Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Creative Musings: HierARTchy - Letter to a Beginner

Dear Beginner,
First of all, I'd like to start by saying that you're not alone. There's a reason for the extra space at the foundation of the pyramid. It's the place where we all begin, where we all start to find what we like to create and how we like to create it. But the point of the pyramid is to keep going up, getting better and better. I've learned some lessons as I've climbed that I hope will help you, and I wish someone had told me when I first started climbing.

First lesson, everyone was once a beginner, and may even still be at something.
I know you like to visit blogs and read books, and pore over articles of how-to's and how-not-to's. I know you see things that some of the professionals are doing and you think to yourself....there's no way I'll ever be there. But, remember, they were once in your shoes. I'm pretty sure not one of them walked out of their mother's womb making perfect wrapped loops or weaving smooth, flat peyote cuffs. Everyone begins somewhere and the first thing that you'll need to keep on going up is a little confidence to say, "Hey, if they can, I can...".

 The first strung piece of jewelry that I ever created. NO wrapped loops and the little filigree part at the bottom just literally fell off one day!

The next thing you're gonna need is a little patience with yourself. I know that you've done that tutorial from that magazine six times and it still doesn't look like the picture in the magazine. Well, maybe you'll have to do it six more. I filled up a garbage bowl with wonky herringbone samples until it just hit me one day and I could herringbone with my eyes shut! I know it's frustrating when what you're trying to do doesn't come out the way you want it, but take a step back and ask yourself, is there something else I can do that will teach me this technique in a simpler, more straightforward fashion? (Here's where a good tutorial, magazine, or book comes in handy) There's a reason that most magazines rank their projects based on difficulty, use that ranking, you'll end up a lot less frustrated and a little more patient through the learning process.

 My attempt a a "bling ring". Kinda looks like my bead box exploded on top of an adjustable brass base.

Also, you're gonna need some inspiration. I've said this before, but it's worth repeating. Find what inspires YOU! Me and nature? Not so much. Other than the colors, I'm really not a huge fan. Now, that said, give me a book on ancient roman architecture and I guarantee you I can find something worth turning into a necklace or bracelet. So, when you hear a designer say, "I'm really inspired by roses, who doesn't love roses?!" Just remember, you're not that designer, and you've got to find out what inspires you.

I made a billion brickstitched pendants during the summer of 2007. No, really....

Okay, last but not least (well, this isn't an exhaustive list, I'm sure there's more), you're going to need to practice. You know that one recipe that you know by heart? Well, you're jewelry process needs to be the same way. You need to do something again and again until you can do it without even bothering with instructions. They should be written on your heart and in your fingers. Honestly, after my brickstitch summer bonanza, I could probably do brickstitch wearing a blindfold while riding a roller coaster in the dark. This is where the focus comes in. 

My first bead-embroidered anything. It's a brooch, and I honestly have no clue where I put it!

You  have to find what techniques and materials really speak to you in order to master them. I like to do stringing about once a month, but I'm in love with bead embroidery and beadweaving, so it's those that I practice at least once a day. Trust me, you'll know what it is you like to do. It'll just come, you won't have to search too hard, but keep trying different things until you find the one that really speaks to you.

 The first thing that I ever sold on Etsy. A bead embroidered cuff bracelet of my own original design.

Don't give up, one day it'll happen, you'll create something original and unique and you'll love it, and it'll be you and you'll wear it around the house in your lounge pants because you're too lazy to get dressed, but you still want to wear whatever it is that you just created. It's a great feeling and one definitely worth working toward.
Oh, and it'll put you one step closer to the next level of the pyramid...

My medallion design, totally original and it looks great with pajamas. week, the amateur/hobbyist - a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons.
What would make the beginner different from the hobbyist in your opinion?


  1. WOW Thanks Marcie! I love this post! I think I am in between the beginner/hobbyist because I have been branching out in my learning and trying to create without a pattern but still using the basic stitches so I can see how the beads work with each other. Does that make sense?

  2. Thank you! Erfolgreich sein heißt nicht niemals fallen ....sondern immer wieder aufstehen!!!!!

  3. Marcie this is one heckuva super fantastic post! I love that you are encouraging and gentle with your readers who may be on a different level than you. That is what is most important. It is like when I was a novice English teacher... there were mentors that guided me and shared their knowledge and helped me grow. I bounced ideas off them, and they showed me where I had holes but they also let me know that I had what it took to not only be good, but great. That gave me wings to fly.

    Thank you for this, really. It has made dent in my brain today. And I can see those with some pajamas. Yumm-o.

    Enjoy the day!

  4. Marcie,
    Thank you for this post, it was very inspiring!
    Have a great day and week!

  5. What a nice post. And I adore this brooch you made. I love those colors.

  6. Marcie, I think it's very easy to forget where you have come from...obviously you have not, and it's wonderful that you are sharing your journey and experience with your readers. I know that many beginners will benefit from your sound are a great teacher! :-)

    To answer your question, I think a hobbyist has a sound understanding of their chosen medium and the confidence to create their own successful designs. A beginner may only feel confident in creating someone else's designs, and may not be proficient in their chosen medium just yet. But with practice, encouragement, and passion, we can all climb that pyramid :-)

    I look forward to reading your next instalment, Marcie! :-)

  7. This is a fantastic post Marcie. Certainly makes you look at the subject from a different perspective.

    As I have said previously I am always comparing my work and abilities to more ''accomplished'' and well known beaders. However what I have started telling myself is that those I compare myself to may have been beading for longer than me, may have more time to practice their beading and ...may have the same insecurities as I do about their own work!

    My confidence levels have got better over the years though. Over the past few days I've been working on a peyote butterfly bail. I tried this pattern 5 times and it still didn't make any sense to me. Rather than giving up, as I would have done in previous years, I used 11/0 seeds instead of delicas and took my thread through a few times at the start to allow tighter tension and VOILA ...success!

    Not giving up is a big achievement for me. I may not succeed at a new technique the first time, as I always expect to do, but trying and trying again...maybe two or three times more... is the key to success!

    Thanks for a great post Marcie. Looking at the progression of your work makes me want to do the same with my pieces. It might just be the switch for that lightbulb in my head that tells me ''gee your beading has come a long way Karyn''!


  8. Marcie
    What a fantastic, thought-provoking post. One that gives all of us the opportunity -if we've been making jewelry for a while - to stop and reflect about where we started and how we got where we are today. The pyramid is an interesting way to conceptualize what we are doing and where we may be. And I find too that I may be higher in some areas and lower in others as I try and learn new techniques. You're not only an amazing jewelry designer, your'e an equally great writer! And btw, I wore my necklace of yours today with pride - I know first hand what hours of practice looks like and it's beautiful!

  9. Lovely post. I need to pass the link to this post on to my readers if you don't mind.

  10. Marci, I felt as though you were talking straight to me. I also remember the summer I worked tubular peyote for two months till I got it right. I am now retired and can spend hours on techniques, like those 3D beads!!!!!


  11. Such a great post, and awesome that you shared your photos along the way!