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TECHNIQUE AND TECHNOLOGY IN JEWELRY DESIGN: Knowing What To Do

Posted by learntobead on May 22, 2020

TECHNIQUES AND TECHNOLOGIES:
Knowing What To Do

Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer
warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com


(Begin Top Left) Bead Stringing, Bead Weaving, Wire Working, Metalsmithing


Abstract:  Jewelry Making Techniques bring materials together within a composition.  Techniques construct the interrelationship among parts so that they preserve a shape, yet still allow the piece of jewelry to move with the person as the jewelry is worn.     And Techniques manipulate the essence of the whole of the piece so as to convey the artist’s intent and match it to the desires of wearer, viewer, buyer, seller, exhibitor, collector, student and teacher.   Technique is more than mechanics.   It is a philosophy.   Thoughts transformed into choices.   Part of this philosophy is understanding the role of technique to interrelate Space and Mass.  Space and Mass are the raw materials of jewelry forms.   Technique reduces the contrast between them in a controlled way and with significance for designer and client.   Techniques have special relationships to light, texture and ornamentation.    Technology enables us to expand our technical prowess with new materials, processes, styles and forms

TECHNIQUES AND TECHNOLOGIES:
Knowing What To Do

Technique is Knowledge, Value, Creation

Jewelry Making Techniques are more than mechanics.

Techniques are ways to implement ideas.   To transform thoughts and feelings into choices.

Techniques are knowledge, value and creation.

Jewelry Making Techniques bring materials together within a composition.  Techniques construct the interrelationship among parts so that they preserve a shape, yet still allow the piece of jewelry to move with the person as the jewelry is worn.     And Techniques manipulate the essence of the whole of the piece so as to convey the artist’s intent and match it to the desires of wearer, viewer, buyer, seller, exhibitor, collector, student and teacher.

There are many different kinds of jewelry making techniques, as well as strategies and variations for implementing them.  In fact, the jewelry designer has no proscriptions, no prescriptions, no expectations, no limits on how she or he decides to compose, construct and manipulate materials and structures and supports.    It can be a technique that is learned.   It can be one approximated.   It can be totally new, emergent and spontaneous.   It can be socially acceptable or not.   The designer can pull, tug, press, cut, carve, sculpt, emboss, embellish, embroider, sew, knit, weave, coil, bend, fold, twist, heat, cool, assemble, combine, dissolve, destruct, cast, wrap, solder, glue, wind, blow, or hammer.

In reality, it is impossible to discuss meaningfully the technique apart from the ideas, abilities and experiences of each jewelry designer, particularly in reference to knowing when a piece should be considered finished and successful.   There will be some variations in how any designer applies a technique.    This is called skill.  One might pull harder or hammer harder than another.    One might allow some more ease or looseness than another.    One might use easy solder where another might choose hard solder.   One might prefer a thinner thickness or gauge of stringing material, and another a thicker one.    One might leverage the structural properties of one material, while another might choose other materials with different properties towards the same end.   One might apply the technique, following Step XYZ before Step ABC, and another, apply the technique in reverse, altering the steps to be XYA and ABZ.

But our primary focus here is on technique apart from skill.  This lets us see why some designers are masterful at technique, while others are not.

While there are a lot of different methods and applications designers can choose from, all too often, however, when selecting techniques, jewelry designers fail themselves (and their clients).   They disappoint.  They do not understand how to select techniques.  They do not fully understand the basic mechanics.   They do not fully understand the expressive powers of techniques.

Because of this, they are unaware of the responsibilities, as artist and designer, which come with them.  In turn, they make inadequate choices.   They might choose the simple, the handy, the already learned.    They might choose what they see other designers using.    They might choose what they see in magazines and books and videos which get spelled out in Step1-Step2-Step3 fashion.

But often they are naïve in their choices.  They lack an understanding of technique and its philosophy.    They do not understand that there are lot of things more to any technique beyond its simple mechanics.   Techniques are not step-by-step.    They are a collection of knowledge, skill, understanding, choices, decisions, tradeoffs, intents with implication and consequence.    Techniques anticipate shared understandings between artist and audience about finish and success.

Moreover, jewelry designers often do not recognize that each and every technique can and should be varied, experimented and played with.    They do not understand that techniques do not work or accommodate every situation.    That is, jewelry designing is not a “Have-Technique-Will-Travel” type of professional endeavor.    Techniques need to be selected and adapted to the problems or contexts at hand.

They do not understand that there is more to techniques than securing an arrangement of elements.   They do not understand that techniques must find some balance or tradeoffs between maintaining shape(s) and managing support(s), that is movement, drape and flow.

They do not understand how their choice of technique, and the decisions they make about how to apply it, influence the response of others to jewelry materials and forms they create.    Technique, compounded by skill, can be very determinative of outcome.

SPACE AND MASS AND A PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNIQUE

Space and Mass are the raw materials of jewelry form.   Space is void.   Mass is something.    Some jewelry depends more on the expression of Space; others more on the expression of Mass.     Whatever the designer’s goals and intents, Technique permits a reduction of the contrast between space and mass.  Towards this end, Technique communicates the significance of a mass within a space by controlling it.   Publicly demonstrating this control communicates intent, meaning and expressiveness.

