Routine Log #3: Various notes over the last week

I haven’t been working too much on my jewelry. The most I’ve done within the last week is logging, labeling, and storing a bunch of beads that arrived two weeks ago. Part of this had to do with quarantining incoming mail; part of it had to do with not being too hot on actually going and breaking down strands and labeling items with their respective Stock Keeping Units (from the seller) so that I can re-purchase what I actually want to repurchase. It’s crazy how some sellers have four different versions of the same type of bead, which differ only slightly in color, and then in quality (for instance, the polish on drill holes) and price.

What I have been doing, revolves around courses, for the moment. Much of it is directly applicable to the jewelry enterprise and otherwise managing my finances. Other than learning XML (further) and XSLT, I don’t see myself going back for more classes applicable to the business. I do, however, see myself learning Japanese language for the foreseeable future, and working on my beadwork and sales. I have decided that it may be a relatively bad idea not to ask what I want to ask for the jewelry I create.

I hesitated to charge what I needed to for my last sale, and that resulted in a gross income of less than $25 for 160 minutes of work. Pre-tax. If I were to do this regularly, that’s a yearly gain of a little less than $20,000 gross. Before taxes, before variable expenses, before overhead. That’s…okay, for a hobbyist (still, not great). It’s not, for a business. I did lose money on that sale, if we look at what I had to buy in order to make it. The excess does go to tangible assets, but still. (And yeah, I know that’s because I low-balled the initial offer: it’s not the consumer’s problem, but mine.)

I realize that a lot of my income may come from multiple owner’s draws, or drawing off the equity of the company — and not from a salary. I also don’t want to charge so much that people can’t afford my work, or just won’t buy it because it isn’t seen as a good value. However…it has to be enough so that I know I’m not just wasting my time pursuing the vocation, or driving myself bankrupt doing the same. A living wage in my area (for a single unmarried person with no children) is above $60,000 per year ($1,154/week; $165/day [over a 7-day week, 8 hours/day], $21/hour [over a 7-day week, 8 hours/day]). I’m not looking to earn quite that much, but this has to be worth the effort, for me.

I know that with quality materials and substantial creativity, this can be done. The difficult thing will be sourcing quality materials. Hopefully not contributing to global political conflict or worker exploitation, at the same time. Metals seem to be one of those things that will really drive up cost, and consequently, value…but there’s the question of how much can be done without going all-out into silversmithing (to save money on pre-fabricated findings, like earwires). Silversmithing comes with a host of other safety requirements, in particular; unless, that is, I actually go out and rent a studio that’s designed for the work.

A lot of the beads I’ve purchased recently (particularly from one supplier), have been lower quality than expected. I took lower quality in exchange for otherwise-unobtainable colors…it wasn’t really worth it. I have had the experience of taking a risk like this, and then gaining beads which I similarly thought I’d never use: and then they end up being a perfect combination with something. Time will tell if I end up using these babes; they’re SolGel Tints (over opaque white), and hence…have colors otherwise unknown to glass. 😉 This can make it difficult for them to play well with others.

SolGel isn’t supposed to fade, and in my experience, hasn’t: but maybe I want to put some of these babes out in the sun and see what they look like in a few months. Apparently, Preciosa Terra Intensive beads are also SolGel dyed (says my source), but with the warnings that they may fade (which may simply be a retailer covering their liability), I haven’t felt like taking a risk on them, just yet. Then there are the things I’ve bought like “Opal” tints (SolGel over translucent white). The value of them lies in knowing not to get more of them.

Generally, surface-dyed beads can look really flat as compared to solid-color beads (where the color goes all the way through the glass as a basic factor [aside from special coatings], I mean). The exception is in opaque beads…which can also vary in quality. I have had to just set some things to the side because they obviously look painted on examination of the lot, but that was from a super-cheap warehouse in the City. I also only got one ounce, I believe. It’s always a good idea to get small amounts first if possible, so that you don’t end up wasting money on a bulk purchase of beads that are not up to quality standards (or which you simply don’t like, or don’t feel you can use).

I’ve also felt this way about certain coated beads…where the coating extends beyond the edge of the bead. It would be easy enough just to finish these so that the manufacturer doesn’t end up having to grind it off themselves (or never use them for fear the coating will peel off like nail polish), you know?

It would be easier to source things if the Gem & Jewelry shows, or the Bead Shows (or the local bead stores, for that matter), were up and safe to go to. Yes, there was a show recently in my area — I think last weekend. However, I really don’t feel safe enough to go out and do that, right now: with the fourth recent surge and kids going back to school and getting sick en masse. Seriously, I have the health of others (and myself) to think about.

I’m more than aware that a large part of my concern for my friends and family is selfish in nature: “what happens to me, if you’re gone?” If I were able to fully care for myself and thus be unselfish…I might be able to more reasonably deal with the possibility that now or in the future, I might have to deal in reality with my/their/our COVID infection, and the possibility of rapid progression from health to serious illness or death. However…I’m not at that point, yet. Right now…I’m still in progress in my transition from young adult to adult, even though it’s late because of my disability.

It’s not pretty or easy, especially when I’ve been depressed for a couple of days, this week. I know that I missed either one or two nights of medications (in a row: I did not log this for one night, and given my present state, I suspect that I didn’t take it), and I know that this, plus staying up late to wake late, are impacting me. I’ve had the consistent issue of having to deal with painful memories — that haven’t stopped bothering me from middle school, forward — and the less-than-skilled acknowledgement of where I am actually skilled (in relation to more of the population than expected).

It’s easier to say, “let it go,” than it actually is, to let it go. I essentially have a backlog of negative memories over the past 25 years which are making my life miserable and causing me to ask why this all happened to me. I’m pretty sure at this point that the thought process has to do with clinical depression. I’ve had some form of this over…same: the last 25 years, now that I think of it. At this point, I realistically don’t know how long I’ll be able to tolerate this, although I’ve already lived longer than I had been able to visualize in my youth. (I’ve also gotten much farther in my education than I would have been able to predict.)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that out of my employable skills, Writing is one of my strongest. The question is then, if and how I can use that to make a living, and that does not appear to be a hopeful prospect. I’d essentially have to send out a bunch of queries to a bunch of publishers, and it is notoriously difficult to get published in the Fiction realm. Nonfiction, not so much; but that would still be a contract negotiation, and I might possibly need access to libraries which I don’t now have.

What I didn’t realize until recently is that although I see Writing to be a basic skill that everyone should have after a 13-year slog through Primary and Secondary school, I’m apparently wrong in that assumption. I guess Writing can be to other people, like Math is, to me? (Calculators and Excel are da bomb, dude. Just don’t ask me to explain the meaning of a logarithm.)

I did just get the idea to join the Alumni Association with my Undergrad alma mater: since they do still offer my major there, I might be able to find some inroads into local Publishing companies. (I’ve read that traditional Publishing is still largely based in New York, though I haven’t yet tried to confirm that impression; I do know at least three people who at one time, at least, moved out of my life to New York…including the first girl I ever had a crush on. And a couple more people I also had crushes on, or who might have had crushes on me. Hmm.)

A couple of days ago, I did also go back to my Japanese language study: it is rather depressing to see how much my reading ability (and writing ability!) in 日本語 has eroded in the time I’ve been away from the written language. It is still good to get back to. It also gets me back into my relationship with words and reading. I have been doing a lot of reading, though most of it is in English, and for various Business classes. It would probably be worth it to get at least one good fiction book finished before year-end: right now I’m in the middle of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin, which I stopped because the anthropology angle was disturbing. Intentionally so or not, I’m not sure. (Apparently, Ursula’s father was an anthropologist, says my sibling.)

M has been telling me to think of what I want to do after these courses are over: what kind of job I want to take, that is. I know that in the New Year, I do want to set myself up to make and sell jewelry; possibly, also accessories (but I’m not betting on the latter; this just comes from dreaming about the possibilities of weaving and sewing). I’m not doing much making of any kind (aside from writing) right now, and it’s taxing my emotional resilience.

Well, staying up super-late isn’t helping, either.

She did just tell me that she hadn’t put the requirement on me to stress or depress me, but to give me something to look forward to doing every day. In that case, I totally can work on the beadwork. This will give me time to get deeper into the Japanese language study and into my own writing: such as the Pages I’ve posted (and have planned to post) to the wider How to Design section of this site (as versus the blog itself).

Both M and D are encouraging me to write out my thoughts in order to process and get through the pain that I’ve been dealing with. My major hesitancy toward this is that writing it out means reliving it…and I’m not certain I’d be able to do this and stay healthy, without professional assistance. Past attempts have led to present hesitance, that is. I stopped writing after graduation, for a reason; but avoiding the pain isn’t the same thing as healing the pain…

What do I really want to do? A way forward

An interesting development: M asked me two days ago now to ask myself what I really wanted to do, because, she said, if I wanted to, I could do it. This got me thinking about…what I would do if I were assured of the possibility of success. Not the secure finality of success if I sat around and did nothing, but just the idea: if I could do anything with my life that I wanted, and I knew that success was a certain possibility for me, granted that I applied myself and worked hard enough: what would I do?

