A Dab Hand with the Pliers

Posted by Jill Chivers in My Story

Blog #15. Here we are! It’s February 2.  I mentioned a couple of postings ago that I’d let you in on a new skill I have developed. Well, it’s an extension of an existing skill, one I have been developing for some time. And that is the design and creation of my own jewellery.

The photo on the left is me in my radiant beading glory. We were lucky to find a shot of me without my lips being pursed into a straight line (a sure sign I am concentrating), although this one does nicely show off the dust on the top off the light as well as my deft handling of the beading tools.

Design Queen. Well, maybe not so much a Queen but a Lesser Lady in Waiting. I’ve re-designed many pieces of my jewellery over the last few years. I’ve really enjoyed the creative process of putting this with that and seeing what works. Mixing colours, sizes, textures, shapes together and coming up with something unique and lovely.

To aid me in this endeavour, I fumbled around with various bead stores until I found the creme de la creme – Timbuktu to Kathmandu  which is the most glorious bead store I’ve ever been into. Located in Noosaville on the Sunshine Coast, they have three levels of beads in their store:

  1. the “great unwashed” which sit in their plastic storage jars for anyone, absolutely anyone, to pick up, open and touch; there are a lot of these beads, they make up the majority of the store and these beads are generally priced anywhere from 20cents up to say $4.
  2. the “middle rung” of beads are encased in locked cabinets but still stored in plastic jars – one needs the blessing of the king (or one of the girls in the store, almost all of whom I know by name – hi Mandy! Carolyn! Ava!) to get into this cabinet, and the quality of these beads is higher than the great unwashed beads; price ranges of these beads is around $4 – $12.
  3. then, my favourite cabinet – the “top drawer” beads, which are also under lock & key, but they are stored in felt-lined boxes, due to the fact that there are so few of them (they wouldn’t fill a plastic jar) and they are made of Italian glass and probably shouldn’t be dropped into a jar lest they break; the price range of these beads is about $15 up to $70 per bead. Per bead. You heard that right folks. As you might have guessed, this is my favourite cabinet – the quality of the beads is in a class of their own!

MYO. The reason I attempted to make my own jewellery was, initially, to save a few bucks. The good women of Timbuktu to Kathmandu charge (a reasonable fee) to string/finish your jewellery. A pair of earrings costs $15 to finish, and so on. So, in an effort to save some money, I thought: hey, I can teach myself to do the bendy-wire bizzo and finish my own necklaces and earrings! Why not??!!

But here’s the thing — once I had re-worked a number of my necklaces and earrings (more of that in a mo), I found myself experiencing a wave of satisfaction, that I could make something, quite beautiful really, with my own hands. I’ve never been much of a dab hand with the sewing machine (despite being surrounded by handy women in that department within my mum’s family), so am not all that familiar with how satisfying it is to make something.

Did you say six? A couple of weeks ago, an idea sprung into my head (as they are wont to do) that I should review my jewellery, the majority of which I should immediately confess is costume (as in no visits to Tiffany or George Jensen were required to acquire it). I had a number of pendants sitting idle – not been worn for years. I had a number of glass beaded necklaces that likewise were not paying their rent in my wardrobe (a few of which had been donated to me by a friend who was doing her own spot of spring cleaning and giving me some Mimco pieces she no longer wanted).

So I got them all out and laid them on the large kitchen bench. Dan came swinging by — “are you shopping?” he said, showing much greater astuteness than I confess I was expecting, and it took me a full 5 seconds to work out what his question was about (a rare moment – I told Dan to enjoy it, one like it may not come along for several years). So I pulled all the necklaces (and a couple of bracelets) apart and started laying out what some new necklaces might look like – if we put this with this, make that pendant a bead, put these turquoise ones with those chocolate ones, put this gold pendant with….. and la de da, that’s how I did it (where the ideas actually come from, I don’t really know – my hands are touching the beads and it kinda just…happens). I then let the finished designs sit on the bench, whilst I let the design process marinate overnight (being one to rush into action, I have learned the benefit of letting things sit for a while.

Breathe, breathe breathe, keep letting it sit, then — boom! go into action!). In the morning, I still loved the 6 designs I’d come up with, and took myself down to Spotlight to acquire needed beading equipment, such as tiger tail (the rope the beads hang on), crimping beads (slippery little suckers the size of a Barbie 5cent pieces), spacer beads (so all the big ones don’t bump up against one another — very ugly, big beads bumping, plus the necklace wont sit nicely) and the TOOLs. I got a pack of 5 tools for $11 which I was so thrilled about, it was way out of proportion to the actual purchase.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty….One of the pieces I redesigned, but Ava at Timbuktu strung & finished for me is pictured here – (arty photo, huh? taken at Mum and Dad’s garden where their agave’s are simply stunning). I loved the final product – a gorgeous piece I will flog to death. Here’s the thing — I need to confess to purchasing 5 beads for this piece.

So, that is a small infraction of the challenge right there – I’m calling this ‘strike one’, a baseball term (watching A League of Their Own several times has certainly improved my baseball vocabulary) meaning that I have 2 more strikes and I am OUT. Seeing as its such a small strike, perhaps it’s half a strike? This purchase (of those 5 beads) was one that I justified in the moment as being in service to a bigger ideal, which was the reworking of existing pieces.

In the other 6 necklaces I re-created (and the 3 pairs of earrings to coordinate), apart from spacer beads, not one single additional bead was purchased to make them: the challenge was to create them all from existing items. Which I managed to do. Thus keeping within the challenge and creating for myself a range of “new” accessory items which has given me more options/ideas when shopping my closet and pulling outfits together. And I do feel good about that. Which has got to be a good thing. Right?

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