Routine Log #4: Heading up to the finish

I’ve wanted to get back to this blog for a while, though the times I’ve had available to write (and not constantly be on myself about how I should be working) would mostly have been in the wee hours of the morning. I know that’s not unusual (for me), but I had gotten really out of my Circadian rhythm, and was not looking forward to only being able to fall asleep after 2 or 3 AM. It can take me hours to write one of these posts, though I generally don’t notice that much, when I’m in a flow state.

I officially have less than a month left of classes. My hands are feeling it. Particularly, one of the fingers of my right hand has been a bit out of sorts, over the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure if it’s because of too much smartphone use, too much writing with that hand, too much typing, too much unscrewing jars and pen caps, or what. But because of that, I had been trying to rest it. I’m not entirely sure what caused it, so I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to stop doing (other than lifting electronics, which seems to trigger aching).

Because I do so much with my hands, I’m pretty sure that I should make it a priority to work it less, until the ache goes away. It’s not a severe pain, or a constant one (yet), so I have some wiggle room.

Reading back over this blog, I can see the precursors to this post relatively clearly: much more clearly, than I did at the time of writing them. For one of my classes, I had to create a Business Plan, which — well, this is really not a high-level class — it didn’t have to be elaborate. I’ve had to write at least one Business Plan in the deep past, and it was essentially for the same hypothetical company. What I find, through being in Business courses, is that my Business Plan is really not all that awesome. 🙂 This is likely because I’m prioritizing doing what I want to do, as versus what will make money. There is a difference.

Long story short: I’ve had to cut back on any hope of making a living working with beads, due to a number of present and future factors. The main one of these is that I don’t want to run a sweatshop. Hiring on extra help to do what I will not have time to do, greatly boosts productivity and profits…but it isn’t fair to the workers, and the system is a fragile thing to begin with. I don’t want to manage other people, and I certainly don’t want to be the manager who doesn’t pay enough.

The other end of this is that I don’t want to gouge people for work that takes hours to make (and more to design), but is inexpensive as regards materials. Neither do I want to drive myself into debt or bankruptcy because I don’t want to charge a fair price for my time. What I’m dealing with is the quandary of producing labor-intensive products in a Service- (and increasingly Information-) based society. There are places on the planet where the main mode of income generation is in manufacturing. I don’t live within one, and there’s no way I can compete in this market on the basis of price (and still live here).

On top of that, I’ve learned over time that people don’t necessarily know or care about the skill required to create beadwork. It doesn’t help that finding excellent examples of skilled work, takes some digging.

I am not entirely certain, but I am disconcerted that it may be riskier and cost more (both out-of-pocket and in time lost) for me to attempt to monetize my beadwork habit online, than it will to do what I can already see myself doing — which is keeping up the blog, developing content, and sharing where I’m at on my journey in Jewelry Design. (For instance, I’ve thought of going back to that tour of off-loom beadweaving techniques that I mentioned before classes began.) These aren’t useless pursuits: they keep me writing, and they help me develop skills in desktop publishing and blogging, as well as giving purpose to my continued beadwork. They’re certainly better ways for me to spend my time than television or video games…which tend not to hold my interest anyway, but that’s an aside.

So what am I thinking of doing?

I’ve heard that I may be a very good fit for Cataloging Librarianship…which gives me a lot to study, after these classes are over! I’ll want to look at increasing my knowledge of the field as well as acquiring another language. As always, I’ve been torn between español (Spanish — because it’s more in demand, I have prior training, and it’s therefore easier) and 日本語 (Japanese language — because I have personal use for it).

I just recently learned that the kanji I kept seeing but not connecting with a known word, 大丈夫, is daijoubu. I also learned that Google Translate doesn’t understand this word unless the “u” is included after “jo” to make an “o” held for two beats, or “jō”. So “daijoubu desu ka?” (“are you OK?”) is spelled alright, as is “daijōbu desu ka?” (like anyone knows what a diacritic “macron” is) but “daijobu desu ka?” may not be. At least, Google Translate can’t understand it because it isn’t an exact match to what it expects.

I need to find a better easy Japanese-English dictionary source…not to mention, a Japanese-language word processor. I mean, seriously, it should be possible to look up a kanji by either an on or kun reading…

Anyway, given that this site may morph into a personal blog plus extra information on books (or issues raised in books), possibly language acquisition, libraries, and beadwork (depending on where my focus is at any one time…which is a perennial problem that I don’t even know how to solve), instead of a Business or eCommerce blog focused on sales; (at least if things keep going the way they are), hey: maybe trying to disentangle my life from my work, won’t be so bad. I should note that I’m thinking of applying Creative Commons licenses to some stuff that I’m planning to put up here (eventually), which allows me some degree of flexibility, at least…

Dang, girl.

Yes, I know I should be studying for my Business classes. I’m not. Will this bite me? I don’t know. Chances are unlikely: I’m taking all my classes, Pass/No Pass. The biggest thing that will be bruised is my ego. Taking a long view…maybe it actually is a better use of my time to write out my thoughts, right now, than it is to keep trying to overperform in the short term.

