Precision

10 spools of K.O./Miyuki thread in multiple colors
K.O. and Miyuki threads

There is something meditative about beadwork. It requires you to hold your attention on what you’re doing, if only not to unintentionally loop a thread around a bead, which, when tightened, will distort the work. If only not to break a bead or crush a needle, by trying to force it through an opening so filled with thread that another pass cannot should not be made. Sometimes in finishing a piece, one fails to recognize the signs; attempts to force a pass, and thereby splits a bead, causing the piece to be entirely re-woven. (Protip: If you need to gamble in this way, try swapping your needle out for a finer one [one with a higher gauge number], before attempting it. It might give you one or two more chances to finish.)

Beadwork also requires a high degree of precision. Or, maybe — doesn’t require — but it is compatible. I’ve had to rely on my analytical thinking, more often than I care to recall. “Which thread path can I take which will give me enough distance to finish off my weaving and anchor my thread before the beads fill up?”


Obviously, when working with beads, you have to find the right space to put your needle into. Not so obviously, you have to regulate your thread tension to the point that your work is not too tight. Tension that is too high can cause stiffness and fragility in the work itself; bead chipping from pressure of the needle, leading to a broken-glass edge, which could lead to thread breakage; or thread breakage simply from a preexisting sharp edge. If the tension is too loose, the work may be weakened (though overall tension should still hold it together, given enough thread passes); or bare thread may show through in your finished work.

Of course, if your thread coordinates with your work, thread showing is probably not a huge deal — I’ve seen enough of it in my own work, and online. I’ve personally found a little looseness to be preferable to over-tightness; the flexibility and drape may be nicer. If you’re using transparent beads without an opaque lining, you can also get some interesting effects from the color (or value: i.e., lightness/darkness) of the thread showing through their cores!

Nymo B bobbins from the early 2000's in multiple colors
Nymo (Size B) — granted, probably from around the year 2000

To date, I have used several different types of thread which are available in fairly large color ranges, though not all sources stock all colors. These are C-Lon Beading Thread, Beadalon’s Nymo, and Miyuki/K.O. Beading Thread. There are differences between these, with C-Lon and Nymo being closer to flosses, and Miyuki/K.O. being rounder in profile — meaning that it is denser and takes up more space. All of these are nylon threads. I have read that Miyuki and K.O. thread are so close to each other as to be indistinguishable in practice; the branding may simply be different.

I know for a fact that C-Lon Beading Thread comes in more than one size (AA vs. D, with AA being the finer), and Nymo comes in more than one size (OO, O, B, D; from finest to heaviest). I see some hints online that Miyuki/K.O. may come in more than one size (B vs. D), but I haven’t been able to confirm it.

Many of the available colors of C-Lon Beading Thread are shown here in 5 columns, in a bobbin case
Some of the colors of C-Lon Beading Thread (Size AA)

That said, sometimes it is beneficial or necessary to use a fine, abrasion-resistant thread, such as FireLine — which doesn’t come in a lot of colors (at least, standard; I have run across at least one source which was seeming to dye it, though I don’t recall where). Notably, FireLine now has two product lines where it comes to beading.

The spool of one of these reads, “Thermally Fused Tough”. This is the type with eight strands, apparently originally made for ice fishing. The previous generation has four strands and is the basic “Berkley Fireline”. These are both made of polyethylene, which is good to use if you’re weaving beads with sharp edges (such as bugle beads). Even then, you may want to take precautions to protect the thread (such as padding all bugle beads with a smooth bead on either side, and using the three as a unit, so that the thread doesn’t bend against a sharp edge).

I’m seeing a parallel logic between multi-strand steel cable and the newer style of FireLine. “Tigertail” is an industry name for steel wire which is twisted into a cable and coated with plastic for protection (likely both to protect your beads and the cable itself). These days — that is, not in the 1980’s — it’s generally the less-expensive, coarser, easier-to-kink cables (e.g. seven-strand) that are called “tigertail”, while the higher-end ones (e.g. 49-strand, which have seven finer strands in the place of every one strand) usually go by brand names like Soft Flex or Accu-Flex.

The higher the number of strands within the cable, generally speaking, the more flexible and kink-resistant the cable, and the softer the drape. (I should note that as the number of strands go up, the strands become proportionally smaller.) Similarly, eight-strand FireLine is supposed to have a softer drape than four-strand — although I don’t have direct experience with this, yet (I’ve only recently been alerted to the fact that eight-strand FireLine even exists).


I have been criticized on my tendency to precision often enough to notice, in art classes. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, but I’m coming to realize that I should not concern myself with it. In Silversmithing, one finds precision a necessity. Without precision, one has to deal with solder that does not flow and edges that do not join. Without paying attention, the work won’t turn out as expected. And without an abundance of caution, it is far too easy to have an industrial accident.

In beadwork, the stakes aren’t quite so high: one may stab oneself with a needle or awl (actually, it’s best to recognize that one will do this, instead of being constantly afraid of its occurrence. Ironically, accepting this as part and parcel of my craft, has reduced my own injuries). One may accidentally cut oneself on broken glass, as I did when picking up a lampwork glass bead which had mysteriously split in half — after having been made part of a bracelet. (I didn’t feel the cut then; I only realized it the next day. I’ll spare the image.)

When I am devoting my attention to some small detail — say I’ve made a knot in the wrong place while working a micro-macramé band (it happens), and have to undo one or more knots (requiring an awl, possibly tweezers, and possibly head-mounted magnification) — my mind can go somewhere else. I have the capacity to think about things totally unrelated, as I’m paying an extreme amount of attention to some physical detail. Some people can’t relate to zeroing in on something like this. They may not have the experience to understand that while I am doing micro-macramé surgery, I am focused and alert, but not…however they would be.

Powerful concentration can cause me to become aware of mental subroutines, but that’s not to say at all that I remember now, the content of those thoughts!

I was told in Jewelry class that I was so precise that my work appeared machined, not handmade. This is not through any special effort of mine. I come from a line of exacting, careful people, who are exacting and careful to the point of neurosis (to use a word imprecisely). Whether my own caution and awareness of precision is congenital and/or epigenetic, doesn’t quite matter, at this point. What matters is that as far as I am concerned, it is an inextricable part of who I am, and probably who I will be, in this life — and I’m glad to have found places where it is appreciated.

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated by any of the manufacturers I’ve gone over today, and I have purchased all of these threads with my own funds.

Let’s think this through

This post, essentially, is the product of my thinking through the risks and ramifications of going into business, selling beaded jewelry. Due to experience, I believe that I can do much better with my life than make copy after copy of established patterns — even if they’re my own patterns. Toward the end of this post, Alternatives describes five different methods I could use if I wanted to have some kind of an impact in the online beading world. Essentially, I want to avoid all my work being for naught, but I still have to determine what the place of beadwork will be in my life. I think I’ve established that it will not be a vocation. In terms of time spent in production — time in which I could be reading or writing or earning money more efficiently or undergoing professional development — it is too risky and too expensive.

There is a process to this

After purchasing the materials — which is, generally speaking, the easiest part of beading to accomplish (at least if one has the funding to go back and try again if one bought the wrong thing), the next step is construction. This assumes one’s designs are already set: creating original designs is an entirely different post (or series of them). I’ve timed myself — repeatedly — to know what amount to multiply by which rate, to apply to labor.

After finishing the work (and hopefully not having had to discard one or more pieces due to some loop of thread in the wrong place or a broken bead), comes tinkering with the variables and values on a worksheet. The cost of materials generally isn’t a huge deal, if you’re working only in glass and fiber. Adding in crystal to that (by this I mean leaded crystal; or lead-free crystal, in some cases [Swarovski eliminated the lead from their crystal formulations quite some time ago]), or precious metals, raises the price significantly. So does using actual stone (that someone had to mine, or at least collect, and then cut), instead of synthetic materials.

Determining cost of materials is much easier if you’ve been keeping track of what you’ve paid for what you’ve bought, and in which quantities. Buying online can help this, as generally speaking, you’re told the quantity of materials you’re buying…whereas in a physical bead store, the receipt can be less than helpful, and you may have to count the numbers of beads that you buy on strands. A vial or pack of beads may not list the weight of the beads: which is, in many cases, the way seed beads are measured. You may have to ask. Otherwise, having a scale — or marking how much of a vial you use for any one project, along with the total cost of the vial — helps.

They say that if you want to make a lot of money, don’t be a jeweler. I can understand this, now. Still, I can see the benefit of having a skill set that most of the populace doesn’t have (like, being able to work effectively and safely with hot metals). Needle and thread are more accessible to most people.

As a guide to what I would have to charge, should I attempt this full-time, I found myself informed by MIT’s Living Wage Calculator. I would need to charge a cumulative rate of at least $24/hour over an 8-hour day, over a 5-day week, in order to survive in this…extremely expensive, pocket of the world.

That means I would have to take in at least $192 after everything else was paid for (though perhaps inclusive of my labor fee) per day, in order to stay here independently. Could I even make enough jewelry, per day, to earn that much? And take care of marketing, shipping, organization, design, tax preparation, tools, customer care, etc.? Simply buying things and reselling them, is much different than making things.

This is stressful, and I haven’t even started yet

However: if I am making the jewelry, and I am also selling it; the portion of my return which I charge in labor, accrues to the business. This is outside of the cost of materials and tools: things used in making my jewelry, which I also have to charge for. It is also outside of the cost of doing business (for instance, in licensing, web space, an anonymized mail box, and taxation, a.k.a. overhead). That $192/day that I need, maybe I should set aside as earned from my labor: although apparently, if I’m a sole proprietor (and the sole worker), that stays in the account until I have need to draw on the equity of my company.

My living expenses, including health care, housing, food, clothing, personal insurance, would be paid either from owner’s draws, or from a secondary form of income. Emphasis on secondary form of income. I am not married and don’t plan to be, so this means that I have to find a way to support myself that is worth my time and not crazy-making.

Payments going into the business (materials, tools, overhead, etc.) are drawn from within the business. Profit after payment of the cost of goods sold + cost of running the business, would be rolled back into the business (unless emergencies arise).

I have a little trouble with marking up my costs, considering the inexpensiveness of my materials (though if I’m importing materials regularly, there’s a question as to just how “inexpensive” that actually is). If I’m planning on selling wholesale to a boutique, there’s also the fact that half the sale goes to the boutique.

In which case…although I save on the costs and labor of selling the goods myself, for something like a set of earrings which I have marked up above cost by 40%, my wholesale price minus the cost of goods sold (the latter of which, includes my labor) is simply $9. My business earns $9. This is at a retail price of around $63: half of which goes to the boutique, and half of which goes to me. Every cost my business incurs has to come out of that extra amount: the $9 multiplied by however many units, for the sake of simplicity. This is if I’m paying myself CA 2023 minimum wage, or $15.50/hour: which is still about $9/hour less than a living wage…so maybe I would want to pay a higher labor rate to myself.

