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So You Want To Become a Jewelry Designer… Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Posted by learntobead on April 20, 2020

Jayden Jones at work in her studio

Why are you, or why do you, want to become, a jewelry artist? What drives you? How do you channel your excitement? Is it something to do with what type of person you are? How you view the world? How you want to fill your time? It turns out there are many types of people who become jewelry designers. Although they may have different aspirations and ambitions underlying their excitement about jewelry design, they find common ground and a common way of thinking about making and designing jewelry. But because jewelry design has not yet become a full-fledged, recognizable discipline all its own, it sometimes becomes difficult to get clarity on how to channel your excitement into an avocation or career. Your support group is often made up of a polyglot of crafters and artists, some who do not fully understand jewelry making and design. Advice can be diffuse. Clients have difficulty evaluating the value of your work, frequently expressing misunderstandings about what is good. This can lead to self-doubt, which better designers learn to manage and overcome.

What drives you to pursue your passion for jewelry?

“Why Are You A Jewelry Artist?”

As if you had a choice…

It often is difficult for others to understand why you consider yourself a jewelry artist. How did this come to be? How did you get started? Were you always artistic? Is your family crafty? How did you learn these things? Why jewelry? Why do you get so excited about all this? Do you want to make a living out of it? Can you really sell things?

They don’t really feel these things like you do. They don’t feel this pulsing heart, this urge to create, and this passion to make jewelry. When you get started making jewelry, it’s hard to stop. It becomes ingrained in you. What may have begun as a hobby evolves into something you cannot live without. Applying your creative self becomes habit, almost addicting, often relaxing and self-affirming … and painful to do without.

As a jewelry artist, you have a purpose in life. It is something you do because you must do it. It is what helps you function in life. You make new amazing pieces, share these, and make some more new amazing pieces. You have those little conversations with yourself about the various choices you are making, when designing a piece of jewelry, and this can be therapeutic, informative, reaffirming. And, you are ever in search of developing those insightful, smart strategies for merging voice with form, aesthetics with function, your intent with the desires of others.

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, and how do you apply it? What are all the things which have to come together to recognize that creative spark when it hits you in your heart, gut 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, exhibiter, collector, 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? How do you know you have mastered the necessary disciplinary literacy — fluency, flexibility, originality? And what are your responsibilities and obligations, once you get there?

Surviving and thriving as a jewelry designer requires an understanding of the way things work and how you will fit into all this — making, presenting, selling, reflecting and critiquing.

Not Just One Type Of Person

There is not just one type of person who becomes a jewelry designer. There are many, many types of people who find jewelry design a common passion. They may have different ambitions. They may prefer to use different techniques and materials. They may have different levels of financial success. They may have different compulsions for creating jewelry. But the excitement is there for each of them.

We can differentiate people who become jewelry designers by their aspirations (1 Neuendorf, 2016) — why they became jewelry designers. Some jewelry designers fit one type of aspiration; others, more than one. But the contour of their lives brings them to similar places within jewelry and its design.

There are 5 basic types of Creatives:
 o Social Interactants
 o Compulsive Creators
 o Lifestyle of Freedom Seekers
 o Financial Success Achievers
 o Happenstance and Chance

Social Interactants

This type of Creative often seeks out other creatives and forms a social network. Social Interactants may be makers. They may be sellers or exhibiters or collectors. But their excitement comes, in part, by looking for ways to interact and meet and share close-knit social ties. Part of the reason is to learn new ideas. Another part is to get feedback and critique. The social group and network will offer support, advice, career and business opportunities and direction. These are people you can lean on when times get tough. There might even be some shared glamour and celebrity, depending on the artists and their group.

Social Interactants typically seek recognition for their efforts and their works. The success of any piece of jewelry depends on the judgements of the various audiences which interact with it. Social interactants allocate a good deal of their time anticipating how others will understand and react to any piece of jewelry. They spend time seeking out opportunities to display their works publicly.

Compulsive Creators

There is this innate, compulsive, don’t-fight-it desire that some jewelry designers have for creating jewelry. This is the Compulsive Creator. Applying creative thinking is at the core of their excitement. Composing, constructing and manipulating design elements is intrinsically rewarding. There is a strong, profound commitment to jewelry design, and this directed energy is often associated with productivity and success.

Compulsive Creators love what they do. It allows them to think creatively. They allocate a lot of their time towards achieving a high level of quality and sophistication.

