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

Posted by learntobead on February 15, 2018

CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY IS NOT A “LOOK” —
IT’S A WAY OF “THINKING”

by Warren Feld, Jewelry Artisan
warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com
718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123, Nashville, TN 37204
615-292-0610


“Canyon Sunrise”, Warren Feld, designer, 2004, Austrian crystal, glass seed beads, 14KT gold chain and constructed clasp, fireline cable thread, photographer Warren Feld

Abstract:
Contemporary Jewelry represents a specific approach for thinking through design. Making jewelry is, in essence, an authentic performance task. The jewelry artisan applies knowledge, skill and awareness within the anticipation of the influence and constraints of a set of shared understandings. Shared understandings relate to composition, construction and performance. These understandings are enduring, transferable, big ideas at the heart of what we think of as “contemporary jewelry”. They are things which spark meaningful connections between designer and materials, designer and techniques, and designer and client. Managing these connections is what we call “fluency in design”.

Jewelry Design is a professional discipline. Every legitimately defined profession has at its core a discipline-specific way of thinking. This includes core concepts, core rules, and core beliefs. And it includes professional routines and strategies for applying, manipulating and managing these. The good designer is fluent in how to think through design, and the good contemporary designer is fluent in how to think through design which earns the label “contemporary”.

But, the jewelry designer can only wonder at this with crossed eyes and bewilderment. As a profession, jewelry design balances a series of contradictions, most notably to what extent the practice is craft, art or design. This works against professional legitimacy.

Jewelry Design, as a discipline, is not always clear and consistent about its own literacy – that is, what it means to be fluent in design. Its core concepts, rules and beliefs are not well-defined, and often break down by medium, by operational location – (visualize museum, gallery, studio, store, factory, workshop, class, home), and by the degree of involvement and commitment to the profession of the jewelry designer him- or herself. The diversity of materials, approaches, styles and the like make it difficult to delineate any unifying principles or professional image.

As designers, we see, feel and experience the evolving dynamics of an occupation in search of a profession. But our profession is still in search of a coherent identify. Perhaps we see this most often in debates over how we come to recognize what jewelry we think should be labeled “contemporary” and what jewelry should not.

On the one hand, the idea of contemporary can be very elucidating. On the other, however, we are not sure what contemporary involves, how the label should be applied, and what the label represents. Yet, our sense-making search for its meaning is at the forefront of the professionalization of jewelry design. Our persistent questioning about “What is contemporary jewelry?” opens up thinking and possibilities for every jewelry designer, working across many styles and with many materials, both experienced and novice alike.

The term “contemporary” is defined as something occurring in our time, and that can be very confusing for the jewelry designer. We get caught in a major Identity Crisis for lack of a clear, agreed-upon definition of contemporary. How we resolve this Identity Crisis around a common understanding of “contemporary jewelry” can go a long way, I believe, towards developing a coherent disciplinary literacy and professional identity for all jewelry designers. Resolution can be very unifying.

Many conceptual questions about contemporary jewelry arise. We need to be very cognizant of how we think through our responses.

Does the label apply to every piece of jewelry made today? We see all kinds of styles, shapes, silhouettes, materials, techniques, fashions all around us. There appears to be no common denominator except that they all have been created in our time.

Should the label be applied to all this variation?

Could it?

Why would we want it to?

Does the label apply to a certain timeframe, with the expectation that it will be supplanted by another label sometime in the future?

What is contemporary jewelry?

“Contemporary” Is A Specific Approach For Thinking Through Design

I suggest that contemporary jewelry is not a specific thing. But rather it is a way of thinking through the design process. It is a type of thinking routine[1] which underlays the universal core of contemporary jewelry design.
Contemporary jewelry is not every piece of jewelry made in our time. It is, instead, jewelry designed and crafted with certain shared understandings in mind – understandings about composition, construction and performance.

Contemporary jewelry is not associated with any particular color or pattern or texture. It is, instead, a strategy for selecting colors, patterns and textures.

Contemporary jewelry is not something that only a few people would make or wear, whether boring or outlandish. It is, instead, something most people recognize as wearable with some level of appeal.

Contemporary jewelry is not restricted to the use of unusual or unexpected materials or techniques. It is, instead, something which leverages the strengths or minimizes the weaknesses of any and all materials and/or techniques used in a project.

Contemporary jewelry is not a specific silhouette, or line, or shape, or form, or theme, but, instead, something which shows the artist’s control over how these can be manipulated, used, played off of, and, even, violated.

Contemporary jewelry is an integral part of our culture. We wear jewelry to tell ourselves and to tell others we are OK. It is reflective of the sum of all our choices about how we think through our place among others, our relative value among others, our behaviors among others, our preferred ways to interact, challenge, conform, question, organize and arrange.

The contemporary jewelry designer is especially positioned to serve at the nexus of all this culture. The designer’s ability to think through and define what contemporary means becomes instrumental for everyone wearing their jewelry to successfully negotiate the day-to-day cultural demands of the community they live in. Designers have a unique ability to dignify and make people feel valued, respected, honored and seen.

Think of all that power!

Each person stands at that precipice of acceptance or not, relevance or not. The jewelry designer has the power to push someone in one direction, or another.
If only we had the established profession and a disciplinary literacy to help us be smart about this.

FLUENCY[2] IN DESIGN: Managing The Contemporary Design Process

Jewelry design is, in effect, an authentic performance task.

The jewelry designer demonstrates their knowledge, awareness and abilities to:

1. Work within our shared understandings about contemporary jewelry.

2. Apply key knowledge and skills to achieve the desired result – a contemporary piece of jewelry.

3. Anticipate how their work will be reviewed, judged and evaluated by criteria reflective of these same shared understandings.

4. Step back, reflect, and validate all their thinking to reject any misunderstandings, and make adjustments accordingly.

The better designer is able to bring a high level of coherence and consistency to the process of managing all this – shared understandings, knowledge and skills, evaluative review, and reflection and adjustment.
This is called “fluency in design”.

