Friday, December 26, 2014

scaffold with dangles

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm playing around with charms for  the Baltimore ACC show coming up in February.  I'm finding I like them a lot.  My work, being so structural, tends to be relatively inflexible.  Mostly I like that, but it's interesting how adding things that dangle freely softens it up.  This necklace is a good example.  I made a very architectural scaffold-ish piece.  Particularly in the darkened sterling it has the feel of a bridge truss or cell phone tower or something of the sort.  But when you add the tear-drop shaped dangles it changes it completely, especially with the amazonite beads adding color..  It reminds me a bit of the great pieces that the artist Emiko Oke makes, using lego blocks to build Tiffany-esque  necklaces.
  I have just one technical problem with it, and with charms in general.  I find that you can't use open jump rings at the top of a beaded charm.  Eventually it will move in such a way that the thread get up against the opening in the ring, and it will pass through the opening, because it's just thread.  You have to use closed rings.  Ditto for a ring attached to a necklace structure.  In the pieces I've made so far for the charm program I've attached the charms to oxidized silver links that I've made. They have open circles at each end, so I can slip the closed rings at the top of the charms into the open circles and close them up.  But I wanted to attach them to one of my truss structures.  Ideally you'd have a closed ring attached to the necklace and it would interlock with a closed ring on the charm.  But obviously 2 closed rings can't interlock unless you use an open jump ring between them, and I think that's too long a chain of rings.  If I could solder, I could link 2 rings together and then solder them closed, but I don't have the equipment or the skill to do that.  In this piece I used a single closed ring that's sewn at the top to the necklace and at the bottom to the charm, but it doesn't dangle quite as freely as I'd like.  I think what I'm going to do is reattach the charms to the rings, but I'll add a single bead ( here a 3mm oxidized silver ball) at the top of the charm so the thread coming from the charm will pass through that first, and then to the ring.  I think that will let it dangle better.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reworking a design

   I think in my last post I talked about liking a sort of controlled asymmetry best.  I had no more said that when I started doing several pieces that turned out symmetrical.  Oh well.  I'm often not sure where I'll end up when I start a piece, and I like that.
  The top picture here (which I think I blogged about earlier) is a tetrahelix using gold-filled tubes spiraling around oxidized copper ones.  I had some problems with the beads, and decided to redo it using oxidized sterling silver instead.  But when my spiral got to be 9 tetrahedrons long, I wondered what it would look like if I just mirror imaged it for 9 more tetrahedrons.  Actually, I like both versions.  In making my sort of pendant-ish necklaces, I've switched from a narrow right angle weave to a hand-made chain using 18 gauge sterling wire.  Learning to make the links (which is actually pretty 
easy) has given me more confidence in doing simple wire working.  One of these days, I really need to learn some more about metalsmithing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

asymmetry versus randomness

 I just finished a piece (the 3rd one in this group) and it got me thinking about some of the things I like in a design.  I actually like all 3 of these pieces, but in some ways the last one works best for me.  It is neither entirely symmetrical, like the first piece, nor as random as the 2nd one.  It's sort of a Goldilocks thing, where you can easily see the symmetry, as well as the decision to break it.  A bit like the motto of Oregon College of Art and Craft--Know the rules to break the rules.  I've always been drawn to that idea.  Anyway, I'm busy making pieces like #3 now.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

etsy again

OK, my long-dormant etsy site is live again, with just a few pieces on it.  I plan to add a few every day till I get a reasonable selection.  When I started this blog, I swore I wouldn't make it a "here's my newest piece on etsy" sort of thing, but would talk about my ideas on a more creative level.  So hopefully I won't mention it again, but the link is there if you're interested.  While I'm doing a "commercial" post, I'll also mention that everything I make is for sale, even though only a small fraction of it will make it to etsy.  So if you see anything that interests you, just contact me and we'll work something out.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Just a quickie post.  I have an etsy shop that's been inactive for a while, but over the weekend I'm going to try to reactivate it.  It's and I'll try to put some of my new work on it if anyone is interested.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


