Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why I Haven't Posted Recently, or Now is the Winter of Our Discontent

Creativity is a harsh mistress, at times. Sometimes it all flows smoothly, sometimes work is barely finished before a new idea springs forth. Indeed, often there is a jostling lineup of new "ooooh, I could do this with that" in my head and ideas fall by the wayside as they're superseded by more better bigger WOW stuff pushing up inside.

Then, there are fallow periods. Periods when not only do I not have ideas, I don't particularly fret about not having them. I used to worry about these times, thinking I'd lost my creative impulse, and that I'd never have another good idea again, but I've learned that I need a resting phase every once in awhile. Then when the urges get working, I'm more energized than if I'd tried to force something to come.

But I've rarely experienced what I'm going through now. A long stretch of really really BAD ideas. They all seem great when I start, of course. "Hey, that's neat, let's do that!" Then, either after a few stitches, or more regrettably, a good way toward a finished piece, I realize it's all gone pear-shaped. (A lovely Britishism, isn't it?)

And then I realize that not only does this thing not look good, it's not ever going to look good, no matter what I do to it. The latest lipstick-on-a-pig effort was some barrel-shaped hematite beads I tried to kumihimo, thinking "what if I used larger beads than normal", interspersed with some leopard jasper rounds in a spiral pattern. I mean, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But what I ended up with is a huge grey-black lump of magnetized hematite, the general shape and size of a year-old boa constrictor, only not so attractive.

It seems like everything I start lately goes this way. I've only finished one item, a fast and easy bracelet I've listed on Etsy, but as of now, it only has two views. Two! Sigh.  And I don't even like that one so much.

I had another project underway, a very long lariat with mixed green beads intended as the base for a wonderful tagua nut iguana bead I bought several years ago. Oddly, that one has evolved away from what I originally thought I might do, to the point where I don't even think the main focal will be used on it!  Usually when I work, I go with serendipitous urges to add or modify as I work, but lately all these urges seem to go astray and make things much worse instead of better.

And so everything seems to go these days. Bad ideas mutate into even worse ones. Good ideas stagnate or mutate out of recognition. I'll work through this, I know I will. I just hope it's soon. I'm getting tired of my choices being bad ones.

I am turning out a decent ornament cover for a gift, But even that took three failed tries to get it moderately right.  Maybe it's just winter, for such values of winter as we have here in Southern California.  I need some inspiration. Maybe a picture of a sea slug will cheer us all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

BeadEnCounter Gets Ink!

We've hit the bigtime, relatively speaking. An article about the software (and me!) appears in the Winter edition of Stringing Magazine.

Sales have picked up in the last few days, and I've been wondering why. I bet this is the reason. It's so great that the email interview I gave turned out so well. I have to give the editorial staff much credit for the quality of the article. The quotes were edited really well, very true to my interview answers, and the graphic staff made my amateur pictures look professional!

I'm very very very happy about this! 

Posting to Blogger is easy!

Blogger is more flexible in email submissions than Facebook, in that
you have both post title and text you can edit before you send. The
email is easy to edit, and you can add as much text as you'd like.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fatuous Twits and the Internet

I've been hitting the "Next Blog" button on Blogger here, just for the yucks. That button sends you to a supposedly "similar" themed blog from the one you start on. If you click it repeatedly, the theme wanders and warps depending on the content of each blog you land on.  Once you get too far afield you have to start over from your original source or a new one.  Sometimes you'll end up on a blog that isn't public (really? the programmers couldn't prevent that?) and you have to start over anyway.

When I start from another bead artist's blog, I get to interesting art sites, generally. The path, however degenerates eventually. If you hit a blog in Swedish, you're going Swedish all the way from then on.

If you wander into music blogs or Urban Vegan Warrior blogs, you'll have to decide if that's where you really want to spend your online life.

What really frosts my flakes, though, is that when I start from this blog, I end up landing on an endless series of, well. Fatuous twit blogs.

I'm sure you've seen them. The profile starts something like "I'm X, and I'm so blessed to be married to my best friend, Y, and we have (fill in the blank) amazing wonderful children, and this is the story of our lives together...."

Then we have endless blather regarding nothing much at all, or really fake crap about how wonderful little Z is this week. I've had a kid too, dear. I know that the corner of the living room is piled hip deep in Tyco and knee-deep in LEGOs, there are Cheerios stuck to the bottom of your sock, and you haven't showered in 2 days. Like on TV, I guess on the internet everyone's house is clean and tidy, (and decorated!), and they've always got something tasty in the crockpot and fresh flowers on the table. Yeah, right.  Kids are wonderful perhaps 10% of the time. The rest of the time they're hard work, emotional turmoil, and an inconceivable expense.

Watch America's Funniest Home Videos sometime. Check out the background of almost any shot. That's how people really live!

Back to the Fatuous Twits, though. They're all so damn serious about telling the universe how great everything is....with absolutely no self-awareness at all that their blog is identical in nearly every detail with literally millions of others. (please note, appropriate use of the word "literally")  Right down to the "married to my best friend" crap. If you're married to someone who isn't your best friend, you've chosen unwisely, or you're on the way out. No sense of the ridiculous, these people, nor a sense of proportion. 

Now, I will admit to an occasional fatuous blather myself, but at least I try to spice it up with humor, self-deprecation, and a bit of original observation. I am not convinced the Universe cares the least about my concerns, nor do I need it to. I understand that if I'm not talking about cool stuff, readers will stop showing up. 

Perhaps what I ought to do is complain to Blogger. Yeah, that'll get some action! "Yo, Blogger! Connect my blog to "Next Blogs" that are about art, not some ditsy suburban mom who posted seven times when her kid was still taking naps and then quit 3 years ago when life got busy."  They really need a filter on that random jump thing not to take you to blogs where the last post has been ripening since 2009. 

