Saturday, December 4, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

The December Challenge for the Etsy Beadweaver's Street Team was tough for me, for reasons that shall become clear, I hope. The first image is the finished piece.  I started it a while ago, as an exploration of netted rope, which I talked about in the Elizabethan Sea Slug post.  This is a post about the series of decisions that led to the final look. The reasons behind all the weirdness.

The development from that central piece was....odd. At least to me. At one point, I was very dissatisfied, on the verge of ripping up the center part and salvaging the beads, as it seemed, well, unwieldy and stiff. Those large beads don't flex, not at all.

The ends of the netted rope did just naturally blend into a seamlessly integrated tubular peyote stitch for the neck piece, though. That was nice. But I had no plan. Where the heck were these things going? After a few (boring) rounds of all crystal seed beads, I decided on a two-color spiral. Okay. Look for some orange and some black beads for the spirals. Well, no black. Wait, I have over 200 different seed beads. Can it be true I have no black??

Yep. True. So...very very very dark purple will have to do. These days I'm all about making do, with budget restrictions everywhere.  So I spiraled away, and...hmm. When the side bits were about 3 inches long, I realized the whole thing look like nothing so much (and felt like it, worse, when picked up) as a purse handle. There were curse words. Internally, at least. There was a true feeling of "Argggghhh!!" A purse-handle? Was this truly what I wanted?   I actually spent several days considering whether it was worthwhile to try to figure out a way to find and attach a purse body and submit that to the challenge.

Then I decided that would take too much work and I didn't have enough time or energy to bead an entire purse to go along with the handle, and also, I wouldn't trust the handle to stand up to the kind of use even a dressy purse gets.   I hadn't designed it to take those stresses, and if someone were to purchase such a purse, they'd surely expect good wearability for the price I'd charge.

So it's a necklace. After about 5 inches on each side, I got really tired of tubular peyote. This is something that used to happen to me when I made art quilts, years ago. I'd get tired of whatever stitch I was doing and so each of the four sides would have different stitches on them.  So the tubular peyote had to end. What next? Kumihimo! That works up quickly, and I enjoy doing it while watching TV in the evenings, so it expands my beading time each day. But kumihimo, using the same beads as the peyote, works up more slender than the peyote. On one side I can put the clasp. I have to connect the two disparate braids on the other

First, sew them together, strongly, of course. Then cover them somehow. I came up with the peyote wrapped into a spiral around and secured to the connected braids.  Where they were sewn together, I decorated it with a double row of beads, on each side of the seam. Not only did it strengthen the seam, it was pretty!

But should those anchor beads have been a different color? I don't know. The shiny size 15 orange beads make a beautiful fabric, but does the whole thing look stupid?   From the back side, it's less graceful. In order not to distort it too much, I left a bit of opening at each end. Is that dopey looking?  I had to move on at this point.

Surprisingly, I think it took me three days to figure out that I needed to make a beaded clasp. Duh. I agonized over how to end the strands and connect a clasp and what findings did I have that I could use? Finally it dawned on me. Just bead one, Lynn.  Not everything should be difficult to decide, should it? But for this piece, it was.  The clasp came out nicely, though. Works well, is the right size in proportion to the necklace, and the loop and the toggle work together.

Even before I got the kumihimo finished and the toggle done, though, I thought that it wasn't elaborate enough to be submitted for the challenge. Don't ask me why, I know as well as anyone that often elegant simplicity is far more stunning than complexity for it's own sake. But that's when I started on two fringed elements that I thought would add the necessary finish to the piece. Here are both of them, photographed together. Each is beaded on a base ring of silver 8/0 beads, which can slip over the clasp loop or toggle, together or separately. I thought I would hang them at either side of the central netted rope.

When everything was finished enough to try that, though, it looked pretty stupid, to tell the truth. Because of the stiffness of the central sea slug, those danglies ended up hanging down and pointing right to the wearer's tits. They reminded me of misplaced tassels on the falsies of a very upscale cooch dancer.

I love those lampworked beads, and thought the titty-tassles look didn't serve the work well at all. I considered leaving them off entirely. My husband, patient critic that he is, encouraged me to go with the simpler look.  I delayed submitting the listing so I could contemplate the necklace hanging on the display both with and without the fringed bits, for several days.  I auditioned the fringes at the sides, or hung asymmetrically over the clasp or over the spiral connection on the side opposite the clasp.

I realized the buyer, should she actually ever materialize, could move these bits around and wear them as she likes, or remove them altogether. She could even hang them from earring wires and wear them as earrings!

My final decision was to go with the fringes, configured to hang asymmetrically from the join of the two different braids, on the side opposite the clasp.

What would I do differently if I did the piece over? I might try to have a plan, though sometimes there's a real charm to pieces that just grow.  I would see if I could build in a curve to the central netted rope section to see if it would look more graceful. I'd make the tubular peyote bits much shorter, as I think they're slightly out of proportion. I would find a better way to connect the kumihimo, or just do away with the tubular peyote and make the entire braid out of kumihimo to start with!

Any critique, disagreement, agreement or comments are welcome on this piece. I'm really trying to study hard and develop my design skills, and I can't do that without hearing from others as to what they like or don't find appealing about my designs.

I've actually finished another piece after this that I'm far more pleased with. But it's a gift for a dear friend, and I can't show it until she receives and opens it.  It'll be interesting to see what the challenge brings.


  1. wow. that's an incredible piece - and a long journey! Good for you for finishing it!

  2. Plan?? You think a plan would have resulted in a better piece. I don't think so. I love the spontenaity of this piece.

  3. Sometimes I start with a clear idea and sketch. Sometimes I just start, and follow my heart. I think both processes can result in a great product. Recognizing when your results are not good is a wonderful ability. And backing up and re-starting or re-purposing is all part of the wonderful and exciting game we play with beads. I like your result! It's unusual and interesting. I say, BRAVO!

  4. Lynn, I feel your pain in som many ways! I'm all about "plans" which is why my entry to this challenge was so difficult. I didn't have a "plan" (to me this means a definitive pattern and most of those can't be used due to the requirements set forth in the challenge) and freeform peyote kind of goes against having a plan! I made about 6 versions of my bracelet only to end up tearing out a section here or there because I didn't like how it flowed or didn't flow. Or if it flowed, it was the wrong color or wrong bead size. So much of this blog post fit what I did and for the same reasons! But in the end, this is a challenge and if it's too easy, then was it really a challenge? While my item isn't "me", I questioned, stumbled, grumbled and cursed, just like you! Your necklace came together great! Good job!

  5. Liz, I really really like your challenge bracelet! Wow. The random yet coherent elements really appeal to me.

    I wouldn't say your piece wasn't "you." Looking at the other work on the Etsy store, I suspect it's an aspect of you that you haven't explored much, but it's waiting there for you. If I'd done such a stunning piece, I would explore further, doing a much larger, more substantial neckpiece or something like that. The combinations of bead, color and stitch were very successful, and ended up generating a very harmonious piece.