The other route is to offset this by my markup, in order to make the activity worth my time.

Changing the price of my labor to the living wage rate, while still keeping the 40% markup, means that the retail price of the jewelry is bumped up to $90; while I garner about $13 per earring set, with which to pay the costs of my business, beyond my basic living expenses. Granted that I have no idea how much indirect costs, interest payments, and taxes actually would come to, at this point.

I realize that some people have no qualms about charging other people money for their work…I happen not to be one of those people. Yes, I’m using special (e.g. multi-hole) beads; beads you generally can’t find sold unless you know 1) that they exist, and 2) where to find them. Yes, I designed — and made — the work. If I were to have an operation at all, it is by definition a microbusiness. Am I just seriously undervaluing myself and my skills?

And honestly, there’s the question of whether a set of earrings is worth $63 — or $90 — though I might easily have dropped as much on other craftspeoples’ jewelry.

Variables

There is also the possibility of selling B2C, or direct to the consumer, through a route like Etsy or Amazon Handmade. To keep options open for the future, one may still charge the going retail sales rate even though there is no middleman at this time. This, however, introduces a different business model…one in which all costs of getting the item to the customer have to be accounted for by the producer, in addition to keeping a secure payment portal and handling returns and customer service.

At least doubling the cost of an item to sell at retail — as I had read was normal — benefits the retailer. It is not necessarily a producer’s strategy. This makes more sense when I look at the markup to wholesale (that 40%), and then the markup to retail (2x that sum).

Ultimately, this means that when figuring out how much to charge for one’s work, one has to consider at least two or three questions:

  1. Do I ever intend to sell my work wholesale to retailers? If so, I need to mark up my prices from the beginning (in addition to selling my work for twice what they paid for it, they may return goods-not-sold). If I’m not planning to sell B2B (Business-to-Business) — ever — I can simplify my base rate.

    I can, that is, sell a pair of earrings B2C (Business-to-Consumer) that cost me $32 in time and materials to make, for $45 plus taxes and shipping. I don’t have to sell it at $90 plus taxes and shipping (unless, that is, there is a legal obligation to do so).

    This has implications in a global market. I do not live in a society where labor drives the economy. I live in a society where services drive the economy. I would get deeper into this, but suffice it to say that outsourced labor is cheaper due to lower costs of living in other localities; and the Internet is relatively lawless, on a global scale. That means that if someone halfway across the world decides to parrot my designs and sell them for a fraction of my cost, there is the question of what exactly (if anything) I can do to stop it.

  2. Is this a hobby, or is it something I can sustainably make a living of, full-time? If I plan on going full-time, I’ll need to mark my base rate up to at least a living wage. If not, I don’t have this pressure — but I’ll need to reserve time and energy to pursue whatever it is I’m doing to support myself.

    There also might be a third question:

  3. Do I ever plan on hiring anyone else to help in production? If so, I’ll have to factor in at least a minimum wage for my locality, where it comes to labor. If not, I don’t have to worry about this.

Ethics

One of the things I (can still) realize now which I hadn’t realized before: I shouldn’t plan on making a living wage off of this. I can make some money off of doing it, but I shouldn’t expect to live off of it.

This was more of a resolution before I realized that I didn’t have to sell my goods at a, “retail,” price. That is: as a very small producer (if in fact I ever vie to be a producer at all — I haven’t yet decided), I don’t need to aim to become a huge company. There are a number of reasons why this project — should it include selling finished jewelry — is not scalable.

First of all, it is handmade work, not machine-made work. To make more of it, I have to hire more people.

I can teach other people how to do what I do, but this introduces two variables:

  1. The fact that my employees, once trained, can then compete directly with me in the market: I’ve done research into Intellectual Property Law, and I don’t believe that I can “Patent” my designs, unless they’re exceptionally difficult to conceptualize or produce. Non-compete agreements are worthless in my State.

  2. The fact that I might not be able to pay an employee what they were worth, if my goal was to support myself…and that has been my goal. Now, if I were to start a Co-op or something, that would be entirely different; and quite possibly entirely more engaging. But right now, I don’t have plans for that.

    Also:

  3. The point of this, originally, was to make some money doing what I loved (instead of it simply being a financial drain, with people asking me to make stuff for them). If I become a Manager of other employees, that is no longer doing what I love, technically speaking.

That’s…capitalism. Luckily, I have skills other than beadwork (one of which, is writing). Whether I can employ those skills in a healthy manner to support my own living expenses, and my own physical and mental health, is a separate question.

So far I have been detailing one specific business model, which is the design, production, and selling of finished jewelry. There are, however, alternatives. I found it useful to detail the pros and cons of the above model, along with the alternatives, below.

Alternatives

You may have seen me go over some of this, elsewhere on this blog.

  1. Take the patterns I develop on my own, write them down/draw them up in instructional worksheets, and sell the patterns, not the finished work.

    PROS: I would be able to get further into the creation of digital documents, which could be enjoyable, in light of the skills I would need to employ. Pattern-making would also be what I’ve heard referred to as, “passive income,” in the sense that I make it once and it continues to be a small trickle of income into the future (or so long as the beads used are still being made). I don’t have to worry about the safety (e.g. toxicological) of any particular kind of bead, as I don’t choose the beads being used.

    CONS: The specific bead sizes/shapes used in the patterns could stop being sold. I might get complaints from people who can’t understand the directions. Although I might just refund them and consider that the end of it, I might also want to support them (which could be difficult over the Internet, specifically because I have no video skills). Someone may (likely, will) purchase a pattern from me and then republish it elsewhere.

  2. Sell kits with the patterns.

    PROS: I would know that the parts I’m giving the customer will work with the pattern I’m also giving them, because I would have trialed them. It might be more convenient for the consumer to buy all the materials in one place, instead of having to place multiple Web orders for specific beads from different retailers. Glass beads are irregular by nature; not everything that says it is an 6/0 Czech rocaille, actually fits the size and shape profile of a 6/0 Czech rocaille. Beads (ostensibly) of the same brand and size may be larger or smaller than other beads of the same brand and size. The end user would not have to pay me for labor, and I would be able to spend drastically less time making copies of things. I would, that is, be able to focus more on Design, and charge less. Selling a kit with the pattern means that there is still a tangible gain for me in the transaction, even if someone pirates the pattern itself.

    CONS: I would not be able to ship Swarovski components, due to specific legal terms of Swarovski (though I should be able to tell you where to find the components, online). I would not be able to guarantee the safety of the materials included (re: the warnings that glass beads are not intended for use by those under 15 years of age). I would not necessarily know how the components will age.

  3. Give away the patterns.

    PROS: Increased Web traffic, and a raised profile where it would come to myself and my work, which could help with networking online. Little or no financial liability. Possible increase in goodwill. I could do this with or without selling kits of materials.

    CONS: No income generated if kits are not sold. If this route is taken, there is the very real question of why I would put this information out there in the first place, with the concomitant risk of abuse.

  4. Sell the finished jewelry online (B2C without B2B).

    PROS: It seems straightforward enough, though I would still have to deal with returns and scams.

    CONS: I would have to charge the end consumer for my labor. I would have to spend a lot of time making the same things over and over again. I might need to forgo selling wholesale to a retail outlet, in order to keep my financial returns within a reasonable range. I would have to research the safety of everything used, or stipulate that my jewelry is not for use by those under 15 years of age (which will [and likely should] raise some questions, which I might not be prepared to answer).

  5. Sell B2B wholesale.

    PROS: Someone else would take care of selling, shipping, display; nearly everything related to retail sales.

    CONS: I would still have to charge the end consumer for my labor. I would still spend a huge amount of time, making copies of things. My financial return could be cut in half, or worse, depending on how many units the retail outlet managed to sell. The price to the end consumer would essentially be higher (due to retail markup) than if I sold the jewelry to them, directly. I would still have to research the safety of everything used, or say that my jewelry is not for use by those under 15 years of age.

What this looks like:

It really seems, at this point, that I would be much better off at generating patterns (which I have to draw/write down anyway, so I don’t forget how I did what I did), and then selling or giving away those patterns. If demand grew, I could put together kits; though I shouldn’t do that at the beginning (as I have no idea how popular my patterns would be). Anyone else who wanted to put together kits would risk their own financial solvency, not mine.

Because this is a “hobby” for me, and not a vocation, giving away the stuff may be less expensive (or at least, lower-risk) for me in the long run, than setting up a business!

There are freedoms about this. I can still maintain my website and blog. I can tell you all about where to source materials, and not have to keep their prices and locations an open secret. I can share what I’ve learned over the past 30 or so years of beading. I can even review the beadwork books I’ve bought, or patterns I’ve found online; and keep this place as an online resource for beaders — particularly the intermediate-to-advanced beaders who aren’t necessarily well-served by the proliferation of copyrighted recipes and lack of tips on how to work from scratch.

It also does mean that I should not plan on making money off of this knowledge: in effect, I’ll have to look elsewhere for income. That means that this project will not take primary importance where it comes to what I do on a daily basis…but that’s OK, I think! Prioritization is a useful skill.

I am going to have to make another site for this stuff

I have a number of things going on, right now…some of which are intriguing for their possibilities; one of which is spurring me to write. Out of frustration. You know the type. I’ve been dealing with it in my journal so that I don’t have to deal with libel accusations (even though I can strip this down to the bare bones, and it still looks, objectively, bad).

I’ve found an interesting Academic Library position in the first University I attended (the one which doesn’t show up on my diploma). The politics then, were a bit…much. Of course, this was back when I was a very young adult, out of my parent’s care for the first time in my life, and in an unexpectedly alien culture which also happened to be a political battleground during Bush II.

The major question for me — right now — is whether my job references still remember me. The last post I held was that of a Library Assistant in a Public Library setting, but realistically, my exercise of that post ended nearly two years ago. For years before that, I was a Library Aide; however, how can I compare my performance there, to a professional job? I know I showed up on time, I know I did my work — but the job functionality simply is not the same.

Of course, though: I’ve been doing more research on job duties, and the idea that used to go around my old workplace, that the job I did (the first paying job I had), “wasn’t a real job,” is more reflective of the amount I was/we were paid (and a toxic work culture which undervalued working-class staff), not the job itself. I would probably be well in the running if I wanted to do the same thing at an Academic Library and get paid more, with benefits, full-time. (I’ve found an ad to this effect, listed under the heading, “Access Services.”)