Lifestyle of Freedom Seekers

These Freedom Seeker designers like to set their own pace, establish their own routines, work when the spirit moves them. A regular 9 to 5 job is not for them. They like to make their own rules and be self-directed. Any financial insecurity and uncertainty that comes with this is worth the price to pay for a lifestyle of freedom.

Excitement equals freedom and the strategies for incorporating whatever comes. These designers believe that this freedom allows them to experience the world around them in a greater depth and to a greater degree. In turn, they have more understandings for how to find and then turn inspirations into finished jewelry designs.

Financial Success Achievers

Financially Successful jewelry designers can do quite well for themselves, but it takes a lot of drive, organization and business and marketing sense. Jewelry design can be a lucrative career with such determination, gaining visibility, and a little bit of being in the right place at the right time. Accumulating money or wealth is a big part of the excitement.

Some designers seek to make jewelry design a self-supporting career. However, many designers primarily look for money to supplement their income or retirement. Some look to make enough money to pay for their supplies.

Sometimes, designers make jewelry to seek wealth, rather than income. They accumulate many pieces of jewelry and many unusual supplies and components to achieve wealth as success.

Financial Success Achievers typically try to create a business around their jewelry.

Happenstance and Chance

Not everyone who becomes a jewelry designer aspired to be one. Sometimes people fall into it. They need a piece of jewelry to match an outfit and decide to make something themselves, then get hooked. They watch someone make jewelry, then get intrigued. They try to repair a broken piece of jewelry by themselves. They accompany a friend to a jewelry making class, then want to try it out. Their excitement evolves over time.

A Myriad of Aspirations and Ambitions

Aspirations and ambitions vary. There is no best way or right way. It becomes a matter of the designer finding that balance of design, self, and other-life which works for them, and drives their passion.

Jewelry designers are motivated to become designers for many different reasons. But motivations are only a start at channeling one’s excitement. These make up only a small part of what it truly takes to be a successful designer. Designers need to develop skills and techniques, creative thinking, design process management, and disciplinary literacy, to continue on their pathway to success.

 Your Getting Started Story

When did you first realize you had a passion for designing jewelry?

[While you are thinking about this, now is a good time to get out your pen and paper and jot down some thoughts.]

Everyone has a “Getting Started” story. This is a story you tell over and over again. In it, you express your wonderment and passion. You talk about your excitement, and how you decided to channel it. You go over the steps you went through to discover what it is that drives you to create. You recall who influenced you, when and why. You remember different pathways and crossroads, where you decided to pursue your interests in one direction or another. You reflect on your expectations before you got started, and how these evolved or changed as you began to make and design jewelry.

Sometimes your story 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. Othertimes, it may begin by taking a class, or deciding to make a special pair of earrings to match a particular outfit. Or thinking you want to make a piece of jewelry you saw someone wearing on TV or in a photospread in some magazine.

Your Getting Started story is a measure of what you have discovered, and what you need to discover still. It is a foil against which to measure your successes, and some not-so-successful things. It represents your insight and foresight when making both personal development and jewelry design choices.

And, it is very important to be cognizant and aware of how your Getting Started story follows you throughout your career in your marketing and exhibiting. It is part of your business name, your brochures, your advertising. It is part of your description, your elevator pitch, your tag line. It underlies how you talk about yourself and your jewelry. It becomes one of the major ways other people get to know you, get interested in you, and want to wear or display things made by you. You will always need to have a Getting Started story, and you will always come to rely on this story to further your literacy development in design, as well as your creative and business ambitions.

Better designers are very metacognitive of what they do. That is, they are very aware of all the choices they’ve made, and their implications and consequences. This means reflection. It means evaluation. It means critiquing.

Writing your Getting Started story is a necessary, early first step towards developing your metacognitive abilities as a designer.

Doubt / Self-doubt

For the novice, all that excitement at the beginning, when thinking about making jewelry and making some pieces, sometimes collides with a wall of developing self-doubt. It’s not easy to quiet a doubt.

The jewelry artist organizes their life around an inspiration. There is some fuzziness here. That inspiration has some elements of ideas, but not necessarily crystal clear ones. That inspiration has some elements of emotions — it makes you feel something — but not necessarily something you can put into words or images or fully explain. You then need to translate this fuzzy inspiration into materials, into techniques, into color, into arrangements, into a coherent whole.

