Discussion Notes

The purposes of the bead studies group are manifold, including to explore new methods of beading, to experiment with variations on traditional techniques, and to study culture-specific beading techniques. The group meets in Nashville, Tennessee the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays from 1-3pm.

If you are in the area, please join us in our discussions. There are no fees.

Current Bead Study Discussion Blog

The Bead Group began its studies on Color and Beads.

We're using various books as references, including:
The Beader's Color Palette by Margie Deeb
ColorWorks by Deb Menz

(1) Values and Intensities

Margie Deeb had written an article about the Secret to Using
In her article she indicated that the "secret" was to vary color
values, and concurrently create strong contrasts.

We used her statement as a stepping off point for discussion.

Her term "values" really encapsulates two color theory terms – values
and intensities.
Values – vary light to dark, as if you took a color pencil to color
in three boxes, the first pressing very lightly, the second pressing
a little harder, and the last pressing very hard.

Intensities – vary brightness to dull, as if you took a color pencil
to color in three boxes, and all were colored in the same. Then you
took a white pencil, and colored over the first box. You took a gray
pencil and colored over the second box. And you took a black pencil
and colored over the third box.

You get very different looks when you vary the values versus when you
vary the intensities.

Everyone was assigned the task to create a strip or strips of
beadwork, or bring in some beads, in which first, you varied the
values, and second, you varied the intensity.

The second part of Margie's statement was to create a strong
contrast. In interior design, you're always told to "add a splash
of color".

Does every piece of jewelry need that splash of color? Can
monochromatic jewelry still be attractive?

Bonnie told the story of attending a fashion show where all the
clothes, while well-designed, were all beige and dull. She
suggested that the models might have worn a colorful scarf (that
splash of color) to make it more interesting. Bonnie felt that the
women attending the fashion show were better dressed than the
models. (That is, their clothes were more color-satisfying than
those of the models.) Then Bonnie shared some pieces of jewelry
she had made, which tended to be monochromatic and still very
pleasing and satisfying – all without that strong contrast or splash
of color. We discussed the differences between the clothes at the
fashion show and Bonnie's pieces of jewelry.

The whole idea of the "Secret" was that perhaps, as jewelry
designers, we should think of values (and intensities) up front when
we design our jewelry.

Do we do this? We went around the room and asked everyone how they
pick their beads. No one started with values and intensities. We
pick our beads, and then, later on, might think about varying values
and intensities.

For paints, people often start with paint or color samples that show
3 or more variations on the color in terms of values and/or
intensities. Often, with paint, people start with value and

Warren noted that, unlike paint, beads, because they are 3-
dimensional in shape, already vary the values and intensities within
themselves. The bend/curve of the bead also alters the color and
its sensation, its shade, its tone, its reflectiveness, and its
refractiveness. In this sense, beads are more forgiving than
paints, when it comes to values and intensities, and picking

Question: When you say "that color's not right,", how do you know
what's not right about it?

Next discussion: Picking Palettes
What can go right, and what can go wrong?

(2) Picking Palettes

Everyone was asked to pick out 6 separate colors of beads – any
shape, any size – that would be used as a palette to make a piece of

We discussed everyone's choice of palettes. Was it satisfying?
Could it be made better? If so, how could it have been made better?

It's important that the artist set goals for her piece before
selecting the colors.
How do you want to use colors?
What roles do you want color to play within your pieces?

Some goals include:
- having beautiful, appealing colors
- successful color choices, when it comes to
-- mixing the types of materials of beads within the same piece,
such as mixing gemstone and glass
-- using different shapes, and the resulting light/shadow issues
caused by these shapes
-- the reality that the color palette of available beads is often
imperfect and incomplete; unlike with paints, where you can mix any
color you want
-- managing how the eye/brain interacts with the bead. Glass
beads draw the eye/brain to the surface. Gemstone beads, even
opaque ones, tend to draw the eye/brain to both the surface, as well
as the interior of the bead. The eye/brain also responds to the
edge of the bead in different ways. Is the eye/brain going to
sense that it is falling off a cliff, or does it perceive a
comfortable bridge that spans the gap between the first bead and the

To understand the bead and its colorations, you need to recognize
that each bead presents a dimensional palette.
There is the surface color
There is the edge color
There is the center/hole color, if you can see into the bead

Warren likes to include 1 or 2 "grays" within each color palette.
Grays are any color that picks up the colors of the beads around
them. Typical grays include gray, alexandrite, Montana blue,
Colorado topaz – colors with strong black tones to them. They also
include many of the color-lined beads.

Grays are used to tie beads of different colors together. They
build bridges between two beads so that the eye/brain doesn't feel
like it's falling off a cliff. They help the eye/brain to merge or
coordinate colors within your piece, … without distracting from the
other colors, or adding other colors issues in and of themselves.
They help blend.

Another thing that Warren likes to do is to frame things. For a
pendant drop, he likes to add a bead at the top and bottom which
serve to frame, but not compete with the drop. In pieces where
there are segments, he likes to frame these. In our 6-color
palette, he chose black to use as a framing color.

Not necessarily a "splash of color", but there is some need to create
a sense of drama, life, excitement, a look-at-me-first bead or
color. These could be a high contrast, or a monochromatic piece.
But something because of size or pattern or texturing needs to draw
focal interest.

