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Friday, January 31, 2014

Prefab Jewelry Supplies

I started making jewelry, like most, when I was just a little kid.  Nothing special, just the typical pony beads and shoelaces type of stuff.  Besides barrel clasps and fishing line, that was the most sophisticated, prefab jewelry-making supply.  It's pretty funny to call pony beads sophisticated now considering how most people see them now.

Cue the EDM!  But remember, PLUR!
These days, pony beads are smashed in the kid's playset sections with everything glittery and made of foam.  The pony bead's position shows just how far the prefab jewelry supply market has come and fallen..  You'd think that a jewelry-maker would be excited by the prefab options available.  But I HATE it.

It started small, with more pendant options and some beaded chain.  At first, I thought that the growing popularity of jewelry-making would just make it easy for me to find a wider variety of findings, clasps, and gain better access to high quality crystals and beads.  

Ooh la la..

But then, the pre-made market exploded.  With so many units to push, the jewelry supply business has visibly become less about making supplies available to CREATORS and more about pandering to people who have no passion for the craft.  It's about making ready-to-wear jewelry options that only need a new clasp attached.  That is not creating, it's wearing a pre-assembled, mass-produced thing without any application of your own personal vigor and saying, "I made it."

Courtesy of imgur.

I understand that everyone has to start somewhere, but I feel that when the crafting market makes a 'craft' so easy that there is no crafting involved, it has failed.   When craft stores begin to offer classes to bolster the sales of these color-by-numbers 'crafts' instead of classes that use available materials to turn creative sparks into blazes and infect the students with a desire to push it further than it has ever been before, they have failed.  When they are so successful in their marketing schemes that more creative-minded crafters repeatedly encounter hoards of wannabes who lash out at anyone who doesn't follow their color-by-numbers strategy, they have failed.  It cheapens the experience and appeals to a kind of person that makes crafting a generally unpleasant experience.

You're doing different things from me, I hate you!

I know it sounds like an awful lot of vitriol for something 'trivial'.  However, I am a creature who finds joy, peace and inspiration in the craft aisles.  I enjoy exploring the different sections, laying out inspiration pieces next to each other and scratching a quick work-up of what I intend to do with them in my notepad.  A trip to the craft store, for me, is an experience that brings me closer to where I want to be as a creator.

It's almost a religious experience.

When I am forced to encounter 'artisans' who ask why I'm buying so many 'bracelets' as I pick up strands of Jesse James beads and become they angry when I tell them that I'm making necklaces, it is a little obnoxious.  When I have people telling me, "that's for making earrings," because I picked up a packet of  Blue Moon Beads chandelier forms that I intend to use for a multi-strand necklace, it is a little insulting.  When I have to deal with 'artisans' who get angry, tell me that I'm doing MY craft wrong, and starting an unnecessary, one-sided argument about how 'stupid' I am for even thinking to make something different than what's posted in the promotional pamphlet or what's written on the packaging, it is a BIG problem.

Here is why: the creation of easy to use products that do not delay satisfaction has been statistically proven to increase impatience and aggression.  Jewelry supply makers have turned a slow, progressive hobby into a mixed bag of volatile self-gratifying, self-absorbed, and spoiled tyrants, people who genuinely enjoy the craft, and dedicated artisans. One of those groups is not like that others in the fact that they are much more aggressive and confrontational for no reason.  Where the other two groups are content to explore the craft aisles, share experiences, encourage and inspire each other, this new group is focused so much on competitively reaching the finish line so they can wave their label 'artisan' in other people's faces.

The only thing that the craft store and the jewelry supply companies have done at that point is ruined trips to the craft store for me and forced me to locate and procure my own supplies, at a better price from someone else.

Images taken from Google search.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Knowing Your Friends: A Theorhetical Guide For Gift Giving.

Many people have trouble picking gifts for their loved ones.  You have to figure out if so-and-so is still into this thing or that thing.  Gift-giving requires a lot more brain-power than we're used to.  You have to relate past events, decipher a person's behaviors and common motives in order to get something good.  That takes effort.  People don't like EFFORT.  Each year, I'm sure that tons of women get gifts of scented bath things, gift cards to decidedly 'girly' stores, jewelry or something else that makes people state proudly that 'buying for women easy'.  What a joke.


Buying for women is the same as buying for guys.  Still it's a lot easier than people think- IF you pay attention.  That's the key to never forcing someone to feign joy over a pitiful gift ever again.  Pay attention to what they like.  Take note of what they get excited over, what they talk about, what they use often, and what they haven't already bought for themselves.

