Learn To Bead

At Land of Odds / Be Dazzled Beads – Beads, Jewelry Findings, and More

So You Want To Be A Jewelry Designer… Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Posted by learntobead on April 20, 2020

Workshop at Be Dazzled Beads

While you may be passionate about making jewelry, you are not born with the knowledge, skill and understandings necessary for jewelry design. These must be learned and developed over time. It is through this process of investment in self that the designer’s passions emerge and expand. It is important to know the kinds of things you need to learn, and how you need to guide your education.

Passions Aren’t Found, They Are Developed!

Design is about knowledge, skill and understanding. Knowledge requires time and preciseness. Skill requires care and attention. Understanding requires empathy and insight.

You are not born with the knowledge, skill and understandings necessary for jewelry design. These must be learned and developed over time. Anyone and everyone can learn these. Everyone has a creative capacity within them. There are many different ways to express things creatively. But one has to learn

to express their thoughts and feelings creatively, step by step, developmentally over a period of time. It is through this process of investment in self that the designer’s passions emerge and expand.

It is important not to give up too easily, if designing and making jewelry seems too difficult at first. Difficulty does not equate to a lack of passion. It does not equate to a lack of ability. It does not equate to a lack of creativity. Many things will be difficult, particularly at first.

Nor does any waxing and waning of motivation imply that jewelry design is not for you. It’s natural that jewelry design does not provide an endless, infinite, always-there motivation. This does not mean you have lost your passion for it.

Passions must be cultivated. As do technical abilities and creative thinking. These all must be developed.


Many people who begin to bead and make jewelry want to rush to the finish line. They want to learn everything at once. They buy beads and parts indiscriminately. They try to use stringing and other materials insufficient to meet their design goals. They fail to anticipate how to finish off the clasp assembly. Their choices of colors often less than appealing. They don’t have the right tools. They purchase every book they can find. They take classes and view video tutorials on anything that interests them or catches their eye, no matter what the skill levels involved. They want to create those perfect, elaborate pieces Now. Not later. Now.

Beading and jewelry making are not things to rush into, however. These are not things to learn haphazardly. Not everything is something you can easily pick up without having someone else show you.

This is a hobby and avocation that requires you to know a lot of things. You need to know a lot about materials. You need to know a lot about quality issues underlying these materials, and what happens to these materials over time. You need to be mechanical and comfortable using tools to construct things. You need to learn many basic techniques. You need to understand physical mechanics and what happens to all these materials and pieces, when jewelry is worn. You need to be familiar with art theories and design theories and their applications. You must be aware of some architectural basics and physical mechanics which inform you how things keep their shape and how things move, drape and flow. You need to understand people, their psychology, the dynamics of the groups they find themselves in, and their cultural rules which get them through the day.

There is so much to learn, that you can’t learn it all at once. And there is so much to bring to bear, when making a piece of jewelry, that it is difficult to access all this information, if you haven’t learned how everything is interrelated and interdependent.

It’s important to learn in an organized, developmental way. You want to be always asking how things are interrelated. What depends on what? You want to pose what-if questions so that you can train yourself to anticipate the implications and consequences of making one choice over another. What happens If? What happens When? What enhances? What impedes? Why synergizes? What can be leveraged, and toward what objective? You want to reflect on your outcomes.

Towards this end, you learn a core set of integrated and inter-dependent skills. Then learn another set of integrated and inter-dependent skills, perhaps at a slightly higher skill level, and how these link back to the core. Then learn yet another set of skills, again, increasing the skill level, how they link back to the first set, and then link back to the core. And so forth. Only in this way will you begin to know if you are learning the right way, and learning the right things.

There Are Many Ways To Learn

People apply different learning styles, when developing their beading and jewelry-making knowledge, skills and understandings. Each has pros and cons. Different people come to learn with different strategies or combinations of strategies. These learning styles and strategies include:

(1) Rote Memory

(2) Analogously

(3) Contradictions

(4) Assimilation

(5) Constructing Meanings

Most people learn by Rote Memory. They follow a set of steps, and they end up with something. They memorize all the steps. In this approach, all the choices have been made for them. So they never get a chance to learn the implications of their choices. Why one bead over another? Why one stringing material over another? How would you use the same technique in a different situation? You pick up a lot of techniques, but not necessarily many skills.

Other people learn Analogously. They have experiences with other crafts, such as sewing or knitting or other craft, and they draw analogies. Such and Such is similar to Whatnot, so I do Whatnot the same way I do Such and Such. This can work to a point. However, beading and jewelry making can often be much more involved, requiring making many more types of choices, than in other crafts. And there are still the issues of understanding the quality of the pieces you use, and what happens to them, both when jewelry is worn, as well as when jewelry is worn over time.

