Saturday, May 18, 2019

Stringing Them Up

What do you do with 21 days of Viking beads?  There are several options, of course.

You can put them in a drawer and forget about them.

You can sell them.

You can give them away.

Or you can do what I did.  I strung them.

Current accepted wisdom is that Norse women in the Viking age normally wore their beads in half-necklaces strung between two brooches.

I'd like to note that this was still a new understanding at the time we made our version of the Hon Horde necklace.  Also, that necklace was found as part of a hoarde of treasure, not as a grave find.  I'm pretty sure the half-necklace "festoon" concept is based on grave finds, which probably do tell us more about how women would display these beads when dressed in their best.

At this time, I do not have any brooches for proper display of these bead strings, but I have ordered a pair and expect them to arrive in a couple of weeks.  

By the way, I learned the word festoon for these bead strings from Dawn's Dress Diary, a blog I really enjoy because the author does such a fine job with documenting so much of what interests her and does a truly magnificent range of clothing re-creations.  If you like what I do, I think you'll really like what she does.

I strung these bead festoons in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to modern eyes (mine), but I acknowledge that a Norse woman of 1000 years ago might have made some very different decisions about how she displayed her glass finery.  There are several people out there with their own rubrics for how to approach stringing Viking necklaces and not all the approaches are the same.  

I may end up selling these or I may end up giving them away.  For now, I'm enjoying having them strung so I can enjoy them in a different form than a ziplock baggie full of loose beads.

Next project I have to tackle is armor repairs.  Whee.  Let's see if I can be safe to fight this weekend! 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Day 21! Last Boot Camp Bead!

Here it is!  The last of the 21 Day Bead Boot Camp!

First effort showed that my red stringer was a little too thick:


So I pulled some thinner red stringer and used that.  I also made a couple of zigzag beads without the center stripe.  I don't really like the effect of a middle stripe, but it is surprising how that one little thing makes the bead harder, so it was well worth doing it just for the experience.


The zigzag beads have long been a favorite example of Viking era beads.  If I had to pick one design that is my idea of the quintessential Viking bead, this is it.  Seems very appropriate to end on this one.

Many thanks to Dena Cowlishaw for sharing her 21 Day Bead Boot Camp and sharing it freely on her blog for all to enjoy.  It has been a good project to work through and I will be keeping the document to refer to in the future.  I certainly hope I get a chance to meet her in person and compare glass work some day.

Now I have a bag full of Viking beads and need to find a way to use them.  I have an idea, but it will have to wait.  There are some other pressing projects to get to first.  Check back for future installments!

Day 20 Again

Better this time.  Less wind.  And I lowered the torch flame to about the minimum that would still stay going.  That was part of my issue last time, I think.  Just too much heat.  I got used to working with stringer with the torch full-on, but these little loops just don't work in that situation.

First effort, I made the loops all cute and petite, but when I started to melt the white stringer flush with the surface of the blue bead, here's what happened:


The loops closed up and turned into little blobs instead.  Oh, well.  On to the next efforts.  This time, I left the loops larger and loopier than I really wanted them, but the results are almost what I was hoping for.

The one to the far right is pretty much exactly what I was trying for.  Open loops, nice and swoopy.  Great contrast between the white and the blue.  I don't really like working with this blue glass.  Beautiful color, but it picks up crud from the flame too easily.  It is really finicky glass.

I believe I could do a better/more consistent job with these with a bit of practice, but the actual bead doesn't appeal to me very much.  It will make a nice contrast to some of the other beads, but isn't what really makes me happy at the torch.  I intend to go back and make a few more with some other base color just to practice those loops, but for now I'm going to move on to the next bead.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A new project. And a video.

Here's what I've been up to for the last couple of days:



Took me a lot longer than I had anticipated, mostly because there were several things I hadn't done before and it always takes longer when doing something for the first time.

This was a fun project.  If I had it to do over again, I would change a few things, but the result is actually something I'm pretty proud of.  This is only the second time I've put hardware on a sword blade.  It won't be the last.  I've got ideas.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bead Pile Up

These are all of the beads I've made for the 21 Day Bead Boot Camp so far.  Not in this pile are the beads that I've rejected for just not being up to snuff.



I don't really sell a lot of beads these days.  I used to, though.  This project has largely been about getting my skills back up to where they used to be, since I'd done very little with the glass over the last few years.

I spread these beads out on the table a few minutes ago and thought about pricing.  At my former price levels (which may now be a bit low, actually), this would represent about $350 of beads.  The small seed beads are worth about 20 cents each and the large complex eye beads are in the $10 range, with all the other beads somewhere in between.

It may seem like a lot of money, but that's why the whole "starving artist" stereotype exists.  People want to get things cheaply.  I'm no different.  But when an object represents not only the time spent making it, but the years spent learning how to make it, the failed efforts that are never shown in the photos, the research, the thought, the time and effort of marketing, and still the person who created it has to compete with a mindset of "why should I pay you so much for a bead when I can go to the craft shop and get one from China for half that price?"

So the artist charges as little as will still pay the bills.  And lives cheaply.  One of the more versatile artists I know make everything from cast bronze chess sets to hand-sewn medieval turn shoes.  She told me once she works in IT because she doesn't like the "starving" part of being an artist.

I dunno.  It is hard to make money making things.

I once read a story about why we should never negotiate on the price of services.  That's telling the person an hour of his life is worth less than he thinks it is.  I extend this to include all hand work.  If you buy a bead, you may feel like you are buying the little ball of glass, but you are really buying the time of the artist.  The glass in it is relatively cheap (averages around $15 a pound, plus shipping, generally - some as high as $40), but the time of the artist is what you are paying for.

If we didn't have to work and were free to pursue our individual muses, to create, to spread beauty instead of having to go to jobs that we often wouldn't choose if we didn't need the money, what sorts of amazing and wonderful things would we come up with?

I make things because I have a need within me to create.  I suspect a lot of us have that.  It is part of what makes us human.

When is the last time you created something simply for the joy of doing it?

Day 20 - FAIL!

This one is my real hurdle.  I'll have to go back and do these again.  Perhaps several times.  Not a single one of these beads will make the cut and go into my pile of successful beads.

First, I tried the beads with the opaque light blue with white stringer:


The blue is soft enough that the stringer was just mooshing it around.  The beads look so wonky that I'm just not happy with them.

So, I tried to do it with stiffer glass.  In this case, a transparent blue.  Transparent glass colors tend to be a lot stiffer at a given temperature than the opaque colors.


A little better, but still not at all what I want.

Not a single one of these beads today will end up in the final set of Boot Camp Beads, but this was definitely a learning experience.  Like the Day 19 beads, I was working in the wind.  It was not all that easy.  I'll try to do these over in the next day or two and see if I can't do it better.

Day 19

This was a more challenging bead than I had expected.  Here are a few of my initial efforts:


The circles of yellow are not always circles.  The white stripes are all over the place.  I really make some amateurish beads, here.

Now, in my own defense, it was a windy day, so the glass was losing heat fast, the stringer was whipping around a little, I was standing in a way to try to shield the torch flame from the wind, and the propane pressure was a little low.  Vapor pressure depends on the temperature of the tank and when the wind is cooling it off, the vapor pressure drops noticeably.  But still, these beads don't make the cut.

The better examples from this batch:


Still not perfect.  Here, one of these is done with the drawn circles of yellow (the one on the left).  The rest are stacked dots.  Since both methods were suggested in the boot camp document, I tried both.  The stacked dots were much easier to get nice and pretty.  

The wind still made torch work inconvenient.