This coincided with doing some name research…which I’m now fairly certain I got right the first time. We have been watching a lot of NHK World, for years, and I’ve gotten to the point where I find myself directly listening to what is being said in Japanese language, as versus reading the English subtitles. Subtitles are always a little off, but they usually give the gist of the meaning. What I’m doing is listening directly to the words, the breaks in the words, the particles used which denote sentence structure, verb conjugations, unfamiliar grammatical constructions; sometimes reading displayed kana (which denote sound and conjugation, in addition to serving as particles) and kanji (which denote meaning) when I can. I think I’ve reached the point where, if I knew the definitions of the words being used — I do sometimes, but not most of the time — I would be able to understand vastly more. That is, a lot of what is holding me back is mere vocabulary.

I was…also writing an entry in English Language in my Work Journal, which is now apparently my Work and Career Journal (as I’ve questioned what I’m doing, what return I’ll get from it, and why I’m doing it). I recalled that I majored in Writing because reading and writing were at one time my primary ways of interfacing with the world, and with other minds and other people. This is the same reason I wanted to work online (before I had a taste of Programming and Computer Science and the logic and math involved): it’s easier for me to interact with people through text, asynchronously, than face-to-face. People assume less when they can’t see me or hear me, and that lack of assumption is alluring. I also got into Librarianship because I was into books; not realizing that in the system I was in, my work — the difficult parts of it, at least — had more to do with people than with books. I think it’s a mistake a lot of Library Staff initially make.

And I remembered how much I originally loved my Japanese language classes in early University. If I had stayed at that University, I would likely have majored in Japanese Language and Literature. The rest of the environment was (culturally speaking) too hostile for me, however; and being at that University was a financial burden to my parents. When I returned home, I had the option of taking Japanese Language and Literature at my second University. I would have had to wake up at 5:30 AM at the latest: for some reason, at a commuter school, introductory Japanese language courses began at 7:30 AM. That wasn’t something at which I could see myself being successful. In addition, I would have had to test in; and I didn’t have an idea of how I could use the language in my area, other than working for a Japanese market, or being an interpreter. Given my social difficulties and history with Japanese-American family and peers…I didn’t see a good life, that way.

I didn’t, however, fully investigate the idea of book translation. I don’t remember exactly when it was, however, that I ran across Kogen Mizuno’s Essentials of Buddhism, which basically introduced me to translated texts in a field which too often (in English language) feels like an echo chamber. Mizuno was a breath of fresh air; here was someone willing to analyze Buddhism rather than merely repeat doctrine. When I was in Undergraduate training, I would go on my breaks — which could be an hour or two long (or more), between classes — and read about Eastern Philosophy, Buddhism, and the Occult in my University Library. So many of those books were so old, however: and in being old, they were naive. There is a specific history to transmission of Buddhist dharma into English, which I learned about later (after Undergrad, from a book that I found in the bookstore of an Asian cultural heritage museum). It tends to taint the vast majority of introductory books on Buddhism, especially those books produced in an early period which were subject to, “Orientalism,” or otherwise said: the exoticization of, “the East.”

The latter dynamic had also tainted my two quarters of Japanese language acquisition at my original University. Reading these books in my second University’s library left me with the question of why anyone would be Buddhist…but then, I have a Buddhist aunt. I knew she was not into self-extinguishment, or what seemed to be the drive to permanent cessation of suffering (which sounds to a novice as possible permanent cessation of life, as versus never-ending rebirth), as some of this narrative tends to characterize Buddhist thought. But then…there is the nondual nature of nirvana (bliss), which is said to be neither life nor death, rather an exit from the game of having to deal with karma (causality) and duhkha (unpleasantness; pain; suffering on a wide scale, from subtle and minimal to unbearable). Someone who has had no contact with these ideas before may not understand that, however.

Now that I’m thinking about it…I don’t believe she has ever talked about her practice to myself, in particular. But then, I believe that she has never been forthcoming about most of her life. At least, not to me.

In any case…well, I do believe I’ve written about this before, but I can’t recall where: I had to go around the long way to realize that I was, in fact, Asian-American. I was reading in some of these books about the history of my own culture (or one of them), through the eyes of outsiders to my culture. It wouldn’t really strike me until my Master’s program, when I again felt the familiar alienation of University. Usually, as I did for years in my employment, I find myself able to ignore the fact that I’m part of a cultural and racial minority. It’s not that I stop being a minority; it’s that I stop being constantly reminded that others are different and see me as different. When we’re actually talking about inner realities, however, and what I am actually interested in; what is important to me in my making of myself, or my enlightening myself as to why I am the way I am — and why others are not like me, then that can drive some introspection. Especially if you have to deal with it day after day for two or three years.

To get to my point: I know that I want to learn Japanese language. I also know that I want to do this in order to broaden my horizons as to what is possible in humanity. I don’t want to stay trapped in an English-language-only bubble, where what gets passed down to me is filtered through an English-language-only context. I also want to be able to translate texts out of Japanese into English, in order to help those who don’t speak Japanese to have context and insight as to what people are thinking outside of our American cultural sphere. (As a possible bonus, I might inspire some of them to learn an additional language.)

I have been thinking about this language-barrier context for a while, although it’s only really come to a peak, recently. It’s very easy to stereotype and misread people when you don’t understand their speech or their culture. I’m actually thinking of doing some creative writing around it. It’s very rare to see this issue addressed in mass media, but the issue is prevalent even among groups in our own society who can’t communicate with each other because there is no common language to do so (and at some times, a stubborn refusal to adopt language which would facilitate evenhanded, nonjudgmental communication).

So my first goal is to learn Japanese language. Beyond that, I want to eventually become a book translator from Japanese to English. I believe I will have to get back into reading (including Fiction) if I want to be a good translator and writer. I want to get back into Creative Writing (in English), which I predict will be greatly facilitated by reading more, if history holds any clue. Once I can read more in Japanese, I’ll also have a knowledge base that most authors don’t. If I know Japanese language and have facility in it, I can work as a Librarian in an East Asian Library. From what I’ve seen, most East Asian Libraries are located on College and University campuses. If there is enough of a draw to have a Library, there may also be enough of a draw to have a local East Asian community, which would be comforting — to say the least.

There’s also the sheer beauty of Japanese language: it is actually engaging to me to learn to write correctly. Often, when I try to draw or paint, my marks gradually shift to writing in either English or Japanese language (though Japanese language is more conducive to writing with a brush). Calligraphy is a longstanding art in Japan, so I’d be in good company.

As regards the beadwork: I will still be doing this, but it will be a hobby or for side income, not for primary income. I feel a lot better about this, than I did a month ago. My target market simply may not have enough access to finances to be able to afford what I’d need to charge, in order for me to make a living off of my beadwork (that can sustain me into my old age). The good thing is that, if this is a side business or an adjunct to my main form of income, I can lower my prices. This will avoid pricing out my main market segment, and likely ease my heart a bit. They are a big part of the reason I’m in this — to the depth that I am, at least.

It also doesn’t hurt that, from some cursory searches, it does appear that I can make a living as a translator (even if book translation pays less than live translation). I also do have some facility in Spanish, but Japanese holds much more immediate use for me, personally (and likely will remain of more use, over the long term). I also would have chosen Japanese over Spanish, had it been given to me as a youth; but I only got a choice between Spanish and French.

Japanese language is much more work to learn, but if I can learn it (and I believe I can), why not? The next step is to figure out a study schedule, and what books to read and work with, first…

Wanting to work: a beadworker’s temptation toward watercolors

At least occasionally, I have the draw to work with two-dimensional art media. Given my predilection and draw to/need for writing (which is strong) and beadwork (slightly less strong)…there is a question of whether I really need anything else, or if these two pursuits are enough for me. In particular…I love exploring color so much, that it would seem rational to enter a field such as watercolor. The major hesitation I have…is subject matter, and its interrelations with established fields of meaning.

Of course, that just means I have to create my own meaning, doesn’t it.

Art History and predominant culture value some works over others

Working through Art History classes clarifies how cultures influence the art forms coming out of them. My own culture is not the same as the dominant culture surrounding me, so it makes sense that the art forms I have chosen, are different in underlying philosophy than the art I see around me. When looking at major genres such as portraits, landscapes, still lifes — there are reasons for the choice of subject matter which are not necessarily reasons I, in particular, have for creating art.

My own current work — not in painting or drawing, but in beadwork — would likely fall under “Decorative Arts” and not “Fine Arts”, if it were even considered Art at all. Considering the difficulty I experience when making things to others’ specifications, however…I do find it possible to say that what I do is Art. I wouldn’t have reached this point without help from others around me, however. I have a tendency to undervalue what I do, for the sheer fact that I can do it — because it’s possible and (relatively) easy for me.

