Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Getting there from here...

A basic challenge in the kind of beadwork I do is figuring out where to start. The foundation rows or rounds always have a different thread tension from ensuing work, usually firmer. I try to plan the fabrication order so that solid bit is an asset. Another consideration is holding the piece while you work on it. Holding a snout is tricky, plus the facial expression makes or breaks an animal, so it's best done last. Decreases are inherently smoother in peyote stitch than increases, thus starting at the widest girth is always good, if it's feasible.

Even with my current wonky vision, I can work very quickly because I have figured out the most efficient relative positions of the various elements: lighting, piles of beads, the active edge of the beadwork itself, hands, needle, and thread tail. If the beads are in the wrong place, the light won't illuminate them clearly, the thread will drag through and send them tumbling to the floor, you'll be reaching instead of doing a quick scoop action with your needle, etc. My typical short day in my 30's was 500 beads, a long day was 1200, and if it was just a flat-woven piece I had a daily goal of 2500-3000 beads. The really fast speeds do assume you know what you're doing and are rarely achieved in the design phase, but are easy to meet if working from a template style pattern. Speed can also be increased by writing patterns so they have natural stopping points, row counts and other ways of figuring out where you were when the phone rang..., and are easy to see.

My standard fish pattern is an example of the widest girth method -- waist to tail, waist to mouth, then fins. It's a bit like making a thimble at first. I made this one (see next post for image) after radiation but before the burn damage peaked. Using diagonal bars of black opaque and silver-lined translucent blue AB made it much easier for me to see where to put the next bead. Those are either 4 mm or 6 mm black onyx eyes. I need to dig the guys out of their box and measure.

If you've seen these fish in person, they're a lot of fun. You can push and pull on the side fins to make them puff. Someday I'll write about how I got into the business of silly beadwork.