Shared Understandings[3]

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.

When designing contemporary jewelry, the designer will push for shared understandings about what it means to be worthy of the label “contemporary.” I propose the following five shared understandings as a place to start, and hopefully, to generate more discussion and debate.

These are,

1. Fixed Frameworks and Rules should not pre-determine what designers do.

Rules do exist, such as color schemes or rules for achieving balance or rhythm. But rules may be challenged or serve as guidelines for the designer. In fact, the designer may develop and implement rules of their own.

Designers do not learn understanding if they are only able to answer a question if framed in one particular way. How the designer invents and applies rules for managing design as a process become of primary importance because they reveal design fluency and thinking. And this allows for a variety of approaches as well as an escape from any dominant definitions. Nothing is sacred.

2. Jewelry should extend, rework, and play with, or even push, the boundaries of materials, techniques and technologies.

Contemporary designers are meant to ask questions, evaluate different options and experiment widely. They do this in order to leverage the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of materials, techniques and technologies used. Their jewelry should reflect this.

3. Jewelry should evoke emotions.

The audience is an integral part of the success of contemporary jewelry. The viewer/wearer recognizes things in the piece and is allowed to, (in fact, expected to), react and interpret. The designer’s goal is to achieve a level of resonance.

4. Jewelry should connect people with culture.

Contemporary jewelry is not made for art’s sake alone. Contemporary jewelry is made to connect to the world around us. It is meant to assist a person in recognizing how they want to live their lives, and how they want to introduce their view of themselves into the broader community or communities they live in.

5. Successful jewelry designs should only be judged as the jewelry is worn.

Jewelry is not designed in isolation from the human body. Its design should anticipate requirements for movement, drape and flow. Its design should anticipate the implications of the context in which the jewelry is worn. The implications for all jewelry design choices are most apparent at the boundary between jewelry and person.

Given that the designer “backward-designs [4],” he or she begins the process by anticipating those understandings about how their work will be assessed. The designer then is equipped to make three types of informed choices:

A. Choices about composition
B. Choices about construction
C. Choices about performance

The designer determines (a) what design elements to include in the piece, and then (b) rules for manipulating them. The contemporary designer (c) measures these against our shared understandings about contemporary design. These measures are a continuum – degrees of contemporary, not either/or’s or absolutes. In any given piece of jewelry, some design elements may be very contemporary, and others might not.

GOOD COMPOSITION:
Selecting and Articulating Upon Design Elements and Their Attributes

Jewelry making is a constructive process. It makes sense for the designer to begin with something like building blocks, which I call design elements. Design elements include things like color, movement, dimensionality, materials, use of space, and the like.

Each design element, in turn, encompasses a range of acceptable meanings, yet still reflective of that design element, and which are called attributes.
These design elements can be arranged in different configurations.

The combination of any two or more design elements can have synergistic effects.
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 jewelry design. The contemporary designer decodes in light of our further shared understandings about contemporary jewelry design.

The designer might, for example, want to select from this list of design elements I have generated below. I have arranged these design elements into what is called a thinking routine[1]. The designer uses the routine to determine how each element might be incorporated into the piece, and how the desired attributes of each element relate to contemporary design. They might also use the routine to look for issues of true and false. They might use the routine to rate each element as to importance and uncertainty.

DESIGN ELEMENT LESS CONTEMPORARY MORE CONTEMPORARY
Dimensionality Flat; Width/Length focus Not Flat; Noticeable Width/Length/Height focus
Movement, Moving Elements Little or no movement, either from the movement of actual components, or from how colors or patterns are used Great sense of movement, either from the movement of components, or from how colors or patterns are used
Color, Color Blending Follows color rules, resistant to violate them Pushes color rules to the edge, or violates them
Light and Shadow Little sense artist attempted to control light and shadow in a strategic sense Great sense artist attempted to control light and shadow, strategically
Negative and Positive Spaces Little sense artist attempted to control negative and positive spaces in a strategic sense Great sense artist attempted to control negative and positive spaces strategically
Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form Conforms to expectations; comfortable working within basic parameters Violates expectations; challenges basic parameters
Theme, Symbols If used, themes and symbols are simplistic and readily identified If used, themes and symbols have a complex relationship to form and structure, and stimulate debate and discussion to fully make sense of them
Beauty and Appeal Primary goal of piece Synergistic relationship between beauty and function to achieve designer’s ends
Structure and Support Little concern with movement, drape and flow; unwilling to sacrifice appeal for function Considerable concern with movement, drape and flow, and a willingness to make tradeoffs between appeal and function
Materials Materials are selected for how they look Materials are selected for how they function; designer leverages strengths and minimizes weaknesses
Craftsmanship Disconnect from Artist as if Artist was anonymous Shows Artist’s Hand
Context, Situation, Culture Pieces created for the sake of making something, or for the sake of beauty and appeal only Pieces created in anticipation of shared understandings about contemporary jewelry
Balance, Distribution Conforms to expectations; comfortable working within basic parameters Violates expectations; challenges basic parameters
Technique(s) Selected without questioning implications of how technique affects boundary between jewelry and person Selected after questioning implications of how technique affects boundary between jewelry and person
Texture, Pattern Conforms to expectations; comfortable working within basic parameters Violates expectations; challenges basic parameters
Reference and Reinforce an Idea, Style May or may not reference and/or reinforce symbolic meanings; if so, usually does so in a linear fashion, such as mimicking or repeating them May or may not reference and/or reinforce symbolic meanings; if so, learns from them, and then, based on this learning, takes the references to another level

Example of some choices I made using the routine when creating my piece Canyon Sunrise:
Canyon Sunrise, Warren Feld, 2004

What are some things which make this piece “Contemporary”?

