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Archive for March 9th, 2023

HOW TO BEAD A ROGUE ELEPHANT The Musings Of A Jewelry Designer: Creating

Posted by learntobead on March 9, 2023

Create, Create, Create

In the beginning, and you know how it goes, created the heavens and the earth. Create. In the first section of Genesis, the word create gets used over and over and over again, as if, not only to emphasize its importance, but to marvel at the concept. A beautiful universe is created. Humankind is created. Animals are created. There’s a flood and a re-creation. Create, create, create.

There are two Hebrew words used in Genesis which hold the idea of create within them: bara, meaning to create, and asah, meaning to make or do. They are used interchangeably. Sometimes reserved to represent God and supernatural powers. Other times to represent the impacts of people creating things and what happens over time. The meaning of one word is not more important than the meaning of the other.

And I think those folks who compiled the various stories into the Bible tried to interrelate the idea of a God with the power to create with the idea of humans having the power to create. Create, create, create. As if they kept writing and writing and writing in an attempt to clarify and come to grips with for themselves what the awesome power of creation was inside themselves, and how to use that power. There is a freedom to be your authentic self, and that was celebrated.

And this is what I spoke about in the first sermon I gave as the unofficial, untrained, never-seeking-to-be, rabbi in Oxford, Mississippi.

The Jewish congregation in Oxford varied between 20 and 40 individuals over the 5 years I was there. Some were Jewish and some only interested in Judaism. Did not matter. Vinnie and Ralph had a beautiful home there, and converted part of their home to a sanctuary. Temples in Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi lent the temple a torah and several other religious items, and a collection of prayer books. The person who was serving as rabbi was a professor who was about to move away the year I came to Oxford. I spoke Hebrew and that was my only qualification. I become the rabbi. I officiated over a wedding, a bar and bat mitzvah, and services once a month.


Kierkegaard — and I apologize for getting a little show-off-y with my reference — once described Creativity as “a passionate sense of the potential.” And I love this definition. Passion is very important. It is motivating. Creativity obviously important because it’s a way of thinking through things.

Passion and creativity can be summed up as some kind of intuitive sense made operational by bringing all your capabilities and wonderings and technical know-how to the fore. All your mechanical, imaginative and knowledge and skills grow over time, as do your abilities for creative thinking and applications. Creativity isn’t inherently natural. It is something that is developed over time as you get more and more experience designing jewelry.

You sit down, and you ask, what should I create? For most people, especially those getting started, they look for patterns and instructions in bead magazines or how-to books or websites online. They let someone else make all the creative choices for them. The singular creative choice here is picking what you want to make. And, when you’re starting, this is OK.

When you feel more comfortable with the materials and the techniques, you can begin to make additional choices. You can choose your own colors. You can make simple adaptations, such as changing out the bead, or changing the dimensions, or changing out a row, or adding a different clasp.

Eventually, however, you will want to confront the Creativity issue head on. You will want to decide that pursuing your innermost jewelry designer, no matter what pathway this takes you along, is the next thing, and right thing, to do. That means you want your jewelry and your beadwork to reflect your artistic hand. You want to develop a personal style. You want to come up with your own projects.

But applying yourself creatively is also work. It can be fun at times, but scary at others. There is an element of risk. You might not like what you end up doing. Your friends might not like it. Nor your family. Nor your client. You might not finish it. Or you might do it wrong. It always will seem easier to go with someone else’s project, already proven to be liked and tested — because it’s been published, and passed around, and done over and over again by many different people. Sometimes it seems insurmountable, after finishing one project, to decide what to do next. Exercising your creative abilities can sometimes be a bear.

But it’s important to keep pushing on. Challenging yourself. Developing yourself. Turning yourself into a bead artist or jewelry designer. And pursuing opportunities to exercise your creative talents even more, as you enter the world of design.

That describes me. I look for inspirations in the designs of other jewelry makers, in nature, in art, in tapestries, in textures and patterns which present themselves, usually in unexpected places.

