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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?

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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?

 

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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)

 

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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?

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BEADING CALISTHENICS #10: Daisy Stitch Expansion

Posted by learntobead on August 3, 2013

BEADING CALISTHENICS #10: Daisy Stitch Expansion

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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….”.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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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COLOR BLENDING: A MANAGEMENT APPROACH

Posted by learntobead on April 30, 2013

COLOR BLENDING:
A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

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Color blending with beads is always challenging. It is not like paints, where you can merge and blend colors with ease. Beads are physical objects with set colors. You can’t mush them together, The transition from bead to bead in any piece, requires the eye/brain, when interacting and interpreting colors, to literally jump a cliff between the inevitable gaps of light between each bead. You want the viewer to have a satisfying, pleasurable journey as their eye/brain moves along that line of color-transitioning beads.

It is this transition from color to color that must be managed.

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The Monet’s Garden Bracelet by Kathleen Lynam
One Example of a Color Blending Strategy

The Monet’s Garden Bracelet is a fun project that students love. It is for students who have some familiarity with bead weaving. Kathleen had been experimenting with various strategies for blending colors along the length of a bracelet. At about the same time, Beadwork issued a call for project proposals to be used in a book about what to do with your Bead Stash — all those small quantities of lots of different colors you have left over. This was the perfect type of project for color blending.

bw2fr1-spring-fringe-done-1

This bracelet teaches a mathematical approach for organizing several colors within a color blending scheme. Also presented is a simple math formula for personalizing your bracelet — that is, varying the width and length to suit your needs. The techniques here are Square Stitch and Fringing.

In her pieces, Kathleen loves to draw on nature’s inspiration. She gathers flowers and plants and bring them into the bead shop to match their colors as closely as she can. For her Monet’s Garden Bracelet, she developed instructions for both a Spring Palette, as well as a Fall Palette. However, the instructions would be as useful for a monochromatic palette, such as whites to grays to black, or a Southwest palette, such as turquoise to corals to reds. Use your imagination — and use up your bead stash, in the process!

Color Blending

Your goal is to move from one color to the next, in a satisfying way. You have many different kinds of choices to make, when managing a transition like this.

After you have chosen which colors you want to use, you need to decide what the color will look like as a “base” color, and what the color might look like as a “blend” color. With paints, this task is much, much easier, than with beads. It is not easy to blend beads, not least of which is because it is difficult to find the right colors needed to merge a color from base to blend and back to the base of the next color.
In this project, our strategy is to change the proportions of the base color as we move from one row to the next, until the proportions of the base to the blend in the first row are in reverse to the proportions to the blend to the base in the last transitional row. [And then, the blend becomes the new base, etc. along the bracelet.]

Besides varying the proportions, other options of blending that you have as a jewelry artist:

– Varying the brightness and dullness as you move from base to blend, such as finding colors with either more black, more gray, or more white in them

– Graduating the length of your fringes from row to row to create a sense of layering

– Varying the lightness and darkness as you move from base to blend, such as going from red to maroon or from red to pink

When choosing a set of colors, these do not have to match perfectly, but they do need to be coordinated. It is difficult if you vary the finishes of the beads too much. For example, transparent and transparent AB would not work well together in our scheme. Nor would transparent AB and luster finishes. Yet transparent AB, silver-lined and metallic colors do work well together, but only when you allow one of the finishes to be predominant.

Kathleen:”This Monet’s Garden Bracelet project is about color blending, so I went all out in selecting 14 colors. I could have easily used fewer colors or more colors.
Using the color blending strategy presented for this project, with 14 colors, each color would require 4 rows. So, in a bracelet, the base of which consists of 58 rows, the maximum number of colors we could use would be 14 (that is, 58 divided by 4, with 2 extra rows). I decided that when I got to the end with my 14th color, I would blend it with the 1st color, and color an extra row at the beginning and at the end (thus, my two extra rows), both done in the 1st color. [An alternative for treating the end of the bracelet would be to transition back from color 14 to color 13, and finish off the rows.]

I use a formula discussed below in allocating the proportion of each color, row by row. I played with combinations of different finishes. I was not satisfied with plain transparent beads — not enough brightness or dimensionality. Using all one finish, such as an AB finish or luster finish, was interesting, but too monotonous. It didn’t look like “nature”. I settled on using primarily transparent luster-finish colors, with some transparent AB, transparent silver-lined and a couple of metallic and metallic iris finish colors. This mixing of finishes seemed better. These captured and reflected light in different ways, and drew the eye into the bead differently, thus adding considerable interest. Lastly, I used more matte finishes in my Fall palette, than in my Spring.