A few years ago, my friends and I took a vow to never buy the 'typical' go-to gifts for women for each other or anyone else ever again.  So far, it's been a success.  No one gets jewelry, knick-knacks, fragrances or lotions unless it's something really cool that they haven't heard about yet, or it's a fragrance that we already know the recipient likes.  Nothing is returned to the store, no sad faces appear at our holiday parties, and we, as a group, get the best gift that can be given: frequent heart attacks brought on by the terror of unexpected shrieks of excitement. 

You're happy, but we need a better way to express it.

The fact that we pay attention to each other's likes and dislikes isn't just a way to ensure we get the perfect gift.  It also forces us to have a better and deeper understanding of each other as people.  We have to listen to each other, observe each other's moods, and share in each other's favored activities even if it's not something we'd pursue on our own.  We're face-to-face with each other's differences and we learn appreciate every single one. 

It breaks barriers that we didn't realize were there and makes us stronger as a group.  We share our triumphs, trials and embarrassments.  We aren't caged by self-doubt or suffering in silence, because we're aware that there's someone who will listen and help without judgment. Or... you know, we could all just be crazy.

I don't think we're crazy.  I honestly think we've got a good thing going.  Our interests are reaffirmed by our peers.  We're constructively and actively listening to each other.  Most importantly, the people we share our lives with are willing to be HONEST with us when we're wrong and supportive when we're not.

Since Valentine's Day is coming up, take this into consideration before you buy someone a lame card, those God-awful chocolates, or worse, some uncomfortable chaffing underwear that's more for you than them: Any holiday that is about LOVE, APPRECIATION, and CARING should only include gifts that are purchased with the goal of making the recipient happy.

All photos courtesy of Google images.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Crystal Kingdom

Another set of beads hiding in my stash with no clear purpose was a collection of iridescent crystal beads.  It can be really hard to pair shimmery, color-changing beads with something.  Anything you put with them can either dull their luster and effect or place too much emphasis on one color from the broad spectrum of colors they reflect.  This creates a terrible problem for me because I find it difficult to place limitations on the possibilities of a particular design...

Of course, it's also pretty stupid to play the part of Smaug and sit around hoarding a pile of pretty beads.
So...I suck at drawing dragons.

I opted to make an effort and give this project the old college try.  Drawing on creative visual elements in some of my favorite childhood movies (The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and The Neverending Story), this is what I came up with.  The necklace is a mix of iridescent beads with purple or taupe undertones.  I added a tiny bit of teal and bronze to help pick up some of the less obvious colors in the crystals' iridescent sheen.  It worked out fairly well.

This necklace forms an elegant V that falls a few inches from the collarbone.

The elegant, looping shapes in the main focal creates an optical illusion to help you see continued swirls in the shine of the beads.

You can see more of the beads' colors clearly when placed against a dark background. 

This one was fun to make and it used up one of the focals and some of the beads that I didn't show off in a previous post.  If you'd like to learn more about this necklace, or you'd like to adopt it into your personal collection, feel free to message me or leave a comment.  Also, check my Etsy to see what goodies are there!

Friday, January 24, 2014

New Necklace

Uh...recently, mother and I went into Joann's to pick up some staple goods that every seamstress and jewelry maker needs to complete projects.  You know, things like thread, needles, eye pins, head pins, that stuff.  WELL, I discovered some really interesting findings advertised for making "trendy bracelets".  They were deeply discounted.  I guess people weren't too interested in gaudy rhinestones, industrial looking charms, or super quirky pendants.

Well, earlier that day my mother and I had a conversation about how people treat handmade goods like a trip to Walmart and expect 5 of everything in every color and every size -available instantly and cheaply.  We also had a screech and titter about how she 'borrows' pieces to supplement her wardrobe and how I REALLY should try to make more than one of certain styles that I predict will sell well.

Not that it has anything to do with what happened at Joann's.  Let's just say that because I had coupons that could be layered and I was feeling...inspired, I opted to buy doubles of...things.  Shush.  Forget everything you read about my excesses just a few days ago.  This is for a good cause (Uh... Science!) and I don't have anything like it already, so I'm excused from judgement, ok?

That said, I immediately got to work on creating a set of near identical necklaces.    The only difference between them is the number of rhinestones used. 

Aegis Estuary

The semi-opaque beads seem to glow against a dark background.

Since people often ask me how I managed to 'come up with' certain techniques, color pairings, or ideas for putting things together, I will now post pictures of a rough process I used to turn what was advertised as being a bracelet into a pair of lovely necklaces.