With Ethels selection, the 6 colors seemed like more supporting
elements for something else, such as a more exciting fiber that would
be embellished with beads. We took out one color, and added a
brighter, completely different color, and all of a sudden it seemed
like her new 6-color-palette would work. There was a focal

Cecilia is using a large gemstone round bead, mostly beige/brown/rust
in color, as part of a necklace composition. Her choice of colors
generally matched the gemstone beads, but seemed to dull its focal
interest. Connie put some matte green turquoise beads into
Cecilia's palette, and these seemed to make the gemstone beads even
more focally interesting. We added another fuchsia-lined amethyst
cube, and it enhanced things even more. Neither of these two beads
competed for attention; they actually enlivened these gemstone
beads. These new colors here served to clarify and intensify the
effects she wanted to achieve.

Also mentioned was the dilemma that the beads, when they are on
hanks, strands, or in tubes, may appear to be a different color, then
when they are loose.

NEXT TIME (In January)
and related issues of balance, harmony and distribution

Discussion Notes - Color and Proportions

Last time, we had discussed picking color palettes. This session,
we discussed the relationship of color choices to the proportion of
each color used.

We grabbed strands of red and green beads from the walls at the
shop. Everyone was asked to create a pile are red and green strands
that was pleasing to them. Then we reacted and evaluated.

As a "pile" of beads, most combinations seemed satisfying. Warren
asked everyone to line up the green next to the red, and re-think.
Most of the samples were no longer as satisfying.

We played with "adding" and "substracting" green or red strands. We
seemed to end up close to where the science indicated we should be.

That is, Red and Green work best in 50/50 proportional relationships.

We next played with tubes of cobalt green and yellow seed beads. We
lined the tubes up, first with about a 50/50 mix. Then we started
taking away tubes of yellow. The most satisfying arrangement
consisted of 4 yellow tubes and 12 cobalt ones. The science
indicated that there should be 3 blue to every one yellow.

Next we played with the arrangement of the tubes.
- every third one was yellow
- two yellows on either end
- two yellows near each of the ends, but separated by 1 or 2 blues

Placement affected a sense of satisfaction and balance, as well.

Often, when you have a good and pleasing mix of colors, but they
don't come together well 100%, the solution can be to adjust the
proportions according to the scientifically-derived proportional
relationships among colors.

Cecelia had a necklace which seemed to illustrate the point. The
colors in the necklace were basically yellow/brown, pink and teal.
There seemed to be too much pink. It seemed that if we reduced the
amount of pink so that it had a 50/50 relationship with the teal, the
necklace would be much more satisfying, from a color standpoint.

NEXT TIME - 1/21
Everyone should create a simple bracelet using an Analogous Color
Scheme. This color scheme uses any three colors on the color wheel
that are next to each other. For example, Yellow, Yellow-Green, and
Green are analogous colors on the color wheel.

Sometime in March, Diane Fitzgerald's book on dimensional shapes
using beads will come up. The group will use here book as a
discussion focus for the remainder of the year, after we finish up
with color.


Discussion Notes from 1/21/2009
Color Schemes

We played around with the Analogous Color Scheme where you take 3
colors that touch each other on the color wheel.

Cecilia had made up 3 buttons where she varied the amount of one of
the colors. She felt the button which had too much of this color
was the least satisfying.

We discussed this as a group. We played with hanks of green, blue-
green and blue seed beads. We laid them out in different
arrangements and with different proportions, and discussed whether
each was more or less satisfying than the previous one.

For the Analogous color scheme -- a popular one, but one that is
difficult to use when you want a piece that really pops -- it works
better when there are equal proportions of each color (no color
predominates), and when the color arrangement is laid out in a
symmetrical way.

We added some hanks of orange to the mix, and played around with the
colors. We also took away one of the 3 original colors, and
continued with the orange. This began to approximate a Split
Complementary Scheme (where you take a color and the colors on either
side of that color directly across from it on the color wheel). The
Split Complementary scheme uses 3 colors, and is the most popular
color scheme. In this scheme, one of the 3 colors has to be
dominant over the others.

Color schemes are different, proven ways to use and combine colors,
in order to achieve a pleasing or satisfying result. There are
many, many other color schemes. Some other color schemes we did not
discuss in class:

Complementary: Any 2 colors which are the direct opposite on the
color wheel. This works best when one color is dominant, and where
one color has a high intensity or value, and the other has a low
intensity or value.

Triadic: any 3 hues equidistant on the color wheel.

Tetradic: 4 colors on the color wheel consisting of two pairs of
complementary colors

Monochromatic: a single hue, though with different intensities,
tints and shades

Achromatic: black and white and gray (without color)

Neutrals: basically browns

Clash: combines a color hue with a color on either side of its

Because of the different shapes of the beads, (curving, faceting,
etc) and the many perceptual-boundary-issues (between one bead and
another) which all affect perceptions of color, often when you apply
color schemes, the results are imperfect. You have to do some
additional playing with the colors to get a more satisfying result.

We will be going through some issues of Bead & Button and Bead Work and
critiquing the color use in various pieces.




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