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Why is Beading so Popular?


#1

Derek Levin wrote;

I also know that far more people seem to feel comfortable
stringing beads than doing anything else with jewelry making. I
haven't figured out why

I have thought about this same question since reading the first few
responses to "The Incredible Shrinking Lapidary Journal"
http://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/archive/200412/msg00446.htm and have
some thoughts that I would like to share.

I believe that many of our senior citizens are taking up beading as
a craft that can net a little extra money without investing alot in
tooling. It is also easy on hands and jonts that have spent the
better part of a lifetime supporting families and this nation.
Seniors can also take what few tools and bead stock they require
with them on the road and not overcrowd the RV. Ditto for college
students living in cramped dorms.

What about our societal proclivity for “gratfication now.” String
thirty beads, crimp and voilla! little fuss, no soldering, polishing
or other time consuming activities required. This may be an
oversimplification and I mean no offense to those who enjoy the
beading arts but a competent beader can turn out five pieces or more
during the time it takes me to fabricate a single pendant from
sheet, wire and tubing using traditional jewelry techniques.

Dreek also mentioned the comfort level associated with beading and I
believe that alot of people are intimidated by torches and other
things with teeth and sharp edges. This is a real shame because if
only a few of these people would at least try different jewelry
making techniques in the structured environment of a
classroom/studio and under the tutilage of a competent instructor I
feel certain that many of these same people would no longer feel
intimidated and our craft would be much the richer fot it. IMHO

David L. Smith


#2

Why is beading so popular? A wide variety of reasons.

  1. I can learn a multitude of techniques by myself at home.

  2. It is incredibly cheap to get started - some beads, some method
    of attaching them to each other - and you are ready to go.

  3. You can make an incredibly wide variety of jewelry with beads,
    from incredibly simple appearing to incredibly complex.

  4. Jewelry classes haven’t been accessible, for whatever reason.

  5. Space is limited: Beads and the tools needed for beading take up
    very little space.

How does someone without a clue find an instructor or class? I’ve
been in other kinds of classes where you could tell the instructor
hated being there, and hated teaching - that’s the last kind of
instructor I want to find. (I seem to have a talent for finding them
too.) And how do you find a class that has the appropriate safety
equipment? I took a class a couple of years ago in glass making.
While the class was fun, it wasn’t a safe environment - no first aid
kit and no fire extinguishers. And the instructor had no clue what to
do when someone got burned.

So that’s my two cents on the subject. And no, I don’t just string
beads, I do a whole lot more with beads. MonaLS


#3

believe that many of our senior citizens are taking up beading as a
craft that can net a little extra money without investing alot in
tooling. It is also easy on hands and jonts that have spent the
better part of a lifetime supporting families and this nation.
Seniors can also take what few tools and bead stock they require
with them on the road and not overcrowd the RV. Ditto for college
students living in cramped dorms.

What bothers me about the entire beading thing is that everyone
seems to love them so much, and think nothing of spending over
$100.00 for beads worth less than $15.00!


#4
 (snip) but a competent beader can turn out five pieces or more
during the time it takes me to fabricate a single pendant from
sheet, wire and tubing using traditional jewelry techniques.
(snip).

I feel obliged to respond. I am primarily a silver worker - and I
love my torch - and I am not intimidated - but beads also excite me
with their incredible color, shapes, and fluidity and the ability to
manipulate them into designs very complex using many different
assembling techniques from knotting to crimping to tying to wire
wrapping. This is a far more complex art form than you may have
imagined.

I have spent as much time assembling an intricate design in beads as
I have spent creating a pendant from sterling including stone
setting. So I think your comments that a competent beader can turn
out five pieces or more during the time it takes you to fabricate a
single pendant may be based on false It will depend on
the complexity of the pieces the beader makes - as well as the
degree of difficulty of the fabricated pendant (this can range from
a very simple form to something very involved with construction.)
And I’m sure some capable production workers could turn out five
fabricated pendants in the time it takes me to make one beaded
neckpiece.

This is a real shame because if only a few of these people would at
least try different jewelrymaking techniques in the structured
environment of a classroom/studio and under the tutilage of a
competent instructor I feel certain that many of these same people
would no longer feel intimidated and our craft would be much the
richer for it. 

And the same could be said for those who have studied “jewelry
making techniques in the structured environment”. If they were
willing to venture out of their realm and try designing using a
different medium such as beads, then our craft would be much the
richer for that.

I just don’t think you can really compare beading to fabricating
with metal - these are two entirely different aspects of jewelry
making. It would be like trying to compare painting to embroidery.
So let’s give each art form the respect it deserves.

Kay V.


#5

I think there are a number of reasons beading is so popular. For
one, most people crave some sort of creative outlet, and there
aren’t as many readily available, traditional outlets in our society
these days as there used to be.

Then there’s the sheer beauty aspect. Go to any bead show and you
can get drunk on the piles of glitter and color on the table. You
understand why the Indians sold Manhattan. And it’s not just we
anthropoids who like the lovely baubles – my big white umbrella
cockatoo will stand on the beading table in my studio and play with
the strands of beads like she’s mesmerized. Once she even took a
string of plastic beads on a shoestring that I had given her, and
began beading them onto the surface of an old sock with her long,
sharp beak – while I was engrossed in my own beading. If you think
I didn’t get quite the eerie shock when I looked up, think again.

That said, beading gets a bad rap (perhaps deserved) because it is
so accessible and it’s hard to really hurt yourself. So does PMC –
once I was taking PMC classes and the female instructor remarked,
“Yes, as soon as you get really good at it, you too can teach
classes to bored housewives.” Ouch. That took the wind out of my
sails, but she had a point. When I was first taking beading
classes, I saw a lot of bored people from all walks of life, casting
about for something interesting to do, without the drive to stick to
a more demanding art form. Beading (and to a lesser extent PMC)
just tend to be adopted by a greater percentage of hobbyists and
weekend crafters than do more difficult metalsmithing techniques.
At the end of the day, just about anybody can string some beads and
put on a crimp bead.

Much as I hate seeing the beaders take over the publishing world, I
have to keep reminding myself that beading is the gateway into
jewelry making for a lot of people. After beading and playing with
PMC for a year, I finally realized I wanted to try the hard stuff,
the “real” jewelry making techniques, and dived in and learned how
to solder, saw and hammer, and loved it. (And hey, only two minor
but quite painful injuries so far!)

Mona


#6

I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but the reason I
occasionally bead is because I find that certain combinations of
beads, wood, bone, drilled metals, et al, can combine
into a form that I find pleasing to my eye.

Then again, I never strung a necklace or knotted a strand of pearls
until after many years of lapidary and fabrication, so I’m not
afraid of a torch or “things with teeth or sharp edges.” I know that
path is somewhat reversed from the norm, but I never was interested
in beading until fairly recently.

And yes, I am very much out-of-concert with Lapidary Journal’s
heavily bead-loaded content these days, but it isn’t because I don’t
like beads and beading, it is because I prefer actual lapidary
content in my Lapidary Journal. That, and I despise the apparent
apathy that the current editor has toward her readership’s opinion.
Especially since she asked for it right here on Orchid, then pooped
all over it.

I don’t buy the magazine to figure out how to write an article for
it, I (used to) buy it to read about lapidary art, and that industry
in general.

James in SoFl


#7

First of all I complement you on your choice of design mode.
Secondly, I work with the same time and effort you put into the bits
and pieces of metal you fabricate. Many beaders also incorporate
those hand made pieces into the beading. I can’t just crank out 5 or
6 pieces in a short time. It requirtes planning and the same
creative process you use. Thirdly, find a local classes in the
Northwest Indiana area. Why should I invest my time and effort
traveling to New York, Texas, California or Florida. They don’t have
the lock on skills!

Louise Roys
Aquarius Custom Jewelry, A Rainbow of Gems


#8

David Smith wrote:

   Dreek also mentioned the comfort level associated with beading
and I believe that alot of people are intimidated by torches and
other things with teeth and sharp edges. This is a real shame
because if only a few of these people would at least try different
jewelry making techniques in the structured environment of a
classroom/studio and under the tutilage of a competent instructor
I feel certain that many of these same people would no longer feel
intimidated and our craft would be much the richer fot it. IMHO 

As we age, many of our facilities deterioate - not the least of
which is vision. Hand-eye coordination suffers and makes many tasks
very difficult to achieve. (I spent the better part of an hour
trying to solder 3 wires together tip-to-tip and had to give up
because of loss of deptg perception). The stringing of beads is an
activity that can still be done when other tasks are very difficult
to accomplish. Additionally there is a sense of accomplishment when
something is created from a pile of parts.

