Friday, January 3, 2014

BeadStar Follies

A few months ago I decided to enter some pieces in the BeadStar competition. I got pretty excited about it, to the point that I set up a mini photo studio in my dining room and photographed pretty much all of my presentable jewelry that was original. It took a long time, as I'm not a photographer and it took lots of trial and error. The big surprise is that I actually enjoyed doing it! Usually when I'm in the middle of a big, elaborate project I get so stressed out by it that I either become very grouchy or I quit. 

I finished the photos, uploaded them, picked names and wrote fanciful descriptions of my pieces and their inspirations. It took forever, but I hoped that I would at least place in the emerging artists category (for previously unpublished jewelry artists.) I finished my entries and waited impatiently. 

I got an email from the BeadStar people saying they had WAY more entries than last year and would need longer to evaluate them. Not good! Why didn't I enter last year? I waited again. Eventually I got the (long) list of winners. I scanned it three times for good measure. Nada. No Laurel. Oh well, there's always next year. 

UNTIL I finally got my hands on the magazine with pictures of the winners. I had noticed in the rules that bead weaving pieces were being accepted for the first time, which I thought was nice and...well, I don't do much bead weaving so I barely gave it a thought. Well. Nearly all the winners were extremely complex bead weaving pieces! There were almost no examples of the types of jewelry I like to make. In the previous years of the competition, all the winners were somewhat similar in technique/style to my stuff.  So, basically, it had gone from bead weaving pieces being accepted to being preferred. I'm not knocking the pieces that won, because they obviously took immeasurable hours and great talent and imagination to produce. I just felt really dumb for spending all that time and entry fee money for something I had NO CHANCE of winning. My simple necklaces can't compete with something that complex. 

At least I have the pictures, and some really cool jewelry to wear. I just don't think I'll bother entering BeadStar next year! Below are some of the pics I took. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fearful Asymmetry

Disclaimer:  this entry uses lots of technical detail.  If you're not into that, feel free to skip ahead to the pictures.  Enjoy, no matter what you decide.

So last week I set out to make some things that were slightly out of my comfort zone.  I wanted to make some asymmetrical stringing pieces.  For those of you who don't know (which is all of you!), I love making perfectly symmetrical pieces, or pieces that have just 1-2 random elements to mix it up.  It's just the way my mind works.  I have a system for most things, even though it doesn't seem that way to others.  My book collection and my closet may not make sense to you, but I know exactly where to find my 3 quarter sleeve grey sweater, or my copy of Wuthering Heights, right away.  My point is, when I put something in a particular place, I like to have a reason or rationale.  I am pretty much unable to place things in a random manner.  Thus, the seemingly effortless random order of beads you see is actually the product of much agonizing, painstaking rearrangement.  Is the whole piece balanced?  Do I have enough groupings?  Enough colors?  Too many colors?  Aargh.  The mind reels. 

Also, I have a great fondness for wirework pieces.  For those of you who don't make jewelry, these are pieces in which wire is manipulated into various shapes like spirals and circles.  (See below for an example.) 

Wire pieces just seem so sturdy and long lasting.  When I string beads, I am constantly thinking, what if the string breaks?  That tiny little string seems so delicate, and can picture it breaking and spilling beads all over a sidewalk somewhere.  True, you can buy ultra-strong beading wires and threads, but your piece is only as strong as your closure.  And the closures can be so unattractive!  If you are using thread, you have to close with an ugly knot.  If you use beading wire, you have to use a metal crimp.  After much searching through beading books (I am entirely self-taught, or I probably would have learned this sooner) I finally found an attractive, albeit labor intensive solution.  I place a wire crimp and use a special little crimping tool which squeezes it in the middle and then bends it in half, making it small and unobtrusive.  After that, I place a tiny metal bead called a crimp cover over it, completely hiding the closure.  I also use a device called a wire guard, which keeps the end of the wire from breaking with wear.  This sounds complex, right?  Well, try actually doing it.  The tiny metal pieces bend and warp the wrong way with the slightest provocation.  I have just now gotten good at manipulating them. 

