Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I love my optivisor!

I saw a "poll"somewhere recently - I think on Etsy (a chit-chat, thinly-veiled promotional thread, really) - asking what your favorite jewelry tool is. I never respond to those threads, but it got me thinking about all the tools I love - many with vastly different functions, and how in the world could anyone pick just one?

And then I saw this picture, and it hit me: my optivisor. Of course.

Zachary Levi, rocking an optivisor

Years ago, I had been trying to create jewelry for several months, struggling to see what I was doing (especially when beadweaving), when I took a week-long class at William Holland Lapidary School, and was introduced to optivisors. It was like magic - I could actually see the eye of the needle, the seed beads, the holes in the seed beads, the flat side of half-round wire - truly a breakthrough for me, since I am legally blind.

Without my optivisor(s) AND my reading glasses, I would never have persisted with jewelry design. I simply wouldn't have been able to. I literally could not see what I was doing!

Once I purchased my first optivisor (I have 3), I was struggling to read the paper one morning, squinting, etc., despite the reading glasses I currently had, and decided to see what would happen if I tried to read the paper WITH the optivisor on (plus the reading glasses). Wow! Now I could actually see the words!

That discovery led to a long discussion with my ophthalmologist, who found the whole story incredulous. I mean, he knew about my eye issues, having diagnosed my weird, rare eye condition over 10 years ago. But he didn't know how severe it was, since my vision varies from the time I wake up 'til the time I go to bed, and he had never seen it at its worst. By the time I arrived at his office for my routine appointments, my vision had always improved from its morning worst. So after a 6-month-long odyssey of weirdly-timed appointments with him; where I had to do all sorts of unusual things* to demonstrate just exactly how bad my vision is; followed by a referral to the Emory Eye Clinic, where I actually had to spend 2 full days repeating all these weird diagnostic things (not a single NEW test was done); I found myself with a prescription for glasses, something like +5.75 diopters.Which I use, with my optivisor, for close work.

(Tangential question: why can't doctors just trust each other's word and test results, instead of repeating very expensive and time-consuming tests? Why should a referral to a specialist result in repetition of the very tests that led to that referral?)

So my optivisor is an absolutely essential tool for my jewelry design, and anything else requiring close work.

What's your favorite tool?

*Weird things I had to do to prove my vision was worse than my ophthalmologist thought:

  • schedule earliest morning appointment at his office
  • upon waking after at least 8 hours sleep (or, at least, 8 hours lying down with my eyes closed), have someone else (duh) drive me to the appointment, while I lie on the back seat of the car with my eyes closed (sorry doc, no shower/hair/makeup that morning!)
  • hustle into his office (eyes closed!) and lie down again, keeping those eyes closed
  • wait for him
  • full eye exam/refraction.
  • Then resume "normal" activity at his office, and have full eye exam/refraction every 30 minutes for the rest of the day. Fun!

And then I had to repeat all of this again, and more, at Emory. Sheesh - And here's a surprise - the guy in Atlanta got the same results!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Semiprecious Gemstone Lariat now available on Etsy

The semiprecious gemstone lariat I created for last year's BSBP is now available on Etsy:

Semiprecious gemstone kumihimo lariat with enameled beads

Detail, gemstone kumihimo

This one-of-a-kind lariat is 35.5 inches long, made from colorful amethyst, blue topaz, aquamarine, citrine, and peridot, plus my own enameled beads and cones, is available in my Etsy shop!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Kumihimo variations

I am crazy about Kumihimo - I love its ease, its portability, and the finished result!

I have been experimenting with using different beads in kumihimo, and after a failed attempt to make size 8/0 Delicas into a kumihimo rope (the cylinidrical beads just wouldn't braid together niceley!) I realized that I have made a lot of different kumihimo variations. Here are some of them:

Kumihimo variations - different bead and fiber types

I like seeing them side-by-side like that, but here is a little better detail:

Kumihimo variations: 3-cut 6/0, 8/0 (3-color and 2-color), 11/0 triangles, Long Magatamas

 Kumihimo variations: Long Magatamas, 4x7 lentils, gemstone chips, various yarns

Do you have a favorite technique that you find yourself turning to time and again?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gold and Silver Kumihimo with Long Magatamas

I put the finishing touches on the long Magatama kumihimo necklace this morning:

Gold and Silver Kumihimo necklace with Long Magatamas

As I feared, the long Magatamas made the rope too thick for any of the beadcaps I had readily available, so I set out to make some.

