Fun with Chevrons

A sample of beadweaving in the Chevron Stitch technique, using blue, white, and gold seed beads.
Chevron Stitch trial 1

I have actually gotten back to my beadwork, including design: I started playing (again) with a pattern I found a very, very long time ago. This was my introduction to Chevron Stitch, in The Art & Elegance of Beadweaving, (2002), by Carol Wilcox Wells. Well — actually, the pattern I was playing with a few days ago really isn’t the first Chevron Stitch pattern I ever tried: it’s closer to the favorite version I have of the ones I have tried. Incidentally, it’s fairly individualized due to the beads I used (bead size, type, and color placement differ from the model in the book)…plus the fact that I remembered the pattern differently than the book gave it.

Today, I tried to stay off of the computer during the times we were asked not to consume excess power — the heat wave and running of air-conditioning causes stress on the power grid. It seemed like a good time to follow up on an idea I had during that first delve I had back into Chevron Stitch…four days ago, if the date on my design sketch is correct.

The thing about sketching a design for a project like this: it may end up working differently in reality than imagined. This is one of the reasons I actually like working in both concept and construction: construction serves as a check on design ideas which don’t work in reality. I start out with an idea, that is, and then I go to work it out, and reality has requirements I didn’t think to consider. This doesn’t always happen when writing Fiction…meaning I can get into some labyrinthine scenarios in my own head. But we aren’t going to go there, right now.

My second trial of this pattern of Chevron Stitch, using blue, white and gold seed beads with different color placement.
Chevron Stitch trial 2: different color placement

The thread path I took for my initial version of practice was serpentine, in an up-down sort of way. It’s difficult to describe in words; which is why Wells offers diagrams to illustrate the first few moves of each model she describes. This is extremely helpful for the fact that Chevron Stitch’s beginnings are difficult to visualize without first drawing out (and then editing or at least mentally revising) a diagram, prior to working.

As I gradually found out over the last couple of days, however, it’s also good to be able to let that diagram go when actually attempting the design. There is a logic to the connections between beads that presents itself which is wholly absent in drawing. Drawing will show you things like whether the thread path you envision will work (my design did not, and the good thing is that I realized this before attempting construction), but for some reason, just working it out with beads, needle, and thread, presents a different approach.

Thankfully, this is an approach which actually works. I’m not sure if muscle memory (or other parts of my mind which I don’t currently have vocabulary to describe) is helping, or what. It’s good to get me out of the theoretical spot I tend to spend too much time within, and into reality and practice (which in turn shows me where truth may lie, and how to approach a solution that works with that truth). Particularly…I didn’t realize that the sets of beads I loaded onto my needle, and the beads I would have to pass through, would systematically differ between each row.

A hopeful pencil sketch of the ideal form of a beadwoven piece I wanted to try. It doesn't quite work as intended.
Yeah…this design may not work as intended…Please excuse the fact that this is a bad photo of a quick design sketch instead of a corrected and inked scan…

I also didn’t realize before trying to draw out a pattern four days ago which combined two separate iterations of my samples (briefly, I wanted to integrate them into each other vertically, but knew beginning would likely be the hardest part)…is that Chevron Stitch relates to what I’ll call, “cells.” It would seem that if one has an even number of cells (two open spaces down the center of the weave, or four, etc.), weaving would be straightforward. If one has an odd number of cells (three cells, followed by two cells, followed by three cells, etc.), this is a bit more complicated…in a way that I’m still trying to figure out how to solve.

A broader sample of a band of Chevron Stitch that the author of this post designed, intending to bring the different color placements of the above, together.
A first attempt at combining both of the above color schemes into a wider band. Notice that these cells stagger themselves into high and low groups.

Actually, I’m still trying to figure out what I did in the first place. Take a look at the sample to the right (or just above, if you’re mobile). This alternates 3 cells (where a navy blue “X” goes through a large white bead, leaving 2 cells on either side of a white bead, + 1 cell in a picot unit) with 2 cells (where there is a space between the middle white beads, and a picot forming an enclosure). I don’t know what’s happening with this, really! I thought I did, but then I took a closer look at the photo. Then I went and got the sample.

What the photo seems to say is correct: I’m alternating between 3 and 2 cells. That brings into question the reason why I can’t make a mirror-image between the top of the weaving and the bottom; but the pattern is showing me that the side the picots (the large white beads with the navy points) are on, do alternate.

In my design brainstorm, I drew out the intended beads (with some errors, particularly in that first row), but when tracing the intended thread path, I hit a dead end at the end of the second row — where it would seem I either had to turn back on myself (making two rows of two cells) or needed to weave back into Row 1 (after adding beads I didn’t put there to start with: you see what I mean about Chevron Stitch?) and add almost another entire cell; then weave back forward and make a short row. Maybe??? (The thread might be coming from the wrong direction, which would tilt the dark bead in the drawing. The dark beads in the drawing correspond to the gold beads in the last photo.)

Right now, I’m not sure if the appropriate action is to think on this; or to tinker, and let my hands do what they know how to do.

Somehow in my physical work (the last photo, above), I did manage near-symmetry by working things out with needle and thread, but each side shifts one half-step forward, in regard to the other one…and I realized that the beads I was picking up and the beads I was sewing through, differed (in a repeating pattern) on each pass. Chevron Stitch apparently zigzags by nature, and I don’t know that it’s possible to make a perfect mirror image between the top and the bottom of a chain; the bottom will always be half a step off…unless the technique is modified.

I’m not convinced yet that perfect symmetry is entirely impossible. In specific, I can see an option presenting itself using a Figure-8 or other looping motion at the end of each row (and into the previous row) to position the needle and thread in the right place and direction to work the next row — which might begin with completion of one entire cell. This is similar to the figure-8 movement one does in turning the needle (on one side of the work only) in odd-count Peyote Stitch; a possibility I didn’t see last night or earlier tonight. But that feels a bit advanced, and I don’t know if it will work in reality. Maybe I should try it?

Working out some priorities

It’s been about a week since I’ve posted anything substantive to this site. A lot of that is due to other calls to action going on in my life, which would…likely be apparent, from my last couple of posts. I myself have had to read back over this blog in order to get a good footing on where I was going with it, what my plans were, etc…

A little obviously (for me), my Business Plan has not yet been updated; principally because I don’t know that running a site like this — for practice, for exposure — qualifies as a, “business.” (It’s more a labor of love, much like my beadwork is, in general.) Going off of my UX training, I know that I can model a website on paper…but gah! Is it worth it (especially if I’m not in direct control of the HTML or CSS)? Although, for some portions of this website, I can see that doing some organization prior to making the pages, would benefit me…

I’m having to face the decision of whether I want to primarily sell jewelry (with this blog on the side), or become an online resource to various makers (with sales on the side). Information provided on the site differs between these two goals; and right now, I am leaning towards the latter. For instance, I have accumulated a relatively large number of links to suppliers, which I’ve wanted to share. These would likely be useful to other beaders, but for various reasons, may be giving out too much information to the general public. It’s not like the information isn’t there. It’s just that collecting and publishing it in one space, may be making things easier for bad actors. Difficulty of access (and presence of defense) often means the difference between being targeted, and not.

I suppose the main issue is whether I’m making this site for beaders (and potential beaders), or the general public. That is, I should decide who my audience is. The answer is immediate and clear: the first of those choices (i.e. beaders and potential beaders) is always who this site has been directed to. Even though the line between “potential beader” and “general public” can be fuzzy…in reality, maybe it isn’t. I have an idea of who makes up the beadworking community…fortunately or not, I do (I don’t like to stereotype, and making marketing personas feels a little like doing that).

