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. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why Local Bead Stores Must Never Die

Mom's Christmas present
So, my lovely mother calls me from Florida. She's all perky with good news. She was wearing the bracelet I gave her for Christmas while shopping and the shopkeeper just loved it.

So much so, she asked my mom about it, and my mother tells her that I made it. The woman asks what it would cost to have me make her one. My mom quotes a totally whacked out price, way higher than what I would price it on Etsy, or what I told my mom it would cost to make earlier. It's just seed beads, for crying out loud!

Very smug in her twin-set,
isn't she?
But the woman said okay to this outrageous price! Then the only direction she gave was she wanted it in black beads with coral.  No size given, just "like what you made me will be okay,"  my mom says.

Now, when someone says "coral" what color do you think of?  I tend to think of the vivid red of actual coral beads. But I know this isn't true of women of my mother's age. They tend to think of a pinky-red (or reddish-pink) featured in twin-sets.  You know, those cardigan and shell sweater thingies women wore in the 50's.  Like this vintage knitting pattern pictured, available from an Etsy shop.

Classic coral?
Like this dress. That color coral.  Sortof. Do you have any idea how many colors of reddish pink, pinkish red, orangishpinkyred and assorted things very close to that there are in beads??? I'll tell, you. Zillions. Officially.

But of course, I don't have anything remotely close to classic coral color in my stash. I have bright pink. Pale pink. A dozen reds. Orange of various violent hues. No coral. How horrible. I will have to visit a bead store. I am desolate! 

I managed to find something close in size 11/0 at the first store I went to.  Something that I thought said "coral" in the classic sense, and was pretty and sparkly. Now I just need to match that with some 15s or Delicas in the same color. This is where things got a bit touchy.

The wrong stuff, not even close
I did find some 15s at the first store that looked close while in the store. Not so when I got them home and did a test run. Way too light. This is the wrong, unmatching tube of beads.  What was I thinking?

So, dolefully, I dragged myself to another store the following weekend, despite the fact it was raining cats & dogs. The things I do for my mother!

Yes, it's a match!
This is the wonderful Beads, Beads store in Orange, CA. They are among my favorite stores, not least for the fact that the staff will help you endlessly. They have a huge selection, but most of it is in the back room, with just samples out front. But so far I've never come out of there not finding something I truly needed.  So I got my coral-pink, in a delica.

This is where the local bead stores never dying comes in. I could have shopped and ordered seventeen times from online sources and never gotten a match.  I order beads all the time off the web, and have some wonderful sources. But in the specific instance of having to match an exact shade, there is no substitute for seeing and touching the beads yourself. You can't do that online.

Support your local shop when you can, because if we don't, when we really need them for hands-on, they won't be there.

You'll never guess.
And another thing you can't really do well online is discover new, cool colors. Yeah, they can list and describe them, but even expert pictures can't really convey the niftiness of certain colors. This picture is of something I ran across while searching diligently for coral. Can you guess the color???

It's not a great picture, but then, it's impossible to photograph the tiny transparent rim against the color-lined interior, that gives a mysterious conglomeration of sparkle and shimmer. Give up? It's olivine-lined orange. I can't even properly describe it in words, but the effect is wonderful. I can't wait to work it into something.  Stumbling across great new stuff also requires in-person presence. You can only get that in a bead store.

Coral in its glory
 So I did finally finish the coral/black bracelet. Here it is.  I'll mail it off tomorrow to Florida and see if her shopkeeperness likes it. If not, no sweat. I came up with a new technique for the magnetic clasp, to conceal it inside a tube of peyote stitch. Works great.

Nifty clasp
And I'm putting together a tutorial on the variation of the netted rope I came up with. I haven't seen this anywhere else. I took pictures as I worked and I'll also get some diagrams going. That ought to be fun.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Working from the Stash

Sometimes, like now, money is in short supply. Every trip to the bead store, or to a show, or even online, leads to currently unacceptable expenses.

But wait. I spent the better part of two years buying so much that I liked. I don't really need anything new, I have wonderful things squirreled away in drawers marked "Special Beads" and "Cabochons" and other tasty categories.  I shopped assiduously and filled the empty-seeming gaps in my palette of colors and sizes as best I could, I built a backlog of findings, and invested in a fair amount of wire and thread.

It's always nice to trawl the stores to get inspired...but "shopping" in your own stash can be rewarding as well, and much more fiscally responsible.   I bet many beaders have things tucked away they haven't seen in months, perhaps longer. 

So last week I went shopping in Ye Olde Stashe, and found some gorgeous lampworked beads in orange and blue/black from Prima Donna beads. Oh, and in another drawer some ancient sea glass, and oh, some chrysocola, orangey carnelian, apatite in blue, African trade beads and this and that. Very quickly, it seems, this necklace created itself. 

No new beads were purchased for this work. Thanks to my BeadEnCounter software, a beta version of the program in development for sale, I know exactly where all the beads came from, and what this piece cost, though it's been months, or more than a year, since I purchased some of the components.

Earlier today I wrote and sent Donna Conklin, the lampwork artist that made the bead set, a couple of pictures of the necklace. She was admiring of the outcome, and we've been having a lovely correspondence. What a nice person! She says she'll be at the LA Bead Bazaar this weekend, so if you're in the area, go patronize her booth!  

If I were to win a challenge for the Etsy Beadweaver's Team (hah! Like that's going to happen) I think my pick of a challenge theme would be "Look What I Found in the Bottom Drawer."  And no, I don't mean those unmentionable things you don't want your children to find after you die. I mean in the bottom drawer of the bead stash. Or the back of the least-used drawer. 

I'm finding some wonderful things that got shoved underneath newer purchases. More to come. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Time! Where does it go?

It's nearly the Ides of March, and not only haven't I got the software finished, I haven't blogged lately either. But this is me, refusing to feel guilty. Life is too short for spurious guilt.

There has been movement on the software front. Finally got the icons I need for the interface done, and the major screens are now shaping up really well. Perhaps a screen shot early next week?

I have done some beading, though never as much as I wish I could.  Let's see, what can I show.....?  (sound FX of rustling through photos)

First is a wonderful necklace that my husband says is his favorite so far of anything I've done. It's a quiet, elegant piece, and it doesn't garner the same kind of attention and/or compliments from passersby that some of my showier bits do. On the other hand, when I tell people I made it, their eyes get real big, because it looks so complicated, and yet so cool.

The neck band is all peyote, done with raku color small bugle beads. Yes, it's asymmetrical.  The pendant and fringe beads are real porcelain raku, from Xaz Beads. I bought these a few months ago at the Pasadena Bead Show, and have been wanting to use them since. They are wonderfully light, and have a surface shimmer that just won't photograph.  I fastened the whole thing together with a snap catch behind the pendant, so it goes on very easily.

Then I felt the need to do something spring-like. Even here in southern California, I get springtime cravings for color, the way I used to do in the terrible gray months in Michigan. So I spiraled my way into color delirium, I don't know what I was thinking when I bought those neon bright shocking pink beads, but they work nicely in this bracelet.

The bracelet is now listed on Etsy, too.

The spiral was fun, although for some reason it seemed to take me a long time. Perhaps because I'm just not getting enough beading time. I found some nifty magnetic catches I used in this that are so strong, they stick when you put one on each side of your finger!  On the other hand, they have holes in the middle for a knotted thread, but when faced correctly to embed the knots inside each piece of the catch, the magnets are incorrectly oriented. What genius decided that the NS magnet poles should face in the SAME direction in each catch piece? It's like selling only left shoes.

You'll notice in the second picture that the bracelet is resting on a...what is that thing?  Oh, it's my new Wristometer ©, a bracelet sizing mandrel that's printable on a single sheet of cardstock or paper.  Then you cut it out and tape it into a cone-like shape. This is something I've been working on and hoping to get out there soon.  Like next week.

There are other bracelet and necklace sizing options out there, but I think there's a place for a very low-cost, portable, and easy doo-dad for sizing how big a bracelet is. It's remarkable how the length of a bracelet when laid flat has so little to do with what size wrist it will fit! Depending on the thickness of the beading, the flexibility, the catch, all those things make a difference in fit.

So keep watching this space. I'll try to provide more updatingness. And promptidity.