It can be emotionally difficult to seriously pursue something most consider a, “craft,” and not an, “art,” at least if one is seeking to be looked at on equal footing. It can also be hard to find resources for this craft (or art) — which is a reason I’ve developed a bit of a library on technique and pattern, not to mention suppliers. To look at the great art others have done (even though they may not call it “great art”), can cause one to want to try one’s hand at it, as well — knowing that proficiency only comes with many hours invested. However: this reminds me of…a maxim that I realized consciously, within the last year.


Just because I admire someone, or their work; just because I believe their work is important or a worthy pursuit, or I value their creations; doesn’t mean I need to be like them, or to do what they do. It — also, fairly obviously — doesn’t mean that what has worked for them, will work for me. We’re different people. This is something that I didn’t really clearly understand until going through the Library Science program and becoming a Library Assistant.

Librarianship may be a worthy pursuit. But is it a pursuit I want to take on? Do I want to be the person who has to do it? If so, what are my impressions of what it takes to succeed in that role? Do I have that? Can I build that, if I don’t? Will I want to build it?

I have reasons for having stopped my visual art practice. A lot of them, actually. Some of them are valid; some of them simply undervalue what I do naturally and well. Others feel more like excuses to bow out, because I have a sense of what I’d have to do to make my own path in the field, and it seems too overwhelming to take on.

Art isn’t easy, despite what people who aren’t artists, tend to think (until they try it). Nor is it always, “fun,” or even, “pleasant.” I often refer to what I do as, “play,” because that is essentially what it is; but, “play,” is also, “work.” It’s really evident on the days when I opt not to play, and it feels like rest.

An aside:

It may be that I’m much more at home with Jewelry, and particularly with glass.

I do kind of wonder what it is like to make glass beads. I haven’t gotten into it because of the dangers of retinal damage and (possible?) silicosis, or other chemical exposure. There are things that can be done to abate possible health consequences: my issue is that people don’t always take safety precautions seriously (and, especially in learning situations, can endanger the health of others, in addition to their own: as when I walked past a student who blew enamel powder [i.e. ground glass] off of her desk instead of sweeping or wet-mopping it. Luckily, I had on a respirator and knew not to breathe in. Three months later, she still had a cough).

This is the same reason I did not put myself back into Chemistry at University…though various Art classes aren’t necessarily much better, when students ignore the admonition not to blow pastel dust into the air (it’s meant to be tapped off of the page), or not to spray fixative in a non-ventilated indoor area. Many people do not…understand that the world is not a playground. Not everything in the world is especially made to be safe.

I’m not supposed to do tight work?

In any case…pen and ink plus watercolor has been on my mind, recently. This is kind of the antithesis of the work that the head of the Art department did, while I was taking classes. I did really admire her, even as much as she discouraged me from doing what I did best. She kept trying to get me to “loosen up” with my artwork, although I believe at this point that working tightly may just be part of my personal method.

Since exiting that situation, I’ve found a lot of people doing tight artwork online, who are apparently un-engaged with the idea that working more loosely is better. When I was in the Art program, I did not yet realize that becoming like other people was not the best route forward for myself. It’s something I know now…at nearly 40.

Creative Process

There is the fact that when it comes to Visual Arts…I don’t have the track record of being engaged enough to keep up momentum. When dealing with my two major media — writing, and beadwork — it’s easier. With beadwork, I make a piece and note what I might want to change to improve the outcome, next time. Then next time, I follow through, noting again what didn’t work and what to try next; this is an ongoing process. With writing, I have a tendency to go off on tangents within my piece, or — as with this post and my last one — realize that what I have to say is best split into two or three separate, shorter posts.

I’m still dealing with this where it comes to the non-blog sections of this website. Writing hyperlinked texts is something that I have had some experience with, but not in such a free-form way as I have when I define my own subjects and parameters.

The point is: there is a process to creative process, and if a person is engaged in it, each piece created raises more questions and possibilities which can be explored in later attempts. I don’t really have a lot of recent experience, with watercolor — at least, not at this point. It’s not that I don’t have the materials; it’s that I have a tendency to think and write about things rather than doing them. If I don’t write these thoughts out, they can build up into unexamined blocks.

Additionally, having an established creative process helps me break out of the paralysis of all the reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t make art.

Steps forward…

Now that I’ve spent this time meditating on it: when I was in the Art program, the closest I came to a personal direction as regarded subject matter, was drawing, painting, and photographing plants. Within that category, I mostly loved weeds, flowers, and produce…it was easy at the time to find neat little things to paint. I had my own reasons for this (which still hold), and maybe I should go back to it, at least as a starting point.

What you find when you clean up

A couple of days ago, I had…a time, putting together sets of materials for micro-macramé bracelets. Actually, sometime earlier I got the courage to actually finish the bracelets I had set aside to wait for my bone rondelles. This meant, well, enlarging the holes in two bone beads — which…I was not altogether comfortable with. The risk of what I’m concerned about is trace, however, and likely only justified by a tiny bit of awareness, plus my own tendency to worry.

I’m doing what I can to treat the materials gained from animals (in my case, horn and bone) with respect and gratitude. (I learned as a kid that you don’t want to disrespect the animal whose skin you’re wearing…or, whose body you’re eating.) It is interesting, though, to look at a bunch of bone rondelles and realize that these things have been made since prehistoric times…likely in the same forms. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same ambivalence towards using them has been passed down, either…though seriously, the animals likely had better lives, in prehistoric times.

I am going to have to find a new source for nice lampwork glass rondelles: the last several sets I’ve gotten from one supplier have turned out…ugly. I mean, terrible — just as a blanket statement. I haven’t had the gall to try and wash the kaolin clay off of them yet (which is likely disguising anything good about them), but I don’t think I’ll be ordering them again, especially in COVID-times. I’d rather use porcelain than use these glass beads, seriously.

I have a place in mind through which I can get much higher-quality (and domestic) material, but they’re fairly expensive due to being artisan-made. Still, though: according to the beads I’ve bought from the supplier in the past, they’re worth it.

This is especially as working with her beads means that I don’t have to worry about being limited to florals. Much lampwork I’ve been exposed to recently (I haven’t used lampwork for a while, as I hadn’t realized that cleaning the kaolin out of the bead hole is par for the course), isn’t really geared towards men or nonbinary people, so artisans produce what they think will sell: which leads to a glut of floral designs.

If I sell the finished jewelry, I can just pass on the extra cost and let people know they’re getting artisan handmade American material for that portion (though most of it will be cottage-industry Czech material…I am seriously leaning towards Czech seed beads, now, mostly because they nest together better, hence go around curves better, than the Japanese ones).

Over the past few days…I cleaned up a lot of the bead mess that was then spread out over three tables. In the process, I was also inspired to get out my new C-Lon with some newer colors of bead, and see what I could put together. As a result, I have four color combinations ready to go, as regards the bracelet pattern I keep thinking of as Shrimp or Shrimp’s Head (due to the terminations).

I did, while cleaning up the bead mess, find a box containing prototype versions of Shrimp (among other prototypes), in which I was still working out the closure. These range from very beginning versions from years ago, when I was new to micro-macramé, which are now falling apart; to the present — the step right before having realized the full Shrimp’s Head. I have the options to keep them as they are for historical record, or to disassemble them and re-make them in my present style, rendering them wearable. Or, more wearable, I guess.

I have been trying to get around to photographing these to log them before I ever may disassemble them and reuse the parts in more useful and complete structures. Today I did have the opportunity, but didn’t take it. For some reason, I wasn’t up to it: I believe part of this has to do with my sleep and activity schedules being, “off.”

There are perfectly good beads locked up in these trials; beads which are more valuable to me now than the price I originally paid for them. Largely, this occurs because these specific beads…I doubt I’ll be able to exactly replace (think of dye lots with yarn), and I have only small amounts of surplus in them.

Is it more valuable to me to have salable or at least usable, wearable versions; as versus having a record of the development of what is, now? Does it matter at all that I can’t remember exactly the timeline connecting all of them?

Obviously, I can always purchase more beads: but not those beads. Do I want to re-make these things, or do I want to keep a design archive?

Now that I’m thinking about it: it makes more sense to try and re-make the bracelets with other materials (before considering disassembling them), while also photographing my evidence (in case evacuation requires leaving the physical pieces) and also keeping the archive. I can imagine myself with regrets down the line if I essentially dispose of the work that built up to a successful design. It would be good to look over when I’m stuck on other designs. Not to mention: if someone else wants to see my design process.

The thing is: when I began making these trials, I did not realize that at one point I’d have a successful design, and I might want to track what I changed in each version — or at least, the timeline between creation dates, so I could tell what came before what. I could record the same data in my (offline) logs…why I haven’t done it already, I’m not sure. (If I did, I have surely forgotten about it — I haven’t read over my physical work log in a very long time.)

