Friday, December 28, 2012

Beaded DNA Bracelet

As I mentioned in my previous post, a good friend of mine requested a DNA bracelet for Christmas. I wove one for her in a peaches-and-cream color palette:
The bracelet uses the same modifications that I used for my gene regulation necklace, and in this style, 43 base pairs of beaded DNA are needed to reach the length of a bracelet. The bracelet itself is about 7 1/2 inches long, and finished with a simple silver S-clasp.
The sequence in this bracelet is from the human monoamine oxidase A gene, and some versions of this gene are thought to be a factor in several psychiatric disorders. It's an especially great conversation-starter piece for my friend, who's a school psychologist. The protein encoded by this gene is involved in the breakdown of the "happy" brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, so it's become a key target of antidepressant medications. Interestingly, one study has reported that women with a low-expression version of this gene are happier than other women. However, individuals with a dysfunctional version of this gene have a very rare genetic disorder called Brunner syndrome, which causes several psychological problems. The gene itself is over 90,000 base pairs long, so this bracelet covers only a very small portion of the start of its coding sequence.
I hope that you had a great holiday season, and best wishes for a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Beaded DNA Earrings

I took a break from beaded coffee chemistry to make some Christmas presents, but I didn't stray very far from the realm of scientific jewelry. A very good friend of mine hinted at wanting a DNA bracelet for Christmas, and I just can't turn her down. However, after wrapping my DNA necklace around my wrist and calculating that a bracelet would be about 40 beaded base pairs long, I wanted to test the color palette in mind before I beaded it altogether.

So, I made a few pairs of beaded DNA earrings, making yet more modifications to Gwen's fabulous pattern.
I beaded these earrings without the modifications for major and minor grooves that I used for the necklace, since it takes about 20 base pairs to see the grooves well, and it's difficult to appreciate them in a 10-bp pair of earrings. Instead, for these earrings, I adjusted the sizes of the seed beads in the backbone to make it narrower, and I used 11° seed beads for the bases. I used two seed beads each for the purines, A and G, and one seed bead for the pyrimidines, C and T, since purines are bigger than pyrimidines.

I beaded another pair in silver and the coffee colors sitting on my beading tray from the beaded caffeine molecules. In keeping with the coffee theme, I chose a sequence from the caffeine synthetase gene from the coffee plant, which encodes the enzyme that carries out the final step in caffeine biosynthesis. While the gene itself is nearly 2000 base pairs long, I only beaded the first 10 base pairs for these earrings. Like the pair above, I added a little twist by adding a cap to the bottom end with a sparkly bicone crystal.
There actually are caps on some nucleic acids in biology, most famously in DNA's close sibling RNA. mRNAs contain a 5' cap made of a specially modified G nucleotide, which serves to both stabilize the molecule (since RNA is much less stable than DNA), and to direct it to the ribosomes where it is read to make proteins. However, in these beaded DNA renditions, I must admit that I added the caps for purely aesthetic reasons.

I like how these earrings turned out, although I didn't get them to work without several attempts. To give you an idea, here are several of its prototypes:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Coffee Molecules

After beading the molecular structure of caffeine in a couple of different color combinations, I wanted to try to see if this technique would work on other molecular structures. Since there are thousands of molecules to pick from, I decided to narrow my choices for the time being to molecules that are both flat and caffeine-sized. Sticking with the theme of compounds found in coffee, I started with trigonelline, a molecule slightly smaller than caffeine, that has just one aromatic ring. Here's the beaded result along with the skeletal structure of the molecule:
The trigonelline beadwork actually ended up flatter than caffeine, which is awesome because both molecules are (mostly) planar in real life!

I also beaded caffeic acid, which contrary to its name is not-so-closely-related in structure to caffeine, though it is a significant part of coffee and is present at some amount in all plants. It has just one ring instead of two, and it has a branched chain with three carbons and two oxygens. I chose to bead it over other compounds in coffee because I wanted to see if the beadwork would remain stiff with this branched chain.
The result? It mostly works, though I've found on repeated attempts that the thread path used will greatly affect how flexible the beadwork ends up.

