Sunday, December 23, 2012


This is a piece I'm really proud of--even though it's not pretty, or something I can sell.  For a while now, I've been working on these tube pieces, and gradually finding what works and what doesn't.  The trouble is, I often try various ways to, for example, make a smooth curve, till I get what I want.  But some of the ones I didn't want might be a structure that's useful for something else--except that I've torn it out and after a while I can't remember how I did it.  So this is a sort of sampler.  In it I have several ways to make a 60, 120, and (most importantly) 90 degree turn.  The hardest was to make a corner, like you'd have if you were making an open cube.  The inside curve was easy, the the outside curve would either have a big knob on it, or be too flat and pull the inside out of its 90 degree-ness.  Anyway, I learned an enormous amount, and have generated lots of ideas for future pieces.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Red Gemstone Necklace

Since I've been doing these tube necklaces in nickel silver beads, I've wanted to use the same techniques in a piece made from gemstone beads.  This is the first one.  It's made from brecciated jasper beads (the dark ones) and red agate beads as accents.  I like the way the colors bring out the geometry of the piece.  Stone beads are a little slower to work with, because the holes are so small, but I like them, and will probably do more.  I used fireline for thread.  I mostly have been using monofilament nylon, for the extra body, but it's too bulky in these small holes, and I've found that if I make an extra pass all around the circumference as I end each round of hexagons, I get sufficient body.  By the way, I've experimented with different sizes of tubes, measured by the number of hexagons that make a "row", and for the most part I find a 4 hexagon circumference works well.  That's what I've used here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cubic super RAW

     I did 2 different structures trying to "cubify" Gwen Fisher's super RAW.  I didn't have access to the her blog as I was doing them, which is good, because It turned out that neither is the structure she used.  I wanted to keep the octagon in alternating colors that her flat version has.  What I ended up with is according to my handy wikipedia list of Archimedean solids, a truncated cube (i.e.a cube with the corners cut off to form triangles at the corners)  I did a single version and a double.  One thing I remembered about Gwen's version, though, is that it had hexagons at the corners, and this one has triangles.  So I tried again.  That's picture #3, and in the Archimedean solids it's a truncated cuboctahedron.  The funny thing is that it's actually the same bead I did several posts ago, and I called it Gwen's bead, because O it's relationship with something that I can't now remember.  I'll have to go back to those posts and look, but meanwhile I seem to have arrived at the same bead, approaching from 2 different directions.
    It was the different arrangements of the colors that made me not initially recognise the structure I saw.  Similarly it was the different color arrangements that made me not recognise the structure that Gwen had actually made for her CSRAW  (maybe we should call it super cubic right angle weave, because SCRAW is alot more pronounceable than CSRAW).  Anyway her structure is a truncated octahedron, which is one of my favorite shapes because you can incorporate a round(ish) structure with RAW.  I usually do it in a single color, and so I didn't recognise it.
   It occurs to me that one reason I usually do structures in a single color dates back to my learning to weave them.  I learned both the Plato bead (dodecahedron) and Archimedes bead (truncated icosahedron) from Valerie Hector's book.  I had, of course, no idea at the time how the names Plato and Archimedes were related to the shapes.  Anyway, the Archimedes bead took me a while and I had to do it in 2 colors in order to keep track of what I was doing.  I felt like it was a personal milestone when I got to where I could keep track of it without the "crutch" of 2 colors.  Now I'm starting to realize that the color arrangements can enhance the pieces.  Hmm...some rethinking may be in order.

