Thursday, September 15, 2011

AnimeFest 2011 & Beaded Pixel Art

Labor Day weekend I had the great pleasure to represent the DFW Costumers Guild at Anime Fest alongside fellow members Jennifer K and Gypsy James.  We had an absolute Ball!!!!  

Jennifer and James helped to judge the Friday night costume contest.  When I met up with them on Saturday I heard all about some of the beautiful costumes they were treated to by the costume entrants.  On Saturday we all three participated in judging the Hall Cosplay Contest.  Again, we were just mesmerized at the skill level and beauty of some of the costumes presented before us.  And in this case, we were able to ask questions of the entrants and we came away with some new Brilliant ideas for prop making ourselves.  I have to say that if you are looking for innovation and smart problem solving, I have recently learned that I need to look no further than our local Anime cosplayers.  

After the Hall Cosplay Contest on Saturday, I was off to present my Pixel Art Bead Jewelry panel.  Wow, I had anticipated that I would have more people show up than I had tools to provide, but I had no idea that the number of people attending the panel would exceed the number of handouts I had made.  We had between 40 and 45 participants in my panel.  I was really surprised.  And a little flustered over being able to accomplish any of my intended pieces.  Originally, I had pre-made patterns that I was going to let people choose which one to make, but there was just no way any of those pieces was going to get made in an hour with me having to go around the room group by group handing out supplies and teaching people the very simple method of stringing these beads.  So I changed the plan.  Instead of making one of the pre-selected patterns, I quickly explained to the panel how to make their own much smaller square pattern.  Below is an example of the type of pattern we switched to.  This pattern along with the patterns on my original hand out is available in the above patterns link.

Thankfully pixel art is an easy concept to understand and people caught on very well.  I am also thankful that a very helpful panel attendee offered to cut wire and pass out beads with me.  She made my job a lot easier!  Most of the panel was spent teaching different groups how to start their project.  Some people finished, some people barely got started.  I wish everyone could have finished their project, but I hope at least everyone came away with a good idea of how to start their own project and the confidence that they can finish something fun and crafty in a short period of time. 

Sunday was another day that my fellow guild judges and I had a great time together!  We were all back together again for the Cosplay Skit competition.  We had so much fun with that one!!!!  And we had enough awards to hand out that each of our favorites won something.  It was a great way to end our participation in this fun Con!

In my panel on Saturday I promised those who didn't get a pattern handout that I would post a blog with my patterns and step by step instructions.  I apologize that it has taken me this long to get this blog put together. But I hope that now any of you who had questions and didn't get to ask me because I was helping others will see this and have those questions answered.  If you still have questions after this blog, please put them in the comments.  I'll be sure to answer them for you.

Now, this whole idea of the panel came from my trying to re-create some Luna Lovegood jewelry for the last Harry Potter screening.  The DFW Costumers Guild gathered at Studio Movie Grill on opening weekend in costume and I wanted to make sure I had the right jewelry.  I made radish earrings and the beetle ring.  I was really surprised at how easy it was to put those things together and I thought it would be a fun activity for a con panel.  I figured there was a whole world of possibilities with seed beads and pixel art! I was right.  But there were very few people online making pixel art with seed beads.  The only one I saw was this person and it looked like they had the same idea I did of using the bead sprite pattern method.

As I've already mentioned, I got all of my ideas from Googling Bead Sprite designs.  When I was little, Bead Sprites were most certainly not this cool.  We made simple coasters with almost no design.  Or we made bracelets.  We did not make works of art.  Some of the designs I saw in my Google search were so elaborate and detailed they were not appropriate for my panel, but I encourage you to check them out with your own Google searches because they are quite fantastic.

For my patterns, I specifically got my ideas for these patterns from these sites:
There were so many options to choose from on my search, but in the end, these blog entries presented simple items that I thought were easy to understand and reproduce.  Plus, Nintendo and Mario Bros is Just Cool!

Now, on to the tutorial:

First, you need the right tools.  Here I have pictured my tools.  My regular needle nosed pliers have been with me for years in various projects, the other three are new since this beading hobby of mine is new.  Most needle nosed pliers actually have wire cutters built in them, but I would still recommend you purchase some small wire cutters anyway.  There are many situations where those needle nosed pliers won't do the job.  The wire cutters can get in to smaller spaces.  I also recommend narrow needle nosed pliers.  Even if you don't think you will need them, they are much better in more delicate situations.  Plus, sometimes you will need to use a pair of pliers in each hand to pull wire through tight beads.  Those purple pliers are for rolling and looping wire.  I use them more than the second pair of pliers.  Pliers will be your most expensive investment in this particular beading project.

Many people in the panel asked me what kind of wire I was using.  You can get many gauges of wire at your local craft store.  Use the smallest gauge.  And remember, the larger the number, the thinner the wire.  The day I went wire shopping, the smallest gauge I could find was 24 gauge.  I found this 28 gauge wire at Home Depot in the picture hanging accessories aisle.  It's my favorite.  And I recommend using wire as opposed to thread for this work because thread is flimsy and you have to use needles and be more careful with the beads buckling.  With wire, you just need the wire, beads, and pliers and the object holds a shape better.

The beads you are using are your basic run of the mill seed beads.  You can purchase them for under $2 a package at your local craft store and they come in all sorts of colors.

Now let's get started!  Threading beads with wire is easy.  You just insert the end of the wire into the seed bead opening.  Here's where your pattern comes into play.  For the first (meaning the bottom) row, thread the entire count of beads onto the wire and let them fall all the way to the center of the wire.

Like so.  Pretend you can see the ends of this wire and the meet up in the middle so the sides are even.

For the second row, thread all the beads for that row in the pattern just like you did the first row, except stop them from falling very far down the wire.

Now you are going to pick up the end of the wire on the other side and thread it through the beads like so.

Your object is to work the wire and beads so that you have opposite ends of wire coming out of each side of the row.  Be aware that some seed beads suffer from having smaller openings.  Sometimes you will have beads that cannot be double threaded like this.  So it would be a good idea to eyeball each bead and try to determine the smaller opening beads to discard for this project.  Otherwise, you will spend a bunch of time threading, then taking the row apart, then picking new beads, then re-threading.  It's a pain.  I speak as someone who keeps forgetting to cull small beads and pulling my hair out over this often.

Here's where your pliers may come in handy.  If the fit is tight on these beads, you'll need the pliers to help you grip and pull the ends of the wire.  You want to pull the ends so that the new row of beads moves down towards the already completed row.  Make sure you are pulling each side equally.  You still need each side's length of wire to be relatively the same.  You don't want to have to start over because you let one side get too short.

Pull the wire as tightly as you can.

Here you see me using my thumb and fingers to manipulate the bottom row from a curve to a line.  This only happens during the first and second row construction when you are making square pieces.  You shouldn't have to manipulate rows on square pieces after this.

Here you can see where I've made a third row.  I made that row by duplicating the instructions for the second row.  In a square piece, this is really easy because you are just counting beads according to the pattern.  Be aware that if you have beads which differ wildly in width, you may need to adjust bead count in the pattern for that discrepancy.

This is my near finished Domo.  As you can see, he is not perfectly square.  This is for several reasons.  First, I messed up one of the red bead rows and shorted it.  I decided to leave that in so you could see how missing beads in the pattern can affect things.  But that's not the only reason Domo is distorted.  Some of the rows have differing size beads.  You can tell this the most on the bottom tooth row.  Those white beads are smaller.  The same thing happened with my Ankh at the top of the blog post.  I actually even tried to adjust the bead counts in some rows to account for smaller or larger beads.  If you really want your projects to look perfect, you should pick through your beads at the start of the project to attempt to keep bead size uniform.  You're already picking through to choose for large opening sizes, you may as well pick through for uniform size as well.

Now to finish our little Domo, I use the clothes hangar method.  I pinch together the remaining wire...

and then twist.

Then cut the excess wire and use the rolling pliers to bend the twisted wire into a loop.

These more narrow needle nose pliers are great for pinching the loop together.

Then all that's left to do is to clip the excess wire away and thread some ribbon or chain through your new pendant.  Or if you are making earrings, thread the wire through the loop end of the fish hook earring before you clamp it down and then as you are clamping down, twist the pendant loop so your earrings hang properly facing forward.

Now you have your own pixel bead art!  And how simple was that?  Once you are comfortable with the process, here is a website with a few more Bead Sprite patterns you can work with.  And Pixelgasm has even more fun ideas you can convert from Bead Sprites.  If you're feeling really confident,  you can also try your hand at making patterns for little Kaos.  This site doesn't have the grids set up, but the kaos are small and simple enough that if you can make the Mario Mushrooms in my pattern, you should be able to figure out how to pattern some of the kaos.  To start patterning, all you have to remember is to keep it on a grid.  And each bead should represent one square on that grid.  Easy Peasy!

Happy Beading!