Then I go through the mental gymnastics about how to translate these inspirations into a workable jewelry design. I write out a plan of action, and begin. As I incorporate changes, or reject first ideas, I document these. There is always a notepad and pen next to me as I create. When I come to an intellectual or technical fork in the road, I document this as well, and proceed, first down one leg, then back and down the other. I reflect on what works or works better, and document my thoughts.

I keep updating and improving on my original plan of action. Towards the completion of my project, I seek out the opinion of others. Is it satisfying to look at? To wear? To reconstruct following my notes? Can you see my original inspiration within my piece? To what extent does the piece reflect my style?

I Found Myself In Mississippi

I was a New Jersey boy, educated there and in Boston. My first move to the South was to North Carolina — Chapel Hill and Durham area — for my doctoral work in Public Health. Never thought I’d end up in Mississippi. Glad I did.

As I was finishing up my doctoral work in Public Health Administration, I applied for several jobs. My dream job was to work for a prominent consulting firm in Philadelphia. These people were always at the table with many government agencies to assist them developing requests for proposals. And, as a result, were at the front of the line in applying for and receiving grant funds. Most importantly, they specialized in both physical as well as social planning. I saw this as a chance to get closer to the urban development and physical planning activities I was more interested in than health care.

I got the job. Yeah! But 6 weeks later, they rescinded the offer. Reagan had just gotten elected as President. He immediately cut out many of the social and physical planning programs that this firm specialized in (and for which I had steered my training and education). This consulting firm felt it was not a good time to expand, and in fact, one year later, they closed their doors.

I thought it safest to apply for a teaching job at a university somewhere. I would wait things out. Surely, after Reagan, the next President would bring these programs back. Of course, they never came back. I decided if I was going to teach, which was not something I wanted to do at the time, I would make it into an adventure. I would locate myself in a place that I would not normally reside in. I concentrated on applying to the University of Iowa and to the University of Mississippi. Got offers from both, and I liked both, but I liked Mississippi a little better.

I lived in Mississippi for five years. I loved it!

What Is Creativity?

If you are going to become someone who makes things, then it is of the essence that you be very clear about what the concept of creativity is all about — about for yourself, about for your various audiences, about for anyone else who will critically interact with the objects you make.

We create. Invent. Discover. Imagine. Suppose. Predict. Delve into unknown or unpredictable situations and figure out fix-it strategies for resolution and to move forward. All of these are examples of creativity. We synthesize. Generate new or novel ideas. Find new arrangements of things. Seek out challenging tasks. Broaden our knowledge. Surround ourselves with interesting objects and interesting people. Again, these are examples of creativity.

Yet, creativity scares people. They are afraid they don’t have it. Or not enough of it. Or not as much as those other people, whom they think are creative, have. They don’t know how to bring it to the fore, or apply it.

But creativity shouldn’t scare you. Everyone has some creative abilities within themselves. For most people, they need to develop it. Cultivate it. Nourish it. They need to learn various tools and skills and understandings for developing it, applying it and managing it. Creativity is a process. We think, we try, we explore, we fall down and pick ourselves up again. Creativity involves work and commitment. It requires a lot of self-awareness — what we call metacognition — extremely important for all designers. It takes some knowledge, skill and understanding. It can overwhelm at times. It can be blocked at other times.

But it is nothing to be scared about. Creativity is something we want to embrace because it can bring so much self-fulfillment, as well as bring joy and fulfillment to others. Creativity is not some divine gift. It is actually the skilled application of knowledge in new and exciting ways to create something which is valued. Creativity can be acquired and honed at any age or any experience level.

For the jewelry designer, it’s all about how to think creatively. Thinking creatively involves the integration and leveraging of three different kinds of ideas — insight and inspirationestablishing value, and implementing something.

Insight. You see something out of nothing. You relate mass to space and space to mass. You begin with a negative space. Within this space, you add points, lines, planes and shapes. Forms and themes may emerge. As you add and arrange more stuff, the mass takes on meaning and content.