I really do not want to go back to that. I mean, if I have the chance to get away from a position in which I’m the front-line worker having to take fines for lost and damaged materials (“but I checked it out that way [sopping wet]”), the question is why I would go back to it. Especially, when there’s so much more I could be doing that matters more and is less aggravating, and which builds on my strengths rather than having me rely on one of my weakest points. I can communicate decently, but emotional regulation is not my strong suit, and neither is dealing with people openly lying to me. (Maybe it would be better if I weren’t personally insulted by the lies. They’re just trying to get out of paying the cost of the book.)

There are more productive things I can do, than try to grapple with that (and some of them pay more).


In all versions of this post up until now, at this point I began to describe a project that I have been spurred to embark upon. I’ve begun to write what I’m envisioning at the moment as a nonfiction book (or at least a collection of related chapters or essays), although I haven’t done any art in a while, and I can feel the impact on my state of mind.

What I have been doing — a lot of — is reading and writing. But it really isn’t the same, where it comes to alleviation of stress. Just why that is, I don’t know.

The other drawback to doing a lot of reading and writing is that I tend not to sense time passing as normal. I tend, after having done a lot of reading, to feel as though I’m missing some hours. I also tend to forget what I did read; which is why I have wanted to start doing book reviews (more in-depth and in-context, than I can get on GoodReads). I will find relevant information popping up in my mind from weeks to months (or longer) down the line, but I can’t promise I’ll remember what text it’s from! It’s almost as though I had a dream, instead of read a book or e-book.

As for writing — that is slightly different, though I have the habit of staying up into the early morning hours, composing text. I’m pretty sure that’s generally not good for me; in particular, for my blood sugar levels. As I write this now, I can see that it’s almost 10:30 PM (this is my second day of working on this post; granted, I had to move the majority of it into my personal files). I had wanted to try to get to bed by 11 PM to help my body manage my blood sugar, but I was up writing last night, until 4 AM this morning. I wouldn’t have gotten close to nine hours of sleep, except I went back to bed after breakfast.

And, of course, neither reading nor writing really are healthy without movement to dislodge me from my chair and desk. I probably should get back to logging what I’ve done during the day, and making notes on what to tackle tomorrow. I haven’t been doing it for the last week, at least, and I’m sure this has to deal with the added stress I’m dealing with from — now — a group and three classes, plus preparing for a job interview for a job I’m not sure I want.

Trying to juggle all of them is overloading me, I think. I know I need to work on my University course (which I have been, though I need to catch up with my notes). I know I need to be working on my Spanish (which I haven’t been). Then there is the weight management course (which I need) plus a group (which can be nice, but which I don’t need as often as it comes up), and after that…I’m dropping the last course. My book on the same topic came; I don’t need to stay.

After I put it that way, no wonder I stopped logging this stuff…it’s overwhelming. Especially when I’ve been intending to get around to cleaning this room since the beginning of the month, and haven’t even gotten to that. I also, though, just generally have not been keeping up with my Bullet Journal.

So, there is such a thing as trying to care for yourself so much that the self-care becomes overwhelming. Though, the reading is interesting, as is composing my thoughts.

I’m likely going to shift content like this back to an older blog of mine that is expressly about reading, writing, and libraries. I haven’t set an official domain for it, yet (or updated the Theme; or transferred over relevant posts). I am not confident about posting the URL here, due to past bot harassment, but I might. Otherwise, just look out for my username and icon under the same tags… 🙂

Daily Reflection: #001

February 14, 2022, ~ 9:30 PM:

Just let me say right now that I’m really angry, and I don’t really know why. I suspect it relates to the way I have (or have not) been caring for myself over the last week or two. There’s nothing I can do about it at this point except get back on track, meaning that in maybe 45 minutes, I should start getting ready for bed, and hope for a better day, tomorrow.

Today I went back through last week’s readings for my class, and wrote down everything that I couldn’t just print out. I’ve been reading through them once (in order to get an idea of their content) and then reading through them again at the end of the week, in order to record information I’ll need to retain — after having done the assignments. (I can’t bet on my memory staying good, past the end of the semester.)

It seems to be working — so far. I get intimidated about doing the readings when I think about taking notes (maybe due to the fact that I got an RSI last semester from having to take too many notes), so I make an agreement with myself to just do the reading without worrying about them, at first.

Of course, that entails some reinforcement/catching-up at the end of the week, after the assignments are done. It’s not too bad, though; nothing really has caught me off-guard. That’s probably because I’ve already taken this class once, and I already know a lot about Cataloging and metadata schemas. It also helps that this is the only University class I’m taking, this semester.

There are also some things moving along on the job front, and I’m not sure about where the current’s taking me. I’m having a good deal of anxiety about what happens if I am offered a position with a living wage, for which the emotional labor may be the most difficult aspect (and I have dreaded emotional labor, as it disproportionately affects female people, and I hate that gendered patterns of power and hostility affect me). However…at this point, I am leaning towards interviewing. Who knows — maybe I’d like it? Or, most of it? Short of the off-the-wall stuff that happens on a daily basis?

In any case, there are more classes I could take and should have taken while I was in the MLIS degree program, which would have prepared me more fully for becoming a Cataloger or Metadata Librarian. But now, you know, I’m Post-Grad, and the odds of obtaining non-loan Financial Aid are pretty low. When I was in that program, I was concerned about getting in and out…particularly because my financial and family situation couldn’t be relied upon to remain stable.

Nobody really predicted a pandemic; but I was more concerned about myself and everyone around me, aging. At the time, and still now, I was dependent on family support. When you’re as old as I am and have been dependent on family for most (or all) of your life, you get some anxieties over how long the situation will really be able to maintain itself.

In any case…I was helped into this career by the State. I did not realize at the time that the program I participated in really didn’t care about whether I liked or was compatible with my job or not, just so long as I was off the streets. Right now I’m beginning to see the possibility of gain from this…and am getting some cold feet. “Do I really want to do this?”

“Can I even question whether I want to do this in public, without the threat of repercussion?”

Though, I suppose, most people go into jobs with no prior knowledge of their psychological aptitudes and difficulties, or whether they’re a good affective match for their career. I would guess that Library work could even be something someone stumbles upon, as versus building up to it. I probably know more about myself and my situation than many candidates, that is, and that could be a step up from the beginning. I know that I can use CBT and DBT techniques to alter my thinking and increase my well-being, which is something probably most of the population doesn’t even consider a possibility.

Yeah, maybe I’m not as bad a candidate as I thought. Hmm.

I think I’ll get ready for bed, now.

What have I been doing?

(Apologies for the lack of section breaks. This post took me a very long time to write, and I can’t bring myself to edit it for even more time before posting.)

I feel like I haven’t been doing much over the last week. Looking back at my planner, I can see more activity than comes to mind, as I’ve been trying to record not only what I intend (or at least need) to do, but also what I actually did. Most activities have to do with hygiene, exercise, and food preparation, however (and all that ties into medical concerns): self-care things. Probably, I should start logging how much I’m reading, because I’m doing that, too — along with classwork. Then there is research…like, actual research, as in finding out whether, for the positions I think I desire, I would face routine requirements for Computer Science backgrounds and skillsets (short answer: not now). Then there is just playing around online, when I could be, say: using my Art supplies; or writing untrue things (i.e., Fiction).

Tuesday morning, I tried to finish Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, by Brian R. Little (2014), but gave up at 2 AM with two chapters to go. Even so, that progress might have been surprising, considering where I started (maybe 100 pages back). I also see that I didn’t credit myself for that work, in my planner.

I’ve extrapolated from the ideas in this book, that I really should not put myself back into the position of being a Public Services Librarian for an extended (or indefinite) period of time. My skills and psychological traits are really mismatched to the position, and looking at the relevant personality indexes, it’s obvious where. (Not all Librarians in every specialization have — or need — the same skill sets.) Although one index (Spheres of Control) is a mystery to me — it seems like there must be an error in the directions, or maybe it’s a cultural oversight thing (yes, I have an external locus of control, but it’s an influenceable one dealing with spirits and [other] things I don’t yet fully understand, and probably can’t yet hope to understand; not, simply, “luck,” as Little puts it) — the Ten-Item Personality Inventory and the Self-Monitoring Scale help me see more clearly where I’m coming from.

I really need to find a job which does not have to deal with continued random interruptions, heavy social contact that comprises most of the day, or an expectation that I have to be, “friendly (even to people who harass me or are abusive).” It’s just, really, not in my nature to deal in an effective manner with that sort of situation — especially when I have less than no desire to engage, and when what some patrons want (of me, personally) goes far beyond what I am willing or capable of giving.

I already know I have anger and aggression issues, and I am coming to see I also have trauma issues, all of which may lie as causative or synthetic factors behind my present (non-woman, non-man) gender identity. (For instance, aggression was at one time the only way I could get others to stop stereotyping me as, “a girl.” Anger issues may arise from others constantly assuming my gender [wrongly].) Add in the asexuality, and if I were a religious person, I would begin to think of celestials, or…angry, celestials. But I’m not a religious person, I don’t operate according to a religious script, and people who feel they aren’t human, well…I’ve known some.

I’ve gotten to the point where I try not to invest too much in religion. I don’t want to throw myself wholly into a cultural construction with all its vicissitudes, politics, and mismatches to my personality and reality just to find out that it is a cultural construction with no core (just more cultural constructions). That might be interesting from an anthropological viewpoint…not so much, if you desire truth. But granted, at least in my frame of mind — valid spiritual concepts are likely based in some part on experience, so I don’t find the concept of humans with nonhuman identities, to be all that outlandish. (I should add that there are also spiritual concepts in which I find nothing more than self-serving propaganda, but I don’t think I’ll get into that, here.)

However: if the form I presently maintain around my gender identity and sexual orientation is not who I really am, I’d like to disentangle and mend what’s at the base of it, so I can best understand it and get on with my life (without having a continual run in my knitting, so to speak). If my gender identity and sexual orientation are natural, accurate, and stable (I’m fine with appearing female, this much is certain: also certain is that the concept of, “female,” contains multiple genders, regardless of how those genders arise [which respect I might also apply to myself]); I need to find a way to cope with feeling like I’m being assumed to be a woman, and learn how to reconcile that with a galaxy of “women” in regard to which, my internal reality is an outlier.

Of course, is there a way to do both? To live with both?

Seeing myself as gender non-binary is a stopgap measure which has worked so far, but while the community almost fits, I now question to what extent we (as a group) are psychologically stable; due to the fact that I’ve explored a lot of fringe stuff (I didn’t have a lot to lose), and I’m not alone. If we as a group are not psychologically stable, the question arises as to whether the instability arises out of a routine background of trauma, or is independent of it.

I might not have come to this conclusion at 25, or even 30. At around 40, now; that’s different. Of course, however, I do not have the training to be able to distinguish the difference: I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, or even a social worker.