I just realized that what I’m weighing is the value of the information contained in the makes, as versus the value of the materials contained in the makes. They’re both pretty high — to me — though to other people, the information is much more valuable than the sentimentality I alone have attached to my materials. Not to mention, the frustration I have attached to prior versions, which could cause me to want to change them.

Maybe I should leave them alone. They might help me through harder times in the future.

Diversity of Motives

Over the last 11 years…I feel like I’ve been through a lot where it comes to seeing and acknowledging economic philosophies. This largely relates to aging and having to acknowledge the economic system in my area, in order to further my own independence. That is: over the past 11 years, I’ve been transitioning from being a student, to being a worker.

This is no small matter. In my own circumstances, it also coincides with transitioning from being a young adult to being an adult. There was a lot of socialization that went along with that, which is part of the reason I stayed in such a low-paying job for such a long time.

I started out as a Volunteer; made it through a poorly-compensated Library Aide job for nearly a decade, which partially included Clerk duties; gained my MLIS; became a Library Assistant (when I could apply to be a Librarian) because I had zero experience working the Reference Desk; got laid off and became jaded towards the bureaucratic system which let me go due to “seniority”; determined that I could generate some income via making jewelry in the Private sector; and found out that the government rewarded a profit motive over an enjoyment one, within the Private sector.

At least from what I experienced; I did not get into Librarianship out of a profit motive. I got into Librarianship over a sustenance motive, combined with a context of youthful idealism and the fact that I communicate most easily via reading and writing, not face-to-face contact. What I didn’t understand is that although I spent over ten years in a Public Library context, what goes on in the context of Customer Service in a library (which I was pushed into, and later decided to take on as a personal project — maybe just to prove to myself that I could do it) is about people, not about books.

I did not get into Librarianship to deal with people. (Nor did I expect it to be so difficult to deal with people.)

There are jobs in Librarianship which focus more on materials and organization than on Customer Service; unfortunately, these jobs seem to be few and far between (i.e., expect relocation), and at times require Computer Science backgrounds. I also was not exposed to most of them until entering Library School, and am still uncertain to what extent these jobs do fully avoid public contact.

What I learned about public contact is that it can get very ugly, at least for a person who appears (as I do, at this point) to be a young nonwhite woman. It’s not even pretty if one happens to be a young white woman. One instance of a patron attempting to make an employee uncomfortable on the basis of their gender is too many. When it falls down to gender plus race, however…it just feels to me like these tensions are magnified (which is substantiated by the field of Intersectional Feminism). And of course, patrons make employees uncomfortable on a regular basis. It doesn’t just happen once. It also doesn’t always happen intentionally. It just happens.

As well, due to my job classification, I was denied training as to how to handle it. I had to go out of my way on my own (and with my own funds) to try and figure out how to cope…with which I was doing relatively well, until my supervisor (who had many years in Retail) seemed to lean to the side of considering me unfit for the job. This was probably due to my talking too much about experience with job placement services.

The thing is: idealism is…extremely common, among Library employees. It’s not all the same kind of idealism, but that idealism lays part of the groundwork for the profession. I haven’t met a Librarian yet who just is in it for the money (and will say so). This is nowhere near being the case for some of the other professions I’ve explored (on paper, for now; for example, Freelance Commercial Writing).

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is because people get into the field, then experience its realities, and migrate out. This is likely the reason why it’s so difficult to break into the field in the first place. As I’ve heard it, a Librarian candidate who has earned an MLS, MIS, or MLIS will still have difficulty landing an entry-level Librarian job without previous Library experience.

It’s already well-known that minority Librarians are rare and have a tendency to leave. I have a clue, why.

When I began this post months ago, I asked myself: if I had to take a profit motive over enjoyment to simply survive, why not go back to what I trained in? Sure, I’d be jaded rather than idealistic; I’d know a lot more about the history of American Libraries and how sexism and racism have left their stamp upon them, but that doesn’t really matter if one is cataloging books, does it? If, of course, one could overlook the fact that a major cataloging tool (though currently being superseded) is named “Anglo-American Cataloging Rules 2” (yes, they kept that name a second time. Why anyone saw fit to name a Cataloging standard after an ethnic group is beyond me).

If I’m considering taking on a profit motive in order to survive, why not funnel that drive through my present skill and knowledge set (and profession) and become a Cataloger or Metadata Librarian with no public contact? If the important thing is to earn money, not to have fun or to derive a sense of purpose, I can do that with this skill set.

I won’t have the ideals I had, which at one time made me think that Librarianship was ethically superior to having a for-profit job; however, I’ll at least have a source of income and be a bit farther towards the goal of self-sufficiency. That’s why others helped me through school. Not because I’d enjoy the work, but because having any type of career would help keep me from being homeless or being forced by necessity to work in menial positions.

This country’s prioritization of competition, self-interest and greed (as reflected in tax codes, particularly those passed in the last Administration) does strike me as…unexpected. In any case, if the economy is built on these three pillars, then it is kind of not a surprise that people can’t work to the good of the whole (even when their lives — and the lives of others — depend on it). People may just be unaccustomed to working to the benefit of anyone but themselves. That is, selfishness appears to be considered a virtue, while ethics lie outside the field of Business.

Since having begun to set up my online presence to potentially encompass the beadwork enterprise, I have found a number of tools where it comes to online marketing. Some of these are very sophisticated and in-depth, and make use of the voluntarily-given demographic information supplied by users. I am on these platforms not because I like their business models or because I like their information-gathering methods (or, for that matter, the fact that they even have the information). I’m there because my customers are there, and because to make a sale to someone, I have to be noticed by that someone.

On my end, I do realize that with Social Media, “the user is the product.” Knowledge to this effect has been circulating for what seems like at least a decade, now, but possibly not outside of Information Science circles. Of course, it seems I’m in a rather interesting position here: having the background of Information Science to see the impact of information gathering and use, and having the interest in Business to utilize that information. We all hope that it’s for the better of everyone involved; but we also know, that often doesn’t happen.

To me it seems that Business is about filling others’ needs and finding a niche and market, while amassing wealth. In the economic system in place right now in the U.S., either one needs a form of income, or one needs alternate income streams feeding in (say, from family), in order to survive. I have the latter now, but I cannot plan to rely on it for the rest of my life. The point is: either I earn money to keep myself alive, or someone else earns money to keep me alive.

I am not going to marry for money, and perhaps won’t marry at all; not to mention that I have no plans to depend on children to care for me in my old age. This means I need to earn a living, myself. It’s already basically set that I cannot rely on even being able to retire; and with things going the way they are now, planning for retirement may be a waste of time.

In this case, becoming self-employed is a viable option (at least in the short-term and at least part-time); though I’m not sure exactly how viable. There is the fact that even setting up a small business now, gives me experience that I can use in other ventures later. Even if my vision goes out later in my life, I will still be able to write. If I can write, I can market and sell my writing skills. This is a major reason I majored in Creative Writing rather than Art, though I find that writing Fiction is rather unhealthy for me at this point.

So far as actually filling others’ needs…I do see unmet needs that I can fill (although to what extent my skills will be of any use, is questionable). To be able to fill them, I need to connect with the people with those needs. Demographic information, however gotten, is crucial in understanding and reaching audiences. If you have a great product, but your market doesn’t know you have a great product, you may as well not have made it.

As I read more about Business, I realize that the flaws in the economic system in this country partially stem from abuse and lack of necessary regulation (which I suspect stems from corruption, in addition to technology outstripping law), and are partially designed into the system. There is the fact that two generations ago, my grandmother was lucky to even have a job at all; it was assumed she would have a man to provide for her and her children. However, as a widow…she didn’t have a lot of choices.

Historically, it at least seems that labor done by men has been allocated pay enough to support a family, whereas labor done by women has been supplementary in compensation (if compensated at all) and not at the level of a living wage. This dynamic tends to keep women (and those who are slotted as women, whether they assent to being called “women” or not) economically dependent upon men.

This doesn’t quite taste right, where it comes to being someone who is seen as a woman, who has been trained to be a woman, who has little attraction to men. It doesn’t just apply to people who identify as lesbian. It also applies to people who have no attraction to men, specifically because those men want them to be people they are not; assume the right to co-opt their reproductive capacity; have no connection to the life inside them but applaud their surfaces; etc. People who understand who I am on the inside are the people I want to spend time with. Not the people who see the outside and invent for themselves, who I must be.

I am not blind to how many people seen as women turn to crafts specifically because crafts give them a respite from the rest of their lives (this recalls the, “crafts are cheaper than therapy!” tropes I keep seeing). I also know that my own beadwork does get my head away from all the troubles of the world. But then, that calls into question just how bad the rest of the world is, how bad our situations are, if we keep needing to escape it, and them.

At this point…I am still not certain how I feel about market economies. I am getting much more of a hint as to my strengths and inclinations; how I can best assist other players within a market economy. I am also realizing how much more flexibility must exist within the Private Sector than within a regimented government bureaucracy like the one I spent ten years within.

Not all business owners (particularly, not all small business owners) are evil. There are people like myself who have no intention to exploit others, but are just trying to survive by doing something they love (or at least, like; or, can stand). Market pressures are something else, and are not addressed here. People who attempt to sell propositions that have no value to the buyer (or which harm the buyer), are also not addressed here. But hey: I have grown up in the shadow of oil companies and exploited farm labor, wasted natural resources, polluted water, diabetes, nicotine. I think it would be normal for me to have a bad taste in my mouth about Business.

I know things can be much more equitable than they are. Perhaps most of all: I can recognize that abuses present in the system, allowed by technology outpacing regulations, are not necessarily inextricable from the core of the system itself. But we have to want to extricate it, and then we have to actually do it. Actually taking action, means something has to change — and people who benefit from the status quo are often loathe to change, and have an incentive (and resources) to fight change.

I started this post by talking about my experience in Customer Service in a Public Library context. Perhaps the lack of respect given to service people in this country stems more from a history of compulsory marriage, slavery, forced labor, etc.; than it does from anything inherent to the system. That is, perhaps corruption and disrespect to others has been passed down within my culture. Maybe “capitalism’s” flaws are not necessarily all traceable to purely economic machinations, but also to cultural norms and politics in which each person has a different initial value and status dependent on factors much beyond their control.

Of course, “the Oppression Olympics,” or trying to figure out the exact hierarchical status of anyone in comparison to anyone else (based on recognized stigmas), ultimately does more harm than good. It’s counterproductive to actually undoing the system that creates the hardship. As I was introduced to this concept, infighting among ourselves as to whom is more oppressed than whom, depletes energy which could be used to get people to confront and question the current power system (in which most of us are relatively disempowered).

Yeah, that actually turned out worse than a critique of capitalism, didn’t it. I am reminded, however, of an assertion (I forget by whom) that the abuse of power within a particular country was less the fault of its economic model, and had more to do with the fact that said society had always had corrupt governments. This was in relation to Communism.

Given that I was raised in the U.S., and went to Public Schools and Public Universities, however: I was never taught about economic models other than the free-market economy (which I had to seek out on my own, but I opted for Microeconomics rather than Macroeconomics). I do not expect this trend to differ in other parts of the country; however, as stated, I never took Macroeconomics. The issue is that there is an extreme stigma placed upon those who question the idea that the free-market economy is the best economic model in existence (although I would say from experience, that governmental bureaucracy is not really better).

It’s just taboo, here, to even suggest that maybe our government and institutions are not “the best” — or could be fundamentally improved upon by looking beyond nationalism. Just because I live in the U.S., that doesn’t make it the best country on the planet. If people could just recognize this on the whole — that the place they live is not the greatest at everything for the virtue that they live there — maybe we would all be better off.

Anyway, I’ve been having these thoughts wandering around in my mind for the past several months. Particularly so, as my mind begins to shift from doing good things for free, to doing good things and being able to earn income by doing them. (Sooner or later, being able to earn a living will become a necessity.) When I was growing up, I didn’t really need money for anything: everything was provided for me by my parents. That could have been a disadvantage to me, as I moved from being a child to a teen and young adult. It didn’t give me a sense of the value of money, or the value of being paid. I was altruistic for a very long time, and refused payment for same.

I do believe that I’m learning that I don’t have to be unethical to work for myself. It’s not unethical to accept money in exchange for services or products (largely amounting to time, investment, skill, and imagination) rendered. But also — if I do work for myself — there is nothing really stopping me from going in nearly any direction I choose (at any time I choose). That lack of structure is new. It’s probably, in reality, also the most difficult thing about even attempting to be self-employed, at least at this juncture.

Routine Log #2

The day before yesterday (Thursday the 29th), I timed myself at work. It’s taking me a bit over two hours to create one 6″ long beaded micro-macramé bracelet strap…which seems overly long. 6″ is 12.5 repeats of my pattern, which ends up averaging around 10 minutes for one repeat.

There has to be something else getting factored into this: my main suspect would be setup and prep work, together taking at least 15 minutes. Setup is the most annoying thing out of all of this: from stretching the cord, to cutting and prepping the ends, to tying it onto a waste bundle in such a way that I can tug hard on the anchored end, and remove the mounting by tugging on the other. I have only just realized that I can slip a looped cord over the end of the waste bundle instead of trying to thread it behind and then to the front…not to mention, how much use a crochet hook is, when trying to mount a cord to the waste bundle.

Either that, or I’m just working at a relaxed pace (which is keeping me from having too many errors: I’ve only caught myself with one, recently). I also need to acknowledge that my hands haven’t yet fully toughened, so I am still dealing with a little bit of sensitivity with each knot (not to mention when stretching the material).

It is probably possible to reduce that time by pre-stringing some of my beads…at least, if I pre-string them accurately. I’m not sure how it will work out, however; I’ve never done it before, and I know that beads tend to get tangled up with (or explode off of) long lines of thread. As I’m thinking about it, I’d only really be able to make this work on the outer two lines. But that’s something. I also suppose that I’m only working with about 18″ at a time, which is…kind of a blessing, I guess. The center two lines are used as carrier cords, while the middle two lines are actively involved with knotting between the outer and inner cords.

I was at work on Thursday the 29th for about four and a half to five hours — during which I was directly involved in making two bracelets. (There was more time spent at work during which I was not making those bracelets.) They aren’t yet complete; I put off the construction of the clasps until the 30th. I suspected that I would need materials I hadn’t yet obtained: I was right to wait. Now, I have those materials…but still haven’t yet finished the bracelets, due to prioritizing self-care.

That, and I’m still a little edgy about fastidiousness: viruses on surfaces eventually die without a host. While I had been more fastidious about quarantining anything new to come into the house before the vaccine, I have been feeling safer. Then, boom, Delta; and now, apparently, we’re dealing with dementia risk as well as risk of death (although I did read that breakthrough symptomatic COVID cases only happen to about 1% of people with both doses of the vaccines [that require it]).

Today is the 31st (for a few more hours), and I know I have issues with paranoia even when we’re not having pandemics. In addition to physical self-care, there’s emotional self-care, too. I don’t think I can be really chastised all that much for not being eager to consider new beads as, “safe,” too soon; especially when dealing with them could be considered entirely unnecessary. But with a mind like mine, I have to employ a balancing act between being overly cautious and having a false sense of security.

I do know at this point, however…the next couple of things I’ll obtain are things I don’t immediately need. If I can wait five days from the time they were packed and sent (which should only be a one-day quarantine after getting them), I hope to be OK. For that matter, everything currently on my craft table should be safe by Monday — but I should check (and organize) my records. That would be a good project for tomorrow.

The older coronavirus, at least, would stop being viable at around 5 days, maximum (IIRC). I’m not as concerned about the packaging (which can be thrown out), so much as what’s inside. Of course, dry heat roasting inside a mailbox is probably not so great for viruses, either…

Anyhow…I’ve realized it takes about 15 minutes to ream out a set of two horn beads to have approximately 1/16″ holes…which isn’t too bad, considering how long it takes without a rotary tool! (If I felt confident estimating the diameter of the opening in millimeters, I would — but it’s just very clearly 1/16″, when I look at a ruler. Google says that’s about 1.6 mm.)

I have the beads for the clasps separated out at this point, though I recalled last night that I have some extra-large seed beads. Looking at my records, these are size 1/0 (“one-aught”) in mixed colors. Unfortunately, there are no pink beads in the lot (I found this upon retrieving them)…which is what I’m looking for. I might be able to use some of the turquoise-shade ones, though. (I’ve wondered if greens and blues are easier to make, in glass…)

I’ve been working further, on sizing. Four days ago, I made a bracelet way too (way too!) small for my wrist, maybe too small for a fourteen-year-old’s wrist. I’m still not entirely certain of all that went wrong there, besides making the strap much too short (which I would have known, had I compared it to the aborted bracelet I made on the 23rd [which was also too short] — in which I cut the wrong cord — that was two hours of work!). Yes, I need to be more careful about absent-mindedness encouraged by being too eager to finish.

Would that mean the drawstrings on the clasp would have to be ultra-long, to compensate? In any case, they were. I’m used to the drawstrings being 1.25″ to 1.5″ each; these were…way longer, closer to 3″ or possibly more; it’s too upsetting to get up and measure right now. Was it the fault of having the clasp beads in too long a sequence, as well (1″)?