For reference, here's the original beaded caffeine molecule, in the same "latte" color scheme:
I think they make quite a nice set!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pondering Beading Illustrations, Followup

Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous post about beading illustrations. I tinkered with my previous illustrations a little bit and came up with this style:
I added the newly-added-bead labels back in, and I changed the dotted line to have more dots, which will be a little clearer on size 15° seed beads. I also added a little blue arrow to indicate the direction of the thread path. For reference, here are my two previous attempts at this illustration:
What do you think?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2013 Bead & Button Class Catalog Now Online

The class catalog for the 2013 Bead & Button Show is now online. I'm teaching six classes at this show, including this new class called the Sparkling Compass Set:
It was difficult to photograph both the bracelet and the earrings in the same shot, so the earrings look flatter in this photo than I'd like. Here they are on their own. Aren't those rhombus Swarovski crystal pendants awesome?
I just wish those rhombus crystals came in more colors - that would make it much easier to come up with alternate kit colors. They do come in jet black, so I've managed to put together this combination in a dark, cosmic color scheme:
The 2013 Bead & Button Show will take place in Milwaukee, WI from May 29-June 10. Class registration opens online on January 8 at high noon, Central Standard Time. At this point, I'm scheduled to teach all my classes in a small room in the Milwaukee Hilton, which means that, at 10 students per class, I will be able to more-readily attend to everyone's needs and it should be a quieter space too. However, last year one of my classes sold out within 24 hours, so be sure to register early to secure your space in the class!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pondering Beading Illustrations

I've long prided myself on the number and quality of the illustrations in my beading patterns for as long as I've been writing them. I was fortunate to have picked up a few skills in Adobe Illustrator from my time in graduate school, so when I first started writing beading patterns, I used this software to make my illustrations look as close to the finished beadwork as possible. Here's one that I made of the Double Bubble Jacks beaded bead:
Except for the color differences, I think it's a pretty good representation of the real thing:
The problem is that this kind of illustration isn't as helpful for teaching how to weave this design. There's no space in between the beads to show the thread path, and most of the seed beads are hidden behind the larger drop beads.

To remedy this problem, last year I switched to a more open style of illustrating that shows the thread in between each bead. But I still liked my illustrations to look like the finished beadwork, so I didn't use dotted lines through the beads or very much shading of the background beads. Instead, I used labels: letters for newly-added beads during a step, and numbers for beads passed through during a step. Here's an example:
But now I'm thinking of making changes again. While the text that accompanies this illustration lists the beads that are added and those that are passed through during this step, many of my students are visual learners who would rather just follow a nice, clear illustration and avoid reading through the text as much as possible (I must admit that I'm partial to this method too).

So I'm thinking of ditching the labels, shading beads that were already added in a previous step, and adding dotted lines through the beads to show the thread path. This method is more in line with the illustrating conventions of the major beading magazines too. Here's the same step as illustrated above, but in the style I'm considering:
What do you think? Which one is easier to follow?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Snow White Snowflakes

After beading so many snowflake earrings in not-so-snowflake colors, I decided to weave a pair with actual snow white beads. I couldn't resist adding in silver beads too:
This pair matches the bracelet that you might have seen in the pattern in Beadwork Magazine. The two pieces have a subtle difference: the earrings use SuperDuo beads, while the bracelet uses Twin beads. I've found that these two types of two-hole beads are not always interchangeable, but in this case both of them work in the same design.
This last pair isn't in snow white colors, but I think that they're still rather festive in purple, bronze, and a hint of shiny copper:
Each item above is available for purchase in my Etsy shop. Click on the images above for more information about each one.

Friday, December 7, 2012

More Caffeine Molecules

I've been having a lot of fun beading more caffeine molecules. I pulled out all my oft-neglected coffee-colored seed beads to put these ones together. Here's a nice french roast:
This one's more of a latte. As you can see in the photo, it hangs at a slight angle when worn as a pendant.
It keeps its form when pressed flat:
But it's also somewhat flexible:
Actually, depending on the beads used, some of these will lie completely flat when pressed, but some still have a slight curve. I think I may be able to get a more uniform result with a change in thread path, so I need to tinker with that a bit more.