I also would like it to be more diverse than it is (for instance, more inclusive of people who were assigned-male-at-birth [AMAB], in the trans* communities or not), but I am not at all sure right now as to whether making beaded jewelry (or at least, jewelry made of inexpensive components which take a while to make) is viable for people who want to go into business and make a living from doing it. In my case, I’ve decided to keep this as a hobby; and I’d be helping people who want to bead, as a hobby sort of thing. Then there are those rare people who get to work in bead stores, and who frequent conventions, and who professionally design, and who write patterns and books for a living (which help out the rest of the beaders, especially the non-commercial ones). I’m not one of them yet (minus the “conventions” part), but I aspire to be.

My major issue on this side is cybersecurity. For instance, the other day I was trying to help someone track down a specific component for a strung necklace. I went through all the links I had (focusing first on the sites which honed in on strung work), looking for this one specific component. Somewhere within the next 24 hours, my computer started retrieving websites which were attempting to communicate with me in Spanish. Clearing History made it go away, but still. Really?

There are other irritating little kinks I’ve run across in trying to figure out if my accounts have been compromised, and if so, from where. I imagine that for most of us, that’s not the most fun thing in the world. I already know that some of the sites I visited have major issues (e.g. pop-ups); this then presents the quandary of whether to link to them (out of encyclopedic fidelity), or not to link to them (because they have a higher-than-normal perceived risk of screwing up my computer).

There are also the questions of data breaches. If I suspect a company to have exposed my data to an unwanted third party, do I keep them on the list (even though I don’t know if they were even aware of a breach, and I have no proof the breach of my data was their fault?). If I do make a habit of weeding out unsafe sites, will my readers blame me for setting up an atmosphere of trust if/when (and maybe it’s more of a question of when than if) something bad happens?

In other words, link curation is an issue. This is the main reason I didn’t go hopping all over the Internet in my pricing research: it’s just not that safe to do so. There are things like cloud backups and offline backups, but seriously, it is still annoying to lose the last 24 days of work on a spreadsheet. Yes, I know I can go back and re-download my invoices or look at my printouts, but who really wants to duplicate work?

Then there is the question of whether I have a profit motive. I think I’ve established that I have a pleasure motive first, profit second. That profit would not directly derive from sales, but rather from experience and practice at Web Content generation (writing, images and image optimization, video, print media), which I can carry forward into further endeavors.

In other words, I intend to use this site to train myself on Web Content Production, with the themes of beadwork and jewelry design. This is in light of the fact that I am actually coming to realize some things about myself: I’m an artist dealing with block. I mean…seriously. The vast majority of my training is in either Art or Creative Writing, with a lot of the Humanities thrown in there.

I would be more confident as a Historian, if anything…but what would I do with that? Teach? Write books? I can do the latter, but the former doesn’t really…sit well with me. Though History is fascinating, with the right Professors. The tough part is balancing present-day ethics with past grievances. It’s not easy to read old Physical Anthropology texts, for example; and History (I would believe) does require reading primary sources, grime and all (not just present-day sanitized ones).

Right now I have a bunch of beads in my room…an easy view. I have gone over part of the reason I believe myself not to be producing (with the beads or with my words, for example) freely. Particularly, I am constantly concerned about my impact, and what kind of present and future I want to bring into being. This has been a concern for the last 15 years, at least; and is likely the reason I tend to abandon creative pursuits as soon as I become able to say something of importance with them.

There is a long story behind that which I don’t feel like getting deeply into, right now: it goes back to the 1990’s and media saturation with ultraconservative radicals who claimed “rightness” through appeal to religion. That, in turn, caused me to grow into the belief that their “rightness” was in effect base, hateful, bigoted and evil; and in that light, being “wrong” (in their eyes) was not a bad thing.

My perception of people (in general) has degraded to the point where I see many people as essentially involved in satisfying animal urges of domination and sex (along with greed [I began to write a post on this, but haven’t published it yet: it’s sensitive], and trying to control everyone else’s thoughts and behavior). In essence: power, wealth, control, and reproduction. But that’s Sociology. Which I got out of, for…you know, reasons (like depression).

The problem is, when you think you’re essentially “wrong” and that morality is relative and to an extent subjective (I’m sure there are still people who think slavery to be a gift), it’s difficult to confidently create anything that you think will make a better world. Because making a better world means imagining a better world; and we’re living in a disposable era where people would rather try and go to Mars than try to fix what we’ve done here since at least the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

And what is, “better,” anyway? How does my own subjectivity inform what I think is, “good,” and what right do I have to impose that on anyone else? (Of course, others usually don’t seem to ask these questions of themselves…or be self-aware at all…)

Luckily or not…I am in a class right now which promises to take up most of my attention for the next several weeks. That is on the actual career side of things, which should enable me to (eventually) have the time, space, and money to do what I want to do. However: it is getting into what I initially wanted to get into, in my Master’s program.

I’ve been more about the Web — particularly, the social aspects of the Web — than about Libraries, for, well, most of my life. I thought that Digital Libraries might be a good crossover (especially having found some pretty neat ones online); but I lacked the groundwork in Computer Science. Digital Librarianship also entails Information Services, however: which seems to freak out a lot of people (Librarians included — or, perhaps, mostly). I suppose Reference is hard enough without being able to read physical and nonverbal cues: when you can’t tell someone is getting upset, it’s harder to manage the interaction.

It’s still my opinion that Libraries are going to head digital…particularly with the issue of pandemics causing indoor spaces not to be totally safe, and hard-copy libraries’ inherent involvement with the sharing and exchange of physical materials between people. (The biggest barrier to this evolution is the digital divide.) At the start of the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about how to protect library workers and library patrons. This lead to the protocol of physical quarantine…which I’m still doing with what I get in the mail. It’s one of the easiest ways to passively avoid any exposure that could have happened (I’m lucky enough not to have to worry about bills in the mail, yet).

Which reminds me — I’ve got three new beadwork books to look over! I’m probably not going to get into them before the middle of the week, or later. Although it is in the works to live in an area which would be amenable to mold, I still decided to get the hard copies…it’s just easier to see what I have, that way.

All that being said, it’s nearly 1 AM for me, right now…and I’ve got class, tomorrow. I should probably get some rest, especially seeing how I overslept, today. Well — yesterday.

Money matters.

If I had worked out how much I was comfortable being paid (or needed to draw) earlier; if I’d worked out how much I could earn by not investing a lot into the beading enterprise; it would have been a quicker path to the realization that this maybe should be a second line of income, for me…not my primary one. Looking at the salary ranges I can earn as either a freelance Writer or a professional Librarian, I see those paths can be much more lucrative, but more factors (like quality of life) are at play than simply financial.

$40-$50/hour — as one can earn as a Librarian for the City of San Francisco — is well above a San Francisco living wage. Considering that San Francisco is one of the most expensive places in the country (and I would think, the world) to live…that’s nothing to sneeze at. Even depending on the skills gained in my Bachelor’s Degree, which for a long time I have dismissed, I can earn around $50/hour being a professional Freelance Commercial Writer.

At a $20/hour wage (as I earned as a Library Assistant), beadwork does look attractive. However…I would think there to be an upper limit as to what the market will bear. I also need to understand the relative financial access of the people who have encouraged me: I have mostly been working alongside working-class people, and paraprofessionals. (There was a clear organizational and social hierarchy in my Library.)

If I had delved head-on into my beadwork sooner, I would have realized that creating multiple pieces of the same pattern of jewelry — not to improve upon it or modify it, but just as piecework because of demand — was not quite what I wanted to do. This is at 8+ hours a day, every day (or at least, so long as I’m awake). I’m pretty sure this could get traumatic with the wrong mindset, which is why I’ve backed off of it recently.

I’ve continued my investigation of the prices of woven earrings — particularly, those that are a bit unusual, like the ones I’ve been designing. I haven’t clicked through to many individual sites (other than Etsy’s), and I have not looked into “branded” merchandise — but I have found a good number of designers on Instagram who have Etsy shops, whom I wouldn’t have found without the social media platform. A good number of these people produce patterns to sell, as well as (or instead of) finished merchandise.

