New beads on Etsy!

I finally got another set of beads listed on Etsy. These are from the beadmaking “vault”. I made them back in 2005-ish and the other day when I was going through some of my old stuff I found them in a box. They’re really nice. I think I made them based on a photo of some fabric I saw in a design magazine… It’s such a classy color combination, I’m sure I didn’t think of that myself.

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I had a hard time pricing them. I know what I used to charge for each type of bead, but that was back when I had a bit of a following, and the demand for my beads was more than I could keep up with. Everything is different now. At that time, there was no Etsy. When I started out selling beads, Ebay was the big thing, and a lot of people did really well selling beads there. A lot of us would start our auctions at $0.99, and because there were so many people buying lampwork, usually they’d sell for much more than you’d hoped. Sometimes a bead/beads would sell for hundreds of dollars. Some of the ‘big name’ beadmakers were even getting bids in the thousands for one set of beads. It was a really fun time. I miss the thrill of posting an Ebay auction and watching the price climb! Etsy just doesn’t have the same excitement factor… Though I suppose from a buyer’s perspective it’s nice to be able to buy a set of beads ‘right now’ without waiting for 7-10 days to see whether you were the high bidder on an auction. Maybe I’ll try posting some beads on Ebay now and then for old times’ sake, just to see what happens!

Click here to see the new beads on Etsy. Have a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by!

bead love

I’m not sure what it is about beads, exactly, but I do know that they’ve held a certain fascination for human beings almost as far back as you can go – according to one source, a pair of beads was made from shells and worn as jewelry 100,000 years ago. Since then beads have been made from almost every material imaginable, and used in many different ways. Beads have been worn for decorative, ceremonial or religious reasons, and as symbols of status or wealth. Beads have been used for prayer and meditation. Aside from their use as decorative or devotional objects, beads have been used as currency and were extremely important in the early economies of North America and other parts of the world.

The making of glass beads is thought to date back at least as far as early Roman civilization. The technique of making “lampwork” beads was perfected by the Venetians, beginning in the late 1200’s. Many of the family-owned glass factories operated on the island of Murano, and the secrets of the industry were very closely guarded. This is likely the reason that the knowledge of working glass to make beads did not spread worldwide until relatively recently. In reading Artist Bios of North American beadmakers who have been making art glass beads for a very long time, the early adopters (in the 1980’s and early 1990’s) tell stories of teaching themselves to make glass beads, and developing their own tools and materials. There were no books on the subject available. There was no online community of beadmakers sharing knowledge with each other. Eventually, things changed when small pockets of glass beadmakers began teaching others what they’d learned. In reality, a very small number of individuals are largely responsible for bringing contemporary glass beadmaking as we now know it into the collective consciousness.

One of the pioneers of the art glass bead movement in the US is Michael Barley, who was based in Port Townsend, Washington until his recent move to Portland, Oregon. Michael began his career in ceramics. In addition to his usual repertoire of ceramic objects, he found himself creating ceramic beads and incorporating them into jewelry. After meeting a group of glass beadmakers, he tried his hand at lampworking, and ultimately, this new passion eclipsed his ceramics practice. He has been making beads for many years, in addition to teaching, and developing new tools and techniques for other beadmakers.

I’ve long admired Michael’s amazing beads, and I always keep my eye on what he has available for sale, waiting for one of his beads to ‘especially’ jump out at me (every one of his beads is so unique and made with such skill and depth they all jump out at me, really). Every once in a while, I do add a new lampwork bead to my own collection. I don’t ‘do’ anything with it, I don’t wear it… I just collect it and enjoy looking at it from time to time. There are a lot of other beadmakers and bead lovers who do the same. I’ve been told many times by people who’ve purchased my beads intending to make jewelry with them that they couldn’t part with them and kept them around just to ‘enjoy’. As you may have guessed, I have finally purchased one of Michael Barley’s incredible beads, and I can’t wait to see it in person. I feel quite lucky, actually, as he doesn’t always have a lot of new work for sale online. Recently he’s posted quite a few new beads in his Etsy shop. There are still a few left to look at (or to purchase!) if you’re also a fan. Luckily I got a bit of extra money as a gift for Christmas (thanks to my husband’s lovely Grandpa) – good timing! Here is my new acquisition (image from the Etsy listing):