Yet another way people learn is through Contradictions. They see cheap jewelry and expensive jewelry, and analyze the differences. They see jewelry people are happy with, and jewelry people are not happy with, and analyze the differences. They see fashion jewelry looked down upon by artists, and art jewelry looked down upon by fashionistas, and they analyze the differences.

Assimilation is a learning approach that combines Analogous Learning and Learning Through Contradictions. People pursue more than one craft, keeping one foot in one arena, and another foot in the other. They teach themselves by analogy and contradiction. This assumes that multiple media and multiple techniques mix, and mix easily. Often, however, this is not true. Philosophies of design and technique differ. That means, the thinking about how a media and technique assert needs for shape and drape will have a different basis, not necessarily compatible. Usually one medium (or technique) has to predominate for any one project to be successful. So assimilative learning can lead to confusion and poor products, trying to meet the special concerns and structures of each craft simultaneously. It is challenging to mix media and/or techniques. Often the fundamentals of each particular craft need to be learned and understood in and of themselves.

The last approach to learning a craft is called Constructing Meanings. In this approach, you learn groups of things, and how to apply an active or thematic label to that grouping. For example, you might learn about beading threads, such as Nymo, C-Lon and FireLine, and, at the same time, learn to evaluate each one’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of Managing Thread Tension or allowing movement, drape and flow. You might learn about crystal beads, Czech glass beads, and lampwork beads, and then, again concurrently and in comparison, learn the pros and cons of each, in terms of achieving good color blending strategies. You might learn peyote stitch and Ndebele stitch, and how to combine them within the same project.

In reality, you learn a little in each of these different learning styles and strategies. The Constructing Meanings approach, what is often referred to as the Art & Design Tradition, usually is associated with more successful and satisfying learning. This approach provides you with the tools for making sense of a whole lot of information — all the information you need to bring to bear to make a successful piece of jewelry, one that is both aesthetically pleasing and optimally functioning.

The Types of Things You Need To Learn

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.

Lots to know. One mistake most people make is that they learn everything randomly. Some things on their own. Some from books. Some from friends. In no special order. Without any plan.

And because there are so many things that you need to bring to bear, when creating a piece of jewelry, that it is difficult to see how everything links up. How everything is inter-related and mutually dependent. And how to make the best, most strategic and most satisfying series of inter-related choices.

And this is the essence of this series of articles — 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 are mutually inter-dependent. And you’ll learn how to make better choices — fluent, flexible and original.

Progress in our education program is conceptualized in this Learning Rubric we use, and might provide you with a way to steer your learning process:

On My Own, Through Books and Video Tutorials, Or Through Classes?

I always tell people it is easier to start by having someone show you what to do, either with a friend, or in a class, than trying to teach yourself out of a book or video tutorial. Books and videos are good at teaching you basic mechanics. But they are poor in teaching you the artistry and design skills you will need as a jewelry artist and designer. After working with a person, then go back to the books and online tutorials. You’ll get more out of them this way.

Particularly important to learn, and what you pick up best from another human being, include:

– how to hold the piece while working it
 — how to manage when you need to have firmer tension, and when you need to relax your tension, as you hold the piece
 — what about the technique allows your project to maintain its shape, and what about the technique allows your project to move, drape and flow
 — how to attach a clasp assembly or otherwise finish off your project

— what materials are most suited to the project, and which are not
 — whether this, or another technique, is best suited to the project goals
 — how to prepare your materials, if necessary, before you use them
 — which tools you should be using, and how to hold them and use them
 — how to size things
 — how to read instructions, diagrams, and figures

Try to learn things in a developmental order. Start with beginner projects, graduate to advanced beginner and intermediate, then finally, to advanced. Take your time. Don’t rush to the finish line. You will learn more and be a better designer for it.

Reading Patterns and Instructions

Infuriating! That’s how many people, beginners and advanced alike, feel when they try to understand patterns and instructions.

Know up-front that most diagrams and figures are poorly drawn, and most instructions are poorly written. The instructors who write these often leave out critical steps — especially for new beaders and jewelry makers who are unfamiliar with many of the things these instructors assume that you know. Most often, they leave out critical information showing you the pathway, and how to negotiate that pathway, from where you are to where you are going next. It’s obvious to the instructor. But not so obvious to you.