I’ve realized that I need to make the bracelet expandable to 8″ just to fit over my own hand (regardless of what portion of that is the drawstrings), and that this outer diameter will differ depending on the sizes of others’ hands. Given that I’m not aiming exclusively for a cisgender women’s market, I’ll have to take this into consideration, going forward.

That is…maybe I shouldn’t cut off the drawstrings prematurely. I’m also going to try and factor 0.5″ of ease (at least) into all my subsequent bracelets. They can be worn on a wrist larger than they’re designed for, but they don’t look…perfect, that way.

Yeah, “perfect is the enemy of good.” I know.

It’s better for the bracelets to be a little loose, but hold together; than it is for them to be snug and still pulled apart at the closure. For that matter, it’s better for the slides to be knotted firmly, but not tightly; than it is for them to be knotted loosely. The latter results in the bracelet opening up when worn, as it tends to travel up the arm (especially with frequent hand-washing).

I have improvised a way to keep the knots tight where I need them to be, and marginally looser along the slide closures. I haven’t recorded how I did it yet (in archive form), but that’s largely because I’ve only used this finishing technique three times, so far…and two of those (from the 29th) aren’t fully complete at this point. (Drawing this out is another good project for tomorrow; then on Monday, I can finish these bracelets with a clear head.)

However…it’s interesting to see my ideas evolving along the basis of time; experimenting and seeing what works, and if it doesn’t work perfectly, trying something else. Incremental growth! (Not quite the same as, “Maximum effort!” but you get me.)

The thought of that, leads me to a mystery point…of why knots lock together sometimes, but not when what is perceived to be the same movement is repeated elsewhere. This happened on the pink/purple/turquoise bracelet I worked on (I only have one poor quality photo so far, apologies). On one half of the bracelet, the termination locked cleanly together; you can’t really even tell I made a reef knot (I’m using the term “reef knot” [in which there are no center cords to knot over] to differentiate the concept from “square knot” [which I’m usually knotting around other cords]. So far as I know, this is a novel use of the term). Did the first half of that reef knot turn into a half-hitch? Then the second turned into a half-hitch on the other cord?

That is, did my tatting skills come in to allow me to “flip” the knots by altering tension, which enabled the knots to “hide” within the macramé? I sincerely don’t know, at this point.

Maybe I should try the movement on its own. It has been a really long time since I’ve tatted…but I remember enough to know that the properties of a flipped knot are not the same as a locked one. That knowledge could come in useful, down the line. Of course, there’s also the question of whether half of a reef knot is in fact the same thing (or marginally close to the same thing) as a half-hitch.

Trying to repeat what happened the first time, was basically unsuccessful the next three times I tried it. The first time I did it, I got a relatively clean leaf or heart shape with a point. The second through fourth times I did it, it wasn’t as attractive, although the reef knot was balanced. As for whether two half-hitches on alternate cords will hold; it doesn’t matter, because this occurs right before getting into the slide closure, and they’re knotted off fairly strongly before that happens. They’re also knotted off all along their length, so they’re not going anywhere.

I just wish I knew what happened, so I could replicate it. I should get the chance to study and observe again in later manifestations. Of course, that also means that either I finish what I started a few days ago, or I remove them completely so I can use the macramé board for other projects. I do have a half-size board, but I’m not sure it will be good for extended work with my present setup…the full-size board is useful for the fact that it can lean against a tabletop while resting on my lap. I’m not sure that will be the case with the half-size one…and I do know at this point that with macramé, ergonomics matter.

The other thing that has been notable, over — say — the last half-week: I’ve been learning about color schemes and the benefit of mixing colors, as versus matching them. A majority of the work I have been doing with seed beads (and other glass) recently has dealt with color combinations. I think this is…a full enough update for tonight, though. Maybe once I can get a bunch of this stuff finished and photographed, I’ll be able to explain the color dynamics angle, more intelligently…

Feminine sustenance

The importance of play and enjoyment in art and design cannot be underestimated. I was working on a bracelet two days ago — my second one of the day, because I had inadvertently destroyed my first model by being too eager to finish (I cut the wrong cord…which may be another entry) — when I realized that all of the jewelry models I had created which were unique to me, started out with just sitting down and playing with materials.

Which means…in order to grow a sustainable business, I need to, actually, allow myself time to play. It’s not unimportant, and it’s not childish. It’s how new things come into being.

I have heard people online lament that some customers wish not to have to pay for labor when they can sense that the labor is (or was) enjoyable. However…at least where I’m at, we live in a capitalist society and require money from somewhere to sustain our basic existence. Just because the labor can be fun doesn’t mean it should therefore be free. This especially applies when most of the cost of an item is in compensation for labor.

As I was working, I realized that…I am the agent that puts together all these raw materials (in this case, cord and beads) and makes them into something recognizably useful. Even if the use is aesthetic, a bracelet is not worn without reason. Peoples’ justifications of these reasons vary…but the core drive seems to be to beautify oneself or express oneself. It’s my mind that composes the combinations and configurations of colors; it’s my investment to seek and obtain the materials in the first place; it’s my hands that weave and knot these things into existence. Quite literally, the pieces I make and design would not have existed without me; without my commitment to initiate and follow through on that creation.

Therefore, no; these items are not free. And if I’m to spend my life doing it, I have the right to ask for a living wage so that I can continue to do it without my having also to subsidize others’ buying it. It’s not lucrative — even being a Bench Jeweler is not lucrative, surprisingly — but the feeling of satisfaction I get is well worth it.

I wrote a journal entry (offline) talking about the benefits of being a hobbyist — that I can sell at a lower price to the people I most want to be able to possess my jewelry. That is the ideal. As I was writing this, however, I also realized that maybe I, too, am used to getting things more cheaply than I should be able to get them — because of people being underpaid elsewhere in the supply chain. Or alternately (or perhaps concurrently), because of economies of scale and mass production (which does not necessarily sacrifice quality).

In this country, we went from slavery to Jim Crow to the school-to-prison pipeline…which all appear to be ways, essentially, to enable the extraction of free labor. How much would the price of fresh produce go up, if all farm workers were paid fair, living wages? How much would goods from other countries cost if those countries had similar costs and standards of living as some now possess in the country in which I live?

I don’t know if capitalism on the whole, can even function without workers being underpaid (or unpaid), somewhere (example: mothers). It’s a question I’ve had for a while; then again, we have an embarrassing level of income disparity in this country. Even given that, though: if I get to choose my own asking price (which is not really a “choice”; it is based on the local living wage: I would not necessarily feel safe living many other places), I’d rather choose to be independent than dependent on cash flows from someone else.

There is a lot that is working against women and girls in this country, not to mention gender minorities who happen to come off as women and girls. Still. I have chosen to spend my time, from high school onward, becoming potentially more self-sufficient, rather than choosing to find someone to marry. A lot of that relates to wanting to have relationships based on mutual respect, appreciation, self-respect, and love, rather than economic needs. It helps that I take relatively long periods of time to form social ties, and that those social ties appear to be independent of a drive to reproduce.

That is, I don’t want to live with someone who treats me poorly because I can’t afford to live on my own. I learned very early on that it’s better to be alone than it is to be with someone who abuses you. This especially applies to someone who is with you because they hope to use your womb (clearly against your inclination and consent). There are many reasons I’ve opted to avoid having children. My creation and contribution to the future is in the Arts and Humanities, not childbearing. That’s the way I need it to be.

The major issue I face right now is how to navigate the world as an independent person, and how to integrate the ideas people have had about women, the value of women, and the value of womens’ labor, in the face of a world still largely dominated and controlled by men.

Right now I’m wearing the third most recent bracelet I’ve made: I’ve knotted the slide closures more loosely than usual, and I want to see how the thing wears. If it falls apart, I’ll know not to begin the slides without firmly knotting off the body of the work, again. I’ve actually gotten the idea during the composition of this writing, to add in some size 11/0 beads between the ending of the bracelet and the beginning of the clasp (using Delicas, if need be). This may keep the gap I need to be there, while enabling me to knot tightly. I’m not totally satisfied with this piece; in particular, I should have used a material like bone instead of horn, to border the clasp.

I hadn’t anticipated that the graphic quality of black horn would contrast so powerfully with the pastel body of the rest of the piece. The reason I’m using natural — in this case, animal-sourced — materials for the clasp is that I know they’re more durable than glass, and won’t damage glass. Bone and horn are also relatively much softer and much safer to ream — that is, to enlarge the piercings within, as I’ll likely have to do for most of these beads — than glass or stone. The closures I’ve designed need a larger passage to be able to function properly.

It…is amazing, the look of this piece. To me, it also feels very feminine, but not in a way that would cause me to avoid it (there are different kinds of femininity, some of which I embody; others, I simply can’t). I’ve used a combination of greens and violets which remind me of flowering succulent plants (which, in my mind — along with most plants — are not gendered). This…along with my particular situation as it comes to gender, probably has me thinking along the lines of, “how do they do this?” How do people, that is, stand all the negative attention that comes with being seen as a woman?