This one has more of a carmel flavor, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Kits for Rivoli Kaleidoscope and Tila Garden Pendants

New kit colorways are now available on my website for the Rivoli Kaleidoscope and Tila Garden Pendants. The first is a Rivoli Kaleidscope in a color palette I call Passionflower. It was really popular at the BABE! show last month, so I only have a couple of them left.
The next is the result of a color theory experiment in cool analogous colors that I call Tropical Oasis.
Finally, this Tila Garden Pendant reminds me of a colorful garden surrounded by a classic white picket fence. It took several attempts with these colors that all led to this final result, but I'm happy with how it turned out.
The previously-available colorways for both pendants have been restocked as well. Also, like the Tila Garden Pendant, the Rivoli Kaleidoscope Pendant now comes with its own sterling silver chain, so you can wear it as soon as you're finished weaving it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beaded Caffeine Molecule Pendants

As a trained chemist, I've long been a fan of Raven's silver molecule jewelry over at Made with Molecules. I like the idea so much that over the years I've made several attempts at creating beaded versions of these fascinating compounds, but all of my attempts up until now never got anywhere close to what I was aiming for. Gwen's recent work with 3D molecules beaded with CSRAW prompted me to try again. I started with the caffeine molecule.
For the uninitiated, it has a couple of notable features: first, it's flat, due to a property of molecular orbital theory of which I'll spare you the details. Next, each point or intersection on this skeletal structure represents a carbon atom, so it has a total of eight carbon, four nitrogen, and two oxygen atoms. It also has several hydrogen atoms, but since the principles of organic chemistry dictate where these hydrogen atoms go in a given skeletal structure, us chemists usually don't draw them in unless they're particularly out of the ordinary. So I'll be ignoring them in my attempts.

My previous attempts went quite awry because I kept trying to use a round bead for each atom, but I couldn't connect them together in this structure because several of the atoms need to connect to (i.e. bond with) two more atoms. To do this in beadwork, while keeping the whole piece flat, is very challenging without bezeling around the round bead. When I did this, the resulting beadwork would be both floppy and too big for jewelry.

So I asked myself, how can I bead a structure that's both small, flat, and self-supporting? Well, fortunately one such structure was sitting on my bead tray:
I realized that the key to keeping these snowflakes flat and self-supporting is multiple layers of beadwork and redundant threadpaths that help reinforce the structure. You'll find this principle at work in my Crystal Ball and Peanut Gallery beaded beads as well as in the work of several other bead artists. With this in mind, I put together a prototype that looked a lot like these snowflakes but without the SuperDuo and drop beads. It was still awkward, but it was definitely an improvement. My next attempt ditched the inner size 15° seed beads and stuck with mostly 11°s and some 8°s. Now I finally have something:
The atoms are color-coded: red luster for carbon, duracoat eggplant for nitrogen, and metallic bronze for oxygen. It measures about an inch and a half tall by two inches wide. The piece is somewhat flexible, but retains its shape if you fold it or press it flat.
To make sure that it worked with other beads, I also made one in coffee flavors. It threw me for a bit of a loop, because at first it wouldn't lay flat at all - it would curve upwards like a bowl. But after substituting several of the 11° seed beads on the back for size 15° beads, it settled down into a flat structure. Ah, the joys of differences in different colors and lots of beads...
In this version, the carbons are silver, the nitrogens are copper, and the oxygens are gold.
Most molecules in organic chemistry aren't flat, so this technique won't work for every compound. But there are several other interesting molecules that are both flat and of a similar size, and I'm excited to try this technique out on those molecules too! I think I will do so with the assistance of this beaded caffeine, alongside a beverage containing the real thing.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Snowflake Earrings for the Holiday Season

I wove several pairs of earrings based on the snowflakes featured in my Snowflakes Bracelet. Not quite in traditional snowflake colors though. Here's one in bronze, copper, and gold:
And another in dark violet, gold and pearl white:
 This one uses the same color pattern as above, only with metallic blues and less gold:
I love the combination of garnet, dark metallic purple, and silver:
Finally, this purple and silver pair reminds me of snowflakes at night:
Each pair of earrings is available for purchase in my Etsy shop. Click on the images above for more information about each pair.
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