    I have a new project going.  I'm going to be showing my jewelry at the Baltimore ACC show next February.  They are doing a promotion around charms.  If you want to participate you have to commit to make, at a minimum. certain specified pieces.  For example, a charm bracelet, a necklace with a cluster of charms grouped at the bottom,  some loose charms, etc.  Then they do a certain amount of promotion, not relevant here, around charms.  It seemed ideal for my work, although, I've never made charms as such. 
   Anyway, ever since I signed up, I've been playing with making charms, as they need images of the work next month.  Some of them will be geometric structures made of tubes,  but I wanted to play with ways to mix gemstone beads with the tube structures.  These are what I've come up with so far.
   One thing that is inspiring me is I picture I look at from time to time in an old American Craft magazine from 2011.  It was about the glass school at Pilchuck, in Washington, and it had pictures of work of lots of glass artists who have been associated with Pilchuck over the years.  The one that interested me was a picture of vessels by Dante Marioni.  In it he had set himself some tight parameters. The vessels were all roughly the same size and were all made of clear glass with black glass trim.  But within those limits he had made over 150 vessels, each different from all the others and all interesting.  It sort of made me think of a Chopin etude, which is a piece you use to practice a technique, but that doesn't stop it from being beautiful.
  Anyway, I have lots more charms to make, but this is where I'm headed.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Live and learn

    I wanted to do something simple and rather stark with my oxidized silver tubes.  Cubic RAW was an obvious choice.  I'd never used it with the tubes, and I didn't really think it would work, but I tried it.
    Over time I've developed a sort of rule of thumb.  With round beads I don't much like structures that use triangles (i e circles of 3 beads) because too much thread shows.  Particularly I don't like to use monofilament  nylon fishing line and have 3-bead circles, because it won't pull tight over such a hard bend, and so lots of it sticks out.  I do occasionally do cuboctahedrons, which are a mix of 3-bead and 4-bead circles, but I tend to avoid them  when I can.  Similarly, with long narrow beads, and particularly with my metal tubes, I mostly only use triangles, because that's the only shape that will stay rigid with long beads.  So I have lots of tetrahedrons and octahedrons, because they're made of triangles.If you tried to make a circle out of 5 tubes, it wouldn't stay round, but could take most any shape.  When I have used 4-bead circles, I've always kept the cross section a triangle, because then, even if the squares turned into parallelograms, it still couldn't completely lose its shape, and it would remain 3 dimensional.
   However, I've come to realize that while a single cube made out of tubes is pretty apt to not stay much like a cube, a series of them will have more stability.  Also, when I was using oxidized copper tubes I used fireline thread, because there wasn't enough room for monofilament, which is fatter.  But the silver tubes, although they're the same size on the outside, seem to have a thinner wall, so there's room inside for more thread.  So here I used monofilament line to support the corners of the cubes better.  The piece moves alot, but it still holds its shape quite well.  It's big, because I wanted it to just go over the head without a clasp, so the pieces that form the long side of each rectangle are around an inch.  Anyway, I enjoyed doing it, and may do more along that line.  One thing I'd like to do just for comparison, is a simple rectangular necklace like this, but made out of a string of octahedrons instead of cubes.  Then I can see whether a much more rigid piece works as well on the body as one, like this, with more give.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