In patterns, this “where-am-I, where-am-I-going-next” information is frequently unclear or omitted. You did Step 1 OK. You understand what Step 2 is about. But you don’t know how to get from Step 1 to Step 2. Othertimes, the patterns are overly complex, often, in the editorial interest of reducing the number of printed pages. Instead of showing a separate pattern or diagram for each step, the editors frequently try to show you three, four, five or more steps in the same diagram. So you have a bird’s nest of lines, and a spider-web’s road map — and you’re nowhere.

I tell people, that you need to re-write the instructions and re-draw the patterns or diagrams in a way you personally understand. This is very helpful.

Self Esteem — Making Choices

Crafts enhance people’s self esteem. This is good.

You make a piece of jewelry. People like it, and express this to you.

However, sometimes people let the craft substitute for their personal identities. Friends and family praise the jewelry, thus praise the jewelry maker. It’s nice to have your ego stroked. But you need to remember that there is more to you than the pieces you have made.

And you don’t want to put yourself into a tightly bounded box, where you shy away from risks. You don’t want to find yourself making the same piece over and over again, afraid to try something else, should someone not like it. You also don’t want to find yourself making kit after kit after kit, without any personalizing of someone else’s creativity, or better yet, without venturing off to create your own patterns and ideas.

The primary source of “self-esteem” should come from within you. Not external to you. When someone says they don’t like your design, or they don’t like your choice of colors, they are not saying they don’t like you. They like you, or they wouldn’t express an honest opinion about your work.

The true Artist and Designer come from this inner place. They are able to bring their integral sense of self-esteem, a part of their very being, to the fore, when designing and constructing a piece of jewelry as art.

Their choices are informed by a sense of self. And that sense of self is self-validated within each piece of jewelry they create. No matter what anyone else thinks — good, bad or indifferent.

Selling vs. Keeping
 It is so difficult to part with pieces you have made. There is a natural attraction. You have poured time, money, and effort towards completing them. You put off other things you could have done, in order to finish them.

I remember submitting an entry to a Swarovski Create Your Own Style contest. First, all I had to send was a picture and a write-up. This was exciting — the anticipation of winning, connecting on some level to Swarovski — like connecting to a celebrity.

And I waited and waited to hear from them. And I did. One day an email popped up on my computer, indicating that I had made the semi-finals. The next step was to send in the actual piece.

My initial elation soon deteriorated into a type of grief. I had spent over 150 hours and over $1500.00 creating this piece. I did not want to let it go. Once sent, Swarovski kept them. I knew I wouldn’t get it back.

Although I could have wrapped and packaged my piece in a part of a day, it took me a week. I’d wrap and unwrap. Put it in one display box, then decide that wasn’t good enough. Another display box, and didn’t like how it sat in the box. Some reconfiguring the positioning, and then I had to close the box. Wanted to see it one more time, then closed the lid again.

I put the display box into the shipping box, but couldn’t seal it up. I left the shipping box open and sitting on a table in my studio. Had to see the piece several more times.

Then, I didn’t like the way the display box sat in the shipping box. Changed shipping boxes. Tried setting the display box several different ways.

Finally closed the shipping box. Labeled it clearly. Ran the shipping on UPS. Felt I needed more documentation and insurance, should the box get lost.

Took a deep breath. Drove the box to the UPS office. Dropped it off.

And felt like I had lost my best friend. I was scared. Empty. Totally disconnected from the excitement of getting selected as a semi-finalist by Swarovski.

Finding Compatriots

While you bead and make jewelry alone a good part of the time, it’s no fun to always bead and make jewelry alone. It’s good to become part of a support network — even build your own.

Some people form informal beading groups and hold meetings once or twice a week at their homes. Others join more formal local bead societies and clubs and collaborations. People take classes and workshops. They find like-minded people in social networks and forums and message groups online, and share images and stories with them.

You will also find compatriots by attending bead and jewelry shows. Some are local. Some are geared to a national audience, like a convention.

There are national societies and guilds for jewelry and beading, which you can join. You can find these listed online.

You learn a lot from compatriots. Everyone does things just a little differently. Everyone’s interests take you places you never thought of before.



(1) Olga Khazan, Find Your Passion’ Is Awful Advice, The Atlantic, 7/12/18
 As referenced in:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/07/find-your-passion-is-terrible-advice/564932/ 7/12/18

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Design Philosophy: Not Craft, Not Art, But Design

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

Creativity: How Do You Get It? How Do You Enhance It?

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form, Theme: Creating Something Out Of Nothing

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

Contemporary Jewelry Is Not A “Look” — It’s A Way Of Thinking

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: