Bead Darwinism

Sep 24, 2008

What could beads have possibly to do with Charles Darwin? Well, yesterday I was just sitting around, contemplating this and that, and I wondered how “new” designs actually emerge. I am sure that most beadmakers (for sure not all, as far as I can tell) have the burning (!) desire to come up with something new and exciting every single time they sit down at the torch. I am no exception. And once in a blue moon, I come with a totally “new” design, like the Quark-variety, but honestly, that doesn’t happen very often. And in my case, those beads develop entirely in my head – usually, while I am far away from the torch, like behind the wheel of my car, stuck in traffic, in the bathtub, while I am waiting for my conditioner to soak in, or while pulling weeds (hopefully that’s what I’m pulling). Other, more subtle variations on existing designs, happen entirely in the studio, while the bead is born.

So, here I was contemplating how “The Creator/God” came up with all the varieties in nature, be it flowers, animals, or humans. And somewhere deep inside the hidden pile of 22 years of education, I remembered Darwin’s “NATURA NON FACIT SALTUM” (yes, I have some Latin in the folds of my brain, nurtured by “Asterix and Obelix”, a comic book we read at home since my 5th birthday or so, and I still know that gladiators say “MORITURI TE SALUTANT”…one of these days this might come in handy)….but wait, I am digressing.

So, I brushed up on my Darwin and came up with this interesting little tidbit on the internet – Darwin was wrong! So, as far as the Bead-Darwinism is concerned – does nature make leaps or not? I think it’s both, sometimes it jumps into a Quark, but most of the time, it builds on something that already exists, and believe me, the pressure is much less! In order to prove my point, I want to introduce you to “Corina’s variation on blue-green”.

First a picture of all the beads I made over the weekend/Monday.

Bead group

If you merely glance at the “pile-up”, they look very much like the blue and green beads I made in the past, but I wanted to take you to a “closer look” to show some ways of making variations of the “same” design:

1. Hole-to-hole stripes

Two of the variations are on the subtle side: the two beads in the center have stripes in pea-green and periwinkle – and the two beads on the outside have stripes in ENCASED peagreen and perwinkle. The peagreen was encased in medium transparent grass green, and the periwinkle was encased in dark transparent blue. Is it worth the effort? I think so. The stripes (in person) have a little more “definition”, and a little more shine. The other variation is the base of the beads, the first bead was encased “clean” (you just see the blue), while the second bead was encased “hot” – meaning that the periwinkle base is hot when the clear encasing layer hits it and starts swirling around. While this is the beginners worst nightmare, it can actually add interest to a bead if used purposefully. The two beads on the right are made with green dichroic, and that always looks great.

2. Stripes and dots

I only have two beads to illustrate the idea – but stripes can be wonderfully combined with dots – in this case I just replaced one horizontal like with a row of five dots…Now just image all the possibilities if you would add more than just one color…and you don’t need any grand new idea to come up with new looks.

3. Dots

Dots are such a fantastic design-element, hey, entire BOOKS have been written about them, and I bet there are a 100 pages more possible to write about dots without repeating anything said before. I only picked a few beads to show the possibilities – raised dots in opaque, in transparent, with poked base, flat dots, dots over dichroic, dots over encased beads…blabla. The one bead in this line-up that I have never made before is the blue one on the right – which is a variation on the one to it’s left – instead of making all green dots, I added blue dots in the center row, and then some tiny peagreen accent dots inbetween. I know that it’s not some kind of smashing new look, but after making beads for 9 years it’s still cool to have something very simple that you’ve NEVER DONE BEFORE….that should give you some hope for your future…if nothing else….

4. Flower Lentils

If you are ever totally out of ideas, you should try and make some flower lentils! I only made three this time, but I could easily spend all day making different flowers – without ever changing the colors! And I am a traditionalist and would probably not make flowers with green petals. But there is so much to do! First of course you have the base bead (these are all decorated with swirled stringer), then the color of the petals (with shading if you have different shades of blue), the shape of the petals (you would widen them, pull them to a point, snip the center with shears….), and then the center (stamen)….now imagine all of this with all the different bright opaque and transparent colors and you could make flower lentils for a week without ever repeating yourself. Think DETAIL!

5. Lentils with swirls

I mentioned above that the base-beads for the flower lentils was decorated with swirls. To illustrate that, I show a couple of these on the right of this strand. The other three lentils are again just an example of the huge amount of possibilities on a small canvas (all of these lentils are actually MINI-lentils, 1/2 inch in diameter. The swirls can cover the entire bead and be melted in before pressing (like in the blue bead 2nd from left), or the swirl can be applied after pressing the bead, like in # 1 and # 3. Adding a swirl to a lentil is not easy, because the right side of the lentil tends to cool off faster than the left, and sometimes it might happen that the stringer doesn’t stick to that part of the bead. In that case, there is nothing much you can do other than dumping the bead. Problems are slightly easier to hide if you work with encased stringer – IF they happen to get too close to each other, the swirl will still keep its definition, while a regular opaque or transparent stringer will melt into itself and look less pretty. You can see in the bead to the very left that this happened to my bead (on the right bottom, where it’s cooler), but it’s still acceptable. (The other side is perfect, but sometimes it’s okay to show flaws…after all, nobody is THAT perfect, right?)

6. Stripes on Lentils

I am particularly pleased with these beads – every single one is a “have never made before!” I almost don’t have to say anything, because the picture says it all – and this is an example for the type of design that happens entirely at the torch. Both of the center beads I started with just one stringer line across the mandrel (the 4th bead actually was started the same way). From there on I kept crossing the lines, and then stared at the center for a little while, thinking what I could do to “bring the lines together”. I made the blue bead first….and the green one right after that, the only difference apart from the colors are the little dots around the poked center dot. Again, I could spend an entire day just making variations on this ONE idea of the crossed lines. You should give it a try! Yes, of course, there is always the problem of stringer-control, but as long as the stringer is straight, it’s actually fairly easy. You just have to change the position of the mandrel, so that the line always goes AWAY from the flame, from left to right…

7. More Sideways Stripes 

I probably should have listed these beads as number 3 – they are basically variations on the sideways stripes, as shown in the bead to the very left. In the second bead I started with the stripes, then added five dots, melted everything flush and pressed it (again, this is a MINI-lentil, so the dots have to be really small). The plaid lentil is made with encased stringer, if you would just use plain opaque stringer they would melt into each other when the same colors cross (does that make sense?). When making plaid beads I always start out with four sideways stripes, melt them flat, then add one “ring” around the center, melt it flat, then four more sideways stripes, melt flat, and then two more rings on the sides. Of course, you can do this anywhich way you want, but for me this works best. the other two beads just show how the sideways stripes can add a little more interest to a bead that would be just fine without.¬†

8. Twisties

I mainly wanted to show these beads as an example for how twisties can be used. It took me a long time in my beadmaking career to warm up to twisties – I think mostly because all the people I ever watched making twisties took up to an hour (or more) to make 20 feet of twisties that took an entire class of 8 students to pull out, and I just don’t have the patience for that kind of preparation. So, my own version of twisties are also “quickies” – and since starting the quarks, I am now seriously addicted to pulling and twisting – and then coming up with a variety of uses. So, in this series of beads I used the same twisty as the rim for a cone, the center of a mini-lentil (framed with encased stringer), and encased “banded” barrel disk, an encased disk, an un-encased disk and a simple encased blue bead with the twisty around the center. I bet there are lots more ways I haven’t even gotten close to.

9. Mini-cones

FThese are always fun to make, and I have a dear friend who just loves cones, and believe it or not, although she doesn’t always get them, I still make them for her! I use the basic design elements – dots, trailing lines and horizontal lines – now just mix them all up and combine them (also to replace the twisty rim), and 50 more cone designs are born.
I hope you enjoyed my little look into the Bead-Darwinism. Feel free to email me with questions, suggestions, feedback, praise, whatever you have to say…take care, Corina.