More tetrahedrons

I'm playing with tetrahedrons again.  I'm discovering that being able to cut my own tubes is changing my mindset.  When you work with beads mostly you're saying "what can I do with the beads I have?"  When you can make your own you start to ask "What beads ( or in this case lengths of beads) will do what I want to do?"  I came up with a sequence of tetrahedrons that would produce a very gentle curve.  But by lengthening the tube on the outside of the curve you can make the curve sharper.  But how much to lengthen it?  I did what I could with math--Pythagorean theorem and all that.  But that doesn't completely do it because there's always some looseness in beadwork, and errors build up.  I had
decided I wanted to do a necklace that would go over your head without needing a clasp, but I didn't want it to be too huge either. And the tubing is expensive enough that I can't just keep trying different lengths till I get what I want.
   I played around with coffee stirrer straws (top picture), using 50mm straws for 25mm tubes, 40mm straws for 20mm tubes etc, and could approximate things that way.  For the most part I'd like to stick with cutting my metal tubes in lengths of 5, 10, 15, 20mm etc.  Otherwise it's just too hard to keep track of things.  But for a given piece I can always pick one element (like the tube on the very outside) and make it whatever I need to make the shape come out right.  Anyway, I'm still learning, still having fun.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

stone teardrops pendant

  Since I mentioned in my earlier post that this current work started out by trying to make long skinny donut shapes in various earthy tones, I thought I'd show you what I ended up with. Since I couldn't get the donuts to be as narrow as I wanted, I ended up with sort of teardrop shapes, 2 different ones.  I decided I liked them even though they weren't what I had originally intended, so I made a 3rd one.  It was the same shape as the smaller of the 2 original ones, but a different color.  I was going to build trusses out of metal tubes to hold them, but as I was messing around I thought I'd try just hanging them on one of my black cables, and I sort of liked it.  Done.

Shapes of toruses

   After spending a lot of time working with my tube beads, I spent some time this week going back to my molecular shapes.  My idea was to make several long narrow toruses (I suppose it's actually "tori", but I can't bring myself to say that) that I would join together, probably with metal tube structures. I found I couldn't make what I wanted, so I took some time to just try and figure out how shaping these structures works.
  The basic idea is that if you build a tube out of hexagons ( 6-bead circles serve as hexagons), it will be just that--a straight tube.  If you want it to curve, you add  heptagons on the inside and  pentagons on the outside of the curve.  It takes 12 heptagons on the inside and 12 pentagons on the outside to make a full  rotation and create a torus.  Actually, you can do it with 10 and 10, and that's what many of the toruses in the beaded molecules blog do, but to get it all around without having to force it you need 12.  Often you get a firmer structure by making it do something it doesn't quite "want" to do, but here I was trying to not do that.
  What I've come to realize, after making a jillion of the things, is that what you really need is just to add 12 extra beads on the inside and a corresponding number left out on the outside, and you can do that in any configuration.  The easiest, and one I had done before, is to use 6 octagons on the inside and 6 squares on the outside. The picture here is taken from one of my very first posts, and shows  a hexagonal torus done that way on the right of the piece.  It's easy to see because the octagons are green, the squares blue and the rest red-brown. The big square and triangle of the necklace were made by trying to stretch those same octagons into ever tighter angles, and show how much I didn't know what I was doing back then.  On the other hand, it's nice to read that post and see that I've actually learned something since then.
  The 6 octagon/6 square torus makes for a very blocky shape that I don't much like, so I haven't used it often.  But now I can see that there are lots of ways to add 12 extra beads on the inside of the circle, the number 12 being divisible in so many ways.

The first torus in this picture was made by making the center out of 4 circles of 9 beads.  That way each circle has 3 extra beads for a total of 12 extra. It's a bit odd because 9 is an odd number, so sometimes you're adding more to the back and sometimes to the front, so it doesn't lie quite flat.  But you get a sort of 4-cornered torus. The center is actally a short fat diamond on 1 side and a tall skinny one on the other, so it's a bit odd. The second torus uses 3 circles of 10 beads each, and so makes a triangle.  And the last one uses 2 circles of 12 beads each, and makes a sort of long skinny shape.  I can now see that if I had added some hexagons (6-bead circles) between the 12-bead ones, I'd have gotten a longer torus, which was what I was originally looking for.  But by then I was into exploring torus shapes.Actually in any of these configurations, you could make the donut hole larger by just putting 6-bead circles between the larger circles.
  Having gotten  handle on the inside of the torus, I started playing with the outside.  I liked the triangular center best, so I used a center of 3 10-bead circles in each of these.  On the outside you need to take 12 beads away from your structure of hexagons.  You can do that with 12 pentagons, or with 6 squares, or with a combination of the 2.  Using all squares ( the 1st one) makes the hardest angles.  Using some or all pentagons makes the curves gentler, which I prefer.  Also it makes a difference whether you put the smaller circles near the points of the triangle or along the flat sides.  If you could space your small circles evenly around the torus, you'd get a circular outside with a triangular hole in the center.  I couldn't quite figure out how to do that. but I came close in #2.  It has 6 5-bead circles and 3 4-bead ones.  There are 2 pentagons on each flat side and a square at each point of the triangle.  The last 2 are both done with 12 pentagons, so they have nice, gentle curves.  #3 has 4 pentagons at each point of the triangle, so it maintains it's triangular shape. #4 has 2 pentagons at each point and 2 on each flat side.
  I have no idea if anyone is still reading, or if this makes any sense at all.  But I do like being able to talk out my ideas, even if no one is listening.  And if you actually are reading this and have questions, be sure and ask.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


It turns out I said something wrong in an earlier post.  I said that tetrahedrons would tile in space, i.e. fill up 3 dimensional space completely the same way cubes can.  Turns out that's wrong.  If wikipedia is correct, though, I'm in good company in my error, because they say that Aristotle believed it too. 
  It starts out with the idea that 5 tetrahedrons will make a pentagonal solid like the one pictured here.  Actually it's close enough that it works fine in beadwork, but as an actual matter of geometry the 5 tets would leave just a few degrees left in the circle.  Knowing that, I was aware, as I made this piece, that I had to tug just a bit extra to get the fifth tetrahedron to close.  Never noticed that before. 
  If the 5 tets did actually make the figure they seem to make, then 20 tets would fill an icosahedron, and you could keep adding on tets forever to fill space.  close, but no cigar.
  This probably has very little relevance in actual beadwork, since, as I said, it's close enough that you can pretty much make it work, but I had to mention it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

sterling silver tubes

 Buying and cutting those colored aluminum tubes that I've talked about in the last few posts has started me off on a tear.  I've thought for a while about using oxidized sterling silver instead of oxidized copper, but was put off by having to cut the tubes myself.  At the same time I knew that there were things I couldn't do with the copper tube lengths I had, that I could do if I could control the length myself.  So as soon as I had worked a bit with the aluminum tubes, I found myself buying silver tubes and cutting them up too.
  As a practical matter, the price difference between copper and silver isn't so very great because the necklaces don't actually have that much metal in them. They're light as a feather.  In fact, that may be a problem in some pieces down the road.  On many of my copper pieces I used some 18mm melon shaped beads, mostly to add a little weight to make the piece hang better.  But those same beads in silver are pretty pricey because they have a lot of silver in them.  For now, the time it takes to cut and, more importantly, de-burr the cut tubes adds more to the cost of the work than the difference in metal prices.  And I think silver has more customer appeal than copper.
   The piece on top, with the tetrahelixes, was my first one with oxidized sterling.  I find it doesn't oxidize as dark as the copper does, at least using liver of sulphur.  There may be other chemicals that make it darker if I decide I want that.  For now this is OK.  I felt I needed seed beads at the ends of the aluminum tubes, so I used them at the ends of the
silver tubes too.  On the second piece, below, I used them just on the aluminum, not on the silver.  As I was cutting the silver, I found I was seduced by how pretty the bright silver was, so for the second piece, I left it bright (also the dark blue and purple show up better against the bright silver).  However, as a practical matter, I don't want to spend a lot of time trying to clean silver, so I think I'll mostly darken it.  I've looked at a lot of Flora Book's work with silver tubes, and it's so beautiful it tempts me to do more with bright silver. I'll just have to see as I go along.
  On the bottom piece you can see the advantage of cutting my own tubes.  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.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Complexity v simplicity