You start to make something, but realize you don’t know how to do it. But you want to do it, and do it now. However, to pick up the needed skills, you realize you can’t learn things all at once. You can’t do everything you want to do all at once. That initial excitement often hits a wall. Things take time to learn. There are a lot of trial and error moments, with a lot of errors. Pieces break. Combining colors and other design elements feels very awkward. Silhouettes are confusing. You might get the right shape for your piece, but it is difficult to get the right movement, drape and flow, without compromising that shape.

To add to this stress and strain, you need to show your jewelry off. You might want someone to like it. To want it. To need it. To buy it. To wear it. To wear it more than once. To wear it often. To exhibit it. To collect it. And how will all these other people recognize your creative spark, and your abilities to translate that spark into a wonderful, beautiful, functional piece of jewelry, appropriate for the wearer and appropriate for the situation?

Frequently, because of all this, the artist experiences some sense of doubt and self-doubt. Some paralysis. Can’t get started. Can’t finish something. Wondering why they became a jewelry designer in the first place.

Doubt holds you back from seizing your opportunities.

It makes getting started or finishing things harder than they need to be.

It adds uncertainty.

It makes you question yourself.

It blocks your excitement, perhaps diminishing it.

While sometimes doubt and self-doubt can be useful in forcing you to think about and question your choices, it mostly holds you back.

Having doubt and self-doubt is common among all artistic types. What becomes important is how to manage and overcome it, hence, my idea of Channeling Your Excitement, so that doubts do not get in the way of your creative process and disciplinary development.

There are 8 major ways in which jewelry artists get caught beginning to fall into that abyss we call self-doubt:

1) What If I’m Not Creative Enough or Original Enough or Cannot Learn or Master or Don’t Know a Particular Technique?

2) What If No One Likes What I Make?

3) What If No One Takes Me Seriously As An Artist And Designer?

4) I Overthink Things and Am A Bit of a Perfectionist.

5) How Can I Stay Inspired?

6) Won’t People Steal My Work?

7) Being Over Confident or Under Confident

8) Role Confusion

1.What If I’m Not Creative Enough or Original Enough or Cannot Learn or Master or Don’t Know a Particular Technique?

Everyone has some creativity baked into their being. It is a matter of developing your way of thinking and doing so that you can apply it. This takes time.

So does originality. At first, you’ll try different ways of personalizing projects. There are always things you can do to bring some aspects of originality to your pieces. This might be the choice of colors, or using a special clasp, or rearranging some elements in your composition. Again, as with creativity, the ability to be more and more original will evolve over time. It is helpful to think of originality, not necessarily as coming up with something completely new, but rather as differentiation — how you differentiate yourself from other jewelry designers.

For almost everyone, you don’t begin your design career at the height of your levels of creativity and originality. Yes, if you look around you, other people are more creative and original than you or have more skills than you. Don’t let these observations be a barrier to your own development as a jewelry designer. You get there through persistence and hard work. You handle your inner critic. You may not be there, yet — the key word here is yet. But you will be.

2. What If No One Likes What I Make?

We all have fears about how our creativity and originality are going to be evaluated and judged. We project our self-doubts to the doubts we think we see and feel from others. What if no one wants to wear my pieces, or buy my works?

We can’t let these outsider reactions dictate our lives and creative selves. A key part of successful jewelry design is learning how to introduce what we do publicly. At the least, it is the core nature of the things we create that they are to be worn on the body. Jewelry is a very public thing.

Turn negative comments into positive ideas, motivators, insights, explorations. Allow yourself some give and take, some needs to step back awhile, some needs to tweak. Jewelry design and jewelry making are iterative processes. They in no way are linear. Your outcomes and their success are more evolutionary, than guaranteed.

Distressing about what others may think of your work can be very damaging to your self-esteem. It can amplify your worries. Don’t go there.

Don’t become your worst critic.

3. What If No One Takes Me Seriously As An Artist And Designer?

Jewelry design is an occupation in search of a profession. You will find that a lot of people won’t recognize your passion and commitment. They may think anyone can design jewelry. They may think of jewelry making as a craft or some subset of art, not as something unique and important in and of itself. They may wonder how you can make a living at this.

The bottom line: if you don’t take yourself seriously as a jewelry designer, no one else will.

People will take you seriously as they see all the steps you are taking to master your craft and develop yourself as a professional.

4. I Over Think Things And Am A Bit Of A Perfectionist

Some designers let a sense that their work is not as good as imagined get in the way. They never finish anything. They let doubt eat away at them.

Perfectionism is the enemy of the good. It’s great to be meticulous, but emotionally, we get wrecked when anything goes astray, or any little thing is missing, or you don’t have that exact color or part you originally wanted.

Go ahead and plan. Planning is good. It’s insightful. It can be strategic. But also be sure to be adaptable and realistic. Each piece is a stepping stone to something that will come next.

The better jewelry designer develops a Designer’s Toolbox — a collection of fix-it strategies to deal with the unfamiliar or the problematic.

Overthinking can be very detrimental. You can’t keep changing your mind, trying out every option, thinking that somewhere, someplace there exists a better option. Make a choice and get on with it. You can tweak things later.

Yes, attention to detail is important. But so is the value of your time. You do not want to waste too much time on trivial details.

Be aware when you begin over-analyzing things. Stop, take a breath, make a decision, and move on.

5. How Can I Stay Inspired?

Designing a piece of jewelry takes time, sometimes a long time. That initial inspirational spark might feel like it’s a dying ember.

Don’t let that happen.

Translate that inspiration into images, colors, words, sample designs, and surround your work space with these.

Talk about your inspiration in detail with family and friends.

6. Won’t People Steal My Work?

Many jewelry designers fear that if they show their work publicly, people will steal their ideas. So they stop designing.

Yet jewelry design is a very communicative process which requires introducing your work publicly. If you are not doing this, then you are creating simple sculptures, not jewelry.

Yes, other people may copy your work. See this source of doubt as an excuse. It is a self-imposed, but unnecessary, barrier we might impose to prevent us from experiencing that excitement as a jewelry designer. Other people will never be able to copy your design prowess — how you translate inspiration into a finished piece. That is unique and special to you, and why the general public responds positively to you and your work.

7. Over Confidence can blind you to the things you need to be doing and learning, and Under Confidence can hinder your development as a designer.

Too often, we allow under confidence to deter us from the jewelry design and making tasks at hand. We always question our lack of ability and technical prowess for accomplishing the necessary tasks at hand. It is important, however, to believe in yourself. To believe that you can work things out when confronted with unfamiliar or problematic situations. It is important to develop your skills for thinking like a designer. Fluency. Flexibility. Originality. There is a vocabulary to learn. Techniques to learn. Strategies to learn. These develop over time with practice and experience. You need to believe in your abilities to develop as a designer over time.

With over confidence comes a naivete. You close off the wisdom to listen to what others have to say or offer. You stunt your development as an artist. You overlook important factors about materials and techniques to the detriment of your final designs and products. You close yourself off to doubt and self-doubt, which is unfortunate. Doubt and self-doubt are tools for asking questions and questioning things. These help you grow and develop as an artist and designer. These influence your ability to make good, professional choices in your career.

8. Role Confusion

Jewelry artists play many roles and wear different hats. Each has its own set of opportunities, requirements, and pressures that the artist must cope with. It’s a balancing act extraordinaire.

First, people who make jewelry wear different hats: Artist and Designer, Manufacturer, Distributor, Retailer, and Exhibitor.

Second, people who make jewelry have different needs: Artistic Excellence, Recognition, Monetary Gain, or Financial Stability.

Third, the artist needs to please and satisfy themselves, as well as other various clients.

Fourth, the artist constructs pieces which need to function in different settings: Situational, Cultural, Sociological, Psychological.

Last, the artist must negotiate a betwixt and between situation — a rite of passage — as they relinquish control over the piece and its underlying inspirations to the wearer and the viewer, who have their own needs, desires and expectations.

This gets confusing. It affects how you pick materials and supplies. Which techniques you use. What marketing strategies you employ. How you value and price things. And the list goes on.

It is important to be aware (metacognitive) of what role(s) you play when, and why. Given the role, it is important to understand the types of choices you need to make, when constructing a piece of jewelry. It is critical to understand the tradeoffs you will invariably end up making, and their consequences for the aesthetic, emotional and functional success of your pieces.

Some Advice

While doubt and self-doubt can hinder our development as jewelry designers, some degree of these may be helpful, as well.

To develop yourself as a jewelry designer, and to continue to grow and expand in your profession, you must have a balanced amount of both doubt and self-doubt. Uncertainty leads to questioning. A search for knowledge. Some acceptance of trial and error and experimentation. A yearning for more reliable information and feedback.

Jewelry design uses a great deal of emotion as a Way of Knowing. Emotions cloud or distort how we perceive things. They may lead to more doubt and worry and lack of confidence. But they also enhance our excitement when translating inspirations into designs.

· Don’t let your inner doubts spin out of control. Be aware and suppress them.

· Be real with yourself and your abilities.

· Keep a journal. Detail what your doubts are and the things you are doing to overcome them.

· Create a developmental plan for yourself. Identify the knowledge, skills and understandings you want to develop and grow into.

· Remember what happened in the past the last time doubt got in your way. Remember what you did to overcome this doubt. Remember that probably nothing negative actually happened.

· Talk to people. These can be friends, relatives and colleagues. Don’t keep

doubts unto yourself.

· Don’t compare yourself to others. This is a trap. Self-reflect and self-evaluate you on your own terms.

· Worrying about what others think? The truth is that people don’t really care that much about what you do or not do.

· Don’t beat yourself up.

· Get re-inspired. This might mean surrounding yourself with images and photos of things. It might mean a walk in nature. It might me letting someone else’s excitement flow over to you.

· Take breaks.

· See setbacks as temporary.

· Celebrate small steps.

· Keep developing your skills.

· Set goals for yourself.

Surviving As A Jewelry Designer

Designers focus their attention inward, looking, listening, sensing and searching themselves at length, only later to redirect their findings outward, creating jewelry to be displayed publicly or worn by others or sold. Doing this well often requires having several coping strategies.

Designers have to bridge the gap between inspiration and execution. This requires a lot of thought, understanding and skill.

Having both right- (creative) and left- (administrative) brain skills is a good place to be.

Don’t let the craft substitute for your personal identity. It’s always great to get compliments on what you make. This bolsters your self-esteem. But you should have good self-esteem based on who you are as a person, not on the pieces of jewelry you make. Self-esteem should come from within you, not external to you. Related to all this is that you do not want to take negative comments about your work personally. Evaluate and use the feedback objectively.

Take risks. Play. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new colors, new arrangements, new techniques, or place yourself in new settings with new people. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t get stuck in a rut making the same things over and over again. You may find yourself not growing as an artist and as a person.

As best as you can, avoid comparing yourself to others.

Learn to recognize when enough is enough. You can’t be all things to all people for all designs for all situations for all contingencies. You need to set some limits and boundaries for yourself so you don’t get too frustrated or burnt out. You will never have enough parts or enough time or enough creative energy to make everything people ask you to make.

Successful artists are able to define what “success” means to them. They don’t get caught up with what other people might define as “success”.

Successful artists typically dedicate a specific time and place for creating. They develop a routine. They don’t work all hours of the day, or in a disorganized environment.

Create a consistent, coherent body of design work. Encapsulate this in a PORTFOLIO, Artist Resume, and Artist Statement.

Keep some kind of journal documenting your thoughts, design ideas, problems and solutions. This can be something very formal, or something loosely organized.

Usually, if you want to make a living at jewelry design, you’ll need a multi-method, multi-venue approach.

Merging Voice and Inspiration With Form

Jewelry design is an ongoing process of finding how to merge your artistic voice and inspiration with form. As you become more fluent and comfortable with all the vocabulary and materials and techniques, you take on more and more challenges.

Jewelry design is a conversation. It is a quiet conversation between what you come to feel and understand as inspiration, and what logical options you might bring to bear on translating that inspiration into a design. It is a conversation between you the designer and someone else as the wearer. It might also be a conversation between you the maker with someone else as the viewer, buyer, seller, exhibiter or collector.

The conversation is never done. It is a dialog. It is a back-and-forth process of refining, questioning and translating your feelings, impressions, ideas, influences into a visual grammar, forms and arrangements, and content, intent and meanings. Everything comes into play, and everything matters.

Some of the conversation is inward, and some of the conversation is very interactional. Part of the conversation focuses on generating a lot of possibilities. Another part concentrates on narrowing down those possibilities. During all this iteration, your artistic voice gets closer and closer to merging with that final jewelry form.

As your fluency in jewelry design grows, you find that all this conversation and all divergence and convergence of ideas and feelings and choices, gets reflected and sensed within your jewelry designs. This is how you develop and channel your excitement and passion.

This is how your jewelry begins to resonate.



(1) Henri Neuendorf, A Young Artist’s Brief Guide to Art World 
Art World, November 18, 2016
 As referenced: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/4-motivations-that-make- 
 (2) Drew Kimble, Five Fears That Can Destroy An Artist, Skinny Artist, 
 As referenced: https://skinnyartist.com/5-fears-that-can-destroy-an-artist/

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.

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