I have to admit, I enjoy making the beads more than anything else. They are small, but they are still handmade and each one is unique. I get my clay in 25# blocks, so for each bead I pinch off just a tad, then roll and shape it in my hand. No two beads could ever be identical, even if I tried. I try to make the beads in two styles- just smooth and round, and then others with textured patterns. Every so often I might make a shaped one. I make them in all sizes and not just round- small or large, square or oblong- my goal is to create an entirely one of a kind bead so that in turn, jewelry artisans can make completely unique pieces.
Although I do use commercial glazes, I have gotten over the idea that somehow I'm less of an artist simply because I'm not mixing up my own glazes from scratch. Commercial glazes allow me to not only have amazing color choices, but also different finishes like glossy or matte, crackle and even stoneware-like textures. I would say the hardest part of being a bead artist is getting my name and my shop out there. I've backed off from paying all the "advertising" fees on Etsy. I try to keep my prices and shipping down, and the Etsy fees were gobbling up my hopes of having any profits at all.
There are a lot of really great bead groups online, but I'm seeing the same artists over and over again on all of them, and those seem to be the artists that everyone immediately goes to. I'm also finding there seems to be an almost angry backlash against anyone who is not hand-carving their own stamps and designs. Some of the groups actually state, if you use commercial rubber stamps to create designs, you can't join the group. This offends me deeply because first of all, I'm not trying to lie and pass off the design as something I created myself- I state very plainly on my listings that I use rubber stamps and found household items to make the patterns and textures on my beads. Secondly, just because I take one of my handmade beads and roll it over a rubber stamp from Michaels, does not mean my bead is still "not" handmade and unique!
Art is about creativity, and we all use some sort of tools or devises when creating. I don't expect the jewelery designer to make each and every component completely from scratch. Although some do, I would never discount someone who used materials they "bought" from a supplier. I don't expect a painter to make their own paints, paper, or brushes- some do I'm sure, but most don't and it doesn't take away from the beauty of the art, it doesn't mean the artist is somehow less talented. Art stores sell supplies and tools for a reason, for people to use!
So for anyone out there who would look down their nose at an artist simply because they did not make the tools that they are using, I just don't know what to say about that. And my beads can still be an "original" design even if I'm using a store bought stamp to create a pattern. It's as if they are saying my beads are not as nice or are somehow flawed. I think my beads are lovely, and I wish I could find a better way to connect with people who can appreciate them and will use them to make gorgeous creations!