My findings from last time (also analyzing the Etsy Marketplace) still hold, though I have not performed any data transformations — I haven’t gotten that involved. (In any case, Google’s algorithms would probably skew my retrieval of data sets, meaning I’d need to use more than one search engine.) It seems that $45 is a good average price for something like mine, and $65-$75 is high-end.

Right now, I’ve got to wonder if I do make “high-end” jewelry, for the Craft Jewelry category…it certainly looks that way. Especially seeing that I have aimed to use actual nice metals (sterling, gold-fill) for my work, not only for parts which come into contact with skin…and, I’ve been doing this for a while, so it appears I have a broader skill set than many.

The cost of labor on one of the earring sets I’ve analyzed (at $15/hour), makes up around 75% of the total cost (not price to the end user: cost, to me). Out of the materials cost (the remaining 25%), about 64% is in metals — but I haven’t yet factored in the time or materials needed to hand-fabricate gold-fill earwires. At $15/hour, I can keep my overall costs down and still keep a decent wholesale price. I can also tinker with the wholesale markup, which in turn, tinkers with the retail markup…

I was just looking at my spreadsheets again, and made a pie chart to visualize how much of the cost of said pair of earrings is in labor, as versus beads or metals. After the base cost (not including overhead — such as image editing software, a P.O. Box, etc.), we have the markup to Wholesale, then the standard 2x markup of Wholesale to Retail. That means…the markup to Wholesale not only covers my costs, but nearly doubles my income — but I have to take an owner’s draw for that additional cash, as versus what I’m normally paying myself. Retail goes even further: even if I do provide Shipping, it’s worth it.

Maybe I’ve been looking at this the wrong way — maybe I don’t have to charge a salary comparable to the one I had at an entry-level job; I just have to be willing to pull equity from my company in order to live (although I’m not sure if that is good business practice). And maybe I can charge less for my own labor, than I thought I would have to (although I believe it would be in my own interest to charge at least minimum wage: just in case I ever need to hire someone). The issue of salary looks different, that is, between being a business owner and being an employee. Of course, though: it makes things a lot more stable if I am also or primarily an employee. Or a freelancer.

In other words, my hope is now not entirely squashed. I’m still going to read about becoming a professional Writer, though. Also probably, I should get back to my reading on Cataloging, and take the classes I have lined up. Maybe I will like Bookkeeping. You never know.

I…did not think I would reach that point, tonight. I’m still not sure the amount I’ll be able to pull with my beadwork (and/or patterns, and/or kits: I still have not narrowed this down) is enough to survive on, unless I’m living with someone else or relocate to a less expensive area. At the very least, I could contribute a substantial chunk of rent…

Potential Fulfilled

This post is about the difference between potential and actuality. Or, why I have a level of difficulty in actually using the materials I have, as versus recording or ordering or writing about them. This feels like something very deeply rooted in my psyche, though I’m not sure where it comes from, or why it’s there.

Last night — technically, two nights ago, now — I spent nearly the full evening, making color schemes. Starting with the size 11/0 (small, but not microscopically so) beads, I basically pulled out everything I had (short of most of the Czech seed beads, the shaped beads, and some of the beads I’ve just decided to put to the side) and began to associate them with each other, in hopes of being inspired by the colors into making something (which is helping. At least, now, I have someplace to start).

I’m writing here right now instead of working on these potential pieces, for what reason, exactly? I had a lot to think about last night, and if I could have stayed up past 2 AM to record stuff and still have been a mentally stable person today, I would have done it. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work for me.

Also last night, M was on my case about being a, “collector, not a maker.” Sidestepping the obvious straw man that comes with someone else defining for me who I am, I divulged the reasoning for my being hesitant to use my materials…which I don’t think would be so well-fleshed-out, if I were just, “a collector.”

This came to me at least a decade ago, possibly more; when I was well into my artwork, and/or writing (it depends on the timeline), and dealing with the blank page. Art requires decision-making, although the making of those decisions may feel automatic. It requires taking something full of potential and whittling down that potential into something that is real (or real-enough). In the process…many alternatives are discarded, foregone, or saved for a later date.

With beads, more than one possibility in fact does exist, where it comes to color combinations — even though in the moment, one may match things up one-to-one. There does, happily, exist the possibility of making more than one variant of each color scheme, and have more than one try at finished pieces — and even though color schemes do change over the years, the colors produced are often close enough to be decently similar.

In any case, it becomes clear that this present moment, with this work, and these thoughts, in this arrangement, will never come again. (I wouldn’t be surprised if anxiety over the nature of the passage of time actually is shared among my family [I have a relative who would obsessively take photos even when people didn’t want them to]…but creation [in this lower form] may not be possible without time as a factor.)

Even if I were to re-draw an image in order to follow a foregone different possible path in its development, the new image would not exactly be the same as the old. I can’t do that. There is no possibility of a handmade photocopy, and actual photocopies are generally on poorer-quality paper, with ink that might not take watercolor. Even a tracing in carbon paper is not exactly the same. In my reality, there has been no going back. I can’t go back in time and recover an image from before I colored it, to try different options; this means many images remain uncolored. I mentioned this to M, who has said that repainting is possible and done all the time. I was never taught to do it.

On a broader level…I’m re-reading this now and I see a parallel here between my gender presentation and the difficulty I have in working creatively. I have been considering changing my presentation to male, ever since I found out it was possible (and how efficiently it could become possible, for me). This is to the point that I have difficulty attending groups based around gender and transgender realities…I get triggered very easily on this level, and to know that gender transition is possible and permissible often triggers feelings of wanting to do it.

Which are then immediately countered by the idea of becoming a target for hate, again.

However: I don’t have an issue with my body, so the, “wrong body narrative,” used for decades in cases of gender dysphoria, does not apply. I have issues with the person I believe other people perceive me to be, because of my body; because I think they think that physical attributes in some way hard-code to personality and identity. And I have severe confirmation bias on this.

As though because I have a chest, because I can birth a child, that means I should be an innately nurturing and caring person…which I am not. Like because straight men may be attracted to me, that must also mean that I have the capability of being attracted to them. I can’t even use the excuse that I’m, “lesbian.” I’m not a woman to begin with, so how can I be a woman who loves women? Further, why would I be interested in someone who was interested in me as a woman, when I’m not a woman?

As much as I don’t want to be perceived as, “a girl,” being expected to be a man is also terrifying, because I know I’m not one (and I don’t know how to learn to be one, or even if I should). At the very least, I don’t live up to the ideal of a trans* man that I’ve seen other trans* men aspire to. To an extent, I know who I am. How to interact with the world and not be ashamed of my own identity, and not be full of rage at constant misgendering, is the issue. Although, if I looked male and people treated me the way they treat me, it would be very obvious (and likely then understandable) where the rage would be coming from.

The problem at hand here, is not totally me. It’s not my biology that is the issue. The problem I have is at its core, cultural. It’s with other people, and my adjustment to not being seen by others as the person I know myself to be. On top of that…I can’t control what other people think or do, which is (frankly) frustrating. The only thing I think I can or should do in this situation is forget entirely about any hope of being seen by others as myself, and try and go about living in my own way — regardless of how anyone else (including my family) feels about that. Of course, though — that removes a lot of support structures.

Changing the form or organization of something (often many things) and using those things in order to assist in the creation of something new, may be the essence of the creative process, for me — right now, with the beadwork. In other cases, such as with writing, technology softens the blow of this. It’s possible that I’m drawn to writing because of the malleability of the form. Once it’s written, it’s recorded and can be rewritten with no harm to the original. I don’t have to overwrite my past recordings in order to move forward with new trial versions. It doesn’t matter whether my writing looks exactly the same; I know what I meant, and the words have standard spelling.