Dimensionality Two layers of beadwork. The top layer overlapping the bottom layer, where the first row of the bottom layer is attached to the 2nd row of the top layer, forcing a curvature along the top. The pendant sits on top of bottom layer and in line with top layer.
Moving Elements The two layers are only connected at their tops. As the wearer moves, each layer can move somewhat independently of the other.
Color, Color Blending The piece uses a 5-color scheme, but increases the natural proportions of one color relative to the others. There are many gaps of light between all the beads which calls for a color blending strategy(ies). The piece relies heavily on simultaneity effects, as well as the overlapping effects of transparent and translucent beads.
Technique(s) The bead woven strips are allowed to fan out from the top, thus better accommodating the wearer’s body.

GOOD CONSTRUCTION:
Applying Knowledge, Skills, Competencies for Manipulating Design Elements

Design elements need to be selected, organized and implemented in some kind of satisfying design. Towards this end, the artist, consciously or not, anticipates our shared understandings in order to make these kinds of choices.

These are the most visible choices the artist makes. We can see the finished piece of jewelry. We interact with it. We question it. We get a sense of whether we want to emotionally respond to it. We either feel its resonance, or we don’t.

Most artists manage intuitively, learning to make good choices as they receive feedback and assessment, and adjust their decisions accordingly. The better jewelry designers, however, show “metacognitive awareness” of all the things they have thought of, anticipated, structured, and accomplished during the design process as these relate to larger shared understandings about contemporary jewelry.

Let’s return, for a minute, to the analogy with building blocks and the alphabet. The design elements are building blocks. I compared them to the letters of the alphabet. Building blocks have attributes, and letters have attributes. Attributes further define them and give them purpose.

The novice designer learns to decode these building blocks and their attributes. With more experience, the blocks, just like letters, get combined and constructed into words and phrases and larger, meaningful ideas and expressions.

In essence, the finished piece of jewelry is an exemplar of the jewelry artisan’s vocabulary and grammar of design. The fluency in how the artist uses this vocabulary and grammar in designing their piece should be, I would think, especially correlated with the success and resonance of the piece.

Often, artists implement their design element choices with attention and recognition to Principles of Construction. Principles of Construction are the rules or grammar for using design elements in a piece. Given the artist’s goals for beauty and function, the artist is free to apply the rules in any way she or he sees fit. However, we expect to find this grammar underlaying all pieces of jewelry, whether the piece is contemporary or otherwise.

When we want to apply the label “contemporary,” however, we search for the choices and logic the artist has used for constructing design elements into a contemporary whole, and in anticipation of our shared understandings.

I suggest these 10 Principles of Construction. All Principles need to be applied, yet each is different from and somewhat independent of the others. For example, the colors may be well chosen, but proportions or placement not right.

Principle of Construction What the Principle is About
Rhythm How the piece engages the viewer and directs their eye
Pointers How the piece directs the viewer to a certain place or focal point
Planar Relationships The degree the piece is not disorienting; obvious what is “up” and what is “down”
Interest The degree the artist has made the ordinary…”noteworthy”
Statistical Distribution How satisfying the numbers and sizes of objects within the piece are
Balance How satisfying the placement of objects (and their attributes) is
Dimensionality The degree to which the piece is flat or 3-dimensional, how satisfying this dimensionality is to the piece
Temporal Extension How well the parts are integrated into the whole in anticipation of how, where and when the jewelry is to be worn; the whole should be more than the sum of its parts
Physical Extension/Finishing The degree the piece is designed so that it accommodates physical stresses when the piece is worn
Parsimony There should be no nonessential elements; the addition or subtraction of one element or its attribute will make the piece less satisfying

GOOD PERFORMANCE:
Seeking Continual Feedback and Evaluation About Choices and Results

The jewelry designer brings perspective. The designer shows they can rise above the passions, inclinations and dominant opinions of the moment to do what their feelings, thoughts and reflections reveal to be best. And, at the same time, the designer shows that they can strive for a rapport, a sharing of values, an empathetic response, a type of respect deemed contemporary.

If we return to our alphabet metaphor, it is necessary, but not sufficient, for the artist to assemble a palette of building blocks, thus, design elements. It is necessary, but not sufficient, for the artist to apply a vocabulary and grammar for arranging these building blocks, thus for constructing a piece of jewelry.

Most importantly, however, it is both necessary and sufficient for the artist to anticipate how the piece of jewelry will be assessed prior to making any choice about design element or construction. The more coherent and aligned each aspect of this process is, the better managed. To the extent the artist can strategically manage this whole “backwards” design process, the more fluent in design that artist is. The more fluent in design, the more the finished piece reveals the artist’s hand and resonates.

So, there is a very dynamic performance component to design. The contemporary jewelry designer needs to think about what criteria their client and the general culture and market will use as acceptable evidence of “contemporary” and “good contemporary design”, when the piece is introduced. The artist needs to think about things like connection, emotion, resonance, integrity, market.

The designer needs answers to several questions at this point.

What is the designer’s process and routine for thinking about shared understandings and evidence of authentic performance?

How well have they anticipated these criteria of evaluation?

Has the designer created a continual feedback loop so that acceptable evidence is introduced throughout the full process of design?

To what extent will the eventual evaluation of the contemporary jewelry designer and their work be fair, valid, reliable, and a sufficient measure of their results?

_________________________________________________________


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

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

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

4 Backwards Design. One of the big take-aways from Understanding by Design (see footnote 2) 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 footnote 1), you can begin to introduce ideas about managing the design process in a coherent and alignable way.

Posted in design management, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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: , , , | Leave a Comment »

5 Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Posted by learntobead on December 14, 2017

Interested in trying your hand at jewelry design? Before you begin, consider the following 5 questions, as outlined by Nashville jewelry designer and teacher Warren Feld  (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com) 

Susan felt very unsure of herself. And unsure of her jewelry. Would people like it? Was the color mix appropriate? Was the construction secure? Was the price smart and fair? She allowed all this uncertainty to affect her design work – she had difficulty finishing pieces she was working on, starting new projects, and getting her work out there.