Value. You make connections which have meaning, purpose and value. All of a sudden there is desire. Desire hits you in the face. You express. Your expressions hit your various audiences in the face.

Implementation. You make something. You refine it. You change it. You introduce it publicly.

Every Little Mississippi Town Celebrates Creativity

Every little town and every city and every person and every business in Mississippi celebrated creativity. Fully engaged in the act of creating. In fact, they worshipped it. I worship it. I felt very connected. Liberated.

Oxford celebrates Faulkner. You go into the supermarket, and there is a Faulkner corner. Dress shop — Faulkner corner. Souvenir shop — Faulkner corner. Talk to any local native, and they can quote Faulkner, just like someone might quote the Bible. And as you travel around the state, you notice that every town has their artist-writer-musician celebrity. And they celebrate that person. They know that person’s biography intimately. Their works as if they had created them themselves. Cleveland has McCarty potters. Jackson has Eudora Welty. Indianola has B.B. King, who gave a free concert at the local high school every year, then took everyone to a local speakeasy for an after hours party. A hoot.

Edwards, Mississippi, between Jackson and Natchez, had the Mississippi Academy of Ancient Music. Tougaloo College decades ago took in a Polish communist academic refugee when no other institution would. In honor of this music professor, several people associated with the college bought an old, run down plantation home. They held chamber music concerts almost daily. In exchange for some southern hospitality, a room to sleep in and some food, musicians donated some strength and resolve to renovate and refurbish various parts of the plantation home. The Academy become a destination point for all the great musicians across America. Usually a chamber music performance every day, most of the day and some of the night. Perhaps taking a break or two to visit the black busy bee (speakeasy) down the block to imbibe, enjoy a different form of music, snooze a little, and dance.

I traveled up and down the Natchez Trace between Tupelo in the north and Natchez in the southeast. Each connected village and town showcased some craft or art or writer. Even a religious Mennonite colony showed that they too appreciate the human act of creation in honeys and cakes. In a sacred way. Not just for commercialization.

Types of Creativity

The idea of creativity gets all entangled with the idea of originality. Artists and designers can be so fickle about the idea of originality. Fickle to the point of not creating anything, for fear it would be seen as a copy of someone else’s work, perhaps someone who inspired them. Or for fear that someone would steal their ideas and designs. But originality is not a fixed idea when it comes to creativity. It is a flexible idea, contingent on the experience level of the designer.

The idea of originality can be off-putting. It doesn’t have to be. The jewelry, so creatively designed, does not have to be a totally and completely new and original design. The included design elements and arrangements do not have to be solely unique and never been done before.

Originality can be seen in making something stimulating, interesting or unusual. It can represent an incremental change which makes something better or more personal or a fresh perspective. It can be something that is a clever or unexpected rearrangement, or a great idea, insight, meaningful interpretation or emotion which shines through. It can include the design of new patterns and textures. It can accomplish connections among seemingly unrelated phenomena, and generate solutions. It can be a variation on a technique or how material gets used. It can be something that enhances the functionality or value of the piece.

Creativity in jewelry design marries that which is original to that which is functional, valued, useful, worthwhile, desired. These things are co-dependent — originality with value — if any creative project is to be seen as successful. For jewelry designers, creativity is not the sketch or computer aided drawing. It is not the inspiration. It is not the piece which never sees the light of day, because then it would represent a mere object, not jewelry.

Creativity requires implementation. And for jewelry designers, implementation is a very public enterprise.

I First Began To Paint

It was in Mississippi where I first began to paint.

I felt safe there. I had been told so many times that I had no artistic talent, or that I should concentrate on things other than art because I would not be able to make a living at it. Part of my brain told me I could not. Another part told me I could. I finally felt safe enough — I was in my early 20s — to try.

I felt the first painting I did was successful. The inspiration was a deteriorating Black Power poster stapled to a telephone pole. I painted what I saw, and embellished it a little to bring in a little more drama. I was pleased with it.

