When I picked up beading again after many years' absence, the first project I set myself was a birthday gift for a friend. I knew exactly how it should look, how it should hang, how it should sparkle. A now-closed bead store on my bus route home from graduate school supplied me with gold wire and hundreds of Swarovski bicones in amethyst -- 3, 4, 5, and 6 mm sizes. This necklace was going to be like royal jewels, but also playful; it was going to be easy and quick to make; it was going to be beautiful. That necklace, of course, never happened.
It quickly became clear that what I wanted to make was not within the ability of my hands to fashion. I bought myself a few books to try and learn some helpful techniques. My skills progressed rapidly -- I'm a quick study and good at learning-by-reading -- but those royal jewels stayed hidden in the bottom of my bead stash. All those shining, high-quality crystals never seemed like something I could experiment with -- they had been bought for a purpose; they were expensive and so well matched; they could only be used if the piece they were used for mattered in some fundamental way.
And even now, I struggle with the idea that any piece I make actually matters. Isn't it just a hobby or a craft? Isn't it just a thing I do to pass the time?
I will never improve without treating creation seriously.
So, when I found myself on an intense spiral-rope-making kick this winter, I decided to stop letting those oh-so-meaningful crystals intimidate me. Sure, whatever I made could end up a disaster -- but I could always cut it apart and try again. Disasters wouldn't kill me. I couldn't actually ruin the beads.
I pulled out all the 3mm amethysts, some matching bronze 15 hex Delicas, and put something good on the TV. Here's the result:
It's not bad! Glitters quite a lot, catches the eye, looks like a fancy version of one of those disco-era chandelier chains. There's a luxe quality to it which is very pleasing, and I've already worn it more than once. Sure, it's just the repetition of one simple stitch in two well-matched colors, but the effect is not simplistic.
There are, however, things I would try to change on the second draft:
Still, I feel like this necklace became important. Not because the idea succeeded (mostly), but because I took charge of the beads rather than letting them dictate how they would be used. I did not let the sheer weight of potential stop me from trying something to see if it would work. I've learned a lot in the six years since I first bought these crystals -- more than just stitches and techniques. It felt good to come full circle, in just a small way.
Roads Not Taken
- The combination of bicones and Delicas leads to some jarring irregularities: I would use round beads at either end of the outer loops on any second draft. This would also give the option of adding a third shade, which could be interesting.
- Also worth exploring: playing with bead transparencies and thread color. A clear silver bead on the outside, with a bright thread color, and opaque beads in the central core -- the combination possibilities are limitless.
- One of the projects in Laura McCabe's Embellished Beadweaving features a double spiral rope variation that looks like a vine: would be interesting to try in royal shades rather than garden hues.