Thursday, February 04, 2010

Beginnings - ABS Blog Carnival Post

Recently, I volunteered to join the new Blog Carnival project being run by Art Bead Scene (ABS).


Okay, stop laughing already.

This blog has to occasionally be about more than just bead porn pictures. I mean, it’s all well and good to sit around in the dark behind a locked door while drooling all over our computer screens, but there should sometimes be a higher purpose like, I don’t know, edumacation or something.

Anyway, each month, a different set of bloggers will all be writing about a certain assigned topic while at the same time incorporating art beads in some fashion. This month’s topic is “Beginnings.”

So, of course, the first thing I thought of was to tell the story of how I first got involved in beads and jewelry making. Except, that story does not involve art beads in any way, shape or form. That story involves some free instructions I downloaded off the internet, some very poor quality seed beads and some cheap metallic cording from the ribbon aisle at Wal-Mart.

Not an art bead in sight. In fact, I wouldn’t have even known what the term meant back then. However, it was a good enough experience to launch me into a major obsession which is how I left my former craft (rubber stamping) behind in the dust and launched into a massive career of bead collecting…er…I mean jewelry-making.

That obsession brings me to my first experience with what could be considered an actual art bead – my first ever lampwork bead purchase.

Hey, it only took me 10 paragraphs to get to the actual point of this blog post.


My English teacher would be so proud.

A year or two after that initial bead experience, I found myself attending my first ever bead show. Oh, I’d been busy buying beads in the meantime, but mostly seed beads and Czech glass from the local bead store. Nothing really out of the ordinary.

I was totally unprepared for the huge opportunity of dropping major wads of cash that was an actual bead show: tables and tables of glittering strands of gemstones, big piles of turquoise in all different shapes, a furnace glass vendor whose color combinations literally took my breath way, and so on.

But what really caught my eye was a table where a man was selling what appeared to be large, individual glass beads. As I moved closer, I could see there were lots of colors and sparkle coming off each bead. Being part magpie, I immediately moved to investigate more closely. I picked up an individual bead and realized that there, in my hand, was an entire miniature “coral reef” encased in clear glass. I saw barnacles in shades of bright pink and aqua, rocks, sand, twisting plant-like forms and even sparkling silver “bubbles.”

I was totally entranced and kept looking at all sides of the bead to see what else I could make out. It was a transforming moment as I fell completely in love with that bead on the spot. I HAD to have that bead.

I’m sure y’all know what that feels like!

I scoped around the booth area for pricing and finally realized there was a tiny white blob of liquid paper on the actual bead itself and what appeared to be a “3” and a “5” and a “0” written on it.

“Great!” I thought. “$3.50 for this amazing bead. What a deal!”

(Okay, I can hear the snickering in the background starting already.)

So, I stood in line to pay my $3.50. All the while I was checking out other beads, talking to people and just generally not paying attention while the vendor rang up my purchase.

Then, all of a sudden, something the vendor said finally registered with me and I looked up and said “What do you mean $35.00? For ONE BEAD?”

Sadly (and most humiliatingly) for me, I happened to do this right as there was a lull in conversation at the booth so the ENTIRE WORLD heard me. Apparently, I have excellent timing when it comes to embarrassing myself in public.

There were looks. And laughter. Even guffaws. But the looks were the worst. No one gives dirty looks like shoppers at bead show booths – I don’t know what it is, but as a group, we have evil death ray eyes when we choose to use them.

The guy at the booth took pity on poor uneducated me and patiently explained about lampworking: the time involved, the equipment used, the application of canes and murrini, and the annealing process. Okaaaaayyyy…soooo…I get it. These beads are nothing like the stuff I’m used to purchasing. Obviously, they are miniature works of art, there’s a lot of artist time and expense involved, etc.

I still thought $35 was a bit much for one bead (shhh…don’t tell anyone I said that), but since he’d taken so much time to talk to me and also because I was soooo very embarrassed to have made such a dork of myself in front of everyone, I just bit my tongue and handed over the old credit card.

And yes, for those who are concerned, I HAVE grown more of a spine since then!

Never one to let a good public humiliation go to waste, when I got home I started educating myself more about lampwork. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became and the more I came to love these beautiful works of art and to appreciate the artists who make them.

