Monster Beads and Seed Beads

An Interview with Ralph McCaskey

I met lampwork artist Ralph McCaskey at Bead Expo in Oakland last spring. He had a long table full of beads, but honestly, the only ones that I remember are the monsters! Each monster bead has its own personality, which makes purchasing one more like an adoption than a mere financial transaction. Ralph also has the most unusual business cards I've ever seen–miniature glass bottles! Read the full interview and see more of Ralph McCaskey's beads.



The Mystery of Seed Bead Sizes

Did you ever wonder why size 11 seed beads are called that? Leslie Rogalski, the editor-in-chief of Step by Step Beads explains:

We must live with the confusing fact that for seed bead sizes, the smaller the number the larger the bead! Here's why: When glass beads were first mass produced they were labeled at size 0. As manufacturing became more refined, different sized glass rods were used so smaller and larger beads could be produced. With 0 as the starting size, subsequent smaller beads became 00,000,0000, and so forth. The larger sizes were labeled with positive integers, but the larger numbers still meant smaller beads: size 5s are smaller than size 3s. I have no idea why they numbered this way, but there you have it. It quickly became cumbersome to use so many zeros for the small beads, so numerals and that little degree mark became the norm. Size 11 means 11 zeros!

Apparently this numbering system varies in different countries, just to make things more confusing. Some people also claim that sizing means the number of beads per inch, but I have found that to be an approximate, though not a bad general rule of thumb, when choosing a bead size.

Other commonly used seed bead types include charlottes, which have one side cut flat for added sparkle; hexes or hex cuts, which are faceted to have 6 sides; and a myriad of surface finishes, lustres, transparencies and colors. Pony beads (the size of the plastic beads commonly used in kids' crafts) or E beads tend to be larger beads, about size 5, but I've seen commercial packs of beads labeled as E beads which sure look to me like size 10 (that's 10 zeros) seed beads.

It all goes to show how organic our craft is, and that a little advice from experts may be your best bet when it comes to choosing materials. 

Inspired by . . . YOU 

Beading Daily reader Deborah Benson was inspired by the recent project, Harlequin Bracelet (originally published in the book Mastering Beadwork by Carol Huber Cypher). She created a necklace, rather than a bracelet, and chose a combination of yellow and purple. The color combination was part of a challenge issued at Margie Deeb's website. Deborah also added a flower of her own design.

I love seeing photos of your work—keep them coming!



Michelle Mach is the editor of Beading Daily. She is beading on the road in Boston today and regrets that she didn't bring any better lighting with her. She anticipates some very creative color combinations!

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