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.

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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

necklace part 2

    I finished the elements I wanted to make for my necklace--1 big and 6 small.  Now how to join them.  My plan was to just make ladder-like circles of beads to join the elements.  I made one and joined the big structure to the bottom left one that way. But I didn't like it so much.  After some playing around I realized that the corners of the big piece had an angled tube that was at right angles to  the tube at the corner of a small link.  So they could be opposite edges of a tetrahedron.  I did that at bottom right, and it makes a much cleaner connection.  It will also work between small elements, so I think that's what I'm going with.
   Actually something just occurred to me as I write this.  The loops I originally planned, because they're less structured, would allow the links at the back to lie next to your neck.  I think the tets will force the whole necklace more or less into a plane, which means the back links will tend to stand up.  Double tets at each join would give more flexibility, but would (I think) only work if the tubes on the adjoining links were parallel, not at right angles.  Hmmm.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

More right angle tetrahedra

    I'm still learning a lot playing with tets (tetrahedra) that include right angles.  The first picture here, which I used in an earlier post, shows the kind of ring structures I've been building for a while with equilateral triangle tets.  The inner ring is a row of triangles alternating point-up and point-down.  Then each of these triangles becomes the base of a tet.  Then, for the outer edge I join all the top points of the tets. 
  In the last couple of posts I switched from equilateral triangles to right angle ones.  The inner ring is a row of right angle isoceles triangles that alternate hypotenuse-up and hypotenuse-down.  Then I went on to see what structures I could generate.
  But the problem with both of those structures is that all the tubes on that inner rim are at an angle
to the overall structure, so you can't easily break up the ring and put a clasp in, which you sometimes want to do.  So I started thinking about making the inner ring out of right triangles, but using the right angle so that you have tubes that are perpendicular to the overall direction of the ring.  I don't know if that makes sense, and I was in a hurry to write this down, so my picture may not show things well enough.  But I think this is going to be useful.  Here I won't be using a clasp; the plan is to make 6 (possibly 8) of the small shapes, with the big one at the bottom.  It'll be a  pretty large necklace--the big shape is over 4" across and the small ones are about 2 1/4" across.  So it should have a lot of impact.  You can't tell too well from my bad picture but there's a sort of pinwheel of orange tubes on one side and yellow tubes on the other.  I'll probably put 1 color on top for all the small shapes and the other color on top on the big one.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bracelet time

   I'm on a roll with bracelets.  It started with the structure I wrote about in the last post, where I could build a square section that could go straight or turn a corner.  I turned that into a square bracelet.  Actually it was lucky that it worked.  A problem that I've always had with bracelets is that my structures are generally built of modules, and since my most commonly use tubes are between 20 and 28 mm (25mm is roughly an inch), they don't lend themselves to small variations in length.  An inch more or less doesn't make a big difference in a necklace, but in a bracelet it's huge. That's especially true in bracelets without a clasp, because it has to be big enough to go over your hand, but not so big that it falls off or feels like it's about to. (Also, I have a  small wrist, so I tend to err on the small side).

   As a result lately I've mostly been putting clasps on my bracelets.  For a while I did magnetic clasps, and I liked the clean look.  But I wanted a strong magnet, and it wanted to grab other things, which I didn't like.  Also, since my husband got a pacemaker a few years ago I've been leery of wearing magnets. 
    When I stopped using magnets, I moved to hook and eye clasps.  But they use up a lot of space, especially if you first have to get from a long crosswise tube to a point you can attach a hook to.  If you look at the bracelet in the last post you can see there are 5 big square units, and then almost 1 1/2" used up for a clasp.  But lately I've found a foldover clasp that I can slide over a tube and then grab a tube on the other side to close the bracelet.  That allowed me to put 6 square structures in the bracelet pictured here.  I like that much better.  The only problem is how to keep the clasp centered if the tubes you're using are long ones, but I'm working on that.  Here you can see I broke up what would have been a long tube into 3 short tubes to keep the clasp and catch centered.  I had originally planned to do something similar on the top bracelet, and have a clasp there too.  But since the tube that the clasp would have slid over was only 20mm, it all got too tight and messy looking, so I left out the clasp. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

more right angle explorations

I haven't blogged in a while; sometimes life gets in the way.  My husband and I have been in the sailboat business for 40 years, and we've just closed our store ( which was also my main studio) and are trying to figure out the future plan.  I've now sold all my looms, and the jewelry work is quite portable, but it still creates complications.  Right now I'm cutting tubes at a workbench in a storage locker we've rented, as we live in a townhouse, and the room I've set aside as my workplace is carpeted, and not conducive to sawing metal.  My plan is to cut tubes in larger batches so that I don't mind going to the storage place to do it, but I'm also looking at the possibility of an outside workbench here that won't look too industrial and irritate the neighbors.
   Meanwhile. though, I'm still playing with structures.  I find the blog is a great way to keep a record of what I'm doing.  I use my silver tubes to experiment, but it's too expensive to keep permanent structures made out of handcut and oxidized silver tubes just so that I can get ideas from them.  So if I blog about them, then I have pictures and notes, and I can reuse the tubes for actual jewelry.
    Ever since I made thebracelet above, I've been fascinated by how an alternating series of right triangle tetrahedra and equilateral ones makes these square structures.  I'm making a similar bracelet now, but I kept wondering if I couldn't make the series continue in a straight line instead of turning corners.  (This happened at about the time I realized that I didn't have enough 20 mm tubes to finish the bracelet anyway.)  So I tried it--and it works!
  Doing it just the way I had done the square structures, i.e. alternating 1 right angle tet with 1 equilateral one, I got the top  structure, which is flat on the bottom with a zigzag top.  But what was more interesting, I thought, was that since the zigzag tubeson top were at fight angles to each other I could make them into right angle tets too and then (bottom picture) I get a structure with a square profile that I can extend as long as I want.  Also if I end with an equilateral tet I have a tube at the end which
could serve as a hinge to join another structure. Actually, just as I write this and look at the pictures, I realize that this is really an octet truss, because if you left out the central tube that is the "hub" shared by 4 tets, you'd have an octahedron.  Stay tuned!
   I should mention that things don't always turn out that neatly.  When I made a chain using only right triangle tets instead of alternating, nothing interesting happened.  Also I suspect I could have found out the same thing just by creative use of the Pythagorean theorem, but then I wouldn't have pictures to remind me of what I'd learned.