I'm never sure when simple is too simple, or when adding a bit of complexity is an improvement.  Sometimes I throw something in in the middle of a repetitive sequence, just because I'm bored with the process, and that's usually a mistake.  This time I did something different.  I had finished my red and black tets necklace, which, I showed in an earlier post, and I liked it a lot.  Still, I thought it read as a very simple structure, and I thought I might add something so that it would show more complexity.  I added 5 extra tets to give the necklace a bit of "spikiness" instead of being a simple ring of tets. I think it was an improvement, but I'd love to know what others think, looking at the 2 together.. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

red tube necklace

Once I had my building blocks figured out, I couldn't stop beading till I had a necklace.  I think the color adds a lot in terms of defining the structure.  More to come, as I'm on a roll now.

Friday, July 18, 2014

colored tubes

   I just got my first shipment of colored (anodized aluminum) tubes, and I'm loving them.  I've been wanting to make some pieces that are quite open, as all my tube pieces are, but still have a bit more presence.  The aluminum tubes accomplish this in 2 ways.  First, obviously, they're red.  But also, they're fatter than the oxidized copper tubes.  The copper ones are 1.5 mm in diameter, and the aluminum ones are 1/16" which is almost 2mm.  Because the tubes are relatively big, I found I needed seed beads at the ends, as having 3 big raw tube ends at each point of 
a tetrahedron was unattractive.  I had used #11 beads at the ends of copper tubes in the past, but I thought that the fatter tubes might "want" a bigger bead.  So I tried it with #8s.  But I didn't quite like it so I tried #11 beads (this is all in the 1st picture) and I liked that better.  A #11 bead fits quite nicely into the hole in the red tube.
   Then I had to figure out how to combine the red tubes with the blackened copper ones.  When I cut up the 1st 1' tube, I got 14 beads, but they were just a hair shorter than the long copper ones.  So I thought I might put seed beads only on the ends of the red tubes, and not the black ones, and that would even things out.  I did that in the 1st tet in the 2nd picture, and it pretty much worked, in terms of making the sides even.  But I wasn't sure I liked it. so I did a second tet in which all the tubes had beads at the ends.  I liked that better, even though the lengths weren't quite right.  On my next 1' tube I lengthened the individual tubes just a bit and got just 13 tubes out of a foot, but the length was better. 
  Actually, I need to work on getting tubes of a consistent length.  The red ones were better than the gold filled ones I did a few weeks ago, and the last red tube I did was better than the first,  But they're still not as consistent as I'd like.  Rio Grande sells a tube cutter that you can set to a length, and that should improve both consistency and speed.  I want to play around with the lengths of the tubes, but it will be trial and error as to how a given length affects the geometry of a piece, and I can't do much trial and error without wasting beads, so that's a problem.  I imagine there are CAD type programs where you could  play with  polyhedra that have sides of various lengths, but I don't know what they would be.  The only other thing I can think of is to buy unanodized aluminum, which is really cheap ( something like $.35/ft) and play with those.  That, of course, is expensive in time.  Anyway, for now I'm having great fun with my new red tubes.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


   I haven't posted in  while, but I've been playing with a spiraling structure of tetrahedrons that I mentioned a few months ago. In the interim, the beaded molecule folks talked about the same structure in their blog, so now I know it's called a tetrahelix, i.e. a helix made of tetrahedra.  I borrowed their idea of accenting the spiral-ness by using different color beads for the 3 outside edges of the helix. 
   I've been thinking for a while about using different tubes to contrast with the oxidized copper.  To do that I have to cut my own tube beads, but that opens up lots of possibilities too, because I can vary the length to alter the structures.  I suspect that soon I'm going to wish I knew some trigonometry.  My only memory of trig is looking up 4 digit decimal numbers in tables in the back of the math book.  This was, of course, in the bygone days before calculators.  But now I find myself wanting to know things like what angle I'm creating between 2 faces, or  2 beads, and I think that's the realm of trig.  One of the nice things about doing this stuff with beads is that if the angle is close to what you need, you can make it work.
   In this piece I didn't play with angles and lengths.  Learning to saw the tubing was a first step and that was enough for starters. I bought gold filled tubing and cut tubes the same length as the long copper ones I've been using.  I like the effect.  Another possibility is stainless steel tubes ( which are actually hypodermic syringe tubes), or anodized and colored aluminum.  The stainless would, of course, be much harder to cut, and I like the idea of colored aluminum, but the tubes I've found so far are much fatter than the copper ones, so I'm not sure they'll look right if used in the same piece.  So much to learn (and such fun doing it!).