Like many of my jewelry and beadwork students, Susan needed to be empowered as a designer.

Empowerment is about making choices. These choices could be as simple as whether to finish a piece or not. Or whether to begin a second piece. 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, boredom, or resistance. The designer might need to overcome anxiety, a sense of giving up, having jeweler’s block, feeling unchallenged, and even laziness.

The empowered jewelry designer should have answers to 5 critical questions:

Question 1:  Should BEADWORK and JEWELRY MAKING be considered ART or CRAFT?
The jewelry designer confronts a world that is unsure whether jewelry is “craft” or “art.” This can get very confusing and unsettling. Each approach has its own separate ideas about how the designer should work, and how he or she should be judged.

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 storytelling 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. As “jewelry art,”  things done to improve functionality – durability, movement, drape and flow – should play no role at all, or as a compromise, merely be supplemental.

How you define your work as ART or CRAFT will determine what skills you learn, how you apply them, and how you introduce your pieces to a wider audience.

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?

Applying yourself creatively can be fun at times, but scary at other times. 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 may seem easier to go with someone else’s project.

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 Ifs 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.

QUESTION 3:  What kinds of MATERIALS work well together, and which ones do not?   
The choice of materials, including beads, clasps, and stringing materials, set the tone and chances of success for your piece.   There are light/shadow issues, textural issues, and color issues.  All of these choices:
… affect the look
… affect the drape
… affect the feel
… relate to the context

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

Question 4: Beyond applying basic techniques, how does the Jewelry Designer evoke an emotional response to their jewelry?
An artistic and well-designed piece of jewelry should evoke an emotional response. This takes both the successful application of techniques as well as skills.

Unfortunately, beaders and jewelry makers focus too often on techniques and not often enough on skills. It is important to draw distinctions here.

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 enhance his or her capacity to control for bad workmanship. These include:
– Judgment
– Presentation
– Care and dexterity
– Taking risks

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 either over-embellished or under-done. Things may get too repetitive with the elements and materials. Or the pieces don’t feel that they are quite there yet.

For every piece of jewelry there will be that point of parsimony, where adding or subtracting one more element will make the experiencing of the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

The empowered jewelry designer will have answers to these questions, though not every designer will have the same answers, nor is there one best answer. Yet it is unacceptable to avoid answering any of these 5 questions, for fear you might not like the answer.

The empowered jewelry designer will have learned the skills for making good choices. These choices include making judgments about combining materials, both physical and aesthetic, into wearable art forms and adornment. This is jewelry making and design.

 

Warren FFor Warren F., Jewelry Designer and teacher in Nashville, TN, beading and jewelry making endeavors have been wonderful adventures. These adventures, over the past 25 years, 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. Learn more about Warren here!

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It’s not too late to VOTE! for the UGLIEST NECKLACE of 2014

Posted by learntobead on December 4, 2014

OnLine Voting Ends 12/15/2015!
10th International 2014 The Ugly Necklace Contest
A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist

Your expert opinion counts!

It ain’t easy doing Ugly!

Five Jewelry Artists from around the world have been selected as Semi-Finalists of The 10th International 2014 The Ugly Necklace Contest –  A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist, by a panel of judges from Be Dazzled Beads, The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts and Land of Odds.

Vote Online for your favorites, and help determine who will win the Grand Prize – a $992.93 shopping spree on the Land of Odds web-site (http://www.landofodds.com).  Runner Up Prize:  $399.07 shopping spree.   Voting Ends December 15, 2014

Help the world determine which necklace is the absolutely ugliest necklace in 2014!

More details and images on-line at:
http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugly10contest.htm

 

2014 Semi-Finalists Announced:

Patricia Parker, Quakertown, Pennsylvania

Joan Veress, Norwood New York

Cecilia Wells, Brentwood, Tennessee

Lynn Davy, Wimborne, Dorset, United Kingdom

Pamela Orians, Zanesville, Ohio

 

 

 

Synopsis:

It’s not easy to do Ugly!

So the many jewelry designers from across America and around the Globe who entered our 10th International 2014 The Ugly Necklace Contest — A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist, found this contest especially challenging.   After all, your brain is pre-wired to avoid and reject things which are ugly.   Think of snakes and spiders.   And even if you start your necklace with a bunch of ugly pieces, once you organize them into a circle, the very nature of an ordered round form makes it difficult to achieve Ugly.   Yes, “Ugly” is easier said than done.

Who will win?   We need your help to influence our panel of judges.

Our respected judges evaluated these creatively-designed pieces in terms of hideousness, use of materials and clasp, the number of jewelry design principles violated, and the designer’s artistic control.   Extra points were awarded for artists’ use of smaller beads, because it’s much more difficult to do Ugly with these.

Now it’s time for America and the World to help finalize the decision about which of these 8 semi-finalists’ Ugly Necklaces to vote for.   The winner will truly be an exceptional jewelry designer.   The losers….well….this isn’t a contest where you really can “lose”.

Come see these and the other semi-finalists’ pieces at www.landofodds.com, and vote your choice for the Ugliest Necklace,  2014.

And if you are in the Nashville, Tennessee area, please stop by The Open Windows Gallery (fine art jewelry) at Be Dazzled Beads, where the 8 semi-finalists’ Ugly Necklaces are on display through March 15, 2014.

 

LAND OF ODDS-BE DAZZLED BEADS
Attention: Warren Feld
www.landofodds.com
718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123, Nashville, TN 37204
Phone: 615-292-0610; Fax: 615-460-7001
Email: warren@landofodds.com

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GWYNIAN ROPES BRACELET WORKSHOP, 9/27/14

Posted by learntobead on August 20, 2014

Untitled Docum

Center For Beadwork & Jewelry Arts - beadworking and jewelry-making classes

Be Dazzled Beads and 
The Center for
Beadwork & Jewelry Arts

in Nashvile, Tennessee

welcomes

Warren Feld

September 27, 2014
10am-5pm Sat

Gwynian Ropes Bracelet Workshop
Intermediate/Advanced Level

https://i2.wp.com/www.landofodds.com/store/images3/coplime-gwyn-worn-full1.jpg

COPPER LIME and CELSIAN Palettes

 

For more information, Click Here:
GWYNIAN ROPES BRACELET WORKSHOP

1 Day
Saturday, September 27, 2014, 10am-5pm 
(with a break for lunch)

FEES: $85.00 plus Kit Fee

[Optional Kit available for puchase from instructor.