Right now I’m working on the anger issues, though at the same time, I don’t need to be exposed to triggers before I know what I’m doing. There are some triggers I’ve exposed myself to for the sake of trying to get used to them (exposure therapy)…but when the aversions are really ingrained (for example: I have OCD and have had it since I was a child), I seriously question the utility of making myself uncomfortable, as versus just avoiding the situation.

For example, I shouldn’t work in a social environment which I know is dirty and in which I know I’ll eventually needlessly be exposed to potentially deadly disease, when I have a germ phobia and am uncomfortable with and distrustful of people at the outset (and, “people,” extends to the organization I’m working for, if I feel they’re treating my life as disposable). Or, concomitantly, where I’m seen as an object of desire by (apparently) cisgender, heterosexual men (whom I don’t trust) who assume via visual pattern-matching that I must be a (cisgender, heterosexual) woman because I’m female and don’t match a stereotype of, “lesbian,” and that they therefore have some relation to me that should matter.

But yeah, those are just assumptions or conjectures that make me angrier, right? And they aren’t proven, right? Reality could be different. I’m trying to use multiple methods to tackle this, and drawing conclusions based on incomplete information is said to make the internal suffering worse. Even if there are patterns, and also massive confirmation bias.

It may be that only around one half of one percent of the adult population actually is a major jerk to the point of being a social problem, but I tend to ruminate over that one half of one percent — trying to figure out what went wrong; how to engage differently next time to avoid unwanted outcomes. Unfortunately, that means that I largely remember and live within the replaying memories of negative and uncomfortable and stressful events, even when the majority of my life is not made up of those events.

That’s not to mention childhood. I have been thinking about how much of my life as a child and teenager was steered or otherwise impacted by groundless rumors and misconstruals (lies) which both I and the kids around me, thought we could take as reliable and made in good faith.

And no, I don’t know why I’ve found lies and misdirection so rarely in any human-produced stories I’ve been exposed to, given their prevalence in life. It’s kind of like asking why Star Trek’s Khan was so honest and forthcoming (if I recall correctly). Was he just too smart to get caught in a lie?

Neither have I seen antagonists who shut up about their plans and operated according to their own devices independently of whether anyone else understood them. Bare-faced deceit and pathological liars seem rare in fiction, but I probably just haven’t read enough. (A lack of independent recreational reading — of books, not of Web articles — as an adult, has been my biggest handicap in Writing. It has been so long since I tried to read novels for pleasure [and actually had pleasure] that I kind of feel alienated from the genre. I do like Granta [a literary magazine of short fiction], though.)

That being said, I’ve found myself actually kind of interested in the British crime drama, Halifax, though I’m not sure whether I saw Halifax: Retribution, or the original series (I think what I saw was part of Retribution, in which I really enjoyed the misdirection). Along the same lines where it came to the level of suspense, was the American crime drama, Almost Human — which I also liked.

Anyhow, Brian Little’s book, Me, Myself, and Us reflects directly upon a job list to which I applied. I now know that if I get asked to work a front-line Service position, I need to turn it down for my own sake: psychologically, I’d have trouble, at this point. This is as versus a job working more directly with Information that doesn’t include the routine public-interface component. However, there is no discrimination as to who gets interviewed for what, at this juncture, and within this system. Qualification for and assignment to jobs seems to be based on pay grades, seniority, education, tests, and what the hiring committee wants; not necessarily job descriptions, or your actual desire to fill the specific position offered. Of course, if you hear it from a lot of people with whom I’ve worked, within said system: said system is not great.

I say that, realizing that we’re planning on relocating to an area where it may be that the only local jobs I can find are Service jobs. I am really not looking forward to that, but the upshot is that I can work remotely, and I have a track record of self-motivation and being able to work independently. There are two other positive components, the first of which is that I can gain skills to increase my social tolerance: I’m not necessarily stuck where I am. The second positive: I believe a good portion of local jobs, where we’re moving, are going to be Private Sector; meaning that I may have options which a Public Sector employee would not have (or would not be seen to have, which matters). We’re also looking at a lot of diversity in the area, which may mean that I’ll be seen as a normal person and not as, “exotic,” by the locals. That could also make it easier to deal with — some — people. Maybe, many people. Not tourists.

Anyhow. I haven’t been managing my life as well as normal, within this last week. I’m not entirely sure why, but I know that I haven’t been getting as much sleep as usual. I’ve been continuing to cut out extra sugars and processed food, and have started to exercise again. I’m dealing with my health on a few fronts: one of which is linked to needing to drop weight to regulate my pancreas; another of which is learning to be aware of my thoughts. I suppose the latter could be useful where it comes to Writing, as well — maybe it could get me out of those trains of thought which seem to be rushing inexorably towards the death of my characters. (You see where my mind was, the last time I tried to write a book. I was young.)

As well: I realized yesterday that I need to stop preparing to take jobs that I don’t want and to which I’m unsuited. Working in a Public Library setting infers that I would need to know about Library Programming (not Computer Programming, but more along the lines of throwing public events), Public Outreach, and Reader’s Advisory. Maybe I can do it, but would I be happy doing it? Would I be healthy doing it?

Public Libraries, from what I gather this semester and remember from past ones, seem to be where many people start out (with a distant runner-up appearing as work-study in University libraries). However…if I am not aiming to take a Public Librarian job, I don’t need to prepare to take a Public Librarian job. In light of limited time and resources, I’m better off preparing for something I actually want to do; or exploring what I think I might want to do; not what I’m pretty sure I don’t want to do, simply because I already know it exists and it’s familiar.

Of course…what I, “want to do,” essentially, is to write. No — actually, that’s what I need to do. It’s what I, “can’t-not-do.” What Little’s book says of me, however, is that I am a LSM, or, “Low Self-Monitor,” meaning (in my words) that my integrity is important to me. I have a hard time changing my outward appearance to suit different settings (the latter of which would be more like a HSM, or, “High Self-Monitor”) — although I can engage those HSM tendencies I do have, in, “acting,” as different characters, on paper. I still have yet to see whether it is easier over the long term for me to write fiction or non-fiction, however.

Although, actually: most of what I write, derives from reality. The appeal of fiction is that I can name dynamics without having to cleave closely to the character of the actors, or sacrifice their anonymity. The appeal of nonfiction is that I can narrate the entire thing, and there actually is a “correct” version of events discoverable through research (this does not mean that the ideas drawn from them could be held to the same measure). Seems like it would be kind of …uncreative, but most of my reading, and my research, is nonfiction. I don’t know what that says about me.

Being a LSM means that I may write books — even successfully — in accordance with my ethics and sense of self and within the range of what I actually think or am grappling with…but I may not be able to easily and quickly adapt to suit various different situations and requirements. I’m thinking that in commercial writing, for example, I may not actually care about my topic, but I still may be asked to write as though I am enthusiastic about it (to inspire enthusiasm in the reader).

Or, I may be asked to find a way to feel enthusiasm about someone else’s project so I can then write about it with enthusiasm and seem authentic. I fear this course would jeopardize the guidance of my core self over time — unless I take my role as a form of Fiction writing and discard it after it has met its usefulness. Of course, that gets into reliability and back into the concept of integrity. (“Integrity,” as a Fiction writer, is an interesting idea to work on…what would that look like?)

Additional hesitancy lies in the fact that this is a power and money issue. It might extend to an intellectual freedom issue, except for the fact that these arrangements appear voluntarily entered into. No matter who you are, though, in this society, you’ve got to have an income: pressed between cleaning toilets and writing things I don’t actually believe, which would I choose?

Knowledge of my core self is hard-won. Having gotten something of a grip on it, I don’t feel it’s entirely worth it to risk losing that grip for economic reasons. It might be better to try and profit off of my strengths rather than my weaknesses, even if they pay less immediately and less well. (By that I mean non-fiction writing, not toilets.)

In one of the readings I found, the authors brought up the fact that many LIS job ads contain what they call, “evaluative adjectives,” which are openly judgmental declarations on desired constitutional qualities that can’t be measured. This was on page 60, in Classifying Librarians: Cataloger, Taxonomist, Metadatician? by Beverly J. Geckle & David N. Nelson (2017), found in The Serials Librarian (https://doi.org/10.1080/0361526X.2017.1320871). I have also seen these pop up on job ads, and I agree with the authors when they state that the only function these adjectives serve is to discourage applicants. (id., 61)

Maybe it would make more sense if they said they were seeking HSM candidates (given that anyone knows or cares what HSM means), or otherwise, people who are willing and able to pretend (and perhaps convince themselves) that they’re, “dynamic, energetic, enthusiastic.” (ibid.) Perhaps not, “jaded;” easily possible after the, “enthusiastic,” idealistic, candidates get more experience. (As an aside, it is notoriously difficult to retain minority Librarians. I have some idea why, but it gets down to the fact that people are treated differently by the general public based on the way they are embodied. Sexism and racism are the two biggest factors that come to mind.)

In any case, I scored low on Agreeableness, on top of being LSM. I find myself agreeable…when I’m treated civilly and with proper respect. I just don’t do it for the sake of other people: I appear happy when I am happy, and don’t know why I should be asked to appear as though I am, when I’m not. Giving other people — people whom I may not even know — power over my peaceful nonverbal emotional expression (with the threat of open hostility for noncompliance — it happens) is not a pleasant thing. Some people call this restraint, “professionalism.” I really don’t know what it is, but I know that in an ideal world (which none of us live in) it shouldn’t be required.

That’s an aside, anyway.

I wish they would have told me in my undergraduate Creative Writing program that it’s hard to make a living off of writing books, before I committed.

They also said that it was hard to get a book published, though. Whereas, if you already know a bit about the book business (say, from being exposed to all kinds of books in libraries, being familiar with publishers, being an avid reader, being able to seek out books on known topics — and to follow the hints in the books you do read and like, to other books you may read and like, ad infinitum [or until the supply is exhausted, at least: at which point I believe you can say you’re “well-read”]), you might be able to target your manuscripts to the right editors — or find an agent who can.

Looking back on it now, I also wonder about the level of student writing in my Undergraduate program.

The quality or skill of my fellow student authors didn’t stand out to me at the time. I focused on workshopping to help others see what I could see to improve, expand upon, or shorten; if they were too close to the work to notice. I wasn’t in the process of judging one student as better than another, or one work as better than another. However, I also didn’t realize just how much difference there was in quality, between lower-division and Master’s level work (pretty much because I was new to upper-division, at the time). Could my Professor have been warning us about not getting our hopes up as regarded Publishing, because the quality of classwork (not all of which I saw; we workshopped in small cohorts) wasn’t yet up to snuff?