I may be wrong — after all, I’ve dealt with depression since I was 14 (puberty…what does that say), and depression can really mess up a person’s thinking — but for a long time I’ve felt that destruction is the shadow side of creation. In order to create something physically, something else — like the previous form of one’s materials — must end. I’ve dealt with this in buying beads, then being on the cusp of using them, and not wanting to cut apart the strand they were sold on. Because, my mind states, they’re perfectly beautiful, there. Not only that, but to cut apart the strand may be to destroy what in my mind is the beauty of the potential of those beads.

Right then, they’re an idea. They consist of possibilities. To cut them apart is to begin to narrow down those possibilities; to use them is to continue to narrow down those possibilities, until something at the end is realized. At some point, one has to be secure enough in the worth of their engaging in the activity, to believe that they can do justice to the potential that existed at the beginning.

I believe that at some point, I lost faith in myself; that what came out of me could be good or socially responsible; that I could be a good person. This likely occurred during or just after having graduated with my BA in Creative Writing, around my 23rd year. I had attempted to analyze my own writing as I analyzed the writing of others…there is a gigantic issue here in my knowing too much about myself. Also, in the self-destructive mode I was in at the time, I used my writing and interpretations to emotionally denigrate and self-harm. I don’t think I had much compassion for myself.

I suppose we need to acknowledge here that I was going through the process of realizing that I had a mental illness (separable from the gender issues, but possibly linked via stress and trauma) and how severely it impacted me. (I’m still going through the latter.) I was incredibly judgmental of myself, and had experienced messages undermining my self worth and the idea that I could contribute to a positive world, directed at me for so long that I had difficulty remembering happiness, and didn’t plan to make it to 30. (If I had thought I would live longer, maybe I would have majored in something in which I could see a future?)

I’ve spent a relatively long time dealing with the concept of Void…that Void is the source of all things; that it is useful precisely because it is the potential of all things. Void exists “before” Yin and Yang (quotes, because the concept of “time” when nothing exists, is questionable); it is what things and their complements or “shadow sides” arise from. I’ve also been dealing with shadow for quite a while, so much so that the positive aspects which contrast with the shadow may be in effect obscured.

Maybe I should take the time to view the positive aspects of my own greatest shadows. Although that might be emotionally difficult, the task itself sounds interesting — if I can get straight exactly what I’m doing.

There is another issue in being afraid to step out from Void and make a statement, in one way or another. To say something involves both the positive side (what appears on the face of it) and the negative side (I’m unsure what this would be: perhaps what is not being said, but still part and parcel of the original statement?). If creating involves the “end of” pure potential…to what extent is any type of growth and development, the end of (perhaps the happy end of) potential; at what point must rajas take over from tamas?

Or, to what extent is creation the intended and necessary end of pure potential? To what extent can we afford to continue to admire the beauty of potential, long past the point where that potential should have been realized and borne fruit? Does the experience of life necessitate forming oneself and coming into one’s own as something specific, with one’s own identity?

In recent months — or years, I can’t tell any longer — I’ve begun to cut these strands of beads apart immediately after obtaining them. This is to eliminate that barrier which has driven me to avoid using them for their intended purposes…which, in realms other than the philosophical — or, perhaps with greater significance, psychological — doesn’t make sense.

I now have…eight color schemes to work with, one of which has been on the back burner for years (denim, off-white, and Blue Iris). I also have plans for two of those color schemes: one will be Dutch Spiral; the other will be Chevron Stitch. I did dig out my Samples box today, so I can see examples of my past work I’ve wanted to duplicate. Thank you to whatever inspired me not to move it far from where it was before!

I’ve begun to look back into my beading library; I actually have some decent books which show how to make things I would never have come up with (contrary to my earlier statements about known basic patterns). Many of those patterns, however…involve shaped or multi-hole beads. I haven’t purchased any new beadwork books in quite a while; it would be interesting to browse a bookstore now (or at least a library, fabric store, craft store, or bead store) and see what’s currently in vogue.

I’ve also got to remember that I don’t need to worry about running out of beads! (Not anytime soon, anyway.) As well: Japanese beading books are not necessarily better than ones wholly in English language. I’ve just been struck by the sheer variety of books I’ve collected over the years…only some of which directly relate to beadweaving.

Under pressure to find an anchor for my life (apparently I seem unmoored to those around me, and am obviously having symptoms of social anxiety), I have decided, recently, to try and range back into writing. This is the thing I’d do even if I weren’t being paid for it. It’s the thing I keep coming back to even when I have nothing to talk about. Having something to talk about (along with keeping my hands busy, which helps keep me stable) is part of the reason I’m doing the beadwork. You can see where this is going.

I am, essentially, an intensely introspective and thoughtful writer. There is no way for me to write — for myself, and with meaning — without letting the reader know who I am and what I have experienced (I’m not a journalist). When I go into exposition about my life, identity, and experience, that’s only the most obvious form of…trying to, needing to share. No, I don’t understand social realities, but thanks. 😉

This blog has been a place where I can exercise my writing skills, and through which I’ve been able to write while safely distancing myself from my deeper psychological troubles, as I’ve needed to. However: the psychological troubles are continuing to impact me. Especially now that I’m able to engage with the outside world again, and am concomitantly encountering the same misled attention that I had to deal with, beforehand.

I won’t be able to go through the rest of my life avoiding people and social interaction. I need to write some of this stuff out. I know this is the Internet; but nothing written is ever “safe,” is it?

A different “business” model

I’ve been researching prices for beadwoven earrings. Not the most pleasant thing. It does remind me of the time (years ago) I was doing research at either/both the EDD or BLS for “handcrafters” (beadwork falls into this category) and found that the average wage was below the poverty line (IIRC). Looking it up at this point in time, although it doesn’t provide a living wage in my locale, neither is it below the local poverty level. (The EDD website is just opaque; I found the above page through Google.) From having been in this community for a while, I suspect most “handcrafters” have supplemental income from family or from another job…but it’s not like I’ve actually done a survey, or anything (I suppose I do have a hypothesis).

Across Etsy, I stopped searching after finding six providers who have similar(-enough) style to mine. The good thing is that their prices range from about $45 to $75 for finished pieces (and upward from that, stopping at around $225 for matched sets). The bad thing (for anyone wanting to make a living off of this) is that $45 is mid-range; $75 is high-end. Etsy is saturated with categories of work very similar to each other, which are undersold for the time and effort they take to build (e.g. $18 for a pair of fringe earrings…which take how many hours of work? Cut $18 in half to get the wholesale price: $9. At most, those earrings are $4.50 each), though possibly not for materials costs.

The barrier to entry as regards cost, is low; the issue lies in gaining skill, knowledge, and experience (and having the chutzpah to charge for labor, well beyond the cost of materials); that, and attempting to compete in a global market on a basis of price. That’s not to mention, design…which process, I am not sure anyone actually teaches anyone how to do. I’ve started to try, but then I realize that my process of design is just one approach, which may not work for everyone. There’s also the fact that I’m teaching myself how to design, and a lot of this is just notes from the field and bringing you along for the ride, so maybe you won’t feel so alone if you decide to venture out into this.

On my excursion through pricing research, I did find several sellers who were using patterns given in books — books that I have (while I don’t have the information [or authority] to give a definitive judgment, I personally consider this a no-no, unless: 1) the pattern is so basic that it can’t really be owned, regardless of where one found it; or 2) one asks or otherwise gains permission from the pattern author/source, or at least credits them. I did not see credits in the samples I read). On top of that, I found at least one who was buying ready-made materials from an online seller, putting earwires on those materials, and reselling them at about double the price. Which, to be fair, was less than $10. While the latter may not be illegal (the original seller may in fact encourage such turnaround), you know…it’s Etsy. People sell what they want to sell, at a price at which they feel comfortable.