Unless, that is, I want Job References from any of my current teachers, which will all be far more recent than my latest employment history. I have about a month and a half left of classes, which — for one thing, is mind-boggling. I can’t believe so much time has passed: three months! But maybe it just seems short, because I haven’t been logging it. I’ve been going from project to project. Particularly, the last two weeks have been really rough for me, and I’m sure this is because I’m putting in a lot more effort than necessary. I’m going by the idea that you get out of school, what you put into school. Even if you’re just taking little Community College classes, when you’ve done much more in your time. And even if a D still counts as a Pass (which I’m amazed at).

At the beginning of this week, I turned in a 35-page paper(!). Sure, only 24 of those were actual writing (not Bibliography or Title Page or Table of Contents), and sure, it was double-spaced, which is standard. And it wasn’t perfect. But I worked my butt off for four days in a row, researching and writing this thing, and doing little else. Of course, I had done research prior, as well — but definitely no more than two weeks’ worth. Then we had a Test the other night — same class. And we’re supposed to be constantly working on a financial project, which I’m not doing very well at keeping up with, but it’s flexible. Same class. And, right, I was supposed to read a book chapter to prepare for lecture on the same night of the test. (It didn’t get done.) Same class.

NOBODY probably got all of that done, except people with no other responsibilities…and maybe, no other classes. No, I’m not asking that teacher for a Job Reference. And yes, I have noticed that I don’t like trying to comprehend (or worse, work out) complex math. I probably don’t actually want to be an Accountant or Bookkeeper, that is. There’s a magic to quantitative reasoning, but …still. Math and logic are difficult. The question I have is whether they are difficult, even for people who are good at them, at least with a recent Math history like mine? Am I alone, or in good company?

My other classes mostly take into account the fact that people have lives — and multiple other classes, although two of those classes allow no late work, period. Which means that I have one other class that can flex.

You see where I’m at.

The thing is, I seem to be overperforming on pretty much everything (except Math). Many assignments only require a 100-to-250-word response, and I’m going way over that. Regularly.

Right now…I’m thinking about why it was that I wanted to take these classes, which clarifies my goals; what is really important, in light of those goals; and hence, which activities are of most value at this time. There are some questions I can’t really work on at this point in my life: like how much money I’ll need to put away for retirement. I don’t even know how much money it would take to keep me alive now, if I were not living with other people! How am I supposed to forecast my living expenses in 30 years? Especially in an economy like today’s?

I don’t mean by that, some generic idea referring to whatever romanticized current zeitgeist we’ll see, looking wistfully back on this, from the future; I mean today’s economy, with vast income inequality meaning generally low wages for most people; high unemployment; a housing price bubble; rapid short-term inflation; supply chain bottlenecks; COVID lockdowns; repeated economic stimulus checks — and there’s more. There is nothing “normal” about today. How can I predict anything about 30 years into the future, when I can’t predict what my life will be like, three months from now?

At least I know enough to know that I can’t know. That’s something.

In any case…I’ve been working on assembling the information necessary to have, if I want to open a small business. The thing is, this would essentially be a microbusiness, employing fewer than five people. I would not be able to charge a living wage, at least if I’m looking at an hourly pay rate for myself (though that’s not how you pay yourself in a microbusiness, I know).

I’m looking at the overhead: hiring legal counsel, hiring a bookkeeper or accountant, hiring IT help, hiring a photographer (or buying a good digital camera and taking some classes), purchasing insurance, getting a Business bank account, getting a P.O. Box, getting a DBA, getting a Seller’s Permit and FEIN, buying Web hosting, transferring existing data or purchasing a new domain, subscribing to and learning to use image-editing and desktop-publishing software, getting trademark protection, getting the necessary tax and legal forms, possibly getting an extra computer to process payments as versus surf the Web, etc…this is stuff you do when you think you’re actually going to experience financial gain.

Like, ACTUALLY. Not like, “I’m one person paying myself $12/hour; $0, when I’m not directly working on something to be sold.”

The easy way to start, is to sell in-person only, and/or go through Etsy. That’s the easy way. Or through Amazon Handmade, or through ArtFire, or through BigCartel, or through eBay (although eBay won’t let you mention you sell online elsewhere). Though even going through a marketplace like one of these requires some of the steps, above. The rest of this…?

It’s like, dang girl, I just wanted to sell some earrings.

And I just wanted to sell some earrings because no one can afford my necklaces but rich people.

In short…this is looking like it will cost me more money than I’ll be able to earn. If I just want to share my craft, that’s something else, isn’t it? None of this. None of this legal and tax and liability-ridden garbage clogging up the lines of communication. None of this secrecy about where I get my materials from and how much they cost. Sure, I won’t have access to the wholesale markets. It’s not a big deal if I’m not making a lot. And I can make it on my own schedule. And I can make it for my friends, and give it to my friends, and I don’t have to worry if they meet my own high quality standards, as I would with something I’d give in trade.

