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BECOMING THE BEAD ARTIST AND JEWELRY DESIGNER: The Ongoing Tension Between Inspiration and Form

Posted by learntobead on November 7, 2019

The Ongoing Tension Between Inspiration and Form

As a jewelry designer, you have a purpose.  Your purpose is to figure out, untangle and solve, with each new piece of jewelry you make, how both you, as well as the wearer, will understand your inspirations and the design elements and forms you chose to express them.   Not as easy as it might first appear.

You will want the piece to be beautiful and appealing.    So you will be applying a lot of art theories about color, perspective, composition and the like.     You will quickly discover that much about color use and the use of lines and planes and shapes and so forth in art is very subjective.    People see things differently.    They may bring with them some biases to the situation.   Many of the physical materials you will use may not reflect or refract the color and other artistic effects more easily achieved with paints.

You want the piece to be durable.    So you will be applying a lot of theories and practices of architects and engineers.   You will need to intuitively and intrinsically understand what about your choices leads to the jewelry keeping its shape, and what about your choices allows the jewelry to move, drape and flow.    You also will be attentive to issues of physical mechanics, particularly how jewelry responds to forces of stress, strain and movement.

You want the piece to be satisfying and accepted by various wearing and viewing audiences.    So you will have some understanding of the role jewelry plays in different people’s lives.   Jewelry is more than some object to them; jewelry is something they inhabit —  reflective of soul, culture, status, aspiration.    You will recognize that people ascribe the qualities of the jewelry to the qualities of the person wearing it.    You will bring to the forefront ideas underlying psychology and anthropology and sociology, and even party planning, while designing your jewelry or introducing it publicly.





Sometimes becoming a designer begins by touching some beads.   Or running a strand of pearls through your hand.   Or the sight of something perfectly worn around the wrist, upon the breast, or up near the neck.

Jewelry designers are extraordinarily blessed to do what they love for a living.   For many, they have turned a hobby into an avocation into a lifestyle.

But it’s not like a regular job.    There are many intangibles.    Such as, what exactly is creativity?    What are all the things that have to come together to recognize that creative spark when it hits you in your heart, groin or head, and how to translate that into something real, with beauty, with function, and with purpose?    How do you mesh your view of aesthetics and functionality with those of your many audiences – wearer, viewer, buyer, seller, collector, exhibiter, teacher and student?

What exactly does it mean to design jewelry, and how do you know it is the right path for you?    This is a tough question.    You may love jewelry, but not know how to make it.   You may get off on creative problem solving or be a color addict but not know what specific techniques and skills you need to learn, in what organized way, with what direction, leading you towards becoming that better jewelry designer.    You may feel the motivation, but not know what the jewelry designer really has to do each day.

You may be taking classes and getting some training, but how do you know when you have arrived?  How do you know when you have emerged as a successful professional jewelry designer?    And what are your responsibilities and obligations, once you get there?




There is so much to know, and so many types of choices to make.    Which clasp?  Which stringing material?  Which technique?   Which beads?   Which strategy of construction?    What aesthetic you want to achieve?   How you want to achieve it?    Drape, movement, context, durability?    How to organize and manage the design process?

And this is the essence of this book – a way to learn all the kinds of things you need to bring to bear, in order to create a wonderful and functional piece of jewelry.   When you are just beginning your beading or jewelry making avocation, or have been beading and making jewelry awhile – time spent with the material in these segments will be very useful.    You’ll learn the critical skills and ideas.  You’ll learn how these inter-relate.   And you’ll learn how to make better choices.

Everyone knows that anyone can put beads and other pieces together on a string and make a necklace. But can anyone make a necklace that draws attention? That evokes some kind of emotional response? That resonates with someone where they say, I want to wear that!? That wears well, drapes well, moves well as the person wearing it moves? That is durable, supportive and keeps its silhouette and shape? That doesn’t feel underdone or over done? That is appropriate for a given context, situation, culture or society?

True, anyone can put beads on a string. But that does not make them artists or designers. From artists and designers, we expect jewelry which is something more. More than parts. More than an assemblage of colors, shapes, lines, points and other design elements. More than simple arrangements of lights and darks, rounds and squares, longs and shorts. We expect to see the artist’s hand. We expect the jewelry to be impactful for the wearer.

We want to gauge how the designer grows within the craft, and takes on the challenges during their professional lives.    This involves an ongoing effort to merge voice with form.     Often this effort is challenging.   Sometimes paralyzing.    Always fulfilling and rewarding.

Jewelry design is a conversation.   The conversation in ongoing, perhaps never-ending.   The conversation is partly a reflection about process, refinement, questioning, translating feelings into form, impressions into arrangements; life influences into choice.    It touches on desire.   It reflects value and values.   Aesthetics matter.   Architecture and function matters.   Context and situation matter.

Jewelry focuses attention.    Inward for the artist.  Outward for the wearer and viewer.    In many directions socially and culturally.     Jewelry is a voice which must be expressed and heard, and hopefully, responded to.

At first that voice might not find that fit with its audience.   There is some back and forth in expression, as the jewelry is designed, refined, redesigned, and re-introduced publicly.   But jewelry, and its design, has great power.   It has the power to synthesize a great many voices and expectations into something exciting and resonant.


One Response to “BECOMING THE BEAD ARTIST AND JEWELRY DESIGNER: The Ongoing Tension Between Inspiration and Form”

  1. P. Reilly said

    Sent from my iPhone

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