October BJP: Beginnings

When I started the Bead Journal Project, I had a theme in mind. I wanted to create a visual representation of the Wheel of the Year. As there are 8 spokes in that wheel, I still needed 4 ideas to complete the year. I decided to interpret the Four Elementals. Well, that was my intention anyway. I think I veered off a little here and there. Then again, if we didn't make rules for ourselves, how could we know the joy of breaking them?

For the month of October, I'm drawn to the Undine, the elemental representing water, flow, intuition and dreaming.

First, the sketch:

I've already changed my mind about the placement of the different focals on the left side.

Here is that beginning. The stones I used were a gift from a rock-hound friend who found these in a dry riverbed somewhere between Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces. I think the larger one is some kind of agate - it was very fragile and quite porous so I coated it with liquid glass. It dried a little unevenly but I still like the effect.

I pictured my Undine as standing on a pile of pearls - I had no idea this was going to get as deeply textured as it did. When I fill in the background, it should really stand out.


What I Found and What I Made

Rooting through a box of beads, I found a freeform peyote bracelet I'd made last year, set aside and totally forgot. "Tumbled October" is up for sale on lov.li and it's in the gift cabinet at the bookstore.

I kept my "recipe card" for the original Far Sunset so it can be redesigned from there, but I chose to leave the bead mix that resulted from the autopsy on The Far Sunset in its scrambled state. It resulted in The Exploded Sunset:

The scanner did the best job of rendering the colors, I think. I can never seem to capture these colors - even in natural light - my camera is intimidated by the sheer gorgeousness of the cuff. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


When It Changes Direction AGAIN . . .

I really couldn't leave it alone. I just didn't like the presentation of the lampwork beads. I wanted the whole piece to be really special. So I took the centerpiece apart and built myself a pendant of bead embroidery to frame those beads.

I call it "Industrial Femme." And now I can leave it alone.

I think.



Vincent Van Pony is now complete - I'll be sending him and Monet Pony to visit Red Oak, Iowa - home of The Jade Dog - in a few days. They'll be making appearances there and in Omaha, Nebraska over the next few months.

Did I mention I found another cache of ponies at yet another thrift store? I have over a dozen of these little guys now, waiting in their stalls for embellishment. And to answer Mandi's question about getting the beads so nice and tight, it's just a matter of increasing, decreasing and using teeny 15s in some places as needed.


For The Record (that I might never forget)

See previous post for context.

At the top of my blog it says this space is for "works-in-progress, works that don't progress, stuff I make, stuff I break, and stuff I sell." I'm not really sure which category this falls under.


The Mountain Sunrise - You can see the puckering from the shrinkage most clearly along the clasp edge. Cause of puckering: Thread used was crystal fireline, and repeated exposure to water caused shrinkage. Most of the lilac beads and some of the gold have lost their finish. Most of the frosted yellow have bleached out. The white-gold finish has rubbed off the findings completely. There is some kind of mineral build-up around the knobs of the clasps.

Conclusion: Bracelet cannot be repaired. Most of the beads, and the clasps, have to be discarded. The thread shrinkage cannot be reversed.
Recommendation: Tear-down, salvage what beads still have their finish; write it off.

The Far Sunset - There is a closed tear along the knobbed clasp side. Cause of tear: The thread along the stress edge has rotted from continuous exposure to water. The copper finish has rubbed off most of the copper beads, exposing the underlying white glass, effectively destroying the piece, color-wise. Some of the purple beads have lost luster, again ruining the effect.

Conclusion: Bracelet cannot be repaired. Most of the beads to be discarded are in the center of the piece. The smoke fireline used has been too compromised and weakened. The entire piece would require reweaving.
Recommendation: Tear-down, salvage the clasps and those beads that still have their finish; write it off.

The Midnight Sky - The closed tear is approx. 1" from the knobbed clasp side. Most of the silver beads have lost their finish, exposing clear glass. Thead used was Nymo D. It has puckered and shrunk, creating an uneven surface. The gunmetal finish on the clasps has discolored unpleasantly.

Conclusion: Bracelet cannot be repaired. Most of the beads, and the clasps, have to be discarded. The thread is severely compromised and weakened.
Recommendation: Tear-down, salvage what beads still have their finish; write it off.

Now, stop crying and get on with the autopsy.

The Mountain Sunrise

The pile of beads on the left and the clasps are being discarded. The pile on the right can be salvaged.

The Far Sunset

The pile of beads on the left is being discarded. The pile on the right and the clasps can be salvaged.