Monday, May 26, 2014

evolution of a design

I've been trying to get into better shows with my beadwork, and while I'm improving, I'm still not getting into some of the shows I want to ( as if that isn't always the case).  Part of my problem is that for years I've been applying to shows, with the rugs, in the fiber category, which is generally one of the less competitive categories; now I'm applying in jewelry, which is always one of the most competitive.  Anyway, I've been using the oxidized copper tube pieces, because I think they're the most uniquely my work.  But I wanted another piece with some color, and since some of my pieces are rather irregular, I wanted one that was more controlled.  Hence the top piece.
  I like the piece, but, for a jury shot, I thought maybe I had moved too much in the direction of repetition.  I wanted a piece that was controlled, but
not quite so predictable.  Also, although I had color, still it had a lot of browns and neutrals.   I decided  I wanted to make 3 changes:  more color, copper tube pieces that were octahedra like the ones in the first piece, but irregular octahedra, and more interesting shapes than the ovoid ones in the first
     The second pic shows me playing around with shapes till I got one I liked, sort of a fat crescent.  Incorporating the other changes gave me more the sort of piece I was looking for, controlled, but just s bit unpredictable.  I still have to work on getting a better picture of the new necklace--it's really brighter than this pic makes it appear.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


    This is sort of an add-on to my post earlier today.  I have a couple of local art festivals coming up, so I may not do any blogging for a few weeks.  So I thought I'd take a quick picture of the straight, but spiraled string of tetrahedrons I came up with.  I think it's kind of cool. 
    By the way, thinking of festivals, if anyone will be in the Chicago area, I'll be showing my jewelry at the Highland Park (northern suburb) Festival of Fine Craft the last weekend in June.

Back to geometry

   First of--apologies for the blurry pictures; I didn't haul out the tripod as I should have.
    I've been playing with structures of tetrahedrons again.  Last September I did a post or 2 about some necklaces I made using really long bugle beads to form chains of tetrahedrons (tets).  I liked them but got concerned about the sharpness of the edges of the bugle beads.  Even adding a seed bead at the end of each bugle, I was a bit worried about the fireline fraying.  I decided not to use magnet clasps because I didn't like to be pulling the necklace apart as you do with a magnet clasp, for fear of cutting a thread. 
  Anyway, I started in again, but this time using the oxidized copper tubes I've been using lately.  If you just keep adding tets in the most logical order they make a circle.  I think ( if anyone knows for sure, I'd love corroboration or correction)  that tetrahedrons will tile infinitely in space with no gaps the same way that cubes will.  But they do it in a very curvilinear way.  For example, 20 tets form an icosahedron, which is essentially spherical.  Still, if they'll tile in 3 dimensions, there had to be a chain of tets that would curve  gradually, or even go straight.  But I was having a hard time getting a chain of tets that had a shallow enough curve.  The chain I had used with the 30mm bugles last fall, didn't work with my 22 mm tubes.  The curve was too tight, and I ended up turning it into a bracelet instead of a necklace.
     I spent lots of time coming up with the second structure.  I found a chain of 8 tetrahedrons which didn't bend much.  Then I marked the last tet with a piece of yarn and started adding tets to the chain so that that marked tet was the center of a symmetrical chain of 15 tets.  Then I moved the yarn and extended the 15 tet chain to 29.  I'm sure there are computer designing programs that would figure out something like this for you, but I'll admit I learned alot using this seat of the pants method.  And I got a chain that curved just the right amount.  I've even found a chain that goes straight.  It makes a gentle spiral as it goes, so it's pretty cool.  I don't have a picture of it yet, but I'll post one when I do.  All in all, it was a fun endeavor.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