To some degree, I know that a lot of those sales depend on people not knowing how much something cost, or from where it was sourced, or how much work went into it, or who didn’t get paid to make it. It’s a big ethical consideration that I have, which is why I’m not comfortable charging your new goat for something that I felt didn’t cost me very much — unless you consider the cost of the accumulation of skill and other benefits that I’ve gained by doing this for over two decades, or the cost of acquiring enough materials to be able to design comfortably, the tools I’ve accumulated over years, etc. Of course, my “ethical considerations” were also what got me into Library Science (note that I only represent myself, here — I need to say that); my “ethical considerations” are why I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing B2C Advertising copy for certain industries; and I’m not sure where any of these “considerations” are going to lead me.

When published in books, rights (the question remains: rights to specifically, what? Design? How is “design” defined, legally?) — at least commercial rights — are usually reserved to either the author or publisher, though I see this trend changing as regards online tutorials. (This may be because no one wants to hunt down and serve a cease-and-desist order to someone on the Internet who may be half a world away, for violating Intellectual Property law which may not even apply in that locale; let alone multiple incidents of these infringements; let alone attempting to prosecute someone with no money while you also have no money.) After a certain point of development, resources beyond tutorials and books so introductory as to be the same material rehashed (or minorly altered), become difficult to find. That’s one of the reasons I started this site.

Of course, one may ask if it is nearly all rehashed, given the origins of many of the stitches…but that (how Intellectual Property law applies to traditional and handed-down knowledge) is another entry.

So far as I know, the same dearth of public knowledge exists in reference to Silversmithing. I have found and used a total of one book which teaches enough to actually give a beginning Smith reasonable tools. This is The Complete Metalsmith: Student Edition, by Tim McCreight, published by Brynmorgen Press — which McCreight incidentally founded. However, the last time I looked for books on Smithing was several years ago, having been turned away from the subject by many very pretty but ultimately vapid and only partially useful books on the subject, of nearly no use to a serious aspiring Smith. My attention has since been drawn by authors known in the field, such as Charles Lewton-Brain, of Ganoksin fame (I believe he also appeared once on The Curse of Oak Island). If I were to look further for intelligent and useful information on Silversmithing, I’d likely start with these sources. Not Oak Island, but…the other ones.

One of the alternatives to selling finished beaded pieces, when the charge (in labor) for those pieces would exceed the cost in materials by a wide margin, is in selling patterns and/or kits. Selling a pattern with materials I know work, would include an added benefit (not having to acquire all the pieces, which can result in significant charges and significant extra materials, unless one already has a stash) — which those who only view free online videos of my work would not have. The issue is then simply packaging, and how to write/draw out the patterns so that other people can understand them, not just me. The thing with patterns is that they have to be written down and/or drawn out regardless, unless you’re okay with having no idea how you made something seven months (or two years, or five years) down the line.

I found a number of pattern-makers on Etsy with decent work (or at least, the finished objects are decent — I haven’t seen the patterns) and did a little investigation as to how many of them offer additional help in deciphering their work. This appears rare. I saw at least one person offering support services, though I’m still unclear as to how to offer assistance when I actually don’t know what the other person is doing. This is why I’m considering setting up video tutorials and linking from the PDF pattern, itself — though I seem to be the only one in my little circle who thinks that video tutorials on top of written patterns, are a good idea. When I mentioned it, I seemed to spook people…

My best impulse to help a person is to livestream myself making something (if that’s possible; with my current skill set, it is not), and allow the viewer(s) to ask questions as I go along. My second best impulse is to warn people about the difficulty level of the pattern (though I’d have to get back into using patterns, to gauge this), and let them know what stitches the pattern is based on (if any).

Keeping this website, blog, and social media presence going (with interest in the beadwork and design fields — including what I’m learning through design and production as writing inspiration) is another alternative to selling tons of finished pieces. However, my main thrust as regards making a living will then be my writing (and/or then-proven Web Content Production skills), not selling a massive amount of cottage-industry jewelry…which, after the patterns are, “perfected,” is a relative waste of my time. Opportunity cost, remember? I have the ability to do much more than piecework.

This seems to be an ideal way to combine (and preserve) my love of working with beads and my love of writing. In the meantime, I’ll be dealing with studying to possibly become a Bookkeeper (!) or working in the Information industry — if I can find any openings (in an area I might want to move to).

I’m not totally sure about this arrangement, and reserve the right to change my intention and direction at any time, but right now I am brainstorming…and have been thinking rather than working. If I keep my beadwork as a hobby — not a business — sell some extra jewelry on the side, sell some kits and patterns on the side, write about what I’m discovering as I work and grow, do some researched pieces for the site, and develop a resonant online profile (not only consisting of writing; but also this site, still images and video)…I may be able to enter Web Content Production later on (possibly in the beading or jewelry design industry), or find other work in the same field (e.g., writing about beading and beadwork; writing about Art Jewelry [handmade jewelry often made by small-scale artisans]; inclusive of internal industry writing).

My primary income until then, however, will largely be sourced from work with records and information. I can tolerate a dull day job that allows me a living wage and some time off to do what I actually want to be doing…even if it’s not immediately profitable.

Given this: if I’m still serious about it in a few days (or even before then), I should re-write my Business Plan. Even though this isn’t a business, it was writing the Business Plan, and doing some research (though I should do more in other markets), and tinkering with the numbers, and timing myself at work, and finding out how much in materials I was using…these things together all let me know that making multiple identical copies of the same pieces was not how I wanted to spend my life. Especially if I’m charging a lot and would still have financial stress, and would eventually — if successful — not be able to keep up with demand, and have to expand the business. I’m not in this to manage other people, or to be fabulously wealthy. I’m in this because it’s stimulating and there’s a wonder to it that I don’t get with words.

There are ways out of this that don’t require switching gears to build an online portfolio (like selling a lot of inexpensive, low-effort items), but I’m not sure I want to go there, at this point. I don’t deal in throwaway junk. I’m a craftsperson. Craft matters, to me.

Creative Desert

I haven’t done any work with my hands for the past few days — and I’m feeling it. I’ve been largely reading (big emphasis on reading), writing (to see if I could/did want to do that for a living — after a full day of writing, I got very deep into my own thoughts [not sure if I altogether want to see what’s there; I may be too…much, to want to speak honestly about my opinions and self with (commercial) clients…but that may be the nature of being creative]), and tinkering with numbers, trying to figure out what to charge.

I’ve been reading The Well-Fed Writer, 3rd ed. by Peter Bowerman, which just came out recently (I got it on pre-order). Originally, I found this book (1st ed.) through a friend; it’s about becoming a freelance copywriter and succeeding at it — evading that “starving artist” stereotype. Copywriting is essentially business writing, though sometimes the term specifically refers to writing advertising copy. In reality, Bowerman states that internal communications and Business-to-Business (B2B) writing together vastly overwhelm the amount of Business-to-Consumer (B2C) writing — IIRC. (Advertisements are B2C.)

Over time, I’ve noticed that most of the people noted in the first three chapters (I’m only on Chapter 4)…are not in my locality. Specifically, they’re mostly in the South and Southeast of the country — in which I would never live because of a history of exploitation and hostility against people like myself. I also just looked this person up, and it’s fairly apparent that he’s in a structurally privileged position (white male). He also states that he got into freelance copywriting without a writing background; however, he does have a sales background. That matters. His background is not worthless when it comes to freelance copywriting, though maybe it’s not apparent to him.

