Posted by: doras_explorations | December 10, 2008

Seed Bead Earrings and Canes: Making Small Designs with a Big Impact

     My recent illness put a screeching halt to my polymer clay work, photography, and housecleaning.  The clay was sitting unused, I had not posted on Flickr in ages (except for a few Simon photos), and my house was a disaster even by my husband’s standards.  I had developed severe muscle spasms in my ribs thanks to a month of almost constant coughing.  The pain was excruciating, and so I made yet another trip to the doctor’s, my fourth in a month.  I was told I had strained my ‘intercostal muscles’, and given pain meds.  The meds have given me relief from my misery, so I can actually start to do things, like adding to this blog !

      While I had been sitting around immobile, I took out my Delica seed beads, and started sketching some patterns for Comanche (aka ‘brick stitch’)seed bead earrings.  Seed beading is another one of my interests, although I don’t have the same ‘passion’ for it that I have for polymer clay.   I like making seed bead earrings because I don’t have to invest a lot of time and beads in making each pair, and because I can work on them on the dining room table or in the living room sitting on the couch while I watch TV (well, listen to it mostly!).   When I first began practicing off-loom stitches, my intention was to eventually combine seed beading with polymer clay in my jewelry creations.  Although I have made a few such pieces, I am not totally thrilled with them.  Rather than working together, the beadwork and polymer clay beads/pendants seem to be competing with each other for attention.

      Anyway, I designed an earring pattern with a 3-color palette; Color A, the ‘dominant color’, Color B, the ‘secondary color’, and Color C, the ‘accent color’.  I then made 6 versions using different color combinations:comancheearring1

      As I worked on the earrings, it occurred to me that there are some similarities between designing with seed beads and designing a cane.  Both processes involve combining different colors in a piece by piece fashion to make a whole.  One is working on small scale. so value and contrast are of the utmost importance.  If attention is not paid to these design elements, your pattern will not be visible to the eye.  I’ve learned this the hard way by reducing my canes one too many times.  What started out as a promising cane ended up as a muddy diffused mess !  If you’ve made canes, you know what I mean; a bold black and white pattern turns to a dull gray, the exciting blue and orange combination has become a brown ‘mud’ to be added to the scrap clay pile. 

     Using the design elements of color, value, and contrast effectively when constructing a cane is an ongoing learning process.  Since I have no formal art training, I’ve stumbled along on my own trying to figure out why some of my cane designs ‘work’ and why others do not.  Looking at other artists’ work helps, but more often than not I find it difficult to pick out those things that make a great cane because the artist has so successfully created a whole from the parts that I can’t see the parts!

     I’ve been trying to jump start my canemaking recently, but my engine has stalled.  So I’ve decided to pick one of the 3-color combinations from my seed bead earrings, and use it as starting point for designing a cane set.  I am going to use the pink, white, and black palette (as in the earrings on the lower left of the photo), because I think the colors have good contrast-using black and white pretty much guarantees that!- and the colors remind me of the pink and black tiles of a 1950s bathroom, which I’ve always liked (yes, really!).   A strange kind of inspiration, but no more strange than the floor of a laundromat !  I have conditioned my pink, black, and white clay, and will start playing around and photographing, so within a couple of days, I hope to have something worthy of posting !


  1. yipeee!! Dora is back and feeling better! (Yanno, I always say better living through pharmacology *g*) I have missed your posts, though Simon is a riot and a beautiful baby!

  2. It’s sooo nice to hear from you and listen to you share your thoughts on “color” in bead making.

    You said …
    “Rather than working together, the beadwork and polymer clay beads/pendants seem to be competing with each other for attention.”

    Those are my sentiments exactly, but I didn’t know how to put my finger on it. I’ve found most seed bead & polymer clay combos to be “a bit too much”, and never really cared for the effect.

    Seed bead creations on their own are lovely (as are your earrings!) and polymer clay pendants and cabs put together with the right accent beads look spectacular …. but the two together is quite often overkill. Just my opinion and maybe it’s the particular way I “visualize” bead art, and I probably lean towards simplicity more than extravagance.

    Thanks again for sharing!! I’m hoping your health and strength make a complete recovery in the very near future!

    Take care,

  3. Kathi, I am most grateful for the science of pharmacology, that’s for sure! The recovery process has been frustratingly slow, my body seems to be intent on reminding me that I’m an ‘aging baby boomer’!

    Elsie, I too lean toward simple rather than elaborate designs…..just call me Ms. Minimalism, LOL! Some artists seem to have a knack for combining many elements together to make a cohesive ‘whole’….My design process usually involves ‘subtraction’ rather than ‘addition’, although I am trying to be more open to making pieces with more embellishments. Old habits die hard, however !

  4. Welcome back Dora! I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better.
    Beautiful earring designs. I love your choice of color palettes. Each combination of colors gives such a different feel.
    I’m looking forward to seeing your next cane design!

  5. Sorry to hear you were ill Dora! Hope you have recovered completely.

    I am looking forward to the cane you build with the pink, black and white palette. I love those earrings! Also really like the blue and gold ones. A bit of an Egyptian palette.

    Take care of yourself and Merry Christmas!

  6. i hope that by now you feel better!

  7. I discovered your blog totally by accident. I googled “beads designs earrings” and found pages of gorgeous earrings. I chose one of them that really appealed to me, wondering if I could get the pattern, and then there you were with your absolutely intelligent, interesting, and motivating blog. Thank you. Do you sell your patterns? I am not a real artist, but I love beading. I took a polymer clay class once, and I loved that too, but the craft requires so many more supplies than just beading. Can I subscribe to your blog? I discovered all of this just by accident, so I am not familiar with how this website works. ( I had that coughing for a month too, by the way.)

  8. I forgot to click the box to get follow up comments by email. Please do.

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