The Midnight Sky

The pile of beads on the left and the clasps are being discarded. The pile on the right can be salvaged.

I look back at the "before" pictures and I realize the designs I created were too lovely to be abandoned completely. I'm going to redesign them, not as wide this time, and give them the button closures I wanted to do the first time.

And I'll get going on that as soon as I finish Vincent, which should be tomorrow - all that's left to do with him are his ears!


Artistic Depression:Something Like A Rant

This has been a nightmare for me. I make beaded art jewelry. I make fine beaded art jewelry. I make expensive beaded art jewelry. I've been honing and perfecting my craft for almost 20 years. Once in a while, I'll make something just as a challenge to myself and charge half as much as I should for it, because I view it as an exercise, a learning experience. This has been the most painful learning experience I've known in my artisan career, topping even my "Hillbillies from Mars" encounter.

I should probably explain.

Years and years ago, I decided to teach myself wire-wrapping. I practiced on those little flat-backed frosted marbles you find in the floral section of craft stores and with the cheapest wire I could find. I practiced and practiced. It was fun, really. I was getting ready to do a craft fair and my partner said I should string them on ribbon and have them on the corner of my table as the "little kid" buy at $2 each (I try to always have something on my table between $2 and $5 that a child could afford as a gift). I called them "Dragon's Tears," and made up a cute spiel to go with them. They were quite a hit, actually, and I sold most of them. I brought the remaining handful back to our bookstore and sold them at the counter, where they made a colorful little display.

Now, our store was in a different location back then. One of our neighbors across the parking lots and alleyway in back was a day labor place, next door to a plasma center. A young man and his wife, living out of their van with their large Irish setter were making their way through the world by selling their blood and working by the day. They decided to make that parking lot their home for a time. They liked to pop into our bookstore every now and then and look at the "pitcherbooks" in the art section. My partner dubbed them "The Hillbillies From Mars," after a conversation with them concerning their theory of the immanent take-over of Earth by ancient Egyptians who are based on Alpha Centauri. Take a moment. Let that sink in.

One day, the fellow noticed the Dragon's Tears. He claimed a spiritual affinity with dragons, bought one and put it on, beaming. Two days later he came back. Could I fix his necklace? The stone had fallen out of the wire-wrapping. I popped it back in, tightened it down some and sent him on his way. Having an actual life and many things to do, I didn't give this too much thought. Two days later he was back again. Could I fix his necklace? The stone had fallen out again. Once again, I popped it back in, tightened it down and sent him on his way. You'll never guess. He came back again. Again I fixed it. By now he'd replaced the ribbon with a chain. I think it was about the sixth time he brought it in that he told me he wore it all the time and never took it off. Never. This time when I popped the stone back in and tightened the wire, I covered the back of it with superglue. It looked horrible. He was delighted and never brought it back again. But then, he and his entourage migrated away shortly thereafter. Looking back on it now, if I had charged him for the repairs, the $2 necklace would have been about $20 by the time we were done. In the meantime, I had torn myself up about not having done a very good job in the first place. That feeling went away when I realized he was wearing the item as hard as he was. The whole exchange went on for over a month and took something I'd made with happiness and good will and turned it into a piece of crap of which I was ashamed.

It was then that a particular type of customer mentality was explained to me. The less someone pays for an item, the more they feel they can abuse that item and still complain about it when it doesn't hold up under their abuse. As I said, all this happened nearly ten years ago. A lesson learned and then, too soon forgot.

My current nightmare started back here.

It began with an Etsy conversation, asking if I made peyote band type bracelets. After a brief back-and-forth, I agreed to the commission, quoting her my "I just want to have some fun with this" price, and we were off. This was the first.

Right here I have to take all the responsibility for what followed. I should have asked how the bracelets would be worn. When someone says, "I'm trying to replace something I used to wear all the time," don't jump to the conclusion that they are speaking figuratively. Believe they mean they wear it all the time. In the shower, when swimming, in bed. Take them LITERALLY. Perhaps I should have quoted my regular price. It would have ended things right there. Hindsight really is 20-20.

By now we were exchanging emails. I was encouraged by her reaction to the first piece, but a little dismayed that she couldn't find the means to accurately measure her wrist. She sent back the first bracelet for me to adjust the length and change the closure. Again she was delighted with the results, and asked me to make two more.

So I made The Far Sunset and then The Mountain Sunrise. If you read the blog posts, you can see how heavily invested I was in this project; artistically and technically I always strive for a level of quality in my work that I can point to with pride. As I said at the beginning of this post, I make expensive art to wear. It is normally considered "special occasion" wear. When I ship my pieces to customers, I include my business card along with a small note on how to care for them; i.e. not intended for rigorous or continuous wear, do not immerse in water, et cetera. I could have sworn I did this.

