Thursday, April 16, 2015

Essential Beading Tools

Every beaders' work space consists of a few things they think they'll need to get a beading project underway. But is what you have at hand, what you actually need? Some of the time, yes. But, most of the time, no.

Generally, you run out of things, or you can't find them, or you just don't have them. In this article, I will look at some essential tools that will make your beading journey a little easier.

Beading Mat - these can be different things but generally have the non-slip mat surface that doesn't allow the beads to roll. This makes it much easier to pick up with your beading needle.

The beauty of a bead mat is that it doesn't take up much room. Can be rolled for easy storage, or for travelling if you wish to bead away from your beading table.

It's also a good idea to have more than one bead mat. You'll find that sometimes you may get stuck on a project, and instead of packing it all up, you can put it aside and start on something else, on a different mat.
If you do stringing or would like to see the overall effect of lengths, then a bead board comes in handy.

Needles - have lots of them handy. They don't last forever. And you will find that different size and lengths of needles have their own purpose. It is not unusual to change from a regular sized beading needle in the middle of a project, to one of a different length and thickness.
Also, your needles will bend out of shape. Don't panic! this is quite normal. The way you hold your needle is unique to you, so your needle will shape accordingly.

Thread There is quite a variety of threads for beading in the marketplace. I am often asked which is better. My answer is this: It depends what you are working on and also a personal preference.

I say, try a few, if not all different threads available, and see what works best for you. Obviously some will work better in certain applications. for example; If you prefer to use Nymo, KO, C-Lon etc,  then it easy to match the thread colour to your beads. Fireline has a different strength and the 2 main colours available blend well with most beads.

Scissors - scissors are an invaluable part of your beading project. You need to know though, that not all scissors are the same. Fireline will blunt your scissors, so it's best to buy a pair specifically for Fireline with serrated jaws. Nail scissors are also good if you are cutting small curved areas in bead embroidery. They will follow the contours easily without the struggle. Large paper scissors are useful for cutting out paper templates for embroidery pieces. A dressmakers unpick tool or a large pin will also come in handy when undoing work. As it will allow you to select individual threads in between the beads.

And generally, the more beading you do, the more you are likely to cut things up because they aren't sitting well, or it doesn't look like it's supposed to look. You will then join the 'Rippit' brigade.

Adhesive/Glue - Whether you need to glue backing on a piece of bead embroidery, glue a cab or gemstone, Soutache threads, or beads together, among other things, you'll need the appropriate glue to do the job. There are quite a lot of glues on the market but the main ones that are used for beading are E6000. G-S Hypo Cement, Diamond Glaze, and Araldite.
Remember when you use the glues, and it doesn't matter which one, to use them in a well ventilated area. Some of those fumes can be quite strong. Also, let the glue cure.... that way you can be sure that the piece won't move.

Scoop - Scoops are an invaluable tool and take on many shapes.
A scoop can be a teaspoon, a triangular tray with pointy corners, a long half tube thing, small flour/sugar scoops, measuring spoons.... or even a small piece of paper folded in two. Scoops will help you put your beads back in their tubes or containers. They will help you organise your beads into colour piles on the bead mat. They will scoop out beads from larger containers. they will help you pick up dropped beads... and the list goes on. If you have the triangular or dish shaped scoops, then they can also double up as mini bead trays.

Magnifying glass - When the beads you work with are small, or you have poor lighting, then you will need something to make your work look bigger. One of the handiest things you can have is a desktop magnifyer. These come with or without light, but they make it so easy to see the beads. Magnifyers also come in other forms. You can buy magnifying glasses in different strengths. They can be bought in most shops these days and are relatively cheap, and easy to use. There are desk lamps that have a magnifying lens next to the globe. Also, there are specialty magnifying glasses. they're rather heavy duty, but if you do a lot of beading and your eyesight is suffering, then they may be a worthwhile investment.