Monday morning, the week before Thanksgiving. I need to go do some beading. Unreasonably cranky, I am. Go, bead! Commit some art!  You know who I'm talking to!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weird, Cool, and Freaky, with a Tiny Bit of Beading

Yesterday we spent several hours with a friend at the Venice Beach Boardwalk. If you've never been to Venice Beach, it's a touristy LA thing you really shouldn't miss.  The Boardwalk is the natural home of every tacky pair of sunglasses ever made, weird outliers of the human species, and the ravening spirit of the predatory entrepreneur, buyer very much beware.

The people-watching is extraordinary, even on a gloomy, overcast and somewhat cool Saturday. The skinny old guy who wanders about wearing a very very VERY brief Speedo had goosebumps. Not that I looked, or anything.  Everywhere are vendors hawking their own CDs, very cheap jewelry, much of it made of feathers (to the point that you wonder where all the naked birds are), or Bob Marley/ganja/rasta goods.  Oh, and the per capita distribution of psychics (for people or pets), palm-readers and massage artists seems quite high.

Speaking of high, many of these folks seem like they washed up on the shores of the 1960s and never got back in the swim. There are medical marijuana clinics with sexy costumed "nurses" outside, trying to recruit passers-by like strip-show hawkers in Times Square. This, between the Freakshow barker and the Phoenix House addiction treatment center. Seems appropriate, somehow.   And scattered all through this, on the fringes of the crowd, are the homeless. They're mellow, most of them, Venice being one of the better places to be homeless for the winter.

And, of course, many of the vendors/artists are absolutely unique. There's a sand artist, and another shop filled with small to larger-than-life sculptures made entirely from hardware bits, most of them of movie-monsters like the Alien or Predator. Big hit with the guys.  There was a half-pipe skateboarding competition taking place while we were there, fantastic to watch. Of course, there are always the street performers, some of whom are amazing, funny, or both.  Or loud. The musicians are generally good, but every shop also pumps out music, so the few stretches of quiet along the boardwalk are welcome.

Pick your spot, and you can get quite good, or very very bad food. We had a decent lunch at Figtree, though the menu was surprising in that it didn't have any red meat on it at all. Semi-vegetarian, kinda.  I tried the bread pudding at Shultzies, but found it somewhat disappointing. To me, proper bread pudding is custardy, and with some texture of the bread or pastry used still present. The raspberry pudding I tried was just...wet. Dense, served cold, and with no egg flavor at all, it was more like refrigerated milk-soaked bread than pudding.  I can make better myself.

So how is this related to beading? Certainly the acres of $2 bracelets from China or India or whatever are dreadful and offer nothing to the real beader. Some of the vendors have interesting (or weird, depending on your viewpoint) goods such as insects, scorpions, or sea-life embedded in resin, or cut stones.  So I found one vendor with a bunch of unmounted cabochons for sale, and bought three of them. The good thing about buying here is that the dealers are amenable to drastic bargaining over the price. You do have to be really careful of the quality. But I got three agate cabs for not much money, so they'll be joining the stash.

The creative beader can find materials anywhere!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Carnage on the Concrete

Have I mentioned how much I hate to rework things? Whether it's a database design that needs changing, or the client asks me to remove the programming they insisted I install, or ripping out a beaded section that just doesn't work artistically, I hate re-doing what I've already done once.

Now imagine how much I hate re-doing work when it's my own stupid mistake that makes it necessary.

Original brooch
I found out something new in the course of making the mistake, though. Semi-precious stone, which sounds so sturdy because of the "stone" part of the name, is surprisingly fragile. Especially when you knock it onto a concrete floor from a height of 3 feet or more.  

I've always known that drop-shaped beads in stones like amethyst or citrine can be split open at the drilled hole by trying to force a too-large needle through. What I didn't realize was that turquoise is very breakable, particularly when formed into pointy-ended shapes and then drilled through that point. Very little structural strength remains, and when dropped... Well.  Kaplooey. Or some sound like that.

The Carnage
So I've got this piece I'm so proud of. May be the best designed piece I've done so far. I entered it in the October challenge (as noted in the previous post) for the Etsy BeadWeavers Team.  It's listed for sale. I might have to ship it to a buyer at any moment! Not that I generally need to worry. I've never had one sale from my Etsy shop. Not one. 

And I dropped it. Smack onto the concrete floor of my living room.  Carnage ensued. I'm just lucky I didn't drop it face down and break a cabochon. I only broke five out of the seven turquoise drops.

The Replacements
I said some very bad, unprintable words. My husband helped me gather the bits and I realized I'd have to completely re-string the longer fringe.

Luckily I'd purchased an entire strand of the drops, and had plenty of material to choose from to match the former beads.  Took me a bit but I finally found the close matches I needed.

I cut out the existing fringe and stripped off the beads on to my workmat.  Then I started to reweave the fringe. And, of course, did the first one wrong, even after consulting my photos. I hate doing things twice. Doing them three times makes me say even worse words.

Good as new?
But finally, I had it done again. Looks good, perhaps even better than the first time, since they're a bit more consistent.  I will be a bit more aware of where I'm putting it, so as not to drop it again. In fact, it would probably be a good idea not to knock it against anything hard. Ever. Don't want to do it again!

Monday, October 3, 2011

How Lucky Can One Girl Get?

I've got jury duty AND a root canal, all in one week. How's that for lucky?  Still, it could be worse. I can afford the root canal, and the agony before the doc relieved the abscess made me realize how amazing modern dentistry (and medicine) is. I've never had an abscessed tooth before, and now I know why people used to just yank bad teeth out, even without anesthesia. Wow that was bad.

Sometimes life gets in the way of beading. I especially regret that now as I'm really starting to get back the flow of ideas that sort of dried up before when I was so overwhelmed by the needs of getting the software out to market.  One project after another leaps out of me, and I've got far too many to try even if I could bead for hours each day.