Palettes: 
Celsian Lime Czech Fire Polish ($140.00)

Dark Amethyst Czech Fire Polish ] ($140.00)

Copper Lime Crystals ($445.00)

Wine Crystals($445.00)

gwyn-wine-full6

WINE AND DARK AMETHYST PALETTES

Registration
Deposit: $85.00 + Kit Fee

Registration by
September 13th, 2014

 

 

For more
information, Click Here:

GWYNIAN ROPES BRACELET WORKSHOP

 

 

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The Ugly Necklace Contest – Submission Deadline Approaching

Posted by learntobead on April 28, 2014

 

THE UGLY NECKLACE CONTEST
– A JEWELRY DESIGN COMPETITION WITH A TWIST
Submission Deadline Approaching:  August 31, 2014

uglynecklace1

 

 

QUESTION:  Have you ever designed something truly ugly? Look at some of the previous submitted entries to the Ugly Necklace Contest? In your view, and from a design sense, are there any particularly outstanding  examples of “Ugly”?

Past Contests — View  the Galleries of Entries

2003:  http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugliest2003a.htm
2004:  http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugliest2004a.htm
2005:  http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugliest2005a.htm
2006:  http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugliest2006a.htm
2007:  http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugliest2007a.htm
2008: http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugliest2008a.htm
2010: http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugliest2010a.htm
2012: http://www.landofodds.com/store/ugly9contest.htm

 

 

About The UGLY NECKLACE CONTEST — A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist
Submission Deadline: August 31, 2014
Enter To Win! http://www.landofodds.com/store/uglynecklace.htm

The UGLY NECKLACE CONTEST is a jewelry design contest with a twist. The contest presents a challenge not often tackled — at least intentionally. The contest draws the jewelry designer into an alternative universe where beautiful artists create ugly necklaces. It’s not easy to do.

“Ugly” is more involved than simple surface treatment. It is not just laying out a bunch of ugly parts into a circle. It turns out that “Ugly” is something more than that. “Ugly” is the result of the interplay among Designer, Wearer, and Viewer. “Ugly” is very much a result of how a necklace is designed and constructed. “Ugly” is something the viewer actively tries to avoid and move away from. “Ugly” has deep-rooted psychological, cognitive, perceptual, sociological and anthropological functions and purposes.

As research into color and design has shown, your eye and brain compensate for imbalances in color or in the positioning of pieces and objects – they try to correct and harmonize them. They try to neutralize anything out of place or not quite right. You are pre-wired to subconsciously avoid anything that is disorienting, disturbing or distracting. Your mind and eye won’t let you go here. This is considered part of the fear response, where your brain actively attempts to avoid things like snakes and spiders…. and ugly necklaces.

This means that jewelry designers, if they are to create beautiful, wearable art, have to be more deeply involved with their pieces beyond “surface”. Or their pieces will be less successful, thus less beautiful, thus more disturbing or distracting or disorienting, thus more Ugly.

Luckily, for the jewelry designer, we are pre-wired to avoid these negative things. This makes it easier to end up with pieces that look good. Beauty, in some sense, then, is very intuitive. On the other hand, it makes it more difficult to end up with pieces that look bad. You see, Ugly goes against our nature. It’s hard to do.

To achieve a truly hideous result means making the hard design choices, putting ourselves in situations and forcing us to make the kinds of choices we’re unfamiliar with, and taking us inside ourselves to places that we are somewhat scared about, and where we do not want to go.

– Can I push myself to use more yellow than the purple warrants, and mix in some orange?

– Can I make the piece off-sided or disorienting, or not have a clear beginning, middle or end?

– Can I disrupt my pattern in a way that, rather than “jazz,” results in “discord?”

– Can I work with colors and materials and patterns and textures and placements and proportions I don’t like?

– Can I design something I do not personally like, and perhaps am unwilling, to wear around my neck?

– Can I create a piece of jewelry that represents some awful feeling, emotion or experience I’m uncomfortable with?

– Can I make something I know that others won’t like, and may ridicule me for it?

 

Because answering questions like these is not something people like to do, jewelry designers who attempt to achieve “Ugly,” have to have a lot of control and discipline to override, perhaps overcome, intuitive, internally integrated principles of artistic beauty. The best jewelry designers, therefore, will be those artists who can prove that they can design a truly Ugly Necklace. In our contest, we invite all those jewelry designers out there to give it a try.

The Ugly Necklace Contest is one of the many programs at Be Dazzled Beads and The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, that encourage beadwork and jewelry makers to challenge themselves and to test their design skills, and learn some fundamentals about jewelry design in the process.

 

 

What Is Ugly?

Different participants in The Ugly Necklace Contest have interpreted “Ugly” in different ways.

Some focused on the ugliness of each individual component. Some used materials that they felt conveyed a sense of ugly, such as llama droppings, or felted matted dog hair, or rusty nails, or cigarette butts, or a banana peel. Some focused on mood and consciousness, and how certain configurations of pieces and colors evoked these moods or states of consciousness.

Others focused on combining colors which don’t combine well. Still others focused on how the wearer’s own body would contribute to a sense of ugliness, when wearing the piece, such as the addition of a “Breast Pocket” which would lay just below the woman’s breast, or peacock feathers that covered the wearer’s mouth, or the irritating sounds of rusty cow bells, or the icky feeling of a rotting banana peel on the skin. Still others saw Ugly as a sense of psychological consciousness, such as being homeless, or an uncomfortable transition from adolescence to adulthood. For some Ugly meant politically ugly, like Saddam Hussein of Iraq, or the trans-fats associated with fast foods.