I just need to get an actual job.

Like maybe working as a writer? For a related local organization?

The wind whispers, “Yesssss…”

Decisions…in which there is no right decision

It hasn’t been a secret that I haven’t been able to update this blog as often as I’d like, due to the fact that I’m in classes. I’m also actively dealing with what I want to do with the rest of my life as regards a career path which is worth my time. Part of one of my classes is a Business Plan — in which I’m focusing on creating or furthering or focusing my Internet presence as regards what I do with beads, and with the online beading community. I’ll get to that below; however, let me get some stuff out of the way, first.

The job interview I had a few weeks ago, wasn’t really anything to worry about. I was afraid I would get the post and then have to commute back and forth, in exchange for payment which could actually sustain me. However, the post was a typical Community Librarian job; with a community that I know very little about. If I had known these things beforehand, I wouldn’t have applied for it. That’s not to disparage Community Librarians; it is to say that it’s not the type of job I’m looking for — or constitutionally suited, to. I’ve worked in Public Libraries for ten years; it’s rather apparent at this point in my life that I should have moved on, a long time ago.

The trouble of technology, and its (ab)uses within capitalism

Earlier tonight on 60 Minutes, there was a story on, “deep fakes,” or in other words, digital Face/Off. What I’ve been dealing with over the last 48 hours deeply and intensely deals with the progress of technology, and the dangers of that progress when people aren’t aware of its possibilities, or of how they may be manipulated by it. The other thing I’ve been dealing with is the question of what has been called, “surveillance capitalism,” and the tradeoff of personal information for online services. Beyond that, it’s about the monetization of data linked to people (even if “sanitized” to be non-personally identifying) which can then be used to manipulate those people in the interest of making money off of them.

The point is, a business doesn’t have to know a person’s name or address or phone number, to be able to understand them in ways that would shock said person. Aggregated data is still data; if you’re in a cohort of people like yourself, this can work to your benefit (if you’re into finding more of what people who match your profile tend to appreciate); it can also lead into a hellhole where all you see are other people reflecting and escalating your own negative traits, possibly baselessly. Sound familiar?

Very simply, this is a current-events problem, not a dystopian future problem. It’s also something important to consider, when considering going into business, online. We have been considering the ethical problem of Behavioral Targeting: tracking an individual online in order gain information about them which can help target a, “conversion,” or sale.

There is the point that when you’re a business, you don’t want to throw away your advertising dollars by showing your ads to people who are unlikely to want your merchandise. However, Behavioral Targeting raises concerns about the privacy of your customers, and how much businesses or intermediaries should be able to know about any one of us. At this point, we’re led to ask how we can reassure customers that we’re being responsible custodians of their data.

At this point, I question whether that can be done without opting-out of obviously exploitative platforms…which I’m sure would not like to be characterized as such. There is also the question of what exists outside of those platforms, what we can build outside of them, and if we can avoid being dependent on them.

The threshold of media literacy

I’m finding that I’m in a relatively privileged position to have gone through ethical training as regards Library and Information Science — and I can use these skills in ways other than being, “a Librarian.” In addition to being able to see things from an Economic or Business perspective, I also have some clue about the impact of the very same policies on society. For instance, I find that there is very likely a desperate need right now not only for literacy in reading and writing, but also — maybe more intensely — a need for media literacy; that is, an understanding by the polity as to how organizations can manipulate them through the juxtaposition of different media: words, sound, still image, and video or moving image, not to mention the endorsement of their “friends” (i.e. the business leverage of their emotional relationships). How does someone get training in this? Media Studies? Studies of the propaganda that led up the Holocaust?

Beyond that, specifically in my case: do I want to teach this? I can see why it’s important, but do I want that job? It’s going to be intense.

It entails teaching people to understand why they feel what they feel when they’re presented with a media presentation — precisely naming these things and seeing what constitutes them; understanding the composition of these presentations and how they may be edited to produce such an effect (at least in their target audiences); asking why a company would or could arrange these things intentionally to produce such an effect; and whether the person in question is inclined to accept said message after understanding that they can be and very well may have been manipulated to meet that message.

Contemplation of a (relevant) future in Academia?

Of course, I’m not an expert in Media Studies. I started out with very good English reading literacy, and have been through multiple rounds of training in Visual Art criticism and image production. I also have training in teaching Information Literacy, and at one time considered working in Graphic Arts. I have just enough knowledge to be able to see where there is a yawning gap in what is being taught, as versus what we are being exposed to — inundated with — on a daily basis.

I’ve become more sensitive to this as I’ve begun to interact with Social Media more, and have noticed algorithms alter the path they take through the ocean of content, depending on how long I look at something, how many times I replay it, how similar other content is to it, what people with similar profiles like, etc. It’s actually kind of creepy, even though the content (at this point, at least) is often light.