Our Etsy Beadweavers Team has a monthly challenge, with each entry being a listing in our Etsy stores.  This is my entry for October. The original title was supposed to be "Gifts of the Earth" because of all the semi-precious stones used in it.   The theme of the October challenge is "Inspired by Picasso" so I retitled it and related it to the theme as required.

From October 9 until October 15, you can visit the EBW blog and vote for your favorite entry. Every month there are some amazing entries, you'll be sure to get an eye-full, and find a favorite!

I've also been inspired by the November challenge theme, on Spirals, and have started a project I hope will develop into something worthy of entry.

Meanwhile, I'm learning to bead crochet, and trying to earn a living.

Notice where that last falls on the priority list.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Taken in Trade

Trading with other artists can be fun and profitable. As I promised in the previous post, here's the trade I made with Ruth Wood of mack-glass.com.  The largest cab is about 1.5 inches long.

My bracelet
Ruth's cabochons
Ruth loved the bracelet when I delivered it. I took along a bunch of my work, and she and her friend and sister-in-law all modeled a bunch of it. They were good for my ego, admiring and all. I may join Ruth at her farmer's market booth to try to sell some of my stuff. It would be good to have someone along for the ride my first time doing retail. 

Pretty cool trade, huh? I've got a lot of of projects in mind for these bits and bobs. I'll keep you posted.  It's also nudging me toward getting a small microwave kiln, as that is what Ruth uses for the small cabs. No 24-hour heating cycles, no worrying about a big kiln. One hour, in and out. I already have a ton of glass, including about 3 pounds of dichroic scraps I picked up several years ago.  

There's always something new to learn, new to try, new to do. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Beading Returns to Life, and How to Get Great Art Stuff for Almost Nothing

Things have slowed down a bit with the software, so I have been able to feel a bit of creativity creeping back into my life.

I've also found a way to acquire more artistic fuel (beads & materials) without spending money...trade!  I think this is a terrific way for fellow artists to support one another and to spread the creativity around.

Original bracelet
Several weeks ago, at a local farmer's market, Ruth Wood saw me wearing my new tutti-frooti bracelet. (Tootie-frutti? There are a dozen ways to spell this, all of which my spell-checker rejects.)  Ruth does wonderful fused glass cabochon work, and after I let her try on the bracelet I happened to be wearing, we worked out a deal to trade a similar bracelet made to fit her for some of her cabs.
Ruth's bracelet

This is her bracelet, to be delivered this Sunday at the market.  I'll post some pictures of the cabs next week.  I also made some earrings to go with, so we'll see what happens with them!

We each worked out what we would sell our pieces for, retail. We agreed that trading retail values was fair, as this included the labor (and profit) as well as materials. Tiny bits of glass for fused cabs cost nearly nothing, its the work and expertise that make them valuable. The same, or nearly the same goes for the beads. Material costs are small, but those hours creating fringe add up!

Earrings to go with
Of course, the IRS wants you to declare the value of traded goods and pay taxes on them, unless you have a resale license. Both Ruth & I do, so consult with your tax expert on your own situation. Don't Mess the IRS is our policy around here. Those people are scarier than Homeland Security!

In other beady news, I built a peyote bracelet with some 4mm cube beads in a very elusive color. I don't know exactly what to call it. The description on the tube was "jade" but it's got a lot of bronze, yellow, and opalescent notes in it. These pictures actually represent it pretty well. What would you call it?
"Jade?"

The edge beads are hematite rounds, 4mm, which fit exactly with the cubes.  They give the whole bracelet a solid heft that the light cubes do not. I like it, actually. I think when I list it on Etsy, I'll do some research and tout the spiritual values of hematite. 

What color is it, really?
The newest issue of Bead & Button magazine came out with a project done in spiral herringbone (as well as an ad for, ahem, BeadEnCounter software). It's basically a herringbone rope done with varying sizes of beads, from 15/0 to 8/0 and drop beads at the outer edge. Like peyote spirals, these varying sizes of beads make the rope bend as you work. 

Spiral herringbone
Well, the project is supposed to make a long spiral that is then interconnected with some strung segments. Very cute, but once I got the spiral going, I realized that it would be very easy to turn into a circle. And I didn't have the patience at that moment to continue on. So here are the earrings I created with my test pieces. Very very easy to do, and quick to work up. I think the second one only took me half an hour or so. 

At some point I may return to the technique and do the actual spiral. Herringbone isn't my favorite but I'm getting to know it better.  

Right now, though, I'm scheming to find other artists to trade with. Who will love my work enough to trade with me?



Saturday, September 3, 2011

Update: Real pictures of the Turquoise Necklace


Whole strand
Remember my post about the Tibetan trading store in Claremont? These are real pictures of the turquoise bead necklace I bought. Antique Chinese turquoise, undyed as far as I can tell. I can't figure out how someone could dye a stone two different colors. That's my unscientific justification for believing that these are as advertised, not treated.

My favorite bead
The smallest bead, next to the clasp, is an inch across and about 3/4 inch thick. The biggest is nearly two inches long. The entire strand is monstrously heavy, yet so wonderful to wear.

The single bead is my favorite, the one that made me buy the whole thing. I may break this strand into focals for a bunch of different works, but this bead in particular is mine for life. I can't figure out why, but this one speaks to me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Whither Goest BeadEnCounter?

I'm going to write this once and then distribute it, because I've had some inquiries and I've been contemplating myself where the program has to go from here.

We're nearly 4 weeks into launch for BeadEnCounter, and sales are...disappointing to say the least.  Tragic would be more like it.  Like any new project, one hopes for that miraculous "crash the servers" response from the public. It's quite deflating to realize we're going to have to settle for the normal "build over time" business curve.