A month or so went by and I got an email that one of the bracelets had broken. Would I repair it? Of course! Done and done. More time passed. The bracelet broke again. Would I? Yes, of course! And my thought bubble had this huge WTF? floating in it. Whatever could be going on? Another email and I find out exactly what's going on. I think we were speaking in different languages to each other. Had I known what precisely she was looking for, I would have turned down the original commission. She needed something that would stand up to rigorous, continuous and brutal wear. We had an obvious failure to communicate. Since this was all so disappointing to her, I offered to refund her money. She asked, "Do you just not want to fix them?" I felt morally and professionally obligated to at least try, so I agreed to make the repairs.

She mailed them all back to me, and I left them in the envelope, almost fearing to see what condition they were in. I let her know they'd arrived, but that it might be some time before I can get to them.

AN ASIDE: My partner just started chemotherapy, a decision made not lightly and only as a last resort. It's been a little rougher on us than we were prepared for and I've had to readjust my work schedule to accommodate his fluctuating energy levels and doctor's appointments. We're dealing with it. I didn't mention this to get sympathy, because I don't need it. I mentioned it so that she would understand the time delay, as I had a track record of very rapid response times. Why do people feel compelled to shower you with their uninformed, ignorant, unasked-for and useless advice? Have you ever had the impulse to crawl through the "internet tubes" and smack someone silly? But I digress.

The other day I finally got up the courage to open the envelopes.

When I say that what I saw made me collapse into a puddle of tears, I am not exaggerating. All that time, all that care and pride in the doing - all of it, reduced to a pile of crap. The Midnight bracelet has a tear through the center, the beads all dulled, with a few missing. The Sunrise bracelet isn't torn, but all of the beads have lost their luster and the gold finish of the clasps is gone - completely gone - now they look like chrome washers. Oh, and the crystal fireline I used to weave with SHRANK, giving the bracelet a puckered look. The one that broke my heart, though, is the Sunset. The finish on those lovely copper beads is gone. It's torn and some beads are missing.

In order to fix them and make them as durable as possible, I'd have to make them look like absolute crap by gluing leather to the backs, taking away the clasps, adding in corset rings and using leather thongs to lace them as closures. They were designed to be worn against the skin, not backed with leather. You design differently when you plan to back a piece. These will look like hell if that's done, but they'll fit and be rugged. Think "Sugarplum Fairy in Combat Boots." And they still won't last. The glue will break down, the stitching will wear out and the leather will crack if she continues to wear them in the way she says she will. I will never be able to fix them to her satisfaction. I talked to my favorite fellow artisans about this - as one of them said, "What would make you feel better? Fix them, knowing they'll be destroyed anyway, or just ending it right now?"

I've been completely blocked, artistically, for almost two weeks over this. When that happens I become depressed. I can't afford that. I need the comfort of creating, the zen of craft. It's all that's keeping me sane.

It's a hard thing to do, but I have to let this go. I'll send her a full refund via money order, eat all the postage and PayPal fees and be done. The hell of it is, I don't think I can ever make her understand why I can't repair them, or how much this whole thing has cost me - and I'm not talking about money. Like I said, it was my failure to communicate effectively that got me into this mess. This one's on me.

Back to the beads.


Vincent: Another Pony

I started with one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings - The Cafe Terrace at Night.

Then I put a bead mix together, printed out the painting to keep me on track, and got to work.

I beaded a framework around him - now I'll fill in all the spaces with freeform peyote.

I think he's shaping up nicely.


When It Starts Out One Way

Then ends up another, sometimes it's a pretty cool thing.

I strung the beads for this crocheted rope with the idea in mind of making it a nice, long lariat. I was about halfway through the crochet work when I thought about what I'd do for the ends - I'd picked out these great lampwork beads I bought on Etsy from Chickadeebeads.

I tried all sorts of combinations, and nothing felt right. Then it came to me - a shorter piece with a cluster of dangles - a mix of metal berry spacers, peacock pearls, and these great glass beads. I wore it yesterday at work and got quite a few complements.

I still have enough beads strung to crochet another one. Good job I bought a second set of lampwork beads from Chickadee.


This Isn't My Only Blog.

But I have been shamefully neglecting the other one - the bookstore blog.

Today something so cool happened, I couldn't keep it to myself, but it didn't really belong in the beading blog.

I love this woman. If you've read any of her stuff, you know why.