Friday, February 05, 2010

Beginnings: Genius, Power, and Magic

One of my favorite quotes (of unknown origin, often mis-attributed to Goethe) reads: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

What does the word “beginnings” mean to you? To me, beginnings are scary, delicate, and very powerful.

When I think of beginnings, I envision seeds surrounded by damp soil, germinating in the dark, preparing to emerge and grow toward the light. Imagine for a moment how a seed might feel before it breaks through. Irresistibly pulled forward, the seed has no idea what awaits it on the other side.Scary? Yes. Anything could happen. The seedling might be pulled as a weed or it might be gobbled up by a hungry rabbit. Too, the seedling is very fragile - it might be stepped on and broken before it has a chance to finish growing.

Companion to this vulnerability and fear of the unknown is the power inherent in a beginning; this power springs from the very potential within a beginning. That seed could become anything - a lovely flower, a mighty redwood to purify the air, a head of broccoli to sustain life, or a plant which holds the cure for cancer.

Beginnings are no less terrifying and powerful for humans – often, the most difficult step to take is the first one. Anything could happen on the other side of that first step. Could it be beginnings are scary because they are so powerful?

So what happens if you allow fear to stop you from beginning?

Nothing will happen at all.
There is no way to know what is lost when a person does not begin.

In my experience, the best beginnings start small. Those are the beginnings that have the best chance of survival, because that tiny first step is so much less threatening than a giant leap.

One of my favorite designs to doodle is the spiral. I draw spirals when I’m journaling – I’ll start one while I’m searching for the words to write. A spiral starts incredibly small – just a dot on the page. From there it can go in any direction. Literally. But it starts with a very small step, a tiny dot. Spirals symbolize beginnings to me because of this.
Spirals can be frequently observed in nature and art: we find spirals in ammonite fossils, galaxies, and whirlpools, and we see spirals in art from all over the globe, whether they are ancient rock carvings, used as the base for weaving a basket, or in one of Leonardo DaVinci’s drawings.
I’m fascinated with all spirals, but I especially appreciate the exquisite spirals found in Mandelbrot sets. My fractal swirl beads were inspired by Mandelbrot sets, and grew out of my love for the spiral. Working with molten glass enables me to create three-dimensional spirals and give them color and depth.
Gary Odom of Primordial Patterns created this fractal art, based on the Mandelbrot Set.

The following project combines the symbol of the spiral and one of my heart-shaped fractal swirl beads to create a tangible reminder of the power of beginnings. You might wear this as a pendant, hang it as an ornament in a window, or use it as a fan or light-switch pull. If you have two very small matching art beads, you can use this technique to create a pair of earrings.
This is a fairly simple project; it can be made with nearly any kind of art bead and with whatever wire you have available to you. (I used my new favorite wire, 19 ga. black annealed steel.) The important thing is to start the project – don’t put it off because you don’t have the “perfect” materials or because you’re a beginner at wireworking or whatever. Just go for it and experience the genius, power, and magic of beginning!

art bead with hole large enough to accommodate wire
18-19 ga. wire (black annealed steel, sterling, copper, brass, gold-filled)
accent beads: spacer beads, Swarovski bicones, or size 6° or 8° seed beads (optional)

0000 steel wool (for straightening and cleaning wire)
wire cutter
file (for smoothing ends of cut wire)
round nose pliers
hammer and bench block (optional)
chain nose pliers
bent chain nose pliers

1. Unroll about 6-8” of the wire and use the steel wool to clean and straighten the wire. Don’t cut the wire just yet. I tear off a small pinch of steel wool, fold it over the wire cross-ways, pinch between my fingers and pull the wire through until it’s clean and reasonably straight.
2. The length of wire you’ll need depends on the art bead you’re using, and whether or not you’re including optional spacer beads/Swarovski bicones/6° or 8° seed beads. Cut the wire so that you have about 3” of wire hanging off of the bottom of the art bead/optional bead combo, and about 1.5" off the top. Remove the art bead and optional accent beads.
3. Use the file to smooth the ends of the wire.
4. Flatten the very tip of one end of the wire, about 1/8”. You can use your hammer and bench block to accomplish this, or you can just use the wide base of your round nose pliers to squeeze it flat.
5. Re-file the flattened end if need be, so that it is not sharp.
6. Create a tiny loop in the flattened end of the wire using the very skinny tip of your round nose pliers.7. Place the tiny loop at the back of your chain nose pliers, and pushing with your thumb, bend the wire around the loop in a spiral, working in small ¼” increments.8. When you’re happy with your spiral, you’ll need to “break the neck” of the wire and spiral so the pendant hangs straight.To do this, grasp the spiral gently but firmly with your bent chain nose pliers, and use the straight chain nose pliers to hold the still-straight wire just above the spiral, perpendicular to the spiral. Bend your wrist holding the straight wire so that it causes the straight wire to form a 90° bend just before the spiral. Now grasp the spiral with chain nose pliers, and curve the wire so that the spiral sits snug up against the 90° bend.9. The wire should look like the above picture, with the spiral centered. Add the art bead and any accent beads to the wire.
10. Move all of the beads so that they sit snug against the spiral.
11. Now it's time to make the pendant loop. I like to position my pendant loops perpendicular to the spiral, so that the spiral displays properly. Gently grasp the wire exiting the beads with the straight chain nose pliers sitting snug against the beads. With your other hand, bend the straight wire across the edge of the pliers to form a 90° bend.
12. Use your round nose pliers to create a loop for the pendant. Put the wide base of the round nose pliers snug up against the 90° bend you just made and grasp gently. Use your other hand to bring the wire up and around the round nose pliers.13. Release the round nose pliers and re-position them so that the new loop is on the bottom jaw of the round nose pliers. Finish forming the loop, and break the neck a little, so it hangs straight.14. Use your bent chain nose pliers to hold the newly formed loop, and grasp the remaining end of wire with your regular chain nose pliers. Wrap the wire end snug around the wire at the base of the large loop.
15. Cut off any extra length of wire and finish tucking wire end in to finish.
16. If necessary, use your file to remove any tooling marks.