But it is early days yet. I've found in other ventures that three years is about the normal time to get a new business established.  I don't have the capitalization to hold out quite so long on this project, I need the cash flow in order to pursue the future I'd like to see happen for the software.

Since I was pushing so hard before and during the beta testing program, and then to get the whole website up and store revamped and installers made, etc. I kind of got used to a frantic pace and constant work on the software. Now I feel a little at loose ends. But I continue to fine-tune the website, and to seek optimum marketing opportunities.

So here's what I see happening:

  1. Marketing drives the universe. This is my entirely new and original thought. Yeah. Right. I had thought print advertising was the way to go, in national publications.  Well, perhaps I'm being way too impatient, but I expected a better response. Turns out that repetition drives people to be aware of ads, and for print ads in monthly publications, the repeat rate is realllllllyyyyy lowwwwww.  So we'll be redistributing some of our long-term money commitments from print to online venues.  I've got one lined up, others will follow.  Repeated viewings happen a lot faster online. Hopefully click-throughs will happen faster as well.
  2. Refine the website. I'm working on photos/images to convey the concepts in the software to the visitors to the website. Something that shows how using the product assists in organizing, and creates productivity and profitability.  Abstract concepts conveyed in concrete images. Any suggestions to improve the website are welcome. 
  3. New features in the software. As has been noted by testers and commenters, the Consignment area is particularly underdeveloped, and the Inventory process needs fleshing out. Currently we don't have true inventory management. I want to add much more functional Vendor tracking features, and incorporate some very clever feature requests by early users.  As with any software product, there comes a point where you have to freeze features and just ship the darn thing! Otherwise you just develop eternally and never get a product out the door.  Once again, suggestions on features are welcome at any time at the forum we've set up for just this purpose. You can see what others have suggested, add your own, and discuss with other users how they use the software. Some of our users are very clever.
So that's our future focus. I had expected that after our launch, work, meaning marketing,  would continue. I didn't anticipate that it would be nearly full time!  

If anyone is considering buying BeadEnCounter but is hesitating, or has considered it but rejected the idea, I would dearly like to hear about the reasons why. I want to make BeadEnCounter the best product it can possibly be, and offer an irresistable bargain to artists, beaders and crafters everywhere. My testing group can tell you I take criticism well, and am very willing to listen and adapt. 

Visit us on the forum, and join the conversation!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beads in Unexpected Places

Claremont is a small town in the great sprawl of Southern California. It's upscale, clean, and beautiful and has more "gee, I'd like to try that place" restaurants per square foot than anyplace I've ever been.

Necklace at
Tibetan Artcraft
Imports
We visited Claremont for the second time today, and walked through several blocks of the downtown shopping district looking for our lunch place. This is the kind of foot-traffic friendly shopping area that has been largely killed off by mega-malls and Walmart in so many places in the US. I'd love to know how Claremont has maintained the vitality and health of their central district even in the face of bad economic times.  There were very few vacant storefronts...in fact, I saw a couple, but they had "Coming Soon!" signs in the windows. Contrast that to many towns around our house, like Bellflower, where about 80% of the available storefronts are vacant.

There is a bead shop in the Claremont Packing House, which are both worth a visit.  International Glass & Bead has a fine selection of Swarovski crystals, glass sculpture, and other interesting items. Don't go there for seed beads or tools. The Packing House is a converted, you guessed it, packing house, with a wide array of community-serving restaurants, shops, and places for kids to learn and explore cooking, art, and music. Great space, and everyone there seems to be genuinely friendly.

Similar Tibetan turquoise
But that's not the big discovery of the day. In walking back to the (free) parking next to the Packing House, we passed Tibetan Artcraft Imports, a small shop tucked on a side street.  It's filled with exotic goods you'd expect in an import shop, but this link to their very basic website doesn't begin to cover what's there.

There is also case after case of imported jewelry and stones. Although it totally busted my budget, I fell for a strand of antique, natural Tibetan turquoise stones in greenish shades, and had to have it. It's similar to the one in the picture, but the beads are oval, not irregular. 

There are more pieces in the store I want to go back for, if I can get some cash together. (sell, software, SELL!!) But I'll have to hurry. The very sweet and helpful old gentleman who owns the place is slated to retire in January.  Oh, and I expect the very cute and friendly little dog who keeps him company will retire too.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by. You won't be sorry.

Friday, July 29, 2011

We are Live!

Yesterday, I got my issue of BeadStyle magazine, with our ad on page 27. Wow. Right there where the magazine falls open because of a blow-in card. 

Today, I finalized the new webstore so that people can purchase the software with little or no problem. I was afraid the old method was too complicated.

So now it's a matter of waiting until people read the issue, have their curiosity piqued by the ad, and visit the website. Oh, and decide to buy.  Boy oh boy do I hope they decide to buy!

Advertisers link page!
People can find us in the advertisers links on the Beadstyle website as well.  And next month, the ad will appear in Bead & Button, with a much larger subscription base, so that's exciting as well.

Not too surprisingly, my creativity has been sidelined by all the stress and business of trying to get a new business launched. I sit down to bead and do a little of this and a little of that and not much of anything in particular. Not too long ago I was bubbling with ideas of what I wanted to next. I have to recover that and it may take awhile.  I hope not too long.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Day Arrives, Sort Of. Software Soft Launch, Spotlights in the Sky

For the last several months, I've been focused on moving my new software to market.

This has involved countless hours of programming, to get it right.  Then I recruited a group of testers, to make sure.  This involved setting up a feedback forum, distributing build after build as we all worked to find sticky interface and functional points, responding promptly to each concern, and learning all the spots where my brilliant ideas were exposed as not quite as brilliant as I had thought.

After I got through rebuilding the whole structure (those testers were thorough!) during testing, it was time for the next part.