What I’ve learned from my Career Counselor, as well, is that it’s hard to make a living off of editing books. I’ve read that editing is a social occupation; whereas at University, my Professors also warned me that Creative Writing was a solitary occupation.

Well, I suppose it must be, with all the time one sits alone at their desk writing, or taking the time to read. Those are, fairly definitely, solitary activities. Then again, people-watching is an infamous source of material (as I learned early on in a summer Writer’s Project), and I imagine that many writers get the personal back-and-forth encounters which they need to really understand diverse characters and interactions, through side jobs. I don’t think all of that can be self-generated (though it may be modeled by reading other books).

I know that I do most of my writing in the evenings, though now I’m moving to finishing up and polishing my initial ideas, the next day (or two, or three). It’s very easy for me to write when it’s quiet and dark, though our ISP went out last night and I had to delay upload until this morning, when I began editing and expansion. It’s kind of amazing how a tagged text file is so much more uninspiring than a Rich Text editor…

One of the things I haven’t yet mastered, however, is organization within my writing; and that has been fairly constant over the years. (And no, I am not taking bids for editors right now.)

I think I’ll post this as an example of a somewhat-edited, elaborated-upon free-write. I knew last night that I needed to write, and didn’t really know what would come out of me when I sat down to do it. It could be interesting to see this material (or some of it, at least) come up again, in a more ordered fashion, in the future. And/or, I could expand upon it. That’s one of the good things about writing: wandering down one path leads to many other possible paths that aren’t visible from the outset…

Realism vs Idealization, and the Narrative Spark

Are you not what you think you are?

It’s OK. Really.

I am thinking I am experiencing one of those disjointed moments where who I want to be does not line up with who I have been. Particularly, where it comes to my artistic identity.

Today, I looked back into my files; while two days ago, I wrote:

In the Art program, I thought that I might go into Illustration or work on comics or graphic novels (doing the writing and the art); but the prospect is intimidating. It seems like it would be easier (and more fun) to do non-sequential art! Things that can’t be immediately recognized as a person, for example (if they’re meant to represent people, at all — which are not necessarily the focus or theme of my personal work). Abstract content or method might lend itself better to the fine art sphere — though I say that, not having read comics for a while.

https://spectralbeads.com/2022/01/29/growth/

So what do I see when I look back at my unfinished artwork?

As though from the gym, a female person has just descended a staircase which leads off the right side of the frame. Looking up, her friend crouches on the left side of the frame. A small bird stands in front of the crouching figure.

Illustration. Lots, and lots, of illustration.

Illustration with my mark on it, waiting to be finished.

And then I ask myself, “Why am I not doing Illustration?” The answer is that it’s flipping hard to do Illustration. It can be hard to have the heart to do Illustration, that is; it’s hard for me to expose myself to the reality of what’s going on.

Not that drawing people is all that difficult: I’ve been doing that for years. Key to this, however, is the fact that I tend to devalue things that I do, and do well…because of the fact that I do them well, and I reason that because the tasks are easy for me, they should also be easy for everyone else.

What is difficult for me, is sitting with the realities and feelings and conflicts that surround me, and really taking them in. Art entails this for me — at least, when it’s not decorative art. Writing does as well; but it’s a degree abstracted and removed. Art requires actual observation of reality, ideally immersion in reality, at least if you’re looking to emulate someplace real, or communicate something about being in someplace real. Even the generation of a fantasy, however, may arise from a refashioned version of reality. It may be based on what could be and isn’t, or clarify a dynamic…

The main story I’ve had bumping around in my head since high school began as a fantasy. At this point it’s just a part of me, though I haven’t fully written it down. Fantasy provided safety at a time when abuse in my school ran rampant — and reassured me, against the dominant narrative, that I was OK. (Of course, I had to learn later that this story was idiosyncratic to myself…)

I’ve felt, in my own creative work, the imperative to inhabit places that are uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes even dangerous to observe. There are some things that need to be studied, but which it’s easy not to want to see. The main example I can think of is attempting to observe the inner-city areas my characters may have to live with (or within). Having had at least one unhoused/homeless character pop into my repertoire a while back (I forget the story he was involved in; it was some futuristic drama that I may have only noted in sketches)…you can see where this gets complex.


Trailing Dorothea Lange?

The homeless camps, right now, are something everyone in this area lives with, and something to which many people have been taught to turn a blind eye. That really is not easy to do, however, with the current scale of the situation.

I’ve been shielded from this within the last two years, because I (mostly) haven’t been in any of the major urban areas like I had before, and on the one occasion when I can recall being there, I didn’t get out of the car. This was in an industrial area, not quite inner-city; given much life by the fact that there’s a restaurant there that acts as a community anchor — and not just for people with money.

A railroad runs nearby, and with the railroad come encampments. It has been like that for as long as I can remember, although the camps have likely changed their precise locations over the years. Local law enforcement has taken to uprooting them occasionally, but really, I don’t think they know what to do. We need an actual, thought-out plan to deal with the homeless crisis, most likely including the input of the people who are said to be the problem. They aren’t the problem. They live at a societal pain point that impacts them more than it impacts anyone else.

When you grow up around this stuff, it’s easy to question why it doesn’t show up in Art; like it’s an intentional cultural blind spot. In certain schools of art, for example, with some ukiyo-e, or shin hanga prints, artists idealized their world, depicting it as harmonious rather than as realistic. The impulse is understandable: to bring something of beauty into the world, rather than reproducing imperfection. However, I’m not entirely sure to what extent idealization actually engages with reality, as versus building a fantasy within which one may escape from reality. This has become clearer to me as I’ve aged. At one end, a person is pretty much delusional. At the other…well, we all can use multiple vibrant visions of what could be, rather than letting mass media dictate our realities to us, right?

I have had the cultural problem of privilege as versus dispossession in the back of my mind for at least the last 17 years. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to live with family all this time; I wasn’t booted out at 18; I was able to at least get into and through University; my parents did not reject me for being noncis and nonhet; I’ve never used street drugs and haven’t had children; I’ve been able to utilize psychiatric care; I haven’t been forced to move in with an abuser in exchange for housing; or to stay in a subpar job for survival. I have, essentially, never fully lived on my own, and others cared for me when I couldn’t care for myself. If the situation were different…let me say, it could be much worse, easily.

I can empathize, maybe too much?


Comics, Comix, Graphic Novels, Graphic History…

I wrote that I haven’t read comics in a while, but then again, it’s easy to overgeneralize the field of comics to mean mainstream superhero comics, when a number of different genres exist. This goes beyond Marvel and DC, beyond comic strips, and even beyond translated manga and underground comix.

I’m reminded of a couple of examples I’ve read over the years…like a story which was paired with a how-to in comic creation (they opened from different sides of the cover), with a title that eludes my powers of memory at the moment. My best guess is that it’s hidden in a box somewhere, or we gave it away with the rest of the paperback comics.

I believe the story (not the main title of the book) was a Science Fiction one-shot called The Regenerator, but I can’t at all be sure about that, and I can’t find the book now. Nor have I presently been successful in trying to look it up online. It’s all drawn in black on white, and is one of the more serious comics I’ve read, with a gritty, overwhelmingly detailed feel to the illustrations.

Another comic, Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb, by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, is about the development of nuclear weaponry and energy, which (as a non-fiction book) is obviously…not at all about superheroes or supervillains. It begs the question of what we call illustrated books made in the style of comics that are not meant to be humorous (thus, “comic,” is misleading) and are not fiction, thus can’t really be called, “graphic novels;” and nor are they tailored to a young adult audience, but an adult one. “Graphic History,” seems a little…specific?

But hey, I guess they tried. Not only that, but Googling “graphic history” is rather interesting…

In any case, I can see myself leaning towards this more gritty, literary side of the production of, “comics,” or a graphic novel (or a manuscript). This may have been why I initially shied away from Fiction Writing after my BA focused on it, and also why I shied away from Illustration, after I began to get good at it. Maybe I just need to allow myself to, “go there?” Maybe there’s a story waiting for me there?


Paper and Media Decisions; the Beginnings of Technique

In any case, I did find a bunch of unfinished images…on what kind of papers, I don’t entirely remember. I know that some of it is on Mixed Media paper, and some may be on hot press Watercolor paper. Then, there is some that is just done on Drawing paper, which I’ll have to transfer over (i.e., redraw) if I want to use wet media with it. I guess that would make it, “planning;” or, source material.

I still remember a bit of my planned color placement for the image I posted above…the issue is whether to use FW acrylic inks, Ecoline dye-based watercolors, or traditional, pigment-based watercolor paints, on it. Because of the fact that my acrylic ink tests are still bright and saturated after all these years, I have the inclination to try those, first…although I know they ruin palettes if allowed to dry in them! (I might be able to dig up a disposable palette, or fashion one out of foil or something, regardless.)

The Ecolines are very pretty, but a side effect of breathing too much of their vapors is reduced O2 levels in the blood. Which, I can say, nobody needs in the time of COVID (though it was worse when Delta was the dominant strain, as versus Omicron). I also do not have high hopes for color permanence with the Ecolines…due to the fact that they are dye-based. They seem to be meant more for reproduction (and transparency) than stability…and I’ve recognized that media made for reproduction don’t necessarily look all that great to a person as versus a scanner (e.g. Higgins Eternal ink, which is more of a dark grey than a black. It’s easily alterable in Photoshop with a Brightness/Contrast adjustment, but still — Blick Black Cat ink is better than Higgins Eternal, to me. Actually, almost anything is better than Higgins Eternal…unless you want your work to last on the scale of one of Osamu Tezuka’s art boards…which are still yellowing, where he taped in the printed text).

Then there are the traditional pigment-based watercolors…which I would use on properly-sized cotton rag Watercolor paper, rather than trying to get them to flow on Mixed Media paper (I sense Mixed Media paper may not work well with them, but I haven’t tried it yet). I also I haven’t yet swatched everything for transparency — some of those watercolors (particularly the greens) are new.

On top of that, I’m still not sure how my colored pencils will fare on Watercolor, as versus Mixed Media, paper — and I know it will differ between hot-press, cold-press, and Plate finish. (Not to mention, Bristol board — which I just remembered existed!)

A while ago, I developed the technique of doing underpaintings in watercolors, and then adding texture and depth (and detail!) with colored pencil. That actually suggests using acrylic inks to me, as well, as the acrylic binder should hold the pigment down onto the paper if I try to draw over it. Otherwise, I could be lifting pigment particles, and not all of those pigments are safe to make into inhalable dust.

I can try the FW acrylic inks (and maybe liquid frisket) for the above image, and plan to go over them later with colored pencil. I’ll save the Ecolines for experiments until I can see how they handle; and I’ll use the real watercolors with watercolor paper.

