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. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I can see why those beads are like crack - so pretty and so expensive!