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TEACHING DISCIPLINARY LITERACY: Strategic Learning In Jewelry Design

Posted by learntobead on May 31, 2019

 


TEACHING DISCIPLINARY LITERACY:

Strategic Learning in Jewelry Design

by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer

Abstract:

Teaching literacy in jewelry design is a lot like teaching literacy in reading and writing.    We want our students to comprehend.   We want them to be able to be self-directed in organizing and implementing their basic tasks.   We want them to be able to function in unfamiliar situations and respond when problems arise.  We want them to make reasonable judgements on marrying aesthetics to functionality.  We want them to develop an originality in their work.   We want them to think like designers.   And, we want a high level of automaticity in all this.    The basic jewelry design curriculum does not accomplish this.   There is an absence of strategy and strategic thinking.    There is a weak commitment to jewelry design as a discipline, with its own vocabulary and ways of thinking through and doing and responding to different, often unfamiliar, situations as they arise.     Without a commitment to embed the teaching of a disciplinary literacy within the standard curriculum, we will fail to impart that necessary learned awareness about fluency, flexibility, originality, and comprehension the designer needs to bring to the design process.

 

TEACHING DISCIPLINARY LITERACY

She said it wasn’t her job!

This prominent jewelry instructor told me that it wasn’t her job to teach anything beyond the basic steps for getting a project done.   It was not her responsibility to share any insights, choices, compromises, fix-it solutions or design considerations she herself made when creating the original project – now taught as a class with a kit and a set of step-by-step instructions.   If a student asked a specific question, she would gladly answer it.  But otherwise, it was not her job.

This attitude is so prevalent in the standard jewelry making curriculum and education.     Teachers stick very closely to the standard, basic curriculum.    Facts, not ideas.   Absolutes, not what-ifs.  Step-by-steps, not creative thinking.  Teachers rarely explain the implications for using one bead vs. another, or one stringing material vs. another, or one clasp vs. another, or one material vs. another, or one technique vs. another.   They rarely discuss the deeper meanings and potentialities underlying various problematic situations.     They ignore the role and power of jewelry to influence human relations.

They have the student gloss over things as if, once seen and memorized, the student will automatically be able to make the right choices over and over, again and again.    The teachers see themselves as easily transferring knowledge, skills and understandings to the student as if inoculating them as you would with a vaccine and a syringe.   And the student becomes a star jewelry designer.   Or not.

Teachers too often see jewelry making and design as a basic set of skills, easily adaptable and applicable to all kinds of jewelry making situations.    They assume that the challenge of improving jewelry making skills would primarily be a function of making more and more jewelry.

This might be true for the novice student, but as the student moves from basic decoding to fluency, flexibility and originality in design, what was learned initially becomes less generally useful.   For example, the student may learn about basic color schemes, but not how to adapt these in different situations, or leverage them to achieve an even more resonant result, or be more deliberate and intentional when choosing colors and determining how to use them.

There is an absence of strategy and strategic thinking.    There is a weak commitment to jewelry design as its own discipline, with its own vocabulary and ways of thinking through and doing and responding to different, often unfamiliar, situations as they arise.

Jewelry, in the standard, traditional design education model, is understood as an object.   We can speak about and learn about it as an object.    This object is distanced from the creative spark that created it.    It is divorced from desire.   Apart from the wearer or the viewer.   Ignorant of context or situation.   There are no deeper explanations, no pointing out implications, no experimenting with situational contingencies, no debating synergistic or other external effects.    The student is run through color theories, materials composition, step-by-step jewelry construction as if learning a basic lexicon is sufficient and enough.

This whole traditional process of standard jewelry designer education ignores the required disciplinary literacy.    It assumes the student is creative, or not.    It approaches jewelry design as if it were a subset of some other discipline, usually art, or more specifically, painting or sculpture.    It ignores architectural requirements allowing jewelry to move, drape and flow as it is worn.   It forgets that jewelry has personal, situational and social consequences.   It pretends that jewelry design does not have any disciplinary requirements of its own.    There are no specialized knowledges or ways of thinking unique to jewelry design alone.

It is weak at teaching the student, from a design perspective, how to decode design elements and how to combine them into compositions apart from basic art theory.   It pretends there are no architectural issues underlying how jewelry functions.   It ignores the fact that jewelry gains much of its appeal and power only as it is worn, and not as it sits on a mannequin or easel.   It totally avoids confronting the fact that much of the power of jewelry results from how it instigates and sustains relationships – artist to self, artist to wearer, wearer to viewer, artist to seller, exhibitor to client, artist to collector, and so forth.    And, it fails to impart that necessary learned awareness about fluency, flexibility, originality and comprehension the designer needs to bring to the design process.

It’s not their job.    It’s not their job to assist the student’s developing creative thinking or applying that creative spark towards better jewelry design.

It’s not their job.

But, in fact, it is!

What Is Disciplinary Literacy?

Disciplinary Literacy1 assumes there are real differences in the way professionals across fields participate and communicate.   Without this, students and professionals in a particular field would flounder and fail.   Disciplinary literacy encompasses those techniques and strategies used to teach designers to think like designers (or historians like historians or scientists like scientists, and so forth)2.

Disciplinary literacy refers to how the particular discipline creates, disseminates, and evaluates knowledge.   Each discipline has its own way of looking at the world, defining things using a specific vocabulary, gathering information, specifying understandings, posing questions and problems, delineating solutions and using evidence to justify their ideas and conclusions.

An artist looking at jewelry, or a craftsperson looking at jewelry, for instance, would have different thought and interpretive processes than a jewelry designer looking at jewelry.     Jewelry, after all, is different than a painting or sculpture or simple functional object.    Jewelry is only art as it is worn.    It must satisfy the requirements of both aesthetics and functionality.    It exists in a 3-dimensional space.   It is worn on the body.    It establishes special relationships between designer and wearer, wearer and viewer, designer and seller, designer and collector.    It encapsulates situational and socio-cultural meanings.   To evaluate whether a piece of jewelry is finished and successful requires a different thought process than art or craft alone would provide.

There are key disciplinary differences in how a jewelry designer…

  • Chooses and evaluates evidence
  • Relates evidence to a perspective
  • Gains understanding
  • Visualizes things
  • Manipulates things
  • Creates a truth and achieves an error- free solution
  • Introduces things publicly

Training in jewelry design should teach students the unique challenges they face within their discipline as they think through design and create jewelry. At each increment within the jewelry design process, they need to think like a designer.Not as an artist, nor like a craftsperson.As a designer.Finding evidence whether a piece is finished and successful.Linking causes to effects. Understanding how inspiration resulted in a finished design.Developing knowledge, understandings and skills to the level where they can transfer these to others.Generating a large number of ideas.Making inferences about the implications of any one choice.Producing things which are original.Responding to problematic or unanticipated situations.Finding new ways to adapt existing ideas to new conditions.Anticipating shared understandings about how their work will be evaluated, assessed and judged.Knowing when something is parsimonious and finished, and knowing when something resonates and is successful.

Types of Literacy

There are three different types of literacy – Basic, Intermediate, and Disciplinary.     The standard jewelry design curriculum typically focuses on Basic literacy, with some nod toward Intermediate.    Disciplinary literacy is usually ignored, but it should be incorporated and integrated within Basic and Intermediate literacy instruction.

Basic Literacy

Basic literacy refers to the degree the student learns knowledge of high frequency concepts that underlie virtually all jewelry design and jewelry making tasks.   These concepts are typically universally recognized and understood by artist and client alike.      Here jewelry is understood as an object.    An object has literal characteristics which the student can identify and list.

The student demonstrates this basic literacy by an ability to decode.   The student can decode things like color use, rules of composition, materials selection, technique implementation and the like.    The student picks up the basic words and definitions, links the vocabulary to relevant objects, and can identify their presence and use within any piece of jewelry.   Each element and principle of design can be graphically represented, and the student begins to make connections between word and graphic.   The student begins to recognize which design elements can stand alone, and which are dependent on the presence of other elements.  The student can identify harmonious and balanced clusters of these design elements within compositions.    The goal is an automaticity in decoding.

Intermediate Literacy

Here the student develops the knowledge to make more complex jewelry forms and designs.    There is more comprehension.   The student recognizes that the various design elements and principles have a range of variations in meaning and expression.   In a similar way, the student begins to recognize that clusters of design elements and principles can also show variations in meaning and expression.

The student learns about different materials and what they can and cannot be used to achieve.    Materials have names, places of origins, stories about how they get from one place to another, processes.

The student is introduced to variations in techniques and technologies.   There is more than one way to accomplish things.    There are more things that can be created using familiar techniques.

The student learns to problem-solve with various “fix-it” procedures, like re-doing, changing tools, requesting help, looking things up, drawing analogies.

The student learns to process-plan.     S/he begins to relate inspirations, aspirations and intentions to more critically evaluate their choices or the choices of others.   Students are more able to stick with things and maintain attention to a more extended design process.

The student begins to learn how to design for an audience.   This might be a client, or a purchaser, or an exhibitor, or a collector.    This begins the developing understanding of how to meld personal held preferences with those of others.

Students monitor and reflect on their own comprehension.     The goal is an automaticity in fluency.[4]   Here jewelry is understood as content.  As content, the jewelry as designed conveys meanings and expressions which the student can derive.   The jewelry and its compositional design is still, however, mostly viewed objectively, as if sitting on an easel, not as it is worn.

Disciplinary Literacy

This involves a way of thinking and doing specific to the discipline.   The student learns specialized literacy skills relevant to jewelry design as the jewelry is introduced and worn publicly.   The student learns how parsimony and resonance as outcomes expressed in design differ from harmony and variety as expressed in art.

The student learns to anticipate shared understandings[5] and the role of desire among the many audiences the student works with, works in, and relates to.    These include clients, sellers, exhibitors, collectors, wearers, viewers, and the artist him- or herself.

Much of the design process takes on the qualities of backwards design.[7]  The designer begins the process by articulating the essential shared understandings  and desires against which their work will be evaluated and judged. The designer starts with questions about assessment, and then allows this understanding to influence all other choices going forward.”

The student has an ability to conceptualize and explain what jewelry means, how it is more an action than an object, and how this meaning emerges dialectically, as the jewelry is introduced publicly, worn, shared and displayed.

The student learns to recognize the dynamics of coherency, decoherency, and contagion.   The artist’s coherent choices about design become contagious, attracting someone to want to touch the piece, wear it, or buy it.    To the extent others share the artist’s ideas about coherence, the more likely the work will be judged finished and successful.   Jewelry becomes more than an expression of meanings, but rather, it becomes an expression of meanings within context.

The process of coherence continues with the wearer, who introduces the piece into a larger context.    There is more contagion.     When efforts at design are less than successful, we begin to have decoherence.    Decoherence may come in the forms of bad feedback, inappropriate feedback, less than satisfying feedback, or no feedback at all.  The wearer may not get that sense of self s/he seeks.   S/he may feel less motivated to wear the piece, or may store it, or give it away.

The student can comfortably and flexibly respond in unfamiliar situations or to new materials, techniques, technologies and requests, and take on larger challenges arising from higher levels of ambiguity, abstraction, subtlety, and contradiction.   The student can find new ways to adapt existing ideas to new situations and requirements.