One of my favorite uses of the truncated octahedron (clearly we need a shorter name) is, in fact, analogous to what Gwen's molecule did in her last post.  It's a series of necklaces that I call my Garland series.  This is my favorite of them.  It's the interesting angles as which the RAW sections come off the spheres that makes them interesting.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Links piece

With this piece I've gone back to my "links" series, creating separate links that can be joined together in any order. These are embellished with balls on stalks. One thing that is different in this one, and that I like, is that I used a black stem and toggle to contrast with the colored oval in each link. I considered using a colored ball at the end of each stem instead of a straight toggle, but then you can't take the links apart. Still, it would have looked nice, and blended in with the other balls on stalks. Hmmm... I'm thinking as I write, and that might be the next piece. I did that once before, with a gemstone links piece, and liked it. I don't think that piece is here on the blog anywhere, but it's on my website, I had to make one of the ovals open up (with a magnet clasp), since I couldn't take the links apart from one another.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I've been working pretty hard on my photography, and I thought this one came out pretty well.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Another scaffold

I'm really getting into these dark tube bead pieces. I've done several now, and I think this is my favorite. With the one I talked about in the last post, I was concerned that, because it was done mostly in right angle weave, it was a bit too floppy, because 4-sided figures are not rigid the way triangles are. In this one I modified it by using triangles for the cross-sections, but 4-sided figures otherwise. That way it still has lots of flex, but it can't collapse totally flat. I think one reason I like these pieces is that they avoid the tendency toward "preciousness" that I think is easy to fall into in beadwork. Using these beads, even if you do a symmetrical piece it's kind of ____, I can't think of the word exactly; not masculine, obviously, but not overly feminine and pretty. Anyway, it works for me.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Funky scaffold

I think in my last post about beadwork, I said that since that piece was very controlled, I wanted to something funky next. Well, here it is. More and more, I've come to realize that I sort of have 2 distinct bodies of work, one very controlled, and one looser. I like them both, and they seem to resonate with different parts of me. I do the same with my rugs, although there I've moved more and more to the looser designs, with color families instead of single colors, and a more improvisational style. Partly as I get more confident with something, I loosen up a bit, although I still like the controlled pieces too. This necklace is a really simple right angle weave, done with oxidized copper tube beads. I used 2 different lengths of tubes, though, chosen mostly at random, which makes it asymmetrical, and gives it life (I think). I broke one of my rules with it though. I have come up with a general rule for my work that when I'm using round beads I generally create shapes out of polygons with at least 4 sides. I use triangles some, but generally I don't like the amount of thread that shows in a triangle. Mostly I use cubes, dodecahedrons, buckeyballs, etc. But with long beads, those sort of polygons don't hold their shape, so I stick to triangles, which are rigid. I mostly make things using tetrahedrons, octahedrons and sometimes icosahedrons, all of which are based on the triangle. This necklace is an exception to that rule, since most of it uses 4 sided shapes (I can't say squares because of the difference in the lengths of the tubes). If I had made it all with tubes of the same length, it would totally collapse. Because of the irregularity of the tube lengths, it can't quite collapse, and where it does collapse, it does so in interesting ways. At the back of the necklace, mostly to reduce the size, I changed it so that the cross-sections were triangles, and the sides were 4-sided, and it's a bit firmer there. Also at the bottom I added a second row with triangle cross-sections, both to create a focal area and to firm it up a bit. Still it's squishier than most of my work, but I kind of like the squishiness.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stalactites rug

One of the fun things about the rugweaving structure I use is that the colors reverse on the back side. The design of my newest rug takes advantage of that to create a light side and a dark side of the rug. The darker side, where the reds and dark blues predominate, is the side I designed. On that side, the red sections get smaller as they go up, and they also get lighter as they go up, so you see more red and less pink. Same for the blues, which predominate at the top where they are dark and get smaller as they get lighter. On the back side the pinks and light blues predominate for the same reason. Either side can be the "right" side, depending on what works in your room.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

triangles necklace

I thought that since I'd posted the early stages of the design of this piece, I ought to post the final product. Here it is. Once again simplicity and symmetry won out. To even things out, I'm working on a funkier piece next.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Linked triangles necklace

