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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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JEWELRY DESIGN COMPOSITION: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

Posted by learntobead on March 17, 2018

JEWELRY DESIGN COMPOSITION:
PLAYING WITH BUILDING BLOCKS
CALLED DESIGN ELEMENTS

by Warren Feld, Designer

image002.jpg


Abstract:
Jewelry making is a constructive process of expression.   The language of expression begins with the idea of Design Elements.   Design Elements are the smallest, meaningful units of design.  Design Elements
function in a similar way as vowels and consonants in a language.   They have form.  They have meaning.   They have expression.   Some can stand alone, and others are dependent and must be clustered together.  Better jewelry designers are aware of and can decode these expressive aspects of design elements and how they are included within any piece.  This is one part of learning a disciplinary
literacy in design. This literacy begins with a process of decoding and builds to an intuitive fluency in design.   This article focuses on this process of decoding.

Jewelry making is a constructive process of expression.
   

The language of expression begins with the idea of Design Elements.    Design Elements are like building blocks and function a bit like the vowel and consonant letters of the alphabet.   They have form.  They have meaning.   They can be assembled into different arrangements which extend their meaning and usefulness in expression.

There is an underlying logic to this process – a vocabulary and grammar, so to speak.    Recognizing how this vocabulary and grammar is structured and applied enables the jewelry designer to learn how to be fluent in design.    Such recognition is critical in developing a coherent, consistent disciplinary literacy in jewelry design.   Such disciplinary literacy is at the heart
of a professional identity for jewelry design artisans.  
This literacy structure in design has four  main components to it:

1) Vocabulary: Design Elements As The Basis Of Composition

2) Grammar:  Principles of Construction

3) Strategy:  Project Management[1]

4) Context/Culture:  Shared Understandings[2]

 

 

This article focuses on the first component – Design Elements.

It makes sense for the designer to begin with something like building blocks, which I call Design Elements.   Design Elements, like building blocks, are tangible things.   They can be visualized.   They can be touched and moved around.   They can be combined in different arrangements.   They can be used to create many types of expressions.  Design Elements include things like color, shape, movement, dimensionality, materials, use of space, and the like.   Design Elements are the smallest, meaningful units of design.

Not every Design Element is alike.    Color is different than Shape
is different than Texture.     Movement is different than Balance is
different than Dimensionality.    Learning about and understanding the
differentiation among Design Elements becomes very important if the jewelry designer is to have sufficient power and insight over consistency, variation, coherence and unity in their designs.    This power and insight is called decoding. Every jewelry designer needs to learn how to decode, if they are to be successful in design.

Some Design Elements are syllabic meaning they are independent
and can stand alone.   Others are non-syllabic, meaning they are dependent and cannot stand alone.

INDEPENDENT DESIGN ELEMENTS

DEPENDENT DESIGN ELEMENTS

Function like vowels in alphabet

Many expressive variations

Syllabic

Can stand alone and be expressive

Expressions sensitive to placement or context

Function like consonants in alphabet

Limited expressive variations if used alone and not in combination

Non-syllabic

Do not often stand alone and more usually require an assist from
an independent design element to extend their expression

Expressions consistent, somewhat insensitive to placement or
context


Design Elements have graphic representations.   Graphic representations allow these elements to be recognized symbolically as a sort of short-hand.

Each Design Element also encompasses a range of acceptable meanings, which I call expressive variations.    These expressive variations, while different among themselves, are still reflective of that Design Element.      They have universal qualities in that people tend to share understandings about what these expressive variations mean and how they are to be used.
Color Schemes, for example, are objective, agreed-upon combinations of colors seen as coherent and unifying.   Thus, any color scheme is an expressive variation on the element of Color.

The universal, expressive variations associated with each Design Element are, in effect, attributes of that Design Element.     These attributes have an
objective quality to them in that there is general agreement among designer,
viewer, wearer, buyer and seller as to what they express and how they might be used.     There is an expectation that whatever role a person plays relative to the piece of jewelry, the Design Elements and their attributes will be decoded in a similar way. 

At this stage in the jewelry design process, the focus is on a simple vocabulary.   The vocabulary is made up of Design Elements
and their expressive attributes.   The vocabulary encapsulates a generally shared understanding of its meaning and how it is to be used.    It is
at the point of grammar, thus manipulation and construction, that individual artists get to show their artistic hand in selecting and placing these elements into a finished piece of jewelry.

These Design Elements and their attributes can be arranged in different configurations I call clusters.     Clusters may consist of independent Design
Elements alone, dependent Design Elements alone, or a mix of both.    For example, we may use an arrangement of glossy and matte Color beads to
project Dimensionality.    We may use different Colors of beads, rhythmically arranged, to project Movement.

Combinations of Design Elements into clusters can have different effects, from synergyantagonism, blending, bounding, freeing and inflection.

Selecting Design Elements and clustering them does not occur in a vacuum.
The designer selects and arranges Design Elements in anticipation of how
these choices will be understood by others in a universal or objective sense.    

This is a process which I call “Backwards Designing”.[3]   The building blocks and their attributes are first selected in anticipation of these shared understandings.   For instance, the designer might choose colors by anticipating how others will recognize the legitimacy and appeal of
certain clusters of colors – color schemes.

If the viewer, wearer, buyer or seller of a piece of jewelry cannot understand and relate to its Design Elements and how they are clustered within the piece, they will not understand it.   They will not appreciate it.   They will not see it as a legitimate piece of artistic expression.    It will not
feel authentic.   To others, if the piece lacks evidence of shared understandings, this will result in that jewelry (and by implication, the jewelry artisan) getting labeled, for example, as unsatisfying or boring or ugly or monotonous.

 

DESIGN ELEMENTS COMPRISE A VOCABULARY
OF BASIC ARTISTIC EXPRESSION

Working with Design Elements is not much different than working with an alphabet.

An alphabet is made up of different letters.   Each letter has different
attributes – how it is written, how it sounds, how it is used.    Configurations of letters result in more sounds and more meanings and more ways to be used.    

A person working with an alphabet has to be able to decode the letters, sounds and meanings, as letters are used individually as well as in combination.   As the speaker becomes better at decoding, she or he begins to build in understanding of implications for how any letter is used, again, individually or in combination.

This is exactly what the jewelry designer does with Design Elements.  The
designer has to decode, that is, make sense of a series of elements and their attributes in light of our shared understandings about which Design Elements are appropriate, and how they should be legitimately expressed.   

Let’s examine a set of jewelry Design Elements in more detail and elaboration.

DESIGN ELEMENT

Independent

GRAPHIC

REPRESENTATION

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

Color


image004.jpg

 

Schemes

Hue and Saturation

Simultaneity Effects

Values and Intensity

Temperature

Receding or Projecting

Shape


image006.jpg

 

Recognizable

Focused

Distinct

Blended

Abstract

Filled or Empty

Delimited, fixed, geometric

Infinite, extending

Distorted or overlapped

Masculine or feminine

Organic or mechanical

Background, foreground, middle ground

Texture and
Pattern


image008.jpg

Regular, Predictable, Statistical

Repeated or singular

Random, Non-Statistical

Feel or look

Layered or Non-layered

Smooth or Rough

Point, Line,
Plane


image010.jpg

 

2-Dimensional

3-Dimensional

Conform or violate

Connected or Unconnected

Span and distance

Actual or implied

Thickness

Silhouette

Focused or unfocused

Bounded or unbounded

geometric or curved

 

Material


image012.jpg

 

Natural or Man-Made

Soft or solid

Heavy or light

Single or mixed media

Light refraction, reflection, absorption

Technique and
Technology


image014.jpg

Bead Weaving, Bead Stringing, Wire Working,
Fiber, Clay, etc.

With or without application of heat and/or
pressure

Fabricated or Machine Made

Pattern or freeform



DESIGN ELEMENT

Dependent

GRAPHIC
REPRESENTATION

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

Dimensionality


image016.jpg

 

2-dimensional
(volume and mass; weight; density)

3-dimensional (relief, low relief, high relief)

 

Interior and Exterior Contours

Frontal or in-the-round

 

Open or closed forms

 

Static or dynamic forms

 

Movement


image018.jpg

 

Passive
(ex: use of color guides the eye)

 

Direction

 

Linear or wave

Physical
(ex: pieces, like fringe or spinners, actually move)

 

Stable or erratic

Mechanical
(ex: structure of piece allows piece to
drape and flow)

Color Blending


image020.jpg

Simultaneity effects

Value and intensity

 

Saturation and vibrance

Distinct or blurred

 

Dominant or recessive

Theme, Symbols


image022.jpg

Surface or interpreted meaning(s) or
inflected

 

Power, position, protection, identification

Clear or abstract referents

 

Object as whole, or parts of object

Repetition or not

 

Individual, group, cultural, societal,
universal

Beauty and
Appeal


image024.jpg

 

Sensually pleasing: visual, touch, auditory,
taste, smell

 

 

Objective or emotional

 

 

Coherence, harmony and unity

 

Fashion, style, timeliness, timelessness

Structure and
Support


image026.jpg

 

Stiff or flexible

 

Flow and drape

 

Linkage, connectivity

Wearability

 

Display

 

Organization

Articulation

 

Autonomy vs. Temporariness

 

Interactive with wearer, or not

Craftsmanship


image028.jpg

 

Inspiration

 

Skill and dexterity

 

With tools, or not

 

 

Design acumen

Personality and preferences

Form, Segmentation,
Components


image030.png

 

Shape with Volume

 

Whole or divided

 

Organized or chaotic

Perspective

 

2-dimensional or 3-dimensional

 

Alignment

Shading

 

Positioning or spacing

 

Simple or Complex

Balance and
Distribution


image032.jpg

Symmetrical (By size, color, or shape)

 

Visual weight

 

Visual size

Asymmetrical (By size, color, or shape)

 


Radial
(By size, color or shape)

 

Visual placement

Random
(By size, color, or shape)

 

Stable or unstable

 

Directed or undirected

Referents to specific
idea or style


image034.jpg

 

Vintage Revival

 

Direct or implied

Contemporary

 

Literal or figurative

Symbolic

Context,
Situation, Culture


image036.jpg

Economic, social, psychological, cultural,
situational values

Complicit artist, or not

Derived meaning, or objective meaning

Negative and
Positive Space


image038.png

Figure or ground

 

Form or no form

 

Shading

 

Perspective

Depth

 

Use of space around an object

Interpenetration of space

 

Illusion or reality

 

Placement

Light and
Shadow


image040.jpg

 

Suggestive

 

Gradient

 

Perspective

Shading

 

Illumination

 

Solid or Cast

 

Dimensionality

 

Moon

The Japanese Fragrance Garden Bracelet

image042.jpg

image044.jpg  image046.jpg

“Japanese Fragrance Garden Bracelet”, by Warren Feld, March 2018, photography by Warren Feld

For example, this is the kind of building blocks thinking I did when designing my Japanese Fragrance Garden Bracelet.   