The student learns how to inspire to.    That is, the student learns how to translate an inspiration into a design in such a way that the wearer and viewer are inspired to, not merely inspired by.  They don’t simply react emotionally by saying the piece is “beautiful.”  The piece resonates for them.   They react by saying they “want to wear” it or “want to buy it” or “want to make something like it”.   They come to feel and see and sense the artist’s hand.

The student learns how to manage a very involved, and often very long and time-consuming process of jewelry design, beginning with inspiration, then aspiration, then execution, and presenting the piece publicly for exhibit or sale.   The student also picks up the skills and attitudes necessary to stick with what can be a very long process.

The goal is an automaticity in design flexibility and originality.    Jewelry is understood as both intent and dialectic communication.  Here the student can visualize, anticipate, and respond to all the things which might happen when the jewelry is introduced publicly and its value and worth is judged and determined.

Literacy in Jewelry Design

Teaching literacy in jewelry design is a lot like teaching literacy in reading and writing.    We want our students to comprehend.  We want them to be able to be self-directed in organizing and implementing their basic tasks.   We want them to be able to function in unfamiliar situations and respond when problems arise.  We want them to make reasonable judgements on marrying aesthetics to functionality.  We want them to develop an originality in their work.   We want them to think like designers.  And, we want a high level of automaticity in all this.

Using literacy techniques, goals and concepts, we teach students to read, write, express and express in context when understanding jewelry and its design.

We teach the student to “read” jewelry.    That means learning a basic vocabulary, as well as the various design elements, and how these design elements can either function on their own, or be arranged and clustered together within a design.    They learn to describe the piece, including the name of the artist and the name of the piece, the style of the piece, when the piece was created, the materials used, the construction technique, and the use of design elements such as point, line, shape, form, space, texture, color, value and pattern.

We teach the student to “write” jewelry.    The student constructs (or anticipates how a particular designer has constructed), then reflects, upon the choices made.   That means learning various principles of composition, construction and manipulation.   These affect arrangements as well as the juxtaposition and clustering of design elements, materials and techniques.     They learn to how the placement and organization of elements, materials and techniques results in things like harmony, balance, contrast, variety, unity, emphasis, movement, depth, rhythm, focus, and proportions.

We further teach the student to be more “expressive” with jewelry.   That means learning how jewelry signifies various meanings and evokes emotions.    They learn to question and ponder through answers to questions like What did they think the designer was trying to say?  Or What kind of reaction(s) would you expect to this piece of jewelry?   What feelings does the jewelry convey?   In what context would wearing the piece be especially relevant and appropriate?   Are there things in the piece which might be symbolic or otherwise signify things which transcend the piece of jewelry itself?

Last, we teach the student to be “expressive within a context”.    That means understanding how jewelry functions communicatively, socially and psychologically within any context or situation.   That means learning how various artists and various audiences use jewelry as a means of self-identity and self-esteem, and how the interaction of the artist with various audiences affects the success (or failure) of their continued relationship oriented around (and perhaps anchored to) the jewelry.   It means delving into the how and why the jewelry would be valued or worth determined or evaluative judgements made, and, furthermore, how such judgements and determinations might be contingent in their expression.   It also means understanding what jewelry is as it is worn, and the required artistic, functional and design choices and compromises which must be made, if the piece of jewelry is to be judged finished and successful.

Literacy in jewelry design includes such things as:

  • Learning art and design vocabulary, including design elements, principles of composition, manipulation and construction, and basic vocabulary words
  • Developing an understanding of a range of materials, how these are selected, and the possibilities for their use, or mis-use, in any one project
  • Developing a range of technical and technological knowledges and skills, how to vary them, and when to apply them and when not to apply them
  • Translating inspirations into aspirations into specific designs and execution
  • Choosing media, technique and strategy to convey concepts, forms and themes
  • Organizing, managing and controlling a jewelry design process, from start to finish, especially over an extended period of time
  • Deciphering the graphic representation of ideas
  • Communicating these ideas through critique and analysis of jewelry genres, styles, media use, and artist/designer intent
  • Reconciling tensions and conflicts between appeal and functionality, especially as the jewelry is worn
  • Introducing their work to others, coordinating artist goals with marketing goals, and exhibiting or selling publicly
  • Working with various client audiences, and translating, influencing or mitigating their understandings and desires about jewelry with those of the designer, whether a piece should be judged as finished and successful
  • Figuring out “fix-it” strategies where things do not turn out as desired, are uncertain, or things go wrong
  • Reflecting on one’s own thought processes and choices, increasing that metacognitive awareness of what things lead to better design
  • Developing a personal style and originality and strategies for how these get reflected in the artist’s finished compositions

Why Do We Need More Fluent Designers?

The standard curriculum and approach for teaching the making and designing  of jewelry is commonly viewed as teaching basic literacy.  This includes teaching a basic set of skills, widely adaptable and applicable to all kinds of jewelry making situations.  These basic skills are highly generalizable and adaptable.

In the standard curriculum, it is assumed that the challenge of improving jewelry making skills is a function of making more and more jewelry.    The designer, thus over time, would automatically evolve into a better designer with better, more satisfying, more appealing designs.      We refer to this as the vaccination conception of teaching.

In some sense here, these ideas about teaching basic literacy are partly right.   All students need a basic vocabulary.    All jewelry designers need these basic perceptual and decoding skills which are very connected to early learning.     These are entailed in all jewelry designs and crafting tasks.

However, as the designer moves from basic decoding to fluency, flexibility and originality, the basics which were learned become less generally useful.   For example, the designer may learn basic color schemes, but not learn how to adapt these in different situations, with components which do not easily match colors on the color wheel, and which present differently when used in combination, or under different lighting or contextual situations.

Our standard teaching curriculum, if that is all we teach, becomes less than useful.    We rely on a bad assumption:  If we only provide adequate basic skills, so we assume, from that point forward, the student with adequate background knowledge will be able to design and make anything successfully.    When the emphasis is on giving out more information and instructions rather than on discussion and challenge, students have little chance to learn to think as a fluent jewelry designer.

But this also begs the question:  Why do we need more fluent designers?

Isn’t turning out basic technicians sufficient?    Aren’t there enough designers meeting everyone’s jewelry needs?    Even if there are not, are there enough clients and customers who would want to see and purchase better, more insightful, jewelry designs?

My answer, obviously, is Yes!    We need more fluent designers who have been taught and are fluent in a disciplinary literacy.   That is because there are many things going on around us which increase the need for all this.

These include,

  • The need to adapt to more global competition, better ride the ever-faster waves and changes of fashion and style trends, and more strategically confront and challenge global “sameness” in design
  • The need to adapt, and adapt more quickly, to changes in technologies and materials
  • Automaticity in how designers more easily and successfully meet their various client needs – self, wearer, viewer, seller, exhibiter, and collector
  • Creating a clearer, publicly sanctioned professionalization of the jewelry design discipline
  • Expanding the connectedness and networking of jewelry designers in today’s world
  • Increasing opportunities for more attention, visibility, communication, support, demand and income
  • Encouraging individual student pursuits, diversity and experimentation

How Should Disciplinary Literacy

Be Incorporated Into Jewelry Design Education?

Jewelry Design is rarely taught at this disciplinary level.

There is a need to identify what an advanced literacy curriculum in jewelry design might be, how it differs from that in art or craft, and how best to implement it.

We need to move away from the ideas of “teacher of art” or “teacher of craft”, and begin to understand the role of teacher as “teacher of disciplinary literacy in jewelry design”.    How can we best prepare all jewelry design students for the thinking, the making, and the critically reflecting upon required by more intermediate and advanced work?    How can we prepare students to be independent thinkers?   Self-starters?   What program of authentic learning more closely reflects what a jewelry designer does in the field?

A disciplinary literacy program should not, however, be understood as a separate curriculum.    It is not something supplemental.    Rather, disciplinary literacy should be a part of and embedded within all existing instruction, from basic to advanced.   Disciplinary literacy should support the standard curriculum with literacy tools uniquely tailored to jewelry design.

Some ideas for integration…

  1. Build more depth into what is already taught and increase student engagement
  2. Leverage a wide range of resources – popular articles and images, academic articles, interviews, gallery exhibits and their presentation and marketing materials, online videos, bead and jewelry making magazines
  3. Task students with communicating what they read, viewed, experienced and attempted to do, and elaborate more on their understandings
  4. Ask questions which encourage students to think like jewelry designers
  5. Model design strategies and fix-it strategies
  6. Allow students to do more problem-solving and experimentation

 

Students should be encouraged to…

Experiment

Perform

Demonstrate

Discuss findings

Anticipate the

understandings of others

Monitor their thinking

Deal with ambiguity

Problem solve

Read

Write

Debate options

Compare their work to

others

Challenge assumptions

Go beyond the ordinary

and obvious

Comment

Communicate

Ask questions

Seek evidence to inform their

work

Gather information

Detect bias

Expose their ideas and works to

others

BLOOM’S TAXONOMY

If you are not already familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956)[6], and its model’s evolution and various adaptations in different disciplines, I urge you to do so.    This is a particularly useful tool when teaching higher level thinking and creative problem solving.    Are your lesson plans, assignments, projects, questioning strategies touching on each progressive level in Bloom’s Taxonomy?   The Taxonomy helps you evaluate the level of rigor in your instruction and the degree you are presenting your students and involving them in  learning higher level thinking skills in a subject or discipline.

In jewelry design, we might adapt Bloom’s Taxonomy like this…

Creating:  designing, constructing, developing, producing, manipulating, translating inspiration into aspiration and aspiration into a design

Evaluating:  judging, evaluating, appraising, defending, challenging, showing connections, linking design choices to emotional and resonant outcomes or sense that piece feels finished

Analyzing:  comparing, contrasting, experimenting, testing, questioning, examining, what happens when analyses with different materials, techniques, technologies, and construction and composition strategies

Applying:  dramatizing, sketching, using, solving, illustrating, writing, demonstrating, instructing, diagramming, arranging, using different techniques and technologies in making jewelry

Understanding:  classifying, describing, discussing, explaining, paraphrasing, locating, translating, decoding

Remembering:  memorizing, listing, recalling, repeating, reproducing, copying, building up a specialized vocabulary

As teachers of jewelry design, we want to build up our students’ design knowledge and skills through literacy.   This means such things as,

  1. Building prior knowledge – showing connections between what they are expected to do now with what they have done or experienced before
  2. Building a specialized vocabulary and how to use this in context
  3. Learning, applying, varying and experimenting with different materials, techniques and technologies
  4. Practicing translating inspirations into aspirations
  5. Learning to deconstruct complex visual representations of ideas which each piece of jewelry encapsulates
  6. Using knowledge of artistic design elements and genres to identify main and subordinate ideas expressed within any piece
  7. Articulating what the graphic representations mean and how they are used within a piece of jewelry, and how this supports the artist’s intent
  8. Posing disciplinary relevant questions
  9. Critically comparing one piece of jewelry to others
  10. Using reasoning with jewelry design, such as searching for alternatives, or selecting evidence to evaluate claims of finish and success
  11. Enabling students to be metacognitive – that is, become aware of the ways in which they think, learn, create and problem-solve, and aware of how they overcome those times of creativity block
  12. Anticipating shared understandings about what it means for a piece to be finished and successful
  13. Bridging creative learning to the creative marketplace

What Are Some Specific Useful Techniques?