I thought I'd write something about how my designs evolve as I create them. I tend not to do alot of preliminary drawing or planning. I just have an idea and see how it works out as I make it. Not the most efficient method, as you can see here. I wanted a series of triangles made from nickel silver beads joined by metallic seed beads. The first time I started (I don't have a picture of this)the triangles were too close together, and I wanted a more open effect. The picture here is my second try. I got enough space between the triangles, but in doing so, it seemed to me that the colored seed beads sort of overwhelmed the triangles, and I had wanted the triangles to dominate. Also, I had intended to make the whole necklace a hexagon shape, using the way triangles tile to make the "corners". You can see one corner in the picture. But I found that you don't have much control over the size of the sides that way. That is, if 5 triangles is a bit too small for a side, you have to add 2 more triangles, which is an additional 2" or more, when maybe you just wanted another 1/2" or so. So I decided to make the circle by just making the hinges on the outside of the circle longer than the ones on the inside of the circle.
This is how it's looking so far, and I like it much better. At shows people always ask how long it took to make a piece. I hate that question. And often, I wonder whether I'm supposed to count just what they're looking at, or all the false starts that went into the designing of it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

more new earrings

More with my oxidized copper tubes. On the right is an earring that was one of my favorites until my wearing it turned it brown. It's just an octahedron, but when you use some long tubes and some short ones, you get interesting shapes. The one on the left is the new one with patinated copper tubes and little accent beads. You can see that the original one was just the tubes. I guess it's because of my own gray hair that I feel like the dark gray tubes won't show up enough without accent beads. I spent quite a while playing with the liver of sulphur today, and it's trickier that I thought at first. I have several necklaces that are gorgeous flame orange around the bottom and brown where they were next to my undoubtedly sweaty neck(this is Florida, after all). Most of them use melons as well as tubes. I found the melons gave the necklaces more weight, and so they hung better. With all the beads, I hadn't liked the new-penny-pink of the raw copper, and so I hit them with a propane torch to turn them darker. They turned a lovely orange. But now I realize that alot of what I was doing was burning off the lacquer they were coated in. When they started to go brown, I found the melons held their color better. Now I realize that was largely because their greater mass kept them from heating up as quickly as the tubes, so I didn't burn off all of the lacquer. I was hoping I could put a whole necklace in the liver of sulphur solution and just turn it gray. But the melons get mottled, instead of all gray. Eventually the L of S turns them all gray or black, but by that time the tubes have a black coating that comes off on your hands. Not good. More experimentation is in order.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Something new

These earrings represent 2 new things in my work--1 good, 1 REALLY BAD. I'll give you the bad part first. The little gold-ish beads are #11s. I know lots of you use #11, or even, God forbid, #15 beads, but I have been a firm believer in #8 beads, which probably seem big and clunky to hard core beaders, but have worked great for me. I never even bought #11s. So my whole system, the needles I use, the monofilament, everything is the way it is because I use #8s (or larger, if you count the gemstones and the long glass oval beads). And I like it that way. I want to do complex work. But don't think it's any more complex because the beads are ultra-tiny, instead of just tiny. And to me, coming from weaving rugs, where I measure my progress in square feet, #8 beads do seem tiny. But I needed those little circles of beads to be very small, especially since the tube beads, while long, are quite small in diameter, so I broke my rule. Oh well, just so I don't start making things entirely out of #11s, I guess I can cope. The other new thing is the tube beads. They're patinated copper. I've used copper beads, both tubes and melons, in lots of pieces, and I've really liked the very architectural effect. Some of the pieces look kind of like bridge trusses. But I found that after I wore them awhile, skin oils and, let's face it, sweat turned the lovely orange to brown. Not surprising when you look at the copper bottoms of pans. But for that reason I'd sort of stopped working with the copper, and I took the pieces off my website. I started thinking about silver, but, of course, that will tarnish too. So I started thinking about patinating the silver, so it would just be a permanent dark gray. I wandered around the web, looking at instructions and videos for patinating silver with liver of sulphur. But I found that liver of sulphur will also patinate copper dark gray. So why pay the price of silver when I can get the same look with copper? Also I can't find long straight tubes in silver. Everything I found that was around an inch long was either a curve or a spiral (the long copper beads I used are 22mm long and 1.5 mm diameter). a curve or spiral might be an interesting effect, and I know I'll try it sometime, but for now I really like what I got with the copper. The difference, I found, is that the silver seemed to stop at a fairly shiny dark gray, but the copper, if you left it in the solution too long went to totally matte black and just looked burned up. In the picture these earrings look black, but that's the fault of the photography; they're dark gray. When I made the jewelry using coppery looking copper I didn't use the tiny accent beads, but with the dark gray I felt I needed an accent color.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