Having to deal with multiple stigmas (sociocultural barriers others have in relating to me), and being structurally disadvantaged because of my race, culture, sexuality, and gender — these are issues I have to deal with that he (apparently) doesn’t (he hasn’t gone into it). As well — he undervalues his sales background in his own success. As such, his attitude which amounts to, “if I can do it, anyone can,” doesn’t hold water with me. If it takes a customer getting comfortable with me before they will give me any job leads, that is; it will take me longer to reach that, “comfort,” level. (Unless — you know — the person relates to me.)

He wrote the book; I can take it or leave it. I get it. I also get to have my own viewpoint on it, and to speak that viewpoint. I don’t have to let his views overwrite mine, when it comes to gauging how much help his resources can be when it comes to my livelihood in specific. I’m assuming things aren’t going to be as easy for me as they were for him (he claims to have reached self-sufficiency within four months of starting freelancing).

Now…if we do relocate to where we’re thinking about relocating to, the race thing may become more of a benefit than a stigma (being White is more of a stigma there, due to unfortunate relations with the ancestors of much of the populace). As for whether I’d be able to pick up Writing work — it’s very well known that the Public Education system in the area is lacking. Thus, I’m thinking that there would be demand for skilled copywriters and communicators. Whether they could afford to pay me and I could compile that into a living wage along with my beadwork, that’s a different question.

(I should also not forget that I can take foreign language lessons in my desired tongue at that locale, which I’d expect to be better than the scant amount I can find, here.)

It’s also a different question if I’m looking to become a copywriter within the beading and jewelry industries, which so far as I can see are more inclusive (from where I happen to stand) where it comes to gender minorities, and flexibility in gender presentation. There are lower barriers (to me), there. Particularly since I have a background in the field.

I should also realize that my perspective could become an advantage, depending on my market. I mean, my perspective contains some unavoidable points of branding, and if I can embrace that as a positive rather than considering it a negative because it locks me out of being a generalist, I might do well.

Well, anyway. I should finish reading the book, but take it with a bit of salt.

You might have noticed that I have been writing this post instead of making jewelry. It’s further within my comfort zone. Maybe I need to be experimenting more and generating more patterns, instead of repeating the patterns I already know — that could be stimulating enough to draw me back to work. At this point…I’ve voluntarily disconnected, to take a look around and see what I’m not paying attention to while I’m beading.

Of course, part of that relates to this site, which has been partially filled out, but not entirely. As I intend the site to grow with me as a document…that’s relatively okay. It will probably always be in some state of growth (so long as I devote time to it). I have realized, however, that I’m devoting way more time to the blog than to the Pages. I’ve started to remedy this…though I’ll need to make a lot more content, and a lot more edits before I can properly organize my thoughts. (Don’t be surprised if things shuffle around in the near future.)

I am also seeing where it seems people may be unfamiliar with terms I use which are very basic to me, but which I learned when I was, say, 12 years old or before (e.g., what are needle-nose pliers?). It’s good for me to get the feedback: it shows me where I need to include further explanation, and/or images or illustrations. In beadwork, many things are more easily illustrated through pictures than explained with words. Beyond that, many things are more easily illustrated through videos than through still images, to the point where communication is possible even without language. If we talk about comfort levels; I am even less comfortable with video than I am with photography, at this point. It might be something I should take a look at…*cue technological anxiety*

But I likely should explore that. I’ve seen some job descriptions which looked pretty sweet, but required video (and video editing) skills, which I don’t have at the moment. I do have what I think I’ll need, however…

I’ve also been trying to figure out how to share projects which…require so much time to make as to be unaffordable (for you, and possibly, for me) — though I expect the cost in time, labor and materials to be so horrendously high that I haven’t even tried to estimate it, yet.

I am also not really aware of whether I should save these projects for a book (and hope the beads used are still in manufacture — in the same dimensions — at the time of publishing), or to release them through Etsy or another online selling platform for timeliness. It’s not what I originally imagined myself doing, but with some of these projects — I’d hate to charge for 3-4 hours of labor (a quick estimate), and once you understand how to create one component (that repeats) and open and close jump rings, you can basically do it. There may be a steep learning curve — I can’t precisely tell at this point, how it is for others — but at least you’ve got a chance at having the piece, you know?

Of course, though: that entails a bunch of customer care and assistance, after having published the pattern and having possibly supplied the beads and thread, needles, etc; and my heart’s not in teaching (especially teaching over the phone or through email; in-person might be difficult enough). Working with video (in addition to providing a PDF pattern) may be a better option.

Unfortunately, the question of whether I can output jewelry at a reasonable price that doesn’t sink me financially, and keep customers happy with my quality (or at least, not-frustrated) at the same time, seems to only be answerable by the real-world test: actually attempting to sell things. Or…tons of market research, which does not really sound all that fun. I know I normally like research…but this? This is basically trawling the Web for images and prices. Not great!

I kind of wonder: if I go where I want to with this, would that be Web Production?

Hobby vs Business, part two

I have been doing (more) research on the difference between a hobby and a business, over the last couple of days. Right now, in the eyes of the U.S. Government, I am surely a hobbyist, though this could develop into being a business, in the future.

Note: none of this is intended as legal advice, as I can’t give it…this is one lay person’s understanding from doing research on the Internet and in books, mostly very recently.

Apparently, the largest determination between whether an income-generating hustle is a, “hobby,” or a, “business,” at least in the United States, has to do with motive. Businesses have profit motives; hobbies have enjoyment motives. I essentially came to the point of being able to compose the question of what the difference actually was or is between being classified as a hobby or business, and came up with that (unfortunately, I can’t totally recall exactly what page I was on, or where I was reading, when I realized this). This essentially just determines how a person is taxed. There’s…not much more reason for the distinction.

The categorization appears to have little to do with how much income a person generates — I have not found an upper limit (although a business can obviously get much larger than just one person, and hobbies typically appear to be small-scale affairs). So far as my goals are concerned…to be able to do what I love and offset the financial costs of such…I may well be better-served by directing myself to have a well-organized hobby. Unless — that is — I have to relocate to a place where I might not want to take any of the available jobs, in which case I have a fall-back option for income.

However, for now: treating my beadwork as a hobby means getting another job to support myself, which is getting at least a bit less scary now that defenses exist against COVID. I’m still considering Writing professionally — but to be honest, I’m not entirely certain how much taking on Writing as a career essentially means permanently working in a gig economy.

A gig economy is not great when you don’t really like to interact with people directly (which, in turn, might be the reason you became a writer). It involves continual outreach to find and sell oneself to new clients. There is an upshot, in that if I did get embedded in and known within one industry (hopefully, one I’m interested in), it would be easier to find jobs. Kind of like what I’m doing here, it seems.

There’s also the fact that even though I don’t really like cold-calling, I apparently excel at (and enjoy doing) research. I would think that would be typical, though? It’s well-known (at least in Publishing) that Writing is generally a solitary occupation and that Writers have to be comfortable with being alone for long periods of time. Of course, that plus, “gig economy,” seems to be…unfortunate. But I haven’t entered it, yet.

I do have a book on it, and I am getting more comfortable with putting my skills forward, however. So far as the latter goes, maybe too far? One of the problems I have is being very expressive in writing and fairly quiet in the rest of my life. At one time, this was, “…nearly silent in the rest of my life.” I’ve gotten much better about it since I was younger — particularly within the last, say, five or six years. It was a growth process, which was one of the reasons I stayed at my first job for so long.

However: I have not yet reconciled this with being a working adult with opinions. It’s relatively much easier to be a student with opinions: everyone expects that. But once you’re out there making a name for yourself? And there could be consequences to non-hegemonic expression where it comes to employment or sales? That feels very much different…and on top of this, I’m aware of it because I was almost a Sociology major. I got out when it became clear that I would have to be social. Kind of like I’m probably not going to fit a Public Services Librarian position because it means being expected to be social.

