When all is fabulous in my beading world, an idea flashes into my head, I sketch it it, scribble down directions, and then I get home and make it and it turns out exactly as I'd envisioned and I feel awfully smug.
It happens occasionally.
Other times I have the germ of an idea, I noodle with pen and paper, try it out, and take a left turn and make something I like.
That's more or less what happens most of the time.
Sometimes I stop before I get to the end with something usable, like this pendant.
Nothing special, but the sort of thing it's nice to have for sale because it's not too expensive or overdone, and it's going to suit someone perfectly.
The worst scenario is when I have an idea, sketch it out, get home and work and cut and work and cut some more and no matter what I do, I have to throw the whole thing away.
On a fairly regular basis I realise quite quickly that my idea was unworkable and toss it aside, and while it's disappointing, if it's only an hour or so, I move on pretty readily.
Sometimes I'm convinced that it will work, spend hours and hours (and more hours still), and eventually I get something I like, though it's only vaguely like my original idea.
On Friday I saw a picture of a beaded bead: herringbone over a wooden form. I thought it looked like a fun project.
The first version sorta worked, but it wasn't a nice smooth sphere as I'd planned, it was lumpy around the equator (not in a good way), and even though it was fabulously self-supporting and stiff, if it got squished and dented (as it did in my pocket yesterday), it was difficult to get the dent out, and it was still just not quite right.
I spent every beading moment yesterday trying to get it better.
This involved a great deal of cutting and starting over. You should see the pile of used thread in my trashcan.
Visually, herringbone stitch has both lengthwise and widthwise symmetry as long as it's perfectly unshaped and untweaked, but the minute you do stuff to it, construction gets awkward if you want to maintain the appearance of said symmetry, and so I unwillingly conceded that the bead had to be made in two parts (look how misshapen the top one in the picture above is), and eventually got something useable.
I like the ends much better than in the first version, the overlay around the central section prevent squish mishaps, and it's perfectly symmetric about the equator.
It's not as though I have nothing to do, although in fairness I did have some sort of vague goal. I thought it would be a pendant, but now I'm not so sure.
I mean, it's TALL.
And that funny purple topknot? What's that all about?
First I was going to make a dodecahedron using large silvery rondelles with size 8s in between and 11s and fire-polished beads in an overlay. I wondered how much it would matter if I sewed with light tension, if the overlay would give it enough stability.
Quite a bit , as it turns out (mattering). Not even close (to enough stability).
It was this huge, floppy roundish thing.
Then I decided to make a pentagonal prism (pentagon top and bottom, squares around the sides), again with the rondelles and the 8s and the 11s and the fire-polished beads.
It was a little dull and not dissimilar to others I've made, and as I was adding the criss-cross overlay with droplet beads, the thread frayed and broke.
More cut-cut-cutting your hair (anyone remember that?)
Since the prism was too small and the dodecahedron too big, I decided to make a hemi-dodecahedron (I don't know if that's a real thing. If a hemisphere is half of a sphere, then a hemi-dodecahedron must be a half a dodecahedron, right?) with all the overlay stuff, possibly something different in the centre pentagon.
Hence the large purple droplets.
It still was a bit squishy, so I added more overlay around the equator to tighten it and then I realised it might be a bit, um, lacking in usefulness, so I stopped and took pictures in an effort to delay making a decision about how on earth to incorporate it into a piece of jewellery.
Same thing, just with longer stems. The yellow one hangs from a necklace; while the other-coloured ones hang off each other.
I had hoped to have enough of them to form an actual something (as in: necklace or more likely, bracelet) by this evening, as today is the submission deadline for a show to which I'd intended to submit teaching proposals, and I'd need enough for a convincing photo, but that's all I have so far, so there was a little voice jumping up and down trying to get me to hurry up and stitch already so that I could get my proposals in by midnight.
I decided not to.