Bead Stopper - These cute little coiled things not only stop your beads from slipping off the beading thread, but they also help control your tension when you start a piece. They also come in handy for keeping those small bags of beads closed when they dont have a zip lock.

Light - This is probably one of the most essential tools you will need. Without adequate lighting, your eyes will tire quickly, and become sore and irritated. Therefore reducing the amount of hours you bead. When you have the right amount of light, you can bead when inspiration hits you, that can be both day, and night.

Tape Measure/Ruler - You need one.... dont think you dont.
How will you know how long to make that bracelet? or have you made the necklace the right size for an average neck? The list goes on. Sometimes you'll need to measure focal beads/gemstones to know how many beads will go around them. The tape measure will go hand in hand with this:

Thread Burner/Lighter - A handy tool to tidy up the thread ends that poke out of your beadwork. Also the lighter comes in handy when joining 2 pieces of Firline together. (you can find reference to this in earlier articles)

Camera/Phone Camera - Another one of those tools that isn't used as much as it should. Sure you use a camera if you intend to show your creations to the world. But what about taking progress shots of your creation?
You dont need a fancy camera. In fact, even the camera on your mobile phone will do. You just need to create a record of what you create. It will also give you a date stamp, so in years to come, you can reference the photos to see when you actually created a piece.
If you get more adventurous with taking photos, you can invest with a Macro lens which will take really close shots. Also you'll then need some good lighting and a good set up etc.... but again, you can find reference in a previous article here on the Bead Mavens.

Paper & Pencil - This is a fairly obvious tool, but so many people dont use it. If you create Bead Embroidery pieces, then you may be some of the few that use it. Taking notes, and creating doodles of pieces you'd like to create is a great way of setting up a portfolio of ideas....

Display Bust - Display busts are another tool that make life so much simpler when designing and making jewellery. They're great, not only for displaying finished jewellery, but they're also handy to place your work in progress on, so that you may see if it all looks right and is balanced, or sits right. It is a good idea to have a few busts, in different colous and sizes. That way you can see what your work looks like on different backgrounds.

Display busts are also good for photographing your finished pieces on.
Even though some of you may have other tools you use when creating, this list is a fundamental list for beaders who bead with a needle and thread. It is also a list for use when creating with Kumihimo and Micro Macrame, and loomwork to name a few.

I hope you find this article helpful and it helps build yout checklist.

Happy Beading!

Where Do I Begin? - Challenges, Competitions and Inspiration

Ever looked at other designers' works, whether online or in magazines, and thought to yourself:

Well all these thoughts, and the feelings that accompany them, are very normal.... and some that most designers have felt at some point, early in their beading journey.

So..... where do you start? 

I guess the best way to start is to find like minded people that you can bounce ideas around with. But I hear you say.... "I live in an isolated area, I don't know anyone around here...." etc. Well let me tell you how easy it can be. 

When I first started beading seriously, I too, found myself with no one around me that I could share this new-found passion. Sure, I had magazines that gave me inspiration, but really, I was on my own. Then when perusing in the advertisement section of the magazines, local to my country, I discovered an online Beading Forum. I soon joined and 'met' some lovely people. People with the same passion or liking for the beads. I discovered there were quite a number of people not far from me with the same passion. A few of us eventually met in real life and started to bead together once a month. We challenged ourselves, tried new techniques, and had a lot of fun. 

Magazines have a lot of inspiration, and also also some worthwhile tutorials that can get you going on your journey.

We are also very fortunate to live in the age of technology and cyberspace.... you can have a links to other people through the internet. Great friendships have been made through this medium, and a lot has been learned and shared. You too can be part of this trend. There are lots of people willing to help and share their knowledge. All you have to do is tap into it. Now you may think to yourself...'I don't have anything to contribute'.... but really its about a sharing. You do have things to contribute, even your hiccups in your creations is worth sharing, because in the discussion it creates, it not only helps you, but also someone else, who may have hiccups as well.