My transitions from color to color are relatively quick. Each transition from one color to the next takes up 2 rows. With 14 colors, thus 4 rows allocated for each, you would have 2 full color rows and 2 transitional color rows. However, I could have easily come up with a formula-strategy to make the transitions much slower. And I could have come up with a formula-strategy to transition 3 colors at a time, instead of 2.

For this project, I graduated my colors in a way that seeming pleasing to me. The main transition is from reds to purples to golds and topaz’s.

My flower stalks are two sizes. For the first and last stalks, four 11/0 seed beads long and then topped with an 8/0 and a 15/0 seed bead as the flower tips, about 3/8”. For the 2nd through 7th stalks, six 11/0 seed beads long and then topped with an 8/0 and a 15/0 seed bead as the flower tips, about 1/2″. Because I have used Japanese seed beads, the 2nd thru 7th stalks/tips are the same lengths. I tried a sample going longer (8 11/0 seed beads plus the 8/0 and 15/0 tip), but this wasn’t appealing to me. Also, I would not have gone much longer, because the stalks could more likely bend in half, instead of standing more firmly upright. It was important to use 3 color gradations in my flower stalk, rather than a single color. A sense of “movement” is one of the key beauties of this bracelet. As the bracelet is worn, and the fringe move, I want the viewer to have a sense of watching flowers blowing in the wind. To maximize this effect, I vary the colors from darkest near the base to lightest near the flower tip.

For the Fall Palette, I also vary the finishes from luster to color lined, to silver lined, to AB, so that they eye’s interaction with any glass bead will also vary. I want things to feel like that changing of nature during Fall.

I coordinated the colors of the 8/0 and 15/0 seed beads forming the flower and its tip. In many cases, I found colors that were very similar. In a couple of cases, to add a bit of variety and surprise, and I used colors with a little more contrast, yet in the same general color family. “

The pattern underlying Kathleen’s color blending formula:
Determine the color patterns for the non-transitional and the transitional rows of flower stalk tips (the fringe in her bracelet). This pattern is based on playing with the proportions of the two colors, as we transition between them.

In our instructions today, we use the following patterns:
Where,
S=Same or current color
N=Next new color

Non-Transitional Row:
S | S | S | S | S | S | S
First of two Transitional Rows:
S | N | S | N | S | N | S
Second of two Transitional Rows:
N | N | N | S | N | N | N

Color Blending:

It is difficult to blend colors, when using beads. Some people like to make a bead mix of all the beads and colors they want to blend. This “Random” approach to blending works sometimes, but in a random way. Similarly, “Alternating” colors or “Graduating Colors from light to dark, or bright to dull” along your piece, also do not work well.

Usually, to get a great color-blending design, you need to plan, pre-test, plan again, pre-test again, until you work out a more involved, complex patterning.

One way to choreograph things, is to play with color proportions. Go line by line, and begin with the ideal proportionate relationship between two colors. Gradually manipulate this down the line by anticipating the next ideal proportionate relationship between the next two colors that need to follow.

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ALL DOLLED UP: Beaded Art Doll Competition

Posted by learntobead on January 30, 2013

ALL DOLLED UP:
BEADED ART DOLL COMPETITION
deadline: 8/31/2013

Create a BEADED ART DOLL by manipulating beads and forms into an imaginative
tactile and visual 3-dimensional representation. And then write a Short Story
about your Beaded Art Doll, what it represents, and how it was created.

ALL DOLLED UP: BEADED ART DOLL COMPETITION is offering a first prize of a $1000.00
shopping spree on the Land of Odds web-site (www.landofodds.com), and a Runner-Up
prize of a $400.00 shopping spree on the web-site. This is more than a beauty
pageant. It is a design competition. The Competition will take into account
the Artist’s intentions and how well these are incorporated into the design.
Enter to Win!

Beaded Art Dolls submitted as entries for this competition may be realistic,
surrealistic, whimsical or imaginary. They may be humanistic, animalistic, caricatures,
cartoons, impressions or abstractions. A Beaded Art Doll is a physical representation
in three dimensions, using human figural and expressive characteristics, through
the creative use and manipulation of beads. Beaded Art Dolls should be between
8” and 36” in size. They must be at least 80% composed of beads.