Of course, now I have to reacquaint myself with how the FW inks mix and flow…

Growth

Graduation isn’t the end of the journey. I don’t know why I thought it would be, but it isn’t. There’s a lot more to learn, even after gaining a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree. I haven’t gone the PhD route yet, but I suspect the idea holds true there, as well.

After figuring out a number of things…such as the fact that I have more than enough beads to be beading (just how I will use them, is the sticking point), and that when I get bored, it’s actually very useful to read (which encourages writing)…I know that there are things I can be doing in my free time which are possible. That doesn’t mean there aren’t drawbacks (or relative hazards) to doing things (particularly where it comes to Art [pigment toxicity is commonplace], or getting a RSI by typing or handwriting [it happened]); this means that I actually have the ability to do them. There’s nothing stopping me.

Recently, I’ve been reading a couple of books on writing (On Writing Well by Zinsser, and The Elements of Style by Strunk & White), which are more engaging than the texts I had to use in my undergraduate Creative Writing training. They’re both fairly old and popular, and I wonder how many of the people whom I went to University with, knew about them back then.

Because I went to a commuter school and didn’t drive, I wasn’t able to participate in campus night life or the readings held after work hours in local (to the campus) bookstores. I didn’t get into the whole alcohol + smoking thing that it seemed everyone else was doing (often, the readings advertised, “wine,” and I was one of the only persons [if not the only person] not smoking at break), but there are other ways to bond.

I had my own set of toxins in art materials (particularly, cadmium-based paints), though they weren’t addictive. They also could have easily injured me by acute exposure (as might have happened with a tube of Aureolin: all I got was skin irritation, but you still don’t want water-soluble cobalt salts on your skin). But I really didn’t get way into Art, until after my Bachelor’s and before my Master’s. Even then, I didn’t go further than the Associate’s degree: we couldn’t afford Art School, and it’s notoriously difficult to get a job using Art that will return enough to pay off Art School. On top of that, everyone I knew who had been to Art School (including my teachers) didn’t necessarily have a great experience.

It’s also hard to tell what to do with Art, when you haven’t really found you, yet. At this point, I work with glass beads, which I was also doing before the Art Program, and with which the Art Program indirectly helped (save in Color Dynamics, where the impact was direct; same with my Photoshop classes, which apply to my postings)…but I’m finding the possibility of pigment toxicity in working with beads, too. I can’t yet confirm it, but it makes me glad that I’ve decided against selling, at least for the short term.

In the Art program, I thought that I might go into Illustration or work on comics or graphic novels (doing the writing and the art); but the prospect is intimidating. It seems like it would be easier (and more fun) to do non-sequential art! Things that can’t be immediately recognized as a person, for example (if they’re meant to represent people, at all — which are not necessarily the focus or theme of my personal work). Abstract content or method might lend itself better to the fine art sphere — though I say that, not having read comics for a while.

In my case, Undergrad (in Creative Writing) was similar to online learning, where people are so far apart that getting together may be in practicality, very difficult. It makes it harder to socialize, and to form the informal bonds through which information is exchanged and lasting friendships (and networks) are built. I might have learned a lot more supplemental information from the other students that I did not get from my Professors — like knowledge of the books I’m reading now — but I really didn’t socialize much at the time.

It would be easier for me to write a story, than it would be for me to try and illustrate it — even though my fiction writing originally grew out of drawing. As I got older, it became easier to imagine situations that were beyond the scope of my drawing ability, or which I did not want to observe and draw because they were too painful and stressful to study (like run-down inner city neighborhoods). I can narrate these passages with ease, and less trouble. As well: appearances aren’t everything. Vision doesn’t relay the entire message.

I’ve been feeling the loss of people I was once friends with, who I’ve let go over time. There’s not much I can do about it now — especially when I knew them so long ago that I’ve forgotten their full names — but it is good to note whom to hold onto, going forward; what it feels like when a person does not raise red flags.

In any case, I’m finding that there are a lot of things to learn about writing which I did not know, when I went through the Creative Writing program. I have a lot of room to grow and develop as regards the craft of writing (and it won’t expose me to toxins, though it could alter my eyesight if I don’t take breaks). It underscores the importance of editing and rewriting, which directly impacts the timeline I can expect from having typed out a first draft of a blog post, to publication. At least so, if I take the time to seriously rewrite. In recent memory, I’ve had to do this because the addition of an image (and careful observation) made much of the text obsolete, though doing it for normal Posts (as versus Pages) hadn’t solidified with me until, say, last night.

I’ve already found that it’s best not to expect to sit down and hammer out a post in one evening — it may take upwards of five hours to complete a first draft. I also shouldn’t expect to keep the first three or so paragraphs of that initial draft. For some reason, I could just publish these things before and they didn’t bother me — though at this point, instead of posting at 3 AM, I find it better to sleep on it and revise the post in the morning. This allows me to rein in wandering, and to notice where I forget that the reader doesn’t know what I know; which, on top of using complicated language when I don’t have to, are three of my greatest known issues. (Having a finite number helps me focus on them.)

I can then edit out irrelevant information and tighten up the composition. Daylight also gives a chance to take photographs; which, as I mentioned earlier, can communicate some things (like relative size and shape) much better than trying to describe them in words.

I’ve reached the end of what I began writing about, last night…aside from the fact that I now have to go back and edit a couple of posts because I’ve realized they contain inaccurate information. I really should make an outline when I get an idea for a blog post, however. Last night, I was putting away beads which had finally come out of quarantine, given that I’ve read to isolate plastics for over eight days, where it comes to Omicron’s BA.2 variant. There’s no doubt that I have more of some types of beads than others, but overall, I have plenty of materials to work on creative projects.

This includes watercolor and various kinds of art (including experimental drawing), beadwork, reading, and writing. As I mentioned in my opening, these have varying risk profiles: the lowest-risk (and possibly highest return) being reading and writing, for me…though if I’m willing to risk (or continue, as the case may be) exposure to unknown pigments, watercolor and beadwork also exist.

The major risk with beadwork is that I have not been able to track down much of anything about toxicity regarding glass colorants, excepting in particular an uncited mention in a Wikipedia article (“Glass coloring and color marking”) I came across while searching for information about “Paris Green,” a.k.a., “Emerald Green.” Historically, the term, “Emerald Green,” has been related to arsenic-based colorants, but I’m not sure if this holds true to glass, and I’m not sure if it’s still true of any colorant used today or just a cliché name. Paris Green was used in the Victorian Era, and then widely outlawed after people kept getting sick and dying from contact with it (particularly through textiles, wallpaper, and paints).

What I do know is that glass beads in general are not intended for use by those under 15, though I haven’t been able to track down exactly why, yet. I also remember a friend who used to work outside a stained-glass shop telling me that people who worked with stained glass, tended to get sick. I also see that the base metal to obtain green is often chromium (as in chrome oxide green in paint — or perhaps more compellingly, crystalline chrome diopside), but with the possibilities of added tin and arsenic.

D says not to worry about it so much, as most of the dangerous materials, should they be there, would be locked inside the glass. So long as the glass is not broken up and distributed (as with, “beads,” used for sandblasting, which is an entirely different application using the same term), most of the material should stay trapped. That isn’t meant as a recommendation or a solution, however. The fact remains that there are still beads (for jewelry) on the market sold under the name, “Emerald Green,” though I’m not sure if this relates directly to the highly toxic, “Emerald Green,” of the Victorians. (It’s certainly a similar hue.)

I’ve been searching online for material on the chemical compositions of glass colors for a while, now (though I’ve never thought to state my search terms so cogently). I’m disconcerted by the possibility that the written material which may answer my question may be illegible to me, because I don’t have a college-level specialization in Chemistry…though I’m also conversely glad that I didn’t specialize in Chemistry in college, in order to make new glass colors: there are too many ulterior motives.

There’s no question that Emerald Greens — both the Victorians’ and the examples I possess of unknown composition and the same hue — are beautiful and inexpensive. But the Victorian versions were known from the start to be toxic. People just kept using them because they were so pretty…which is exactly the case I might be in, at this point. Do I keep using “Emerald Green” beads because they’re pretty, or do I set them to the side and not use them because I suspect they could be highly toxic (though the exact danger level would be unknown)?

I really can’t abide by giving out the circlet I’ve been making with these, at this point: the potential exposure level is too high. Not only are there a lot of, “Emerald Green,” beads in this piece, but they’re going to be in constant contact with skin. At the same time, I have very little knowledge of any other potentially toxic colorants that are used in glass beads, so I’m not even precisely sure, what is safe — other than more obviously regulated materials, such as metal chain.

I mean, it’s like, “seriously: just buy a chain, and be done with it.”

At least with paint, I know what I’m getting into! Maybe I’ll go wash those brushes…

Future

It seems like the last semester, plus focusing on caring for myself and others, has really taken the momentum out of my beading. That’s not to mention the ongoing job search, which I am engaging with very poorly, even if it is just for research purposes.

I’m not sure how far to go into the full story: it isn’t all mine to tell. I’ve been attempting to make notes on what I’ve been feeling and what has been going on in my paper journal, but…maybe I was a bit too concise? There is a lot that has been happening, and I feel like I’ve fairly efficiently covered it. Despite that, I still want to write. I’m not sure whether this has to do with more needing to come out, or just my bent towards writing, period, as a coping mechanism.

I suppose it makes sense if it is true that I communicate more primarily and efficiently through writing, than I do through speech. The past week in particular, however — that has not been a normal chain of events. But neither has it been normal, since the beginning of the year.

Come to think of it, the past two years haven’t been normal.


Beaded Circlet

In any case…I have a lot I can do, besides work on the jewelry. Because my momentum basically petered out while working on the circlet…(for reasons I don’t yet fully understand)…well, let me go into what I do understand about why I stopped working on it.

  1. I screwed it up about halfway through by cutting the wrong lengths of cords, and didn’t realize that fact until I was substantially invested in knotting it together.
  2. I don’t know what I’m going to do for the closure, and as I think I’ve said (though maybe not here), beginnings and endings are the most difficult parts.
  3. The closure will be at the side of the head now, thus, visible.
  4. The circlet has to be able to rest on the head without slipping down, meaning the sizing either has to be exact, or I have to put in a center line…which I’m not sure how to work into the design, if it is an afterthought (as it is, now).
  5. Because the sizing has to be exact, I may have to get creative in the last few repeats and make them (“not-repeats,” but) unique sequences.
  6. I purchased extra cords and beads to be able to make a copy; however, I’m not precisely certain of which shade of yellow cord I’m actually using. It’s a toss-up between, “Aurum,” and, “Marigold.” Marigold is slightly oranger and less lustrous; Aurum is slightly greener and lighter in value (that is, if both colors were in greyscale, Aurum would be slightly lighter grey than Marigold…though no, I haven’t verified this yet). The difference can’t really be told unless viewed in sunlight…I’m thinking I’m using Marigold and not Aurum (in contrast to what I said before), but…I really can’t tell at night/under artificial light, and it’s nighttime, now.