The other day I was deep in exploring my own inclinations towards work, as suggested by a Career Advisor. Right now I am looking at a number of paths as possible methods of earning a primary income. One of the biggest things I realized is that I fairly strongly do not want to work with the general public. Another thing I’ve realized is that if I do teach, I will probably want to work within a four-year College or University (if not assisting students at Master’s level work or higher), due to the demonstrated commitment level of many students at Community Colleges. I’ve been told this relates to the low (nearly nonexistent) barrier of entry.

Of course, at this point, these are students who are not used to online learning, and were forced into it by the Pandemic. Maybe there would be a better turnout if classes were in person; I’m not sure.

What I have seen is an extreme difference in the quality of work and responses over the same platform; once, in my Master’s program, and now, in Community College. It has been a shock. I could be an online instructor, but I’m not sure I’d be able to handle teaching in person. They are widely different methods, and not all students (or teachers) who perform well in-person, fare well online.

I suppose the benefit of teaching online is that you can do it from anywhere you have a high-speed Internet connection. The thought of teaching online is just something that has come to my mind tonight, however.

At this point, now that I’ve begun to read more prevalently in English language, I’m not as pressed to learn Japanese language. I also know that I do not want to teach Japanese language. There are actually good and interesting books in English, after all; though it can’t be denied that the English-language body of works, has its own cultural milieu, and in some respects is fairly woefully out-of-touch.

Now that I think about it, media literacy also comes into play in identity politics and in stereotyping. Diving into how people are represented, as versus how those people could alternately be imagined, could be very interesting! This strikes at the intersection of politics, technology, and culture. I might want to explore this, more.

Not to mention, write about it, which could possibly lead to becoming a Professor — depending on what I can dig up through research and reading (and possibly my own media exposure), plus my skill in both sensing and expressing my views.

Working out a Business Plan, and brainstorming this site’s future

As regards this site, which will be used as secondary income, if income at all; obviously, right now, it’s focused around beadwork. I’m hoping to expand this in coming days, in order to be more of a resource to the online beadworking community. I’ve outlined this in the Business Plan I consolidated, to some extent, earlier today. I’m not to the point of announcing it here, yet, but it’s a relatively exciting new angle on how I could assist others in their own self-decoration and self-expression, aside from my doing massive amounts of necessarily underpriced, poorly-scalable, piecework labor. Content development, Jewelry Design, and Publishing utilize my skills (plus my desires and drives) more efficiently, while saving visitors money. Selling materials in pre-bundled kits can also save visitors a lot of money (for instance, to save on multiple Shipping charges, and helping them to avoid having too many excess beads left over).

The nice thing about brainstorming like this is that you’re given free reign to dream about what you could or would do, if it were possible. You get to try and think out how you would get your tasks done without breaking yourself, economically. Of course, at this stage, it is mostly intellectual work, supported by my own calculations of how much I could earn by actually making and selling finished jewelry. The latter is how I know not to depend on funds from selling finished jewelry (I don’t want to price out my primary markets); but instead, support others in their own pursuit of creating jewelry. I hope to use this site as a collection of resources.

I got the idea for this when considering the potential cross-fertilization of the many crafts that I have seen, from tatting to wirework, from bead embroidery to beadweaving, to beaded crochet, bead knitting, and beaded micro-macrame. Rather necessarily, there are some things that I would only sell ready-made, as — for example — I can’t guarantee that drill holes in the freshwater pearls I do have, will all be of the proper orientation to successfully work in a pattern I’ve devised. Nor do I know if I’ll be able to precisely replace them. They would be, of necessity, limited runs.

It’s very apparent to me that there are things that I excel in, and things that I dabble in. I can design jewelry; I can’t design clothes. I can, however, take patterns for clothing which others have designed, support their design efforts, and accept their help in creating my own custom fashion. I’m finding that, contrary to what may be predicted, I have a tendency to “follow” and “like” things that are on the fringes of my knowledge, not altogether things at which I already have a great deal of skill.

That’s probably a good thing, yeah?

Mood. Cut-crystal alternatives.

You know, I really dislike having to express disagreeable opinions. However, sometimes it’s warranted. Or understandable, at least. Right now, what I’m thinking of is Swarovski’s exit from selling beads to the general craft community. Because of the way this has been accomplished, there seems to be a general feeling of upset or ill will. With Swarovski exiting the craft community supposedly to improve its own “exclusive” brand image, that’s…that’s unfortunate.

I can’t be positive of customer morale: at this point, I am not a bead retailer, and so I haven’t had the opportunity to actually speak with beaders on a large scale about this. The most I’ve gotten is what I’ve read on bead stores’ pages, and have observed within the online beading community — and from Swarovski.

However, it shows the extent to which some of us have depended on certain companies. What happens to all the designers who made and distributed patterns specifically to be worked up with Swarovski-cut beads? What happens to the bead stores which made most of their income by selling Swarovski-branded products? This doesn’t even get into all the beaders who now have to find alternatives to the brand.

