Moving on: macrame lessons and new stitches

It’s been a few days. In the interim, I’ve had a couple of tries at doing micro-macramé; once, without reviewing or following directions; the second time, paying close attention to my cord orientation and the instructions for double half-hitches given in Joan Babcock’s book, Micro-Macramé Jewelry: Tips and Techniques for Knotting with Beads (2nd Edition). I still had to figure some stuff out for myself, but overall, my success rate was much higher when I decided to allow myself to learn.

This is a point at which I strongly differ from certain people (one person in this case, actually) who claim to be professionals and discourage any competition from younger creators by telling them that in effect, they should have completed learning before they start making money off their craft. That’s unrealistic, and also a guarantee of failure before beginning. Learning is a lifelong journey, not something a person completes in four years (for a grade, at that — which discourages experimentation and failure; failure may lead to more growth than outright success) and then never has to do again. One of my Graphic Arts instructors — as an excerpt from his communication with other Digital Artists — mentioned always pushing one’s own boundaries, so one was always doing something that challenged them. For some reason, I carried that along with me.

Of course, the first person I mentioned may have learned as an Apprentice, not a Student…but I also find the term “Master” to be a bit…vainglorious as a goal.

I did discover, last night, that what I’m doing is in essence, entering manufacturing as versus service…which I didn’t expect to find, in my life — ever. (Kind of like I never expected to realistically be this close to being in business for myself.) But if I’m looking at Jeweling as a craft (i.e. silversmithing or goldsmithing), beadwork is not different in kind. It’s different in process — very different — but the things one makes, the products, are not so much. Of course, there is a large difference in aesthetic…beadwork inherently allows much more colorwork than silversmithing, at least unless one is heavily using colored stones, enamel, patina, or reactive metals. (I almost forgot to mention: works made in brass, bronze, and copper, also fall under the heading of “silversmithing”; these are also a way out of black, grey and white.)

There are different drives and underlying aesthetics between the paths. Silver, as a precious metal, is more monetarily valuable in itself than most glass beads. (Note: most. I’ve seen some awesome lampwork glass online which I’m pretty sure commands a fair price.) Silversmithing forces one to focus much more on form, structure, and process…not to say that these are absent in beadwork — they are wholly there — but at least with beads, one can let the materials guide one, to an extent.

In my experience, metalwork requires more energy put into design, and into thinking ahead through the process so that you don’t, for example, create a bezel before functional joins, and that bezel decides to suddenly liquefy because its melting point is below the temperature needed to melt the grade of solder you’re using to construct the bare bones of the piece. In the thinking-ahead department, I’m relatively well-equipped. Maybe I was so well-equipped that I decided the class was too hazardous, at the time. This was mostly due to the other students (reminding me of Chemistry class in High School), but some (most) of the danger was inherent, and only magnified by irresponsible behavior.

As a contrast, when attempting to remember how to re-create a recent pattern I made (which I neither wrote down nor drew out — haa, fun) I did discover that in assembling the drop, there weren’t a lot of, “side alleys.” I could probably make those diversions if I wanted to: but the pattern was straightforward, clean, rational. If I tried to reduce the number of steps down further…it would take a lot more work to derive what might become a more elegant solution.

There is also substantial overlap between beadwork and silversmithing, if one chooses to allow oneself to span boundaries in one’s work. Making another earring mockup, I did surprise myself by noting how quickly I had to shift from beadweaving over to wirework. It requires a completely different set of tools; it is a medium which behaves differently than beads and thread. But still: the component was done, and it was assembly time.

Of course…I ended up altering this workflow, at least in theory: instead of tackling assembly at the end, tackling it at the beginning, before any weaving happens. I still have to test-run that process. The difficult thing about this for me is taking those slow, deliberate steps forward that I know I need to take.

I suppose I can keep that in mind for the future, say, if I ever make this more than a microbusiness.

It does take a different set of skills to work with metal than to work with needle and thread. Of course, right here we’re talking about wirework, not forging or other methods of complex fabrication (like the hinges I decided I was OK with not knowing how to produce)…and I was only in smithing courses for two semesters (I could have done five without being a Teacher’s Assistant, tops), so I’m not really an authority.

Anyhow…last night I did a review of horizontal half-hitches, vertical half-hitches, and diagonal half-hitches. The last of these is actually much easier to work than it seems; as I was doing it, it was just a tilted horizontal half-hitch, meaning there’s a more-or-less horizontal anchor cord which the vertical cords tie themselves over. And I could see that trying to do it without instructions was seriously, doing it the hard way.

I seem to have reached, more or less, an organic stopping-point with Flat Spiral stitch. There is more I could think of to try — particularly, using 6mm or larger beads for my core, and 4mm beads as the outer embellishment, just scaling the whole thing up — but I think I’m done, for now. At this point, I’ve begun looking at color placements rather than form (the overall outer volume of the piece) or structure (the way the beads and components are physically joined together). This tells me that I probably need to move on to find other ways to join beads together, so that I have more options to choose from where it comes to color placement.

What I seem to be organically moving into is St. Petersburg Chain, which I was also working on prior to deciding to go back to known techniques.

Okay. I know I intended to move from easiest to hardest in terms of my tour of techniques.

St. Petersburg Chain isn’t anywhere near being a beginner’s stitch. It’s overtly hard to grasp, as there’s a lot of turning back on oneself and roundabouts. I had to consult three different sources to get straight on what was actually happening (one of which was a YouTube video, the other two were books). I am thinking of trying this one, however, particularly because 1) it’s challenging, and 2) I have the outline of a design that I just may be able to produce if I use a specialized component: in this case, a chaton with a four-way opening. I’ve also just found one of my earlier posts where I have recorded myself wanting to use it.

I can also see an easy modification I might want to try.

Given that the evidence shows that I’ve wanted to attempt this for at least a year and a half, I’m more inclined to give myself a chance at it, this time. Especially if I’m feeling confident enough to do so; and there’s nothing like trying the easiest thing you can find, to give you enough confidence to attempt something difficult.

Paired with the St. Petersburg Chain, I’d hope to use a stone I was attempting to bezel in beadweaving a while ago. I have half a mind to cut the bezel away on this piece and try again (I should photograph it, before I do); the only reason not to, is if I did not record the trip-ups I encountered the first time (note to self: journal this stuff)…or if I were totally satisfied with what I did the first time (which I’m not). I do have a couple of duplicates of the stone I was bezeling (it’s a pink Swarovski pear-shaped embellishment from the time at which I was concerned Swarovski was going to shut down their supply to the craft community; at this point, the shutdown looks more like a reorganization)…but realistically, even if I did scratch the foil backing on the first one, it would be better to practice on a practice stone. A stone that I won’t be concerned about if I screw it up. Basically, that one is a sacrifice to the beading goddesses at this point.

This does make me think of another apparently cheaper crystal I also have access to, in the same pear shape but shallower depth…but I’ll give the Swarovski a second try, before going there. After all, I’m already familiar with it, and it’s probably already scratched.

Published by Haruna

Haruna is a Librarian by training, currently pivoting from Public Services into Technical Services. Their undergraduate major was English -- Creative Writing, and they hold an additional small degree in Art (i.e. Visual Arts). They are now pondering whether a career in Academia is viable or desirable, given the current situation.

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