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Posted by learntobead on August 16, 2020


Image by Feld, 2020

In order to make better artistic and design choices, the Fluent and Empowered Designer should have answers to 5 essential questions. In this article, I present the third essential question: What Materials (and/or Techniques) Work The Best?

Ferity was determined to make a Kumihimo bracelet. Kumihimo is a braiding technique. You make a braid and attach a clasp. Ferity thought it would be cool to incorporate some beads in her braid. So she strung up a lot of beads on various cords, and braided them. She glued on end caps on either side, and attached a clasp.

But she wasn’t liking her piece. She couldn’t figure out why. All the different colors, widths and materials of the cords she used were very upscale and attractive. She used a mix of crystal, gemstone and hand-made beads in the project — all very expensive and all very attractive.

But braided all together was somewhat unsatisfying. She didn’t think she would wear it very often. She didn’t think she could sell it. And she couldn’t figure out why.

A successful design has character and some kind of evocative essence. The choice of materials often sets the tone. And a choice of techniques cements that tone in place. Techniques link the designer’s intent with the client’s expectations. The successful designer has a depth of knowledge about materials, their attributes, their strengths, their weaknesses, and is able to leverage the good and minimize the bad within any design. The same can be said of techniques.

For some designs, the incorporation of mixed media or mixed techniques can have a synergistic effect — increasing (or decreasing) the appeal and/or functionality of the piece or project better than any one media or technique alone. It can feel more playful and experimental and fun to mix media or techniques. But there may be adverse effects, as well. Each media or technique will have its own structural and support requirements. Each will enable the control of light and shadow, space and mass, dimension and movement in different ways. Each will react differently to various physical forces impacting the piece when worn or the project when used. So it becomes difficult for the designer to successfully utilize any one medium or technique, as well as much more difficult to coordinate and integrate more than one media or technique.

Ferity had little understanding about the materials and their combined use within a Kumihimo technique. All designers need a firm and comprehensive understanding about selecting materials and techniques, and should be able to answer these 5 essential questions, now with question 3: What Materials (and/or Techniques) Work The Best?

QUESTION 3: What kinds of MATERIALS work well together, and which ones do not? This applies to TECHNIQUES as well. What kinds of TECHNIQUES (or combinations of techniques) work well when, and which ones do not?

The choice of materials and the choice of techniques set the tone and chances of success for your piece. Materials and techniques establish the character and personality of your designs. They contribute to understandings whether the piece is finished and successful.

However, there are no perfect materials (or techniques) for every project. Selecting materials (or techniques) is about making smart, strategic choices. This means relating your choices to your design and marketing goals. It also frequently means having to make tradeoffs and judgment calls between aesthetics and functionality. Last, materials may have different relationships with the designer, wearer or viewer depending on how they are intended to be used, and the situational or cultural contexts.

There are many implications of choice. There are light/shadow issues, pattern, texture, rhythm, dimensionality, proportions, placement and color issues. There are mechanics, shapes, forms, durability, drape, flow and movement issues. There are positive and negative space issues. There are user experience issues.

It is important to know what happens to all these materials (or applications of techniques) over time. It is important to know how each material (or technique) enhances or impedes architectural requirements, such as allowing an object to move and drape, or assisting the object in maintaining a shape or allowing a project to adapt to its audience and environment, or utilizing an object to direct navigation or viewing.

Each material or technique has strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, and contingencies affecting their utilization. The designer needs to be able to leverage the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.

All of these choices:
… affect the look
 … affect the movement
 … affect the feel
 … affect the durability
 … affect both the designer’s and user’s responses
 … relate to the context

Many people begin to explore design as a hobby, avocation, business or career. This requires, not only strong creativity skills, but also persistence and perseverance. A lot of the success in this pursuit comes down to an ability to make and follow through on many artistic and design decisions within a particular context or situation. Developing this ability — a fluency, flexibility and originality in design — means that the designer has to become empowered to answer these 5 essential questions: (1) whether creating something is a craft, an art or design, (2) how they think creatively, (3) how they leverage the strengths of various materials and techniques, and minimize weaknesses, (4) how the choices they make in any one design evoke emotions and resonate, and (5) how they know their piece is finished and successful.

Design is more than the application of a set of techniques. It is a mind-set. This fluency and empowerment enable the designer to think and speak like a designer. With fluency comes empowerment, confidence and success.

Continue reading about the Fourth Essential Question every designer should be able to answer: How Do I Evoke A Resonant Response To My Work?

The 5 Essential Questions:
1. Is What I Am Doing Craft, Art or Design?
2. What Should I Create?
3. What Materials (And Techniques) Work The Best?
4. How Do I Evoke A Resonant Response To My Work?
5. How Do I Know My Piece Is Finished?

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Backward Design is Forward Thinking

How Creatives Can Successfully Survive In Business

Part I: The First Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: Is What I do Craft, Art or Design?

Part 2: The Second Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: What Should I Create?

Part 3: The Third Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: What Materials (and Techniques) Work Best?

Part 4: The Fourth Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: How Do I Evoke A Resonant Response To My Work?

Part 5: The Firth Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: How Do I Know My Design Is Finished?

Doubt / Self-Doubt: 8 Pitfalls Designers Fall Into…And What To Do About Them

Part 1: Your Passion For Design: Is It Necessary To Have A Passion?

Part 2: Your Passion For Design: Do You Have To Be Passionate To Be Creative?

Part 3: Your Passion For Design: How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?



Part 3: SHARED UNDERSTANDINGS: THE CONVERSATION CENTERED WITHIN A DESIGN How Assumptions, Perceptions, Expectations and Values Come Into Play?


Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

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. Check our my video tutorials on DOING CRAFT SHOWS and on PRICING AND SELLING YOUR JEWELRY.

Add your name to my email list.



Feld, Warren. Materials: Knowing What To Know. Art Jewelry Forum, 2020.

Feld, Warren. Techniques and Technology: Knowing What To Do. Art 
 Jewelry Forum, 2020.

WASTIELS, Lisa and WOUTERS, Ina. Material Considerations in Architectural 
 Design: A Study of the Aspects Identified by Architects for Selecting Materials. July, 2008. As referenced in:

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