Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From Start to Finish

Occasionally when I'm busy in the studio, someone will wander in and watch me work for a while. It might be one of the neighbors who has come to ask a question or a favor. Sometimes the visitor is a friend of my parents and is hanging out in the studio while waiting for them. I've even had repairmen, mail carriers and the occasional Jehovah's Witness stand behind me and observe quietly for a while. One thing I've noticed is that the silence never lasts long. Invariably, the first question that pops out of an observer's mouth is: "How long does it take for you to make beads?" Not "How long have you been doing this?" or "How did you learn how to make beads?" or even "Why doesn't the flame melt the metal stick-thingie you're holding?". Nope - just "how long does it take?". Unless, of course, someone is looking at finished beads. Then the first question is always: "But how'd you get the flower in there?" But I digress...

When I first started making beads, my answers were long and complicated. I'd explain the process of deciding what I was going to make, checking my mandrels, getting the glass ready, pulling stringer and making complex and vine canes to use before I ever talked about making the first bead. I got tired of seeing people's eyes glaze over as I rattled off my spiel, so I kept shortening my answers until I arrived at my current response to the question of how long: a quick shrug of the shoulders, a sheepish grin and an honest "It depends."

If someone really is curious and keeps asking questions, I will carefully go into more detail, but only in response to a direct question. I've learned that if people feel like it's some big secret, then they're eager to know more. BUT - if you get diarrhea of the mouth and spill your guts or start talking technical too fast, they can't excuse themselves quickly enough.

The point of all this is that I'd like to know, for my own edification, exactly how long it takes me to make a bead. And because I make so many different kinds of beads, I figured that the best way to find the answer is to time myself as I make what I consider to be one of my standard bead sets. (Don't worry, it's for an order, so I'm not goofing off and wasting time.) I'm using a standard kitchen timer with a stopwatch feature.

And this is the bead set I'll be making:

Midori Eclectics

I'm timing all the components involved in making the bead set (assuming the kiln is already up to temperature, of course): dipping the mandrels, selecting and cleaning the glass, pulling the necessary stringers and cane, the creation of each individual bead and then the final cleaning and stringing of the bead set before packing.

dipping mandrels: 13:48
readying glass: 7:02
stringers & cane: 21:08

making each bead -
spacers: 3:07 & 1:35
whitehearts: 5:37 & 6:36
dotted lentil: 4:06
green disks: 5:27 & 6:22
floral lentil: 13:02
striped disk: 15:38
ringed Saturn: 8:14
rectangle: 15:58
dotted disk: 15:09
triangle disk: 13:38
encased floral: 19:08

cleaning beads: 17:19
stringing beads: 3:47

Final time from start to finish: 3 hours, 16 minutes and 47 seconds

Taa Daah! Here's the set I just completed:

So... can you think of any more questions I can answer?? *wink*


wannabecamille said...

Beautiful!!! I love them! I never knew it took so much time and love to make these. I have seen them on ebay, and always wanted some earrings etc. You have great talent. And an eye for beauty. Camille

RockerJewlz said...

Yes, I have a question:

Now that you know your exact times, do you feel you are paying yourself enough for the glass and time spent taking all these steps?

Jena said...

Honestly, sometimes I think I don't charge enough for my beads with all the time and care that goes into them. And I know that at some point, I will have to hike prices a little - just to offset the rising cost of glass and shipping - but I'm holding off as long as I can!