Challenges: One of the definitions of challenges which I thought was quite appropriate is this:  A test of one's abilities or resources is a demanding but stimulating undertaking.

One of the best ways to challenge yourself is to learn new techniques/stitches, and then create something unique using this new technique.

I know a lot of people feel daunted by what other people create. But you know what? You can create like that too.... all you have to do is keep trying. Keep experimenting. Keep pushing beyond your comfort zone.

Everyone starts the same way. Basically knowing very little. The difference is your personal determination to learn as much as you can and to better yourself. You can do it! You have to want it badly enough, and you will do it.

I remember one competition I entered many years ago..... I was stuck for ideas, but I knew quite a few different techniques. Time was running out and life got in the way. The deadline was looming and as I had committed to participating, I had to produce something. So, I started to bead..... not knowing which direction it was going, I kept going. I used every stitch I knew at the time, and what evolved was a freeform necklace.

It took its own shape, as the beads guided me. At the end of it, it was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot along the way. 

The thing I'm trying to say here, is that you should always try to expand what you already know, and use what you know to expand yourself.

This piece was quite admired by all who saw it, and was snapped up quite quickly. I'm sure it is enjoying being worn by a lovely lady.

Competitions: I can almost hear a lot of you shudder at the thought of entering a competition. 
There are lots of competitions around the world today, that really get the creative juices going. And I know a lot of you thinking to yourselves that "You're not good enough"..... 

Firstly.... you need to get that thought out of your heads. Competitions are good. They help you grow. Yes, they can be frustrating at times, but just think of the personal reward in knowing that you've created something with a "Wow!" factor.

The one thing I will suggest though, is that you enter competitions, not necessarily to win, but to improve your techniques and composition. If you do place, or win, then that is a bonus.

Here is a little list that may entice you to enter a piece.

I'm sure there are lots of locally run challenges that can entice you as well. If you're a member of any of the various beading circles on Facebook, see if any of them run competitions you can participate in.

Inspiration: Where does it come from? How can the mind be stimulated enough to start creating?

Look around you. It's everywhere! People, things, places, moments, thoughts....... all you need to do is really look. Start up a journal of things you like. Things that take your breath away. Things that evoke emotions in you. Collect pictures and photos. Get yourself into the habit of really seeing whats around you.... and I don't mean just the big things.... I mean the little things.

Patterns in a kaleidoscope, colours in a soap bubble, waves of the ocean, the rippling of the sand. The veins on a leaf. The markings on an insect. The list is endless!

Write on little bits of paper things that you like..... a movie, a favourite food, a famous or not so famous quote. Write them all down. One thing per piece of paper. put them in a jar, or a bag or something. Then, without looking inside the container, take out one piece of paper. And create something that will represent what is written down.

You'll get the mojo going. And before you know it, you'll be creating pieces you never thought you could.

All I'm saying is don't be afraid of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. There is a whole world of creativity within you, just itching to get out.

Happy Beading!

Business V Hobby

busi·ness  (bzns)

1. an occupation, profession, or trade.
2. the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit.
3. a person, partnership, or corporation engaged in commerce, manufacturing, or a service.
4. volume of trade; patronage or custom.
5. a store, office, factory, etc., where commerce is carried on.
6. that with which a person is principally and seriously concerned: 

hob·by 1  (hb)
n. pl. hob·bies
An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure.

Most of us start our beading journey as youngsters making items for our school friends, or as adults, making things we would like to wear. Mostly with bounding enthusiasm and a lot of trepidation. Enthusiasm because we can create something from these little components and trepidation because of the uncertainty of what others will think of it, or if it will be strong enough when worn, among other reasons we may think of. 

We usually start out by creating simple items and often gift them to family and friends. As we become more confident with what we create, and delve into more complex pieces, our collection grows and we find it harder to part with pieces that have taken so much time and effort, used so many beads and materials, and has extracted some of our own essence into it.