Build the website. So I had to download and learn a new tool, Rapidweaver. I haven't built a website for over 10 years, and technology has marched on. Heck, I started coding HTML by hand back in 1994. 

Rapidweaver is a marvelous tool, but it's structured with lots of bits and pieces of add-on programming that each cost a few dollars. It adds up.  I spent...well, I can't even count the hours I spent researching online, downloading, testing, learning the software and tweaking on the website.  It was a very intense two weeks.

Then I had to add the e-commerce component. More downloads, more learning, more tweaking. I'm using a plugin called Cartloom that connects my website to Paypal, and then downloads the file to a purchaser.  Wow, what a tangle to implement. It works, now, but nowhere near as elegantly as I'd like.  

I set up a forum for users to communicate with me, and with each other. I connected the website to this blog, and the blog to the website.  I set up accounts hither and yon...I swear I can invent new passwords in my sleep. My password database got about 12 new entries. Yes, I am a geek. I have a password database. Doesn't everyone?

Oh, I almost forgot. I had to research, download, and learn to use installer programs on both Mac & Windows. How can you sell software without installers? More money, more time, more accounts & passwords. Whew.

The website and the webstore are both works in progress. They'll be evolving as I continue to find new and better tools and designs.

The software is now finalized in Version 1.0. That means no new features until I roll out the first upgrade.  But I'll be alert to user-feedback in case there are errors that must be fixed in order to have the kind of solid, robust program I want my company to sell. 

We've placed an ad in BeadStyle and Bead&Button magazines, which alternate each month. Six months at an amazingly high cost. But it's national exposure and this project is not going to fail for lack of marketing.

No sales yet, but the magazine will be rolling out to consumers in the next few days. Then we'll see.  It could all still be for naught. Or it could hit big. Some of my testers have been very complimentary.

Needless to say, beading has somewhat fallen by the wayside. But I did finish one piece the other day, which I will post soon. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

WOW Great News and Hurry Up, Right Now!

I've just been made aware that our first ad in BeadStyle Magazine is out in advance copy. I don't know if that means the first subscribers are getting theirs today or not.

But if you've read an ad in Beadstyle and ended up on this page looking for BeadEnCounter software, we will be live for sales as soon as possible. 

What does that mean? Please check back. Tomorrow. Over the weekend. Monday at the latest, because I will work as quickly as I can to test out our e-commerce and get the website functional. 

BeadEnCounter is an exciting new product and we want to make it available to you. The magazine jumped their promised publication date by more than a week, so we have to jump to make it up!

Hold on, more news as it breaks!  Thank you for your patience in the meantime!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Might be some disruption in service....

I've got the website for BeadEnCounter about 75% built.  This is good news. Tomorrow we wrassle with the e-commerce area of the whole thing.

But the URL, the web-address is going to undergo some changes. Beadencounter.com will become the main site, hosted at someplace I haven't decided yet. This blog will return to www.blogspot.beadencounter.com, and become a link from the main website.

I just wanted to warn everyone not to worry if the blog disappears for a day or so during the transition. 

We're under construction. Excuse our dust!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fine Birthday Visit to Ocean Sky Beads

There's a danger in visiting a bead store on your birthday. The "Oh heck, it's my birthday, why not!" danger of seeing wonderful beads and having to have them and really, there's no reason not to, is there? It's my birthday, darn it!

So the visit to Ocean Sky Beads in Oceanside, California on Tuesday was fraught with peril. Peril to my budget, that is. The score is Beads, 1, budget, 0. 

But I found some lovely amber and brown garnet, along with a bunch of other things. The store is handicap-friendly for a person in a chair, and the staff generous, helpful and willing to work with someone who is buying a whole lot of beads.

You can't dislike someone who laughs when you comment that the entire city of Oceanside, on a sunny summer afternoon, smells like sunscreen. Which it does. Fresh ocean breezes and sunscreen. A fine combination. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Second round beta test files now out

Beta testing isn't a pretty process, much like making sausage. Our first round testers put in a lot of enthusiasm and work. We're still looking for new testers, on both Mac & Windows. 

Participation, by downloading, following the testing protocol and delivering feedback, is rewarded by a free copy of the eventual shipping software, and my eternal gratitude. 

Contact me at beadencounter@gmail.com if you think you'd like to participate!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beta Test Files are Out to the Testers

Whew. What an amazing amount of work to get the files and the documentation to this place. 

I have some very brave volunteers to use the files in their nascent state.  They're going to be brutally frank about all the things I've done wrong.

Normally when I develop custom software for companies, I have a few users to answer to. Here I'm building software for (hopefully) thousands of users. It has to be simple, elegant, easy to use AND it has to be fully functional from the launch. With custom software in beta, it's okay to say "oh, that button doesn't work, I'll have it fixed tomorrow." Not so much with a shrink-wrapped software product.

Adventures ahead!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Screenshots of BeadEnCounter Added Here

Note in the lefthand column of this blog is a new selection, "BeadEnCounter Screenshots."

I've decided that you'll get a slightly better look at the screenshots through the slideshow feature of Picasa. Go to Full Screen after you click on the screenshot, and you'll get a clearer picture. Comments welcome!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Software Screenshots up on Facebook

I've decided to post most of the screenshots on Facebook for now, until we get the new website in shape. The album feature makes it easy for people to view and scroll through. 

Get a first look at the software and feel free to leave comments.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Software Beta, Marketing Push Begins

Getting a new software product to launch is no task for sissies. It's not enough to build the darn thing, you have to test it too.  Don't want to pull a MicroSoft and let the customers be the beta testers by releasing buggy software.

So, I'm looking for beta testers for BeadEnCounter. I already have two volunteers, but I think I need a few more. If you're interested in testing the new software, designed to help organize and produce cost figures on your beaded pieces, please contact me at beadencounter@gmail.com.  A beta tester will have to spend several hours working with the program, and then provide comprehensive feedback on any faults or bugs they find. Did I mention that those who participate and contribute get a free copy of the shipping software when it's ready?