This bracelet has a foundation base.  The finishes of these beads in the
base are either a luster finish or a dichroic finish.   Off the base, I created flower stalks that were 4-6 seed beads tall, and topped with a slightly
larger and more brightly colored seed bead. The colors of the beads in the stalks vary from dark (near the base) to light (near the flower tip).   Between
each bed of flowers is a “moon bridge” – the kind you might expect when
meandering through a Japanese garden.

See how I clustered independent and dependent Design Elements to achieve a particular expression.

What I Wanted To Achieve   

Design Elements I Thought About              


Movement
with flower stalks where they would retain their verticality
(thus not flop over) after the piece was worn.

Technique:   Fringing technique
Technology:  Use of One-G beading thread which, unlike
all other beading threads, has a springy quality to it.   When the fringe is pulled out during
wearing, the thread helps spring it back into place

Color:  To mimic how moving
colors will be perceived, I varied color in flower stalks from dark at the
bottom to medium to light at the top, just under the flower, and then used
bright colors for the flowers topping off each stalk
Point, Line:  Easy for viewer to perceive and follow
movement of points and lines, which are key elements in the piece


Dimensionality

where the piece would not be seen as flat

Point, Line: Visually, the flower stalks lead the eye from the foundation
base, up the stalks, and to the bright flower colors on top of the
stalks.   

Color: I use a reflective foundation base of two types of bead
finishes, (a) luster, and (b) dichroic.
Both have a mirroring effect, making it difficult for the eye to see
the “bottom”, and at the same time reflecting the colors sitting above them.


Color Blending
where as the eye moves up and down any flower stalk, or moves
across the piece from end to end, everything feels coherent and unified

Color: I make a wide use of simultaneity effects, where the placement
of one color affects the perception of the color next to it.    This fools the brain into blending colors, which in reality, you cannot do easily with
beads (as opposed to paints).

Shape/Points/Line/Pattern:   There is a consistent repetition of shapes, points and lines, and pattern, leading the viewer to be able to predict what should happen next along the bracelet, and again, fooling the brain into doing some color blending perceptual tricks of its own.

 

How Do You Teach Designers A Vocabulary of Design?

Most designers most likely start theirjewelry making careers taking craft-oriented classes and following instructions in how-to books or online in how-to videos.  They learn to repeat a set of steps and end up with something like what is pictured.    The whole jewelry making approach assumes that jewelry making is a natural process.    Surround the budding artist with patterns, books and videos, and they will somehow become great jewelry designers.

Yet, although the artisans follow a set of steps over and over again, they never learn how to make choices or evaluate implications or get any experience making judgement calls and tradeoffs when designing something that must look good and wear well at the same time.   Jewelry making is not a natural skill that is learned automatically.    Jewelry designers need to be taught to design.

Towards this end, I think it is much more useful to build an educational curriculum and program around the idea of disciplinary literacy.   We need to teach designers to explicitly and systematically think design.   Designers need to be able to recognize the elements that make up a piece, how they were used, and how this leads to more or less success in evoking an expression or an emotional response.

Disciplinary Literacy, means, in part, that the designer is aware of the “codes” which were selected for a piece of jewelry.  The designer is able to segment the piece and identify its Design Elements.    The designer is also able to put Design Elements together and blend them to achieve a desired expression.    The better designer is very aware of all the codes, or Design Elements.     The better designer is very aware of how the codes, or Design Elements, were selected, combined, blended and expressed.    And the designer is very aware of how and why clusters of Design Elements may sometimes get bounded; that is, may be unfortunately stuck within some
indeterminant meaning or expression.

Towards this end, this means first teaching designers how to decode.   It means figuring out what universally accepted Design Elements should be used in a piece.   It also means recognizing how these elements can vary, and how such variation can change the artistic or design expression
of the piece.     Designers need to learn how Design Elements get clustered and constructed to convey certain expressions, and which cannot.

At this stage, we are training the designer to have some comfort recognizing and applying objective, shared understandings about what certain Design Elements mean, and the variations in how they might get expressed within a piece.

As the designer’s education progresses, we would gradually reduce the student’s involvement with decoding, and increase the involvement with tasks involving fluency.   This involves more in-depth learning about
manipulation and construction.   Here the designer is taught how to define a personal style and approach, and implement it.    The designer is guided from creating the merely appealing, to the more resounding resonant.    The designer is also taught to look for, anticipate and incorporate context clues.     All this gets into the areas of grammar and process management, which I discuss in other articles.[1,2]

_________________________________________________________

warrenFeld1.jpg

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

[1] Read my article Jewelry Design: A Managed Process, Klimt02.net Forum, https://klimt02.net/forum/articles/jewelry-design-managed-process-warren-feld

[2] I discuss a little about shared understandings in a yet unpublished article I wrote about Contemporary Design.    From that article…

“Shared understandings should be enduring, transferable, big ideas at the heart of what we think of as contemporary jewelry.   These shared understandings are things which spark meaningful connections between designer and materials, designer and techniques, and designer and client. We need, however, to recognize that the idea of understanding is very multidimensional and complicated.

Understanding is not one achievement, but more the result of several loosely organized choices.    Understanding is revealed through performance and evidence.    Jewelry designers must perform effectively with knowledge, insight, wisdom and skill to convince us – the world at large and the client in particular — that they really understand what design, and with our case here, contemporary design, is all about.     This involves a big interpersonal component where the artist introduces their jewelry to a wider audience and subjects it to psychological, social, cultural, and economic assessment.

Understanding is more than knowledge.  The designer may be able to
articulate what needs to be done to achieve something labeled contemporary, but
may not know how to apply it.

Understanding is more than interpretation.   The designer may be able to explain how a piece was constructed and conformed to ideas about contemporary, but this does not necessarily account for the significance of the results.

Understanding is more than applying principles of construction.    It is more
than simply organizing a set of Design Elements into an arrangement.     The designer must match knowledge and interpretation about contemporary to
the context.   Application is a context-dependent skill.

Understanding is more than perspective.   The designer works within
a myriad of expectations and points of view about contemporary jewelry.   The designer must dispassionately anticipate these various perspectives about contemporary design, and, bring some constructed point of view and knowledge of implications to bear within the design and design process.

We do not design in a vacuum.    The designer must have the ability to
empathize with individuals and grasp their individual and group cultures.    If selling their jewelry, the designer must have the ability to empathize with small and larger markets, as well.   Empathy is not sympathy.  Empathy is where we can feel what others feel, and see what others see.

Last, understanding is self-knowledge, as well.   The designer should have the
self-knowledge, wisdom and insights to know how their own patterns of thought
may inform, as well as prejudice, their understandings of contemporary
design.

How the jewelry designer begins the process of creating a contemporary piece of jewelry is very revealing about the potential for success.    The designer
should always begin the process by articulating the essential shared understandings against which their work will be evaluated and judged.    For now, let’s refer to this as Backwards Design[4].    The designer starts with questions about assessment, and then allows this understanding to influence all other choices going forward.”

[3] 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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JEWELRY DESIGN: A Managed Process

Posted by learntobead on January 4, 2018

 

“Jewelry is art, but only art as it is worn.”

That’s a powerful idea, — “as it is worn” — but, when making jewelry, we somewhat ignore it.    We bury it somewhere in the back of our brains, so it doesn’t get in the way of what we are trying to do.   We relegate it to a phrase on the last page of a book we have promised ourselves to read sometime, so it doesn’t put any road blocks in front of our process of creation.

We like to follow steps, and are thrilled when a lot of the thinking has been done for us.  We like to make beautiful things.   But, we do not want to have to make a lot of choices.    We don’t want anything to disrupt our creative process.

We do not want to worry about and think about and agonize over jewelry “as it is to be worn.”    Let’s not deal with those movement, architectural, engineering, context, interpersonal and behavioral stuff.    We just want to make things.

To most artisans, making jewelry should never be work.   It should always be fun.

Making jewelry should be putting a lot of things on a table in front of you, and going for it.

Making jewelry just is.   It is not something we have to worry about managing.

It is easy to make, copy or mimic jewelry someone else has designed, either through kits or through imitation.

Making jewelry is doing.   Not thinking.

Creating.  Not managing.

We prefer to make jewelry distinct from any context in which it might be worn or sold.    We don’t want someone looking over our shoulder, while we create.   We don’t want to adjust any design choice we make because the client won’t like it, or, perhaps, it is out of fashion or color-shaded with colors not everyone likes.    Perhaps our design choices at-the-moment do not fit with the necessities associated with how we need to market our wares to sell them.  Our pieces might somehow be off-brand.

All too often, we avoid having to think about the difficult choices and tradeoffs we need to make, when searching for balance.  That is balance among aesthetics, functionality, context, materials and technique.    And balance between our needs as designers and the wearer’s needs, as well.   So, too, we shy aware from making any extra effort to please “others” or “them”. Even though this hardly makes sense if we want these “others” or “them” to wear our jewelry or buy our jewelry creations.

Everything comes down to a series of difficult choices.   We are resistant to making many of them.   So we ignore them.   We pretend they are choices better left to other people, though never fully sure who those other people are.     We yearn to be artists, but resign ourselves to be craftspersons.    We dabble with art, but avoid design.

We hate to make trade-offs between art and function; that is, allow something to be a little less beautiful so that it won’t break or not drape and move well when worn.    We hate to make things in colors or silhouettes we don’t like.    We hate to make the same design over and over again, even though it might be popular or sell well.

But make these kinds of choices we must!    Your jewelry is a reflection of the sum of these choices.    It is a reflection of you.    You as an artist.  You as a crafter.   You as architect and engineer.   You as social scientist.   You as a business person.   You as a designer.

So, the more we can anticipate what kinds of choices we need to make, and the more experience we have to successfully manage and maneuver within these choices, the more enjoyable and successful our jewelry designs become … and the more satisfying for the people for whom we make them.

 

JEWELRY DESIGN IS A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

Designers who are able to re-interpret the steps she or he go through and see them in “process” terms, that is, with organization and purpose, have the advantage.

There are many different kinds of choices to be made, but they are interdependent and connected.    Recognizing interdependency and connectedness makes it easier to learn about, visualize and execute these choices as part of an organized, deliberate and managed jewelry design process.

I am going to get on my soap box here.    We tend to teach students to very mechanically follow a series of steps.    We need, instead, to teach them “Process”.   Strategy.   Insight.   Connectedness.    Contingency.   Dependency.    Construction.    Context.    Problem-Solving.   Consequences.

Good jewelry design must answer questions and teach practitioners about managing the processes of anticipating the audience, selecting materials, implementing techniques, and constructing the piece from one end to the other.     Again, this is not a mechanical process.    Often, it is not a linear step-by-step pathway.    There is a lot of iteration – that is, the next choice made will limit some things and make more relevant other things which are to happen next.

A “process” is something to be managed, from beginning to end, as the designer’s knowledge, techniques and skills are put to the test.   That test could be very small-scale and simple, such as creating a piece of jewelry to give to someone as a gift.    Or creating a visual for a customer.    Or when you need to know the costs.   Or, that test could be very large-scale and more complex, such as convincing a sales agent to represent your jewelry in their showroom.

Better Jewelry Designers smartly manage their design processes at the boundary between jewelry and person.    It is at this boundary where all the interdependencies of all the various types of choices we designers make are clearest and have the most consequence.

 

WELL-DESIGNED JEWELRY MUST BE MANAGED
AT THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN JEWELRY AND PERSON

What exactly does it mean to “manage design at the boundary between jewelry and person?”  What kinds of things happen at that boundary?

A person breathes.   She moves.    She sits at a desk, perhaps fidgeting with her jewelry.     She might make sudden turns.    She gracefully transitions from one space to another.    She has shape, actually many shapes.

Her jewelry serves many purposes.    It signifies her as someone or something.     It expresses her feelings.   Or status.   Or future intentions.   Or past history.   It ties her to people and places, events and times.    It suggests power, or lack thereof.    It hides faults, and amplifies strengths.    It implies whether she fits with the situation.

Jewelry attracts.     It attracts seekers of the wearer’s attention.    It wards off denigrators.   It orients people to the world around them.    It tells them a story with enough symbol, clue and information to allow people to decide whether to flee or approach, run away or walk toward, hide or shine.

Jewelry has a feel and sparkle to it.    It reminds us that we are real.    It empowers a sensuality and a sexuality.    It elevates our esteem.     Sometimes uncomfortable or scratchy.   Sometimes not.    Sometimes reflective of our moods.  Othertimes not.

Jewelry is a shared experience.      It helps similar people find one another.   It signals what level of respect will be demanded.    It entices.   It repels.    It offers themes both desirable and otherwise.

Jewelry has shape, form and mechanics.    All the components must self-adjust to forces of movement, yet at the same time, not lose shape or form or maneuverability.    If a piece is designed to visually display in a particular way, forces cannot be allowed to disrupt its presentation.    Jewelry should take the shape of the body and move with the body.    It should not make a mockery of the body, or resist the body as it wants to express itself.

Jewelry defines a silhouette.    It draws a line on the body, often demarcating what to look at and what to look away from.    What to touch, and what to avoid.    What is important, and what is less so.

 

Managing here at the boundary between jewelry and person means understanding what wearing jewelry involves and is all about.     There is an especially high level of clarity at this boundary because it is here where the implications of any choice matters.

The choice of stringing material anticipates durability, movement, drape.    The choices of color and shape and silhouette anticipate aesthetics, tensions between light and shadow, context, the viewer’s needs or personality or preferences at the moment.    The choice of technique anticipates how best to coordinate choices about materials with purpose and objective.    The choice of price determines marketability, and where it’s out there, and whether it’s out there.

You choose Fireline cable thread and this choice means your piece will be stiffer, might hold a shape better, might resist the abrasion of beads, but also might mean less comfort or adaptability.

You choose cable wire and this choice means that your piece might not lay right or comfortably.    A necklace will be more likely to turn around on the neck.      It might make the wearer look clownish.    At the same time, it might make the stringing process go more quickly.  Efficiency translates into less money charged, and perhaps more sales.

You choose to mix opaque glass with gemstone beads, mixing media which do not necessarily interact with the eye and brain in the same way.   This may make interacting with the piece seem more like work or annoying.

The ends of your wirework will not keep from bending or unraveling, so you solder them.     Visually this disrupts the dance you achieve with wire bending and cheapens it.

You choose gray-toned beads to intersperse among your brightly colored ones.    The grays pick up the colors around them, adding vibrancy and resonance to your piece.    The gaps of light between each bead more easily fade away as the brain is tricked into filling them in with color.

You mix metalized plastic beads in with your Austrian crystal beads.    In a fortnight, the finish has chipped off all the plastic beads.

You construct a loom bracelet, flat, lacking depth or a sense of movement.    Your piece may be seen as pretty, but out of step with contemporary ideas of fashion, style, and design.

If we pretend our management choices here do not matter, we fool ourselves into thinking we are greater artists and designers than we really are.

 

JEWELRY DESIGN MANAGEMENT:
BUILDING A STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION FOR THINKING THROUGH DESIGN

Design management is multi-faceted.   We intuitively know that proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.     So let’s properly prepare.   This means…

  • PROJECT
    Defining what I do as a “Project To Be Managed” — My Project is seen as a “system”, not merely a set of steps. The “system” encompasses everything it takes that enables creativity and leads it to success.   These include things related to art, architecture, engineering, management, behavioral and context analysis, problem-solving, and innovation.    For some designers, these also include things related to business, marketing, branding, selling and cost-accounting.
  • INSPIRATION
    Documenting, through image, writing or both, the kinds of things that are inspiring me and influencing my design
  • PURPOSE
    Elaborating on the purpose or mission of my Project – why am I doing this Project as it applies to me, and as it applies to others?
  • SITUATION
    Measuring the context and situation as these will/might/could impact my Project
  • STRATEGY
    Developing a strategy for designing my piece — outlining everything that needs to come together to successfully work through my Project from beginning to end
  • SKILLS
    Verifying, Learning or Re-Learning the necessary techniques and skills
  • SUPPLIES
    Securing my supply chain to get all our materials, tools and supplies needed when I need them
  • CONSTRUCTION
    Applying design principles of composition, form and structure. Paying careful attention to building in architectural pre-requisites, particularly those involved with support, jointedness and movement.
  • SHOWCASE
    Introducing my Jewelry Design to a wider audience. This might involve sharing, show-casing, or marketing and selling
  • REPLICATION
    Anticipating all that it will take to replicate the piece, if it is not a one-off, especially if I am developing kits or selling my pieces
  • REFLECTION
    Evaluating whether I could repeat this or a similar Project with any greater efficiency or effectiveness – The better jewelry artist is one who is more reflective.

 

 

DESIGN THINKING

Designing jewelry demands that we both do and think.    Create and manage.    Experience and reflect.

The better Jewelry Designer sees any Project as a system of things, activities and outcomes.     These are interconnected and mutually dependent.    Things are sometimes linear, but most often iterative – a lot of back and forth and readjustments.

The better Jewelry Designer is very reflective.     She or he thinks about every detail, plays mental exercises of what-if analyses, monitors and evaluates all throughout the Project’s management.     She or he thinks through the implications of each choice made.    The Designer does not blindly follow a set of instructions without questioning them.

At the end of the day, your jewelry is the result of the decisions you made.

Something to think about.

 

 

HOW DO WE TEACH JEWELRY DESIGN THINKING
AS A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

We should teach students to design jewelry, not craft it.    Rather than have students merely follow a set of steps, we need to do what is called “Guided Thinking”.

For example, we might encourage students to construct and feel and touch similar pieces made with different materials, beads and 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.

I link our developing discussions to some goals.    We want good thread management for a bead woven piece.    We want the beads to lay correctly within the piece.    We want the piece to feel fluid.    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 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.

With guidance, demonstration and repetition, it is my hope that such thinking becomes 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.

And that should be our primary goal as teachers:   developing our students’ Fluency with design.

 

Posted in Art or Craft?, bead weaving, beads, beadwork, business of craft, design management, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Promotional Discount – 4/24 and 4/25 only – Business of Craft Video Tutorials

Posted by learntobead on April 25, 2014

PROMOTIONAL DISCOUNT
Two Business of Craft Tutorials
Thurs 4/24 and Fri 4/25 only

I enjoy teaching about the business of craft.     Over the past 25 years, I’ve learned many insights about creating, marketing and selling jewelry.     Two of my video tutorials – “SO YOU WANT TO DO CRAFT SHOWS” and “PRICING AND SELLING YOUR JEWELRY” are available on the http://www.CraftArtEdu.com website.

 

CraftArtEdu.com is running a two-day – THURS, 4/24 and FRI, 4/25 only — special discount on these video tutorials, which you might take advantage of.  I’ve appended their promotional announcement below.

