Tags: advice, beading, creativity, design, inspiration, jewelry
There are a LOT of beading tutorials out there for us beginners…but many of those tutorials expect you to already know quite a bit about the terminology and tools of beading, as I discovered when I began doing some research for this post. If you’re truly a beginner, this can be VERY confusing!
So, for this article, I wanted to help introduce beginning beaders to the lingo and the important tools for making beaded jewelry, as well as giving some bead storage tips and showcasing a couple of basic video tutorials. Let’s begin!
A Few Terminology Tips
|At left, this is a jump ring, used for connecting clasps to jewelry as well as other more complex beading tasks. These can be pried apart and squished back together pretty easily with the right beading tools.|
|Jump rings and necklace clasps (like the ones at left) are two types of jewelry findings. Findings are generally the metal or plastic bits that are the foundations of any beading project. (Other examples of findings are headpins for making drop earrings, crimp beads for stopping a bead string from moving around on the wire, spacers for keeping beads a certain distance apart, etc.)|
Every beader needs the following tools for even the most basic of beading crafts:
These kind of pliers, often called “needlenose” or “round-nose” pliers, help you hold delicate projects without squishing them, and also help you twist beading wire for various looks.
|Additionally, you’ll need these kind of pliers, called “flat-nose pliers,” for squishing jump rings back together, affixing clasps, and all sorts of things.|
|These are called “crimping pliers” (or are just referred to as a “crimping tool”); these can help you hold slippery projects (with the spot marked “F”), and they can also mash down things like crimp beads in the spot marked “E”.|
|And lastly, this little tool, called a wire cutter, is immensely helpful when you have excess beading wire at the end of a project!|
You can go and buy storage cases specifically designed for beads if you’ve got a craft supply store in your area. BUT, if you don’t, you can also use fishing tackle boxes (get the clear ones with small compartments) or weekly pill boxes. (Also, you can get creative and repurpose some little containers you have lying around the house, such as baby food jars or empty spice containers. Just make sure the lids of your containers close tightly!)
Video Tutorials: Attaching Clasps and Ending Necklaces
How to Attach a Lobster Claw
How to End a Necklace
Further Reading: Beginner Beading Tutorialscomment (1) September 21st, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: cartoons, creativity, inspiration, toondoo, website
If you’re like me, you’re a bit of a frustrated artist–you have great ideas for art and cartoons, but everything you try to draw looks like a kindergartner did it while hyped up on sugar.
For frustrated or accomplished artists and cartoonists alike, there’s ToonDoo, able to help even the most inept of us make cartoons like the following:
How to Use ToonDoo
You need to sign up for an account before you can use ToonDoo–sign up for a Personal Public account (they have large Private accounts for schools to use as well). Once you do that, you can click “CREATE” at the top right of the page, and it will take you to the ToonDoo Creator. Choose the comic strip layout you’d like, and you can begin! (I chose the traditional three-panel strip, but they have dozens to choose from!)
Lots of windows and toolbars await you! The ToonDoo button at top left allows you to open and save comics; the rest of the buttons on the top bar give you shapes, scenes, figures, props, text and more to work with.
You can even turn props to be at a different angle–check out how the desk is turned from the previous picture. Select the prop you want to turn, and then click the Prop button (looks like a six-sided die) several times to see all the different ways the object can be presented.
You can also add text and characters in the same way, using the top toolbar to select what types you want, and using the bottom toolbar to fine-tune the positioning and presentation. (Sorry I didn’t get a screenshot of the “adding characters” process–I got kinda carried away making my comic :D)
Once you’re done with your comic, make sure to click the ToonDoo button at the top left of the screen and select “Save;” this will let you put in your comic’s title and tags. Then click Publish! (Important: Wait until you get a confirmation message that “your comic has been published” before navigating away from the creator page.)
Give this a shot if you’ve got a spare 15 minutes–see what you can come up with!no comments September 14th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: creativity, history, hurrian, inspiration, music, video
How old is the traditional Western music scale? Well, according to the discovery of “the oldest known song” on a few clay tablets in the Middle East, it’s a lot older than musicologists once thought! Check out the videos below to hear this haunting melody from 1400 B.C.-era Syria:
The Oldest Known Melody (lyre portrayal)
And here’s a MIDI version of the tune:
The Oldest Song in the World (MIDI version)
The first person to translate this song, Prof. Anne Kilmer, discovered it in 1972 after years of research and work on clay tablets unearthed in Syria during the 1950s. One of the tablets, written in the Hurrian language, contained complete words, music, and performance instructions; she found that it was a religious hymn to the moon god’s wife, Nikal, and was likely sung with accompaniment provided by a harp. Many people have since recreated it using modern musical notation and instruments, as the first embedded video above demonstrates.
