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.