We continue to learn new techniques, create more complex pieces, and before we know it, we have accumulated quite a collection. At this point we start to run out of storage space, and also of people we can gift to..... What now?

We have 2 options: 
*1 - Stop creating.... not really an option if you're a devout beader.

*2 - Start selling. Probably the better option because it will give us back some dollars to justify buying more beads..... LOL... how many of you have thought that?

OK... so where do we sell though? What do we sell? How many items do we need to display? Where will the people come from? How much do we charge? How do we set up? And the questions go on and on.

Firstly though, we need to decide whether we will be selling as a hobby or a business. This is an important decision, because it will determine how much effort and detail you need to go into. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether your activities constitute a hobby or a business. It’s important though, to understand and know the difference between the two because of the various tax, insurance, and legal implications.

What is the difference between a hobby and a business?

The easiest way to find out if you are running a business or a hobby is to ask yourself a few simple questions. Here’s a quick test:
  • Is the activity being undertaken for commercial reasons?
  • Do you have the purpose and prospect of making a profit?
  • Are you regularly and repetitively undertaking the activities?
  • Is your activity planned, organised and carried on in a business-like manner?
If you've answered yes to at least 2 of the above, then its most likely that you want to sell like a business. Later in this article, I'll outline some of the most important steps, that will make business life a little easier.

There are various ways to sell your jewellery. Party Plan, Consignment, Markets, Retail (bricks and mortar shop), and Retail (web based). In this article we will look at these in a little detail.

Party Plan:  The party plan is a direct sales method of marketing products through social events allowing you to start your own business for a very small investment. Party plan selling offers unlimited income potential and you can easily start part-time from your home without the risk of losing your present income. 

One of the easiest ways to start, is to host a jewellery party. Invite your family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours... anyone you wish to tell really.

Hosting parties like this is relatively easy and has no ongoing overheads, apart from the initial set up costs of display items such as busts, bracelet displays etc, and maybe some refreshments. You need to keep in mind though, that only doing it this way, will eventually exhaust your immediate market, unless you have a system in place where guests can book you for subsequent parties, inviting their social networks, and so on. Offering hostess incentives will almost guarantee future parties. 

Consignment: To sell your goods on consignment means that you get paid by the shop or gallery only upon the sale of your items - essentially, you retain ownership of your items until they sell, the store does not buy them outright. This is often the easiest way to get your products into a store and is a good first step if you're just starting out.
Consignment is beneficial for shop owners and designers alike: it allows shop owners to fill their shops with items at no upfront cost to them and lets them test out the saleability of your goods to their customers. For you, it's beneficial as you retain a higher percentage of the sales price on your items than you would selling via wholesale (or, you should!) while also testing your saleability in different markets, and getting exposure in retail shops.
You pay the shop a commission on the sale of your items, as they are working to help market, display and sell your items in the best way possible. You must be mindful though, to choose a store and its location, that suits your product, otherwise you'd be wasting your time and tying your stock up.

Galleries: Another way of giving yourself, your business and products exposure is to find galleries that have seasonal showings, and see if your product is in line with their artworks and vice versa. The general costs involved are relatively low - usually for the hire of the table. Most of these venues will take a commission of your sales, but generally it is a low cost, and very effective way of not only selling your product, but creating public awareness, and a following. I have been doing this type of show for a couple of years now, and find it very profitable. I am humbled that they ask me to be involved in their seasonal art shows.

Remember, it is still important that your customers experience the whole package though. When they go home to open their purchases, they should be reminded of how special they were made to feel, just by opening up their parcels.

Markets: Selling your wares at craft markets is completely brilliant... you are surrounded by handmade goodness all day, you chat to like-minded people, meet customers face to face and hopefully make a little money too. 
Every market is also about you advertising and marketing your business, getting your name and products in front of people's eyes. You never know who will pick up a business card and contact you later. Many shop-owners go to markets to seek out new and original wares for their store and may contact you about becoming a stockist. There's a lot more to your stall on market day than the sales you get. So when you don't think you've had a good day, count how many business cards have been taken.