I have hundreds of these little metal floral caps (the bronze one in the center is their natural color) - they enamel beautifully, but lacking any silver or gold enamel, I had to go to plan B. Gilder's paste. Not my favorite: it's messy! I hate mess!

I tried both the silver and the gold Gilder's paste - I really wanted to use silver, but it didn't give a nice shiny finish like the gold, so I went with the gold.

I topped the caps with sterling silver Origami-style beads (I don't know why, but I call these beads "tumbleweeds") and a 5 mm gold round. I added sterling silver chain and a sterling silver S-hook around the back. The chain has a nice open weave, so the necklace is fully adjustable up to 20 inches.

I love how these Magatamas produced a beautiful texture, and a nice spiral.

It's available in my Etsy shop!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kumihimo Rope with Long Magatamas

Just finished (almost finished)! 5 minutes ago I wove the last long Magatama into this kumihimo rope:

kumihimo rope with long Magatamas

This is the first time I have worked with the long Magatamas. For this rope, I used:

  • 400 long Magatamas: 200 in galvanized silver, 200 in galvanized gold (this equals 25.5 grams of each color).
  • size 8 Griffin Silk cord.
The resulting rope is 11.5 inches long. So if you're wondering how many Long Magatamas you need for your kumihimo project, there you have it (for an 8-warp braid; I put 50 beads on each warp.)

Now I just need to figure out how to finish it. The Magatamas made the rope pretty thick (although it is light as a feather!). It is not quite as wide as the one I made with the lentil-shaped beads,(although a heck of a lot lighter). Another similarity to the lentils: for the lentil kumihimo rope, you have to take great care to position all the Lentils inthe same direction as you are braiding, or the rope looks wonky, with the Magatamas, you must initially string all of them so they are "pointing" in the same direction. If they are strung properly, they'll pretty much orient themselves correctly as you braid.

detail, kumihimo rope with long Magatamas

I need to do some beadweaving projects with the long Magatamas before I decide whether I like them. I don't dislike them at this point, they are just OK. Though they really added great texture to this kumihimo!

But don't get me started on the Superduos - my current passion! I love those little two-holed beads. So far, I have only made one project with them (a necklace/earring set) - but I can't wait to do more. They fascinate me!

reversible bracelet/earrings made with Czech Superduos

[This reversible bracelet/earring project is featured in the August, 2013 Bead & Button.]

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Etsy reverses its decision regarding undrilled rocks and crystals

At approximately 1:30 PM (EDT) today, Etsy Admin Sarah A. returned to the Etsy forums with this announcement:

"We have determined that our original definition was too narrow for our creative community, and that there are other ways to incorporate rocks and crystals into handmade items. As long as your listings for rocks and crystals are presented as a craft supply- an item that will be used to make a new item that you might find for sale on Etsy- they can be sold in the Craft Supplies category"

Thanks, Etsy! This is great news for hundreds of buyers and sellers!

[Note: The announcement was in response to this issue]

Tangle Tuesday

Tangles used here include:
  • waves
  • seasick
  • Hollibaugh
  • op art
  • over & under
  • betweed
  • paradox
  • cracked
  • static
  • checkered zag
  • ixorus
  • pepper
  • allium
  • vache 1
  • eye test
  • adente
  • plait
  • w2
  • hached
  • pompoms

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Etsy, This is just stupid

Boneheaded, too

 [Please note: I am not saying "Etsy is stupid." I am saying that this decision is stupid. Big difference.]

For those of you not spending your Friday night prowling the Etsy forums (and why weren't you - something better to do...?), Etsy PTB (Powers that Be) have just decided that undrilled rocks, minerals, crystals, shells, driftwood, etc (with the exception of flat-backed cabochons) are NOT supplies. Period.

And therefore, cannot be sold on Etsy.

You jewelry designers that are using these items in your designs? You must be doing it wrong, because, according to Etsy, these items are intended for tabletop display.

Think I'm kidding?

Here is the thread where Etsy Admin Sarah A. clarified their decision (scroll down a bit):

Etsy Senior VP Marc Hedlund doesn't want to weigh in - he refers all users back to Sarah A, who doesn't seem to want a public discussion amongst sellers and Admin; she requests private e-mails be sent to her.

One of the original forum posts, discussing the contacting of individual Etsy sellers by Admin, demanding the removal of these items from their shops

Here is another thread about the topic: This thread starts off with a lot of misinformation, but ultimately gets to the point.

