Monday, March 23, 2015

PRAW Webinar Airing Soon!

A quick reminder that my webinar on Prismatic Right-Angle Weave (PRAW) is airing this Tuesday, March 24, at 1 PM EDT.

The webinar is in the style of an academic lecture, and is very much like my beaded bead webinar; you can think of it more as a live TED Talk rather than a Craftsy how-to video, and attendees will have the chance to ask questions at the end of the presentation. Also, anyone who registers for this webinar will receive a tutorial in the PDF format that describes how to make bracelets and simple beaded beads using the PRAW stitch. Here are some examples of those beaded beads and bracelets:

If you can't make it on the 24th, you can still register for this webinar and you can watch it later; anyone who registers will get a link to download a recording of the webinar a couple of days after the live presentation. If you're interested, you can register at the Interweave Store.

If you'd like to learn even more about PRAW and its place into the beading lexicon, Jean Cox wrote a post over at the Inside Beadwork Magazine blog about how this naming convention fits into the context of prism geometry. I must admit that it was really interesting to read this post and learn how the self-described "snooty editors" over at Beadwork Magazine don't often accept new naming conventions, but they like the name PRAW "because it makes so much sense." Check out the post on their blog here.

Thanks for looking!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Playing with Photography

Last month, I was sadly interrupted in the middle of a photography session by the untimely death of my Canon G10 camera. It's been my trusty go-to camera for over six years, having taken tens of thousands of beady pictures as well as photos from four continents. While it's served me quite well, I took the opportunity to upgrade to the new G16 model. I have to say that I'm quite happy with it!

I took this shot using my usual setup and camera settings. Other than the watermark, this photo wasn't  subjected to any additional post-processing.

I love how clear and crisp this photo is! For reference, I took this photo with my phone of what my photography setup looked like when I took this shot:

Nowadays I use a light tent from Table Top Studio, as well as four lamps with daylight-spectrum bulbs from the hardware store. I've seen good beadwork photography results with natural lighting and open set photography setups, but my schedule doesn't always permit me to take photos during the daytime, so the light tent/light box setup is the setup that's worked for me. A bright white sheet of paper serves as the backdrop, and in this photo I used a simple white gravy boat as a prop.

I learned long ago that my beadwork photos look best under custom camera settings, which required me to learn about many of the more advanced features on the G10. There was a learning curve and it took lots of tinkering, but once I settled on the optimal settings I programmed them into the camera. Since then I've usually used the same settings ever since. Fortunately, the camera menus on the G16 are very similar to those of the G10, so I was able to program it relatively easily.

(For those who are curious about the nitty gritty camera details, I usually shoot in aperture priority mode with the aperture closed all the way down (f/8.0 on the G16), which keeps as much of the beadwork as possible in focus. To keep the noise down I use an ISO of 80-200, and since I shoot about six inches to a foot away from the beadwork, I use the macro focus mode (I had to set this manually on the G10, but the G16 does this automatically). For photos with white backgrounds, I usually have to adjust the exposure bias to +1 1/3 or + 1 2/3. I use the camera's custom white balance setting with the background as a reference to get the backgrounds as clean as possible, though this usually requires some additional adjustment in post-processing. I shoot at the maximum possible resolution to get as much detail as possible (and because storage media is inexpensive, so why not?). Finally, since these settings result in relatively long exposure times (1/5-1/20 of a second), I use a tripod and a manual shutter release (i.e. a remote control) to avoid any "camera shake" from holding the camera while taking the shot)

The detail with this new camera is just amazing! Check out this shot of a PRAW-5 beaded tube:

When you zoom in, you can see every speck of detail on the matte metallic fire polish beads, as well as the braids in the Fireline thread that I used to stitch this sample. I don't think that I'll ever see Fireline quite the same way again...

Since my light tent sits on a metal surface, I can get some interesting shots of pieces that use magnetic clasps. You might remember this "bracelet gymnastics" shot of this QuadraTile Sweet Bun bracelet:

I tried taking the same shot with a Poinsettia bracelet, which uses the same magnetic clasp, but the beadwork has much more drape (i.e. less stiffness) than the QuadraTile Sweet Bun bracelet.

The result was not quite as impressive... It turns out that, oddly enough, flexible bracelets are not as good at bracelet gymnastics ;)

Finally, while I currently use a Table Top Studio light tent, my first two light boxes were handmade. I made the first one in 2008 out of a cardboard box and tissue paper. Here's a picture of it with Zero the cat:

Unfortunately, one day Zero decided to re-model this light box into a ball of torn-up tissue and cardboard, so I had to build another one. I built the second one out of PVC piping and wedding dress fabric, which ended up being much sturdier and just as effective. Zero approved of it too.

I splurged on the light tent when I decided to upgrade to a larger setup. So far, I've kept Zero from exploring it.