More shapes

Isn't geometry great? After making the bead I showed (badly) in the last post, I wanted to make more. The original one, which is the 1st one in both of these pictures, was based on the cuboctahedron, which has 24 edges. So I wanted to make some shapes based on solids with a fairly similar number of edges, so they could come out similar in size. The 2nd shape in the group is based on the truncated tetrahedron, which has 18 edges. I thought about doing a dodecahedron or icosahedron, but they both have 30 edges, so would be bigger than I thought I wanted. So I went to the list of Johnson solids (Hurray for wikipedia) and found more shapes. I especially like the last 2 that are dome shaped--they're called cupolas on the list--because I'm thinking of making a bracelet with several shapes linked together, and those give a flat side to have on the inside with the "dome" facing out. One of them is basically an icosahedron with the bottom 5 triangles cut off, so it has 25 edges. The smaller one has a hexagon on the bottom and 18 edges. I posted 2 pictures of the shapes so you could see them from the top as well as the side. One thing I've been meaning to do is put together a tutorial and see if anyone's interested in learning how to make one. I might do it with one of these shapes. I don't have a graphics type program, but would do it with lots of photos.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gwen's bead

Sorry about the blurry image; no tripod handy. But I think you can see the structure OK. I call this one Gwen's bead, because it was inspired by the paper Gwen Fisher and Blake Mellor wrote about tiling theory and beading. It's in Gwen's blog at I have to admit I haven't finished reading the article, but I've looked at the diagrams and pictures in it. I particularly liked the hexagonal tiled figure in Fig 28 (on the left). The problem is that as I'm an active rugweaver, when I want to make complex flat patterns, I do it at my loom, and weave a rug. With the beadwork I want to work in 3 dimensions. I started out to turn the flat idea in figure 28 into a truncated octagon, as that's a shape I use alot. But when I realized how big it would get, I switched to a cuboctahedron. Seems like when you use that method in a solid figure, what you end up with is a sort of truncated cuboctahedron. Also it seemed like in the 3-dimensional figure the ratio of the 2 sorts of beads (I think Gwen has a name for them, but I'm too lazy to look it up just now) is different. My piece seems to have lots more silver beads in relation to the copper ones (I think the ratio was 96/32 or 3/1) than her flat figure had. I was also surprised at how firm it was; I was afraid it would be squishy. I'm not sure just what I'll do with the bead, but I like the lacy openness of it. Anyway it was a fun thing to work on.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hamiltonian path

I'm so proud of this dodecahedron! If you're like me, and I know some of you are, you've made jillions of dodecahedra, so what's so special about this one? It was made using what the beaded molecule people call the Hamiltonian path, which means that each bead has only 2 passes of thread through it. (Actually don't look too closely at the picture, because I didn't take the time to photograph the actual one, but since I wanted a picture for the post I just used the photo from one of my dodecahedron earrings--but, trust me, I actually made the real thing.) I read about this Hamiltonian path on the blog a few days ago, and my first thought was "that's impossible". Since each bead is in 2 circles, I knew you'd need 2 passes, one for each circle. But you need a third pass to get your thread into position for the next circle. Today, while I was away from the computer, I was composing a comment to the blog, asking them to explain. I was going to say that I knew you'd have only 2 passes through each bead if each circle was a separate piece of thread. Also you could do the same using 1 thread for each 2 circles, by making figure 8s out of 2 circles and then joining them together. A few hours later, while I was doing something entirely unrelated, it occurred to me that if you could make a figure 8 (2 circles) you could extend that and make a 3 circle version. If that was so there must be a way to extend that to 12 circles in such a way as to have a dodecahedron. That led to much staring at diagrams of dodecahhedra, and eventually I figured it out. Actually it turns out that if you use the 2-needle technique--that is, a length of thread with a needle at each end--it's not hard to do. But it took me a while to realize that. I don't much like the 2-needle thing, because it makes it hard to maintain tension, but it simplifies things because you don't have to figure out a way to get the thread back to the beginning of the structure. Essentially you're bringing the beginning and end of the thread along with you. Anyway, I made it, and it was great mental exercise. Now I'll go back to making things the usual way. By the way, does anyone know who Hamilton was/is?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New bead shapes