More Asawa inspired work

I'm still playing around with shapes that overlap/intersect one another.  I thought I'd try black(ish) and white so that you could see the intersection better.  The white beads are mother of pearl; the black are jungle jasper in the top one and black silkstone in the bottom one.  Neither is quite finished as I ran out of mother of pearl beads and I'm waiting for more.  In the top piece there's a continuous black tube that goes sometimes inside of and sometimes outside of a continuous white tube.  In the bottom there are 4 "pod" shapes with pointy ends that overlap, and tubes on each end that overlap the last pod.  An interesting project.  The design limitation is you have to arrange them so that the circles where the 2 shapes interlock have to all be 6-bead circles, because a smaller circle won't let a bead pass through the middle.  If I had beads that were slightly oval shaped, so that a bead would pass through a 5-bead circle, I'd have more flexibility.  Also, it makes for a pretty rigid structure.  I'd thought I could make a whole necklace of interlocked pods, but it just doesn't curve enough.  As it turns out, it would also be pretty heavy.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ruth Asawa again

Here's my second pendant based on Ruth Asawa's interlocking shapes, spheres at the bottom and sort of fluttery cones half way up.  These are stone beads, mother of pearl for most of it, and African jade blending into blue sodalite for the colored part.  I was really pleased with it.  Doing it was an exercise in not doing too much. The long stretch of mother of pearl tube was repetitious.  When I do a long repetitious part, I have a tendency to add things, out of boredom, that are often better left out.  Several times on this piece I started to do extra things to "jazz it up" a bit, like stripes of blue beads to break up the long stretch of white, and things like that.  I ended up ripping them all out and keeping it simple, and I think it was right.  The only change I ended up making from the original 2-color design was to blend in the blue beads at the end of the green stalk, and I do like that.  Less is more.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Asawa pendant

I've been thinking about Ruth Asawa and her work.  If you're not familiar with it, you can find it at  She made gorgeous sculptural shapes out of knitted wire (although I keep seeing it described as crocheted, surely it's Viking knit).  Often there are spheres or cones interlocked with other spheres or cones.  That's what I wanted to play with.  It's made me realize, more than I had, how much geometry is in her work, to get smooth curves and progressions.  This was my first attempt at interlocked spheres.  I wish I could overlap them more, but since in my spheres there are fewer points of entry than in a knitted structure, there were limits to where I could make one sphere go inside another. For example, I couldn't pass through a 5-bead circle, because the hole in the middle isn't big enough to get a bead through it.  I had to just use the 6-bead circles. And if I had done my interlock through the next row of circles, the 2 green balls would have bumped into each other in the middle of the turquoise ball.  I have some ideas about getting around these problems, but that's for future work.  The 2 outer spheres are based on the 90 bead buckyball, but modified to "sprout" a tube at one end.  The 1 in the middle is a 120 bead sphere.  Following my usual path, now I'm working on another version that's a bit less symmetrical.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Scaffolds and pods

A few posts ago I showed a piece where I alternated strings of interlocked cubes with oxidized copper tube scaffold-like structures.  I had started out to make the necklace entirely of the cubes, but found it was getting too massive and dense.  The areas of copper tubes opened it up and I liked that better.  Even then, though, it was pretty big.  Not something I'd wear myself, although I'm trying to get beyond limiting myself to the sort of jewelry I personally wear.  Anyway, I wanted to do something a bit less massive.  So I made these 3-sided "pods" in shades of purple, blue and gray.  They have right angle corners at each end, so they interlock just the way the cubes do, but they have a narrower profile, so they don't bulk up so much.  Also, I liked the colors of the pods with the almost-black of the oxidized copper.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Circles of pearls