The program is going to run natively on both Mac & Windows, no emulators necessary. That's a big difference from any other software I've been able to find out there. It tracks beads, findings and any other material you use, lets you upload pictures of your work and post directly to Facebook and a blog right from the program. 

It also keeps a list of your seed beads, for those of you like me who keep buying the same sizes and colors over and over. BeadEnCounter grew out of my own needs for organization and profitability (not that I've sold much, but darn I know to the penny how much each piece cost me!) in my beading.  I'm not aware of any other beading/crafting software that keeps track of seed beads.

This blog/website is going to be revamped a bit. The main website will be mutating into a sales site for the program. It will have support areas and FAQ, features, screenshots, and a way to purchase online.  The blog will be moving (don't worry, there will be plenty of warning) to a slightly different URL, and may become a bit more involved with software development and selling than beading for a bit, but don't worry, I'm not going to stop beading or stop showing my work.

The ad you see will be appearing in Bead & Button and BeadStyle magazines for six months starting in September, so that's a hard deadline for having the program ready, Freddy.  It costs the moon for the ad, but I hope it will be worth it.

I've also started a Facebook page for the program. Until I get the new site designed and up, check there for screenshots and feature lists over the next few days. I'll be premiering much of my website content there, so comments are always welcome.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Freeform Peyote Too Much Fun!

News flash! Freeform peyote officially declared too much fun...or perhaps just Too Much.  Wha-hoooo!!

You decide. I had never tried this technique before, and actually I'm glad I didn't. I needed some seasoning, some wrassling with various other techniques and getting really really comfortable with peyote in various incarnations. I learned odd-count peyote because I might need it for this, and it came in handy a time or two to know how to do that odd-count turn.

But mostly the experience came in handy in learning that in nearly every case, the Next Bead will tell you where it wants to go. Really.

So I pulled out the inspiration for the color scheme, which has been sitting on my desktop for months. The grapes against the green leafy background, some ripe, some not, just makes me long to drive through Napa and Sonoma again. Aren't the colors luscious?

And here is the main section of the necklace that resulted. The large stones are ametrine, a combination of amethyst and citrine. They're cut large so that in some stones you can see the color change gradation from purple to amber/brown. There are few that go all the way to light yellow like regular citrine.

I'm including some closeups of the center section as well. I wasn't able to get a good picture of the entire necklace. Used to be I could get good distance pics but not detail views. Now the detail views are crisp and sharp, but try to get the whole necklace in, no way.


There are some problems with the necklace laying flat when worn. It looked great as I designed it on a flat surface, but has some shape issues when worn on a three-dimensional body. Live and learn, I guess. 

I also learned some fun things about incorporating segments of bugle beads right into the peyote. Those puppies are stitched right into the peyote piece, with a continuous thread. Really nifty!  

I did have a hard time determining when to stop, though. Since I just started this piece with no real thought of design, it did come out a bit scattered. Next time, more planning. More concept. Less wha-hoooo! No, not that. It'll always have plenty of wha-hooo, if I have anything to say about it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Couple of Firsts, Tutorials and Software and Freeform Peyote!

Yes, the previous two posts were sent from my software in development, BeadEnCounter Beading Inventory software.   One of its features is the ability to send a post to either Facebook or a Blogger blog using the secret emails from each of those services.

The software is looking good, nearly in beta form. If any of you reading this (I do have several readers, I hope, after weeks of neglect) wish to participate in the beta stage of development, please email me at beadencounter@gmail.com.  I need testers who use Mac or PC, as the software will work on both.

Participation means receiving a guaranteed-buggy pre-shipping version of the software. I'll ask you to test the functioning of the various areas of the software, where data on your beading inventory, your finished work, and your seed-bead collection is stored. We'll also be testing functions like backing up and upgrading the files, which are necessary to take care of your data once it's entered.

Then you have to tell me in great detail what goes wrong. ;) This is the fun part, because so often the software you use is developed by faceless programmers on another planet. At least they might as well be, for all the feedback you can really give. At least this time, your pain will be heard, corrections will be made, and the final product will be that much better for your contributions.

Not to mention you'll get free software when the product does ship.

I could ship the software without a beta phase, but that's a very Microsoftian thing to do, expecting the first adopters to serve as beta testers. I hope not to do that.

--
In other news, I have listed on Etsy my first beading tutorial, Netted Rope and Netted Loop Variation. This stitch just came to me while I was working on a netted rope bracelet. It seems to be original, at least I've never seen anything like it. It's easy and lends itself to a zillion different adaptations.  I think of new ones all the time.  Pictured is one of the bracelets made with the variation. 

Even working up a seemingly-simple document like a tutorial took an unimaginable amount of work. I had a very kind beader offer to be first reader, and she worked enough of the pattern to point out all sorts of places where explanations were unclear, or pictures not explanatory enough. I had to nearly rewrite the whole thing, because she was right, in almost every particular. Someone once said that writing was the universe's way of teaching you how fuzzy your thinking is. I concur. Just when you think you've made everything plain, you haven't.

But the tutorial is much better now for the assistance of the first beader...er, reader.
--

Last, but not least, my freeform peyote piece is done. I think. I'm still deciding if I want to embellish more. Pictures tomorrow, I hope. I'm stopping now to go and bead. You do the same!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shells & Coral test post

A second test with more text, explaining things in the script.
Allowing users to type many lines of text.

The small striped shells in this necklace are not painted, they are
naturally striped.

Testing email posting to my blog from my software in development.

testing email body

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Freeform Peyote


Why didn't anyone tell me! 


I'm starting my first free-form peyote stitch piece and I think I'm having the most fun I've had since I started beading! Yes, yes, YES! This is what I've been looking for.