Started with 6 inches of this- too small for a neck.

I made beaded chain in a figaro pattern, using Czech glass to highlight the crystals

Worked in the first layer of swarovskis in Capri Blue to give depth
There you have it.  The first three stages of the necklaces' construction.  I'm trying not to have this be one of those tutorials where they start off showing you step by step and somewhere between step 2 and 3, they forget to or explain how they get an unbelievably photo-realistic picture from two squares and a circle.  Onward to the next bit.

Link the two adjacent crystals with more crystals on a parallel axis.

Repeat the process above, this time with the link beads perpendicular.

And here is where I got frustrated with constantly breaking my flow to take photos of what I was doing.  I need an assistant, I think.  Sadly, assistants cost money and money is in short supply.  Here is the close to final product- just prior to the additional rhinestones.  See how the patterns used in the previous steps are repeated until it comes to a close and is finally finished with crystalline drops and balanced along the sides with beaded chain.

A second row of opalescent crystals was added to the trapezoid beads, then a row of brass beads to draw the eye downward and balance the necklace so all the eye-grabbing shininess isn't just beneath your chin....

If you like this necklace, you can find it here in my Etsy store

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Spring Cleaning

I know it's not spring, but after I found the courage to keep trying no matter how many times I drop the tools, I delved into my treasure chest to see if there was anything I'd packed away worth pulling out.  Call it a cheapo attempt to convince myself that inspiration is undefeatable.  The first thing I needed to do was to unpack my beading supplies and reorganize.


Let's face it, at this point I have no idea what I have any more.  Sometimes digging through old boxes and crates can get the juices flowing.  Here's some stuff I have left within easy reach for soon-to-come projects.  Keep in mind that this sample isn't ALL I have in my stash, just the things that I'd forgotten  I had or quirky little bits that are making me extra giddy.

Those long tassels are hella sexy.  I can see myself tangling with them soon.

I got these on clearance when one of my besties got married- two years ago.  
More flowers, Aztec inspired discs and 'Shoe horse' charms. 

Check department stores for broken jewelry- sometimes you can get cool charms for a dollar.

This would make a great chess themed charm bracelet...

The sad thing about the above charms is that some of them are things I made myself or purchased for cut rate prices from department stores where they'd broken off whatever designer item they were originally attached to.  Hunting and gathering are my specialties.  I can probably find just about anything for 20% of the original price.  Sometimes I use and sell them right away. Other times, they are forgotten.  

Sometimes my tastes lean towards the dark... 

Aged looking artifacts...

And the organic and classic sorts of pendants..
There's more hiding out in other bead boxes or bags, but at this point, I really need to focus on turning the things I've found into wearable art, not overwhelm myself with more shiny things. 
How many of you other crafters have a surplus of supplies that you forgot and buried under the strata of your habitual collecting?

Friday, January 17, 2014


It has been a long, long time since I posted.

I haven't been crafting very much at all but it's not completely due to lack of trying

A few years back- right when I graduated college, I began experiencing severe neurological symptoms spanning everything from migraines to temporary blindness.  The doctors couldn't diagnose me because the damage wasn't severe enough to alter my blood chemistry or leave scarring.

As frustrating as being swept under the medical umbrella term Idiopathic Neuropathy was, it wasn't a complete condemnation.  There was a chance that it would never, ever bother me again.  For a while, I only had to deal with with occasional pain and migraines, but even those were bearable.

Last year, around this time, I began to relapse.  The migraines weren't as bad, but the other symptoms were much worse.  I will admit that I was terrified.  Seizures and nerve misfires, no matter how mild, are scary, scary things.  They represent a loss of control over your own body that...well, let's say it has a way of making you feel very small, helpless and insecure.

I had thought that because the symptoms were so bad a diagnosis was imminent.  It wasn't.  ONCE AGAIN, the doctors were unable to concretely determine what was wrong with me, despite aggressively using my arms as pin cushions, having me do physical therapy, and looking inside my skull at least 3 times.  All they were able to do is palm off a heap of medication to keep me from devolving into a pitiful, convulsing wreck.

The medication is mostly to manage my symptoms and keep me from acquiring a more immediately serious secondary condition.  Muscle spasms and Raynaud's phenomenon aren't that big of a deal.  Having your CNS shut off blood to your major organs because it's less than 70 degrees outside kinda is.  I'd like to avoid internal organ damage. 

Since I'm feeling a little better, I'm doing my best to get reacquainted with my old loves: crafts.  Hopefully, I'll remember to post often enough for anyone who still reads this.