This discovery changed much in the study of music history; it proves that “Western” music scales predated ancient Grecian culture, which was previously thought to be where modern music got its start. Amazing, huh? (And even more amazing, we can actually experience a tune from so long ago, hearing it just as its original listeners did!)
Further Readingno comments September 7th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: advice, creativity, inspiration
Some of my best ideas have occurred to me during the time I spend sudsing up every day. I don’t know if it’s the rushing water around me, the sensation of getting clean, or just the fact that it’s probably the first time in hours that I only have one task to concentrate on. Whatever the reason, I sometimes end up with a breakthrough idea, or a new way to study the problem I’ve been grappling with for days.
But how do you harness this time for your own creativity? Here’s what helps me:
#1: Turn on Autopilot
You know how to shower–you know what needs to be scrubbed, what needs to be rinsed. So you can allow yourself to act on autopilot…just let yourself think about whatever comes to mind. If you end up singing a little melody you’ve just come up with, great! If you finally figure out how to organize your kitchen, woot! It’s all for the better. Every idea is a victory, no matter how small it might seem to someone else.
#2: Talk Out Your Idea
You might think it’s weird to talk in the shower, but don’t worry about it–people sing in the shower, so why not talk? Talking (or softly muttering, if need be) puts your thoughts into more coherent form, instead of your ideas being stuck to some giant mental spiderweb of frustration. If you have a hard time keeping your thoughts on track (like me), this trick can really help you stay focused.
#3: Write It All Down ASAP
Once you’ve hammered out the idea mentally and/or verbally, don’t forget to write down everything so you don’t forget it. You don’t need anything fancy for this–you can just start keeping a notepad and pen in a drawer in your bathroom for such occasions. (Just don’t let the notepad get wet!)
These 3 simple little tricks have helped me use my shower time not just for cleansing and relaxation, but for brainstorming as well. Why not give it a shot? You might find that your creativity benefits from a shower, too!no comments August 31st, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: creativity, inspiration, jewelry, organization, repurposing
After the success of displaying all of my wearable necklaces and dangly earrings with a pretty little jewelry tree, I felt pretty confident about finding all the jewelry I had when I wanted to wear it.
Well, I felt confident, that is, until I realized I didn’t have a good place for the tiny earrings and my rings, not to mention the long hair chopsticks that wouldn’t fit in my hair notions organizer. Then my enthusiasm dulled a bit.
I was at a loss for a little while, mostly because I didn’t have room on my dresser for a large jewelry box (thus the reason for the tall and narrow jewelry tree). Nor did I want a fully-enclosed jewelry box, which would keep me from seeing everything at once and make me have to dig through a box to find things. In my experience, if I can’t see it, I won’t wear it, sad to say.
So I searched around for an easily-organizable, highly-visible solution to my jewelry problem–and found it in an unlikely place!
Small-Item Desktop Organizer, Given New Purpose!
This picture shows just how much jewelry I can fit in this little organizer, and yet still have it sectioned out. Now my earrings aren’t getting tangled up with rings and brooches–yay! And my large hair notions aren’t lying forgotten at the bottom of a box anymore–double yay!
To Buy This Organizer
The organizer pictured can be purchased at Walmart.com for $3.47. Additionally, if you’d like one in all black, this one, also at Walmart.com, is $6.73. And, if you want a larger organizer in this style, I found one with eight swing-out compartments and two top trays at Walmart.com for $13.81.no comments August 24th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: advice, character development, creativity, inspiration, novel, writing
As I’ve been writing my novel, I’ve been developing characters to hang like ornaments along the continuing plot threads I’m working on. Unfortunately, there have been a few “ornaments” that ended up more two-dimensional than three-dimensional–they were characters which somehow lacked humanity, even as hard as I tried to inject it into their dialogue and actions.
Well, they lacked humanity, that is, until I figured out a little more unconventional way to think about the situation.
The Problem: A Flat Not-So-Minor Character
This post all started as I was writing the most recent episode in my novel, which involves a female character who behaves very nastily toward my hero pretty much all the time. The nasty behavior was just fine–it worked well in the subplot and I was okay with it overall. But as I kept writing and revising, I kept thinking, “Even I don’t understand why this character is behaving this way…and I’m the one writing her!”
This character lacked humanity, the three-dimensional nature I was looking for, because her actions were not understandable. She was just a really flat character, which would have been okay if she didn’t appear quite so much in these few chapters of the novel. But since she was in a lot of scenes, so to speak, I wanted to make sure the character was worth reading about. (In some cases, the conflict between this character and my hero was almost boring because of this!)