The Artist is given wide leeway in techniques for how the doll is to be beaded,
and may use one particular technique or several. Techniques, for example, may
include bead weaving stitches, bead embellishment, bead appliqué, bead
knitting, bead crochet, bead embroidery, lampworking.

Review the Official Rules on the website.

Sponsored by Land of Odds, Be Dazzled Beads, LearnToBead.net, and The Center
for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts

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The Artistry of Barbara Natoli Witt

Posted by learntobead on January 30, 2013

THE ARTISTRY OF BARBARA NATOLI WITT
http://necklaceart.com/NecklaceArt.com.html
witt1a

I wanted to share with you some of the beautiful, fascinating and romantic works of Barbara Natoli Witt.

witt1

Her pieces blend tapestry techniques with captivating webs of colored threads, beads, stones, artifacts and found objects.

witt2

I frequently advocate among my students that they learn to incorporate several types of techniques and materials within their pieces, and Witt is a perfect example of the result.

witt3

Her use of historical motifs, signs, symbols and materials imbued with meaning within necklace pieces with a contemporary flair add synergy and power to her pieces.    She marries “meaning” to “aesthetic” particularly well.

witt4

The historical referents  make you think of themes of classical beauty, the classical role of women and the classical role of jewelry, and how these relate to women and jewelry today.

witt5

A good background biography of the artist can be found here.

witt6

 

 

 

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LARK PUBLICATIONS: Call For Entries

Posted by learntobead on June 10, 2012

LARK PUBLICATIONS
CALL FOR ENTRIES
8/1/2012 deadline
I received the following email from Ray Hemachandra of Lark Publications. They are
requesting submissions to possible be included ina book to be published called Showcase
500 Necklaces. -- Warren
"I'm pleased to announce a two-month call for entries for a new 500 Series gallery book of handmade contemporary jewelry from Lark Books: Showcase 500 Necklaces. The opportunity closes on August 1, 2012. That is a short window of time, so I ask you please to share the call for entries promptly with your entire jewelry-making community, including peers, associations, schools, students, and all online forums as well as social media like Twitter and Facebook, and to respond to it yourself in a timely way. As always, we hope to receive a wide array of entries from around the world. I'm also pleased to report Lark has converted to using an online entry system; entries are now online only, through a portal provided by Juried Art Services. Here is the link for the informational prospectus and to enter: http://bit.ly/NmsmQm


You'll find all the information you need at that link, so please follow the instructions carefully, but here are some key points: We'll accept jewelry in all materials with all techniques and design styles, including both wearable and conceptual but biasing toward the wearable, simply because most readers prefer seeing wearable jewelry in these books. Jurying will favor more recent work, and so we ask you to submit very recent or current work from no earlier than 2010. The submission limit is two pieces (one photo of each, with an option of one or two alternate or detail photos per piece). 'Necklaces' can include neckpieces, chokers, torques, collars, operas, ropes, chains, bibs, etc. There is no charge for entry for this book; Lark is covering the Juried Art Services cost. We strongly prefer work that has not been previously published in book form. The JAS form will walk you through the process, but a few notes: 1. No need to complete the Artist Statement section. 2. Please read and follow Lark's Digital Image Submission Guidelines. 3. We encourage early entries, especially to avoid having any last-minute difficulties with the new entry process: Complete the process ahead of the deadline so you're assured of having time to resolve any technical issues you might encounter. For questions about registering with Juried Art Services or uploading your material to the site, contact support@jurying.net. For other questions about the book, please direct them to Hannah Doyle at hannah@larkbooks.com. And please be sure to join Lark Jewelry & Beading on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LarkJewelryBeading for updates and future calls for entries. We invite you to copy the web ad for the book at http://www.larkcrafts.com/submit/calls-for-submissions/ for your own website or blog, or to share it on your Facebook page, linking either to that link or to the JAS page at http://bit.ly/NmsmQm, whichever you prefer. We are very excited about this book, the third jewelry book since the 500 series evolved into 'Showcase 500'. Showcase 500 Rings (http://amzn.to/yEERZm ) just published in May, and Showcase 500 Beaded Jewelry (http://amzn.to/z6tZH2) will publish in August. We know Showcase 500 Necklaces will be a book devoted to work of creative excellence and innovation, and we invite and welcome your contribution to the book. Thank you very much. Sincerely, Ray Join us on Facebook: facebook.com/LarkJewelryBeading Follow us on Pinterest: pinterest.com/larkjewelry Ray Hemachandra Team Lead and Business Manager Lark Jewelry & Beading 67 Broadway Asheville, North Carolina 28801 (828) 253-0467 ext. 762 ray@larkbooks.com
http://www.larkcrafts.com/jewelry-beading"

