Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I’m often asked about the difference between crystal and glass. The answer is … there’s not a whole helluva lot.
In a nutshell, crystal is glass with a certain amount of lead in it. The lead makes the glass hard and easy to cut into facets (in the case of beads) and it makes the facets refract light better than unleaded glass would.
In the bad old days crystal beads contained more lead than they do now. Because of what we’ve learnt about all the fun and creative ways lead can mess with Mother Earth and her creatures, modern crystal manufacturers have had to lower the lead content considerably.
The ramifications of the lowered lead content in crystal beads are many-fold. Many of the fabulous colours that were made in the thirties, forties and fifties have had to be discontinued or re-engineered. Many of the classic cuts from that era were abandoned as well, for without the lead, the crystal wasn’t hard enough to facet as intricately.
Then wondrous science gave us the laser, and the Chinese -- that clever and enterprising people -- produced a lead-free crystal! We laughed and gasped in amazement! Until we realised the emperor had no clothes, and that we were looking at laser-cut glass that LOOKS like crystal, with crisp clean facets and all. It looks nice, it’s affordable, it even comes in a couple of colors that real crystal doesn’t.
There’s a nifty item known as firepolish crystal. This is also glass, and is molded, not cut into facets at all. You can always tell firepolish because the edges aren’t as sharp as real (or even Chinese wanna-be) crystal.
For some reason that I cannot fathom, Austrian crystal has a rep as the be-all and end-all of all things sparkly. Tain’t so. The founders of the crystal feast in Europe were the Czechs, and they are still making fabulous crystal today. In the mid to late 1800s the Russians turned out gorgeous crystal; between 1900 and the First World War, Poland was renowned for it’s crystal production; after World War Two, West Germany cranked out some incredible crystal; and some of the most amazing contemporary crystal beads I’ve seen are coming out of Egypt, made on German machinery.
Glass or crystal, it all has a place in jewelry design. And THAT makes me happy.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Another of the things that inspire me is color. Mind you, exactly which color tickles my fancy is a day-to-day (sometimes moment-to-moment) thing. I’m delightfully fickle that way.
The one color that seems to have stood the test of time is cobalt blue. My late mother-in-law dubbed it ‘Thea Blue’ when she saw how many rooms in our house I decorated with elements of cobalt. Don’t get me wrong; there are healthy doses of other colors in most of the rooms. But cobalt blue is the dominant color in both the kitchen and master bath, while it’s a secondary color in the master bedroom, and there’s a touch of it here and there throughout the rest of the house.
It’s no surprise, then, that a great deal of my jewelry is designed with cobalt blue beads and components. This necklace, made of Indian lampwork beads, is one of my favorites.
It’s not surprising that a deep, dark blue would go so well with light colors like white, as in these earrings
Or gold, as in this multi strand necklace
But look what it does for black (and vice-versa) in this art moderne style brooch!
Cobalt blue is a very complex color; that is, it’s blue with a whole boat-load of other colors mixed in. One of those colors is purple, which is why this collar necklace is such a success.
Bye for now. I’ve gotta go make something in Thea Blue while the mood’s still on me.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, when asked where his ideas came from, used to say, ‘Schenectady.’ Maybe he still does. It’s as good an answer as any to a question on which creative people prefer not to dwell.
Many of my inspirations come from television and the movies. As mentioned in my last post, I try not to imitate, but rather to put my own interpretation on things that I see. A case in point is a necklace actress Charlize Theron wore in 'The Legend of Bagger Vance.' You can see an image of it on IMDB:
Here's my version:
See what I mean?
Ms. Theron's necklace was lovely. I like mine better.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
My husband and I recently went on a visit to his cousin in her summer home on Lopez Island in Washington State. While we were there, Cousin Jean took us to the Lopez Village Farmers’ Market, which was disappointing in a number of ways. Not only were there only two or three booths of produce, but of the remaining (I’m guessing) 97 booths, about 80 were jewelry. Of those, almost all were beaded jewelry. (I had a sudden mental image of the island slowly sinking into Puget Sound from the weight of all those beads. That earned me my first virtual head-slap of the day.) The styling, I’m sorry to say, was woefully similar almost across the board. (And a second flash came to me of a single bead artist supplying all the sellers, with a only a few rugged individualists grimly bucking the system, despite muttered threats from burly enforcers … Second virtual head-slap.)
What I was really seeing was the insidious trap of creeping imitation.
A certain style of necklace and earrings had obviously been selling, and now everybody and her dog Rover was making and showing the same thing. Okay, I get it: everyone wants to make what sells. But this is the thing, and it’s a great, big, IMPORTANT thing:
THAT DOESN’T MEAN WE ALL HAVE TO MAKE THE SAME THING!
I feel better for that. I hope you do, too.
Originality is important. If you have to make something to earn money, then make something that’s similar to -- but different from -- what you see selling. That’s the difference between imitation and inspiration. Now you can point out to customers in what ways your item is BETTER. If you really want to be snarky about it, you can always point out that you made it your way first, that others are imitating you, that YOU are the trendsetter. See how THAT feels.
Making what ‘everyone else’ is making -- yes, even if that is what’s selling -- is doing yourself and other beaders around you a disservice. You are flooding the market with similar items until customers are too desensitized to care about buying. Just as importantly, you risk numbing your own creativity.
There’s room for us all, whether one’s aim is to supplement another income or to have a full-time jewelry business. In order to do either, however, we need to have a broad spectrum of work to put before the public; not all of us making the same thing. We need to be True Originals.