I haven’t really been working on constructing anything since becoming discouraged on this. It’s very obvious to me that what I make is of salable quality (once I’ve developed the pattern, beginnings, and closures)…but I’m reluctant to sell. I could make much better money, much more efficiently, and maybe do the world much more good, by putting my energy into a career. Like, the career I’ve spent the last 12 years building up, but have not substantially gained from, yet.


Survival Skills

The fact is, however, that the reason to have a career path is to comfortably survive, not to enjoy myself. I’m feeling kind of bad about having put as much energy as I have, into something devoted to enjoyment. Of course, I didn’t realize it was about enjoyment, until I understood that running a Business is not about pleasure: it’s about making money. A hobby is about pleasure. And how much time and energy and money have I sunk into this, “hobby?” I’m not a person who is about to get married and have someone else supporting me for the rest of my life; I have to get a job and be able to support myself, hopefully before I outlive my main support system.

Of course, last semester was attempted in the hope of eventual monetary gain — and I guess it’s better to learn that this is not a great Business plan the easy way (by taking a semester to work and think it out) rather than the hard way (by investing in the practice, setting up a business, and taking the risk of loss…which will have me doing far less of what I want to do than I expected, and involve far more things that I’d have to do that I don’t want to do, and which are unexpected). So I suppose I really shouldn’t beat myself up about having taken the classes in the first place, although the major thing I learned is that I am capable of much higher-level work.

I might not have known this, but one of the things about online learning is that — if you see the work of others — you may also get an idea of what scholastic level everyone else in the class, is at. At the least, I do Master’s level work, and I know this, now. Even if when I’m in the Master’s program there are people who are above my level of competence, I still fall into the range where I can succeed at the work.

I’ve also been around long enough to know that there are some Professors who aren’t necessarily great, in areas I excel at (which is how I can tell; they are likely good in other areas which I don’t excel at)…which, if nothing else, makes becoming a Professor a possibly realistic goal.

The question is, then, not whether I can do it, but, do I want to do it? That’s harder to tell, at least so without experience. And for myself as a relatively not-social person, it’s highly likely that I wouldn’t want to direct a section of a class as a Teacher’s Assistant.

Of course, the route I’m on right now is not quite to become a Gender Studies Professor, but to work in the American Library system in some way which does not cause me to have to constantly deal with the public. Dealing with people I know can even be taxing; so you can tell how dealing with the public would be for me. These positions do exist, but it’s likely that I’ll need to look at working with both Academic Libraries, and with those who sell products to libraries, in order to find these slots. That’s the mission I was given by my Career Counselor, last time we met.

I’ve not done well on following through with this…largely because at the time I got the assignment, I was finishing up last semester and heading into Finals. You can see from my records here that I didn’t even get all of my Xmas projects done on time, because Finals fell so close to the holidays.

Meeting the Career Counselor only happened shortly before I was able to apply for classes, so I was scrambling over that. Then there were the holidays; then this entire January thing where I’ve realized I will need to launch and make a life of my own, which has been fairly surreal. At the very least, I’ll need to be preparing for launch.

Of course, a lot of this is age-related, but along with age come health concerns…not only mine, but those of others around me. There’s the fact that I need to be able to take care of myself, and it’s easier to learn when I don’t have to do it, then it will be once I have to know how to do it.

Along these lines, I’ve been cooking and preparing food a lot more, in my own interest and in my family’s. There is a history to this: the reason why my dad learned to cook is that his dad couldn’t; and after a while, his mom had to work. My dad grew up cooking for the rest of his siblings. So long as I’m focused on self-care, which will be at the least, over the next semester — it makes sense for me to learn how to feed myself. I’m not doing it out of a sense of trying to conform to some idea of womanhood. I’m doing it so that I won’t be dependent on someone else for every meal of every day, the rest of my life. It’s a self-sufficiency thing, as well as a health thing. At this point, I’m trying to avoid becoming pre-diabetic.

I was actually talking with M about this, the other day: family dynamics seem to be changing. People are getting married later or not at all; divorcing; not necessarily having kids. A man can’t necessarily depend on being fed by his wife; a woman can’t necessarily depend on a man providing for her. Neither can a person necessarily depend on children supporting them in their old age. This was the model that my teacher promoted in one of my last classes (the one I felt alienated within), and it’s changing. If I want not to have to marry, I’m going to have to learn how to take on at least parts of both roles, for myself. That is, I’m going to have to be my own breadwinner, be able to care for myself and my home, and plan for my retirement, myself.


Lone Bachelor/et/te?

In all the years I spent in College and University, no one really asked me to envision what I wanted life after graduation to be like. That is, the rest of my life. I feel like I’ve been raised as though I would be able to find someone else to partner up with; like I would be able to do arts and crafts forever.

It’s not entirely like that, because when I was in high school I realized I had more of an affinity with girls than I was attracted to boys, and with the lack of attention most girls were paying to their education, I realized that I might be the person who would best be able to (i.e., maybe have to) earn money for a household. I might have to support not only myself, but also — very possibly — my partner. Because of this, I took school seriously. I wasn’t one of the people who was out to prove their heteronormativity by chasing boys; or having crushes on boys I didn’t know, and about whom I didn’t really care.

Let’s just say that the guys I favored tended to be at least two years older than myself, and gay.

Of course, I really at this point don’t even know if I still have a sexual orientation…but that gets into biology, and it’s one of the things I presently have reason to medically investigate. For the majority of my life, people have noticed the closeness of my friendships with feminine others, but I’m not sure that’s actually sexual. When you never want to experience pregnancy and don’t intend to raise children, the point of, “why sexuality?” can actually come up. I’ve still not really been able to answer that question. It seems like a lot of assumption of risk for…what?

I mean, I can see if I actually was tender to someone and if they were open to that, and we were together for years. But at this point, I’ve not really had a functional, valid relationship…that I’ve recognized as anything more than friendship, anyway. Usually, others have invented for themselves who they thought me to be and what I must want; which have not lined up with the person I actually am. When someone else’s definition of me overrides my own definition of me, that’s when they have to step off and change, or leave.

And yes, that still applies when I shut down because the person my partner is in love with, isn’t me; it’s their idea of me.

What I’m thinking of is similar to how I was with my first girl crush. She was way more than I assumed her to be. She could have absorbed the fact that I was crushing on her, because she had her own life and her own self. It was my fear of rejection, and my fear of my stigma spreading to her, which caused that to never have a chance of happening. A person’s gender doesn’t make a person weak.

Maybe I should say, just because she was a girl, that didn’t make her weak. I was the person who was scared; but I was also the person who was massively targeted by my peers.

At this point, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not a transgender man. The person who showed me that any freedom in regard to gender was possible, fell into that category, but he was a rather spectacular person. It’s actually because of him and my aforementioned crushes (on gay dudes) that I don’t think I can call myself lesbian…although now that I think of it, barely anyone who calls themselves, “lesbian,” is, strictly, “lesbian.” That’s why, “Womens’ Groups,” exist, but even in that, there is inherent exclusion (of nonbinary people, along with men…and every other gender).

The thing that really has kept me out of Womens’ community is the fact that I’m not cisgender. I talk about my experiences in these groups, and no one can relate (or no one will admit to being able to relate). I haven’t really found, “my people,” anyplace except within gender-nonbinary community. I can seem to be a woman, so long as I keep my mouth shut, but when people get to know me, sometimes they just really…I don’t know what they’re thinking, and maybe it’s best not to guess. I have been the focus of at least one episode of butch hostility, however (…not that I asked the person what their problem was; rumor has it, they were high at the time). More, if you count the time before University.

Maybe I’m used to too much identity policing? It has been a while since I’ve been to an in-person group.

Would it be a dream to find a woman who loved, understood, and accepted me? At least it would have been, for a younger me. I question to what extent a cisgender woman would be able to see past my appearance to understand what’s beneath, however. There’s the reality of the situation and then the illusion of the situation…and most people get caught up in the illusion, transgender people included.

But yeah. Love. Honest, actual, healthy love, would be nice!


Recipes

I’m finding that the drive to create which I prior channeled into beadwork, is now being channeled into cooking. That’s probably a very positive thing, for me. I’ve been thinking that if I put the same kind of effort that I had put into my beadwork into something that could (in practicality) reward me more, I might have something to work with.

Cooking basically has an almost immediate reward, and a long-term health and independence reward, if I do it right. And it doesn’t feel that different from beading, actually; especially for me, having learned from patterns and books. We’ve even taken to calling patterns, “recipes,” here, and I’ve seen the term in use elsewhere online (not to mention the common thread of naming beads after food, photographing them in spoons, etc.).

Because my momentum has basically stalled on my beadwork, I’m finding it difficult to restart. Not difficult so much to purchase, but I feel guilt when I want to go back and try something new. You would think it would be the other way around…

At this point, I’m not sure whether to keep going with the beadwork and alter my course to doing what maybe I really want to do (like maybe a different pattern after I work out a couple more Bee earrings in differing color schemes that I’ve already picked out), or to really alter my course and do something else entirely…at least, until I can tell what benefit I was gaining from the beadwork. I know I do it to get my mind off of things. But sometimes, maybe, I need to stop avoiding life — even if life is, for the moment, unpleasant. Life is also temporary (is that merciful or melancholy?), and we only get so many possible moments with the people we love and care about.

We also only get so much time to find the people we will love, or who actually see our souls.

As M and D have reassured me, beads are cheap (most of the time)… Right now, I’m asking myself: is it that important to work with them? Of course, that’s…probably something that all artists go through.

Art usually isn’t necessary, unless the act of making it keeps one alive (even simply emotionally alive). In that case, its value goes beyond all monetary compensation. I do think I’m in a healthy enough place right now that maybe I don’t need to lean on it as heavily…but at the same time, there is the question of greed as versus scarcity, and how much a person actually needs, to do what they want to do.

Maybe one day I’ll write more about this…

Puzzling through Japanese drop seed beads

Today I went through the little groups of drop beads I have, trying to figure out what is what, and…it’s quite confusing. The good part is that I won’t actually need to order drop beads for a while. The not-so-great part is that when I do reorder them, I can’t be assured of getting the same type. My evidence for this is the fact that I ordered three packs of 2.8mm Miyuki mini fringe beads…and got two packs of 2.8mm Miyuki mini fringe beads, plus one pack of 3.4mm Miyuki fringe beads.