Now I wanted to see how realistically I could draw. Not something I’m great at. If I go very, very slowly, and concentrate deeply, I can draw realistically. But I’m impatient. It’s difficult for me. But I started a second piece. I created a collage of newspaper articles related to pharmacy. Then I drew, in different locations on the canvas, a pharmacist, the plant foxglove, a blood pressure cuff around a shoulder, and a glass mortar and pestle. Using oils, I painted these in. Unless you look closely, these become indistinguishable from the newsprint. Another success.

Several more paintings later, I felt positive that I had talent. But I began to get a little bored with painting. I had gotten into that doing something blue to hang above a blue couch mode. I wanted to have an impact on people. I wanted both to communicate my perspective on life, and see others responding to this. I wanted to respond to others responding to me. To get a deeper understanding of myself. To convey this deeper understanding in my art.

Painting wasn’t accomplishing that.

It didn’t move. It avoided changes in light, shadow, brightness, dimness, saturation, shading that I love so much with jewelry as it is worn.

I wasn’t passionate about painting.

What Shapes Your Creative Process?

Creative people, at least from my perspective, tend to possess a high level of energy, intuitiveness, and discipline. They are also comfortable spending a great deal of time quietly thinking and reflecting. They understand what it means to cultivate emotions, both within themselves, as well as relative to the various audiences they interact with. They are able to stay engaged with their piece for as long as it takes to bring it to completion. They fall in love with their work and their work process.

Creativity is not something that you can use up. To the contrary, the more you use your creativity, the more you have it. It is developmental, and for the better jewelry designer, development is a continual, life-long process of learning, playing, experimenting and doing.

To be creative, one must have the ability to identify new problems, rather than depending on others to define them. The designer must be good at transferring knowledge gained in one context to another in order to solve a problem or overcome something that is unknown. I call this developing a Designer Tool Box of fix-it strategies which the designer takes everywhere.

The designer is very goal-oriented and determined in his or her pursuit. But, at the same time, the jewelry designer also understands and expects that the design process is very incremental with a lot of non-linear, back-and-forth thinking and application. There is an underlying confidence and belief, however, that eventually all of this effort will lead to success.

I found I had all the necessary ingredients to become a very creative person. But I lacked context. Lacked direction. Lacked purpose. Lacked support. I was trying on lots of different contexts, but no Ta Dah’s! It was not until my late 30s, when I met my future partner Jayden, that I discovered jewelry. And it was a few years later after that, that designing and making jewelry tapped into my creative self in a way in which I found my passion. My impact. My context. My creativity. My Rogue Elephant.

How Do We Create?

It’s not what we create, but how we create!

The creative process, at its core, can be reduced to managing the interplay of two types of thinking — Convergence and Divergence. Both are necessary for thinking creatively.

Divergent thinking is defined as the ability to generate or expand upon options and alternatives, no matter the goal, situation or context.

Convergent thinking is the opposite. This is defined as the ability to narrow down all these options and alternatives.

Creativity then is questioning things. Setting things up apart from social norms, and determining whether social norms should apply. Setting things up in line with personal desires, preferences and assumptions, and determining if any of these should still make sense, given the context. Dealing and coping and understanding one’s creativity, as merely questioning and relating, questioning and categorizing, questioning and rejecting, becomes simple. Accessible. Do-able. Not so scary.

The fluent jewelry designer is able to comfortably weave back and forth between divergence and convergence, and know when the final choices are parsimonious, finished, and will be judged as resonant and successful.

Brainstorming is a great example of how creative thinking is used. We ask ourselves What If…? How about…? Could we try this or that idea…? The primary exercise here is to think of all the possibilities, then whittle these down to a small set of solutions.

Creative thinking, first, involves cultivating divergent thinking skills and exposing ourselves to the new, the different, the unknown, the unexpected. It is, in part, a learning process. Then, next, through our set of convergent thinking skills, we criticize, and meld, and synthesize, and connect ideas, and blend, and analyze, and test practicality, as we steer our thinking towards a singular, realistic, do-able solution in design.

Partly, what we always need to remember, is that this process of creative thinking in jewelry design also assists us finding that potential audience or audiences — weaver, buyer, exhibitor, collector, student, colleague — for our creative work. Jewelry is one of those special art forms which require going beyond a set of ideas, to recognizing how these ideas will be used. Jewelry is art only when it is worn. Otherwise, it is a sculptural object.

What Should I Create?

The process of jewelry making begins with the question, What Should I Create?

You want to create something which results in an emotional engagement. That means, when you or someone else interacts with your piece, they should feel some kind of connection. That connection will have some value for them. They might see something as useful. It may have meaning. Or it may speak to a personal desire. It may increase a sense of self-esteem. It may persuade someone to buy it. It may feel especially powerful or beautiful or entertaining. They may want to share it with someone else.

You want to create something that you care about. It should not be about following trends. It should be about reflecting your inner artist and designer — what you like, how you see the world, what you want to do. Love what you are making. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning out.

It is easier to create work with someone specific in mind. This is called backwards design. You anticipate how someone else would like what you do, want to wear it, buy it, and then let this influence you in your selection about materials, techniques and composition. This might be a specific person, or a type of person, such as a potential class of buyers.

Keep things simple and parsimonious. Edit your ideas. You do not want to over-do or under-do your pieces. You do not have to include everything in one piece. You can do several pieces. Showing restraint allows for better communication with your audiences. Each piece you make should not look like you are frantically trying to prove yourself. They should look like you have given a lot of thought about how others should emotionally engage with your piece.

There is always a lot of pressure to brand yourself. That means sticking with certain themes, designs or materials. But this can be a little stifling, if you want to develop your creativity. Take the time to explore new avenues of work.

You want to give yourself some time to find inspirations. A walk in nature. A visit to a museum. Involvement with a social cause. Participation in a ritual or ceremony. Studying color samples at a paint store. A dream. A sense of spirituality or other feeling. A translation of something verbal into something visual. Inspirations are all around you.

Permit Me Some Final Words

I continually am amazed that my passion honed in on the creation of jewelry. I don’t wear jewelry. I find it uncomfortable. I find it becomes a curtain and shield to who I am as a person. It’s an embellishment and I don’t want to be embellished. Yes, I am attracted to gemstones and their powerful emergent energies. But I prefer to touch them and hold them in my hand, much moreso than wearing them around my wrist or neck.

But that creative process of designing and making jewelry makes me feel so connected to other people. Fulfilling desires. Sometimes to the point of healing. This is so inherently satisfying to me. Driving me. Sustaining me for those pieces that take a very, very long time to conceptualize and make into a reality.

I also especially like taking something and making it more contemporary. More relevant to today’s expectations about what is more pleasing, more appealing, more satisfying. This means adding in more dimensionality, more movement, more tension between positive and negatives spaces, more incremental violations of color and other art theories. This means having intimate understandings of both materials and techniques, and how to leverage their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

I never learned to be creative. I become creative slowly, developmentally, over-coming criticism and complaint. It took a lot of effort to recognize that I had various choices within which to express my creative impulses. It was almost happenstance that jewelry making became my passion. I’m grateful that it did.


Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

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

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft Video Tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE.

Follow my articles on Medium.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.

Check out my Jewelry Making and Beadwork Kits.

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Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

What You Need To Know When Preparing A Portfolio

Smart Advice When Preparing Your Artist Statement

Design Debt: How Much Do You Have?

An Advertising Primer For Jewelry Designers

Selling Your Jewelry In Galleries: Some Strategic Pointers

Building Your Brand: What Every Jewelry Designer Needs To Know

Social Media Marketing For The Jewelry Designer

Often Unexpected, Always Exciting: Your First Jewelry Sale

Coming Out As A Jewelry Artist

Is Your Jewelry Fashion, Style, Taste, Art or Design?

Saying Goodbye To Your Jewelry: A Rite Of Passage

So You Want To Do Craft Shows: Lesson 7: Setting Up For Success

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Metals, Metal Beads, Oxidizing

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Stringing Materials

Shared Understandings: The Conversation Embedded Within Design

How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?