Another factor is the cost involved in doing purely hand made items.
I would love to be able to create and cast my own settings but
cannot justify the expense of the equipment needed for, what is for
me, just a hoinny htat generates no income. I do not consider
myself a craftsman or and artist - I just like playing with stones
etc. - and my wife benefits because she gets jewelry to wear that we
could not afford otherwise. A case in point is one of her
christmas presents that I just completed: She has mentioned a number
of times that she would like an “Elizabeth Taylor” style necklace so
I put one together that seems to fit the bill for her - 65 carats of
Lab Rubies and 162 2mm Cubic Zirconias, all set in sterling with
mother-of-pearl beads, for a total cost of $200.18 and a couple of
hours of labor. A picture of it is at
http://www.dawiz.net/jewelry/set1.jpg. While it is not "fine"
jewelry, it is not “costume” jewelry either and is something that is
not readily available in stores (at least in small town Colorado).
And it is something that I “created”.

Glenn Vaughn


#9

You know, I don’t have a problem with “beadmakers”. I started off
making beads, but was very easily bored and moved right into
metalworking, but know a good bead design when I see it. The problem
I have is that someone’s beadwork that took them 1 hour to assemble
can fetch the same amount of money as the metalwork piece you took 8
hours to fabricate from hand. This isn’t the fault of the beadworker

  • good for them. It’s the public that need to realize why the
    hand-fabricated metalwork with set stones costs more than the piece
    that was strung with beads, no bezels, etc.

I got an order from an previous customer last week who used to order
my old beadwork items. It was for 6 bracelets and 6 necklaces that
were simply strung with beads. I got the order done in 1 hour and
had a profit of $400 after materials and labor. Wow! If I could
make a $400 profit PER HOUR on my metalwork, what a wonderful world
this would be… I say if they can make that kind of money in that
little time - good for them…


#10

I agree with you Kay. I am taking a class in Lost Wax Casting
(actually in my third session of the class). I am thrilled by this
method and look forward to one day taking a soldering/fabrication
class. In the past I’ve worked with wire.

I’ve tried beading - the intricate seed beading. That is an art,
IMHO. I simple spiral bracelet took me about 20 hours. It’s not for
me, but I’m glad I tried it so I could understand how much work and
talent goes into each piece. Of course, now that I know a tiny bit
about casting, polishing, etc, I appreciate that work all the more.

Happy Holidays
Rhona


#11

It’s really funny, I quit subscribing to Lapidary Journal because it
had too much beading in it. And one of the things I do is bead. I was
interested in the other in it. I found the information
about cutting and setting stones fascinating.

Mona


#12
    What bothers me about the entire beading thing is that
everyone seems to  love them so much, and think nothing of spending
over $100.00 for beads worth  less than $15.00! 

Geez, I wish they’d buy from me! It’s hard to sell $80 worth of
really nice beads for $15! I don’t make those for anyone other than
family special occasions anymore.

Mona


#13

Color, color, and more color and so many different finishes…matt,
AB, transparent, opaque. And there are so many types of beading to
do. It can be a very creative outlet.

I string and knot pearls and other beads for customers but the type
of beading projects I do for my own enjoyment generally take far
longer than it takes me to carve an intricate wax, invest it, cast
it, polish it and then set stones in it. A beaded project can take
weeks. Of course I’m not working on it full time. I generally do it
for my own enjoyment because it is hard to charge for the time that
goes into a those pieces.

Jennifer
Highland Goldsmiths
NW Oregon


#14
What bothers me about the entire beading thing is that everyone
seems to  love them so much, and think nothing of spending over
$100.00 for beads worth  less than $15.00! 

Are you referring to the price of the beads alone, or to the
finished product? The labor that goes into some of the intricate
beading projects can outpace the price of the beads themselves many
times.

Dee


#15

when i first wrote the step by step project on fine silver wire
crochet bracelet, i was contacted by the editor who had read my
comments on the aol jewelry board. There were mostly beaders
there, i used 4mm turquoise, malachite, well various types of
gemstone beads for the bracelets. i was so trying to fit in with
the bead people, i didn’t know anyone who worked with wire.
everyone i knew who made jewelry was through online compuserve
boards.

after the bracelet workshop was published, i kept sending in
projects, they kept printing them. i believe in the past 9 years
there have been 14 projects to date. not all have been in Lapidary
Journal. i was told they were very well rec’vd. from the feed back
i got, they were. for the past few years, i have been diverted to
Step by Step Beads, and 3 reprints in the (at the time) Step by
Step Wire. at first i was concerned, i liked being in Lap. step
was a new thing… wasn’t sure if i felt ok about it. but, i had
begun to use more beads, crystals, lampwork figural beads.