Writing can encompass putting forth ideas which lead to others feeling alienated. When the use of writing is to express ideas, however…how do you walk that line between saying nothing and saying things that get you in trouble? When a whole lot of what you have to say has not been heard before? That is a very good reason to write! But would I then be writing books — and not for pay?

If I keep going down this train of thought, I’m likely going to reveal things about my psychological state that probably shouldn’t be on the Internet, let alone on a Business blog on the Internet. However. Given time, that stuff might come out…and there is a demographic here which probably already knows what I mean. I’m — basically — coming to realize my own position in regard to the rest of the world, and the reality of my life. That is a bit depressing, but on the upshot, I’m not alone. It’s good to know that some people understand.

Further upshot: I can make it the core content of a book, and then not worry so much about people who want me not to express my inner reality. The point of a book is expression; if you don’t want to read it, you have the option not to, you know.

Anyhow…I’ve written at length already about the other methods I’m looking at to possibly gain a steady income — which would not subject me to, “people-stress,” and may be safe, but not all that exciting.

I can actually see now why I write: I’m actually able to unearth things that I have been thinking: between which, I had not made connections. Why it is that my medium is writing, and not another form of art, I still don’t know…

Making French Hook earwires…

I did go back to the Craft table today, made it a bit more habitable (i.e. wiped off the dust and put some things away), and started on a French Hook earwire model. It doesn’t seem like this should be a big deal. Thing is, even minor wirework requires getting out the tools, which seems like a momentous occasion — at least, when you haven’t done it in a while.

In my case, this episode of the tools was made of flush cutters, multiple sets of pliers (needle-nose, round-nose, bail-making and nylon-jaw pliers), needle files (or one needle file, that is), carbide paper in multiple grades (300-, 400-, and 600-grit — which I had already torn into little strips, so I didn’t have to get the entire set of sandpapers out), my Beadalon rotary tool with an appropriately-sized cup bur attachment (which I had to adjust several times until the cup bur stopped wobbling), and head-mounted magnification.

It does kind of tick me off how much stuff goes into making something so simple. On top of it, I’m thinking of masking off vulnerable areas in the future with tape, so that I don’t even have a risk of marring the wire while I’m filing or sanding. It should save me some stress…until it comes time to take the tape off, and risk bending the piece. The wire I was using for my models did feel half-hard (a level between dead-soft and full-hard; basically, “somewhat hard”), but then, it’s a hardware-store copper wire, and I had cut away most of the packaging to save space in the toolbox. So…it’s wire. Let’s just say that, for starters.

I did use copper for this. I didn’t see much benefit in jumping to precious metal on my first try in weeks, and had realized that the copper had more working commonalities with the precious metal wires, than the latter did with my Red Brass (which I would have turned to, had I less experience). There’s the fact that Red Brass can be difficult to tell apart from gold — until it tarnishes. Then, the stuff I have also appears a bit dull…likely due to lack of polishing, especially where it has been bent. Red Brass is softer and runs relatively thick in gauge, for the little spools I’ve got (I think they’re 1/4 lb. spools, back from when I could get 1/4 lb. spools) than what the final pieces would be made from: sterling wire and 14k gold-filled wire.

I can see this being logical for the gold-filled wire, because maybe the gold is layered over a base of copper for strength. I really don’t know what exactly sterling gets its working properties from, but I do know there is a significant amount of copper in it. I’m not sure if it’s that or other added metals (or the mixture of all of them within the alloy) which harden it. Fine silver (99.9% pure silver), by itself, is very soft, and so it wouldn’t really be a thing to use for earwires, which are vulnerable to being deformed if the earring catches on clothing or hair (which is common).

In any case, I decided to use the copper, which worked out fine. I even found some little 2.5mm x 3mm copper beads that I could use as decoration with them, so I wouldn’t have to waste a more expensive bead (or deal with the…kind of sad appearance of my brass 3mm rounds from my teen years — which, amazingly [!] have not tarnished). I put in a log of what I did today in my work journal. Unfortunately, I was only able to get to one pair: by the time I had finished with them, I had to do other things.

There are a number of things that I can say, having done this…though most significantly to myself, I should note that these earwires with the beads right above the loop, need a significant bend above them, to keep the bead from just sliding off of the earwire. I might want to send a note with these things if it continues to be a problem with the precious-metal earwires; I’m not sure it will, for the fact that many of my precious metal beads have smaller holes than my base-metal beads. That affects how easily they can rotate around the bend above them, and ultimately escape. If the beads weren’t hollow (as small metal rounds tend to be), it would be significantly harder for them to move…which I should remember for the future. Maybe I want to use a different type of bead, that is (stone? glass is relatively fragile) — or, not use a bead at all.

I actually have found that earwires of this type are not being provided ready-made anymore by one of my main sources; from my own work, I believe that this may be because those little beads can and do escape. The alternative they’re offering is wire coils as decoration…which are easy, but also…wire coils?

Other than that…I’m still having issues with my cup bur biting into the sides of my earwires, but it only happened on one of them, this time. I’ll have to be more careful (like I was when I polished/deburred the second). I’ve noted which notches I have to use on my bail-making pliers in order to size things consistently…and I need less than two inches of wire to make one of these things. In reality, I’m using close to 1.75″ of wire for each French Hook, and 0.75″ of that is the tail that hangs down below the back of the ear.

When we finally switch to Metric, I may be in trouble, but that’s how it looks right now.

What’s interesting is the difference in look between my earwires, and the earwires I’ve bought from other vendors. I have much more of a curve at the top of the ones I produce…I am not sure if that has to do with just my personal aesthetic, or what. Not only that, but I can only get the curve in the tail I like by using my thumb to press in on the wire. Anything else seems to distort it.

I’ve also had quite a time with distortion today…my nylon-jaw pliers and I made good friends. It’s necessary to harden all of that curve after forming the earwire, that is, or it’s very easy to pull it apart. There’s also the possibility of work-hardening the metal by hammering it after it’s formed (say on an anvil or nylon block, with a nylon or rawhide mallet)…though that risks damaging the earwire’s decorative components. I haven’t really wanted to flatten the wire, which is a large reason I haven’t taken the hammers to these things before.

I have more to say, but I’ll put it into a different post.

Hobby or Business?

During the last 48 hours — or, starting in the middle of the night two nights ago, I’ve been driven to reassess my business model…considering becoming a hobbyist who incidentally sells, rather than a microbusiness. I really am not sure about this, as it seems I can only earn $400 before I need to pay self-employment tax, and possibly need to register as a Business…but it’s a small step forward. It’s also a thought I hadn’t had before, which is reason enough to pay attention to it.

As well: I need to renew my Seller’s Permit, and if I do plan on becoming an official business, I’ll need to register with my City, get a P.O. Box, and follow the rules to obtain a DBA. That’s…not much, but it is progress. It depends entirely on what I intend to do with my project — and how much I am intending to recoup — which route I go down.

It also depends on how long I intend to stay in this area. There are actual plans on moving out of here — particularly because of the ongoing drought and newly lengthened and severe fire seasons. It may not be worth it to establish a business in this locality, if we’re going to move relatively soon.

What I realized last night is that I need to decide whether the beadwork is a business, or a hobby. If we move, I may need to make it a Small Business, at least in the short term. The thing is…what does that look like in five years? In 10? I know that my heart is in design, not manufacturing, and I wouldn’t consider myself a salesperson. There do seem to be ways I can tweak my Business model so that I’m doing what I love to do the most…the thing is, it requires hiring on extra help, doing quality control, supervision, and making sure that other people are happy (or at least satisfied) — and paid and otherwise compensated for their time and labor. If we’re going to also be putting out designs and want them to only be ours, that also requires time (and funds) spent protecting intellectual property — which at this point requires legal help.

I mean, it very much seems the reason why government gives so many incentives to small businesses, is that they want economic growth — meaning, that I need to envision what this could become if it weren’t just me and my family; if I did hire on other people to take down that potential 80-hour work week. I have, though, no direct experience in managing other people (which is why people hire Middle Managers, I guess).