I also learned that my $35 bead was not exactly a stellar example of a good lampwork bead. The holes were uneven. The whole bead shape was a little “off” and there was bead release still inside the hole. So, I’ve never used it in a piece of jewelry, but I still love the little “undersea” world that I see in it.

It’s also a great reminder to me make sure I’m educated about any potential jewelry materials before I buy them, to know the market and most especially not to be afraid of asking about prices and turning down a purchase if it’s not quite right. And while I’ve also grown to love and enjoy other forms of art beads such as ceramics, pewter, bronze, etc., I think lampwork will always be my first love.

In spite of my rocky start with lampwork, I’ve developed a complete and total obsession with it and my collection has grown way beyond that first bead. So, be careful with “beginnings.” They can be educational. They can be expensive. They can be embarrassing. Mostly, though, they can lead you into worlds and experiences you never even dreamed were possible.



TesoriTrovati said...

Great glimpse, dear! I love that little bead, imperfect though it may be. And I think that I have been there with you on that. But I have come to see the light... and I am still hording the most expensive beads I ever bought. For shame. You have spurred me to action. I WILL use them this spring...promise!
They couldn't ask for a more entertaining and informative blogger than yourself, dear! You go!
Enjoy the day!

Pixybug Designs said...

What a fun, humorous, educational post about beading "beginnings"! I am also in the carnival, but I don't post until next month! I love the beginning of your post about bead porn, how true! How much time do we spend on line looking, drooling, and dreaming about beads! Even in the middle of my workday as a bookkeeper, I am dreaming of beads and making things with them! I am now a follower of your blog! Great stuff!

Marie Cramp said...

I imagine that your last picture is only a drop in a very large bucket ;) Great story, I really enjoyed it. I almost skipped it because it was so long, but I thought, what the heck. I always enjoy reading what you write, so let's do this!!

Now I am curious as to how long you have been doing this! I just had my one year last month, and I am looking forward to more!!

Hope you come check out my new shop when I have time to list stuff! :)

Cynthia said...

Great story. I think we've all been there. Just be glad the bead was only $35.00!! I went berserk at my first bead show (Bead Fest Phila) too, let's just leave it at that!

Liz's Wares said...

Wonderful post,very educational and a great insight into the experiences you had.

I've seen some beads that were handcrafted before at the local festivals and like you I first thought "wow thats expensive". I haven't really looked into lampwork beads as of yet, but that beauty- although flawed is still wonderful.

I like your blog, I'm a fellow EtsyBlogger! and I'm now following your blog.
I would love your opinion on a product idea I have, Please comment on my recent post

Dawn said...

That was a great post! Thanks for sharing. Since you 'get' lampwork - I would welcome your critique of mine!!! You can be honest!!!


SummersStudio said...

That little bead is a treasure despite its imperfections. I can see that little under sea world in there. As always, I am entertained by your wit! I am really touched by you telling the story of appreciating 'art beads.' As a maker of beads this just lights me up!

Cindy Gimbrone said...

I was laughing when I got to the part about the bead costing $35.00 - I thought you were going to say $350.00! Yup, I've paid that much for a bead, an original painting on a relatively small piece of glass canvas - it's worth every penny!

Thanks for sharing your beginning with us! It's quite a journey, isn't it?!


maryharding said...

Delightful post. Great beginning in a new blogging venture. said...

Too funny!
My first seed bead jewelry was strung on dental floss. Which promptly fell apart on the wearer the second day she wore it.

Islandgirl said...

What a great 'beginning' to Carnival bloggers... I'm group B I aksed my DH what I'm passionate about... you'll all find out next month!

bellajoya said...

Thank you, this really was educational! I know I've been exactly where you were but the difference was it was a stone cab, I was standing looking at this flat piece of stone that he was charging me $15 for and thinking....It's a rock! I've come a long way since then...I think we all have!

Heather Powers said...

Love it! I wanted a bead that was $100 at bead and button this year. I fondled, I sighed and I just couldn't do it. Maybe next year. It so a work of art to be sure.

Your story is so funny, I'm glad you are a good student and did your homework after that first show.

Ah, you are now a student, so all those beads you've been buying are actually research. You can thank me later for that great new excuse!

Michelle Mach said...

Such a wonderful post! You have such a great sense of humor that made this a joy to read. I think we can all relate to your bead-buying experience.

Kate said...

Loved your bead story, we all have to start somewhere and it usually isn't pretty. So glad you can laugh about it now! :)