Now to not screw it up. Because it's got real possibilities. The picture of the grapes has been hanging around on my desktop for ages, and it's the color inspiration for the piece. Some randomly shaped but highly polished ametrine nuggets will be incorporated.

 I even went out and learned how to do odd-count peyote. I can't wait to see what's next!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jellyfish in Tuxedos and Beading in Reverse


I started this new piece of bead embroidery last week. It started as just a brooch, and I didn't know if I should add fringe or not.

It was fun, making little individual bezels around each pearl. I scrounged through my stash for black, white, crystal and the slightly-bronzy-but-mostly-black-bugle beads I used. 

Other than the pearls nothing made me think of sea creatures...until. Until I put that fringe on the bottom. 

Now, though, my first thought after I added a few of the fringes, was "Jellyfish in a Tuxedo." A very formal, decorative jellyfish it is, too. 

Adding the fringe also forced an orientation on the brooch, which it hadn't had until then. Any way up looked good.  So I'm a little conflicted. I like the fringe. And yet, I'm not sure if it adds anything substantial to the piece.

In other news, I'm struggling with another piece. These are the bits I started with...  Below is an intermediate stage, already ripped out. That one big asymmetrical glass bead is wonderful. It's got a smooth yet glisteny finish, and a slight blue moiré pattern on the surface.  It's nearly 7 inches long and just makes you want to touch it.

But it's giving me fits trying to balance it out, or embellish it or something.  I started out with this swagged embellishment with turquoise heishi, and balanced by a string of African trade beads and bone beads on the other side of the strand. Didn't work. Then I strung a whole neck strand of the trade beads and bone beads, and hung the focal as a dangling pendant at the center. Hmm. A bit suggestive with that big thing hanging between the breasts, but okay.  Perhaps not everyone has a filthy mind.

Then I tried caging pendant with random netting of the turquoise heishi, with the small red beads at the intersections of the netting. Once again, a disaster.  Ripped that one out too.

Perhaps I need to quit trying to gild the lily, or decorate perfect simplicity. But it seems interesting to me that the more experience I gain at beading, the more I seem to rip out. Maybe it's an intermediate stage before I learn better how to know whether a concept is good without seeing it in reality.  I certainly hope so. I spend enough of my life at my computer typing backwards, I'd hate to spend equivalent amounts of my beading time beading in reverse.

Onward!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Peanutty Goodness

I got a few of these nifty new peanut beads, in the 3-4mm size. Just one tube, as I wanted to see what I could do with them.

So first I made a small sample of netted rope, using the peanuts as the larger inside beads. The gold beads are 15/0 metallic seed beads.

Peanut beads have the unique property of orienting themselves the way they darn well feel like. At least that's what it semms like. In the netted rope, they naturally orient themselves with one end inside, and the other poking a little bit out of the netting. Sometimes they get turned and trapped entirely inside the netting, so you have to encourage them to orient properly. It adds a bit of texture to the rope that I like, but it also eats beads like mad. A whole necklace of this rope would be wonderful, but it'd take 100 grams of the peanuts and really all you can see is one end of them.  It almost defeats the purpose of the peanuts.

So probably not something I'll pursue any time soon. 

Next, I tried my old favorite, peyote stitch. I strung 12 peanuts to start with, and originally wondered how the heck I was going to find the proper bead to go through since at first each row seemed like chaos.  But after a bit I realized that peyote with peanuts (sounds like a band, doesn't it "Peyote With Peanuts!"?) was nearly as simple as peyote with round beads.

The next bead to go through just naturally seems to present itself. Each peanut nests down just like the single round beads do.  The biggest difference seems to be that because there's more space in the matrix than with round beads, the tension on the thread is difficult to maintain and the beads tend to loosen as you work. I found that as I started each row, if I moved my needle down to the previous row's thread and made a half-hitch through that, then started the stitching for the new row, it was much easier to maintain control and prevent that annoying loose-bead feeling.


What you end up with is an apparently "double-sided" peyote piece. I didn't do enough to see how flexible it is in longer lengths. I suspect it will be far stiffer than single-bead peyote, and so probably not suitable for bracelets or neck straps.  Here is a picture taken from the side so you can see how the top edge looks, and another taken from the top edge down along the surface.

Even just stringing peanuts together gives a very nice textured appearance. Next I think I'll try some regular netting with peanuts as the intersection beads. I'll post pictures when I do!

Every Stitch Teaches a Lesson

Sometimes, not the lesson you might expect. 

I finished this bracelet a few days ago.   I finally found something to do with those brick-red lentils, which are the oddly drilled ones that overlap when they are strung. I could not think of what do to with them and they've languished so long in my stash I didn't think I would ever figure it out.  I have some black lentils like this too. 

So the first lesson this piece taught me was that keeping something in mind, just running across it as I shifted it aside searching for other beads, would eventually lead me to incorporating it into a piece. It's a good reason to thoroughly review my entire holdings every few months.

The picasso-finish seed beads I bought from a vendor on Etsy. I don't know how she did it, but her pictures made those beads look scrumptiously good. Amazing even. Somehow that brown baked-on finish seemed so exotic and made me spend an unseemly amount of money on seed beads. Then I got them and ummmm. Not so scrumptious in person. Not bad enough to make me send them back, but definitely disillusioning. So the second lesson was that not everything looks as good in person as it does online. Those of you considering internet dating ought to take note.

I grabbed those picassos (a mix called 'salsa,' though if my salsa came out looking like that I'd throw it out and start over) and started a peyote stitch. I discovered that many of the seed beads were of extremely variable size. Some were fat, others thin, some smaller, some larger in diameter. It rapidly became unpleasant and the work itself wasn't all that straight as I worked. Just fractions of a millimeter made so much difference!