If you look several posts back, you can see that I was in the middle of a project which required drop beads…a lot of them. At the time, I was confused as to which drop beads I had. As an illustration…

Five different piles of beads rest on a blue velour background. 2.8mm Miyuki gold fringe beads are at the top, followed by two piles of 3.4mm Miyuki fringe beads. At the bottom are two different sizes of magatama beads, 4mm on the left, 3mm on the right.
Representative samples of the types of beads I’m talking about.

I thought that, in the image to the left (or just above, on mobile), the “4mm drops” (lower left: which I have seen referred to online as 4mm Miyuki Magatamas) were 3.4mm Miyuki drops, or, “fringe beads.” They aren’t. This confusion led me to order 2.8 mm drops as replacements (seen at the top of the image, in gold).

When I got the 2.8mm drop beads (which I’m very sure are Miyuki), I was surprised at how tiny they were. These are not the same beads I’m using for the project I’m on, now.

The drop beads I’m using for the circlet project are most likely 3.4mm Miyuki, “drop,” or, “fringe,” beads. These are represented by the rainbow dark topaz beads in the middle row, on the right of the picture.

When I look at the entire case, I’m not surprised why there is so much confusion about which drop beads come from what company. It appears that both Toho and Miyuki are using the term, “magatama,” for certain drop beads, although Toho’s magatamas seem to be largely specified as 3mm, and Miyuki’s magatamas as 4mm. This is not to get into Miyuki’s, “Long Magatamas,” which are an entirely different shape (not included here). In turn, there is a difference in shape between both 3mm and 4mm magatamas (on the bottom row); and Miyuki fringe beads (the top three samples in the above photo). That’s not to mention, Miyuki, “Long Drops,” which I’ve (also) not included, here.

The 3mm magatamas appear kind of like pressed, hard-boiled eggs, with a hole that’s slightly off-center, towards the narrower end. In contrast, the fringe beads are also wider, and have what I’d refer to as a, “heavier belly.” The 4mm magatamas are closer to the 3mm magatamas in shape, than to the fringe beads.

The term “magatama” just means, “curved bead,” and the term is still in cultural use in Japan outside of the seed bead world, so it’s possible that the term can’t be owned. (It’s also possible that it’s spelled differently in each case: there are at least two potential spellings, indications of which wouldn’t carry over into romaji, or pronunciation as transliterated in Roman [e.g., English] letters.) To attempt to shed a little light on this, I don’t think Intellectual Property law is as stringently followed in Japan as it is in the U.S. (if the doujinshi circuit is at all a clue).

It seems to be best to look at “magatama” as a descriptive term originating in Japanese language, and not necessarily as a trademarked brand name, as would be expected in the U.S. This is probably one of those intercultural things that doesn’t translate well. (Like, “no, it isn’t a trademark; it’s a descriptive term.“)

I would be remiss not to mention that I’ve seen other types of drop beads which can’t be cleanly categorized…one vial of which, I purchased from a supplier which never indicates brand; another vial of which, appears like a hybrid between Miyuki 2.8mm drops, and a miniaturized version of Toho 3mm magatamas. They both are very circular with off-center piercings, and one of them was so cheap ($1.50/10g) that it may have been an irregular (not to mention that quality drop beads are made outside of Japan, not least in Czechia…I remember seeing some like these somewhere online, but I don’t think I can track it down again).

Given that I’ve collected beads over years, it’s very possible that these aren’t even being made anymore…though I can keep my eye out for others like them.

Self care, and scoping out a potential path

This semester, I’ve decided, is going to be spent trying to improve my mental and physical well-being. Coinciding with that are a number of courses I either decided to undertake, or had assigned to me. I know at this point that it’s probable that I’m dealing with insulin resistance, even though I am only close to being pre-diabetic, and am not yet pre-diabetic. Right now I am off of sodas, juices, and candies, and have already seen my weight drop after two days…which is a good thing!

What I need to watch out for? I shouldn’t forget that this has been two years of mostly being inside. I can’t exercise as vigorously as I used to from a cold start. I’m also getting to the age where my body just will not cope with the abuse I’m used to giving it. There’s also the fact that I will likely need to at least try to learn how to cook, along with other life skills, like getting comfortable with driving, again. If I can drive, it vastly improves my employment options.

On top of that…well, I’ve put myself back into one class, which starts toward the end of the month. I’m not entirely sure why I keep doing this to myself (taking classes, that is), other than that it’s a known stressor and not a social stressor (like work). I suppose the worst thing that can happen in a job is getting fired or quitting and not having a good source for a reference, although I do always think back to high school and the fact that one of my friends’ boyfriends at the time was getting sexually harassed by his boss, on-the-job, for being not-straight.

Of course, that was over 20 years ago, but I have a good amount of experience with people being less-than-honorable both to myself, and to people like myself. I heard horror stories in Undergrad about LGBT students and their jobs that I can’t even remember, now. But this is why I didn’t take a job for years, and why I don’t want to work in a public-facing position again, if I can help it.

I have experienced harassment on the job that related to expectations others had of me based on my sex and my (apparent/assumed) gender, and trust me, “telling my supervisor,” didn’t take care of the issue (though maybe it would have, had I been hard-line about it and reported the behavior to the correct person, which would have led to a ban; or complained to my supervisor’s supervisor if she was unsuccessful at stopping it).

It’s kind of like how the advice, “tell an adult,” when a classmate acts out like both they and you are 10, and both they and you are high school Seniors — doesn’t work to stop the behavior (or didn’t, for me). Of course, not all inappropriate behavior in a Library setting happens with young people. In my experience on the job, most of the troublemakers were far older than myself: which is likely why they thought they could get away with their actions, and why they thought that — say — harassing me daily about my hair, or constantly trying to force unwanted bribes on me, was OK. They were almost all, apparently, men. What I have to work on, is how to stop the problem behavior without getting triggered, escalating the situation, or resorting to aggression. I’ll try to come closer to alleviating my own issues with this problem, this semester. That’s self-care, too — as is making efforts to find a job where this environment will be less of an issue.

This lack of perceived safety, due both to my race and to my gender/sex combination evoking hostility, is also a reason why I decided to work in a Library: as I was growing up, my Libraries were safety zones. My peers were not safe. I suppose I’m lucky that I went to school at a time when violence was just beginning to ramp up. Drugs were already there, sex (and sexual harassment and assault) was already there, gangs were already there. But no one brought a gun to school — that I knew of. (If they did, they were smart enough not to flash it around, or to use it.) It was also before Internet-based peer abuse by school-aged children, which was a good thing.

Of course, to hear people my generation and younger talk about it, the generation of kids in school now are much more accepting of gender-based differences than they were when I was growing up. When I was in school, even just being suspected of being “gay” (which mostly related to gender presentation, and rumors made by — I suspect — insecure people who wanted to seem more heterosexual) was a bad thing, and would get one harassed on a daily basis by people one didn’t even know. Does being gay even matter, where it comes to harassment and violence, now?

One can hope that the dynamics from before the LGBT rights movement are over at this point in time, but when you don’t know why it was happening in the first place, it’s hard to see how we can keep it from happening, again; especially with the destabilization of liberal democracy by our own people. The reason I began studying Sociology was that I didn’t understand why it happened, at all — and I had never gotten the chance to explore the question. Granted that I never did get the chance to explore the question, because my Sociology program was more interested in how dominant culture came to be dominant; not in minority subcultures’ relationships with power and agency. The latter was what I intended to study, and what I did not find in my time in the program.

Built into the Sociology program was the assumption that a person could navigate a social world according to that world’s social norms and unspoken rules; that they, for example, would not be terrified at the thought (or the act) of asking random strangers to fill out surveys. I didn’t know this at the time, but I carry a couple of conditions that make navigating social realities difficult (which is why I majored in Writing). It doesn’t help that I was mostly-excluded from a functional social life for a while when I was growing up, because the kids around me were bigoted jerks in a culture that encouraged bigoted jerks, and I realized I was better off alone than accepting abuse in exchange for inclusion.

I wonder if what I wanted to study would have been more easily found in a University program which centered itself around Intersectional Feminism? Does that even exist? Can I find it, now that I have research skills honed through a curriculum of Library Science?

Something like that really would be very interesting to me. I’ve never thought of it, before. One of the issues I’ve found with Intersectional Feminism, however, is that it’s focused on women (as versus being more broadly inclusive), although — particularly — many queer men and masculine-of-center people under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella do also experience some of the same pressures that largely impact women. The pressure is just to, “be a real man,” as versus to conform and submit to the domination of men (which could be seen to be the same thing, from the stance of, say, a nonbinary person who appears male). Toxic socialization isn’t restricted to any one gender, that is.

It’s also not like cisgender/non-transgender heterosexual men are the only people whom these pressures are coming from. The dynamic is not a clear us/them: just because the person you’re dealing with identifies as feminine, doesn’t mean they aren’t (or can’t be) abusive, or that they will treat people they see as women with the full respect (including respect for difference from themselves) that they should.

Apparently, we are now in the 4th Wave of Feminism? It must have happened while I wasn’t looking.

In any case, I have the skills to research this. I also have the rest of my life to study this, if that’s what I find I want to do. I’ve just found out that SFSU’s Women and Gender Studies program has a Master of Arts available, which has a lot to do with Transnational and Intersectional feminisms. In this case, I’m curious because of the possibility of teaching this stuff (if I know the subject well, the thought of handling a class on it is less scary), or of arming myself with the ability to utilize the education, combined with my own experience. I could also become an Academic Librarian with a specialization in Women and Gender Studies.

If, that is, I can get to a point of comfort in dealing with people. I wouldn’t think that it would be altogether easy to handle the social assumptions made about a Women’s Studies Librarian. I mean, seriously, being seen as a Librarian is trouble enough without gendering it more.

But yes: why do I keep putting myself through this? Especially when it looks like an MA in the subject will do less for me than what I can do for myself, on my own? Without paying tuition or trying to get to (or move closer to) the University?

I suppose that’s what M was referring to when she told me that by getting a Master’s degree (the first time), I was essentially learning how to learn, so that I wouldn’t actually need the classes anymore. That may go double for a degree in Library Science, which teaches a person how to find and evaluate information. I already know enough about Sociology to have a good start, there. I also have a known focus, even if stating that focus concisely is a problem.

What would it be…LGBTQIA+ experiences seen from within the context of Intersectional feminism and Transfeminisms?

It may be that I’ll gain a more focused and useful set of skills for my own situation by doing my own research — instead of going back for a second Master’s. The benefit of a second Master’s would seem to be breadth of coverage of the topic, academic library access, being pushed to ask (and answer) questions that wouldn’t occur to me, community, and an official piece of paper that would clear me to teach and obtain a certain type of job within Academia.

Did I ever say that when I graduated with my BA, I never intended to return to higher education?