We should teach students to design jewelry, not draw it, not sculpt it, not craft it.    And that should be our primary goal as teachers: developing our students’ Fluency, Flexibility and Originality with design.

This involves:

  1. a developmental approach and organization of knowledges, skills and understandings to be taught, usually taught as sets of interrelated, integrated skill sets, rather than one skill at a time
  2. a multi-method teaching plan and program with a shared goal of teaching disciplinary literacy,
  3. a rubric specifying degrees of accomplishment and the criteria of evaluation – all shared with the student
  4. a willingness to adjust teaching styles because different students rely on different senses and strategies for learning

I am going to touch on each of these below, but you will find numerous articles in print and online which go into much more detail.

Developmental Approach

Think of jewelry design as a large matrix.    The rows are the various knowledges, skills and understandings students need to master.    The columns represent ordered stages of learning, indicating what needs to be learned first, second and third, etc.

In the example below, learning objectives were specified for an introductory bead stringing class.   The learning objectives were characterized by skill level needed.    These objectives were clustered together and taught as a set.   The student could identify what things were learned at what level, and what things needed to be learned in another class.   Emphasis was placed during the instruction to visibly point out to the student how each learning objective was interrelated to the others.

At the conclusion of the class, students were asked to self-evaluate what they learned about each learning objective, and what else they would like to know or learn about it.    What were their take-aways, and what would they like to do next.

EXAMPLE MATRIX

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

BEAD STRINGING

Crimping

  BEGINNER  INTERMEDIATE  ADVANCED 
TECHNICAL MECHANICS
1. Holding Your Piece To Work It BEGINNER     
2. Reading Simple Pattern, Figure and/or Graph; Diagramming BEGINNER     
3. Selecting Stringing Materials BEGINNER     
4. Selecting Clasps and other Jewelry Findings BEGINNER     
5. Selecting Beads and other Components BEGINNER     
6. Laying Out Your Piece BEGINNER     
7. Identifying Areas of Potential Weakness, and

Strategies for Dealing With These

BEGINNER     
8. Selecting and Using Adhesives      
9. Use of Tools and Equipment BEGINNER     
10. Determining Measurements and Ease, including Width and Length of a Piece, Especially In Relationship To Bead Sizes BEGINNER     
11. Finishing Off Threads, Cable Wires or Other Stringing Materials in Piece or Adding Threads/Cable Wires/Stringing Materials BEGINNER     
UNDERSTANDING CRAFT BASIS OF STRINGING METHODS
1. Starting the Piece BEGINNER     
2. Implementing the Basic Method BEGINNER     
3. Finishing Off Your Piece With A Clasp Assembly BEGINNER     
4. Managing String/Cord/Thread/Wire Tension BEGINNER     
5. Crimping BEGINNER     
6. Making Simple and Coiled Loops Using Hard Wire      
7. Making and Using Connectors; Segmenting; Directional Control      
8. Adding Dangles and Embellishments      
9. Making Multi-Strands Piece      
10. Making Twist-Strands Piece      
UNDERSTANDING ART & DESIGN BASIS OF BEAD STRINGING
1. Learning Implications When Choosing Different Sizes/Shapes of Beads, or Using Different Stringing Materials  BEGINNER     
2. Learning Implications When Choosing Different Kinds of Clasps, or Using Different Jewelry Findings and Components BEGINNER     
3. Understanding Relationship of this Bead Stringing Method in Comparison to Other Types of Bead Stringing Methods  BEGINNER     
4. Creating Support Systems Within Your Piece In Anticipation of Effects of Movement, and other Architectural considerations BEGINNER     
5. Understanding How Bead Asserts Its Need For Color When Stringing Beads      
6. Creating Your Own Design with This Bead Stringing Method, in Reference to Jewelry Design Principles of Composition      
7. Creating Shapes, Components and Forms To Use With This Bead Stringing Method, and Establishing Themes      
BECOMING BEAD STRINGING ARTIST & DESIGNER
1. Developing A Personal Style      
2. Valuing or Pricing Your Work      
3. Teaching Others Bead Stringing Methods      
4. Promoting Yourself and Your Work      

 

When taking a developmental approach, you teach groups of integrated knowledges, skills and understandings.   You teach technical mechanics concurrently with art and craft history, and concurrently with discipline-specific literacy.     We want our students to be able to think strategically and critically, deal with unfamiliar or problematic situations, and be self directed.

In the Developmental Approach, you start with a cluster of a core set of skills.    You show, demonstrate, and have the student apply, communicate about, and experiment with how these skills inter-relate in jewelry design.

You then introduce another cluster of knowledges, skills, and understandings.    As with the core, you show, demonstrate, and have the student apply, communicate about, and experiment with how all these inter-relate.   Then you repeat all this by teaching how this second cluster of things inter-relates to the core.

And again, you introduce a third cluster, and link to the second, then link to the core.     And so forth.

Jewelry design covers a wide range of factors beyond the physical and structural aspects of jewelry.    It incorporates aesthetics, structure, value systems, philosophies, sustainability, technologies, and their integrations.   Thus the jewelry designer has to know some things about art, and some things about architecture, and about physical mechanics, and anthropology and psychology and sociology, and engineering, and be a bit of a party planner.   Here, this developmental approach serves them well.     It helps the student learn the inter-connectedness and inter-dependencies of them all, in a gradual, developmental, building-up-to-something sort of way.

Multi-Method Teaching Plan

Students need to come at jewelry design problems from different angles.    Within each lesson, teachers need to gradually relinquish control over the learning process to the student.     Using a single teaching method, such as having students keep rehearsing a series of steps, or relying on a single textbook won’t cut it.   We also need to infuse opportunities for reflection within virtually every activity.

Some of things I find especially useful include,

(a) Guided Thinking

(b) Thinking Routines

(c) Developing an effective questioning strategy

(d) Application, practice and experimentation

One approach is called “Guided Thinking”.    Here, within each lesson, the teacher begins with controlling the information and how it is presented.  This involves some lecture, some demonstration, some modelling.    The teacher never insists that there is only one way to accomplish any task.    Over the course of the lesson, the teacher gradually relinquishes more and more control to the student for directing the learning activity.

For example, we might encourage students to construct and feel and touch similar pieces made with different materials, beads or techniques, and have them tell us what differences they perceive. We should guide them in thinking through the implications for these differences. When teaching a stitch, I typically have students make samples using two different beads – say a cylinder bead and a seed bead, and try two different stringing materials, say Fireline and Nymo threads.

We also should guide them in thinking through all the management and control issues they were experiencing. Very often beginning students have difficulty finding a comfortable way to hold their pieces while working them. I let them work a little on a project, stop them, and then ask them to explain what was difficult and what was not. I suggest some alternative solutions – but do not impose a one-best-way – and have them try these solutions. Then we discuss them, fine-tuning our thinking.

After some trial-and-error and experimentation, I begin to introduce some goals.  They had identified some management and control issues, and had some observations about what they were trying to do.    I link these developing discussions to these goals. These are issues because….  And I let them fill in the blanks.    What do they think needs to be happening here?

I begin to put words to feelings.   I guide them in articulating some concrete goals.   We want good thread tension management for a bead woven piece. We want the beads to lay correctly within the piece. We want the piece to feel fluid. We want an easier way to work the piece and hold it, so it doesn’t feel so awkward.

We return to Guided Thinking. I summarize all the choices we have made in order to begin the project: type of bead, size of bead, shape of bead, type of thread, strategy for holding the piece while working it, strategy for bringing the new bead to the work in progress. I ask the students what ideas are emerging in their minds about how to bring all they have done so far together.

At this point, I usually would interject a Mini-Lesson, where I demonstrate, given the discussions, the smarter way to begin and execute the Project. In the Mini-Lesson, I “Think Aloud” so that my students can see and hear how I am approaching our Project.

And then I continue with Guided Thinking as we work through various sections of the Project towards completion. Whatever we do – select materials, select and apply techniques, set goals, anticipate how we want the Project to end up – is shown as resulting from a managed process of thinking through our design.

In “Guided Thinking”, I would prompt my students to try to explain what is/is not going on, what is/is not working as desired, where the student hopes to end up, what seems to be enhancing/impeding getting there.

As the lesson proceeds, I reduce the amount of direction and information I provide.    I relinquish this responsibility gradually to the student.   The student is asked to try out a technique or strategy, then try an alternative.   The student is asked to communicate the differences, their preferences, their explanations why, and what they might try to do next.

Experimentation with evaluation is encouraged.   The student is asked to develop a more concrete jewelry project, and explain the various choices involved.    What-if and what-next questions are posed.    The student is allowed to follow a pathway that might be not as efficient, or even a dead-end.    More discussion about what occurs begins.   If the student asks me what would happen if, I tell them to try it and see, and then discuss their experience and observations.

Towards the end of the lesson, I prompt the student to communicate what they have done and what they have discovered.   I ask them, in various ways, what take-aways they have from the class, or how they think they might apply what they learned in the future.   I suggest the “what next.”   I identify different options and pathways they might pursue next.    Metacognition and reflection are important skills for any jewelry designer to have.

And we’re ready for the next lesson.

Another approach is called “Thinking Routines”.    With guidance, demonstration and repetition, it is my hope that these experiences become a series of Thinking Routines my students resort to when starting a new project. As students develop and internalize more Thinking Routines, they develop greater Fluency with design.

Thinking Routines are different strategies for structuring a set of steps which lead a person’s thinking.    “They are the patterns by which we operate and go about the job of learning and working together in a classroom environment. A routine can be thought of as any procedure, process, or pattern of action that is used repeatedly to manage and facilitate the accomplishment of specific goals or tasks. Classrooms have routines that serve to manage student behavior and interactions, to organizing the work of learning, and to establish rules for communication and discourse. Classrooms also have routines that structure the way students go about the process of learning. These learning routines can be simple structures, such as reading from a text and answering the questions at the end of the chapter, or they may be designed to promote students’ thinking, such as asking students what they know, what they want to know, and what they have learned as part of a unit of study.[3]

Some examples:

  1. What Do You See…..What Do You Think…..What Do You Know
  2. Think – Pair – Share
  3. What Makes You Think That?
  4. I used to think…  Now I think…
  5. Connect – Extend – Challenge
  6. True for Who?
  7. Look – Score — Explain

We use Thinking Routines mirror the kinds of thinking and analytic practices common to the discipline of jewelry design.     We encourage students to reflect on what they were thinking.   We ask how they were anticipating getting to the point where they would call their piece finished.    We ask them whether there was some kind of order or routine to their process.    We ask them what criteria they would use to know that they were successful.    We ask them to anticipate what others would think, and whether others would agree that the piece was finished and successful.

These are some of the kinds of situations we want our students to develop thinking routines for:

a. Exploration of experience for a purpose; translating inspiration into designs

b. Search for meaning as conveyed by various design elements alone, clustered together, or arranged within a composition

c. Formulating how to deal with unfamiliar tasks or roadblocks preventing the finishing of a task

d. Completing well practiced technical tasks

e. Varying well practiced technical tasks

f. Contingent thinking and fix-it strategies

g. Incorporating the shared understandings of others into the thinking about what constitutes a finished and successful design

h. Introducing jewelry publicly, such as for exhibit or for sale

Another approach I want to point out is having an Effective Questioning Strategy.  Students need to be engaged in thinking and talking about jewelry and its design and its powers when worn.     The questions we ask them, and the way we phrase them, can have a big impact on this.

Questions should lead the student towards greater understanding.    Ask questions which encourage students to think like jewelry designers and understand jewelry design as a series of problems to be solved.

  • Decode piece of jewelry; measure jewelry’s impact; relate to artist intent
  • Correlation or causation when explaining and identifying design issues
  • What q’s weren’t answered; ability to assess the information at hand relevant to the design problem
  • Do the results solve the design problem and support the conclusions
  • Other explanations for the results
  • Given an artist intent, sketch a jewelry design
  • Given a piece of jewelry to be sold, develop a sales pitch

Some pointers:

  1. Avoid questions with Yes/No answers
  2. Avoid questions which contain the answers, such as “don’t you think the designer did a good job?”
  3. Avoid questions which seem to have a particular answer in mind, such as “how did the designer use materials to represent the upper class?”
  4. Do elicit questions with multiple answers.
  5. Do elicit questions which incorporate each of our senses, not just the visual, such as “what sounds do you think this piece of jewelry would make?”
  6. Do elicit questions of varying levels of difficulty and rigor.
  7. Do elicit personal interpretations of ideas and feelings, coupled with questions about what evidence the student used to come to these conclusions.
  8. Do elicit questions about how to value or judge worth, and how such values might differ among different audiences, and why.
  9. Do elicit questions about contingent situations — if such and such a variable or piece of information changed, how would our thoughts, feelings and understandings change?
  10. Do elicit follow-up questions.
  11. If no one responds immediately to a question, pause and wait about 5 seconds.
  12. Encourage conversation among all participants in the room.
  13. Encourage students to generate their own questions.

When looking at a piece of jewelry, students might be asked (in reference to Bloom’s Taxonomy)[6] to:

DESCRIBE IT:   What do you see?   What else do you see?   If you were describing this to another person who has not seen it, what would you say?

RELATE IT:   What things do you recognize?   Do you feel connected to the piece in any way?  Would you buy it?  Would you wear it?  How does this piece of jewelry relate (to any other piece of jewelry)?   What interests you the most in this piece?   If you passed this piece of jewelry onto your children or grandchildren, do you think they would relate to it in the same way you did; explain?    Would this jewelry be successful or appropriate in any culture or situation; explain with examples?

ANALYZE IT:   What can you tell me about the design elements used in this piece of jewelry?    About the arrangement and composition?    About its construction?   What type of person would wear this piece and why?    What is the most critical part of this piece of jewelry which leads to its success (or failure)?   What questions would you want to ask the designer?   What internal or external forces will positively or negatively impact the piece?   What about the piece creates good support, enabling it to move, drape and flow?  What about the piece creates good structure, enable it to keep its shape and integrity when worn?

INTERPRET IT:  What name would you give this piece of jewelry, and why did you pick this name?    What sounds do you think this piece of jewelry would make?   What role(s) would this piece of jewelry serve for the wearer, and why?    Why do you think the designer made this piece of jewelry, and made it this way?

EVALUATE IT:  Does this piece seem finished; explain?    Would you see this piece as successful; explain?    Would this piece evoke an emotion, and how?    Does this piece resonate, and how?    Does this piece feel parsimonious – that is, if you added (or subtracted) one more thing, would it make the piece seem less finished or successful?   How has the artist selected and applied materials, techniques and technologies, and could better choices have been made and why?   What do you think is worth remembering about this piece?    What do you think other people would say about this piece?   If you were selling this piece, what would be the selling points; explain?  In what ways might this piece have value and worth for various audiences?   Anticipating the artist’s purpose and intent, to what degree was the artist successful?   What would make the piece better, and what would make it worse?

RE-CREATE IT:  If you were making a similar piece, what would you do similarly and what would you do differently; explain why?    If you wanted to re-create something similar, but for a different audience or context than you thought it was originally made, what kinds of things might you do; explain?   What would you change about the piece to make it more appealing to you?   What would you change about the piece to change the “sound” it seems to make?   How could we make the piece more Traditional?  Or Avant Garde?   How could you build in more or better support or structure?  How might your own work be influenced (or not) by this piece?   Have you learned something from this piece that would influence you to do something differently in your own work in the future?   If a particular color / material / finding had not been available, what could you substitute instead?

One last approach is encouraging lots of opportunities for Application, Practice, and Experimentation.

Jewelry design students need time to create various understandings, correct or not, and to put these understandings to the test.   They should be encouraged to imagine, experiment, play, practice and apply their emerging knowledges and skills.    We need to ween them off the standard design-by-number curriculum.     We should provide opportunities for students to develop the skills to work intuitively and practically in context.

Towards this end, we should

  1. Provide space/time for artistic creativity and discovery
  2. Provide opportunities to discuss, reflect and critique about the design, management and control issues which arose
  3. Have students actively anticipate, through discussion and/or writing, what kinds of reactions various audiences might have to various design and composition choices
  4. Ask students to compare and contrast various designs or design approaches, including what is appealing (or not) and wearable (or not) and representative of an artist’s ideas and intent (or not)
  5. Students should be given various pieces to decode; that is, breaking them down into their essential design elements and compositional arrangements
  6. Students should be asked to reflect upon how the jewelry would hold up or be evaluated in different situations or cultures
  7. Students can be given different open-ended design tasks, such as creating a piece of jewelry that celebrates the student; or having students write “recipes” for the ingredients in a piece of jewelry and give these to other students to see what they come up with; or creating jewelry with social or political content; of develop a marketing and promotion strategy with a sales pitch for a particular piece of jewelry; or write a poem or short story about a piece of jewelry

A Rubric
RUBRIC[8] AS THINKING ROUTINE

Students who plan on becoming jewelry designers need a simple map to all these ideas about literacy and fluency – something they can easily review and determine where their strengths and weaknesses are, what kinds of courses they need to take, what kinds of learning goals they need to set in order to grow within the profession and gain proficiency and fluency in design over time.     One type of map is a rubric.

A rubric is a table of criteria used to rate and rank understanding and/or performance.   A rubric answers the question by what criteria understanding and/or performance should be judged.    The rubric provides insightful clues for the kinds of evidence we need to make such assessments.    The rubric helps us distinguish degrees of understanding and/or performance, from the sophisticated to the naïve.   The rubric encapsulates what an authentic jewelry design education and performance would look like.

Here is one rubric we provide students to give them insight to the educational curriculum we offer in our program.   We divide the program into Skill Levels, from preparation to beginner, intermediate, advanced, and integrated.   We identify how jewelry is defined and conceptualized at each level.   We specify the kinds of learning goals at each level – that is, what the students needs to have mastered before continuing on to the next level.   We list the classes a student could take at each Skill Level.

BE DAZZLED BEADS:    EDUCATIONAL RUBRIC:   Learning How To Think Like A Jewelry Designer
Learning Stage Jewelry Defined As… I know I’ve mastered this level when… BEAD WEAVING CLASSES

Using needle and thread with seed beads to make things which approximate cloth

BEAD STRINGING and HAND KNOTTING CLASSES

Putting beads on stringing material to make necklaces and bracelets

WIRE WORKING and WIRE WEAVING  CLASSES

Incorporating wires and sheet metal in jewelry by making shapes, structural supports, or patterns and textures

BUSINESS OF CRAFT CLASSES

Bridging creative learning to the creative marketplace

JEWELRY DESIGN CLASSES

Using creative skills to conceptualize, construct and present jewelry pieces

PREPARA-TION   I have assembled basic supplies and tools, and set up a workspace ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS CLASS   (**Required First Class)

Here we teach you about the choices you will need to make when buying or using different kinds of beads, metals, findings, stringing materials, tools, and various jewelry making techniques.   Focus on quality issues, contingencies and implications of making one choice over another

BEGINNER

(Decoding)

Object – defined apart from the maker, wearer and viewer, and apart from any inspiration or aspiration I am familiar with the range of materials, beads, jewelry findings, components, stringing materials, tools and types of techniques used in jewelry making, and all associated quality issues and issues of choice.

I can identify and list the basic design elements present in any piece of jewelry.

I can explain which design elements are independent – that is, can function on their own, and which are dependent – that is, require the presence of other design elements

I have mastered the mechanics of the major techniques in the interest area(s) I have chosen

* Bead Weaving Basics

* Basic Wrap Bracelet (laddering)

Clinics/Mini-Lessons:

– Flat Peyote

– Tubular Peyote

– Right Angle Weave

– Ndebele

– Petersburg Chain

– Brick Stitch

– Square Stitch

– Kumihimo

– Attaching End Caps

* Basics of Bead Stringing and Attaching Clasps

* Introduction to Pearl Knotting

* Mahjong Tile Bracelet

* Cozumel Necklace (micro-macrame)

Clinics/Mini-Lessons

– Crimping

– Elastic String

– Using Fireline

– Simple and Coiled Wire Loops

– Adjustable Slip Knots

* Wire Mix N Match Bracelet

* Viking Knit

*Wire Weave I: 2 base wires

*Wire Weave II: 3+ base wires

* Basic Soldering

* Intro to Silver Smithing

Clinics/Mini-Lessons:

– Simple and Coiled Wire Loops

– Let’s Make Earrings on Head Pins

– Let’s Make Earrings Off of Chain

* Getting Started In Business

* Pricing and Selling

* So You Want To Do Craft Shows

* Naming Your Business / Naming Your Jewelry

Clinics/Mini-Lessons:

– Pricing Formula

* Beads and Color
INTERMEDI-ATE

(Comprehending)

Content / Expression – conveys and expresses meaning; reflects ideas about how inspiration is to be translated into a design; inspires someone to respond emotionally I can select and arrange design elements into a pleasing composition.

I can anticipate both aesthetic and architectural requirements of my piece as it is to be worn.

I am comfortable self-directing my design process.   I know 1 – 2 variations in techniques I use.

I am beginning to develop “Fix-It” strategies when approaching new or difficult situations.

* Various Workshops during year

* Aztec Wrap Bracelet

Clinics/Mini-Lessons:

– Peyote Cabochon Bezel

* Mala Necklace w/Tassel * Cold Connections Bracelet

* Wire Wrap Bracelet w/Beads

* Wire Wrap Cabochon Pendant

* Wire Sparkle and Shine Necklace

* Wire Swirled Pendant w/Earrings

* Wire Contemporary Pendant

* Wire Woven Mayan Pendant

* Wire Woven Curvy Bracelet w/Beads

* Branding * Jewelry Design I: Principles of Composition
ADVANCED

(Fluent, Flexible, Original)

Action / Intent / Communica-tive Interaction – conveying content in context;  design choices understood as emerging from interaction between artist and various client audiences; jewelry reflects artist’s intent I have well-developed tool box of “Fix-It” strategies for dealing with unknown situations, with a high degree of automaticity in their use.

I understand how parts of the mechanics of every technique I use  allow the piece to maintain its shape (structure), and how other parts allow the piece to maintain good movement, drape and flow (support).

