Wednesday, 26 November 2008

If it's art, it's not for everybody...

...and if it's for everybody, it's not art. Discuss. An essay on that question got me into Music College (well, and my outstanding voice of course, lol!). But recently, I've been reminded of that quote. My beads are seeming to take a turn that takes them beyond wearability or practicality, and I am trying to reign them back in. The problem with sculptural beads is that they are neither fish nor fowl - not the type of bead you can easily string to a bracelet and wear within the hour, not 'sculpture', art that has no duties to fulfil other than that its owner places on it (I was going to say 'look pleasing to the eye', which gives away my very traditional views on art, so in what I'm writing, I fully acknowledge that artists do much more with their sculptures - challenge, dare, shock, encourage, fight........don't mind me. I just make roses.)

So, when I'm at the torch, and I follow the flow of the glass, start tweaking, twisting, crinkling, until the bead looks more like a lump of seaweed than something made of glass, what is it I actually do? Do I simply challenge myself to get more out of the medium? Am I playing sillybuggers, allowing my sense for the whimsical to run away with me? Am I wasting my time, creating beads that no person in their right mind would attempt to work into jewellery? Or am I (heaven forbid!) going down a route that leads to 'art'? And if Schoenberg (Arnold, 20th century composer....he of 'if it's art, it's not for everybody...' fame) is right, what does it mean when you're starting to produce beads only a very small minority will like, before you even have what could be labelled a 'customer base'. And does it matter?

Don't worry, the roses won't go away. And the lace sets won't either. And I'd show you the seaweed, but I thought I was getting poncy, so I chucked it in the water jar. I'll show you a rose instead, eh?

Monday, 10 November 2008

How good is 'good enough'?

I've been wracking my brain about this beadmaking competition, fretting about what to enter. So, why do we enter competitions? I decided to ruminate a bit on this, and here's the result (in no particular order):

1) To see my beads in print. Shameless, I know, but in the same way I get a thrill out of picking up an academic publication with my name on it, I know I will feel an irrational sense of achievement to see my bead in glossy print. Silly, I know, but there you have it. And because the magazine seeks to show as many entries as possible, there's a good chance my beadies will make the glossy page, if not a prize.

2) To promote lampworking variety in the UK. There is so much going on in the US, and I myself hanker after beads from several US beadmakers. But! there are sooo many excellent beadmakers in the UK, such variety, we should be proud of what we have achieved in the relatively short time lampworking has been around over here (and hats off to the old hands who held the fort!). It's about a community, and I'm proud to be part of it.

3) To put myself under pressure. Yes, I thrive on pressure. Sue me! :o) I love deadlines, I enjoy tinkering. The competition has allowed me to push my limits, to try new things, rather than settling for 'same old, same old' - and that's a good thing.

Those are my main reasons. So, what to submit? Something to show off every ounce of skill I possess (whatever there is ;o)? Something (as a friend suggested) that shows off the 'essence' of who I am, what kind of beadmaker I am? Errrrr....pass! The bead I'm most certain stands a chance of winning? Eep!

So I simply decided to submit the one that says most to me. From then on in, it doesn't really matter what it says to others. As Tucholsky says (he's a German writer, by the way, and I am paraphrasing!) - 'there's no such thing as freshly fallen snow. Somebody has always left tracks, been further, higher, than you. Don't let that discourage you. It's new to you, and that is all that matters. For you, the snow is fresh. Go on and leave your tracks.'

So, I'm not going down the 'safe' route, I'm not submitting a rose. I'm making my own tracks. Which is can meet Racquel! :o)))

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Some days are diamonds...

This morning while I drove to work, a song was playing on the radio, and it started with 'Some days are diamonds, and some days are rocks'. I googled it, and found it attributed to Tom Petty - and here was me thinking it was original, lol. Anyway, yesterday was a diamond of a day - or evening. While not all beads turned out beautiful, I learnt something with every one I made. And the glass was so well behaved. How funny that on days when nothing goes right, even the most forgiving glass shatters all around you, whereas on good days, even tricky techniques behave themselves?! Why is that? Do we relax more, making us less anxious? I've learnt the hard way that roses can't be rushed - if you don't take the time to keep it all warm, it'll just shatter in your hand. Maybe that has taught me more discipline with other beads as well...either way, last night, Sherry Bellamy's technique came together in a way that is different to her beads, so hurrah!

Also, the roses are getting bigger. Valerie (shown here) clocked in at 48mm across, the biggest I'd ever made....then came Racquel. She might be my entry for Beads & Beyond, so should I show her? ;o) Finally, I've found a way to glamourise the butterflies, so 'Akira' has Uranium-yellow wings dipped in gold. Me=Happy Bunny!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

What's in a name?

Having spent much of the day pondering the name of a new bead, I'm pleased to introduce you to 'Quantum of Solace'. Sounds like a no-brainer? Let me explain. My Windows To The Soul beads are all named after songs, lyrics, poems.........any text that, at some point, somebody thought might be encouraging for somebody else. The idea behind the beads is that sometimes, our vision gets clouded (the etched parts), and we need to pull ourselves together to find a window to see out, remind ourselves that bright and beautiful things are all around us. A lot of responsibility for a little bead!

So out of the kiln comes a flowery something, with gold leaf, a core of green and pink. It wants a straightforward, pretty name, like the Secret Garden, with a straightforward story of prettiness that's inside everybody. I etch her....and she decides to kick up a fuss, and etch a titchy, tiny spot in the bit that's supposed to be clear. Now what? She's obviously not the straightforward little thing I took her to be.
In the end, I decided to try something I've never done before, to etch the whole bead, ever so slightly, to take the edge of the shine and blend the little mishap in. So, strictly speaking, there is no 'clear' window in this bead, everything is ever-so-slightly hazy. So, is this a Windows To The Soul bead? I think so. Because sometimes, even though you can see things perfectly clear, you prefer to skew them juuuuust a teensy-weensy bit, to blur boundaries, and see the world in a little daze. For peace of mind. A Quantum of Solace.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Define: Fugly

I was just in the process of cleaning a whole load of beads to list on Ebay later. They are mostly focals, some roses, an early orchid, but also some traditional beads like silvered ivory, and quite a few double helix experiments. I'm not sure I'd describe them all as fuglies, but to me, they're certainly seconds. This might be because the colour didn't turn out the way I wanted, or the shape wasn't what I had imagined (I'm discovering that I'm getting quite anal about shapes - oh dear!) There's a double helix rose that overstruck and now looks more terracotta than glass - but somehow I'm not happy to list her on my website. Then there's the shape that's not quite a tube and not quite a *could* be deliberate, but it wasn't, so I'm not happy with it. Why is it that these 'accidents' are so often classed as 'mishaps', and only once in a blue moon as 'happy coincidences'? This summer, a lovely, fantastic beadmaker let me rummage through her odds and ends box, and if I had produced any one of them, I would have been ecstatic. When I asked to buy some, she wouldn't take any money. I have carried the beads around with me, in my handbag, and I do usually take them out at least 3-4 times a week, just to fondle and stroke them. So there are differences in perception - your fugly is my 'pretty', but there is also a trajectory of personal development (ooooh err! Big words!) - last month's treasure is next month's reject pile. As we get better, we start seeing flaws that we were happy to overlook a few weeks/months before, or that we simply never noticed.

Poor beads, they can't win, can they? So much going against them, so many opportunities to be sorted out and end up forever in a fugly jar, or worse, the bin! Maybe, rather than listing them on Ebay, I should start a 'seconds' round robin. :o)