For starters, the necklace I just wrote about, the one with octahedra and floating pearls--as I said, it was based on a necklace of 22 octahedra, but, because I was running out of 25mm tubes, I made this one out of 20 octs. Then I made up some of the lost length by making the tets at either end longer.  Mistake.  I've now redone it with an extra oct at each end that ends with a 14mm equilateral triangle to get some taper.  That gets us back to 22 octs, and I put a 20mm tet at each end.  Even for a small neck, it's a better size.  Then, to accommodate larger people, I added a 2" extender chain.  I'm going back and adding extender chains to lots of my necklaces.
I've also had a tendency to continue a structure or pattern right up to the hook and eye at the back, without any taper or change of structure.  This one is a good example. I look at it now and say "What was I thinking?"  It makes a good picture, but when you put it on there are these big elephant ears poking out  in back.  They don't want to lie flat the way the ones in front do, and they're just awkward.  More redoing.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

octahedra and pearls

  Recently I bought some pearls with holes big enough to slide them over my tubes.  I decided I wanted to make a neckpiece that was a simple series of octs, ornamented by the pearls.  I had made a similar structure using bright silver and colored aluminum tubes a few years ago, and wanted to repeat that structure.  So I went to my handy blog, where I keep track of my structures.  Here's what I found, from August, 2014:  "It's a simple chain of octahedrons.  But a chain of octahedrons would normally form a straight line.  In order to get the curve you need for a necklace I had to make the triangle on the outside edge longer than the triangle on the inside edge.
Here's where some trig would have come in handy in figuring out just how much longer, but I managed to figure it out with "lesser" math, and it came out right."
  It would have been really handy if I had written down just what the lesser math had given me so that I could have reproduced the shape.  That, after all, is one of the main reasons I write this blog.  Since I didn't do that I started and ripped apart the new piece over and over trying to get the curve I wanted.  As you can see I didn't get the same curve as last time; it's a little pointier at the bottom and straighter across at the back but I like it OK.  It's also just a bit shorter.  That's only because I was running out of 25 mm tubes, so I did just 20 octs instead of 22.  Then I made the 2 tets at the back by the clasp longer.  Also I now make my own hooks and they're longer than the one I used in the earlier piece.  So the overall piece probably isn't that much shorter, but I do think it's a bit shorter.
  So as not to make the same mistake twice I'll put down the plan for the curve.  The outside triangles are mostly equilateral 25mm triangles.  To get more curve I used 28/28/25 mm isosceles triangles at position 1 (at the center), 3, 9 and 10.  On the inside the triangles are either 20mm equilateral or, at inits 1, 2, 3 and 6, to tighten the curve, 20/20/25 isosceles.  It actually doesn't change things all that much.  If I didn't want it to be so pointy at the bottom I could have spread them out more.  Also triangle 6 is an equilateral 25mm oct.  I CHANGED SOME OF THIS AND WROTE ABOUT IT IN THE NEXT POST.

Friday, October 13, 2017


On a recent car trip to Chicago, I spent car time building some different structures that I wanted to use as building blocks for a necklace.  I wanted just a few elements and ended up with 3 front ones and a curve around the back of the neck .  I like it, especially the spiral in the front.  But it's kind of a lot of necklace, both long and wide.  On a whim I hooked the hook to the ring that's on the spiral,  leaving out the last zigzaggy element. Here I have (badly) photoshopped out the element that would be left out.  It makes the necklace more asymmetrical, as well as shorter.  I like the asymmetry, but it's probably just a bit too short. So if I do cut off the zigzag, I think I'll add one more unit to the curve that goes around the back, so that the end of the spiral element is a bit farther from the neck.
I'm still trying to decide whether to cut off the zigzag.  If I do I think I'll turn that element into a pendant.  But
looking at the pictures, I like the top one more than I did just trying it on. For one thing I kept trying to shift it around so that the 2 wide points weren't opposite each other.  But now I think that having them at almost the same height, but  also different shapes, kind of works. It's good to be able to line up the 2 pictures together and see how it looks either way (although taking a selfie as a 68-yr-old is not for the faint of heart).I'd love to know what anyone reading this blog thinks--long version or short?

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.