Monday, 14 March 2011

The Eight one!

I posted this yesterday, but on reading it back I thought it was a little............dogmatic. I do tend to lapse into preaching when I get passionate about a subject! Anyhoo..................this is the second attempt, and if it comes over as dogmatic, then I probably meant it that way! :)


When I first began beading, I spent months learning around sixteen different stitches before I attempted to make a necklace. When I teach a class it can be hard to get over to some students that the rivoli they have just learned to bead around is not going to be good enough to make into a necklace - bead around another dozen, and then you may have something worth showing! Beadweaving is an art, don't expect results without practice and mistakes!
You are going to make your magnum opus, you have designed the most wonderful piece of jewellery ever seen, you spend an hour stitching a delicate St Petersburg weave chain...............and then you look back at it and realise you missed a bead 2" back. What do you do? You pull it back 2" and pick up the bead that you missed, that's what you do! There are no short cuts in beadweaving................or any Art come to that. If you are not prepared to correct even the slightest mistake you are not beadweaving, the finished piece should be as close to perfection as you can get, not 'well - it'll do for now'.
Pretty much the same as patience, only one step further. You have beaded around your rivoli, now you're going to embellish it with a beautiful picot design. This is where you bend needles. You are going to be threading your needle through bits your needle doesn't want to go. I have spent maybe ten minutes trying to get through one bead before now, if you have made your mind up that's where you want to go, then nothing should stop you - persistence does work, eventually!
There is nothing worse than a design which is obviously supposed to be symmetrical, but, because of the way it's put together, looks as if it's been in a car crash! Plan, sketch, lay out, and stand back from your work often - look at it as if it was someone else asking you what you think, and be self critical. There are a lot of very experienced beadweavers in this world who will see the mistakes within seconds!
I have just finished making 'Muses in Springtime' - the design before that was 'The Muses'. Why did I make another one? I made another one because I knew I couldn't have offered the original for sale. The original was made using Toho cylinder beads and Toho size 15 seedbeads, I discovered that Toho 15s are larger than Miyuki size 15s, this meant that my rivoli bezelling wasn't as tight as I would have liked, and close inspection showed a lot of uneven beadwork. I made the 'Springtime' version with Miyuki delicas and Miyuki size 15 seedbeads, and larger rivolis. It worked exactly how I wanted, tight, even, beadwork, which I would be happy for anyone to inspect closely. One last thing - hide your cut threads! It's always a good idea to photograph the piece and check it yourself from the blown up image.
I'll keep this short - if you use crap beads you will make a crap necklace. Any questions?
Not quite the same as above, because sometimes cheaper tools are better for the job in hand than the more expensive tools. John James needles (which are also sold under the Beadsmith label) are recommended for beading, I break them. My work involves teasing needles through already tight beads, I need a needle that bends, my favourite used to be the Beadalon size 12s until my friend Kandra kindly sent me some (even cheaper) Pony size 12s - result! I used five size 12s and two size 15s on the 'Springtime' necklace! The tool you cannot skimp on though is your thread snipping tool - make sure you have the right one for whatever thread you use.
One of the first things taught in Art class is the importance of Colour, Texture, and Proportion, in everything. Put the beads and crystals together on the beading mat before you decide to use them in a design - if they 'don't look quite right' then don't use them! Try various combinations, I usually give myself 'parameters' - the worst possible scenario, and then the best possible scenario - you then know which end of the scale you can work in! Proportion seems to be difficult for some beaders, you wouldn't attach a 60mm chunk of Labradorite to a tiny silver necklace chain, so why try to attach a 12mm rivoli to a huge cellini spiral necklace and expect it to look right? The idea of 'standing back' and looking at your work holds true here - painters do it all the time, and you are basically making a work of art using beads instead of paint. 
Yes, I know this makes it nine! It is too important to miss out though, I believe every Artist must have a Muse. I'll explain what I believe a Muse to be - a muse inspires, motivates, applauds, and criticises. A lot of Artists have 'spiritual' Muses, where the muse is not a person, but an ethereal energy - my personal Muse is my wife Nina. A Muse should be able to look at your work and tell you it's rubbish with no fear of retribution, and a Muse should be the first to compliment you when you make something wonderful. I often hear of beaders who have 'lost their mojo' - what has happened here is that their Muse is having a vacation, at times like this it is better to find something else to do until they return, if you attempt to make anything in this period I can assure you it will not be as good as you thought it was going to be!
So, there you are, my eight commandments plus one. I hope I don't come over as dogmatic in them, these are things which rule my work - they don't have to rule yours, but maybe it might be worth trying one or two. My main work ethic has always been 'if you're not enjoying it, you're doing it wrong'. Enjoy your beading.

Here's a painting from the days when I thought I could paint!


  1. Peter, I love it! Especially "Quality of Materials". I always try to explain that to my students, my customers, my husband... If you buy cheap, crappy beads, you'll have a cheap, crappy finished product, no matter how excellent the workmanship. Thanks for sharing these with us!

  2. O Peter...not dogmatic at all. Truthful. And pertainent to any project one attempts, whether its beading, crochet or sewing or better yet, building a house. It's these commandments that separate the great from the mediocre.

    Now, lets talk about that painting. I happen to like abstract. But I did think the green was a little much. Then I saw it!! A bird's eye. Yes, yes its there. I see an Angry Bird Rooster!! Its definitely an angry rooster eye peering at me. And that puff of green above his head is angst. Or confustion. Or the dust of the butcher he just scared away.

    So there.

  3. THANKS, very good information. I really agree with the quality of materials, not only in beadwork but in every endeavour. That's one of my pet peeves. Why would anyone spend all that time creating something that looks like crap when you can spend the same amount of time creating something that's absolutely amazing.