I just started a new job (a few months ago) and haven't had time to accrue vacation time, though I'm replete with plans for time off, to whit:
Family vacation at the end of the year (Big. Far away)
And that assumes I don't take my usual birthday vacation day, I don't get sick, neither of the kids gets sick enough for me to have to take time off work, and my house doesn't have a disaster of sufficient magnitude to require my presence during work hours.
Not a lot of wiggle room, and so I have to be a grown up (sort of) and admit to myself that no, in fact, I can't do everything, even though I really do want to try.
It's approaching that magical time of year when we pull finger and narrow down exactly which Workshop and Retreat sessions are the most appealing at SOAR this time, because soon registration will open.
My first SOAR back in 1995 I chose my Workshop based on the teacher, rather than the subject matter, which turned out to not have been the best way to make that determination. While she was a wonderful teacher, I didn't learn as much as I'd hoped, as I really knew much of what others in the class were trying to absorb. At that time I believed that this would be my One And Only SOAR Ever, so you understand, I had to make it count, and I was more than somewhat disappointed at the lack of information density.
All was well however, from my first Retreat session when Judith MacKenzie said "This is really a three-day class, but we're going to try and squeeze as much as possible into three hours" and then I knew I'd hit the mother-lode, even though it was all about bast fibres which I love to wear but don't care to spin. Almost all of them, unless they're blended with cotton, in which case I might.
As it turns out. I did learn a lot though.
I had such a blast that I haven't missed a single year since then, though there have been times I've not been able to make it to both the Workshop and Retreat.
Over the years, Workshops have run the gamut from fabulous to less fabulous, with a higher concentration up in the rarified section, as have Retreat sessions, but one thing has been constant: I have come to rely on those four Retreat sessions to inhale an intense flavour of four new somethings.
I've never been one of those who are exhausted by Saturday afternoon, skipping out to sleep or stare at the wall - I'd be happy with another full day of sessions, as I just can't get enough.
Because SOAR is my total fibre opportunity every year (I don't do Maryland or Rhinebeck or Stitches or Convergence or Greencastle), I try to get as much from it as I can, a huge part of which are the informal gatherings when nothing else is going on. People hang out and knit and spin and talk politics or fibre or gossip or literature or anything, and no one holds back, and no one is excluded, no matter if they're teaching, participating, tagging along or administrating.
This is why I am so offended by the new Retreat format: only three Retreat sessions plus one session of what many of us do every time FOR FREE anyway. (Yes, I meant to shout).
Sorry Interweave, but a session of group spinning in which "participants who are not enrolled in a retreat session can gather to spin and share information" isn't a Retreat session, even if a couple of mentors are hanging out with us. They often do anyway.
So we don't have to move the chairs ourselves. Big freakin' deal.
It's not as though the Retreat is suddenly heavily discounted or anything: they're charging as much for three days of Workshop as for two days (which is really one and a half days) of Retreat, so our Retreat dollars go only half as far as our Workshop dollars in terms of time when we can expect to be receiving instruction.
Whose brilliant idea was it to stiff spinners already paying through the nose? SOAR is already not bargain basement, but until now, I've had little reason to complain. A hundred bucks to hang out for a few hours and give each other tips?
This is me, unimpressed and more than a little annoyed.
It was great fun, and I even got a party favour, a reusable grocery bag because dontcha know, all NPR listeners are tree-hugging save-the-planet reuse-recycle fools.
The sense of satisfaction is palpable when a weekend contains a whole bunch of things I like, and nothing (or very little, or there must be some bennies) I don't like.
I ate good food.
I finished a cardigan: two and a half weeks, start to finish - can you imagine just how smug I'm feeling? Yes, no photo as usual. It doesn't fit in my TV table that is my photography studio; at least not in any meaningful way. Love big needles after a big project on smallish ones.
I spent most of Saturday spinning with friends.
I finished the instructions for Tuesday's class, even though I'd actually done them before. What necessitated the do-over was the beads that I'd used to illustrate each step: Clear. Whatever background they are photographed against swallows them up, leading to illustrations which really don't deserve the name as they don't. Illustrate.
So this time I used red.
I also made (and photographed each step) not one but two projects for the upcoming class roster. My self-imposed teaching schedule (every other Tuesday night) dictates that I need eight class proposals by May 10th.
I'm now at five new ones (which you've seen here if you were paying attention), and one or two recycled ones.
In general, if I get a request to teach a project I've offered before, I generally oblige, but hostory has shown that these are the classes for which no one (or one person; I have a two-person minimum) signs up, which ticks me off a bit^H^H^H^H I find odd.
At the Bead Society holiday party last December, my gift was a cross-woven star-shaped pendant which they oohed and aahed over, and clamoured for me to teach. Begged. Pleaded. Of course I acquiesced. Flattery will do it every time; I'm susceptible that way.
One person actually signed up. Another person would have (I think), but she had to go out of town for work.
What has me especially self-satisfied about the number two (as in two new projects) is the amount of time I spent on those things which are too ugly to live, and the amount of time I spent verifying that yes in fact, the only thing they were good for was being cut up.
I've been sitting on my hands, dying to post this picture (I made something! I need to tell everyone about it! Post pictures!) but the person for whom this is destined follows my blog, so she'll see it, so I've been delaying.
But unless someone tells her, she won't know that she's going to be the recipient. So the secret is only partially out.
Is that wrong?
I strung the weird alien seed pod on a necklace. It's just waiting for the right someone to claim it.
Taxes are as close to out of the way as can be: federal are e-filed (and approved!), state are printed out (but not mailed).
I'm not sure what self-mutilating element of my psyche insists that I start thinking about (and magnifying the horrors of) doing my taxes as soon as the first W-2 or 1099 arrives in the mail in January, but prevents me from doing anything concrete about them until April. Something's not right. I should spare myself the worry, but somehow, I never do (and it's rarely that bad, unless for some reason I'm feeling supremely optimistic and confident, and then it's a huge freakin' nightmare. Well, unpleasant experience, more so than usual).
And then there was the scam that could have cost me a thousand or two if I weren't the tiniest bit suspicious: an email from a friend with whom I haven't spoken in a while (I kept leaving messages) purporting to come from London on vacation with family, describing a mugging in which nothing remained but passports and hotel bills, an immanent flight, and uncooperative and unhelpful police and consular officials.
Being pre-caffeinated (checking email on the weekend often happens before I'm fully awake), I made an offer of help, mentioning Western Union, to which I received an immediate and freakishly enthusiastic response, mentioning a sum of seven hundred and seventy pounds.
I was expecting the usual dance: "Oh no I couldn't", "Oh yes you can - I insist!", "Really? Are you sure?", "Absolutely", "Well, if you're sure...", "Yes I am" but instead I got "Have you left for Western Union yet? Huh? Huh? Haveya?"
A tad suspicious.
I asked if she'd mind confirming her identity by answering a few questions.
"What? A million questions???"
I replied that if she were she, I didn't think she'd have any problems confirming that she was who she claimed to be, but there was huffiness, and concern for the family that she was responsible for getting home, and HURRY HURRY NOW I NEED THIS MONEY.
Uh huh. You're not she.
And then I had to call (not London, she was at home) with the glad news. I think she had a rather unpleasant Saturday, fielding calls from concerned friends about the mugging, contacting the email provider as her password had been changed, and changing the contact email address for all her online registrations.
I made a leaf-like earring, which would also make a cool necklace or bracelet. You can't really tell from the picture, but it's not flat; it's perhaps a quarter of an inch thick.
My imaginary hoop earrings (the subject of notes and sketches) turned out to be pretty close, though I needed to adjust the curvature, and the incorporation of the earring findings turned out to be slightly more complicated than I'd envisioned.
This is a not-very-well-photographed front view. They're something over an inch in diameter, perhaps an inch and a quarter or a third. Now that I have the proof-of-concept down, it shouldn't be too much trouble to make bigger hoops, or ovals.
A couple of last-minute club sign-ups meant that I don't get to keep one of these for myself, as I have no more earring findings. Guess I can always get more.
And this has to be one of the funniest commercials I've ever seen:
So how do you measure success when what you were making turned out the way you expected it to, sort of, only ugly and a little bit House of Wax or Phantom of the Opera or something like that, but at the halfway point, you happened to notice that it made an interesting bead cap for a very large bead, and at that point, was pretty successful, even though the finished object wasn't exactly?
Is there a serendipity scale?
I like the bead cap, but the beaded bead is a bit like a Bride of Chucky dress form (though I'm not sure being a seamstress was her highest priority, as far as I know. I didn't see the movie).
Or perhaps an Invasion of the Body Snatchers cocoon, the one with Donald Sutherland in his yummy prime. It really could be an alien egg-pod-thing, like the ones in Alien before they opened.
No, I didn't set out to construct all my metaphors in terms of movies, it just turned out that way.
In other news, I'm in the middle of a "Spring Swap" in which we are randomly half-paired in that a sender is not the receiver for their receiver - or is that double-paired? Either way you get assigned a secret swap partner to whom you send a beaded thingie made to your best interpretation of the questionnaire that they fill out.
I've been so focused on the thought that time is running out and even though I knew exactly what I was going to make my swap partner from the moment I read her questionnaire I haven't actually made it yet, that I forgot that the meaning of the word "swap" implies a balanced transaction, and that there was someone making something for me, according to my answers, and oboy, she did.
Love the colours, love the style, if I was going to make a brick-stitched necklace and not get annoyed after a single medallion and decide that brick stitch really is best in small doses only when necessary, a medicinal sort of stitch as far as I'm concerned ... well if I were to use brick stitch to make something for myself (which I'm unlikely to, if the ramble above wasn't clear), I'd want to make something like this.
Amy thought the three-sided pendant version of this looked like a spaceship.
Sputnik, I think.
This is the same thing, but with four faces instead of three (so it's square in cross-section rather than triangular), and is in the middle (and part of) a necklace, rather than being a stand-alone pendant. It's fairly substantial, about an inch and a half across and about an inch end-to-end.
In the three-sided pendant, I used metallic peacock-lined clear fringe beads, which are barely noticeable. I really like the intensity of the metallic iridescent fringies in the version above; I think they accent the shape, and add loci to draw the eyes.
While colour is a large part of what draws me to beads (after all, I'm pouring my love into tiny uniformly boringly round seed beads), it's architecture and texture that makes my fingers itch (metaphorically) to thread that needle and get going.
The funny thing is that the two most recent projects which have thrilled me, all about their construction, work so much better with contrasting colours, which is not my natural inclination. The colour palette into which I tumble with no effort is sludgey and monochromatic, a melange of subtly different hues with very similar values, so it's been a bit of an effort to choose seed beads that contrast in such a way as to enhance the various elements that make up my little Sputnik baubles.
No, not the way politicians behave when they're supposed to be, y'know, serving the people; the way I behave when I'm supposed to be doing my taxes (which seem to be particularly tiresome this year. I will never attempt to sell anything in New Mexico again, because the paperwork just isn't worth it, especially WHEN YOU DON'T ACTUALLY EVEN MAKE A SALE. Yes, I meant to shout).
I made this cool little bauble. Pendant. Thingy.
It's not as though it was a complete misuse of my time, as this goes on the roster of classes I'll be teaching over the summer.
What I really want to do now instead of finishing my taxes is make another one, in different colours, as a cube instead of a [whatever this is]. It's a triangular prism, actually. I could also do a hexagonal or pentagonal prism. After my taxes are done, or least some more progress has been made.
And knit some more (I started a cardigan as soon as I finished the skirt. In big yarn, so it goes quickly - knitted top-down, I'm already an inch or two past the armholes into the body. Yay 5mm needles!) although it counts only for a semi-project, since the yarn was retrieved from a very failed sweater.