And another thread has just started up. I'm sure there will be scores more. I wish Admin would really monitor the forums (not just for this) - and close duplicate threads, no matter what the topic, and in their closure, direct users to the "consolidated" thread. But that will never happen, because:
a) Etsy doesn't monitor the forums
b) I believe (Etsy Admin) Sarah A. made it pretty clear that she doesn't want this topic discussed openly - she wants all queries directed to Etsy, privately.

Which is, jewelry designers AND other artists use these items all the time.

Look at this ring, for instance:
Undrilled stones like this are not supplies, according to Etsy. You'll have to buy 'em somewhere else.

Ever wire-wrapped a crystal point, like this gorgeous one from Etsy seller mandalarain?

Well, that crystal point is not a supply, according to Etsy. Can't be bought on Etsy. Sorry.

How about wire-wrapping fossils, like this ammonite?
That's my own piece, sold back in 2008. Good thing I own a B&M Bead Shop, because I can no longer buy pieces like this on Etsy. Because they are for display purposes - not for making into jewelry. (What was I thinking?)

And it isn't just wire work - I have seen thousands of pieces of jewelry with beadwoven rocks, crystals, and fossils. And metalsmiths use them all the time...

And it isn't just jewelry - Many artists in a large variety of media buy unpolished, uncut rough specifically because they want to cut it themselves to achieve a particular look for their designs.

And there are many, many more examples of ways artists use these items. More than I could ever enumerate here. I could go on, and on. But I won't.

Check out the threads on Etsy. Participate! This is absolutely ridiculous!

Share this post on Facebook, or Tweet! Get the word out! These items are definitely supplies, and this decision is just wrong-headed. And crippling to many sellers who have been providing these valuable supplies to the Etsy community.

You know, rocks, minerals, crystals - these are all millions of years old, right? Are they Etsy-legal if listed as vintage?

Just a thought.

{Edited to add: at approximately 5 PM EDT today, Etsy Admin Sarah A returned to Marc's thread to thanks users for their respectful commentary, and to advise that the matter will be re-examined and discussed internally at Etsy in the near future. No promises, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. I encourage all of you to visit this particular thread and leave more respectful opinions on your use of these materials in your artistic endeavors. Thanks!}

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Greek Key Bracelet

This is my latest herringbone bracelet, finished yesterday afternoon:
Greek Key Herringbone Bracelet

I love pink and purple together, and herringbone lends itself well to geometric designs.

I have a tiara board over on Pinterest, (I LOVE tiaras! - I could BE a princess, dammit!), and while they are all pretty, I have been fascinated by the Greek Key tiaras, and thought that design would adapt well to herringbone:

So, I downloaded the free Herringbone graph paper from Fusion Beads, and drew out my Greek Key pattern, chose my 11/0 triangles, and was ready to start stitching.

I had chosen a gorgeous ceramic button in the perfect color of purple to use as the clasp for this bracelet, but then I found this pewter button:

In my stash.

What an OMG moment - to quote Chandler from "Friends": "Could it MATCH any better?" No, it really couldn't. Unless it was purple.

I changed the color of border I had originally planned to go with, and decided to use matte pewter 11/0 triangles. Perfect!

This bracelet fits size 6.5 to 6.75 - I had originally planned to add one more "key" to the design, but each section is almost 2 inches long, so the bracelet would have gone from 6.75 to well over 8.5 - too big for most women to wear. So this one is for you petite ladies out there!

It is available on Etsy!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tuesday Tangle

I took a break from beadweaving yesterday to create a new Zentangle:

Some of the tangles I used here include:
  • twisty-blob
  • adente
  • plaited
  • wisket
  • stonework
  • maroko
  • confettus
  • waltz
It's back to beadweaving for me, now!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Purple Spiral Necklace with Top-drilled crystals

I love top-drilled Swarovski crystals. But I have no idea how to use them. Am I the only one that buys beads and doesn't know how to use them?

I bought hundreds of these 6 years ago at a gem show, in probably 30 different colors. They fascinated me! And they have been sitting there, mocking me, ever since. And no one at the bead shop buys them, either - I think folks are confused by top-drills. That's my theory, anyway.

So, I decided to play with some of these last week, and since I am on a purple kick, I chose the lilac ones.
I decided I would cluster them in the center, like ripe grapes, because they REALLY have an impact when they are clustered together!

I chose a simple, "skinny" spiral to complement these sparkly crystals:

I added some 6mm Czech pressed glass beads, in a pretty tanzanite color, throughout the rope as accents.

This pretty, dainty handwoven necklace is available on Etsy!