Retail Sales (bricks and mortar):
If you want to enter the world of owning a shop, then this is for you. If you like the idea of having a shopfront where your customers come to you, and you have this face to face interaction, then this is perfect..... but it does have some drawbacks. Having the right customers who are cashed up and ready to spend in your store, is not always easy. There are overheads to meet, such as rent, electricity, wages, insurance... just to name a few. You have to make sure that the stock you carry suits the location of the shop or its demographic. You need to ensure that you display different stock regularly to keep prospective customers interested. You need to maintain marketing and advertising. 

If your shop is in a shopping center (mall), then there are the added costs that are determined by center management.

Retail Sales (Web Based): Selling online seems to be the way a lot of people and companies are doing business these days. Although there are a lot of benefits there are also some pitfalls that can consume your time and in some cases some funds. It is important though to analyse your business, to see if selling online could work for you.

Most people jump in feet first into an online selling avenue without doing too much research. Just because it's online, doesn't mean it will automatically work. You still have to research the market to see if your product will sell, and also to find out who else is selling a similar product. 

Four points to consider when starting your online store
  • Do your research. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into and exactly what you want. 
  • Carry out an online transaction at a store that has inspired you, detail their pros and cons and pass on an even better experience to your customers.

  •  Have a marketing plan to get people to visit your site, whether it be new or current customers.

  • Make sure your website design matches what you are actually selling. 

Some of the many benefits to online selling:
  • Reduced overheads in general, as an online shop costs less to set up and run than a physical store, although it's important to recognize that making eCommerce work requires continuing investment, not only in upgrades but also in your time.
  • Lower marketing costs with better targeting: online promotion can be more precisely aimed at potential customers than using conventional media. It's also much cheaper, for example, to send a marketing message by e-mail to 1,000 customers than it is to send 1,000 newsletters by post.
  • Expanded geographical reach: a local business can become nationwide or even international, just through having an effective eCommerce strategy. 
  • Being open for business 24/7: with automated order and payment processing, sales can be made at any time, and customers can buy when it suits them.
  • Greater flexibility: an online store can be updated instantly and as often as you like, for example, to promote a 'deal of the day' on your front page, without the need for expensive printed display material.
  • Broader potential customer base: an eCommerce business is an additional buying channel, capable of attracting customers who have not bought before.
  • Improved customer profiling, with the opportunity to target products and services at specific groups based on buying data.
  • Increased visibility for your business: with investment in search engine optimisation and online promotion, an online shop becomes more accessible to customers searching for your products.
(Information readily available on the internet)

    Other avenues for selling online are sites like EBay, Etsy, MadeIT, Amazon, Artfire, to name a few. These sites are relatively easy to navigate and even easier to set up your online presence to start listing things. All you have to do is register your name or trading name with them (provided it hasn't already been used), and start uploading your product. Make sure though, that you have accurate descriptions and sizes, including postage. You will have to maintain this site as well.

    Stock Photo - my hobby. fotosearch 
- search stock 
photos, pictures, 
wall murals, images, 
and photo clipartHobby: If we decide that business is not for us... that's OK... business is not for everyone, and don't let anyone make you feel like you should be doing it.

    Creating for the sheer pleasure, or to gift, or to sometimes sell to recoup materials cost is very heart warming. It keeps our minds and hands active, and tends to connect us to many people around the world with a shared passion. Many friendships are made this way. Hobbyists still go through the learning curves of their art, just like someone in business. they just don't focus on the profit side.

    I have been asked on numerous occasions how I get my commissions and also the shows I do. One simple yet complex answer I guess..... You need to put yourself in the market place.... you need to show your wares to people who can either buy from you, or most importantly guide you to a selling venue. You need to create a following. You need to wear your own product, that way it evokes conversation from people you meet. You need to be prepared to donate items. You need to market yourself, your goods and your passion. You need to remain humble, because always talking about yourself doesn't make people want to be in your energy field. You need to learn to listen, for in listening will you understand what people are wanting, even if they don't say the words.