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Go VOTE – Beaded Tapestry Competition

Posted by learntobead on November 4, 2011

Semi-Finalists Chosen!
Beaded Tapestry Competition 

GO VOTE OnLine:  Voting ends 1/14/2012

Visit the web-pages of each of our 4 Beaded Tapestry Competition Semi-Finalists.

International 2011
THE ILLUSTRATIVE BEADER:
BEADED TAPESTRY COMPETITION
Theme: Mystery Genre Book Covers

#1. KAY FIELDEN
Auckland, New Zealand
“The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold

#2. JUNE JACKSON and JAMIE BRUNS
Bryan, Texas
“Lizzie Borden” by Elizabeth Engstrom

#3. DOT LEWALLEN
Westerville, Ohio
“Black Notice” by Patricia Cornwell

#4. PATTY ROCKHILL
O’Brien, Florida
“When Night Falls”
by Jenna Ryan

Evaluate their images, their write-ups, and their materials and techniques.
Then use the on-line form you will find at the bottom of each of their web-pages
to Score them in terms of
Visual Appeal,
Artist Insight,
Artist Technique, and
Use of Beads in the Design.

The judges were blown away by the quality of all 4 semifinalists.   It was truly amazing how well each artist captured the essence of their book.  Each artist brought these books to life within their book cover design.  Yet each artist’s approach was different.  These artists should commend themselves on the amount of thought, insight, and coordination of ideas and techniques which went into producing their Beaded Tapestry pieces.    Bravo!

Here we use the concept of “Tapestry” in its broadest sense as a stitched, sewn and/or woven wall hanging. Your tapestry may be woven, loomed, stitched, quilted, cross-stitched, crocheted, knitted, sewn, braided, knotted, embroidered, macrame’d, beaded and the like. Your tapestry will combine fibers/threads/and/or cloth and beads in some way, and the surface area must consist of at least 70% beads. Beads may be used in many ways, such as forming the background canvas of your piece, and/or embellishing your canvas, and/or as fringe, and/or as stitchery covering parts of your piece. Your piece should be mounted or framed in some way, ready for hanging on a wall. Your tapestry may utilize many different techniques.

GO VOTE OnLine:  Voting ends 1/14/2012

http://www.landofodds.com/store/tapestry1contest.htm

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SNAKES – Claire Kahn

Posted by learntobead on October 25, 2011

SNAKES

“Snakes” are popular jewelry themes and forms.

Claire Kahn

The undulating body form.
The sharp, threatening teeth.
The relationship to the Adam and Eve story.
The use of the snake in various cultural myths and mythologies.
The patterning of the skin.

Claire Kahn

The snake evokes something primal within us.    It has an aesthetic that we all recognize and share, perhaps sensuous, perhaps threatening, yet always steeped in beauty.

 

Claire Kahn


Many of our students and customers love making snakes.     Snake necklaces.  Snake bracelets.  Snake cuffs.  Snake rings.

Claire Kahn

 

Claire Kahn‘s work recently caught my eye.
http://clairekahndesign.com/

 

 

 

 

Claire Kahn

Her website displays many beautiful, detailed images of her pieces.

 

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BEADED TAPESTRY COMPETITION SEMI-FINALISTS SELECTED

Posted by learntobead on October 21, 2011

BEADED TAPESTRY COMPETITION SEMI-FINALISTS SELECTED

Images of our semifinalists entries posted on facebook
The Illustrative Beader: Beaded Tapestry Competition, 2011
Theme: Mystery Genre Book Covers
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Illustrative-Beader-Beaded-Tapestry-Competition/176006269128968?sk=wall

KAY FIELDEN

Auckland, New Zealand

“The Lovely Bones”
by Alice Sebold

JUNE JACKSON and JAMIE BRUNS

Bryan, Texas

“Lizzie Borden”
by Elizabeth Engstrom

DOT LEWALLEN

Westerville, Ohio

“Black Notice”
by Patricia Cornwell


PATTY ROCKHILL

O’Brien, Florida

“When Night Falls”
by Jenna Ryan

Voting online for the winner will begin around 11/7/2011 on the land of odds website —

http://www.landofodds.com/

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

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EMPOWERING THE JEWELRY DESIGNER

Posted by learntobead on October 12, 2011

EMPOWERING THE JEWELRY DESIGNER
5 Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Before I begin any discussion, it is important to understand something about Empowerment.   Empowering — why do you think it is important to Empower the Jewelry Designer?    What kinds  of powers do we want the Jewelry Designer to have?   What kinds of things happen when the Jewelry Designer is not empowered?