It is not enough just to string a bunch of ugly beads on a wire. Ugly pieces do not necessarily result in an ugly necklace. As one entrant learned, when she strung her ugly beads together, the final project was beautiful, and sold for $225.00, before she could enter it into the contest! Actually, if you look at many of the entries, you see that ugly pieces, once arranged and organized, don’t seem as ugly. Organization and arrangement contribute their own qualities and sense of beauty that transcends the ugly parts.

Adding to the fun, the contestant also has to create a piece of jewelry which is functional and wearable. This is what sets beadwork and jewelry design apart from other design arts. A piece of jewelry as art, (even Ugly art), has to maintain its essence and purpose, even as the wearer moves, bends down, or rubs against things. Jewelry is Art as it is worn. Jewelry is not a subset of painting or a type of sculpture.

Jewelry is something more. Jewelry is art and architecture in motion, often frenetic motion. The pieces that make it up, and the techniques and designs which coherently interrelate these pieces, must also anticipate this dynamic totality. Otherwise, the piece of jewelry becomes a failure not only as a piece of jewelry, but of art, as well.

 

The Ugly Necklace Contest is an arena for budding and established beadwork and jewelry designers to strut their stuff – to show how adept they are at creating ugly-necklace-pieces-of-art. It’s a jewelry design competition with a twist.

The finalists of The Ugly Necklace Contest are those beadwork and jewelry designers who can best elaborate upon rules of design, whether intuitively or strategically. These rules of design are, in effect, an underlying grammar and vocabulary – the theoretical and professional basis of beadwork and jewelry making as art, not just craft.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Be sure to check out this new book by Margie Deeb, in which she includes a discussion about The Ugly Necklace Contest:

The Beader’s Guide to Jewelry Design: A Beautiful Exploration of Unity, Balance, Color & More Paperback
by Margie Deeb  (Author)

Once beaders have mastered the basics and enjoyed bringing others’ patterns to life, they’re ready and eager to take the next step: creating their own original pieces. Here, finally, is their must-have guidebook to the fundamental principles of visual design. Focusing on jewelry, it helps beaders explore concepts such as unity, scale, proportion, balance, rhythm, volume, shape, pattern, texture, movement, drape, and color in their work. Exercises, reader challenges, and lavish photos enhance understanding and assure design success.

This book is available for Pre-Order at Amazon.com.

deeb-jewelrydesign

 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Beaders-Guide-Jewelry-Design/dp/1454704063/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391443968&sr=8-1&keywords=the+beaders+guide+to+jewelry+design

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DIMENSIONALITY: One Principle of Composition

Posted by learntobead on February 25, 2014

DIMENSIONALITY: One Principle of Composition

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Jewelry Design is the application of basic principles of artistic expression. One set of principles involves COMPOSITION.    In an article online – Good Jewelry Design (http://www.landofodds.com/store/goodjewelrydesign.htm ) – I describe 10 Principles of Composition.     Principles of Composition define what types of goals the good jewelry designer should achieve.   Discussion on these principles and their application focus on what elements in our pieces we , as jewelry designers, manipulate in order to achieve a principled, satisfactory outcome.

In this post, I focus on one in particular:   Dimensionality.

QUESTION:
What kinds of things have you manipulated within your piece(s) that helps you achieve a satisfying sense of dimensionality?

Conversely, where do you see failures in attempts to achieve “dimensionality”, and what kinds of wrong-way choices do you think the jewelry designer made, that might have led to this failure?    What better choices could the designer have made?

Share images, if you have them.

gjddimbb1

Dimensionality

Good Dimensionality  refers to the degree to which, whether the piece is flat or 3-dimensional, the placement of objects (and their attributes) is satisfying, and does not compete or conflict with the dimensionality of the piece as a whole.

Sometimes dimensionality is achieved through the positioning of masses of objects or planes of interconnected pieces, such as varying sizes/heights/lengths or layering or cut-aways, or varying positive and negative spaces.

Othertimes, dimensionality is achieved through color/texture optical effects, such as the use of glossy and matte beads in the same piece, or mixing darker/more intense colors with light/less intense colors.

gjddimbb2

How often have you seen something like a flat loomed bracelet and a button clasp, that sits so high on the bracelet, that it detracts from the 2-dimensional reason-for-being of the piece. Would a clasp, and a flatter clasp, at the end of the piece have worked better?

Glossy surfaces move toward the viewer, and matte ones recede.   Can you point to successful examples of this?

Achieving Good Dimensionality is considered, not only a desirable design goal, but a critical and important characteristic of contemporary jewelry.

This doesn’t mean we want to pile up bead up bead and layer upon layer.   It means we want to show how creative we can be to achieve something more satisfying than flat and more satisfying than one-dimensional.

We want to demonstrate more artistic control over line and plane.

gwynian-wine-detail2-medium

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COLORS: BLURRED TRANSITIONS or SHARP TRANSITIONS

Posted by learntobead on January 29, 2014

COLORS:  BLURRED TRANSITIONS  or SHARP TRANSITIONS

 

QUESTION:
Do you prefer the transitions between colors in your composition to be blurred, or to have sharp delineations?

 

 

 

The jewelry designer must be strategic in the placement of color within the piece.     The designer achieves balance and harmony, partly through the placement of colors.    The designer determines how colors are distributed within the piece, and what movement and rhythm and effect result.    And the designer determines what proportions of each color are used, where in the piece, and how.

 

Those of us who teach color theory try to come up with scientific and objective rules for choosing and using colors.    However, a lot of those choices, in reality, can be very subjective.

 

One subjective choice has to do with the transition from one color to the next.   Some people, like myself, prefer a blurring of colors at their boundaries.   Think: Impressionism.