In a sense, maybe this is a good thing for the bead ecosystem: if so many of us were so highly dependent on one company, maybe it actually is of wide-ranging economic benefit, for us to find other products. So that, you know; what happened, can’t happen again.

To be sure, there are still ways to obtain Swarovski products, but you have to sign up and be approved, first, and you’re subject to contractual obligations — but that’s only if you’re looking for factory packs. Swarovski is exercising more control over who they sell to, though at some sites it does look as though a general consumer (not a business) can actually still buy some of the goods. Read on.

Last night, I was writing to myself about how to increase value in what I make, by using higher-quality components. I’ve seen a lot of people do this by using crystal beads and components (such as loose stones and items like mounted chatons). I would refer to these as “lead-crystal” beads and components; however, Swarovski eliminated lead from their formulations, quite a while (years) ago. Right now, however, we are left with several options as regards the preservation (or introduction) of sparkle.

For new makers: please note that all crystal beads I have known have a tendency to cut normal beading thread. Because of this, strong polyethylene threads, such as FireLine or WildFire, are recommended.

In this, I actually went and — well, at the moment, I believe I’m sitting next to the totality of crystal beads I own. I did an in-depth survey on what I have, today, which is easier to do by sight than by looking through my records. I’m also looking back at that buying rush that began late last year, on Swarovski beads and components. What I have amounts to little more than an in-depth sampler pack, of items which may no longer be produced. That is pretty sad, because a lot of these beads are very pretty.

I’m given to wonder what, exactly, the value of these are; if I cannot design items and then sell the patterns, knowing that others will be able to reproduce my forms. It’s rare that I have more than a small quantity of each color/finish/size combination, as well, so it’s not like I can produce a lot of jewelry from them without frequently changing my colorways. Those of you who are heavily into beading, know that frequent changes of colorway often equate to buying small amounts of various required beads — and that can get expensive. Not to mention that Swarovski crystal, at core, is expensive.

What I can do is practice designing and producing small amounts of jewelry, much of which will likely go to my own trial collections. I paid full tax on these, meaning that I can use them without selling them to myself, first (or whatever it is you do when you want to wear jewelry you made on a tax-deferred purchase, for which Federal, State, and Local governments want their share of sales and income tax). At least that’s skill gained, you know? Even if it’s skill that has a “practice” label on it.

As a note, I haven’t been compensated by any of the vendors I’m about to name, nor have I been presently (as of October 4, 2021) compensated by Swarovski or any other crystal producer which I have mentioned, or will mention, in this article.


Alternatives to Swarovski

As a note, in the below I have predominantly been looking for the presence of crystal rounds, bicones, and fancy stones. There are five vendors I’m about to name which trade in crystal beads — and not all of them are Austrian crystal. Many of the same outlets which stock Swarovski beads did, at least, stock other items from the same manufacturer (such as Swarovski faux pearls), but as these have not figured heavily into my own work (even Swarovski faux pearls were not all the time great), I’ve only looked for the cut crystals.

Preciosa is the most prevalent competitor to Swarovski on the current market, at least in the United States. Before Swarovski started limiting their output, Preciosa was still available, and at a much lower price-point to Swarovski. Where I did not see Preciosa attempting to compete was in the variety and quality of cuts that I found in Swarovski, and in the color range and differing specialty and hybrid finishes that Swarovski offered which were hard to find, otherwise.

In my experience, Preciosa has had a slight less bit of color saturation (a.k.a. intensity) than Swarovski, and just a hair less of a bright polish or fire — I can’t at this point be sure which, or even if it’s both. For example, for bicone beads, Preciosa doesn’t use Swarovski’s Xilion cut; the latter of which seems to be designed to reflect as much fire, or internal flash, as possible. If you’re okay with slightly less sparkle, Preciosa may be a good bet.

Both Preciosa and some Swarovski (the latter of which, under the name “Crystal Passions”) can be found at Fire Mountain Gems & Beads, as well as an option to buy Swarovski wholesale. Fire Mountain also stocks Celestial Crystal, though it cautions that cutting can be irregular on Celestial Crystal. A note about Fire Mountain: they actually carry more than what would be apparent from the drop-down menus. They also carry, for example, Celestial Crystal Fancy Stones, although Celestial Crystal has no option for this if you’re searching only via the menus.

You can also find Preciosa at Shipwreck Beads. For a time they did have, “Brand Redacted Crystal Beads,” which appear to have at one time been Swarovski; however, they are nearly out. In addition, Eureka Crystal Beads still stocks Preciosa and Swarovski, although as regards the latter, they are now limited to current stock on hand.

As of September 2021, I’ve read, Swarovski stopped supplying regular (unauthorized) bead retailers. Fire Mountain is the only one of these I can be positive, actually still is an authorized Swarovski retailer, for now.

As for other producers, the next one I’ll note is Potomac Crystal, made (I believe in China, at this point, but am not positive if that’s so for the entire line) for the company, Potomac Beads. To find these without using my link, navigate to “Potomac Exclusives” in the header bar and look under the menu, there.