It is important that the Jewelry Designer feel comfortable and confident in making choices.    These kinds of choices could be as simple as whether to finish a piece, or not.    Or whether to begin a second piece after finishing the first one.    The designer will make choices about how to draw someone’s attention to the piece, or present the piece to a larger audience.   She or he may decide to submit the piece to a magazine or contest.   She or he may want to sell the piece and market it.      The designer will make choices about how a piece might be worn, or who might wear it, or when it might be worn, in what context.

And for all these choices, the Jewelry Designer might need to overcome a sense of fear, or boredom, or resistance.  The Designer might need to overcome anxiety, a sense of giving up, having jeweler’s block, feeling unchallenged, even laziness.

We want the Jewelry Designer to be empowered to be able to make the necessary choices, in the face of everything that might slow him or her down, or prevent any kind of progress toward a satisfactory end.

And there are other powers we want the Jewelry Designer to have.   We want the designer to be primed to learn more, and be aware of more.  We want our Designer to make smart choices about construction.

We want our Designer to be empowered to better able handle contingencies — to fix problems and make substitutions, as the needs arise.

Our Designer should be empowered to be better able to create an aura of resonance resonating from the piece of jewelry, perhaps giving an edge to it.    The Designer wants to evoke an emotional response from the audience.    This is accomplished by the choices the Designer makes to better use color or a more controlled use of line or a better and more frequent use of forms, themes and components, or a better mixing of materials.

One more critical power we want our Designer to have.   We want the Designer to be better able to have the jewelry reflect the artist’s hand and style.

The successful Jewelry Designer should be very empowered.

The empowered Jewelry Designer should have answers to 5 critical questions.    These have to do with:
1) Art vs. Craft?
2) How To Decide What To Create?
3) What Materials Work Well Together?
4) How To Evoke Emotional Responses To Their Work?
5) When Is Enough Enough?

Let’s start with the first question.
Question 1:  Should BEADWORK and JEWELRY MAKING be considered ART or CRAFT?
What do you think is going on here — why the distinction between Art and Craft, particularly as it applies to jewelry design and beading?     Why is this distinction important?   How does this distinction affect what we do as jewelry designers?

The Jewelry Designer confronts a world that is unsure whether jewelry is “craft” or “art”.    When defined as “craft”, jewelry is seen as something that anyone can do — no special powers are needed to be a Jewelry Designer.   As “craft”, there is somewhat of a pejorative meaning — it’s looked down upon, thought of as something less than art.    But as “craft”, we recognize the interplay of the artist’s hand with the piece and the story-telling underlying it.   We honor the technical prowess.    People love to bring art into their personal worlds, and the craftsperson offers them functional objects that have artistic sensibilities.

When defined as “art”, jewelry is seen as something which transcends itself and its design.   It evokes an emotional response from the viewer.   It has more of a sense of clarity of purpose and choice, a sense of presence.    Functionality should play no role at all, or as a compromise, merely be supplemental.

The Jewelry Designer must be clear on why his or her work should be categorized as “art” or “craft”, or as both as “art” and “craft”.

The Art World accepts jewelry as art from an aesthetic point of view.   It sees jewelry as a subset of painting or sculpture.   It judges its success as if it were sitting on an easel or perched on a mannequin.   It teaches the Jewelry Designer that the only important choices to make are ones associated with art theories.     The Art World often exhibits so much disdain for Craft, that it ignores functional considerations entirely.

With jewelry, ignoring function — durability, movement, flow, drape, structural integrity, context, psychology, sociology, anthropology, sexuality — can lead to disaster.    Jewelry should be judged as art, but only as it is worn.    The choices the Jewelry Artist needs to make are much broader than art, and all choices are equally as critical.