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Other people prefer a sharp, clear, obvious boundary of colors at their boundaries.   Think: Realism.

flagsharp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which do you prefer – Blurred or Sharp?

 

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THE CHALLENGES OF CUSTOM WORK

Posted by learntobead on October 27, 2013

THE CHALLENGES OF CUSTOM WORK

QUESTIONS:
How do you handle the challenges of doing custom work?
What lessons have you learned, that you might share with others?

soundtrackcolor

When I began my jewelry making career, one of the smartest things I did was take on repairs.    I learned so much.   With each repair, I was able to re-construct in my mind the steps the jewelry designer made when creating this piece of jewelry – choices about stringing materials, clasps, beads, and how to connect everything up.    And at the same time, I could see where these choices were inadequate.   I could see where the piece broke or wore down.   I could question the customer about how the piece was worn, and what happened when it broke.

And with each repair, I gained more knowledge from yet another jewelry designer’s attempt to fashion a piece of jewelry.

All these repairs resulted in more self-confidence about designing jewelry and designing jewelry for others.   And it led to more custom work.

When you do custom work, I think you need an especially steeled personality to deal with everything that can go awry.

First comes the fitting.   You take some initial measurements, but after the piece is made, the perspective changes, and so do the desired measurements.

Then comes a lot of customer indecision – colors, lengths, beads, silhouettes, overall design.

Or they want to use several gemstones, but want them all to have the exact same markings and coloration.

Not to mention the sometimes questionable taste.

Or the possibilities of infringement of other jeweler’s designs, when the customer wants you to re-produce something they saw in a magazine or on-line.     Identically.

And then time-frame.   Can I finish the piece by the time the customer wants it done?

We discuss pricing, where many customers seem resistant to paying anything for my time.

And last, payment.     It’s not so easy to get some people to pay.

 

I still do a lot of custom work.    But I delay a bit, sitting down and actually constructing the piece.    I have a lot of discussions with the client.   If there are color or materials questions, I usually present the client for 3 colors or materials at a time, and ask them to choose which they prefer.   Then another 3-at-a-time forced-choice exercise, until things get narrowed down.

I photo-shop a lot of images – different colors, designs, beads – with the client, and get a lot of feedback.     As I assemble all the information, I sketch/photo-shop what a final piece might look like.   I superimpose this image on a mannequin to show the customer what it might look like.     I have the customer formally sign-off on a final design.    And only then, do I begin to construct the piece.

I require a 50% deposit up front.

I agree to make some adjustments for 6 months after the customer has the piece in hand.

 

 

 

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DOES TODAY’s WORLD AFFECT YOUR DESIGNS IN ANY WAY?

Posted by learntobead on October 13, 2013

DOES TODAY’s WORLD AFFECT YOUR DESIGNS IN ANY WAY?

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I recently read an article about Paul Klee, a prominent modern artist in the early 1900’s.     In 1914, in an interview, Klee noted that as the world became a scarier, less organized place, art became more and more abstract.

That got me thinking.   To what extent does the outside world affect my jewelry design decisions?    Has it changed my choice of materials?  Colors?  Patterns?  Silhouettes?

My initial thought, frankly, was not that much.

Except that I began to think of the image I had of the “woman” wearing my jewelry and I definitely have a very feminist view of that “woman”.   She’s empowered and self-assured.   She plays both gender-specific as well as gender-neutral roles.

And when I picture the contexts in which this “woman” will be wearing my piece, I picture the kinds of places an assured business woman would be, and how that woman would present herself.

I also want most of my pieces to transition well between formal and informal settings, and with the woman wearing informal and more formal attire.

I have difficulty designing for the traditional Southern woman.   Or the woman who only wants something blue for a blue dress.   Or the woman for whom jewelry plays a supplemental function, rather than a supporting role.

My jewelry tends to be very architectural, yet my color palette and its application is very impressionistic.     An urban vs. rural Or modern vs. vintage tension always resonant in my pieces.   I feel this thrust towards modernity that needs to be tempered by some kind of emotion, the roots of which I often find in vintage and ancient designs.

So, there might be some of this outside world influence seeping into my design process.    But I think for me, this jewelry design process is more often an escape from the realities of our world today.   My pieces need to be powerful enough to allow my “woman” to escape these realities, as well.

 

How about you?   Does today’s world affect your designs in any way?

 

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GOOD JEWELRY DESIGN: Subjective or Objective?

Posted by learntobead on September 12, 2013

GOOD JEWELRY DESIGN:
The Result of Subjective or Objective Choices?

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QUESTION: Can choices about jewelry design ever be truly objective? Or are they primarily subjective?

 

Is good jewelry design more a matter of “taste”, or is there some scientific basis which underlies it?

 

What do you think?

 

Do you think there are “universal” rules and understandings that good jewelry designers would be wise to adopt, or is each and every designer on their own?

 

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I think, that if we observed and measured the jewelry design process, that much of it is very subjective, that is a matter of personal taste.   Much appreciation of design and color and color combinations seems very subjective.

 

People have certain social and cultural preset notions about what they prefer.   Some people have a personal preference for browns, others for purples, and so forth.   So people like a lot of fringe; others are minimalists.

 

Psychologists have found that some people will like a color or combination of colors or design elements if arranged vertically.     If arranged horizontally, they then don’t like them.    And vice versa.  Some people like things, when horizontally arranged, but dislike these same things when vertically arranged.

tamayadetail1

 

People respond in very different ways to how design elements and colors, as well as shading, highlighting and tinting, are distributed throughout the piece.    They might like the components, when distributed in a certain way, but dislike the piece, when the components are re-arranged and re-distributed.

 

Some people get very excited when the colors or elements in their jewelry have very sharp boundaries and clear demarcations.    Others hate this.   They prefer a blurring or blending or smudging up of things.

 

When confronted with a very monochromatic piece, or one with little rhythm, some people feel relieved, and others bored or anxious.