Yes, the bracelet is beautiful. Yes, I would like to wear it. But then, what does that mean to other people? Will they think I’m making a statement? What kind of statement?

I am female; I don’t consider myself a woman, at this point. Generally, this means that I have chosen to opt-out of the pattern of either conforming to, or rebelling against, compulsory femininity. Most women I’ve known can’t conceptualize my viewpoints; at least, not without time and extended effort. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have people trying to play games with me as though I am a woman, however, expecting me to respond…in some way which would delight them, at my expense. (I have a problem when they take a gamble on this assumption and lose.) Neither does it mean that “womens'” clothes don’t fit best.

Realistically speaking…to the world, I appear to be a young woman. The thing is, I don’t consent to having that label applied to me, and I’m not that young. It is actually insulting to have men treat one as though one is a fourteen-year-old, when one is nearly forty. I also haven’t quite figured out yet how to explain to others, the idea that I am physiologically similar to many women, but that doesn’t mean that the ideas my appearance may bring to mind, are at all a match with the actual reality of my person.

And, no, I’m not entirely sure where those ideas come from in the first place, though my best guess is that they spring from media stereotypes. Having an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, and having years of experience in character illustration (though not for money — and not online), I kind of have an idea about just how highly these things are edited.

At one time I was into comics and manga, though that kind of died down (i.e. had to stop) when I realized that there were no representations of anyone who looked like myself in any of them. As for animation, the closest characters to my own image are both villains: Gothel (the witch) in Tangled, and Dr. Olivia Octavius in Into the Spider-Verse. As for why there aren’t any non-crazy characters who look like me, that’s not really an area I’ve cared to follow up on.

It’s not a great thing to imprint on images which a person has no chance at all of ever being able to attain (or which are inherently negative). There is a point of why there are so few representations with so many characters; there is also a point of why characters who appear a certain way are slotted the way they are. Does it have to do with marketing? I mean, seriously.

Yes, I could straighten my hair. The question is why I would do so, when I know it would eventually result in permanent damage to my own body. Yes, I could take testosterone. The question is what I would get out of it, besides being constantly mistaken for another gender I’m not. Is that worth lifelong dependency on outside hormones, which (in my case) would raise my risk of heart-related complications?

People seem to have a difficult time distinguishing fantasy from reality. It doesn’t help when those fantasies are about an actual, living person, or actual, living people. If people could simply know that stereotypes are not reality, we would probably all be better off, and I would be very much relieved. I mean, seriously. At least at this point, that’s all I want.

Unseen works

It’s nice to be able to type, taking needed time out so I can compose what I actually want to say. I’ve been working on Pages recently, more than Posts (that is, the site rather than the blog). I am also encountering the need for Developmental Editing — I’m doing it on my own right now, and that’s fine, especially as I’m not done even getting all of my thoughts out in the first place — but I find that I keep going off on trains of thought which would distract anyone from my main topic. How do I know? Things cohere again when I cut them out.

Then there is the fact that I go off on these long side conversations (which have an organic ending point), and clipping them out leaves the beginning of another Page, which can be (and probably should be) expanded. Transitions and endings are my weak point, however (which is odd for someone whose thoughts range as much as mine do). I can tell that I’m going to have to use anchors. At least, I’ll want to experiment with them.

A long time has passed since I’ve written anything…well, to last, I suppose. Not only am I writing this as a semi-serious thing (semi-serious is one step up from casual, where I’m actually attempting, for example, research — but not without humor, and not so dry or formal as to drive away readers)…I’m also trying to display my skills as a writer. Writing is what I need to be doing, and being hired as a writer requires writing samples. Because of that, I’m paying attention to things that might go under the radar in a blog post.

Also because of that, my other semi-active blog is likely to see some important revisions. I’ve been reluctant to do anything about it because it’s so massive, and I wrote there in a very personal sense (in effect, I came into my current understanding of my own identity on that blog)…but it will be good for me to go over it and pare it down further; and maybe revise and resurface some content.

At that time, it seems like I would be able to repurpose it into something where maybe I could be more open than I am, here, or write about topics other than beadwork and the entire business thing. I do have other parts of myself, among them a crippling sense of idealism. How much easier would the world be to navigate if I had no scruples, right? But then the world would be one light less and one scumball more. Nobody wants that!

Maybe I could read some of my more troubling (but historically important) old posts, and respond to them from a present-day outlook…which will, of course, similarly become eventually dated.

I thought I would miss the instant gratification of having posts show up immediately after I’ve written them, but part of learning to love writing is also learning to love rewriting. Prior to the rise of the ‘Net, I would think most writing was not sent out in first draft status (unless it was a personal communication)! If it weren’t for continual content generation and the filtering out of things that don’t make it to the public eye…hey, most writing would be rewriting.

I’m attempting to approach SpectralBeads as I would approach a hyperlinked manuscript. Granted, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before, except within a project having to do with graduation. I’m also realizing that because of the nature of what I have to say…it may not be published in pieces, but after thorough reshuffling of ideas and documents. This has the potential to become a valuable online resource, that is; not just for myself. It could also demonstrate my writing skills.

I do have an outline published for the part of the site I’m working on now (mostly as a reminder) but it’s becoming pretty clear that at some point, I’m going to have to move beyond it. Once the content in the outline is covered, I will likely take it down (and replace it with the actual fleshed-out content).

After that, I might want to do some reviews of the books I do have; link to relevant tutorials and other sites; link to relevant suppliers. At that point, I’ll likely have thought more about what else I might like to do with the site, other than chronicling my process…

Changing scale

I…am terribly tired. I’m not sure it’s at all related to the fact that I have slept so much within the last two days. I ended up dropping my Computer Science course. There was essentially no way I could complete it, and even though I am more focused on learning than grades, at this point; my Professor was not. I should note to myself that I still have access to the text, so I actually can do the reading I wanted to do.

Since that time…there have been some physical things to take care of (which were the things I haven’t mentioned yet which led me to miss a week of class), and a newly introduced lack of structure. My Bullet Journal records and goals have all been shot since the middle of last month, when I finally filled out the June layout. I still haven’t filled out the July one, and it’s almost the 15th again.

It is a lot of work, to do the layouts. It’s a lot of work for something custom, though, which…should be familiar to me. Where else am I going to find a sleep journal that spans all 24 hours? 😛 Nor have I kept on top of my spreadsheets…which I’m going to want or need to do, at some point.

My major issue with this right now is the fact that I do need to separate out all of my seed bead records into their own workbook, along with making some kind of unique identifier for each specific type of seed bead I have. This is going to require some conversion, as I’ve found that my earlier entries did not accurately capture the correct information needed for my purposes. I’ve not had to do conversion on such a large scale, before…but I have help.

Right now, I’m unsure if I’m falling into a depression. I do know that it feels that way — I was up last night upset at all the death in the world right now, and the fact that I know we’re in the middle of a mass extinction, on top of COVID and Bird Flu and people going homicidal and whatever else. Right now, I’m not sure if I should even plan to make it to old age, as it may be energy wasted.

Comparison of scale between a beaded double spiral rope made with all 8/0 beads, as versus made with an 8/0 core and 11/0 beads around the outside.

Anyhow…I did recently receive the beads I mentioned last post. Size 11/0 instead of 8/0, in the same colors as before (see left or just above, if on mobile). Yes, this is one image.

Although it’s a bit difficult to concentrate on anything right now, I was at least able to work this little sample on the bottom row…

Double Spiral Rope stitch uses up a lot of thread! It also becomes inflexible if there are too many beads going around the outside of the core, as happened when I tried to place six 11/0 beads per stitch (with a four-bead 8/0 core). The top sample in the above photo also was way too dense, using four 8/0 beads around a four-bead 8/0 core…the space just filled up before I could open up more length with my stitching.

As I initially learned it, Double Spiral Rope normally adds two loops per one core bead added, not one loop per one core bead added, as in regular Spiral Rope. This produces added density (not to mention, weight) which…can be difficult to deal with. There seem to be a few ways to get around this…I went with shortening the length of the stitch, which worked out well. Not perfectly, but well.

I’ve found the need to alter the angle at which I hold the needle to pierce into the core beads, and then lever it around — in order to get the tip of the needle safely into that space (and not into my own fingers). So far as I can tell, this seems to be a specific difficulty of Double Spiral Rope altering the required angle of attack — single Spiral Rope does not present this problem for me.

Using four 11/0 beads per stitch with a core base unit of three 8/0s is much easier, as it allows for more space between the outer beads — and that allows for greater flexibility in the chain.

The silverlined beads and shiny black core beads in the above are Preciosas, while the other opaque beads are Miyuki. In the all-8/0 sample, I used a set of matte black beads for the 8/0s (just visible at the ends of the sample). I don’t know who made them; but this batch, at least, has a nice form.