Obviously the picasso-finisher, whoever they were, started with sub-standard beads. So my third lesson was that quality in materials matters. Bigtime. The extra work involved in working rows unevenly, having holes that are not of uniform diameter, and having to throw away significant numbers that are so far off-size as to be non-functional made the beads even more expensive than the price I paid.  It also made me appreciate my Miyuke and Toho beads that are so precise. Boy do they make beading easier!

I didn't really like the beads when I started the bracelet. I didn't like them more as time went on and the bracelet grew. Once finished, though, and with the addition of the double-picots and the lentils along the edges, I found that while I personally would never buy or wear such a bracelet, I could see that someone else with different taste might find it acceptable. Attractive, even.  My fourth lesson was that I enjoy working more on something I want to wear myself, but that isn't a mandatory element in creating something I'm proud of. 

The bracelet looks one way when it's all laid out neatly and the lentils groomed into place for the pictures. It looks quite another when it's on a wrist. The lentils flop and clack and shift the weight of the piece in interesting ways.  It feels a lot better than it looks, at least in my opinion.

Once a long time ago, I made a "texture quilt" for my son, out of fabrics like silks, satins, velvets and wool, designed to be felt with eyes closed. I'd read about them being made for blind people, and thought it was a great way to teach my son about textures. Uglier than all-get-out, because I didn't care about color or shape, or all those wrinkles and folds. I wonder if there's equivalent jewelry for the blind, where the feel of the piece is far more important than the visual esthetics?  Perhaps the last lesson this bracelet will teach me is that there's a market for everything, if you can find it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dichroic Seed Beads, How Best to Use Them?

Two blog posts in two days! It's not like I'm not busy with other things.

In fact, right now I'm procrastinating on paying the bills, both business and personal. It needs to be done, but I just don't want to do it right now. Or, I could do some client work I promised this weekend...

Nah. Blogging instead.

I first laid eyes on dichroic seed beads at the last Pasadena Bead Show.  I think it was Judy Walker's booth, and she'd worked up the beads into some beaded peyote cylinder beads.  I was really taken with the sparkle and shine of the dichro beads in mass, but appalled at the cost. They sell these in tiny little 1 gram vials, somewhat like crack cocaine. Actually very like, in cost and addictive potential!

Judy had marked the beads up significantly, but I couldn't help myself and bought 1 vial of the clear "warm" colors and 1 of the dark emerald.  They are available for much less on the website, but even then, they're more than $7 a gram unless you buy a lot of grams. Now remember, most seed beads are packaged in 10 gram to 30 gram tubes or bags. Ten grams would be $70+ for dichroic beads. 

Judy briefly described the process, so I can see why they cost so much. Starting with Aiko precision delicas, which cost about twice as much as regular delicas to begin with, the beads are strung individually on thread or wire, then stretched across embroidery hoops of some sort for introduction to the coating furnaces. I was trying to figure out how they keep each bead separate so the edges get coated and blanked on that one.  I have no idea how much the coating process costs, but I'm sure it's not cheap. Most of us know how much dichroic glass costs in comparison with regular fusing glass. 

Then they have to inspect and repackage the beads. I have no idea how many fail the coating process. You only get about 180 beads to a gram, so the cautions on the website about using them sparingly are well-taken.  No matter how much you'd just like to use them in big blocks, it's unlikely that anyone is going to fork out hundreds of dollars for the amount needed for a large piece.


Then one day I was wandering through a bead store and...oh look! Some seed beads marked down to half-price. Oooh, shiny! I saw these pink/red size 6/0 beads with an iridescent AB finish, kind of beat up and a little scuffed at the same time. I'm not generally a pink person, but these appealed to me. In fact, when I picked them up, they told me what they wanted to be. It happens that way sometimes. I saw the finished bracelet in my head, complete with little fringes all over it.  Judy had recommended that as a use of the beads, as the tips of fringes. 


So I peyote-stitched the base of the bracelet. I love 6/0, they work up so fast!  Once I started doing the fringes in 15/0, I thought to myself, "It looks like the sea floor with little corals growing out of it. My husband also mentioned the aquatic resemblance.  At the tip of each branch of the fringe, I put one of my precious clear warm color dichroics.  This 8 inch bracelet took the better part of a gram, I think I have 20 of those beads left.  I don't know, at this point, if I really think the dichro beads are actually that much of an addition over regular silver-lined or AB finish beads. Do they really make a difference?  Photographing them is very difficult, remember.

I think that actually, spreading them out individually doesn't really show them to best advantage. It dilutes the dichroic effect too much. It doesn't give as much sparkle as you'd think. Perhaps it's just because they're against a background of other AB finish beads. I needed something with more contrast.

So I found some other dichro beads at Beads Beads while shopping for the elusive coral color match (see the previous post). They weren't as cheap (relatively speaking) as on the website, but not as high as show prices either. I bought 2 tubes of the red. I wanted to test them contrasted with some very simple background. I dug out some 11/0 shiny black beads and started working.  I'm using the red color of dichro beads. This was the result.

I found myself turning and flashing the band as I worked. The beads looked marvelous! Of course, I can see anyone wearing this doing the same. Warning! Don't wear it to work, you'd never get anything done!  Also, not while driving. "Sorry, officer, I was just, ummmm, looking at my bracelet."  !!

As I worked, though, I found that since the dichro beads are cylinders, and my black beads were round, the difference in size and shape made the piece ripple. But I did enough that I could see what was happening with the stripe of dichro.  It was amazing. 

Then I took pictures, which I think show well enough how the high-contrast really enhances the dichro beads. I decided that I need to find and buy some 11/0 delicas in matte black. Even the shiny black detracts a little bit from the contrast. I want those dichro beads to POP!

Then I ripped it up and salvaged all the beads for my next try. Nothing wasted but some thread. My time I consider well invested in this test.