i have created several silver pieces, a neckpiece, a rose with
petals and several other goodies i hope to send in to the new editor
of the workshops. not a bead in sight. course, i do have 2 more
beaded amulet bags in the series of using figural beads like
mermaids, Jan/03 and blue cow mar/04 there is a easter bunny
stopping to snatch just a few carrots… and a penguine wearing an
intertube at the north pole…beads all over the place…

there are so many things that beads can be used in, i was amazed.
for the life of me i can not string a necklace…but i can weave
what looks like a viking knit on a wooden spool with 4 nails from
the tool caddy…in fine silver 26ga double stitch they are
amazing. you can weave beads in as well…

i’ll stop rambling now. never post at 3am
pat
http://imageevent.com/patmcaudel


#16

I am not sure why beading is so popular with non-professionals, but
for people who are trying to make a living selling jewelry I have an
opinion. First, I am Not saying that beaders or people who work with
PMC don’t have alot of time invested in their designs, however all
the artists I know who work in PMC, polymer and beads etc. do it
because number one they love the material but also because when
necessary, to boost their inventory they CAN crank out several really
beautiful pieces in the time it takes me to even think about
fabricating one - and the general public cannot tell the difference
or doesn’t care. Therefore, less time and usually money invested +
more sales = greater profit. I can personally say that since I
started using some of these materials in addition to sterling, my
sales and profit have more than doubled and I can much more easily
replace my inventory in between shows.

Now as far as the public is concerned, I think it has alot to do
with the changing face of fashion, much more casual and colorful
calling for much more casual, versatile jewelry - which these
materials can lend themselves to very easily and the plus is many
people can make it themselves with or without a huge level of skill.
I notice when I go to Gem shows (which are 99% beads and pearls
anymore) there are people of all ages buying material and 80% of them
have non-art related jobs - they are not working artists but they are
making jewelry for themselves or for wedding parties, etc. and
selling it like crazy - giving them some extra cash and a creative
outlet.

G, Cleveland


#17
Thirdly, find a local classes in the Northwest Indiana area. Why
should I invest my time and effort traveling to New York, Texas,
California or Florida. They don't have the lock on skills! 

Hi, I can’t tell which poster is in NW Indiana, but for anyone who’s
interested, you can find ooodles of classes in and around Chicago.
See also

http://www.ChicagoMetalArtsGuild.org

We have lots of really top notch workshops.

In Indianapolis:

In Chicago, just to mention one of many options:

http://www.lillstreet.com

If anyone wants more details on what’s available in the Chicago
area, (or “Chicagoland area” as people around here say, redundantly)
just ask. Or write off line, I don’t want to bore the whole list
with something if it’s too local.

Elaine
Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#18
     (snip) but a competent beader can turn out five pieces or
more during the time it takes me to fabricate a single pendant from
sheet, wire and tubing using traditional jewelry techniques.
(snip). 

Someone else (Kay?) already commented on this, but I thought I’d add

  • if you are talking about stringing a necklace, yes, beads are
    wonderful for instant gratification. If you are talking about
    beadweaving…let’s just say it’s time consuming enough that I
    realized I needed to get into wire and metal if I was going to
    actually make jewelry that could be sold for a profit based on the
    number of hours it would take me to make it! I do string beads - I
    enjoy it, it’s relaxing, and yes, finishing a necklace in 10 minutes
    can really help if I’m having a non-productive day at the studio. At
    least I can say I finished something. But the kind of beading that
    serious beaders do is much more involved and time consuming than
    that.

I dont’ think there’s anything wrong with beading, and for a lot of
people, it is the first step in learning to make jewelry - probably
because beads are so readily available and all those other reasons
that have already been mentioned. But a lot of people do start
there and end up learning wirework, PMC, casting, fabrication,
enameling, etc.

Leah
www.michondesign.com
@Leah2


#19

I realize I’m getting into this thread a little late, having been
busy unpacking from our recent move into a new home and studio
space, but I wanted to take a moment to share my own personal
relationship with beads, and why, as a metalsmith, I continue to
include them in my palate of materials.

One of the first steps our ancient ancestors ever made toward
personal adornment, past painting our bodies with colored clays and
charcoal, was to collect and string shells and pebbles with holes
through them. Then we began to intentionally make the holes and to
shape the pebbles. Voila — Beads!

As a child, I watched my grandmother, an incredible seamstress, sew
thousands of glittering beads and crystals to the custom wedding
dresses and ball gowns she created, and made my own necklaces with
the leftovers. I bought seed beads and wove “Indian” jewelry on a
bead loom and sold it for pocket money in grade school. And when
the Sixties rolled around (yes, I’m that old…) I generated enough
mad money selling “love beads” to hippie shops to buy myself a new
amplifier for my electric guitar.

In the early 1970’s, I learned metalsmithing, and in the intervening
years, have made my living as the creator of intricate fabricated
jewelry. My work frequently involves some central especially
interesting stone which serves as the inspiration for the piece,
often accented by other stones which play off the colors and
patterns of the main one. Many of my pieces are multi-function, and
can be worn as brooch, pendant, neckpiece or displayed as intimate
sculpture.

Beads allow me a huge range of textures, surfaces smooth or
glittery, and an incredible palate of colors from which to create
the multi-strand collar portions of these works. Envision a keystone
shaped cabochon of Australian moss agate, with creamy translucent
zones and areas of luminous honey, shot through with black
inclusions looking like tree limbs. I set this piece in a softly
shield-shaped brooch of sterling accented by peach moonstones set in
18k. OK, interesting enough on it’s own, but what about “value
added”? Using small peach moonstone beads, freshwater pearls in
shades of honey, peach and gray, tiny antique cut steel beads and
acid-washed fumed glass beads in coppery tones, I create a
multistrand collar that plays off the wonderful subtle colors and
patterns of the brooch. So now the collar can be worn alone, and
with the addition of an adapter which I also supply, my customer can
also wear her brooch as a slide on the bead collar, on a neckring or
Omega chain, or just as a brooch on her lapel. A $180 brooch becomes
a $450 ensemble that can be enjoyed half a dozen different ways.

I choose to use beads in some pieces not because I lack the skill to
fabricate or because I’m wanting to make cheap and easy sales items,
but because they offer me an additional range of colors, textures
and materials from which to compose my art. I may spend many hours
at my bead bench, surrounded by dozens of piles of the beads I plan
to use in a particular piece, beads carefully selected to compliment
and interact with a primary fabricated item. I draw from them just
as a painter draws from the array of colors before him, blending,
combining, carefully working to create an evocative flow of color,
shape, scale and texture that will support but not overwhelm the
primary piece I have fabricated.

To me this is no different than when I sit in front of my open gem
cabinet, pulling out loose stones and trying them together.
Sometimes the relationship is immediate… “Oh, yes!” Other times, I
shuffle stones for hours seeking that “perfect” relationship. And
so it is with my use of beads, too. I use them because, just like
the gold, silver, bone, horn and wide range of stones I work with –
they excite me, give pleasure to my senses, feed my soul. This, for
me, is the very heart of the creative process.

I am concerned by the tendency I am hearing toward a sort of elitism
– “Well, I’m a metalsmith, not a (lowly) beadstringer.” Or “I make
serious jewelry” – meaning platinum and gold with precious stones
(often said with a clear air of condescension…) Can we not
recognize that skill and beauty come in many forms and that all
materials can offer a valid opportunity for the creative voice to
find expression? Is it not enough that thousands of individuals who
might never dare take a fabrication class find pleasure and perhaps
even a source of income making adornments of bits of stone and glass
and pearl? Or that craftsmen like myself find, in those same bits,
compliments to our vision?

Maybe beads just give the Caveman and Cavewoman in each of us a
chance to feed that hardwired love of adornment with a few intimate
little baubles…

Walk in Beauty,
Susannah Ravenswing
Jewels of the Spirit
Germanton, NC
(336) 591-8949


#20

I would like to expound on my previous post regarding beading. In no
way do I wish to demean or offend beaders. I have seen some fabulous
beadwork and having done some bead weaving myself I can attest to the
amount of planning, and time that went into a very small,
uncomplicated piece. I particularly admire people who make their own
beads. It’s like any other medium - you can push it as far as you
like and the sum of the parts does not always equal the value of the
piece. But, my observation, mainly at shows, is that many people
working with beads are not bead-weaving or doing elaborate pieces - I
see a lot of stringing and although they make some very beautiful
pieces I know the time involved in making those particular pieces and
the money invested in material is not nearly what is involved in
metalwork fabrication. This however is not a judgement, or a comment
on whether or not it is ‘good Art’ ,

simply an observation.