I just went with the glossy black beads (Preciosa) this time because 1) I have more of them (hanks are much larger in volume than tubes, especially as the sizes of the beads increase), and 2) I wanted to see how it would turn out. Essentially, they’re barely visible, except on the ends of the chain, or if the chain is parted for some reason (like trying to evenly space the helixes around the outside of the core).

The latter is the next problem I’ll have to work out, it seems…

There comes a time…

…when you realize you have enough beads. It’s like, seriously, self: you have enough design possibilities to explore as it is. Alternately: how much magpie do you have in you? Or: how little imagination do you have to have that you can’t make nice stuff with what you’ve already got? It’s not a very nice thing for me to say to myself, but it’s direct. Self-challenges aren’t always presented in a palatable form. I know I’m not the only crafter who stashes materials, but at a certain point it does become obvious and annoying (for me).

I’m trying to figure out…how to note color schemes I’ve arranged throughout my collection which may work well in finished pieces, without having to associate them one-to-one (or alternately, splitting my stock of a certain color and then risking not being able to find the other pieces of it). This is essentially an organizational problem…but solving it could increase productivity by enabling me to more freely associate the sizes, shapes and colors I have access to. The issue is having to devise a coding scheme with enough individual values…then having to label everything…then having to associate those codes with strands containing the actual beads.

Yeah…I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Especially as I don’t really want to design another database…

I was initially going to write about the last project I’ve completed, though I’m not entirely satisfied with the outcome. That may be reason enough to write about it…but details may actually be best reserved for my own offline logs.

To give a quick overview: I essentially made a Spiral Rope chain for a pre-fabricated pendant. I wish I would have done more trials before beginning the work (to include designs I didn’t think would work) — and consulted a chart to see where the chain would fall, depending on its length (it’s almost exactly 24″). Also, the sheer mass of Spiral Rope meant that the piece opened out to the sides instead of creating a “V” as I had hoped. Using mostly opaque and matte beads gave the piece a plain appearance.

In any case, it was a learning experience. I’m also surprised that it only took me two nights to complete — at least, if I’m remembering things properly. That doesn’t seem fast, but it was a very quick turnaround from concept to completion, for me: two evenings. Of course, it helps that I already am well-acquainted with Spiral Rope technique, and already had the materials.

I am planning a redux of this when I’m able to get beads in the right sizes and colors: as I used size 8/0 beads, I couldn’t create a Double Spiral as I wished. The girth of the beads was just so wide that I couldn’t fit in as many repeats as I needed to, before the spirals filled the space allotted to them. The alternatives are to either space out the beads further, use larger core beads, or use smaller loop beads.

As regards the color: we did specifically try to match the pendant, and I found a color scheme that will work. (Whether it’s ideal or not, is a different question.) The issue is that I have the colors, but not in the right sizes. I’ll be able to give it another go sometime soon, I’m sure.

Somewhat reassuringly, I found there is a very close sizing between Preciosa 8/0s (standard good-quality Czech seed beads) and Miyuki 8/0s (high-quality Japanese seed beads), which was unexpected. What I think has happened for me, however, is that I’ve bought some beads which may be off-brand, which are sized irregularly. This has given me the impression that standard seed bead sizes are more of a nice ideal than a reality.

I know this happened, particularly, with beads I bought while still a teen, from bead stores and conventions which were local and not online; and before I knew any better. This means I have some stranded beads with unusually thick walls, unusually flat profiles, and weird sizing (I suspect these come from the same manufacturer), as well as other beads with inferior coloring (this is 25 years down the line; they were likely dyed, and maybe should just be discarded, at this point).

I have already separated out some hanks I know of which have irregular sizing between beads, which makes them pretty near worthless, except for stringing. (Of course, when I got them, I was very young; so stringing was something I would have been looking forward to.) One set of these has a really lovely light yellow/light gold color, and is silverlined; maybe I can do something with these like a multistrand bracelet or neckpiece. I know I can’t use them for weaving.

The different hanks I have (assumedly Czech; usually Czech beads are sold by the hank, half-hank, occasionally by the bag or strand…while non-vintage Japanese beads are sold by the tube or occasional bag) are just not all of the same quality.

I’ve already weeded out a good number of Japanese seed beads which I believe were produced by the same maker, and sold by a vendor which does not label bead brands or sources…they have brilliant colors, but the sheer dimensions and shapes of the beads (rectangular in cross-section — and they are not cylinder beads) make them unsuited to the work I want to do. They are particularly poorly suited to any stitch where the beads meet at the corners, like Right-Angle Weave or Herringbone Stitch.

As regards the beads on hanks, I…need to go through them to determine sizing, and to attempt to identify Preciosa beads as versus anything else I may have — if I can remember (in particular, almost all beads from another vendor are also sold without overt branding — at least at conventions [their website does sometimes give brands, but I’ve found the descriptions to be at least occasionally inaccurate]), though it feels like busy work. It will be necessary at some point, however, if I am to use these beads. The upshot is that it would show me what I actually have and can use, and what is best reserved for times when I do need an off-size.

There is also the fact that a number of hanks I have from my youth are of unknown aught (“aught” is a measure of size; 8/0 is read “eight-aught,” 11/0 is read, “eleven-aught,” with 8/0 larger than 11/0, etc.). I had assumed they were 11/0, but there is a good chance that some of them are 13/0 or even 15/0. 10/0 beads, which I’ve seen (and used) recently…are very difficult to tell apart from 11/0s, except by feel. 10/0s are just slightly larger, and closer to a Japanese 11/0 (Czech seed beads run small). It’s like having to tell the difference between different needle gauges by feel: I can do it (sometimes), but you only really develop the skill by working with them (and having some baselines to compare them to).

I’m thinking the only way to sort these out is going to be to weave samples out of all of them and compare their sizes. It’s obviously…not the most engaging task, or the most creative (kind of like making earwires). But putting in time now would enable me to know what I have and how it works. A lot of what I’ve been doing recently is trying just to figure out what I have so that I can stop operating on a (false) assumption of scarcity.

Of course, though, that delays actual creative work…which is a long-standing issue with me. Or feels like it, at least. I do a lot of experimentation and trials, as contrasted with finished objects. I also do a…good deal of writing, though I haven’t been keeping up with myself as much as I would like, recently. Aside from this…I’ve been working with African Helix and Right-Angle Weave, recently: mostly because they popped up and I realized I wanted to brush up on my skills in working with them. Those projects have both been positive, but more learning/re-learning/expanding technique, rather than designing anything finished.

I had been up to creating that pink version of the Chevron Stitch bracelet I documented in my last post; I just haven’t done it yet, as I got sidetracked onto the Spiral Rope project (for now, done)…and had also been thinking of modifying the Chevron accent colors. I have both an upcoming Version 2 of the Spiral Rope, and a bracelet and necklace based around vulcanism in the works. I know the pattern for the bracelet; right now I only have one basic sketch for the necklace, and a bunch of materials — but it’s enough to start with.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry…I also am having a bit of a conflict around creating color schemes, as I know I have a number of colors which are close-but-not-quite-the-same. I would not necessarily be able to positively identify the rest of a vial of beads, from a small sample of those beads. Right now, I’ve got everything separated into groups; the thing is, I was mostly looking for analogous color ranges when I made those groups. What I’ve found via that last bracelet is that combining two or more contrasting, harmonizing groups of analogous color ranges, built on color overtones, will look a lot more dynamic.

I kind of wish I had had the guts and foresight to replace those Smurf-blue beads with a violet-tending bead, in my last bracelet. The matte blue beads were more violet than my originals, and they brought in a line where I could have included 8/0s with a taste of violet, instead of straight Capri Blue.

Of course, I can always make it again…the issue is running out of those 1.5mm Toho cubes, which I may not be able to find an exact replacement for (in this day and age). You would think it would be easy; the color is still fairly common…but it will take some work. There is the question as well of what I would use those beads for, if not for this project. Right now I have no other plans for them, so I’m not entirely sure why I’m nervous about using them. Am I afraid I won’t like what they’ll turn out to be? Or that I’ll be wasting money on a near-duplicate, when I could explore further? Should I be more worried about not using them?

I’m…also not entirely sure…even at this point, exactly what I want to do with the jewelry enterprise. I know I don’t have all the information I need, yet…I also know I won’t be able to make a living off of this; but some return is better than nothing. The question is how much more than nothing I am willing to live with, for however long I decide to do this, and how much time I want to sacrifice to it. I’ve reached the point where I can list things, that is…and I have been nervous about actually selling things for a very long time, due to tax and other legal concerns. Right now I’m building up my stock of original patterns and finished pieces, while also exploring the borders of my knowledge.

What I’ve found at this point is that I actually probably don’t love running the math, although it is…rather exciting to allow the computer to do the grunt work for me. Pricing is just not a fun thing to do.

I have written for much too long, here.