My jewelry reflects both parsimony in the choices of elements, and resonance in its expressive qualities for the wider audiences; I understand how this differs from traditional art concepts of “harmony” and ‘variety”

I can anticipate shared understandings as these are used to judge my piece as finished and successful; I understand how wider audiences affect the coherence – decoherence- contagion impacts of my designs

I am very metacognitive of all the composition, construction, and manipulation choices I have made, and constantly reflective of the effects and implications of these choices

* Various Workshops during year   * Wire Woven Cabochon Pendant

* Wire Woven Pagoda End Cap

  *Jewelry Design II: Principles of Form, Function, Structure, Body, Mind, Movement

*Architectural Bases

INTER-RELATING AND INTEGRAT-ING ALL LEVELS

(Disciplinary Literacy)

How we begin to build and expand our definitions of jewelry and design I am learning how all these things inter-relate, leading to better design and construction:

– art

– craft

– design

– architecture and engineering

– physical mechanics

– anthropology, sociology, psychology

– perception and cognition

– management and control

– systems theory

– party planning

– creative marketplace

JEWERLY DESIGN DISCUSSION SEMINARS
1. Good Design

2. Contemporary Design

3. Composition

4. Manipulation

5. Resonance

6. Beads and Color

7. Points, Lines, Planes, Shapes, Forms, Themes

8. Architectural Basics

9. Contemporizing Traditional Jewelry

10. Mixed Media / Mixed Techniques

11. Designing An Ugly Necklace

12. Backwards Design

13. What Is Jewelry, Really?

14. Is Jewelry Making Teachable, or Merely Intuitive?

15. Can I Survive As A Jewelry Artist?

16. Creativity Isn’t Found, It Is Developed

17. Jewelry Design Management

18. 5 Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

19. The Multiple Responsibilities of Being a Professional Jewelry Artist

20. Your Work Space

21. Design Theater

22. Overcoming Designer’s Block

23. Fashion, Style, Taste or Art?

24. Threading the Business Needle

Willingness To Adjust Styles To The Different Ways Students Think

Students learn in different ways.   Some are more visual, some more oral, some more tactile, some more experiential.   It is important that teachers vary their styles within each lesson.

For example, better instructions are presented not only with written steps, but also images illustrating each step, and diagrams or patterns explaining each step.

It is important to provide opportunities for students to reflect on what they did, and evaluate the thinking, management and control issues they confronted, and what they attempted to do to overcome these.

Last, it is just as important for the teacher to model (and think aloud) their own thought processes when attempting to design or construct a piece of jewelry.

Why Should The Teacher Be Motivated

To Take A Disciplinary Approach?

The unwillingness of instructors to break out of that mold of standard craft or art content curriculum is rooted in many things.

For one, it is not very lucrative.   Teaching disciplinary literacy on top of the standard content curriculum is more work.  It requires more thought and integration.   Initially, it requires more effort and planning.   Yet the earned instructional fees would remain the same had the instructor not made the additional effort.

Teaching disciplinary literacy involves making very public and visible the teacher’s design thinking and choices.    The teacher is expected to model design behaviors.    The teacher will introduce think-alouds, experimentation, thinking routines.   The teacher, within each lesson, gradually relinquishes control of the teaching task to the student.    The student takes over the design process, making more and more choices, whether good or bad, right or wrong.    The student then evaluates, citing evidence, what appears to be working, what not working, some reasons why, and some possible consequences.    These disciplinary literacy techniques might make the teacher feel very exposed, vulnerable and uneasy where such thinking and choices of the teacher might be questioned or challenged, or where the student begins to take over and assert control over learning about design.

Teachers must also expand their training and learning to go beyond art and craft.   They must more clearly incorporate ideas about architecture and functionality into their teaching.   They must train their students to be aware of how jewelry design is a process of communicative interaction.

Teacher reluctance to incorporate disciplinary learning into the standard curriculum might also be due to the fact that there is little professional recognition.   The recognition that tends to exist gets very tied to criteria based on a standard content which understands jewelry as an object, not a dialectic between artist and relevant other.   Jewelry design is an occupation becoming a profession, and it may feel safer for the teacher to remain in craft or art, rather than design, because the criteria for teacher evaluation is more well defined and agreed-upon.

And there is no student demand.   Jewelry design is often viewed more as an avocation or occupation, rather than a professional pursuit.   It’s a way to exercise creative thoughts.  A way to earn some extra money.  A way to have fun.   Jewelry design is not seen in professional terms with specialized knowledge and specific responsibilities.

Partly demand reflects low student expectations.   There are assumptions that you cannot teach creativity – you have it or you don’t.    There are assumptions that anyone can make jewelry, and that once you learn some basic vocabulary and techniques, better design skills will naturally evolve over time.   And these assumptions get affirmed because all students ever see and experience is good ole basic craft or art education.

Partly demand reflects some realities of the marketplace.  Most people who buy jewelry have little understanding about quality issues, art and design considerations, who the artists are and what their reputations are.   They don’t know better so they don’t demand better.   Jewelry purchases skew heavily toward the upper classes.     However, this does not mean that we should assume that better designed jewelry has to equate to more expensive jewelry.

It is my firm belief, however, that if instructors integrate disciplinary literacy – thinking routines for how designers think design – into the standard curriculum, both student and client demand will follow, as well as teacher pay and recognition.

As teachers of jewelry design, we should be motivated to create that demand for deeper, disciplinary learning.     We need to support the professionalization of the field.    We should want to make jewelry design even more fulfilling for our students.

Towards this end, we should teach jewelry design knowledge and skills development which lead to greater fluency, comprehension, self-direction, flexibility, originality and automaticity in design.   This means developing our students as architects, as well as artists.   It means helping our students develop those critical thinking skills so they can adapt to different design situations, and more easily problem-solve when things go awry.   It means enabling our students to evaluate situations and contexts in ways which make clear how the shared understandings of others impact the jewelry design process.  It means giving our students a clear understanding of how creative thinking relates to the creative marketplace.   It means teaching our students to be able to assert their worth – the worth of the pieces they create, their skills, their ideas, and their labor.    Only in these ways will we play an active part in enhancing the ability of our students to make a living from their artistry and design work.   Only in this way, moreover, will we elevate contemporary jewelry design so that it has a life outside the studio, and so that it doesn’t get whipped by the whims of fashion or seen only as a design accessory.

How Should We Measure Successful Teaching?

In the standard design curriculum, it is relatively easy to measure our success as teachers.   We can gauge how many students take our classes.   We can refer to the number of concepts learned.   We can count the number of successfully completed steps students have completed.    We can get a sense of how many students are able to sell or exhibit their pieces.

What is more difficult to measure, from a disciplinary literacy standpoint, is how well our students are able to think, analyze, reflect, create and engage in jewelry design, given variation and variability in audience, client, context, situation, society and culture.

It is difficult, as well, to gauge the degree we have been able to elevate the importance of jewelry design as a profession.    Something beyond craft.   Something beyond occupation.   Something even beyond art.


WARREN FELD, Jewelry Designer

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

615-292-0610

For Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer, (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com), beading and jewelry making have been wonderful adventures. These adventures have taken Warren from the basics of bead stringing and bead weaving, to wire working, wire weaving and silversmithing, and onward to more complex jewelry designs which build on the strengths of a full range of technical skills and experiences.

Warren leads a group of instructors at Be Dazzled Beads (www.bedazzledbeads.com).  He teaches many of the bead-weaving, bead-stringing, wire weaving, jewelry design and business-oriented courses. He works with people just getting started with beading and jewelry making, as well as those with more experience.    Many of his classes and projects have been turned into kits, available for purchase from www.warrenfeldjewelry.com  or www.landofodds.com.     He conducts workshops at many sites around the US, and the world.

Join Warren for an enrichment-travel adventure on Your World Of Jewelry Making Cruises.

His pieces have appeared in beading and jewelry magazines and books. One piece is in the Swarovski museum in Innsbruck, Austria.

He is probably best known for creating the international The Ugly Necklace Contest, where good jewelry designers attempt to overcome our pre-wired brains’ fear response for resisting anything Ugly.

He is currently writing a book – Fluency In Design:   Do You Speak Jewelry?

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FOOTNOTES

[1] T. Shanahan, C. Shanahan.  “Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking content-area literacy,” Harvard Educational Review, 2008.

[2] Historians gathering evidence like letters, journals, newspaper articles, photographs, analyze them and compare then.   They look for patterns and corroboration.   From that they infer understanding and conclusions.    The historian may take many paths and turns to discover information that may or may not be factual, but may be helpful.

Scientists set up controlled experiments, typically using information they consider facts, and interrelated these facts mathematically in order to establish understandings and conclusions.    They go about things following the scientific method and approach, beginning with observations, formulating hypotheses, setting experiment and collecting data, and so forth.

Jewelry designers manage tensions between appeal and functionality.     The successful managing of these tensions involves adequately anticipating the shared understandings of various client groups about whether a piece should be considered finished and successful.   The designer is able to establish something in and about the piece which signals such anticipation and understanding.

[3]Thinking Routines.  I teach jewelry design.   I find it useful to engage students with various ways of thinking out loud.    They need to hear me think out loud about what choices I am making and what things I am considering when making those choices.   They need to hear themselves think out loud so that they can develop strategies for getting more organized and strategic in dealing with information and making decisions.    My inspiration here was based on the work done by Visible Thinking by Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education .   http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/VisibleThinking1.html

[4] Fluency.  I took two graduate education courses in Literacy.   The primary text we used was Literacy: Helping Students Construct Meaning by J. David Cooper, M. Robinson, J.A. Slansky and N. Kiger, 9th Edition, Cengage Learning, 2015.   Even though the text was not about jewelry designing per se, it provides an excellent framework for understanding what fluency is all about, and how fluency with language develops over a period of years.    I have relied on many of the ideas in the text to develop my own ideas about a disciplinary literacy for jewelry design.

[5] Shared Understandings.  In another graduate education class, the major text reviewed the differences between understanding and knowledge.   The question was how to teach understanding.    Worth the read to gain many insights about how to structure teaching to get sufficient understanding to enrich learning.    Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.

[6] Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Bloom, Benjamin S. 1956. Taxonomy of educational objectives; the classification of educational goals. New York: Longmans, Green.

Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., & Bloom, B. S. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives (Complete ed.). New York: Longman.

Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Arts.   Incredible Art Department.    As referenced at

https://www.incredibleart.org/files/blooms2.htm

Bloom’s Taxonomy.   Vanderbilt University.  Center for Teaching.   As reference at

https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

[7] Backwards Design. I had taken two graduate education courses in Literacy and one in Planning that were very influential in my approach to disciplinary literacy. One of the big take-aways from Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005, was the idea they introduced of “backwards design”. Their point is that you can better teach understanding if you anticipate the evidence others will use in their assessments of what you are trying to do. When coupled with ideas about teaching literacy and fluency (see Literacy: Helping Students Construct Meaning by J. David Cooper, M. Robinson, J.A. Slansky and N. Kiger, 9th Edition, Cengage Learning, 2015), you can begin to introduce ideas about managing the design process in a coherent and alignable way.

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Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Posted by learntobead on August 18, 2018


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ARCHITECTURAL BASICS OF JEWELRY DESIGN:

Building In The Necessary Support and Structure

by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer

Abstract

Whenever you create a piece of jewelry, it is important to try to anticipate how your choice of materials, techniques and technologies might positively or negatively affect how the piece moves and feels (called Support) when worn and how its components maintain shape and integrity (called Structure).  Towards this end, it is important to redefine your techniques and materials in architectural terms.    Every jewelry making technique is an applied process with the end goal of trying to reach some type of equilibrium.  That is, balancing off all the external and internal forces impacting the piece.    Achieving this balance means that the piece of jewelry is at its point of least vulnerability.    This is where all the materials, techniques and technologies have been leveraged to maximize the four S’s:  Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy.  I find that most jewelry designers do not learn their techniques with architectural principles in mind.    They arrange a set of materials into a composition, and assume its success is solely based on the visual grammar they applied.    But if the piece of jewelry doesn’t wear well, feels uncomfortable, gets in a weird position making the wearer look clownish, or breaks or comes apart too easily, the jewelry designer has failed in their mission. 

ARCHITECTURAL BASICS OF JEWELRY DESIGN:

Building In The Necessary Support and Structure

Everything boils down to support and structure.

Support is anything about the materials or techniques used which allow the finished piece to best move, drape and flow while the piece is worn.

Structure is anything about the materials or techniques used which allow the finished piece to maintain its shape and integrity while the piece is worn.

Constructing a bracelet or a necklace is really not much different than engineering and building a bridge.    Bridges have purpose and functions.   Jewelry has purpose and functions.   These are very much the same.  The jewelry designer needs to anticipate how the piece will purpose and function within a context or situation or environment, as worn.

Designers have to worry about the bracelet maintaining its shape and not falling apart, in the face of many stresses which come from movement, adjustments, obstructions, twisting, body geography and contour, aging of materials, and so forth.  They need to anticipate how the piece will comfortably move, drape and flow while worn.   They have to construct something that is appealing and friendly to the user.     Designers have to be fluent in, and be able to apply, not just a visual grammar, but a functional grammar, as well.

This means that the jewelry artist needs to know a little bit about physical mechanics.    A little bit about how to create, control and maintain shape.   A little bit about how to build in support and jointedness.    A lot about materials, how they go together and how they age together over time.   A lot about how various jewelry making techniques enhance or impede support and structure over time.   Some comfort about making tradeoffs and judgement calls between aesthetics and functionality.    And their finished jewelry needs to reflect all this jewelry artist knowledge, so it maintains its appeal, but doesn’t fall apart when worn.

We have all heard and seen the complaints.

  • Clasp slips around neck to the front
  • Necklace bezel settings turn around
  • Earring dangle gets locked in a 90 degree angle
  • Jump rings open up and bracelet pulls apart
  • Necklace doesn’t lay flat
  • Earring dangles don’t face the right way
  • Stone pops out of its setting
  • Stringing material breaks or pulls apart
  • Finishes on beads and components flake off
  • Necklace or bracelet breaks at the crimp
  • Solder or glue doesn’t hold
  • Beads crack and string breaks in overly tight pieces

These things that happen are not natural to jewelry.   They are examples of bad jewelry design.    They can be corrected by building in an architectural awareness of how materials and techniques function.     They may need more support, such as loops, rings, and hinges, for example.   They may need better structure, such as smarter selection of materials, or more strategic implementation of technique, or extra reinforcement at points of potential weakness.

This wire work bracelet pulls apart when worn.   The jump rings open up.   Upon closer inspection, we learn that the designer used dead soft wire to make the jump rings, and did nothing to harden the wire, either before or after shaping.   Harding the wire, such as twisting it before shaping it, or starting with half hard wire may have solved this problem.

 

This necklace clasp has slipped to the front.    This is not natural to jewelry; it is a design flaw.    The clasp assembly has insufficient support or jointedness.    This problem can more easily be prevented by building in more support.  In this case, adding additional rings – at least one where the clasp is attached to the chain, and at least one to the ring on the other end of the chain – would probably suffice.    Added support would absorb the stress movement places on the piece.   Without it, the necklace will always turn around in the opposite direction to the force applied.

 

This earring dangle is stuck at a 90 degree angle.    The problem is simple.    There is insufficient support.   This means that either the size of the loop where the dangle connects to the ear wire, is too small, or that the thickness of the wire making this loop is too thick for the opening on the ear wire.    

SUPPORT SYSTEMS

Support systems are components or design elements we build into our pieces, which allow good movement, flow, and drape.     This is known as support or jointedness.    Sufficient support allows for the absorption or channeling of stress so that negative impacts on a piece of jewelry when worn are minimized.

These may be things like

  • Rings
  • Loops
  • Links
  • Hinges
  • Rivets
  • Knots  (unglued)

They may involve different kinds of chaining or connecting.

I include knots as support systems.   Unglued knots provide a lot of support and jointedness.   Glued knots do not.  Glued knots are stiff, and increase the risk of breakage or support failure.   Some knots are looser, like lark’s head knots or weaver’s knots or overhand knots.    Looser knots provide a lot of support and jointedness.   Other knots are tighter, like square knots and surgeon’s knots, and provide less support and jointedness.

Without these kinds of support systems, pieces of jewelry become stiff.    When jewelry is worn, movement puts a tremendous amount of force on all our parts.   There is a lot of stress and strain on our beads, our stringing materials and other adornments.   There is a lot of stress on the clasp assembly.   There is a lot of stress on our larger components and forms.   If everything is too stiff, movement would force these components to crumble, chip, crack or break.

The designer’s choices about clasps, materials, string, technique, and design all affect the success or failure of the support systems integral to their pieces of jewelry.

Often, when people string beads on cable wire, and crimp the ends of the wire to secure the clasp, they ignore concerns about support or jointedness.   If the artist pushed the crimp all the way up to the clasp, the connection between crimped wire and clasp would be too stiff.   It would not allow movement.   It could not absorb any forces placed on the piece, such as from moving, pulling, tugging, getting caught on something, and the like.

When the connection between wire and clasp is too stiff, the metal pieces will bend back and forth, eventually breaking.   In this case, the crimp bead is metal, the cable wire is metal and the clasp is metal.    When someone wears a necklace or bracelet where no joint or support is created at the clasp, a couple of things might happen.    The necklace or bracelet will start to pull on itself, and as the person moves, and necklace or bracelet moves, and the clasp slides up to the front.   The turning around of the necklace or bracelet is that piece’s response for alleviating the forces of stress.      If, for some reason, the necklace or bracelet cannot turn around, then all these metal parts will bend back and forth and break.

The better designer, one more familiar with architectural considerations, will avoid these kinds of design flaws which result from leaving an inadequate amount of support or jointedness within the piece.     Leaving an adequately sized loop on the cable, as it attaches to the clasp, thus never pushing the crimp all the way up to the clasp, allows for movement and support.

When there is sufficient support, in our necklace example, the clasp will always rest securely on the back of the neck, no matter if the wearer is sitting, dancing, or bending forward to pick something up.   It will not turn around.   It will not break.

You will find that most clasps, and most jewelry findings, will need an extra intervening ring – either a jump ring, split ring or soldered ring, in order to have sufficient support and jointedness.

There are 4 key types of support systems:

Type of support Type of movement allowed Example
Loop Allows multi-directional movement Ring, Loop, Chain links, Netting
Pin Allows uni-directional movement Hinge, rivet
Roller Allows rotational movement Knot, Stringing material which can twist, Small spacer beads between larger beads
Rigid Movement occurs through bending or absorbing additional stress and strain Soldered joint, glued section, coil, spring

STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS

As designers, we always want to think about our piece of jewelry, its construction and execution in terms of what might happen when:

  • Pulling left and right, up or down  (horizontal movement)
  • Bearing weight (vertical movement)
  • Balancing from side to side or section to section or twisting (rotational  movement)

These structures are described in reference to how external forces operate on them.    The labels of horizontal, vertical and rotational do not refer to the placement or positioning of these structures, per se.

The structures we build into our jewelry help us manage shapes and their integrity as the piece of jewelry is worn.     They help us achieve that sweet-spot among the four S’s: strength, suppleness, stability and synergy.

Truss

Funicular Structure

Arch

Horizontal structures assist us in managing the effects of horizontal movement, such as pulling, tugging, stretching.   Horizontal structures are the most common ones we build into jewelry.   These include arches and trusses, funicular structures, and nets or webs.   Horizontal structures can more easily deflect and deform their shapes in response to adverse forces.

They may require adjustments in lengths as requirements for stability might require inward sloping, thus shorter lines, as things get connected closer to the neck, and elongated outer boundaries.    Well-designed Trusses and other horizontal structures will distribute the weight and channel the stresses placed on the piece in an equitable way.     They will alleviate dead space, drooping, and unsatisfying drape and flow.     Horizontal structures designed for strength will allow for more dimensionality, and allow the piece to include arches and puffed out components (vaults).

The success of horizontal systems is very dependent on the length of their span.   Their ability to adapt to the adverse effects of mechanical forces decreases or increases with their increasing length.    As the length shortens, it becomes more important how well these structures can bend.   As the length increases, it becomes more important how well these structures can deflect these forces.

Wall (which in jewelry can be vertical or horizontal)

Cantilever

 

Frame

Vertical structures assist us in managing the effects of vertical movement, such as bearing weight or resisting bending.    These include things like walls, cantilevers and frames.   They may be foundational bases for compositions.    They may be a set of wires bounded together to secure them and leverage their properties in the finished piece.   They may be bails or connectors for drops or charms.   They may be columns.   Most vertical structures are characterized by a certain amount of inflexibility, but will vary somewhat in flexibility by type or dimension (width, length, height).    With vertical structures, we sometimes worry about shift or drift or bending out of shape.

Vertical structures, like Walls, are things which allow jewelry or jewelry components to find a satisfying point of stability between the effects of gravity and the effects of their own weight (loads).

Roma, a cubic right-angle weave necklace by Sabine Lippert, is composed of square-shaped vertical units of cubic right-angle weave

This point of stability must hold when the jewelry is static (thus not worn) as well as when it is dynamic (thus, worn).

A Cantilever looks and functions like a tree with branches.    This vertical structure allows for a lot of bending.      You might visualize a necklace with a lot of charms or pendant drops cantilevered off a strap.

The Moment Frame is an additional type of vertical structure which allows for some temporary give and take.   The Moment Frame might involve the addition of several support systems, like loops, rings or rivets, and may allow some bending and compression without deformity of the piece.

A Braced Frame involves the placement of some kind of diagonal element across a section of the piece, thus bracing two sides at that section.    This functions similar to Trusses, and allows for bending and compression without deformity of the piece.

Rotational structures assist us in managing the effects of rotational movement, such as twisting, rotating, slipping over or under, or curling.    They enable these structures to deform without breaking.   Rotational structures can be either horizontal or vertical.    What is key is how they are attached.    The points of connection are allowed to rotate, temporarily adjusting or bending in shape in response to outside forces, but then rotating back in place.

EVERY JEWELRY MAKING TECHNIQUE

IS A TYPE OF DESIGN SYSTEM

Jewelry designers apply many different approaches to the creation of jewelry.   They may string.   They may bead weave.   They may wire work.  They may silversmith.   They may work with fibers or glass or other unusual materials to create components and appealing arrangements for people to wear as jewelry.

Every technique has, at its heart and the ways it should be best implemented, things which allow it to give jewelry support, and things which allow it to give jewelry structure.   Some techniques have a good balance between steps or strategies which support movement, drape and flow, with steps or strategies which structure shape and the maintenance of its integrity.    Other techniques are sometimes stronger in one side of the equation, say support, and weaker on the other side, which would be structure, or vice versa.

Every technique or design system is an applied process with the end goal of trying to reach some type of equilibrium.   Each piece of jewelry is the designer’s effort at figuring out, given the materials, techniques and technologies at hand, how to balance off all the external and internal forces impacting the piece.    Achieving this balance means that the finished and successful piece of jewelry is at its point of least vulnerability.    This is where the materials, techniques and technologies have been leveraged to best concurrently optimize all of our four S’s:  Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy.

Achieving this balance or equilibrium is partly a function of the materials chosen, but mostly a function of how the designer selects techniques, makes choices about their implementation, and manages support and structure.    Every technique will have some steps which require stronger, heavier, firmer, tighter efforts, and some steps which require looser, lighter, weaker efforts.    Where the particular steps of the technique are supposed to lend more support, usually the designer will lighten up, and where the particular steps are supposed to lead to greater structural integrity, the designer will tighten up.

I find that most jewelry designers do not learn their techniques with architectural principles in mind.    They arrange a set of materials into a composition, and assume its success is solely based on the visual grammar they applied.    But if the piece of jewelry doesn’t wear well, feels uncomfortable, gets in a weird position making the wearer look clownish, or breaks or comes apart too easily, the jewelry designer has failed in their mission.

I also find most jewelry designers apply their techniques with the same amount of strength, tightness and tension, rather than learn to vary, manage and control these.    This suggests they are unaware of how the techniques they apply result in more or less support, and more or less structural integrity.

Let’s explore some bead weaving examples.   Bead weaving encapsulates and easily shows how all these support and structural issues come into play.

The Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet

Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet, Warren Feld 2014

The Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet is bead woven using a technique called brick stitch.    The brick stitch is a very robust bead weaving stitch, in that it allows for a lot of support while at the same time allows for good structure.   To phrase this another way, the brick stitch allows the piece to keep its shape and integrity, yet respond to all the forces and stress of movement.    The thread pathway of this stitch allows each individual bead to self-adjust in response to stress, while concurrently influencing all the beads around it in how they individually adjust to this same stress.

There are two major support systems in this bracelet.

The first support system is the thread path design system of the brick stitch itself.    The brick stitch attaches the new bead to the previous row by snagging a thread loop between two beads.   This looping not only ties all the beads together within our composition, but also, allows each bead and each row to bend in response to the forces of movement and then bend back into its original position.    And, importantly, it allows this flexing all the while maintaining the solidity and shape of our component.

The thread-looping pattern of the stitch also allows us to manipulate the flat beadwork into a curve.    It allows us to slide and stretch the bangle over our hand and also return to its original shape as it sits on the wrist.

It is important, while weaving the brick stitch, to maintain the integrity of the support systems, that is, of each thread-looping-over-thread intersection as best as can be.    Anything done which disrupts this looping, will begin to stiffen the joints, so to speak.   So, if our needle pierces an existing thread as we create the next loop-connection, this will begin to impede the support, or in a sense, those “swinging” properties of the looping.    If we tie off the thread into a knot, such as when we end an old thread and begin a new one, this too will impede support.   If we glue any knot, this will end all the support properties at that point in the piece.

The second major support system is in the design of the Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet itself.   We are creating a chain of links.   These links or “rings” provide support.   That is, they allow the bangle to easily curve around the wrist and to freely move when worn.

In our long link, we have cinched and sewn down the middle of the link.   This begins to disrupt that support in our chain-link.  So, we have to be comfortable with the size, thus support, of our now bi-furcated two new ring openings on either side of this cinched long link.    If these new openings are too small, one ring would lock into place with the preceding one, making the piece stiff, and thus, uncomfortable to wear, and perhaps putting too much pressure on the parts.

Russian Right Angle Weave Necklace

Russian Right Necklace, Warren Feld, 2008

It is important to understand each technique you use, whether a bead stringing technique, or wire working technique, or bead weaving stitch, or silversmithing technique, in terms of how it might enhance or impede support or structure.    How might it allow movement.  How might it absorb and direct the forces this movement places on our beads, stringing materials and other components within our piece.    How it allows the piece to encompass a shape and maintain that shape as worn.

The Russian Right Angle Weave Necklace is an example of another bead weaving stitch which has great properties allowing for both support and structure.

The basic right angle weave stitch begins with a circle of 4 beads.   It then moves on to create a second circle of four beads.    These two circles are linked with one shared bead, common to both circles, and which acts like a hinge.

Architecturally, we want each circle of 4 beads – what we call a right angle weave unit, to move in tandem, that is, all at the same time.    We want, as well, for each right angle weave unit to be able to influence the movement of all other right angle weave units within the piece, but to also move somewhat independently of all other right angle weave units within our piece.   Each unit should move as one.   Each unit should be allowed to somewhat self-adjust to stress independently, but at the same time, affect the interdependency of all units within the piece.

The right angle woven piece should move like a coil spring mattress.   Picture someone lying down on this mattress.   Each coil adjusts somewhat independently to the pressure of the body part immediately above it.   Yet each coil with the mattress also adjusts relative to the movement of the other coils as well.   Nothing gets out of line.   No matter what the person laying on the mattress does, or how they move around, all the coils adjust to the changes in weight very smoothly and coherently.

This is how right angle weave works, and maintains itself as a support system.  To achieve the optimal performance with right angle weave, the designer would want their four beads within a unit to be as tightly connected as possible, so that they always move and respond to forces as a whole unit.   The designer would want a looser tension at the place each right angle unit connects to another at the point of their shared bead.

VULNERABILTY:

Areas of Potential Instability and Weakness

Whenever a project is begun, it is important to carefully anticipate and identify potential areas of instability and weakness.    Where might your piece be vulnerable?   Where might the forces of movement, when the piece is worn, cause the stringing material or threads or beads or clasps to loosen up, and perhaps break.  Or the wire or metal to bend, distort or deform?

Most often, places of vulnerability occur where the structures or supports in place take on the shapes of either H, L, T, or U.    Think of these shapes as hazards.  These shapes tend to split when confronted with external or internal forces.   They tend to split because each leg is often confronted with different levels or directions of force.   These hazardous shapes cry out for additional reinforcements or support systems.

Vulnerability and instability will also occur where the structures or supports are very thin or very soft or very brittle.    They will occur at points where there is a slant or a wedge or an unusual angle.

Pieces are vulnerable because the jewelry designer has made poor choices in selecting materials, techniques, or technologies, and in managing design from inspiration to execution.    REMEMBER: A piece of jewelry results from a Design System.   This system is a back and forth process of anticipating how others will judge the piece to be finished and successful, how choices are made and implemented regarding materials, techniques, arrangements and technologies in light of these shared understandings coupled with the artist’s intent.

If the piece is vulnerable, then the designer has failed to reflect upon what things will make the piece endure.    What will be expected of the piece when the person wearing it moves?   As the piece moves from a static place, say from in a jewelry box, and then must transition to the body as a person begins to put it on, what are those transitional issues the piece must accommodate?    What parts of the piece must always maintain their shape or position?    What happens when the piece has to either shrink, elongate or expand?    Does the piece need to bend or rotate for any reason?   What happens to all the materials and pieces over time?

Reinforcements at points of potential instability and vulnerability can take many forms, such as:

  • Anchoring
  • Bracing
  • Framing
  • Attaching/Securing
  • Connecting
  • Blocking
  • Adding in slack or elasticity
  • Isolating the area

THE 4 S’s:

Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy

Jewelry must be designed, from an architectural standpoint, to find a special point of equilibrium.   This equilibrium point is a sweet efficient and effective spot among Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy.     As our choices force us to deviate from this optimized sweet-spot, our pieces of jewelry become more vulnerable when worn.   They are more likely to distort and deform, pull apart, lose tension, and break.

To find this sweet-spot for any particular piece of jewelry, we first assess what shared understandings our various audiences will apply when determining if the piece is finished and successful.    A big part of this is figuring out how a piece will be worn, how often a piece will be worn, and how long a duration this piece is expected to hold up.   The designer assesses all this, then begins to incorporate personal artistic intent into the design process.

Strength involves choices we make about materials and techniques which prevent breaking.      For example, a well-done soldering joint or correctly crimping to secure a clasp to cable wire, would increase the strength.

Suppleness involves choices we make about materials and techniques which maximize elasticity and flexibility.   For example, the addition of intervening rings to various jewelry findings would increase suppleness.

Stability involves choices we make about materials and techniques which prevent deterioration, malformation or collapse.    For example, we might reject coated beads for a project, or might use a multi-strand rather than a single-strand clasp for a multi-strand piece of jewelry.  We might add extra reinforcement to the ends and the corners of pieces.

Synergy involves choices we make about materials, techniques, and technologies which not only reinforce our design, but also increase, enhance or extend the design’s appeal and functionality.    For example, a tight clustering of beads into an attractive pendant drop might be many times stronger, more supple, more stable and/or more appealing than any one bead alone.

Anatomy of a Necklace

The Vivian, Warren Feld, 2012

A necklace, or any type of jewelry, has a structure and an anatomy.    Each part has its own set of purposes, functions and aesthetics.   Understanding each type of structure or physical part is important to the designer.

If we looked at these sections of a necklace from solely an art standpoint, we might primarily focus on the centerpiece of the jewelry and consider The Strap (and most other parts) as supplemental to the piece, in a similar relationship as the frame to a painting or the pedestal to a sculpture.

However, jewelry is a 3-dimensional object serving both aesthetic as well as functional purposes.    As such, we need to be more sensitive to the entire jewelry-anatomy and both its art and architectural reason for being.

Typical structural parts of a necklace might include,

The Strap: The entire linear component of the piece, comprising Yoke, Clasp Assembly, and Frame

The Yoke:  The part of The Strap behind the neck, typically 6-7” including clasp assembly

The Clasp Assembly: Part of The Yoke, and includes all the pieces it takes to attach your Strap to the Clasp, including clasp, rings, loops at ends of stringing material

The Frame: The visually accessible part of The Strap, connecting to The Yoke at The Break point.   On a 16” necklace, The Frame might be 9-10”

The Break:  The point where The Yoke connects to The Frame, often at the collar bone on either side of the neck.  Very often, this point is one of a critical change in vector – that means, the angle The Frame lays radically changes from the angle of The Yoke.  Think of this as an inflection point.

The Bail:  A separate part which drops the centerpiece of pendant drop below the line of the Frame

The Focal Point, Centerpiece, or Pendant Drop:   A part which emphasizes or focuses the eye, usually dropped below the line of The Frame

The Canvas:  Typically the stringing material or foundation of the piece

The Embellishment:   Things added to the surface or edge of The Canvas, The Strap, or the Centerpiece which serve as decorative, rather than structural or supportive roles

Each part of the body of a necklace poses its own special design challenges for the jewelry artist.   These involve strategies for resolving such issues as:

  • Making connections
  • Determining angularity, curvature, and roundedness
  • Transitioning color, pattern and texture
  • Placing objects
  • Extending lengths
  • Adding extensions
  • Creating balance and coherency
  • Anticipating issues about compression, stretching, bending, load-bearing, and distortion
  • Anticipating issues related to physical mechanics, both when the piece is static (sitting) and dynamic (as worn)
  • Keeping things organic, so nothing looks like an afterthought, or an outlier, or out of place, or something designed by a committee
  • Determining which parts are critical to understanding the piece of jewelry as art and as it is worn, and which parts are merely supplemental to the piece

The Strap

The Strap is that continuous line that extends from one end of the clasp to the other.   The Strap may or may not consist of the exposed Canvas.   The Strap typically delineates a silhouette or boundary.    This usually sends the message to the viewer about where they may comfortably and appropriately place their gaze on the wearer’s body.

The Strap is a type of funicular structure.   A funicular structure is one where something like a string or chain or cable is held up at two points, and one or more loads are placed on it.   Loads increase tension.   Loads lead to compression.

The placement can be centered or off-centered.   If more than one object is placed on The Strap, each object can vary in mass, volume and weight.     We do not want The Strap to break because of the weight or placement of any load or loads.   We do want to control the resulting shape of the silhouette or curvature of The Strap which results from the weight or placement of any load or loads.

The Yoke

The Yoke is one section of the Strap which is the part around the back of the neck, including The Clasp Assembly.    The length of The Yoke, and whether the beginning and end parts of The Yoke should be exposed  on the front of the body is something to be determined by the designer.    The designer must also determine the proportional size of The Yoke relative to the remaining part of The Strap.    The designer must determine what role the elements, such as beads, which comprise The Yoke, will play, and whether they should be an active part of the visual composition, and/or a critical part in the functional success of the piece, or merely supplemental.   The Yoke balances the load requirements of the remaining Strap, Bail and Pendant.

The Break

At the point The Yoke connects to the remaining Strap (called The Break leading to The Frame) on either side of the neck, this is a point of vulnerability, often assisted and reduced with the addition of support elements.   Because it is at this point – The Break – where The Strap may alter its vector position in a dramatic way – that is, the angular positioning of the Strap at the point of The Break may vary a lot as The Strap continues around the front of the body – this is a major point of vulnerability.

There are always transitional issues at The Break.   The designer needs to have strategies for managing these transitions.   This might involve using visual cues and doing something with color or pattern/texture or rhythm or sizes.    The designer must decide the degree The Frame should be visually distinct from The Yoke.

The Clasp Assembly

The Clasp Assembly is part of The Yoke.   The Clasp Assembly includes, not just the clasp itself, but also all the other parts necessary to attach it to the Strap.    There might be some additional soldered rings.   There might be loops left at the ends of the stringing material.    There might be crimp beads or knots or glue or solder.

Whenever choosing a clasp, it is more important to think in terms of choosing a clasp assembly.   You might want to use a very attractive clasp, but it may take so many parts and turns to attach it to your beadwork, that you end up with a visually ugly clasp assembly.

The Frame

The Frame is that part of The Strap which connects to either side of The Yoke at The Break.

Too often, when the designer does not recognize the Yoke as distinct from The Frame – even if the transition is to be very subtle – less-than-satisfying things happen.   Proportions may be off.   The piece may not lay or sit as envisioned.   The Strap may have too much embellishment going too high up The Strap.   Sometimes the balance between Yoke and Frame is off – too much Yoke and not enough Frame.     The change in vector angles between The Yoke and The Frame may pose many architectural issues for the designer.

Bi-Furcated Frame:  A Frame visually split in half, usually at the center and in two equal parts, with a centerpiece focal bead or pendant drop in the middle.

The Focal Point, Centerpiece or Pendant Drop

While not every necklace has a focal point, centerpiece or pendant drop, most do.  The Focal Point gives the viewer’s eye a place to rest or focus.    Sometimes this is done with a centerpiece pendant.  Othertimes, the centerpiece is more integrated with The Strap.  This can be created by graduating the sizes or beads or playing with color or playing with rhythm or playing with fringe.

A Centerpiece would be a part that extends beyond the line of The Frame, usually below it, around it, or in front of it.   This forces transitional concerns between it and The Frame.

There should be a natural transition from The Strap to The Focal Point, Centerpiece or Pendant Drop.

The Bail

The Bail is a part that drops the Centerpiece below the Frame, forcing additional transitional concerns among Centerpiece, Bail and Frame.    We are concerned about its impact on emphasis, harmony, balance, distribution of size and proportion, point, line, plane and shape.    We are concerned about its ability to maintain stability, given the effects of gravity, the weight of the drop, and its relationship with and fit to The Frame of The Strap.  Most Bails would be considered vertical structures

The Canvas

The Canvas typically refers to the stringing materials.   However, in a layered piece, may refer to any created “background or foundation” off of which or around which the main composition is built.

It is important to know what The Canvas is made of, and how its function and appeal might improve or weaken as its Span is lengthened or shortened, widened or narrowed.     The steepness of its slope or positioning might also affect its integrity.

Sometimes more than one Canvas are interconnected.   You can picture a necklace with additional strands crossing the chest from one side of The Strap to the other.   You might also have a necklace where strands radiate out at angles from the neck and across the chest.

 

A Truss

Necklace with Trusses

Architecturally, additional Canvases which span from one side to the other of a piece of jewelry operate like Trusses, Arches or Support Beams.   These types of structures are referred to as Horizontal Structures.

The Embellishment

The Embellishment includes things like fringe, edging and surface decoration.    Embellishments are decorative elements added for purposes of improving the visual appeal of a piece.   Embellishments typically do not play any support or structural roles.

PHYSICAL MECHANICS:

Statics and Dynamics

Mechanics represents the behaviors of the jewelry when subjected to the forces which arise when wearing a piece.    These forces include movement.   They include pulling, tugging, bending, stretching, realigning, readjusting, bearing weight, carrying weight, securing weight, brushing against, rubbing against, curving and taking the shape of the body, loose- to just-right- to tight-fit, positioning, repositioning, and the like.

Statics are descriptions of jewelry behaviors when that piece of jewelry is on the body, but at rest.

Dynamics are descriptions of jewelry behaviors when that piece of jewelry is on the body, and the body is in motion.

Forces are external to the piece of jewelry.

Stresses are internal to the piece of jewelry.

Strains result from the deformation of the jewelry, as it responds to either external forces or internal stresses.

As jewelry designers, we want to understand jewelry mechanical behaviors in terms of our 4 S’s.   We do not need to go into any of the math here.    We primarily need to be aware of the kinds of things we need to think about, manage and control.   Some of these things will be forces external to the materials and construction of our piece of jewelry.   Other things will be internal stresses within our piece of jewelry.   Our jewelry will strain to respond to either forces or stresses or both, until it can strain no more and it loses its shape, breaks or otherwise becomes unwearable.

We want to anticipate jewelry mechanical behaviors at the points of (a) maintaining shape (strength), (b) maintaining comfort (suppleness), (c) maintaining position or placement (stability), and (d) right at that point where all the materials, techniques, and technologies are leveraged to their full effect (synergy).

TYPES OF FORCES
FORCE TYPE ACTION RESULTS FROM
Tension Elongates Strain on parts
Compression Shortens Weight and Pressure
Shear Sliding Force Resistance to sliding of adjacent parts
Bending Elongates one side, shortens the other Unevenly applied weight and pressure
Torsion Twists A turning force applied at some angle

Think about what the flow of forces through the piece of jewelry would be as worn in different situations.     The wearer could be sitting, perhaps writing at a desk.   The wearer might be walking, running, dancing, skipping, crouching, bending over, bending backwards.    With mechanics, again, we want to think about our piece of jewelry, its construction and execution in terms of what might happen when:

  • Pulling left and right, up or down  (horizontal movement)
  • Bearing weight (vertical movement)
  • Balancing from side to side or section to section, or twisting (rotation)

What about our choices of materials, techniques or technology leads us to design jewelry which mechanically achieves these points of equilibrium of forces?    What about the structures we use and the support systems we build in allows us (or prevents us) from achieving this point of force equilibrium?

DESIGNING IN ANTICIPATION OF

THE EFFECTS OF PHYSICAL MECHANICAL FORCES

The fluent jewelry designer can think about art and about architecture and context.    He or she can be able to anticipate the types of issues that arise, and the types of solutions that might be available.    And he or she can evaluate and reflect upon the choices and successes or failures.

Jewelry takes quite a beating when worn.   We want it to hold up.   We don’t want it to break.  We don’t want it to stretch out or distort or deform.   We don’t want the materials we use to fail, such as the finishes fading or rubbing off, the material cracking, or the material becoming too brittle or too soft relative to how it should function in the piece.    We do not want the individual components to shift positions, or inadvertently glom on top of each other.   We want the jewelry to make the person wearing look good, feel good, and get that sense of connectedness they seek when wearing a piece of jewelry.

The architecturally-sensitive designer will design for strength, suppleness, stability and synergy.    The forces affecting these can be very complex.    They might depend upon or vary based on physical dimensions (width, length, height and depth).    They might depend upon or vary based on environmental considerations, such as cosmetics, perfumes, body oils, pollution in the air, or certain chemicals in someone’s sweat.   And of course they are dependent and may vary based on anything that causes movement or prevents movement, such as the movement of the wearer, the wind, getting something caught on something, brushing against something, twisting, bending, shaking, and the like.

Jewelry is both art and architecture, and must be thought about and implemented as such.

It is always important to remember to think about any technique applied as a design system.

This design system will include the characteristics of the materials used, the strategy for implementing the technique, the technology incorporated into the process, support and structure, and finding equilibrium among the 4 S’s.

The design system is a process that is to be managed and controlled by the jewelry designer, in line with assessments about shared understandings and artist intent.

It is always important to visually and functionally specify how the design incorporates support.

It is always important to visually and functionally specify how the design incorporates structure.

And it is always important to remember we want to achieve a point of equilibrium among the four S’s:  Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy.

…if one is to be fluent in design!

_________________________________________________________

WARREN FELD, Jewelry Designer

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

615-292-0610

For Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer, (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com), beading and jewelry making have been wonderful adventures. These adventures have taken Warren from the basics of bead stringing and bead weaving, to wire working and silver smithing, and onward to more complex jewelry designs which build on the strengths of a full range of technical skills and experiences.

Warren leads a group of instructors at Be Dazzled Beads (www.bedazzledbeads.com).  He teaches many of the bead-weaving, bead-stringing, jewelry design and business-oriented courses. He works with people just getting started with beading and jewelry making, as well as those with more experience.

His pieces have appeared in beading and jewelry magazines and books. One piece is in the Swarovski museum in Innsbruck, Austria.

He is probably best known for creating the international The Ugly Necklace Contest, where good jewelry designers attempt to overcome our pre-wired brains’ fear response for resisting anything Ugly.

_________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

G.G.Schierle, Architectural Structures, 1990-2006, as referenced at,

https://disegnodiezunibe.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/architectural-structures.pdf

Copyright, FELD, LearnToBead.net, 2018

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

 

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