Tag Archives: vintage beads

radical economist.

Radical Economist Earrings 1

I have a long-time customer who years ago became a proper real life friend. Recently, I posted a new pair of Goblin Charm earrings on Instagram, and she was lamenting the fact that she already had a pair with these sequin bead balls. Ever a sparkle enabler, I said well, I can also get those in black and in copper, so… She was into it, so I sent her some photos of the other colors and some beads I was thinking about ordering. We bounced some ideas around and the sparkle went to our heads and somehow we ended up with a visual cue of Smaug the dragon sitting on top of his hoard of riches. Or, in a perfect world, Benedict Cumberbatch sitting on top of a hoard of jewelry. The dragon idea went perfectly with the scaly sequin beads, so I took it from there.

Radical Economist Earrings 2

A few days into my design process, Phil tweeted something about the dwarves of Middle Earth destabilizing the economy with all their mining and making. He has always had a theory that dragons are pitifully misunderstood creatures who just want to sit peacefully in their pile of gold, but people just will. not. stop. coming in and picking fights. (This theory is nicely supported by a wyvern in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne Valente: “If people show up to a dragon’s mountain yelling about sacrifices and O, YE, FELL BEAST SPARE MY VILLAGE this and GREAT DRAGON, I SHALL MURDER THEE that, well, certainly, a fellow might have a chomp. But you oughtn’t judge any more than you judge a lady for eating the lovely fresh salad that a waiter brings her in a restaurant.”) This segued neatly into my making process, and these earrings became Radical Economist.

radical economist tweets


This is often how my process works, particularly with custom orders. An initial exchange of “Hey, I like that, but what if…” turns into a tumble of ideas and influences that sort themselves out into something new. Radical Economist was enormously fun to imagine and to make, and I love having all these elements of other people’s ideas woven into them.

Radical Economist 3


Ever since I moved into my apartment, my creative workflow has been off. I’ve fiddled with it here and there, and small changes have made small improvements, but it hasn’t felt really good to me in over a year. I’ve been missing the juice, the joy of it – the thing that used to make me come home from work full of colorful thoughts and get right to making things. I still have plenty of ideas, but they don’t seem to gel right. It often takes me three or four times longer to get a design right than it once did.

A huge part of my enjoyment in my design work comes from pure tactile contact with my bead collection. Being able to move them around and see them together and fidget with them makes things happen in my head. I’ve often joked about making a giant ballpit for them and playing in it like a sandbox. A couple of weeks ago, I was frustrated beyond the limit with my inability to find a good workflow, and the ballpit of beads joke suddenly seemed like the greatest breakthrough I could imagine. 
So I cut a huge cardboard carton apart into wide strips, taped them to the edges of my kitchen table, and dumped out 11 boxes and two drawers full of vintage Lucite beads. It made a crashing enormous noise, and it felt wonderful, but it still wasn’t quite what I needed. After staring at it for two days, I knew what had to happen. I needed the beads to be free range. I loved that idea, but it also made me incredibly nervous. I manage inventory in order to be able to repeat designs by knowing exactly how many of which beads I have, and having all of them together in bags or on strands where I can find them easily. The work still wasn’t right, though, and it had to be done. With some smiling encouragement from the good man who holds my hand, I bit my lip and closed my eyes and changed everything about the way I work and run my business. I dumped all the beads out of all the bags, and I threw the bags out. 
The result is pure joy. It’s a sandbox full of color and texture and shape and I can’t stop touching it and it’s unlocked dozens of ideas and put a huge giddy smile on my face. Every time I walk past it, I reach in and give the beads a stir and see something new. I pull out little handfuls of color, and make them sing. I’ve made more new things in the last 10 days than I have in two months. It feels fantastic. 
My candy revolution means that I’m only going to be making one of a kind designs for a while. It’s difficult to find specific beads to pull multiple pieces together for inventory. But I find I’m excited about that idea – offering unique pieces of jewelry to my clients and my stockists sounds like fun.
I’ll be in my playground; keep your eyes open for new work at urban legend!

here be chaos.

It has long been my plan to have an orderly process wherein I make new things, take photographs in batches, promote through the use of blogging and sneak peeks and then list the new items in my shop(s). This is a perfectly reasonable plan, and would, I feel, work out well. Stuff keeps getting in the way of my reasonable plan, though – namely my actual job that I get paid to do. It’s shameless, really, the way this actual job interferes with my reasonable plan.

All of which is to say that once again I have sneak peeks mere hours before my shop update, which is almost pointless. Still, here they are. I’ve been lucky to find some spectacular rare beads lately, and they’ll be turning up in new pieces starting this week. Cotton pearls in shiny green turquoise; glass spiderweb beads in black and red; and carved Lucite treasures I’ve never used before.

Because my time at the office is so chaotic at the moment, I’m also planning to list things in my new Leaves of Glass shop throughout the week (instead of just on Tuesdays) to lessen the urgency of preparing several listings at once. Updates for urban legend will remain on Tuesday for the time being.

This week is also the launch for a collaborative project that I’ve been working on with Shana of cookoorikoo (keep an eye on her blog for more details, and spot one of the collaboration pieces below!).


Lately I’ve been trying to do shop updates on Etsy all at once on Tuesday mornings, rather than listing one or two new things a day. It’s been working out pretty well – I like having all the photo editing and description-writing done at once, and it means I don’t have to worry about anything except relisting for the rest of the week. Which leaves me more time to actually make new things. (Imagine that!)

I thought it would be fun to start doing preview peeks of things that will be appearing in each week’s shop updates – either by photographing a handful of beads that I’ve used in new items, or by showing little slivers of things in teaser photographs. I’m opting for Option B this week. Below are sneak peeks of 5 new things that I’ll be listing tomorrow, both in urban legend and Leaves of Glass. Enjoy!