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.


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.