The Solution: Getting Into Her Head
I struggled with this for several days…until one night, it hit me, as I kept asking myself “why would this character behave this way?” That was the answer: I needed to see the novel’s events–and my hero–from this character’s perspective! I needed to understand her thought process, her logic, her worldview.
So I quite literally flipped the script on myself, and began to study the unfolding plot through this character’s eyes. How would she view my hero’s introduction to her world? How were her actions and reactions based on her past experiences? More and more details and explanations emerged, as I fleshed out a possible backstory…suddenly, she became a lot more realistic and believable.
My English-professor boyfriend says that what I did was a bit of Deconstruction literary criticism on my own novel, as I imagined the story from several vantage points rather than staying solely focused on my hero’s point of view. Taking the time to develop this character’s backstory and mindset, even though she isn’t a major villain, helped me understand her better and present her as a believable, human character. (I certainly like developing her dialogue more now, even if she is a bit stuck on herself!)
If you’ve got a character who just doesn’t seem “real” enough in your book or short story, try getting into the character’s head, developing their life story a little bit, enough to where you can understand where they’re coming from. Who knows–you might just get a whole new perspective on your own story, and write a better character to boot!no comments August 17th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: creativity, inspiration, instruments, music, weird
As many traditional instruments that exist in worldwide music, from violins to gamelan gongs, from timpani drums to shakuhachi flutes, there is an even wider world of musical instruments out there–the gorgeous and strange, the “wonderfully weird” combinations of music and sculpture into fantastic (and playable) pieces of art.
OddMusic.com chronicles many strange and beautiful instruments from around the world. Here is just a small sample of these inspired creations:
More Weird Musical Instruments
Explore the rest of OddMusic.com’s Weird Musical Instruments Gallery and find your next favorite sound. Who knows, you might even want to seek out and play some of these instruments yourself!no comments August 10th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: advice, art, creativity, drawing, inspiration
If you are an artist (or a frustrated artist) who lacks a steady hand, fear not: you can still draw even without a perfectly controlled hand! How do I know that? Because you’re not the only one who has difficulty with this–many artists do! And it’s not something that should stop you forever; it is something that can be mastered, often with just a shift in your thinking.
Lack of Confidence in Art Skill -> Shaking Hand -> Lack of Confidence in Art Skill
I used to believe that I was a terrible artist, because of one thing: my trembling hand. Unsteady hands have plagued me for as long as I can remember–I can remember even before entering kindergarten, I had a hard time drawing a perfectly straight line, even when I concentrated really, really hard.
My experience in subsequent art classes in elementary school only confirmed what I already knew: I couldn’t draw anything well, because my lines weren’t clean and sharp-looking like I wanted them to be. I could only sit and marvel at my classmates who could produce beautiful visuals without shaky lines everywhere.
But there was a slight problem with my thinking, as I discovered much later on. Well, let me rephrase that: there was a HUGE problem with my thinking. I considered myself a terrible artist because of my unsteady hand, so I was not confident while I held the pencil or pen; because I was not confident, I always concentrated way too hard when I drew, and ended up with–guess what?–shaking, quivering lines. A vicious cycle!
Though part of my trembling hands may be heredity, I certainly wasn’t helping matters when I focused so hard on trying to draw a straight line. I kept noticing that whenever I was just dashing off a quick little doodle, a drawing I didn’t care about, my lines WERE clean and sharp. It seemed like the less I cared about “getting it right,” the more often I in fact did “get it right!”
A Possible Cure: Just Draw, Don’t Worry
For anyone else who’s struggling with an unsteady drawing hand, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to just draw. Act as if whatever you’re working on is just a carefree doodle, just a random little piece of art rather than something that has to be absolutely positively right. (I found that thinking this way helped get rid of a lot of my hand’s quivering, because I wasn’t holding the pencil SO HARD trying to get everything right.)
Having confidence in your skill, even when you think you’re not “good enough” to be observed yet, is important for any art, not just drawing. Keeping your judgment separate from the creative process is key. Don’t worry about how it looks on the page, don’t worry if that line looks out of place–just draw for the sheer joy of the art. Reshaping your thinking can be the first step toward becoming a better artist!
Additional Help for Unsteady Hands
If your confidence in your drawing skill is fine, but you’re still having a little trembling getting in the way, check out the advice on this thread over at ConceptArt.org. From moving your shoulder and entire when you draw (instead of just your wrist and hand), to practicing large cursive handwriting to improve coordination (not kidding, it helps!), these artists give a lot of ideas on how to steady your lines!no comments July 27th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: advice, creativity, inspiration
We creative types can get physically overworked pretty fast if we’re not careful. Countless late nights spent revising a new story chapter, endless rehearsals of that one pesky dance step, or multiple frustrating tries at shading that picture just right can end up taxing our bodies beyond exhaustion.