There is a review of Chinese crystal (unknown vendor, unknown brand) versus Swarovski fancy stones on YouTube, though I’m not sure I found the correct file (the concept of alternatives to Swarovski has come up repeatedly, over years. You’ll notice that the date on Bronzepony Beaded Jewelry‘s upload is from over two years ago). I am not certain of the state of this at present, but Chinese crystal stones (like Potomac’s crystal stones), at least in my experience, have tended to be thinner than Swarovski. There’s also the issue that I am uncertain as to whether Swarovski fancy stones (also sometimes called, “Embellishments”) are the same depth now as they were before.

Aura Crystals has a brand they’ve named “TRUE CRYSTAL” (all caps as in source). I’ll leave it up to you as to what you think these are, though they seem to have a cut paralleling Xilion, for the bicones.

Eureka Crystal Beads is the last of these sellers I’ve found today, which I know to have a good reputation. As stated above, they are selling Preciosa and Swarovski, plus a lot of Krakovski Crystal loose fancy stones (and some chaton montees, at last note), and Chinese crystal from multiple sources, meaning that their exact size and cut may vary. At this moment, I believe the variation is due to differing manufacturers, not necessarily differing cuts from the same manufacturer, but I can’t be certain. If you’re wondering why, review the note above on Celestial Crystal beads. If you really want to know, I’d ask them. Maybe they’ll even write a blog post about it.

There are a number of other sites I’ve found in conducting searches for crystal beads, but as I cannot vouch for them at all (some I have just heard of, today — even though they may obviously state they’ve been around for over two decades), I am opting not to list them. With the current rush on Swarovski due to limited supply, shady dealings may be more likely than usual.

Also, be aware that just because I have reviewed a site, that does not necessarily mean I have or have not ordered from them, or can endorse them.

Reading, again? This is more fun than I remembered

I almost wrote here last night, then thought better of it. There is just a lot going on that is fairly personal, and at this stage in my life, I’m appreciating what privacy I have taken the effort to preserve. What I will say is that having applied to a Librarian job — where, you know, I’ve actually trained for it — opens a field that I had closed off to myself. I’ve started reading again, that is, though I find some advantage in not precisely disclosing just what.

There is a basic right in American libraries that applies to privacy of reading history…and I can say, at this point, I know why that rule is in place. Not only as a Librarian, but as a reader as well. Of course, this was eroded in some form by the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, as referenced in this notice by the San Francisco Public Library. I’m not certain just how frequently libraries tell their patrons the latter, however. Granted, there are still a large number of patrons who do wish for us to keep records of their reading, for their convenience. In my experience, in order to protect our patrons from surveillance, American libraries just don’t do this any more than we have to.

With the expansion of electronic texts, particularly as I’ve read that there are supply-chain difficulties worldwide right now as regards printed books (among other things)…it’s very obvious, to me at least, that there may arise an issue here with the attempt to track usage of digital texts. This would not be to the long-term benefit of established publishing houses, however, who are already facing a high degree of competition from the Internet. It may not even be to the benefit of booksellers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, both of whom have their own proprietary eReaders. Surveillance is known (or at least assumed or suspected) to induce a, “chilling effect,” where people do not seek the information they need, because of the threat of potential repercussions.

Less reading means fewer buyers, and fewer buyers means there is even less money in books, than there is now. Publishers don’t want that. I might venture to say that Publishing in general; also, Libraries in specific; thrive on differing opinion and argument and perspective, from all the books I’ve read over the years. Censorship is not something we really want; however, currently, I’m reading about tolerance of intolerance leading to the elimination of tolerance by the intolerant (this is a Karl Popper theory known as the “Paradox of Tolerance” — look it up; I’m not going to link to Wikipedia here).

I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I accept this idea, yet. I have, however, been reading about how sometimes individuals attempt to dismantle democracy by working from inside the system. It is, then, not of use — and maybe outright dangerous — to pretend that democracy is flawless or correct, or in its correctness, everlasting. There are vulnerabilities, and by making decisions that enabled and assisted authoritarian rulers-to-be, many democratic societies have become authoritarian.

The chilling effect particularly applies where it comes to readers who read things that people who vie for power do not want them to read; where knowledge and free thought threaten them. And, of course, those things happen to be some of the most relevant and applicable (and sometimes, engaging) books with regard to current events. There are things that have been highly relevant that I’ve gone through with the rest of the U.S., that I haven’t written about, due to the current political climate. Well, that, and the taboo of expressing anything political at all. Legitimate politics: the actual working out of compromise among multiple parties who intend to coexist, that does seem like it can happen. Then, there are those who just want power to control others, or subjugate others, for whatever reason.

Tensions have basically been getting worse — in my view — over at least the last 20 years. Even prior to then, we had hatemongerers on television, which influenced the children I was around; which meant I had to deal with hate from them in school, as it was politically — and socially — supported. In my high school, there were only two teachers who would speak out in support of students who were being sexually harassed for their supposed sexual orientation.

If I were to think back, my earliest memories of this pattern relate to the San Francisco Bay Area gay mens’ community being decimated by HIV/AIDS, and the government refusing to do anything about it or help in any way, via appeal to religion. I was very young at the time. There was a lot of shame back then; but that, for me, set the stage for anti-gay sentiment within society as I was growing up. That, in turn, was exacerbated by televangelists when I was in high school.

The anti-gay sentiment didn’t just affect gay people. It affected anyone who was thought to be gay, or who was said to be gay, which led to an attitude of compulsory heterosexuality among my peers, and paranoia over whose same-sex friendships were too close. There have been calmer periods, but when it seems politicians endorse hate and violence, the hate and violence come out, along with feelings of entitlement, impunity, and righteousness.

Hate speech is one step up from basic biased thought, as relates to the Anti-Defamation League’s “Pyramid of Hate.” Unfortunately, it appears we have escalated to the point where, on this model, we are currently at “Bias-Motivated Violence,” one step down from “Genocide” — which is as high as the model can go.

There is a question as to whether to engage and to live your life fully, here, or to allow yourself to be made into something for the benefit of someone else.

A side note:

As regards digital privacy, I haven’t wanted to get into Chrome 94’s new feature which automatically opts one in to giving out information which indicates one is or is not paying attention to their computer (but I’m doing it anyway). This is called Idle Detection. Ironically, you can Google “chrome 94 idle detection” (no quotes) and figure it out from there, including how to disable it by using a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) which is fairly difficult to find on one’s own (it’s given at the above link).

Of course, there is currently a zero-day exploit as regards Chrome, which you’re apparently safe from if you’ve updated to Chrome version 94.0.4606.61 or above (there is no, “above,” as of this writing). Unfortunately, Idle Detection comes with this very version. My advice? If you’re using Chrome, update immediately and also immediately (if you wish), turn off Idle Detection. From what I can tell, you may also likely need to go to the Google Play Store if on Android and update Chrome from there; but to the best of my knowledge, a version 94 release for Android is not yet live. I’m going to try and avoid opening Chrome on mobile until I can get an update…

Anyhow…I am finding that I may not have been as ill-placed as I thought I was, when I specialized in Digital Services for my Master’s. It’s just the messiness of dealing with those few people who are hostile and threatening, that is an issue for me. I heard recently that we’re watching the collapse of Western civilization: people don’t know how to treat each other. This was also stated in one of the books I’m reading: social norms (such as not considering one’s fellow citizens as enemies) have been lost. I broached the topic with family, and they were in agreement.

Particularly over the last 18 months…although I do find that I prefer paper books (they don’t run out of battery, and I know they aren’t looking back at me), digital ones are a lifesaver. Probably not literally, but it’s fairly apparent that I don’t have to worry about other peoples’ germs on a tablet (unless, of course, I get the tablet dirty). This is something I was thinking of, even before I went through Library School.

If I do become a Librarian within the next year, I know I’m going to have to be able to help people using digital devices that I have never used before. It’s going to be tough, but maybe I’ll have the skills to navigate that, when I come to it. Usually, patrons are fairly forgiving when they know you’re earnestly trying to help them. Libraries. All types, eh?

P.S. I also meant to update and mention that I realized the other night that, “Anglo-American Cataloging Rules,” likely was meant to include the U.K. and Canada in addition to the United States. There is an alternate translation of “Anglo-American” to mean an American of English descent. I had never been certain of which definition was meant, but I do see from various readings centered around Publishing, that “Anglo-American” is an accepted term to include North America and Britain in the same phrase. I’m not sure about Australia, New Zealand, India, etc., but this realization did put my heart at ease, a bit.

In which I catch up on what’s actually happening

This is going to be an off-topic post, just to let you know.

I’ve spent the majority of my waking hours for the past week or so, dealing both with the effects of the Flu vaccine — or, no, wait: I’m dealing with the Flu vaccine while asleep — and keeping up on all of my Business assignments in the meantime, along with applying for Library jobs. Job applications are the reason I’m having to work so hard on my courses, now.

I wasn’t sure I wanted the main position I applied for, but it could be life-changing if I get it; and I saw it the day before submissions closed. I had nothing better to do, so I applied…and it took all afternoon. I could have read my way through a chapter, or started in on a project, in that time. On the upshot, the hours I spent on the applications got me to think about what I actually did in the course of my last two positions. It was a lot, let me say that; and I have a lot to work from, in subsequent applications.

I’ve gotten to the point of thinking that maybe it was just my last work environment which was toxic, not the entire field I trained within…though of course, that would be hard to calculate, having mostly only worked in said environment. I need to stop trying to endure screwed-up working conditions as a test of my skills. It’s, seriously, damaging and unhealthy. According to everyone I talked to, I shouldn’t have had to endure what I did; and my experience there did cause me to consider leaving the field.

Of course, it would have helped if I had known that the person I went to for help with certain interactions, was not my direct Supervisor. That fact didn’t come up, for years.

It’s not like this is Primary School and we all have to, “get along,” because we’re forced to be together and no one assumes any of the kids have major issues. We’re adults. No one is forced to be there. Sometimes relocation, or a longer commute, is a better option than staying in a toxic environment. Sometimes being unemployed is a better option than working in a toxic environment, but you know how bad it has to be to get to that point?

The major thing I’m going to have to do, if I get this specific new job? Well, I’m going to have to refresh a lot of knowledge, let’s say that. It’s been almost exactly a year and a half since lockdown began: that’s 18 months off of the Reference Desk. If I get the job, I expect there will be a lot of phone calls, as well…which are never the easiest things to deal with, but likely preferable to in-person Reference Interviews (which carry the risk of getting sick).

And, yeah — maybe I should try looking around their catalog from home first, before anyone has the chance to get back to me.

Back to my courses: last meeting, one of my Professors surprise-assigned several chapters out of the textbook to be done before the next meeting (in a week), on top of incorporating material from those chapters into the project, also due next meeting. When…we aren’t even supposed to get into those chapters for weeks, according to the Syllabus.

I didn’t say anything because it’s plausible deniability, if I didn’t hear it. Of course, it’s also plausible deniability if he forgets he said and wrote it, as well (he has directly contradicted himself before). I wouldn’t be so casual about this class, but it’s pretty clear that the circumstances of my situation are way outside the scope of the Prof’s imagination. I’m not going to get into what he said that makes me think this, but…

What was I saying about feeling alienated within my classes, again? I mentioned that, right?

I knew that if I brought this up, however, it could turn into a meltdown that would make me angry every time I tried to engage with the material (or the Professor) again, so I let him go off and alienate a bunch of the class, instead of risking my own comfort. Battle not picked, I guess.

Anyway, the last two nights and days have been full of reading, as the studious part of myself can claim that the project I’m supposed to be doing may be much easier and better-understood if I actually read the chapters (even though I’m not all the way pushing myself to get them done). It also takes away a large burden of work from four weeks later in the semester, which should come in handy when my short course eventually starts.

So right now: well, I’m taking a break to write this, as I’ve been doing classwork all day long (with breaks for meals). This has been the pattern. I just need to be sure not to assign myself the completion of more than one or two major assignments, for any one day. At least, not until I can complete building immunity to this Flu shot.

Aside from this…there has been a lot going on around me, but it’s family-related.

As regards my beadwork, I’m getting a better sense of how what I have read (from Nolo Press) fits into the larger scheme of things. As things stand now…I don’t expect my schoolwork to yield #1 priority until the end of this year. By the beginning of next year, I’ve thought I would either have a job or be looking for a job, and seeking to gain some monetary return from selling online…if that still seems like a good idea.

The thing is, I basically know at this point that this will be minor income (over the long run), if not a loss; and so…I do wonder if it is actually worth selling (as selling means I have to keep a quantity of materials, meaning I have to outlay funds). The time I use planning and creating jewelry could become a time sink, more profitably, more usefully, used to study: to read and to learn other languages. Both of the latter help me in a dream of becoming a published author and a translator, as well as supporting a main job as a Librarian. Not to mention that selling anything at all becomes a liability risk, even if it should be a small one. Then there is the time that I know I will need to spend in Professional Development, should I gain a job and ongoing career, as a Librarian. If I am not hired by the end of Fall semester, I may opt for one or two of these courses of learning.

The question for me at this point, is whether the entire beading enterprise: where I spend a lot of my own money for the hope of breaking even or a small gain, while also risking my own assets via the threat of litigation, is worth it in the long run. As I’m looking at it — and as I am in this Financial Planning class — I don’t think it is. There is the possibility of hiring on workers…but when you’re looking at furthering a career that you’ve worked hard to get this far within, and this in exchange for a livable salary with benefits and retirement — as versus working in a cottage industry for (largely, short-term) money, which cannot financially sustain you in the places you want to live, the first choice looks a lot more viable than the second. The first can finance the second. That doesn’t mean to stop making jewelry; that means not to do it in the hope of substantive financial return (i.e. making a living by doing it) over a long period of time. (Making “some money” at it may be as much as I can expect, and breaking even won’t happen for a while.)

It also means to look realistically into distributing patterns if I find I actually want to help others with my skill, and get some practice with Web Publishing (and Jewelry Design) at the same time. If I self-publish a pattern book, I can even publish my patterns first to the Web, and later as a printed collection (Publishing houses often don’t want to publish material which has first been set free on the Web; there are exceptions).

There are a lot of ways I can employ my skill sets…jewelry production does not maximize them, by any means. But maybe it’s good experience to have, even if I don’t end up following through with it as I initially imagined.

And again, I’m glad I took the time to write this out. I’m also glad I’m in these Business classes. Even though classes in general can be tiring, I’m learning a lot; and it is possible that my Financial Management class did just save me a good deal of pain.

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.

Worthiness

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.