I've been playing some with freshwater pearls lately.  I made the first, larger circle using cubic RAW, alternating cubes with triangular forms to get the curve you need to make a circle.  My intent was for it to be the focal of a pendant.  I didn't like how much thread showed.  Part of the problem, I think, was that, because the pearls are quite a light gray, I used white fireline instead of black, and I think that was a mistake. The black would have disappeared into the shadows of the pearls better than the white.   Still, in either color, there's a lot of thread.  The second one was done (with black fireline) using the hexagon as a base, as I learned from the beaded molecules blog.  It's smaller, but I like it much better.  I like the openness of it.  Also, if I were making a series of them for a necklace, which I probably will do, the weight is less (54 pearls instead of 65), which I prefer.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

interlocked cubes and scaffolds

Several months ago I did a few posts about some work I had done with interlocking cubes made of seed beads.  The last post (In May) was about a set of cubes with rounded corners that I had done.  At the time I said I'd like to do a whole necklace of them. There were 2 problems with that, though.  One, it would have taken forever.  I do lots of things that take forever, though, so that probably wouldn't have stopped me if I'd been really happy with what I was getting.  The bigger problem was that it was so very dense, I had the feeling that wearing it would be sort of like wearing those high starched ruffs that Spaniards used to wear.  Lord knows I like a piece that has some 3-dimensionality to it, but this was just going to be too much.  So it sat on my work table, partially made, for several months.  Then I thought about using my oxidized copper scaffolds to open it up.  That's what I did here, and I think it's a big improvement.  On most anyone's scale, it's still a pretty dense piece, and it won't be to everyone's taste.  But to my eye, the open areas break it up just enough that it doesn't seem like you're drowning in it.  If anything, as I look at the picture, I think I might go back and make the scaffold at the 4 o'clock position a bit longer to open it up just a bit more.  Anyway, I'm glad I waited and stared at it for a while.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

keggin and keggin-ish structures

    I'm on a 2-week break, since the store that my husband and I own is closed for the holidays.  Just when I had lots of free time, the beaded molecules folks ( posted a set of pictures that set me off on another structural journey.
The structure is called a keggin structure and wikipedia says it's the form of certain acid molecules.  I confess to not being much interested in the chemistry of it, but only in the geometry.  Geometrically. the structure is made of groups of 3 octahedrons that serve as the triangles in a larger structure.  The top  picture shows one such unit.  You can see on one edge (the top in this pic) there's a big triangle, and on the other edge (bottom) there are 3 small triangles that meet at a point in the center.   4 of these units, with the 1-triangle side on the outside and the 3-triangle side to the cente, form a  tetrahedron-ish thing.
    In thebeaded molecules site they showed 5 versions of this structure, identified by Greek letters that I don't have the font to write.  Picture 2 is the alpha version.  Till I made it, I couldn't tell how the others differed.  Turns out that in the alpha version, the triangles on the outside all line up with edges parallel to one another.  In the beta version one of them is point-to-edge.  Each of the others has 1 more triangle arranged point-to-edge till all 4 are that way.  But I had to see it in front of me before I understood it.  It's really hard to show a 3 dimensional structure like this well in a flat picture.  Even more so for me because I don't have 2 colors of bugle beads in the same length just now.
  Anyway, that's it for the Keggin structure.  But for me, since I'm dealing with it just as a geometric structure, not as a chemical thing, it seemed that the next logical step would be to take 8 of these triangle-ish units and make an octahedral version of the structure. So that's picture 3.  Then I took the 8 triangle version and made all the triangles point-to-edge instead of edge-to-edge.  That's the last picture.  I also improved things in that one by making the seed bead accents on the outside a different color from those on the inside of the structure, so that it's easier to read what's going on.
     A person just a little crazier than I  could also take 20 of the 3-octahedron units and make an icosahedron, but I think I've just about exhausted my interest in this.