 

Warren

 

 

 

Ah, summer. It’s a time for county fairs, music and craft festivals! If you’ve ever considered selling your jewelry or other handmade items in local shows and venues, you know it’s a significant investment of both your time and money.  In this email, you’ll find two classes from Warren Feld that can help you avoid some costly mistakes and find success! Warren has over 20 years of selling experience – and he shares his hard-won lessons with you. We’re also featuring a few classes with projects that just might be fun to make and sell! All classes are at Super Deals (through Friday!) Enjoy! Donna Kato Founder, CraftArtEdu.com

So You Want to Do Craft Shows  with Warren Feld

You can make good money… IF you know what you’re doing. Warren shares his years of valuable experience and business expertise in the form of sixteen in-depth, approachable lessons so you can maximize your chances of success!  Jam-packed with practical, actionable information, Warren’s lessons cover everything involved in running a successful and profitable show including how to:

  • find, evaluate and select craft shows that are right for your work
  • set realistic goals, build a budget and calculate your break-even point
  • determine the amount and type of inventory you should bring
  • price your work and deal with “hagglers”
  • set up your booth for success, including design, layout and merchandising tips
  • handle cash, credit cards and deter shoplifters
  • and so much more.. this class is almost two hours long!

Warren includes lots of advice and helpful resource links, too. All you need to provide is a pencil, some paper, a calculator and your enthusiasm for running a successful, profitable craft show! Preview and Purchase Warren’s Class All Levels | $30 | $24 through Friday!

Pricing and Selling Your Jewelry  with Warren Feld

Can you make money by selling your jewelry? Yes, you can! Warren has years of experience selling jewelry at craft fairs, flea markets, on consignment, in galleries and eventually in his own store and online. In this class, he shares words of advice and everything he knows about the essential key to success: Smart Pricing! Preview and Purchase Warren’s Class! All Levels | $15 | $12 through Friday!“This class is worth its weight in gold. The information is presented in a clear and thorough manner. Warren shares his extensive knowledge in a very easy to understand format.” ~ Mary C

Add To Cart! These Bargains End Friday!Special Prices on These Classes Expire Midnight CT, Friday, April 25, 2014

Posted in bead weaving, beadwork, business of craft, jewelry making | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Knowing What To Know

Posted by learntobead on April 12, 2014

 

ORIENTATION
“Knowing what to know”
http://www.landofodds.com/store/kitsorientation.htm

There were always beaders. There were always jewelry makers. But if you wanted to gain an understanding of the beads and jewelry findings and stringing materials and tools, their qualities, and what happens to them when they age, you would need to start with a little bit of the history of beads and jewelry making. And then progress into some more in-depth information about these materials, how you choose which ones to use, and what happens to all this stuff over time.

Only in this way, would you be able to prepare yourself for the judgments and trade-offs and choices you will need to make as a jewelry designer. Choices about How? And When? And What? to use and not to use, given your particular project, your design goals, …(and if you’re selling your pieces, your marketing goals, as well). Moreover, how do you know how to assemble and link everything up into a finished piece?

But often in this world, you don’t know where to start. You don’t necessarily know where to find answers, or whose answers to trust.

QUESTION FOR GROUP:
When you began to make jewelry and bead, how did you know what to know?
How did you initially get an Orientation?

 

beads4

 

More on Orientation….

I’ve posted an extensive series (18 videos, 5 ½ hours worth of materials) of Orientation information on the Land of Odds website for you to take advantage of.
http://www.landofodds.com/store/kitsorientation.htm

These are also posted on YouTube.

 

 

Continuing from an article I wrote….

You need to prepare yourself for the multi-faceted world of beading and jewelry. It’s all about choices. You need an Orientation to what you need to know, and to the kinds of choices you will need to make. The world of beads can often be a jungle, dense with colors, shapes, and styles, intermingled irrationally, spilled relentlessly, collapsing around you with dumps and crashes and screeches and rings. Your eyes become useless in this heart of darkness. The presence of so many beads and so many strangely shaped and curiously articulated metal pieces may make the idea of creating jewelry and beadwork utterly meaningless. At least for the moment.

But you can sense something more. It’s tactile. It’s visual. It has some kind of taste and smell which steers you. It’s orienting. It seems full of significance. And in this dark silence – so noisy with details, so hushed with confusion – you realize why it’s important that you need to know a lot of things.

– You need to know how to step around quality differences among glass beads made in the Czech Republic, in Japan, in China and in India. How long will these beads last? Will they break? If they chip, what color will they be on the inside? Is the patterning in the glass a coating, a decal or some artistic placement of shards and stringers of glass? How sharp are the holes? How consistent are the beads from bead to bead on the strand?

– You need to know when to demand 14KT gold fused to brass (gold-filled), or 14KT gold plate over silver (vermeil), or Hamilton Gold Plate over brass. How long does the shine and color last? Do these beads and pieces break or crumble or bend or dent?

– You need to know how what came before you will be an important influence on you today. How have the Oglala Sioux, the Pope, Zulu tribes, the French, Italian, Czech, Dutch, African, the shoe and upholstery industries, and North American Indians affected beads and jewelry today?

Most people don’t orient themselves when they get started. They either don’t see the need, or don’t think they have the time, or think there’s not that much to learn about. Anyone can put some beads on a string and make themselves a bracelet, they assume. They take any class that they can find, often taking more advanced classes, before having taken beginner classes. All they want to do is make a pretty piece to wear. The learning to design is secondary – or non-existent. They buy any book, try to reproduce any pattern, try to copy any picture they see in a magazine, and try to figure things out by themselves without any outside feedback, evaluation and validation. They overly-rely on the advice of the first people they talk with, and don’t question it.

What happens is often very sad, indeed. You end up using inappropriate stringing materials and supplies. You end up finishing off your pieces incorrectly. You never learn how to best attach a clasp. You never learn how to control the tension of beads within your pieces. You mix pieces which are dysfunctional when used together. You end up taking the wrong classes, not questioning the advice of friends or instructors, and buying the wrong parts, given what you are trying to do. You end up making ill-informed choices.

You need an Orientation, and you need to be sure you get one.

In an Orientation, you’ll discover the order of things. There’s an arrangement to beading and jewelry design. Pieces have purposes and functions. They have a history of use and wear. They have an underlying vocabulary and grammar of construction – that is, they have rules for how things should get combined and assembled, and how they should not.

An Orientation grounds you. It shows you the map, the pathways, the bi-ways, the highways along which you can travel in your development as a fine craftsperson, artist and jewelry designer. It gives you a sense of your surroundings, your context, and a lot of substance and meaning.

At first, when you get oriented, you marvel at the details and the possibilities – the myriad types of beads and findings and stringing materials, the wide variations in how they work and function, the multitude of choices which seem overwhelming. Pinks become fuchsias become reds become oxbloods become garnets. Peridots become mints become olivines, both green and brown, become green lusters become jades become dark kellys and smaragds. Metalized Plastics become nickels become brasses become pewters become sterlings and argentiums and fine silvers and platinums. Threads become bead cords become cable threads become cable wires become hard wires. Jewelry is clasped or clasp-less, strung or woven, wire-worked or wire-wrapped, singular or multiplexed, fixed or adjustable, singular- or multi-media.

But then, something else strikes you. You come to know that, while there’s always been a fundamental sense of design across time and cultures, this sense has often been understated. You find indifference, not indignation. You find an absence, a void, a vacuum of intellectual introspection about jewelry and its design. It’s all around you. That something missing. You feel the lacking. And when you begin to have this sense, you should feel a little superior, in that you are now on your way towards understanding design. You’ve got the hunger. You’ve got the passion. You want to know the place of design in jewelry, and your place in the design world with that jewelry you create. That jewelry you construct. That jewelry that you put forth into the world. That jewelry which reflects who you are as an artist, to your inner most thoughts.

 

 

 

Orienting Myself

I never had an orientation. I was never oriented. I sank or swam.

There was no real internet, when I started. Nor any beading magazines. Never met people in Nashville who made jewelry. Except for my partner, James, who made beautiful things with whatever parts and beads and stones he could find. But he couldn’t articulate exactly what he was doing. He was “Creating”.

The act of “creating,” did not result in unbreakable pieces, or a mix of pieces which endured the ravages of wear equally, or clasp assemblies which never came undone. The act of “Creating” gave few clues about hole sizes and hole sharpness and stringing material flexibility, and what led to good drape. The act of “Creating” merely resulted in beautiful things – wearable, drape-able, moveable, durable, or not.

During the first two years I made jewelry, things broke. The finishes of beads rubbed off. The beads did not necessarily lay right. Many pieces were too stiff – lacked good ease. The pieces kept selling, so what did I care?

But at some point, I did begin to care. I was irritated by the number of repairs I had to do on my own pieces.

At one point, I began taking in repairs of other jewelry artists’ work. This was my education. I saw where things broke. I saw the choices other people made in determining how to construct their pieces from end to end. I could talk to the customers and find out a lot of the things leading up to their jewelry breaking.

I began to ask more questions of my suppliers. I began to ask more questions about myself and my choices. I began formulating hypotheses about why some things worked or endured better than others. And I had many opportunities, now that I was doing a lot of repairs, to test out these hypotheses.
But it would have been much better had I had a more formalized, organized, intelligent orientation when I first got started.

Posted in bead weaving, beadwork, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Resources | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

BEAD SPILLS

Posted by learntobead on February 15, 2014

BEAD SPILLS

 QUESTION:
What was your initiation into that phenomenon called “Bead Spill”?

Share with our group your favorite BEAD SPILL story.    I’m sure you have many.

beadspill2

From an article I wrote…

“Yikes!” she screamed, shaking the ground, the store, the parking lot, in fact, the whole wide world, and I was, to everyone’s regret, caught in that earth-shattering scream.   I was carefully balancing twelve trays of loose beads, moving them to their new shelves when, behind my back, I heard that cry for help, that screech of fear, that siren of bead hell.

I instinctively turned.   It wasn’t something I thought out and planned rationally.   It wasn’t something that arose intuitively from my gut.   It was pure animal instinct.  Stimulus-Response.  Lust.  Fear.  Gluttony.  Raw Emotion.   I tried to juggle the twelve trays as they fled my nurturing hands and arms.   And I urgently called to the beads.   Which had been in the trays.   Which were now flying out of my hands.   As if to calm them, I said, “Beads, you won’t fall.”   You won’t get hurt.  You won’t leave the safety and sanctity of these trays.  Good beads.   Good, good beads.

And, for a brief moment, I thought I had saved all these little, little, beautiful, beautiful, very round, very round beads from a fate almost worse than death.   The trays were juggling and for a moment, I believed they had started to restack themselves.   They were home free.  One back on top of another on top of another….

If it weren’t for that scream and that deep primal instinct ripping my fear and anxiety from the depths of my soul, and the fact that it is hard to pivot wearing sneakers on a hard wood floor, juggle twelve trays of ever-more terrified loose glass beads, and respond to a lady in distress, the situation would have come to a pleasant end.

But alas, that was not to be.

With some shame, some guilt, much surprise and yes, a lot of embarrassment, this was to be my grand initiation into the phenomenon commonly known as The Bead Spill.   What a mess!

I know a lot of people have a fantasy where they are bathing in a tub of beads.   It’s sensuous.   Caressing.   You’re at one with the God of the Beads.

This wasn’t like that.   This was thousands of round objects falling and running and spreading every which way.    Along the walls, behind the legs of chairs and tables, under people’s feet.   In with the dust, the dog hairs, and previously spilled beads or beads that had mysteriously escaped their trays.

She should have said, “Shoo Fly!”   Not “Yikes!”.

I’ve never carried twelve trays of loose beads at once again.

Bead spills are not rare occurrences.   In fact, some people spill beads like other people drink water.

There are the people who like to carry big purses in small places.   These people are prone to sudden turns and distractions.  Guaranteed spills!

These people need to understand the interrelationships between space, lack of space and time.   Simple physics.   Bead spills have physics, and I’m sure could easily be considered a science.   Like, if you drop a bead, in what direction does it go?  How far does it go?  How fast does it travel?  Do red beads behave similarly as blue beads?   If someone dropped you from the top of a building, would you end up going in the same direction, and as far?   Probably not.  So what is it about beads that  makes things happen like dropping them off to the right, and finding them off to the left?  Bead spills do not have the same physics as pick-up-sticks.  That is for sure.  They have laws of gravity and mass and energy all of their own.

Then there are the people who are torn between their love of beads and their love for their pets.   It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat, a dog, a parrot or a fish.   Beads spill.  It could be a monkey or a ferret or even a Rogue Elephant.  Beads spill.  Sometimes it’s a dog AND a cat or a parrot AND a ferret.  Beads spill.

People need to understand that animals understand the situation.   Animals do not want to share their love – especially with beads.   Beads are beautiful, but don’t need water or food.   Beads are comforting to touch, but don’t need grooming.   Beads are glorious in their splendor, but will not bite.   It should come, then, as no surprise, that animals, when near any pile of beads, will instinctively have the urge to make them spill in ways you never thought of.    Animals spill beads, but for more selfish reasons than humans.

The strategies of animals are legend, and have been written down in a secret book – Bead Spill Techniques for Dogs and Cats.   You’ve seen these techniques in practice.   Your cat angling for attention, moves toward you to sit in your lap – of course, moves toward you over your tray of beads.   Your dog taking the pose to beg for treats while you’re moving your tray of beads from one end of the table to the other.  Your pet actually eating those particular beads you’re working with right now.   You catch them, but suddenly their tail goes swoof, and you are down on your hands and knees again picking up millions and millions of tiny, very small, eye-straining beads.    These animal-based-skills are very practiced and endless.   Animals do not like playing second fiddle to beads.    And if the pile of beads has been organized to accommodate the needs of a particular project, well, so much the better.    They score more bead spill points.

Picking up spilled beads is a familiar routine.   There’s nothing like dropping 14KT gold delica seed beads onto a gold shag carpet, getting on your hands and knees, and delving into product reclamation.   Picking up bead spills works better when set to jazzercise music, but no music will suffice as well.     Some people get crafty, and stretch a nylon stocking across the intake collection valve of a vacuum cleaner.   Other people, however, are just plain tired of picking up beads.   They let them stay where they fall.  On the floors.  In the couches.  In clothing, in boxes, in food, in pots and pans.

New beaders seem especially concerned and anal-compulsive about spilled beads.   They spot an errant bead, and rush to pick it up and place it in a container somewhere.   Seasoned beaders have learned to live with such minor nuisances as combing beads out of their hair.    They see a bead on the floor, and let it lay.

Posted in bead weaving, beads, beadwork | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

WHEN INSTRUCTIONS ARE BAD…

Posted by learntobead on January 4, 2014

WHEN INSTRUCTIONS ARE BAD…

I again find myself writing a set of instructions for a piece to appear in a bead magazine later this year.   It can be such a frustrating process for ME – the writer.    And that’s because I don’t want it to be a frustrating process for anyone else.   This is not easy to do.

Because this is for a magazine, I have to considerably stream-line my instructions and diagrams.    Often that means assuming the reader has some experience and understanding with certain techniques or certain materials.   Sometimes this means leaving out some things which are thought to be “obvious”.   And it means leaving out a lot of the “Why.”   With this particular project, I don’t have space to explain why I chose FireLine rather than regular beading thread, though this was a critical choice to the success of the piece.   I don’t have space to explain why I use peanut beads the way I do, though this too is critical for success.    You could not substitute another bead for the peanut beads because this particular shape plays an important structural role in the piece.   But no one reading the instructions will know this.   There is no room allowed for explaining why I changed the right angle weave thread-path from the traditional approach.    And I don’t have any space to detail all the inspirational factors and color theory choices which influenced my design.    If someone knew these, they probably could do more than merely re-make my piece.   They could make my piece their own.

Diagrams are often critical for understanding how to proceed.    Hopefully not in this case, but with other magazine articles, the editors have taken five or more separate diagrams and combined them into one.     Try following the thread paths and you get vertigo.     You get a searing headache.   You get Jackson Pollock’s version of bead weaving on a page.

 

It is difficult enough to write instructions without them getting edited down to 2 or 3 magazine pages.    Some pointers I’ve learned for writing, at least, better instructions:

1)      People learn in different ways.  Some can read the text.  Some need to look at a series of progressive images.   Others are great at following diagrams.   You need to be good at all three.

2)      Include a picture of the finished piece.

3)      Know how to begin the process.   Include more details, images and diagrams related to beginning the process.

4)      Write the steps logically and in order.

5)      Keep each Step “short and simple”, and manageable.

6)      Do not over-assume about your reader’s ability.

7)      More problems occur for the reader when moving from one step to another, than accomplishing the particular step itself.

8)      Provide encouragement along the way.

9)      Show milestones and ways for people to track their progress.

10)   Anticipate problems that might occur, or where your reader might get lost.

11)   Pretest your instructions.

12)   Clearly list all materials and tools needed.   If some materials might be difficult or too pricey for someone to acquire, list substitutes.

13)   If there are more than 7-10 steps to do, then categorize and group the steps into sets that are no longer than 7-10 steps.

14)   Provide informational warnings so that people will be able to figure out if they have done something incorrectly or have started down the wrong track.

 

 

Instructions are often some of the worst-written documents you can find.   Like me, you have probably had many infuriating experiences with badly written instructions.

The piece pictured was supposed to be a straight line of beadwork, to be connected into a consistently-sized tube.    Our local bead group was making this piece, and 10 of 11 of us did it wrong.    All our tubes started to look snake-like and crooked.       These instructions jumped from Step 1 to Step 4, back to Step 2, then over to Step 9.    They were full of contingencies – do Step 1 if such and such is happening, but Step 5 if something else is happening.    Almost each step had its own set of footnotes.    There were 25 Steps and only 2 diagrams summarizing all the steps, each illustrating about 15 separate thread paths.

 

 

bad-instructions-example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLEASE RESPOND AND POST:
A description of a bad experience you have had with a set of instructions.   If you can, identify where the writer went wrong.   Speculate what you think the writer could have done to improve your experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New KITS available at Land of Odds

Posted by learntobead on September 16, 2013

Now at Land of Odds – Beading and Jewelry
Making Kits For Sale

Land of Odds

KITS: Project
Gallery

For Fun! To Learn! As Gifts!

NOTE: Regular retail
and wholesale store discounts do not apply to kits.

Click
on kit name to find

descriptions and ordering information:

MORE KITS

 


 

NEW KITS!


DAFFODIL CUFF BRACELET

Bead Weaving Curriculum

Bead Embroidery

Intermediate Level

A spring
time garden cuff! A simple bead embroidered base highlights delicate daffodils
woven with brick and ladder stitches.

daffodil-cuff


AUTUMN’S
END BRACELET

Bead Weaving Curriculum

Petersburg Chain, Ndebele

Advanced Level

The
last flower of the season! The blooms will explode as they burst open
with Ndebele, Petersburg, peyote and brick stitches.

autumnsend


ETRUSCAN
VINE NECKLACE

Bead Weaving Curriculum

Netting

Intermediate Level

Impress
with this Tuscany-inspired necklace! Combine Bead Stringing and Netting
techniques to make this fun, classy piece.

etruscan-vine


PRICING
AND SELLING YOUR JEWELRY

pricing

Our class is now available online at CraftArtEdu.com

Learn how to achieve “fair pricing” for your art with
businessman/ artist, Warren Feld. Understand your role in the world
of jewelry commerce and how to make money by doing what you love,
through fair pricing of your work. No handout is included in this
class.

“TODAY’S LESSON IS ABOUT ONE KEY TO SUCCESS: SMART PRICING.
WE DISCUSS WHY JEWELRY SELLS. WE GO OVER DIFFERENT KINDS OF PRICING
STRATEGIES USED BY JEWELRY DESIGNERS AND THE JEWELRY INDUSTRY. I
PRESENT A SIMPLE MATHEMATICAL PRICING FORMULA. I EXPLAIN THE FORMULA,
AND BREAK THIS DOWN INTO LITTLE STEPS. THEN WE PRACTICE APPLYING
THE FORMULA AND PRICING SOME PIECES OF JEWELRY.

AT THE END OF THE LESSON, I DISCUSS THE DIFFERENCES AMONG RETAIL,
WHOLESALE AND CONSIGNMENT. I BRIEFLY DISCUSS SOME KEY BUSINESS STRATEGIES
WHICH ARE VERY RELATED TO PRICING. AND I OFFER SOME FINAL WORDS
OF ADVICE.”

Media: Jewelry

Level: Beginner

Duration: 51:09


TUXEDO
PARK BANGLE BRACELET

Bead
Weaving Curriculum

Brick Stitch

Advanced Beginner

Strut
your stuff through Tuxedo Park on the East Side of

Lower Manhattan! Learn how much shaping, interest and

dimensionality you can achieve with the simple, basic Brick Stitch.

tuxedopark

Now, also available
as a video
tutorial

on CraftArtEdu.com


CRYSTAL
EXCITEMENT BRACELET


Bead Stringing Curriculum

Learn to Use Cable Wire and the Crimping Technique

Beginner Level

Strut
your bling with crystals! Elegant and exciting, this bracelet will

show-case your jewelry-making talents. Learn Bead Stringing using cable wire
and the crimping technique.

crystal-excitement


BLAZING
BARNACLES NECKLACE

Bead Weaving Curriculum

Right Angle Weave Stitch

Intermediate Level

No
need to scrape off these barnacles!

Construct your own colony of barnacles using right angle weave and peyote
stitches.

blazing-barnacles


BY
THE SEA BRACELET


Bead Stringing Curriculum

Learn to Use Needle and Thread

Beginner Level

A remembrance
of that beautiful day at the beach! Mementos

picked up along the dunes and water’s edge, strung on thread.

Learn to Bead String using needle and thread.

bythesea


SO YOU WANT TO DO CRAFT SHOWS…

Business of Craft

CraftArtEdu.com Video Tutorial

By Warren Feld

http://www.craftartedu.com/warren-feld-so-you-want-to-do-craft-shows

craftshows

In this class,
presented in 6 parts with 16 lessons, artist and businessman, Warren Feld,
will fill you in on the ins and outs, the dos and the don’ts of
selling at craft shows and fairs. Which are best for you, which may be
a waste of your time. How to compute the revenue you must earn to justify
participating in an event. This is a must see class for anyone thinking
of entering the art and craft show world and will maximize your chances
of success in these venues. 6 Broadcasts.

Level: All Levels

Duration: 113:58


DRAGON BACK BRACELET

Bead
Weaving Curriculum

Bead Crochet

Intermediate Level

Daggers
are for wearing! Bead crochet a stunning two-sided bracelet

– one side using size 8/0 seed beads and the other all glass daggers.

dragonback

 

 


THE
UGLY NECKLACE CONTEST

– A Jewelry
Design Competition With A Twist


Grand Prize: $992.93 shopping spree on Land of Odds web-site (www.landofodds.com)

Runner Up Prize: $399.07 shopping spree on Land of Odds web-site.

Consider
entering our

2012 9th International The Ugly Necklace Contest

Deadline: 8/31/2014

Official Rules

http://www.landofodds.com/store/uglynecklace.htm

ugly3t2frn

 


MORE KITS

 

 

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HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY IMPACTED YOU AS A JEWELRY DESIGNER?

Posted by learntobead on August 26, 2013

 

HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY IMPACTED YOU AS A JEWELRY DESIGNER?

tech-3-d-print

The impact of technology on work and jobs was the focus of a recent opinion piece in the New York Times by David H. Autor and David Dorn.     And, as jewelry designers, we are living through and with all the positives and negatives that arise through this technological change.

How has technology affected what we do as designers?

How has it affected what we do to survive and thrive as designers?

Have we mechanized and computerized the jewelry design business into obsolescence?

How have you had to organize your jewelry designer lives differently?
given the rise of
-the internet,
-Ebay, Etsy and Amazon.com
-blogs, facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram
-new technologies and materials like precious metal clay, polymer clay, crystal clay, 3-D printing

What has happened to your local bead stores?

What has happened to bead magazines?

If you teach classes for pay, or sell kits and instructions, how do you compete against the literally millions of online tutorials, classes, instructions and kits offered for free?    How does this affect what you teach or design to sell as kits?

If you sell jewelry, how do you compete against the 60,000,000 other people who sell jewelry online?   How does this affect your marketing, your pricing, your designs?

If you make part of your living doing a arts and crafts show circuit, will there still be a need for this in the future?

 

tech-3-d-print2

 

The authors in this NYT article pose the questions raised by several prominent authors and scholars:

Are we in danger of losing the “race against the machine?” (M.I.T. scholars Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee)

Are we becoming enslaved to our “robot overlords,?” (journalist Kevin Drum warned in Mother Jones)

Do “smart machines” threaten us with “long-term misery?” (economists Jeffrey D. Sachs and Laurence J. Kotlikoff)

Have we reached “the end of labor?” (Noah Smith in The Atlantic)

 

tech-crystal-clay

 

 

Let me paraphrase these a bit in terms more specific to jewelry design and beadwork.

Does the reach of technology, through such vehicles as the Internet, make things so productive and efficient, that we no longer need so many people making jewelry, or teaching jewelry  making, or marketing businesses / products or selling the parts to make jewelry?

If we do not need so many people to design / teach / market / or sell, and there happen to be a lot of people doing this anyway, does this necessarily make the relative worth and price for any of these activities “$zero”?

Does all this technological efficiency diminish the act of “creativity”?   Now so many things can be standardized that everything – even the manufacture of complex pieces of jewelry through 3-D technology – can be reduced to a set of how-to instructions – mere recipes?

Has this technology reduced the need for bead magazines, and bead stores, and traditional classes?

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, technology has made jewelry design, and good jewelry design, more and more accessible to more and more people.

It has opened up a myriad of possibilities for people to explore their creative selves.

It has let jewelry designers reach a broader audience with their wares, their knowledge and their endeavors.

With new materials and technologies have come many new possibilities for creating jewelry.

It has made it easier for more people to get into the various jewelry design-related businesses.

It has made it easier to stay current and learn.

It has made it easier to meet and learn with fellow jewelry designers.

It has made it easier to mine big data, identify the most relevant target customers, and to market to them in very specific, cost-effective ways.

It has made it easier for retail outlets to find the merchandise they need to sell.

 

tech-internet

 

 

Some quick observations from my own professional life:

–          We have an elaborate curriculum of classes that we teach.   However, many of the beginning classes are becoming obsolete, in the sense that students can find similar classes on YouTube, in bead magazines, and throughout the internet, now for free.    The issue for us is how to adapt, given that one of our goals is still to charge money for these classes, and make money.   And a concurrent goal is to offer the student a learning opportunity worth the price paid.

–          Each year, we used to have 1 or 2 national level instructors do workshops at our store.    But it has become difficult to attract students.    There are so many projects easily available – including from these national-level instructors – that students started to indicate that their interests in these workshops had diminished.   They could do these same or similar projects on their own.

–          When we opened our store in 1991, there were few places for people to acquire what we sell.    Now there are almost 100 million places for people to go.    It is obvious that most of our in-store customers purchase more of their supplies online or through catalogs than they do in the store.

–          We used to do craft shows a long time ago.    But the cost of travel got very expensive, and, with the internet, people had more opportunity to find what we sold without going to the craft shows.

–          It used to be that the crux of our advertising dollars were spent with bead magazines.   No longer.   Bead magazines get a very small part of our advertising dollars.    I can remember when all our customers read the bead magazines to get all their information.   Now very few do.   Most have organized themselves into small groups in various social media sites.   To get your marketing message across, you have to spend a lot of time doing this online, and you can no longer market with a “broad brush”.   That is, it has become ever-more-difficult to reach people.

–          Our online business – Land of Odds – has been in existence since 1995.   It has gone through 6 technology upgrades/re-designs since then.    The e-commerce and website design technology moves and evolves so incredibly fast.   Personally this constant updating has been grueling. The site needs more re-design, but my motivation to learn and cope with yet another computer language and new sets of tasks has diminished.   Land of Odds was a pioneering online business.  But the very large bead companies have gotten their acts together online, and are much better capitalized to expand their operations.

Technology has been a dauntingly mixed bag for us.   On the negative side, the rapid advance and spread of technology has overwhelmed the various activities we do.   On the positive side, it has forced us to become ever more creative and ever more efficient in what we do.    It forces us to constantly re-define who we are and what we want to do.   And it forces us to constantly re-define how we do things.

What do you think?

Posted in bead weaving, beadwork, business of craft, jewelry design, jewelry making, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

BEADING CALISTHENICS #10: Daisy Stitch Expansion

Posted by learntobead on August 3, 2013

BEADING CALISTHENICS #10: Daisy Stitch Expansion

daisychain1

I do a day-long workshop called Beading Calisthenics. There are 10 of these exercises. This is the 10th one.

Beading requires a lot of mind-body coordination. That takes work. It is work.

You have to be able to get from your fingers to the needle to the beads, back along the thread to the needle to the fingers, hands, arms, eyes, mind. And then again. And again. Over and over, one more time. You need to get into a rhythm. All these working parts need to be working. No time for cramping. No time to get tired. No time to lose concentration.

daisychain2
A rhythm. Needle, pick up bead, pull down along thread, check the tension, pick up a bead, pull down along thread, check the tension, pick up a bead….

I noticed that different instructors had various techniques and strategies for maintaining this rhythm. Yes, music was involved sometimes. Othertimes simple meditation or creative reading and discourse. Some people had some stretching exercises that they did. Others tested themselves before proceeding with their big project. Still others did small things to reconfirm their learning.

I distilled what I saw others do effectively into 10 fun yet challenging beading calisthenics.

BEADING CALISTHENICS #10: Daisy Stitch Expansion

The challenge here is to see how many variations you can construct using the simple daisy chain stitch.

This is a very simple stitch. Try it out. Experiment. And share your results with the group.

Simplest daisy chain: A stem and a flower with a center bead, then a stem and flower w/center, and so forth.

Start with a line of 5 beads.

Add 5 more beads to your thread. Make the 5th bead a different color. This is your “flower set”. The 5th bead is your center point.

Make a loop by going back through the first of these 5 beads in the set.

Add two more beads to the flower set, and bring the needle through 4th bead in that original set of 5.

So the daisy pattern goes: BEAD 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 (flower center point bead marked by X) back to 1 to 6 to 7 back to 4 and out.

Pull tight.

Add another line of 5 beads. Continue.

Try the daisy chain above without the stem, so that each flower set is interconnected by one bead — # 4 (which becomes #1 in the next flower). Make your 5th bead a different color.

Next, look at the modified daisy chain pattern below. Try another interconnected daisy pattern, where we would connect each subsequent flower by two beads, instead of one. Here we would make the first daisy’s 3 and 4 become the next daisy’s 1 and 6.

daisychaina

This would go: 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 (flower center) to 1 to 6 to 7 to 4 up through 3 and out. Then 3 becomes 1 in the next daisy link. The pattern continues in the second link as 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 (flower center) to 1 to 6 to 7 to 4 up through 3 and out. Then 3 becomes 1 again.

Try the same pattern, this time making the 2nd, 5th and 7th bead the same color, but different than the others.

Try again, making the 1st, 5th and 4th beads the same color, but different than the others.

Try again with any of the patterns, this time using a different size/shape/style of bead for the 5th one.

daisychain4

In Horace Goodhue’s Native American Beadwork book, he details many, many variations, including several that do not result in “flowers”, but rather patterns of lines.

daisychain3

The daisy chain is indicative of a “traditional” design. What kinds of things can you do to make the daisy chain have a more “contemporary” feel? Such as newer metallic colors? Or somehow increasing the dimensionality of each flower so it doesn’t feel so flat? Or creating a color pattern with beads 1 thru 7, so that the pattern is very op-art or contemporary graphic in feel?

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MANAGING DESIGN AT THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN JEWELRY AND PERSON

Posted by learntobead on July 18, 2013

MANAGING DESIGN
AT THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN
JEWELRY AND PERSON

abw1som6-bw-moneyshot1-hires-full

Jewelry is art, but only art as it is worn.

That’s a powerful idea, but we somewhat ignore it, when thinking about making jewelry.    We like to follow steps.  We like to make beautiful things.   But too often, we avoid having to think about the difficult choices and tradeoffs we need to make, when searching for that balance among aesthetics, functionality, context, materials and technique.

I am going to get on my soap box here.

Good jewelry design must answer questions and teach practitioners about managing the processes of selecting materials, implementing techniques, and constructing the piece from one end to the other.

We tend to teach students to very mechanically follow a series of steps.

What we should be doing, instead, at least from the Design Perspective which is so influential in my approach for creating jewelry, is teach students how to make choices when managing at the boundary between jewelry and person.

I recently put together a video tutorial for a brick-stitched project I call Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet, where I tried to write and present the instructions, from this Design Perspective.     I first discuss the jewelry design process as a series of choices and tradeoffs.   And only then do I list the steps the student needs to follow for completing the project.   But each step is presented as the result of a particular analytical or problem-solving process, something to the effect, “I confronted this situation, I weighed these options, and, for these reasons, I decided to execute the next step this way….”.

abw1som6-gl-moneyshot5

This bangle bracelet has to stretch wide to get over the hand, and then shrink back to its original dimensions, all the while keeping its shape and integrity.    It will have to do this many times.   That means, the beads within the piece, as well as each bead woven component of the piece, will need to be able to bend in more than one direction, yet remain somewhat stiff enough for maintaining each component’s shape as well as the bangle’s aesthetic and functionality over all.   If we redefine the brick stitch architecturally, we can see its versatility and flexibility, making it is the perfect stitch to achieve these goals.

abw1som6-supportsystem3

You can find this tutorial at CraftArtEdu.com, or
http://craftartedu.com/warren-feld-tuxedo-park-bangle-bracelet

The preview is free, and introduces some of my ideas.

 

Discussion Questions for you…

1.        Re-look at one of your favorite pieces.   Review the questions posed in the article below.   Now, describe your piece for the group, in design and architectural terms, using the questions posed below to guide your thoughts.    And post your description for the group along with an image of your piece.

2.       Think about your favorite technique – whether bead stringing, bead weaving or wire working or some other jewelry-making interest area.  How does this technique help your pieces, which are made using it, keep their shape?  How does the technique help your pieces withstand the forces that come from wearing and movement? 

 

 

From an article I’m writing about the architectural approach to defining bead weaving, bead stringing and wire working….

In addition to teaching students “steps”, we need to teach students about making good design choices.   The “steps” should be presented as the results of these choices.  The thinking and reasoning processes should be the focus.   How we arrived at these choices, and how we have made tradeoffs, should be at the forefront of what we teach.   The steps should not be presented as fait accompli.   But rather, the steps should be overtly understood as the logical outcomes from our thought and design process.

This is the architectural manifesto and challenge for re-thinking and re-defining jewelry design.   We need to teach students to think this way and answer these 10 core questions at the heart of this manifesto:

 

(1) Why or how does a particular bead stringing technique, wire work technique or bead weaving stitch suggest a particular form of representation?

 

(2) How does my work relate to the complex factors at play in design, including philosophy, science, religion, ecology, politics, cyberspace, gender, literature, aesthetics, economics, history, culture, and technology?

 

(3) What kinds of things characterize contemporary design, and its aesthetics and functionality?

 

(4) What about the materials you are using helps you transform them into a pleasing, satisfying piece?

 

(5) What about the particular techniques you are using helps you transform materials into a pleasing, satisfying piece?

 

(6) What should the design process look like?   What are the design elements which need to be managed?   What are the rules for their manipulation?

 

(7) How do you best define, create and use components, forms and structures?

 

(8) What is the structure (or, you might visualize the anatomy) of your piece of jewelry, and how is that structure construed and constructed?    What specifically about the structures or building blocks of your piece contributes to a successful and satisfying design?

 

(9) How does your jewelry, given its structure and the techniques you used to assemble it, withstand forces?    What, in the designing, the selecting of materials or techniques, or the strategizing about the overall construction help you better manage things like movement, drape, flexibility, strength, comfort, and interplay of light, shadow and color?

 

(10) How do you best manage your visual presentation in terms of color, light, shadow, dimensionality, pattern, texture, and perspective?

 

 

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TUXEDO PARK BANGLE BRACELET

Posted by learntobead on July 13, 2013

TUXEDO PARK BANGLE BRACELET
New Video Tutorial at CraftArtEdu.com

Purchase kits at:
Land Of Odds online

abw1som6-bw-moneyshot1-hires-full

IN THIS CLASS, LEARN HOW MUCH SHAPING, INTEREST, AND DIMENSIONALITY YOU CAN ACHIEVE WITH THE SIMPLE, BASIC BRICK STITCH. BY CREATING MY TUXEDO PARK BANGLE BRACELET.    THE BRICK STITCH IS EASY TO LEARN.  FUN TO DO.  AND OFFERS MANY DESIGN POSSIBILITIES FOR THE BEAD WEAVING ARTIST.

 

BRICK STITCH IS OFTEN OVER-SHADOWED BY ITS VERY CLOSE, BUT MORE POPULAR COUSIN – THE PEYOTE STITCH.  I OFTEN THINK THAT ONE OF THE REASONS FOR THIS, IS THAT INTRODUCTORY BRICK STITCH PROJECTS LACK SOME OF THAT “WOW” FACTOR.  THE BASIC BRICK STITCH TYPICALLY IS TAUGHT BY HAVING THE STUDENT MAKE A SIMPLE PYRAMID, PERHAPS SOME LONG DANGLING FRINGE IS WORKED OFF THE BASE OF THE PYRAMID TO MAKE NATIVE AMERICAN EARRINGS. OR, PERHAPS LINKING SEVERAL PYRAMIDS TOGETHER TO MAKE A BRACELET. WHEN THE INTRODUCTORY PROJECT IS “BORING”, STUDENTS LOSE INTEREST IN THE STITCH.

 

HOWEVER, TOO OFTEN IGNORED IN THESE INTRODUCTORY BRICK STITCH PROJECTS ARE THE POWERFUL, STRUCTURAL PROPERTIES OF THE STITCH ITSELF.
THE STITCH IS VERY VERSATILE.

THE BRICK STITCH CAN BE USED TO CREATE A BROAD CANVAS, AND GIVE THIS CANVAS A GREAT DEAL OF FLEXIBILITY, WHERE MANY STITCHES WOULD LEAVE IT TOO STIFF.

AT THE SAME TIME, THE BRICK STITCH CAN ALLOW THE CANVAS  TO HOLD AND MAINTAIN ITS SHAPE, WHERE MANY OTHER STITCHES MIGHT GET FLOPPY AND TOO LOOSE.

BRICK STITCH CAN ALSO EASILY GIVE THIS CANVAS VERY VARIED SHAPES, EDGES AND OPEN SPACES, AND ALLOW A GREAT DEAL OF CONTROL OF THREAD PATH AND BEAD PLACEMENT WHERE OTHER STITCHES COULD NOT.

THE TUXEDO PARK BANGLE BRACELET IS AN INTRODUCTORY PROJECT THAT INTRODUCES THE STITCH AND SEVERAL VARIATIONS TO PEAK YOUR INTEREST.
AND TURN YOU INTO A BRICK STITCH FAN.

 

THIS VIDEO TUTORIAL IS PRESENTED FROM WHAT IS CALLED THE DESIGN PERSPECTIVE. THE DESIGN PERSPECTIVE FOCUSES ON HOW THE JEWELRY DESIGNER AND BEAD WORKER MAKE CHOICES

ABOUT WHAT TO DO, AND NOT TO DO,

ABOUT WHAT TO INCLUDE, AND NOT INCLUDE,

AND ABOUT HOW TO BALANCE OFF CONFLICTING DEMANDS

BETWEEN BEAUTY AND FUNCTIONALITY.

abw1som6-gl-moneyshot7

IN THIS VIDEO TUTORIAL, I FIRST GUIDE YOU THROUGH THE PROJECT PLANNING PROCESS. THAT IS, I DISCUSS THE TYPES OF CHOICES I MADE, WHEN CREATING THIS PIECE. THESE CHOICES INCLUDE THINGS ABOUT TECHNIQUE. THEY INCLUDE THINGS ABOUT COLOR AND MATERIALS. THEY INCLUDE THINGS ABOUT FORM, STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION.

THEN, I GO OVER, IN DETAIL, STEP-BY-STEP, EASY-TO-FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS FOR COMPLETING THE PROJECT.

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HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CHOOSING CLASPS?

Posted by learntobead on May 28, 2013

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CHOOSING CLASPS?

clasp7strand

The Jewelry Designer makes many choices when creating a piece of jewelry. Lots of things to manage and accomplish.

Probably the two most important choices, right up front, in creating a wearable art-piece that will be around for future generations are your:
(1) Stringing Material, and
(2) Clasp

 

When you work with so many customers in a store, and so many students in classes, you begin to see that people are not necessarily that great in selecting clasps. Many are in a clasps-rut — they use the same clasp over and over again. Others pick out clasps they find appealing, whether or not they would visually or functionally work with the piece they have made. Few people anticipate how they are going to attach the clasp to their beadwork, often resulting in an overly long, awkwardly connected clasp assembly. So, how to you go about choosing clasps?

 

From an article I had written…

 

Clasps always seem like they’ve been someone’s last thought. They should be the first thought. But many people get so excited creating their beadwork, that they forget about the clasp – until the last moment. You can tell when the jewelry maker hasn’t put much thought into their choice of clasp in many ways. Often, the clasp doesn’t look like it was meant to go with the bead work or general design. It might be out of proportion. It might be a different texture or sensibility. Its function – how you open and close it, while wearing your jewelry — might seem odd, perhaps unnatural. And not only does the choice of clasp seem as an after-thought, but how to attach to the bead work to that clasp seems un-thought out, as well.

So it’s not surprising, that when we were repairing jewelry on a regular basis, about 80% of the pieces to be fixed had broken at the clasp.

It is best to, in part, build your design around your clasp. If your piece has a centerpiece or focal point, then how does this link up to or coordinate with the clasp. At the least, when visualizing your beadwork, include an image of the clasp and how it is attached at both ends. The world is full of clasps. Not every clasp is a jeweler’s best friend. But it depends.

The clasp needs to visually fit with the beadwork. It needs to function as the artist intended. It needs to function in a way the wearer can relate to, use and handle. It needs to be appropriate for the piece and the context in which it is too be worn. It should not compete with the beadwork. It should complement it. Ideally, at least from a design perspective, your clasp should look and feel as if it were an integral part of the entire piece.

In a Gallery setting, if you are selling your jewelry there, you usually want a very functional, but not overwhelming, clasp. You are selling your beadwork, and you don’t want your clasp to compete with this.

In a Department Store, setting, however, often the clasp sells the piece. In this setting, choosing a clasp requires a different kind of logic, thinking and anticipation. Some clasp-types are “expected” to be a part of the piece – even if the particular choice of type would not be the best choice in the world.

The former owner of a local Tennessee pearl company was very frustrated with clasps. She sold a lot of finished pearl jewelry at very high prices, and had been using 14KT gold pearl and safety clasps. Her customers sent a lot of their pearl necklaces and bracelets back for repairs, because their clasps broke. And this company felt, because the prices of these pieces were very high, that they were obligated to replace the clasps and re-string these pearl-knotted pieces at no additional charge. 14KT clasps – particularly the pearl, safety and filigree box clasps — do not hold up well, because gold is a very soft metal.

Replacing clasps on a pearl-knotted piece is quite some job. You have to cut up the piece to free up each bead, and then you begin the knotting and finishing off processes again. It turns out, the 14KT clasps were not the only expensive part of the bracelets – making the knots between each pearl was the time-consuming and costly part. She desperately wanted to reduce the number of repairs. Her first idea was to replace the pearl and safety clasps with other styles which were sturdier. However, these pieces didn’t sell. People wanted the pearl and filigree clasps. The designs of these clasps were so traditional and so locked into their expectations for what pearl-knotted jewelry should look like, that they would not compromise.

Her second effort, she tried replacing the 14KT pearl and filigree clasps with gold-filled ones which were stronger, but this made her customers very angry – they wanted 14KT gold.

So, her final strategy, she returned to using 14KT gold, and doubled her prices. She built in the cost of one repair into the prices she charged. And only then could she present her happy face to her customers, and her somewhat-happy face to herself when she was in private.

 

 

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So You Want To Do Craft Shows…

Posted by learntobead on May 8, 2013

SO YOU WANT TO DO CRAFT SHOWS…
New CraftArtEdu.com Video Tutorial By Warren Feld
http://www.craftartedu.com/warren-feld-so-you-want-to-do-craft-shows

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In this class, presented in 6 parts with 16 lessons, artist and businessman, Warren Feld, will fill you in on the ins and outs, the dos and the don’ts of selling at craft shows and fairs. Which are best for you, which may be a waste of your time. How to compute the revenue you must earn to justify participating in an event. This is a must see class for anyone thinking of entering the art and craft show world and will maximize your chances of success in these venues. 6 Broadcasts.
Price:
$30
Level: All Levels
Duration: 113:58

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FASHION AND JEWELRY DESIGN

Posted by learntobead on May 6, 2013

TO WHAT DEGREE DOES/SHOULD “FASHION” INFLUENCE OUR JEWELRY DESIGN DECISIONS?

reposted from my Jewelry Design Discussion Group on FaceBook
https://www.facebook.com/groups/jewelrydesign/

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In our store, I am asked repeatedly about what the current fashion colors are? Did I see what so-and-so was wearing on TV or at an awards show? But usually, at least in Nashville, TN, a sense of fashion plays a small part in the day-to-day decisions most people make about the jewelry they want to wear.

What are your feelings and views? What are your experiences? What role should “Fashion” play? How important is Fashion to jewelry design? Should we take our design “cues” from New York and Los Angeles? To what extent do you think Fashion influences the average woman’s choices she makes, when purchasing or wearing a piece of jewelry?

Warren Feld

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From an article I wrote… APPLIED FASHION Women don’t just wear pieces of jewelry – they inhabit them.

Buying a piece of jewelry for yourself – a necklace, a bracelet, earrings, a brooch, something else – isn’t a task easily given to someone else. It’s often not a spur of the moment thing either. You just don’t rush off to the local boutique or the local Wal-Mart, grab whatever you see, and go home. I’m not talking about that impulse buy during your leisurely visit to the mall. I’m referring to purchasing those pieces of jewelry you know will have to do a lot of the hard work to accessorize your wardrobe and help you get the compliments and notice of your family, friends and   co-workers you comport with and compete with each and every day.

No, buying a piece of jewelry for yourself is a multi-purposed moment, one which must be thought through carefully and one which must be savored. Lest you buy the wrong piece. That doesn’t really go with what you intend to wear. Or is over-priced. Or poorly made. Or conveys the wrong impression about status. Or is out of fashion. Or something one of your friends already has.

The jewelry you buy has to conform to quite a long list of essential criteria before you could ever think of buying it. It is something you will wear more than once. As such, it is your companion. Your necklace is not merely lying around your neck. Or your bracelet around your wrist. Or your earrings dangling from your ears. Jewelry can cause you to lose face with others. It can irritate or scratch your skin, or get caught up in your hair. It might weigh you down or stretch or tear your ear lobes. Jewelry can break without warning in the most unexpected and embarrassing of places. It can get caught on things, sometimes hurting you in the process.

Jewelry conveys to the world something about who you really are, or think you are. As such, jewelry is very personal. Your private, innermost, most soul searching choices made very public for all to see. As you caress it, as you touch the smooth or faceted or crevice’d beads and metal parts or the clasp or the material the beads are strung on, when you twist and move the piece within your hand, you are confirming to yourself the extent to which your jewelry is doing its job.

When you buy new jewelry, the dilemmas multiply. How will the new compare to the old? Will it be able to handle all these responsibilities – looking good, representing you, fitting in with your wardrobe, meeting the expectations of others? Like divorcing, then remarrying, changing your jewelry can take some time for readjustment. And you do not want to be seen as noncommittal to your jewelry. This would sort of be like going to a hotel, but not unpacking your suitcase while staying in the room.

Conveying some sort of social or psychological distance from your jewelry can be very unsettling for others. So you need to inhabit it. You need to inhabit your jewelry, wear it with conviction, pride and satisfaction. Be one with it. Inhabiting jewelry often comes with a price. There becomes so much pressure to buy the “right” pieces, given all the roles we demand our jewelry to play, that we too often stick with the same brands, the same colors, the same styles, the same silhouettes.

We get stuck in this rut and are afraid to step out of it. Or we wear too many pieces of jewelry. The long earrings, plus the cuff bracelets on both arms, plus the head band, plus the hair ornament, plus the 7-strand necklace, plus the 5 rings. We are ever uncertain which piece or pieces will succeed at what, so hopefully, at least some combination or subset of what we wear will work out.

In a similar way, we wear over-embellished pieces – lots of charms, lots of dangles, lots of fringe, lots of strands. Something will surely be the right color, the right fit and proportion, the right fashion, the right power statement, the right reflection of me.

And our need to inhabit our jewelry comes with one more price. We are too willing to overpay for poorly made pieces in our desperation to have that right look. The $100.00 of beads strung on elastic string. The poorly dyed stones which fade in the light. The poorly crimped and overly stiff pieces with little ease for accommodating movement and frequent wear. It is OK to inhabit our jewelry. In fact, it is necessary, given all we want jewelry to do for us. But we need to be smart about it. We need to learn to recognize better designs and better designers.

This need not be expensive at all.

Just smarter.

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