 

Some people prefer pieces that exude a lot of power; others prefer their pieces subdued.

romari1-hires-full-moneyshot-medium

 

 

 

 

As a designer, if things are mostly a matter of personal taste, style, and perspective, it gets more confusing about how to design things.   What kinds of things should be included and which excluded?   What strategies can you employ for choosing and combining colors and design elements?   What things should you learn, if anything at all?

 

Without proven, universal, objective, grammatical set of rules for using and combining things, how do we design things?   How do we know which things are better, smarter and more satisfying, and which are not?

 

Yet, as we page through the bead magazines, and click through the various jewelry-themed web-pages, I find that a lot of people agree on what is good, and what isn’t.    On what is satisfying, and what isn’t.  On what works, and what doesn’t.   When there is a lot of agreement, perhaps, there are some universal understandings – OBJECTIVE rules – operating here.   What might these be?

 

Is Design purely subjective, or can you see some objective framework that may be at play, as well?

 

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Warren

Land of Odds (www.landofodds.com)
Warren Feld Jewelry

 

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MIXED MEDIA BEADWORK

Posted by learntobead on September 3, 2013

MIXED MEDIA BEADWORK

It’s my belief that you cannot combine two different media to make a piece of jewelry without letting one of them predominate over the other.

 

Agree or disagree?

 

kumihimo

kumihimo

 

Whether combining fiber with beads or metal with beads or paint and sculpture with beads, it is difficult to have a successful, satisfying outcome, without letting one of the media be dominant over the other.

Each media has its own set of structural rules and requirements.    Each interacts with light and shadow very differently; that is, the materials and techniques associated with a particular media reflect, absorb and refract light differently.

These kinds of things make the viewer’s experience and interaction with the media and its resulting products different, from media to media.

kumihimo

kumihimo

So, you can have a “knitting” project that incorporates some beads, or a “beading” project that uses a knitting stitch.   In the former, knitting would predominate, with more focus on the fibers; in the latter, beading would predominate, with more focus on the beads.    You can have a wire project that incorporates some beads, or a beading project that incorporates some wire elements.

But it is rare that you can look at a project, and say it concurrently meets the criteria for success of both media – so, both a successful, satisfying knitting AND beading project, and both a successful wire AND beading project.   It is difficult to preserve the integrity of either media if you force them to be co-equals.

 

beaded art doll

beaded art doll

And you can draw parallels across media to situations crossing materials, as well.    It is difficult to mix materials within the same project.    For example, it is difficult to mix glass and acrylic beads, or glass and gemstone beads….Unless, you let one material become predominant over the other.

But all of this is very challenging, almost off-putting, to the jewelry designer who wants to combine media techniques and materials.

How can techniques and materials in other craft and art disciplines be combined with beads to make jewelry?    And, how can other art and craft disciplines incorporate beads or traditional beading techniques to make jewelry?

 

beaded art doll

beaded art doll

If you have created mixed media projects, or enjoy viewing them,

  1. What lessons can we learn from attempting to mix media and have two or more media, techniques and materials co-exist in the same piece?
  2. How easily can you combine beads with fibers, without  diminishing the integrity of either medium as an art form?
  3. What are the pros and cons?
  4. What kinds of compromises do we have to make?
  5. Does Mixed Media affect our vision of the piece as art?   Or craft?
  6. Can you “bead” the same way you “work wire” and in the same way you “manipulate fibers” or “sculpt clay”, and so forth? – all to impact the viewer, their experience and satisfaction with your piece?    Or do you have to develop new strategies for coordinating media?

 

What do you think?

Share them by posting them to our group.

 

 

 

Warren
Land of Odds (www.landofodds.com )
Warren Feld Jewelry
Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts

 

 

Posted in Art or Craft?, beadwork, jewelry design | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

ODDS or EVENS…What’s your Preference?

Posted by learntobead on August 9, 2013

ODDS or EVENS…
What’s Your Preference?

oddsevens-onestrand

Sometimes, jewelry must conform to a type of numerology – odds or evens or multiples of some number, like the number 3 – related to the numbers of beads or the numbers of strands or the numbers of drops.

 

Do you have a personal preference for ODDS or EVENS?     Such as,
— The number of strands in a necklace or bracelet?
— Or the number of bangle bracelets you wear on one arm?
— Or the number of beads you use to begin a peyote stitch project?
— Or the number of drops you include in your piece, or dangles you include in an earring?
— Or the number of colors or elements repeated in a pattern or jewelry segment?

 

Is this ODDS/EVENS preference consistent all the time?

oddsevens-twostrand

Or is it situational?  That is, in certain circumstances you prefer ODDS, and in others, EVENS.

 

Is there any experiential, aesthetic or hypothetical basis for your preferences?

 

If you have a preference for one over the other, has does that affect your design process?

 

Do you get more compliments, when you are wearing one- or three-strand necklaces, than when you are wearing a two-strand necklace?

 

 

 

 

 

Historically in Europe, it was considered bad luck and inappropriate to have an EVEN number of strands in a necklace.     If you had a very long necklace that you would occasionally wrap around your neck multiple times, then it had to be long enough so that you could wrap it around an ODD number of times – such as tripled, never doubled.    Even today, in etiquette books, such as “Miss Manners”, the rule is “Always Wear Odd Numbers of Strands of Pearls.”    No explanation is given.

 

Russians even believe that you should never give an even number of flowers to your wife or girlfriend!

 

In ancient Babylon, even numbers were believed to be unlucky and somewhat demonic.    To them, something should never be repeated an even number of times.

 

oddsevens-threestrand

 

An ODD number of beads lets you define a specific center and focus.   Cognitively we prefer things with clear pointers and with clear symmetry.

 

But we also like balance and harmony and things to be distributed EVENLY.

 

 

 

Where do you come down in this ODDS vs. EVENS debate?

 

Posted in jewelry design | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »