Tombo:
experiments with non-flowers

I know only a few words of Japanese, but one that I picked up while visiting is tombo —dragonfly.[1] Strictly speaking, though much larger than the real animal, the design and colour scheme for this pin really comes from damselflies, the beautiful iridescent blue and green insects that are called ‘darning needles’ in my dialect, to distinguish them from larger dragonflies, though both belong to Order Odonata.

This final project for my french beaded flower class was a student request, and judging from the issues my guinea pigs students had while making them, I still need to work some bugs (heh) out of the directions. (Note: link goes to a google doc.) But in the meantime, some notes...

1st iteration. Wings include rocailles from 15/0 to 8/0, and both No. 2 and 3 bugles. No. 2 is your garden variety length, about 6mm. #3 is 8mm, more or less.

The material that makes this object possible is 22gauge 308 stainless steel wire, which is much stiffer and springier than the coated copper wire currently used for most french-beaded flower projects, or even the old, traditional florists’ paddle wire. Unfortunately, it's expensive: about $50/lb, and I was lucky to get a 1.25# spool, as the 20 gauge wire I bought many years ago came on a 5# spool[2] . However, this product is available via mail order in small quantities from mail order bead suppliers[3]

I did try to made this a student friendly project, but I had a variety of sizes of rocailles, both seed beads and bugles, lying on the table, and they were inevitably incorporated into the wings and antennae. Much as it may not seem like it to me, most people, even those who are craftily inclined, find dealing with 15/0 seed beads a major pest. —I do have some idea of their feelings, as I have the same when trying to ram .018 beadalon through vintage czech 15/0 to 20/0s with too-small holes!

version 2. The beaded part of the bodies is 2"/50mm, so that gives an overall length of approximately 5–6" (125–150mm). Btw, this is another 2 exposure image that's been combined to give the darker version of the dichro bead & adjacent metal bead. It's also had a little some a *lot* of dust removed, and cropping. Zuiko macro, e620[4] & manual flash.

Version 2 I live-demoed, with the help of a little camera, laptop & projector setup that our library has, which worked pretty well, as long as I was patient with the lag, kept the project in the camera's field of view and kept my hands from blocking everything. Since I had a mix of beads sitting on my fuzzy fabric, I decided I might as well show my students how to blend colour. Interestingly enough, most who chose to use more than one colour preferred to make longitudinal stripes which had the bonus of being easier for them to do.

To make wing construction easier, I used 8/0s for the ribs, as those pretty much have to be put on by hand (at least by the students—I didn't have enough bead spinners to everyone to have their own). The wrapping rows, however, were spun on 24ga copper wire, so those are in the smaller blue beads.

The antennae also have to strung by hand, so I briefly discussed how to transfer pre-strung beads, which is marginally less tedious than picking them up one-by-one off a work surface.

Making the actual dragonfly isn't that difficult (though I would recommend at least 2 sessions with classic frames before turning students loose on this project) but attaching it to the pin back is a bit of a bear for folks not used to manipulating wire: that's the part of the project I'm still trying to refine. However, if you would like to try making one of these yourself, here's that link to the directions again.

[1]This is because a major craft supplier is called...you guessed it, Tombo, and I kept buying string and sequins and the like from that company at Japan's various 100yen shops. The logo kind of gave the game away:)

[2]It was much cheaper per pound, though...

[3]Either Fire Mountain or Shipwreck carries it.

[4]that new used body I got that's missing a bunch of shutter speeds & f-stops, the flakes, tho’ I suppose it has the advantage of forcing me to finally get serious about learning to combine exposures...