I haven't posted much lately, but I've been working at the beadwork, trying to expand the vocabulary of shapes I can create. This is one, using a graduated set of diamond shapes in gemstone beads and graduated egg or oval shapes with the nickel silver beads. Obviously it's totally symmetrical. After doing that one, I did another, mixing up the shapes and colors a bit more. This is that one. I really like working with the stone beads, and putting that sort of color in the work. In one way, it's a pain because the holes are so much smaller than seed bead holes. But I like the soft colors alot.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

geometric shapes

These 2 pieces have been on my mental drawing board for a while now. Finally made them. The green one is mostly about the stones, and the various greens. The other one is me starting to put together some of the shapes I've figured out. I like the look of the stone beads, but it sure is a pain to find the holes in them. Partly it's just that I need a better light, I think. It's OK for most things, but not for finding holes in beads. Black onyx are the worst!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Asymmetrical tube necklace

This is my newest tube necklace made from my nickel silver beads. I was pretty pleased with it. I had to work hard on it to push myself toward an asymmetrical design. I tore it apart several times till I got it where I wanted it. But in the course of it I learned alot about how to make the tubes do what you want them to do.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

nanotube necklace

Here's another in my series of explorations of nanotube forms. It's quite symmetrical, and I'm now working on one that's asymmetrical, but both are based on my attempts to make tubes that curve and get bigger and smaller to create a design. I just read Cindy Holsclaw's post on her beadorigami blog about chiral forms in DNA, so I'll mention a bit about that. The beaded molecules blog shows chiral and achiral forms for their torus structures. Generally the chiral forms seem to make the smoothest curves, which I like the look of. However, unless I make a necklace long enough to fit over a person's head (which I'd like to do, but haven't) I need to be able to endcap the tube, or at least to have it end smoothly so that I can put in a clasp. That seems to require an achiral tube. I've also found that I can change the diameter of the tube as I go around a curve, for example I can go from a 6-hexagon circumference to a 5-hexagon one. If I try to do it on a straight section it sort of bumps in on one side, and doesn't look good.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pinwheel pendant

I've been doing lots of work with the tube and torus structures, drawing on the ideas in the beaded molecules blog. I'm getting better at making tubes curve one way and another and making them get fatter and thinner. Great fun! This is my most complicated one so far. I'm using nickel silver beads, but I'd love to try some of these forms in sterling silver.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New stellate vessel

I've done another stellate vessel form. For this one I wanted there to be a clear distinction between the vessel on the inside and the stellations on the outside. In other ones there has been a difference, but not a major one, e.g. red and clear stellations on a plain red section of the bowl. But here I wanted the underlying bowl to be clearly differentiated, as it is.
I'm also playing with a new camera, that can, for one thing, make bigger files. With my old camera, it was very hard to take pictures of something as small as an earring, because I had to stay a foot away for it to focus, and then I couldn't crop away all the extra background and still have a picture big enough for jury shots. I'm still trying to decide between spending $ on a camera and associated gear and paying for professional photography for jury shots. Can't decide if I can really get the photography good enough to be competitive in highly juried shows.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

more scarves

I'm still having fun weaving scarves. At first this sort of weaving seemed a bit boring, since you can't do much designing as you weave, the way you can with my shaft-switched rugs. But now I'm finding that the color interactions are really interesting. When you weave a rug, the weft totally covers the warp, so there's only the color of the wefts to think about. But in these scarves, as in most weaving, you can see both warp and weft, so they contribute together to the final color. These 3 scarves were all woven on the same warp. it was wide stripes of reds, oranges, golds etc, alternating with marrow stripes of blues & greens. Different colors of weft made for interesting changes in the look of the scarves.