I spent my free time last week working on two asymmetrical (well, relatively) beaded pieces.  A dark red bracelet using some gorgeous Chinese lampwork beads as focal points, and Czech glass, crystal, and freshwater pearls as accents.  And a lovely freshwater pearl and silver bead necklace, with moonstone rondelle beads.  It has a decorative clasp and an angel wing charm at the back, so that you can wear it in the normal way for a delicate, formal necklace, or wear the clasp in the side or front for something a bit more funky.  The red bracelet has garnered so many compliments this week that I will probably reproduce it for my Etsy shop.  The necklace is about to make its debut, so we'll see. 

And what did I work on this week?  Why, a perfectly symmetrical wirework and bead piece, of course.  And I loved every minute of it.  Stay tuned for pics of it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reality Bites

I seem to have thrown myself into this new endeavor with more energy than usual.  A couple months ago, I was talking to a friend about a New Year's resolution and immediately added, "But it won't work out."  He replied, "When you die, your tombstone will say, 'Here lies Laurel.  She gave up before she even started.'"  And I do tend to pessimism (although I like to refer to my worldview as realism).  So I'm determined to give this a good least until it stops being fun.

That's one of my main worries--will the blogging and such take the joy out of jewelry making?  What about introducing money to the equation by selling my work in a serious way?  Thoughts like this kept me from progressing with my journey for a while.  I have finally decided to proceed, full speed ahead.  If this stuff takes the fun out of jewelry, I'll take up a new hobby.  Like felting or Chinese brush painting, lol.

In a burst of activity over the past few days, I set up this blog, a Facebook page for my jewelry, and an Etsy shop.  Not familiar with Etsy?  In a nutshell, it allows artists and crafters to list their works for sale on the Etsy site for a small fee.  It takes a lot of the stress out of starting out--it's easy to set up a profile and post items.  But then you run into all the STUFF.  How much to charge for shipping, keeping in mind that Etsy is a worldwide site and you could get an order from Australia?  What about your return policy?  Etc, etc.  I've noticed that a lot of people dream about owning their own business, but I have never been one of those people.  I am the child of two small business owners, and I know about every nitpicking thing that makes owning a business a pain.  Terms such as "sales tax" make me break out into a cold sweat.  Reassuring myself that this was completely different from my parents' businesses--no employees, no physical location to keep up--I forged ahead.  Once I committed, it was easier than I thought.  I hit the "list" button and sent my few little items out into the brave new world of Etsy.  I don't really care when or if they sell; the point is that I did it.  I can say casually, "Oh yes, I have a shop on Etsy."  And the beauty of Etsy is that you can list just as many or as few items as you wish.  You don't have orders piling up or anything like that.  Perfect for the me.  :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fun with Photography

So this afternoon I thought, if I'm considering selling stuff online, I should have pictures of said stuff.  Now, I don't have any really special pieces right now, considering my recent creative drought, but I had some decent looking earrings to play around with.  And besides, I felt I deserved a break since this morning I finally finished unpacking the suitcase I took on a trip last month (okay, don't judge!)  I don't have any photography skills to speak of, but I do have a fairly good digital camera, so off I went to fetch it...only to find that I left it off the charger and it is dead as a doornail.  Grrrr.  I don't want to wait for it to charge because I'm hoping to take the pics outdoors (taking advantage of the natural light), and it will be dark in a couple hours.  Also, when I get the motivation to do something, I better go ahead and do it, because later I'll find myself out of the notion.  So I grabbed my trusty iPhone and headed out.

First thing, though, I had get a picture of some of the earliest spring flowers, which are flourishing despite this morning's snow shower. 

These are some of my favorites--I call them the Firebird earrings, because they are inspired by Maria Tallchief of the New York City Ballet in her great role of the Firebird.

Freshwater pearls and glass leaves

Freshwater pearls and mother-of-pearl rings

The photos were good practice, and hey, you CAN actually tell what the earrings look like, but I am really looking forward to seeing how much better the photos can look with more practice and a fully charged camera.  :)  More later...