The more appropriate skills involved here are ones of design, where aesthetics are balanced with function, and where conflicts between art and craft are resolved in a satisfactory way, but sometimes to the detriment of aesthetics.

The Jewelry Designer should be very aware of how she or he has applied themselves to their work.   This brings up the next question.

QUESTION 2:  How do you decide what you want to create?    
What kinds of things do you do to translate your passions and inspirations into jewelry?   What is your creative process?  How is it organized?   How do you know it’s working best for you?

Applying yourself creatively can be fun at times, but scary at others.    It is work.   There is an element of risk.  You might not like what you end up doing.   Your friends might not like it.  Nor your family.   You might not finish it.  Or you might do it wrong.

It always will seem easier to go with someone else’s project, already proven to be liked and tested — because it’s been published, and passed around, and done over and over again by many different people.

Sometimes it seems insurmountable, after finishing one project, to decide what to do next.

The Jewelry Designer needs to be confident and comfortable making creative choices.    So, some advice here.

Set no boundaries and set no rules.

Be free.   Go with the flow.   Don’t conform to expectations.

Play.

Pretend you’re a kid again.    Have fun.  Get the giggles.

Experiment.

Take the time to do a lot of What If’s and Variations On A Theme and Trial and Error.

Keep Good Records

Make good notes and sketches of what seems to work, and what seems to not work.

Evaluate.

Learn from your successes and mistakes.   Figure out the Why did something work, and the Why Nots.

As you play and experiment and evaluate with all the parts, you will become more familiar with the characteristics of the materials.     This brings us to the third question.

QUESTION 3:  What kinds of MATERIALS work well together, and which ones do not?   
Why is this?

 The choice of materials, including beads, clasps and stringing materials, set the tone and chances of success for your piece.   These choices

…affect the Look
…affect the Drape
…affect the Feel
…relate to the Context

These choices involved such things as:
– Type of material(s)
– Thickness and other physical parameters of the parts, such as whether they have been stamped, fabricated or cast; interaction with sunlight, ultraviolet light, heat and cold; how the pieces have been finished off
– Cost of materials
– Durability of materials
– Compatibility of different types of materials
– Structural integrity and integration of materials, particularly in multi-media art jewelry or related pieces.

I always suggest using the highest quality materials your budget will allow.

When you try to mix different kinds of materials, the strengths and weaknesses of each material become more apparent.    Mixing different materials and achieving successful pairings is hard to do.    It is difficult to mix glass and gemstone.   It is difficult to mix glass and crystal.    Or glass and plastic.

There are textural issues.   There are color issues.   There are issues related to the reflection and refraction of light.   There are issues how one material changes the perception of another material, when put side by side — simultaneity effects.

Take, for example, mixing glass and gemstones.   Usually this doesn’t work.    When the eye/brain interacts with most glass, the light hits the surface of the material and is reflected back.   When the eye/brain interacts with most gemstone, the light both hits the surface as well as is drawn into the bead below the surface, and then reflected back.    Going from glass bead to gemstone bead can be very irritating for the eye/brain.   So as best as you can duplicate the eye/brain interaction with gemstone with the eye/brain interaction with glass, the more satisfying the mixture will become.     So you might use opalescent glass or color lined glass, which mimics the light/eye/brain interactions of gemstone.

Mixing media present another example.   Usually, when you mix media, say fibers and beads, you need to let one media predominate in your piece.   Each media has its own material properties and structural characteristics, and compete with one another.

The power to making creative choices about materials and their arrangements is a core skill of the Designer.   And this leads us to the next question.

Question 4:   Beyond applying basic techniques, how does the Jewelry Designer evoke an emotional response to their jewelry?
Beyond learning basic techniques, what kinds of choices does the successful jewelry designer need to make?
A related question:   Beaders and Jewelry Makers focus too often on Techniques and not often enough on Skills.   They learn techniques; they don’t learn skills.  How can we get away from focusing too much on Technique, and instead, focus more on Skill?
It is important to draw distinctions between Techniques and Skills.   What distinctions?   Why?   What kinds of skills do we bring, as Jewelry Designers, to our pieces, which make them Resonate?
What is Technique?   What is Skill?  What are your Skills?

An artistic and well-designed piece of jewelry should evoke an emotional response.   Techniques are necessary but not sufficient to get you there.    You need Skills.

The classic analogy comparing Techniques and Skills references cutting bread with a knife.
Technique: How to hold the knife relative to the bread in order to cut it.
Skill:  The force applied so that the bread gets cut successfully.

Skills are the kinds of things the Jewelry Designer applies which enhances his or her capacity to control for bad workmanship.     These include things like
– Judgment
– Presentation
– Care and dexterity
– Taking risks

So we can see our skillful Jewelry Designer choosing materials and colors.   Or marketing.    Or managing thread or string tension.    Color blending.    Mixing materials.   Developing variations on techniques.  Having a personal style.   Trying out something new.

Classic Art Theory holds, that if you need to talk too much about Technique underlying your piece, your piece is not art, it is craft.    And in our classes and discussion groups, the conversations are terribly concentrated on Technique as if there were nothing else to discuss.   I blame the bead magazines for ignoring the role of choice in writing instructions.   Everything is presented so mechanically.    But jewelry design is so much more.    And Jewelry Designers need to aim for the ‘so much more.’

It is this process of linking the technique to the materials that is “art”.   A successful process requires an understanding of the intrinsic values of the materials.    It requires an understanding of how to manipulate the materials to elicit a positive response from others.   It is expressive, intuitive and evokes emotions.   The critical focus is not on the techniques.   The critical focus is on the linking of technique and material to create something that others emotionally interactive with.

Creative engagement with materials.    Expressive.   Imaginative.    A sense of audience.

Jewelry Design is an avocation which requires you to know a lot of things.   You need to know a lot about materials.   You need to know a lot about quality issues underlying these materials, and what happens to these materials over time.   You need to be mechanical and comfortable using tools to construct things.   You need to learn many basic techniques.   You need to understand physical mechanics and what happens to all these materials and pieces, when jewelry is worn.    You need to be familiar with art theories and their applications.   You need to understand people, their psychology, the dynamics of the groups they find themselves in, and their cultural rules which get them through the day.

The Jewelry Designer, when creating a piece of jewelry, has a lot to do, and has a lot of skills to bring to bear on the project.   And this leads to our 5th and last question.
QUESTION #5:  When Is Enough Enough?
How does the Jewelry Artist know when the piece is done?  Overdone?  Or Underdone?    How do you edit?

In the bead and jewelry arenas, you see piece after piece that is over-embellished, or gets too repetitive with the elements and materials.    If 5 fringe look good, 20 fringe would be better.   If 6 colors are appealing, 9 colors would be better.    If 6 repeats of a pattern looks good, 8 repeats would look better.

On the other hand, you often see pieces that can be described as  ‘not quite there’.    They need something else.   A tweak.   A change in arrangement.   Some additional material or color.   A better or smarter clasp and clasp assembly.     Pretty, but they don’t resonate.    They don’t sufficiently touch their audiences.

For every piece of jewelry there will be that point of Parsimony.    Where adding or subtracting one more piece will make the experiencing of the whole somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

To get to this point, the Jewelry Designer must exercise great skill and great technique.    The Designer must show restraint and control.

And to get to this point, the Jewelry Designer must have a point of view, and a clear understanding of the point she or he wants to make through this piece of jewelry.

In this way, the Jewelry Designer can show nuance.   The Jewelry Designer can most satisfactorily arrive at a design which makes the ordinary ‘noteworthy’.

And this concludes our discussion of 5 questions every Jewelry Designer should have answers for.   The Empowered Jewelry Designer will have these answers, though not every Designer will have the same answers, nor is there one best answer.    And it is unacceptable to avoid answering any of these 5 questions, for fear you might not like the answer.

Each Jewelry Designer needs to answer these kinds of questions for themselves, in a way that is satisfying and motivating.    The answers they come up with influence how they present themselves and their work to others.

These 5 questions, in effect, define the who and what and how a Jewelry Designer is, and how to empower them.  Jewelry Designers have definable sets of interrelated skills which can be taught, creatively applied, and further developed.  These skills can be used to create and enhance color, shape, texture, sensibility, perception, sensuousness and emotion.  They can be applied to bring meaning, cognition, culture, connectivity and wisdom to a situation.   They can be used to create the tangible from the intangible, and the object from nothingness.

The skills of combining materials of physical and/or aesthetic wealth into wearable art forms and adornment — this is Jewelry Making and Design.
Empowered Jewelry Designers

Creatively combine and manipulate

Materials and components

By applying interrelated skills, and

Exercising judgment how best to enhance experience and meaning

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