What kind of setup do you prefer for jewelry photography? Have you explored all the features of your camera? Drop me a line in the comments :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Pattern and Kits: Double Rosette Beaded Beads

I've finished my second beading pattern that uses QuadraTile beads: the Double Rosette Beaded Beads:

A Double-Layered Beaded Bead

This design uses two layers of QuadraTile beads, Japanese seed beads, and round beads to create two different sizes of circular beaded beads. The inspiration for this design originally came from the Double Pinwheel beaded beads, which use two-hole triangles for a more pinwheely shape. I had originally thought that the QuadraTile beads could combine with the triangle beads using a similar pinwheely technique, but that didn't pan out quite the way I had imagined it, so these turned into nice rosette beaded beads instead.

You might have seen these beaded beads in the print advertising for this new bead shape as well...

The beading pattern for this design describes how to make two different sizes of Double Rosette beaded beads using a variation on the peyote stitch, how to string these beads together with round beads to create an elegant bracelet, and how to finish the bracelet with a matching beaded button clasp.

This QuadraTile beading pattern is in the PDF format, and clocks in at 23 pages of step-by-step instructions with 81 full-color illustrations and photographs. This pattern is appropriate for experienced beaders who want to take up the challenge of beading with four-hole beads, but beaders who have already mastered the Double Pinwheel beaded beads are in great shape to try out this design.

Four Kit Colorways

Kits for this design are available in the four colorways shown, and include all the beads and findings needed to make the complete bracelet.

Thanks for looking! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Prismatic Right-Angle Weave (PRAW)

I've been playing with prismatic right-angle weave, or PRAW. So what's PRAW, you may ask? Well, the short answer is that it's the technique of cubic right-angle weave (CRAW), applied to the geometry of prisms.

Prismatic Right-Angle Weave

PRAW is a relatively new term, but it describes a variation of CRAW that's been around for a while. Marcia recently blogged about the consensus around the PRAW term in relation to her gorgeous Ancient Bells necklace. Basically, the great thing about CRAW is that it's such a versatile stitch that can be adapted in many different ways, but many variations of this technique have gone beyond the "cubic" part of CRAW to the point where what's being stitched is no longer a cube, but rather a prism. While PRAW adds another term to the lexicon of beadweaving, the good news is that if you already know CRAW, you're in great shape to learn PRAW.

One way to think about PRAW is that if one unit of CRAW makes a square-shaped room with four walls, a square floor, and a square ceiling, PRAW starts with a different shape for the floor. If you make the floor a pentagon, then you will have five square walls, and the ceiling will also be a pentagon. This can be described as PRAW-5. PRAW-3 has a triangle for its floor and ceiling and three square walls, PRAW-4 is the same as CRAW, PRAW-6 has a hexagon for its floor and ceiling, and this stitch can be expanded to PRAW-7, PRAW-8, and beyond. Finally, since a cube is special a type of prism, CRAW is also a type of PRAW, and all the beading tips and tricks that are used in CRAW (such as turns, joins, and embellishments) can apply to PRAW too.

PRAW Beaded Ropes

PRAW is an excellent method to vary the thickness of a CRAW beaded rope while keeping the detail that you get from using small seed beads. I made four bracelets using this stitch using size 11 seed beads punctuated by units of crystals. From left to right, the bracelets are in PRAW-6, PRAW-5, PRAW-4 (CRAW), and PRAW-3.

PRAW Beaded Ropes

Since I can't get enough of beaded beads, I had to make a handful of them using PRAW. These beaded beads use PRAW-3 through PRAW-6, and use fire polish beads for the floors and ceilings and bicone crystals for the walls.

PRAW Beaded Tilings

Individual PRAW units can be joined together at their square sides to make both 2D and 3D beadwork. Gwen's used this stitch to make some amazing 3D beaded sculptures, as well as an adorable beaded heart pendant. I used the same strategy to combine PRAW-4 and PRAW-5 units to create this beaded flower.

PRAW in Beaded Flowers

Speaking of flowers, several of my floral designs actually already use PRAW (though I didn't know it at the time :) ). PRAW is used for the flowers in my Sakura Charm, Poinsettia Bracelet, and Prism Blossom Pendant designs.

Live Webinar!

If you'd like to learn more about this stitch, I'm giving a PRAW webinar on March 24 at 1 PM EDT. The webinar is in the style of an academic lecture; I'll talk about the history and technical details of this stitch, and several artists other than myself have graciously contributed photos of beautiful beaded eye candy to this talk. The format is very much like my beaded bead webinar; you can think of it more as a TED Talk rather than a Craftsy how-to video, although anyone who registers for this webinar will receive a PDF that describes how to make bracelets and simple beaded beads using the PRAW stitch. If you're interested, you can register for it at the Interweave Store. Attendees will have the chance to ask questions at the end of the presentation.

If you can't make it on March 24, you can watch it later! Anyone who registers for the webinar will receive a link to download the archived version, which you can watch as many times as you'd like.

Thanks for looking!

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