This is…a very different vision than I had at first. At first, I was thinking it would be myself and my family, and I could purchase the raw materials, turn them into jewelry, and turn that around and gain a modest income from selling the finished jewelry. Creating a company — which may be what this becomes if I’m full-time and successful (never bet on failure) — sounds far different. The bare fact appears to be that being an entrepreneur is a job title within itself.

The question is, if I want that. It’s a lot of responsibility, especially if I remain a sole proprietor and don’t incorporate as an LLC (though the risk I bear is minimal, before other people and their livelihoods and responsibilities come into the picture — or until sales actually climb and the company becomes significant, at which point I’ll need legal counsel, if not legal protection). There’s also a lot of learning to be done on the way from hobbyist to one-person sole proprietor to someone with employees to incorporation. A lot. Though I shouldn’t forget, there would be a lot of working with other people and seeing what skills they can contribute that I don’t personally have.

Can I envision this? It’s hard to create what we can’t imagine (unless, that is, what we’re creating is failure: chaos is easy to generate without a guide).

I know I started this post writing about envisioning a future as a hobbyist who sells. That seems as though it’s probably going to be true of this year, at least: I’ve taken a lot of losses since deciding to do this for money (beginning last October), and have not yet recouped anything (although online visibility is moderately OK; this blog is one of the things I’ve been paying attention to). I’d also be doing this, even if I weren’t being paid for it. Those are two of the main markers of a hobbyist.

The thing is: if beadwork is my hobby, then maybe I should treat it as a hobby and focus on gaining a main mode of income (although I’ve sunk a lot of time and effort into making this work, and can’t say I’d prefer a different job: though what I’ve been doing…is learning a lot, both about myself and about the environment my situation is emplaced within). If it’s a business, that’s an entirely different thing. Up to this point, I’ve been treating it as a business — at least, a potential business.

I can operate this blog just fine, as a hobbyist — possibly even better than I could as a businessperson, because I wouldn’t have to think about which information I give out (say, sources for beads) could come back to bite me later.

But there’s something to be said about not giving away all one’s secrets. Even if I wanted to.

I suppose the thing to work on next is to fill in those missing sections of my Business Plan…


Ohh, man. Yesterday I did get back to work at the Craft table. It wasn’t anywhere near as scary as it seemed when I was away from it. And, as usual, I didn’t really want to go, once I got started. 🙂 I did have to cut apart and re-weave two earrings, but I got a new design and a new set of earrings out of it. I also timed myself: I’m getting faster. I worked up a set of earrings without the use of ready-made jump rings (they arrived today) in about 1 hour and 15 minutes, after cutting out the time I spent searching for tools and materials and making design decisions.

Now how that will translate to other beads in other colors, I’m not entirely sure at the moment (as I’m also not sure how my initial pink trial actually worked out, when I wasn’t able to reproduce it — though, of course, I was altering those attempts, wasn’t I).

After I had made that set yesterday, though…I figured that was, “enough for today,” (baby steps — though I need to remind myself, baby steps only work when I’m consistent) and got to work on consolidating bead storage. It’s, seriously, less intimidating. What I had been doing is buying beads by the bag or tube and then reshuffling them into small vials so that I could have a visible palette.

I’ve learned, at this point, not to do that unless I actually need to (say, if they’re in a bag: plastic zip bags over years simply decompose and tend to spill seed beads from barely-visible razor-like splits, when they do. Spilled seed beads, lost in carpet, are extremely annoying; and they’re possible cut-glass hazards on a hard floor with shoes or wheels). It’s a waste of time, otherwise: especially when there are beads that need that space more (e.g. cut Czech strands; lots of 10 grams each, of two-hole beads). Kind of like how it felt it was a waste of time to re-consolidate them, yesterday.

I had duplicated storage by having many beads in two places…which, in turn, made it difficult to see everything I had at a glance. My original goal was to have at least one of everything in plain view: the thing is, then you have to restock those little vials, and you have to keep purchasing more little vials, the more individual colors you get. The little vials are not cheap. They also get beaten up.

In many cases, the tubes these beads tend to come in are just fine (though the printing may rub off on one’s nails)…though the condition of some of them (particularly from one vendor) really does make me want to move them into prettier storage.

I sometimes order beads no one has wanted. They may have been bumping around in tubes for years, getting scratched up and dirty on the outside. That makes it even less likely that anyone will ever buy or use them. There is a term for it — though I forget right now, what it is: like “Ugly Tube Syndrome (UTS),” or something.

Anyhow: I had about 20 fresh empty tubes and about 50 things to put into them. Some of them are still in the screw-top vials, but stored with the rest of the tubes, now. This is refreshing, when the cases for the vials keep cracking. I also have a lot of really old and beat-up tubes with old, difficult-to-remove stickers on them…which I chose not to use, even though they were taller. UTS. Of course, this meant having to split some of what I’d previously split, into multiple smaller tubes…now I have some full little tubes, and some little tubes of the same colors with barely enough beads in them to merit even having a tube.

Yeah, it’s not ideal; especially since I really have little idea of what brand any of those older beads are. (I can use digital calipers to differentiate Toho and Miyuki, but as for other brands, like Matsuno, which I’ve never consciously purchased in 11/0 — and which I may mistake for something I know? Or any off-brand beads the store decided to put into vials and sell as, simply, “Japanese”?) As such — I am not entirely sure how these older beads will work up into (my) established patterns.

My major concern in this is being able to evacuate quickly with my tools and a significant amount of materials — fire season is starting early. My secondary concern is ease of design: being able to see and understand what I have to work with.

I’m also having a little bit of an issue with paranoia as regards showing my in-progress designs, when I am not entirely…secure in, and ready to, sell online yet. The vast majority of works I’ve seen online have not been work-in-progress design snapshots, and I’ve gotta say, I’m not even that comfortable with the camera, at this point. I keep getting photobombed by other pieces of jewelry I’ve made, let’s say, and don’t have a good photo staging area yet.

To give you some background as to why I’m a bit anxious: there have been some issues (not with me) on one of my Social Media outlets, and I basically don’t want to have to deal with Intellectual Property Law before I’m entirely certain that I know where I stand in regard to the law in place. I believe that if I can prove that I independently developed my own designs, I’ll be safe against any accusations. (Of course, where I have bothered to draw out and date what I’m doing, that’s probably a huge plus in my favor.)

I have been doing legal research, and it seems I kind of get the gist of what’s going on and what is an indefensible or irrelevant argument. There is, in this case, an amicus curiae which is very relevant to jewelry design — and over 50 pages long. I tried printing it, but it looks like a paper file from the early 1950’s which was later (poorly) scanned. It wasn’t designed for computers or for printouts. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was printed using a printing press (I found an “e” which was lower than the rest of the line of type), and I inadvertently cut off the bottoms of all the pages when I printed it, because it’s tall and narrow and the numbers are at the tops of the pages. I’ll just have to read my backup copy and deal with blurred vision — or, possibly, reprint the article with a huge amount of wasted space, plus small font size.

Yeah, maybe I should have been a Graphic Designer (I do have experience in CSS), but that’s not what I went for.

Most of my digging has been at the U.S. Copyright Office, though it’s probably easier to search that site using Google as an indexing tool (for starters), than it is to actually go there and start digging around. The site is, essentially, huge; and the information needed is contained in printed files. Efficient searching also requires following hyperlinks embedded in the information they do give. I have here a bunch of printouts of relevant passages that I haven’t yet filed…though it would make sense to do so, if only to get them off my desk.

Of course, I also have a bunch of invoices I have yet to enter into my spreadsheets, which is the reason I even came back to this computer today. You can see how far I got on that… 🙂