But what about our brains? Even while we physically rest, sometimes we allow our brains to continue whirring away, essentially nullifying all the resting that we’re trying to do. You can’t rest really well when you’re tense and nervous about getting something done (and getting it done “just right”)!
The concept of “taking a break” while trying to complete creative work may seem counterproductive, but our creative energy does need time to recharge. Continuing to push through mental exhaustion may seem sort of effective, but all we’re really doing is banging our heads against a mental wall after a while. (Trust me, this blog week has been ALL about pushing through exhaustion and pain, and having very little to show for it. It happens to everyone!)
Thus, I have come up with the following steps to ease just about anyone’s creative exhaustion. (These REALLY work, by the way–I used them before I even drafted this post!)
1: The Next 15 Minutes are YOURS, No One Else’s
First, you need to block out at least a 15-minute window of time in which no one will bother you and nothing needs doing. If you simply must get some household chores done or call back a few people first, just so that doesn’t weigh on your brain, do so. But when all that is done, the next 15 minutes belong to you alone. Silence your phone, turn off your computer and TV–these minutes are not for them, either, unless you want them to be.
2: Find Something Soothing
“Something soothing” could take the form of a hot or cold drink, an especially soft blanket, a favorite scent, etc. Anything that delights some or all of your senses can work for this. My personal favorite thing is to get into my freshly-made bed sometime during the late afternoon, turning the lights off, and lying with a fan blowing over me, cooling both the bedding and me. I can smell the clean laundry scent, relax into the sheets and pillows…it’s all good.
3: Allow Yourself to FEEL, not Think
During this 15-minute window of time, don’t think about your to-do list. Your to-do list is anathema right now. Instead, fill your mind with what your skin is sensing, what your nose is smelling, what your tongue is tasting (hopefully something good, right?). Just enjoy this rare moment to actually sense instead of blocking out your senses in order to work more. Focus on the taste of that drink, the smell of that wonderful scent, the feel of the blanket under your fingers, as if you were gathering details to describe the experience to someone else.
I would recommend not even using your eyes or ears during this time, if possible; we use our eyes and ears so often to take in important information, so they need a bit of rest, too! An eye mask and ear plugs would be a good idea, especially if you’re having trouble settling. (Note: If you end up drifting off to sleep during this time, that can be even more beneficial than just a bit of quiet time. Don’t get mad at yourself if your 15-minute block ends up being a bit longer!)
4: Come Back to Work Gradually
Once you’re ready to start your creative work again, do it slowly. Don’t just hop right back on the mental treadmill; poke around lazily at a few ideas, perhaps ideas you had while you were taking your 15-minute break. Explore them, but not too fast just yet. Treat this as “just waking up,” even if you didn’t actually go to sleep. You’ll feel a lot less groggy and “ugh” if you allow your brain this transitional time between rest and work.no comments July 13th, 2013 by Robin, in Saturday with the Spark
Tags: creativity, inspiration, life, repurposing
Earlier this week, I spoke of my long, straight hair. As you might imagine, to style such long hair, I have a collection of scrunchies, elastics, clips, etc. But the sheer amount I have is kind of ridiculous.
How ridiculous are we talking? Well, I knocked over my big basket of scrunchies the other day, and they literally covered about 2 square feet of carpet in front of my dresser, with no carpet visible between them. (I should be in “Scrunchie Hoarders Anonymous” or something…XD)
Not to mention that I usually have to dig for several minutes in that basket to find the ONE scrunchie I’m looking for. My organizational skills seemed to have stalled out when it came to sorting out my hair notions–I had no idea what would work best to store all these scrunchies and clips and such, yet keep them all accessible and visible.
…Well, that is, until I found a neat little jewelry organizer which worked great for the purpose.
This is Walmart’s knockoff of the popular “Little Black Dress” jewelry organizer–this version was about 10 bucks, and as you can see in the picture, all the little pockets are stuffed with elastics and scrunchies. (I told you it was a lot! LOL!)
The reason I chose this kind of visual organizer is because I needed something that would display all the hair notions, yet be easy to sort and organize (and easy to put stuff away). I honestly thought I was going to have to build what I wanted, until I saw the Little Black Dress organizer, and then found a good-enough knockoff at Walmart.
This solution works really well so far (I’ve been using it about a week); not only has it shortened my time spent looking for the right hair accessory, but I also found several hair notions that I thought had gone missing permanently! (Which just goes to show that if you organize properly, you’ll end up saving yourself time and frustration in the long run :D)comment (1)