Doubt / Self-Doubt: 8 Major Pitfalls For Jewelry Designers

Essential Questions For Jewelry Designers: 1 — Is What I Do Craft, Art or Design?

The Bridesmaids’ Bracelets

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing And Using Clasps

Beads and Race

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

Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form and Theme

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Pearls Need Re-Stringing

MiniLesson: How To Crimp

MiniLesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Architectural Basics Of Jewelry Design

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?


CONQUERING THE CREATIVE MARKETPLACE: Between the Fickleness of Business and the Pursuit of Design

How dreams are made
between the fickleness of business
and the pursuit of jewelry design

This guidebook is a must-have for anyone serious about making money selling jewelry. I focus on straightforward, workable strategies for integrating business practices with the creative design process. These strategies make balancing your creative self with your productive self easier and more fluid.

Based both on the creation and development of my own jewelry design business, as well as teaching countless students over the past 35+ years about business and craft, I address what should be some of your key concerns and uncertainties. I help you plan your road map.

Whether you are a hobbyist or a self-supporting business, success as a jewelry designer involves many things to think about, know and do. I share with you the kinds of things it takes to start your own jewelry business, run it, anticipate risks and rewards, and lead it to a level of success you feel is right for you, including

· Getting Started: Naming business, identifying resources, protecting intellectual property

· Financial Management: basic accounting, break even analysis, understanding risk-reward-return on investment, inventory management

· Product Development: identifying target market, specifying product attributes, developing jewelry line, production, distribution, pricing, launching

· Marketing, Promoting, Branding: competitor analysis, developing message, establishing emotional connections to your products, social media marketing

· Selling: linking product to buyer among many venues, such as store, department store, online, trunk show, home show, trade show, sales reps and showrooms, catalogs, TV shopping, galleries, advertising, cold calling, making the pitch

· Resiliency: building business, professional and psychological resiliency

· Professional Responsibilities: preparing artist statement, portfolio, look book, resume, biographical sketch, profile, FAQ, self-care



Merging Your Voice With Form

So You Want To Be A Jewelry Designer reinterprets how to apply techniques and modify art theories from the Jewelry Designer’s perspective. To go beyond craft, the jewelry designer needs to become literate in this discipline called Jewelry Design. Literacy means understanding how to answer the question: Why do some pieces of jewelry draw your attention, and others do not? How to develop the authentic, creative self, someone who is fluent, flexible and original. How to gain the necessary design skills and be able to apply them, whether the situation is familiar or not.

588pp, many images and diagrams Ebook , Kindle or Print formats

The Jewelry Journey Podcast
“Building Jewelry That Works: Why Jewelry Design Is Like Architecture”
Podcast, Part 1
Podcast, Part 2

Easy. Simple. No tools. Anyone Can Do!

I developed a nontraditional technique which does not use tools because I found tools get in the way of tying good and well-positioned knots. I decided to bring two cords through the bead to minimize any negative effects resulting from the pearl rotating around the cord. I only have you glue one knot in the piece. I use a simple overhand knot which is easily centered. I developed a rule for choosing the thickness of your bead cord. I lay out different steps for starting and ending a piece, based on how you want to attach the piece to your clasp assembly.

184pp, many images and diagrams EbookKindle or Print

SO YOU WANT TO DO CRAFT SHOWS:16 Lessons I Learned Doing Craft Shows

In this book, I discuss 16 lessons I learned, Including How To (1) Find, Evaluate and Select Craft Shows Right for You, (2) Determine a Set of Realistic Goals, (3) Compute a Simple Break-Even Analysis, (4) Develop Your Applications and Apply in the Smartest Ways, (5) Understand How Much Inventory to Bring, (6) Set Up and Present Both Yourself and Your Wares, (7) Best Promote and Operate Your Craft Show Business before, during and after the show.

198pp, many images and diagrams, EbookKindle or Print


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