Michael Barley bead

I’m glad that because of Michael and others who blazed the trail, there is now a thriving community of glass beadmakers all over the world. It’s a fun world to be a part of. If you’re curious about making your own beads, or you’ve pretty much decided that it’s something you’d like to do, I’d say, 100%, go for it. I have not had a single moment of regret since I took my first beadmaking class in 2001. People are discovering and sharing new ideas and techniques on a daily basis, and the presence of online forums (such as Lampwork Etc.) as a resource for glass beadmakers has made it so easy for this flow of information to happen. Today’s open and accessible learning environment made it relatively easy for me to get my start in glass, so I have great respect and admiration for the people who had to learn things the hard way. Maybe it’s out of necessity that these early beadmakers have all developed such a special, unique, and recognizable style. Their inspiring beads show the rest of us what is possible. It’s a good reminder that in order to become a ‘master’ at anything, you have to be truly dedicated, and you have to have a passion for what you’re doing. And you have to stick with it. I’m sure that the best beadmakers in the world, including Michael Barley, all had moments of frustration and times when they wanted to give it all up. But they didn’t. And that’s what matters.

so… I buy beads… and then what?

You’ll notice that right now I only offer loose beads for sale. I love making beads but these days I fall short when it comes to making anything with them…which is why I leave the jewelry creation to customers with talent in that department. I don’t often see what people end up making with my beads, but I did come across a photo of a wonderful bracelet made with some of my beads by the incredibly talented Rickie Voges.

Rickie Voges bracelet

You can see her blog post about this bracelet here, where you can also read her very kind and generous words about me and my work. Unfortunately this bracelet is already sold but you can peruse her current work for sale on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/rickitic. I do own a bracelet that she created with my lampwork beads, and it is simply divine. Such incredible craftsmanship and design sense. I hope it won’t be the last!

back in business…

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It’s my first ever bead listing on Etsy! You can see them here). I made these back in July and they’ve been hanging around until I could get the hang of selling on Etsy. The Etsy part was surprisingly easy but I have to say I was a little rusty in the photo and photoshop department… Nonetheless I can’t wait to start sending my beads out into the world again. Because these are my first beads in a while they’re… um… primitive? They’re free-spirited. They have “character”. They may not be perfect, but they make me happy and hopefully they make someone out there happy too!

It’s a good day.

show up and get to work

The problem with starting something new is that at some point you actually have to start. Even if it’s something you’re really excited about, it can be really hard to find the courage and the motivation to take those first steps. I’m finding it a daily struggle to get back to the torch, even though it’s something I’ve planned for and wanted for a long time. Those emotional blocks can be hard to overcome, particularly in the realm of creativity.

I’m making a conscious effort to outsmart myself and just get to work. I think many artists wait until the mood strikes before sitting down to make things and I’ve generally been guilty of that. But I remember being in art school where the sheer volume of work that you do is unbelievable. Every day, all day, you’re creating. Some of it is good, some of it is bad, but creating is no longer a choice. It’s just a fact of life. And you learn that sometimes, something truly amazing happens, and that’s the magic that creates the excitement and the anticipation of finding out what comes next. My goal now is to nudge myself into this kind of routine… getting to the torch most days, with the simple goal of creating new stuff. Some of it will be good, some of it will be bad, but in making a constant stream of new work, progress is inevitable. The more you do, the more you get done. And that’s how you move forward.

Last night was a struggle to turn on the torch. I promised myself I would work for at least one hour, and see how I felt after that. I felt exhausted. But instead of giving up, I took a long break and convinced myself to work a little bit longer. After I was done I felt great. Some good things came out of taking the time to just experiment with the glass, even when it felt like the bead I was working on was not going to a good place… And besides the beads I made, I emerged with a bunch of ideas for what to work on next.

I have to keep reminding myself that making anything at all feels so much better than making nothing. It’s good motivation to take it one step at a time.

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up & get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part & a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.”

~ Chuck Close