    I have had many students in my classes think that to market themselves, they just needed to advertise. Marketing is so much more than just advertising. It is one of the biggest players in this thing we call commerce. It is a branding. Whether it be online or bricks and mortar. Without marketing it would be an uphill battle and a very expensive one. Although you will have to invest time and also some dollars in marketing, it will almost guarantee you ongoing success, alongside hard work and tenacity. It is the promotion and selling of products or services which includes market research and advertising with a view of helping reach a wider customer base. It also involves the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development.

    You are building a brand and every contact must reinforce what you want to say about you, your business and its product. This includes everything from how you answer the phone to how you use promotional materials. Business owners who have little experience of marketing do not always take this broad a view of marketing.Typically they think that advertising equates to marketing. But it involves a whole lot more than that.

    If marketing is not your strong suit, find a small business coach that specialises in marketing. It's easy to learn about marketing from a book, but it takes years to master, so it may pay to initially invest in professional help. 

    This is by no means a conclusive body of information. I could sit and write more information for you, sadly space is limited. But I hope I have given you enough to enable you to research these components of business, as well as much more for yourself. To help you grow your businesses, and to become profitable. Whatever that may mean to you.

    And finally, however you wish to pursue your creative endeavors, remember one thing - enjoy it. Enjoy the process of learning and doing. You may not like it at the time, but learn to embrace it, because it will not only give you knowledge, but it will give you strength and freedom.

    Happy Beading!

    Composition: It's In The Details

    com·po·si·tion  (kmp-zshn)

    a. The combining of distinct parts or elements to form a whole.
    b. The manner in which such parts are combined or related.

    So many times I've been asked about composition, whether in bead embroidery or bead weaving. I guess it really comes down to the materials you choose..... the main focal/s, the seed beads and their sizes, the size of the piece you want to create and also the intended wearer and the occasion.

    The composition of a necklace firstly starts with the length and size of the piece. 
    Here are some perfect/ideal lengths for jewellery.

    (12-13 in./30-33 cm) This style fits snugly around the base of the neck and is normally made up of several close-fitting strands. The necklace may be enhanced with jeweled spacers or a large centerpiece. The look is very formal and is perfect for evening wear.

    (14-16 in./36-41 cmThe choker has slightly more drape than collar length and usually falls above the neckline. The look can be made more casual by mixing accent beads — such as crystals and semi-precious stones — to bring a more eclectic style to the classic pearl design.

    (17-19 in./43-48 cm) A popular style for graduated pearls. This versatile length looks great with high or low necklines. 

    (20-24 in./51-61 cm) Slightly longer than the princess. Measure carefully when fitting this style as it should fall just above the bust line. This length works best when paired with a high neckline.

    (28-36 in./71-90 cm) Think formal for this style. Elegant and refined, this piece can be worn single or wrapped as a double strand depending on the outfit it is paired with.

    (36 in./90 cm and longer) Long and lovely ropes of pearls may be looped around the neck to create any length. Leave it long or wrap it several times around the neck. This necklace makes the wearer shine in the spotlight.

    When delving into the world of beading, jewellery is made with various components and different layers, but they will still conform to the guidelines above. Composition in beading, when looking at the 'layout' of a piece can be symmetrical, asymmetrical or freeform. In this article, we'll be looking at these in more detail. Plus a few other things.

    Symmetrical: An object that has two (2) identical sides, that are divided by a line of symmetryThis symmetry can then be divided again and again to create the desired pattern.

    This type of design, whether single or multi-level, is relatively easy to construct because it is about balance. You can create an image on paper first to see what your overall piece will look like, or you can start by making the components and moving them around on your beading mat to see what works for you. Either is fine. Everyone works differently, so don't bog yourself down with how other people do this, you do what works for you.

