Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lessons From a Bead Class

Last Saturday I took a bead stringing class, something I've wanted to try for years.  It was super fun--and super exhausting.  I don't think I've ever been quite so focused on such a (deceptively) simple task in my life; after I got home I fell asleep for three hours straight. 

Up above you can see the results of my efforts after 7 1/2 hours of class instruction:  1 wire-strung bracelet; 1 "floater" necklace using knotted silk cord; and 1 wire-strung necklace.

Unfortunately the class was too successful and I now have a new obsession:  beads in all shapes, forms, sizes...  Like I really needed one more creative outlet.  But now that it's too late and the damage is done, here are some of the great things I learned:
  • Don't point the awl (a sharp and scary little tool) toward your eye or the person sitting next to you.  Of course with my typical inability to follow instructions, as soon as the teacher said, "Be careful!" I dropped the pointed end right onto my leg.  And continued to do this for the rest of the day.
  • On a more positive note:  Keep a bead journal.  I liked this tip very much.  The goal is to create a sketch/scrapbook of ideas, colors, photos of your various creations, sales, and anything else you want to put in there.  I thought this was a lovely idea, and I plan to buy a special journal just for this purpose.
  • Find beads at yard sales and thrift stores.  I never thought of this, and it's an excellent suggestion.  Even the most unattractive piece of old jewelry might have one or two interesting beads well worth the price of the entire necklace.
  • Use a bead board template.  A wonderful tool for measuring, laying out, and rearranging pieces until you get them just the way you want.
  • And finally--just do it!  By the end of the day I had learned to use my awl correctly (small miracles), make a variety of knots (intentional ones), "crimp" beads onto the end my wires, bend "clam shell" end-holders together, and feel confident enough to continue bead stringing on my own.
Perhaps the most interesting lesson for me was how I chose my beads.  The pre-class material list said to "bring lots of beads."  I wasn't sure what "lots" meant as I had no idea what we would be making, or how much of any one type of jewelry item.  Going to the bead store didn't make the task any easier.  Seeing walls and walls and cases and cabinets filled with glowing, sparkling, amazing beads in every shape and color had me stumped; where to start?  In the end I gave up and purchased two "grab bags" of random, mismatched beads; one in green and the other in purple.  It turned out to be the best decision I could have made.

Stringing necklaces from random beads is exactly, I discovered, how I write, especially when I use writing prompts or magazine cut-outs.  One of my favorite things about writing is making connections between apparently unrelated events.  I like quirky, unusual, and different approaches to story problem-solving, and this is how I had to tackle my beads, especially when I didn't have enough of any one color or style of bead to make a perfectly matched set.  But as they say on Project Runway, who wants "matchy-match" anyway?

At the start of the class the teacher warned that bead stringing could become compulsive--but it could also be an excellent way to relax, dream, and zone out for awhile.  She was right; in spite of my initial tension (don't drop the awl...don't drop the beads...) I found that by the end of the day I was stringing my beads and also thinking of characters, scenes, and plots for future stories.  Using my brain in a way that was both methodical and creative seemed to put me in a space that looked forward to my next writing session.  As soon as I woke up from my after-class nap, I wrote five brand new pages I then had to collage right away.  Best of all, I got to reward myself with a bunch of new bling!   

Tip of the Day:  Summer school:  What kind of creative class is calling to you?  Take it!  In the meantime, what if you thought of your various scenes as beads?  What is the most pleasing, and most original, way you can string your story together?


Charlotte Fairchild said...

Valerie! The jewelry is beautiful! I would even wear those pieces of jewelry in a heart beat! And it goes along with the Polyvore hobby you have of matching things so beautifully!

Today I deactivated my Facebook page so I could edit and get two books on Kindle, and work on another book.

Unknown said...

I love your creativity with your first beaded items, Valerie! And I enjoyed reading about what you observed about the similarities between your beading and your writing. Interesting observation!

Beading is indeed addictive! I did it as a hobby first and later sold several items. It would be fun to do a bead exchange from our projects and see what we could design! ;)

Valerie Storey said...

Wow--thank you for these kind comments. Beading is almost too much fun for me at the moment--have had to take a small break to I can continue getting OVERTAKEN ready for publication. But as soon as it's finished, I'm off to the bead supply store for sure!

And yes, I'm always open to exchanges of any kind! Thanks for the offer--let's see how it goes (have to make a few more items first...)