Monday, August 19, 2013

In Jewelry, As In Life, Pretty Isn't Always Enough

Well maybe in life looks can get you a long way. But looks alone aren't going to get these bracelets very far...

In summer I love to wear bracelets. A lot of bracelets. I'd wear them all the time actually, but they are a problem as they clatter against the desk or the surface of my MacBook Pro while I'm teaching. So I end up taking them all off in class and then I leave them all over the place and the students (kindly) chase me around the lab to give them back or leave them in a little pile by my notes.

Instead of a lot of individual bracelets, I decided to make some multi-strand bracelets. Many strings, one easy (and this is a key word) on/off step.

Oh sure, they look great.  See the subtle colours in the coordinated palettes. Wonder at the variety of shapes and sizes and the interplay of iridescent, facetted and matt finishes. Appreciate the beauty of the fit and the professional application of findings. Marvel that the beads where selected from shops in LA, Toronto, New York, Ottawa and Brampton over a number of years. Be appalled that I actually remember the origin of each of the thousands of beads in the stash... And then try, just try, to get the darn things off.

Ah usability. The heart of interaction design. It doesn't matter how attractive you make something (be it a web site, a kitchen appliance or a bracelet), if it doesn't function well for the user you have failed.

The problem here was that I didn't test drive the clasps. In action they are very easy to do up. No problem doing it one handed. But once they were on I simply could not get them off. The clasps were too stiff and the little edge you needed to grab was too small to get much purchase on. I literally had to wait for my husband to come home to get me out of them! This induced a ridiculous little bit of panic in me, sort of like reverse claustrophobia. WTF?

And it is altogether too bad 'cause they really are attractive and very well made. Yes, I could find new clasps and then re-string them, but I'm kind of feeling that this bird has flown. I've played with this particular group of beads enough for a while.

As I mentioned in a previous post about stashes, the great thing about beads is that they are fully reusable. A bead stash is pretty much self sustainable if you recycle old or failed projects. I might rework these or more likely just disassemble them for use in future projects.

Bracelets should not cause panic attacks.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Catching up and the Revised Nelson Necklace

Oh wow. I haven't posted anything here for about 8 weeks! Not that I haven't been making. And not that I haven't been thinking about posting ... the pictures were taken. But somehow it just didn't get done. Let's just blame summer time. So expect a little flurry of posts over the next while as I get caught up.

Mostly I've been making things with beads this summer. I like to be outside as much as I can vs. sitting at a sewing machine. And Mark and I are often on the road, heading out for a day or two at some fishing hole or a weekend away with friends, so beads are the most portable solution to the need to be making something all the time. I can grab a few tools and some beads from the stash, pack them in my handy little travel kit, toss it in the back of the car and head out.

Here's the thing about my extensive bead stash - sometimes (OK a lot of the time) I forget what is in there. So going looking for something often results in finding something else. That was the case for this necklace.

The lampwork focal bead was a gift from my brother-in-law Ken Predy last year*. It was made by a local glass artist in Edmonton.

It's very unusual in that this big black lentil appears to have an internal light source! No matter what lighting conditions you view it under, the red spot appears to glow. Cool. And there is triangular dichroic patch and little black bumps that bring more points of interest to the bead. This bead is about 4 cm across and the two sides are slightly different as you can see by these first two pictures.

I'd worn the bead alone as a pendant for a while, but that never seemed to fully show it off and so I'd tucked it away in the stash. Fast forward to this summer and me looking for a couple of beads to fix another piece. And there it was, glowing away all by itself. Time to turn it into something with impact.

For this piece I committed myself to only using beads from the stash - no new additions. In the design I've played with contrast and similarity.

The main part of the necklace is made from narrow oval glass beads that look like raku fired pottery. They are smooth and flat and feel like silky river stones. The raku effect mimics the dichroic glass in the focal bead and their flat finish contrasts with that bead's glossy surface.

Initially I strung just these beads with the focal, but they were too bunched together and you couldn't really appreciate their shapes. Also something was missing. So back to the stash and the discovery a precious few red Japanese Miracle Beads.

These are amazing beads that have a coloured core with a silvered coating and then many layers of lacquer on top. When light passes through the layers and is reflected they actually seem to glow. When they were first introduced years ago they were really expensive. I don't see them in the bead shops much anymore, but they are readily available online and are very affordable. They are not the same quality as these original ones however and seem to have a graininess to the inner bead.

A couple of shiny black glass disks and glass seed beads (all from the stash) round out the supplies.

Here's the finished Nelson Necklace. Impact achieved I think!

Thanks Ken!

* View from 2012 birthday breakfast by the harbour at the Prestige Lakeside Resort in Nelson BC. Hence the "Nelson Necklace". I had steel cut oats with fresh berries and maple syrup that morning.

It was a truly great trip for Mark, Hilary, Ken and me. Sometimes we forget that Canada is so beautiful.