    Once you've settled on a layout, you can see what extra bits will be needed. Then you have to work out how to put the components together. This step is crucial in giving the overall piece, uniformity. It's in the detail of joining components together, that will show the wearer/buyer that every detail was taken into account.

    The stitches/techniques used will determine how a piece will be finished most of the time. So once you've settled on a design, you then have to work out a 'rope'. As you all know, there are a myriad or ropes to choose from, but not all ropes will work on every design need to remember that. Your rope will make your piece outstanding or simply 'just ok'.

    If you look at the example on the right, there are curves (ovals) and triangles in the overall design, and the rope I decided on, needed to be an extension of this. So I chose a flat spiral weave because it had the roundness with the pearls and the pointiness of the triangles by the use of bicones at the middle of the spiral sections. This therefore became an extension of the focal front section. 

    Your rope also has to have a soft drape on the wearer, that way it not only supports the whole piece, but is also comfortable to wear.

    For a bead embroidered piece, the principle is still the same except you're sewing your beads onto a base or foundation. 

    Firstly you decide the shape of the collar and whether it will be whole or have negative spaces. Feel free to use the template above, or alter it to your design style - print it out, and enlarge it to suit your neck size.

    Secondly you'll need to select the focal crystals, cabochons or whatever you're intending to use, and then the seed beads that will work up the piece. 

    Once you've made your selections, you'll need to draw a rough placement of the focals on your foundation material. Then the direction or movement of the seed beads and their groups. When you're happy with the layout, then its time to start. At this time, other beaders have said to me that they have a multitude of concerns that make them not start. Their concerns are 'what if it doesn't look good?' What if it doesn't work?' 'What if I make a mistake?' And this is before even glueing anything on.... ! 

    My reply is usually, 'Start'... if you don't like it, it doesn't work, or you've made mistakes, you can unpick or start again. You really wont know till you start, so go ahead.... glue your focals in place, and start beading. It's that simple. Once you've drawn your design on your foundation, you start sewing. There are plenty of books on Bead Embroidery in the marketplace, plenty of inspiration, and technique. But in reality, if you can sew, then you can create a collar. 

    Asymmetrical: Is the absence of symmetry. Its more about creating a completepicture as you would find in nature.

    When creating a piece that isn't symmetrical, most people freeze. I know a lot of beaders tell themselves, they cant do it.  My suggestion would be to let the beads talk to you. What do you see them doing? Asymmetry is about creating a picture.... not about having a mirror image for half of it.

    I'll tell you what I've told them.....walk out into the garden, or go for walks along the beach or wherever you find peace. Look around... what do you see? what inspires you? what materials are around you? Rocks.... twigs, leaves, sand, shells.... whatever has nature placed them?... When you find something that attracts you, how can you then translate it to beads. 

    'Icelandic Swirl' to the right, is representative of a Rock Pool like the photo above. It is a combination of bead embroidery and bead weaving. The large focal represents the pool itself with the swirling water that enters it as it cascades over the rocks. The smaller pearls and shells are things that may be found in and around the rock pool. The glass domes represent pockets of still water.

    The piece you create doesn't have to be whole, you can have negative spaces which add interest and also add to the asymmetry.

    Also, if your piece requires a rope to finish it, the rope doesn't have to be the same on both sides. That's the beauty of asymmetry, you can do something different on both sides. In this example, I have used twisted Ndebele on one side and Russian spiral on the other. I chose these to represent the different ways that water swirls and travels towards the rock pool.

    Free-form: Is mainly done in Peyote stitch. Although in my freeform creations I bead a piece a couple of ways.... #1 create a base on which I embellish in free and random ways. This is usually good for bracelets as it gives the whole piece, sturdiness. or  #2 start beading and swap and change beads and bead sizes as I go - this is mainly how I do it. Bead, in all and erratic directions. There are generally no rules other than make sure the piece is sturdy, and has enough passes of thread so it doesn't come apart.

