Monday, January 14, 2013

Beaded Connections - Part One

I should say, first off, that I don't consider myself a beading expert. I started doing seed bead beading about five years ago after taking a class with the owner of the shop where I was teaching at the time. Since then my interest in seed beads has increased as I've learned more stitches, connections, embellishments, and other techniques. It's a great way to inexpensively introduce a lot of color and texture to a design.

For me, it's a great experimental medium. If I think of a design I want to make with wire and soldered connections, sometimes I'll work it up with seed beads before I do it in metal and wire, to see how it looks, how it's likely to hang, and whether it's likely to be comfortable. Mind you, I'm just aware as anyone else that metal densities and properties are very different from those of seed beads, but using something like upcycled plastic and seed beads give me a feel for things that I have trouble imagining in my head all at the same time, like drape, relative and absolute size, and color. I'm visual and kinesthetic and like to have something in my hands as I consider how I want to execute the final version.

All that said, I definitely believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and worth learning to do better. I don't see seed beads as a transitional medium alone. I also believe in a strong grounding in the basics and thinking about what you want to do before you do it, which is exactly the reason I make models of work before starting a complicated piece. I don't think that knowing only one way to do something is sufficient when your goal is creating serious art and durable, timeless jewelry. So, while the necklace I'm showing you is an experimental piece, there are some important take-away points; specifically about different kinds of connections and the way they work differently ... even if it's not a piece I'd feel comfortable selling.

Again, this started because I was wondering if there might be a different way to connect the components I loved from Clafoutine.

Being lazy any not wanting to get out my polymer clay and make comparable pieces, I took some plastic circles that I cut out from a thick piece of plastic packaging from some sippy cups we once bought for our son. It had been such an unusually substantial kind of plastic, and so colorful, I knew I had to find another use for it someday. At least this is one case where someday actually came.

The seed bead idea came because I tend to regard wire as scared, so I don't like to 'waste' wire, even craft wire, on something I don't know I would use in my work. Once I decided I wasn't going to be using wire and decided on seed beads, I knew that it would be different than using wire, and worth exploring it its own right.

I'll get into the hows of this necklace later this week (probably Thursday, when Sawyer is with Grandpa), but for now I want to show you the two kinds of connections I used in this necklace, how they worked, and their pros and cons.

The first thing I did was lay out some pieces like the Clafoutine necklace.

To get a better feel for the wire connection she used, I connected the elements using a similar strategy: string beads across the front where the elements meet, and bring the seed beads across the back between the holes.

Then I went FRINGE CRAZY! I mean, that's the benefit of using seed beads, right? Man, I love fringe. Plus, it gave me a reason to use more plastic disks.

Here's what I noticed about this kind of connection. First, the main disk didn't sit flat, it's bottom tipped forward. Now, with a wire connection you could adjust the wire for that, but ultimately I think it suggests the type of connection is less than suitable. So, one "con". However, using seed beads, it did give the opportunity for me to connect fringe on the back of the disk so that it would hang under the disk. I'd consider that a "pro". One other observation is that this kind of strung-all-the-way-through connection makes all of the elements it connects hang fairly stiffly together. For a front, focal portion of a necklace that may be a stylistic advantage. Of course, the degree of stiffness is something that requires awareness on the designer's part so that it doesn't make the design brittle or damage the components. So, for seed beads, in a less than serious application, ultimately it's not a terrible way to go, and isn't a terrible way to go with wire, either; I just don't think it's the best way.

Here is the second, "staple," connection that I tried with this piece. It allows just as much color, but it gives the piece much more flexibility. More about how to put all this together and, specifically, about this kind of connection, later in the week!

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