    Personally, I find the beauty of free-form, is you can do whatever you like, in whatever stitch you want and in whatever direction, and it will be fine. the one thing I would advise though, is to have a basic size and shape in mind. You can bead 'blindly' or you can, believe it or not, draw out a basic shape and direction of your design, and follow it. Either way is fine.

    Another crucial element in freeform is the colour palette. Although it may be tempting to use up that bead soup that seems to be ever growing, it is always better to minimize the colours used, to a palette that is complementary.... maybe 4 or five colours in the same tones. Have a few feature beads or elements that create interest. When you use larger beads as features, don't forget you can also bead over them, you're not confined to beading around them.

    Make your piece looks full of life and movement, have areas that are high and areas that are low, and don't forget that negative space also add to the intrigue, which will lead the viewer's eye around the piece. My first freeform piece, was haphazard in its commencement, as i really didn't know what to do.... so I decided to incorporate every stitch I knew at the time, and see what would come out of it. It worked out beautifully, and was bought immediately the first time I displayed it at a show.

    So if you are still hesitant about trying freeform beading, I say give it a go.... but you need to be relaxed, and not try to control your piece.

    Colour: Colour is a major part of the overall composition of a piece. If you don't have a complementary palette, your piece will, although look fine in design, will have something 'not quite right'.

    Fortunately I have been teaching the 'Principles of Colour' and its foundation for over 25 years, and have devised formulae to help people see more colours than they are conditioned to see. Unfortunately, not everyone has done my classes, so here I will tell you, that if you are not comfortable selecting colours, or putting colours together, then it would be helpful to you, to use colour wheels, both secondary and tertiary wheels. Make sure the wheels have a complementary or contrasting section to each colour. This will not only help you see what colours work with what, but it will also start to condition you so it will become second nature.

    I think the best place to find excellent colour schemes is in nature. The hard work is done for you. When you go for walks, or picnics, or out and about.... always have your camera with you. With today's technology, a camera is a s close as your mobile phone. Take lots of photos of things you see.... build a library of images that are bountiful in colour.... they will come in handy... not only for colour schemes, but also as subject matter for your next creations.

    Feature Items: Collect collect collect.....
    If you don't have a collection, you need to start one....LOL. You need to have lots of feature pieces available in your stash, to give you inspiration. Not saying you cant buy anything new for a piece, Gosh! that's what beaders live for! but its really good to have items available at your fingertips.

    And don't limit yourself to what is most used.... step outside the box and collect things that will make your work unique to you. If I cant find a particular feature item, then I will make it from polymer clay, or PMC.

    There is a multitude of other things we can look at.... but I think I shall close this article with clasps....LOL... pardon the pun :)

    Whether you choose on of the many prefabricated clasps that are in the marketplace, or make your own, the thing to remember with clasps, is that they need to be secure enough so they don't come undone, and in saying that, they need to be easy enough for the wearer to do up and undo, on their own.

    For necklaces I like to either use magnetic clasps, as they are easier for the wearer, or I make my own to suit the piece I have just created. It is really lovely to create a clasp that is an extension to the front of the piece and makes a statement on its own. Clasps also don't have to be at the back of a piece, they can also become a feature at the front.

    Take your time in selecting the perfect clasp, it will definitely make your piece worth seeing from the front as well as the back. Above you will see 2 types of clasps that can be used at the front.

    So when you create your next piece, do take into account the composition of your piece, and the intended wearer. The colour palette you're going to use. The subject matter. And most of all, just go for it... don't be afraid to try something new. It isn't set in concrete. Its OK to make mistakes and change your design as you go. Or to simply change your design half way through if you think there is a new direction you'd like to take or there is a better way of doing something.

    But mostly, enjoy playing with composition, whether it be in bead weaving, bead embroidery, or freeform beading, and enjoy the process. If you don't push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will miss out on so many possibilities.

    Happy Beading!