The jewelry artist begins by confronting a void.    There is space, but there is nothing in it.    Space.

Into this space or void, the artist introduces mass.    This may begin with a point or a line or a plane or a specific shape or color or texture or pattern.    More mass is added.     Mass.

The designer sets boundaries, places and distributes things, brings things together, determines the scale, signifies directions and dimensions.    The designer begins to co-relate the mass to the space around, within, or through it.    Mass on Space.

The designer regulates the relationship and relative importance of the surface of the mass to the entirety of the mass itself.  Sometimes the mass (or its surface) is expected to be static.   Sometimes it is expected to move.   Occasionally ornamentation is added.     In the context of jewelry, some of this mass should be able to hold a shape; other of this mass should be able to move, drape and flow when worn.     Mass on Mass.

Technique makes something out of nothingness.    It is designed.    It is constructed.   The act of implementing a technique – that is, revealing a pattern of choice behaviors — is communicative.    It has intent.    Mass, Space, Intent.

Eventually, the designer applies Technique to this mass, and in so doing, creates composition.   Things are assembled.   They are pulled together.  The mass suddenly has order.   It has organization.   It is communicative.     It interacts with the desires others place on it.   It evokes an emotional response.     It references a context or situation in which it is to be worn.   Mass, Space, Intent, Content.

Thus, things placed within the space are pulled together, juxtaposed, connected, inter-related in some way.   We call this composition.     Composition might mean how the jewelry designer

–         Treats the surface

–         Emphasizes dimension

–         Joins units

–         Impresses into things, onto things or through things

–         Pulls or Stretches or Twists things

–         Covers, embellishes, frames or exposes things

–         Asserts or changes the scale

–         Determines sizes, shapes and volumes

–         Arranges, Places, Distributes things

–         Relates positive to negative space

–         Creates a rhythm, form or theme

–         Expects things to move or be static

–         Anticipates who might wear it, how it might be worn, and where it might be worn

A piece of jewelry becomes a wholly finite environment within what otherwise would have been nothingness.     But filling this space with form is not enough.   It is not the end of the designer’s role and responsibility.

With order, organization and communication come significance, meaning, implication, connectedness and consequence for everyone around it.    Expression occurs.   An explanation or story emerges.

The designer must give this mass-in-space a quality other than emptiness.    It must have content, meaning, purpose.  The designer must allow this mass-in-space to be enjoyed.   Again, expressed.   Much of this comes down to materials and techniques.

That means the designer must impose upon this space some personal Philosophy of Technique—hopefully employing artistic and design knowledge, skill and understanding.     This philosophy is how this designer thinks-like-a-designer.   It becomes a key part of the designer’s fluency, adaptability, and originality as a professional.    It is how the designer touches things and brings things together.    This is a philosophy of selection, implementation and management of mass-in-space which

–         Balances, equalizes, meditates

–         Restricts

–         Releases

–         Senses and newly senses

–         Becomes a standpoint, a flashpoint, or a jumping off point

–         Sees new possibilities, forecasts, anticipates or expects

–         Creates and re-creates feelings

–         Plays with tolerances, stresses and strains

–         Makes things parsimonious where enough is enough

–         Results in things which are finished, successful and resonant

The mass has form and arrangement within space.    It begins to convey sensation and feelings and content and meaning.    But the designer still has not completed the job.     Jewelry cannot be fully experienced in anticipation.    It must be worn.   It must be inhabited.    It must communicate, interact, connect.     Any philosophy of technique must account for all of this.    Mass, Space, Intent, Content, Dialectic.

The elemental parts and their pleasing arrangement into a whole must allow it to be enjoyed by others.    Be influenced by it.   Persuaded.   A desire to touch it.   See it.   Wear it.   Buy it.   Display it.   Show it to others.   Others, on some level, must accept the designer’s Philosophy of Technique, that is, the designer’s definition with intent for manipulating mass within space, in order to

–         Recognize how to look at it and react to it

–         Understand how to wear it

–         Be inspired as the artist was inspired

–         Feel the balance, harmony, variety, cacophony, continuity, interdependence among spaces and masses

–         Anticipate the effects of movement, drape and flow

–         Get a sense of psycho-socio-cultural release

–         Get a sense of psycho-socio-cultural restriction

–         Know when the piece is finished and successful

–         Judge the piece in terms of value and worth

–         Assess the risk within some context of wearing or purchasing it

–         Assess the risk within some context of sharing it with others

Designers over time gain fluency in their philosophies of several techniques.    Such fluency is recognized and comes to the fore when Techniques serve the desires, understandings and values of both designer and client.    Techniques and the philosophies (ways of thinking) which underly them must fully communicate the particular intent, concepts and experiences expressed by the jewelry designer.   They must anticipate, as well, the particular shared understandings others have about whether the piece will be judged finished and successful.

Designer and client have a special relationship which comes to light within the composed, constructed and manipulated piece of jewelry as it is introduced and expressed publicly.

Through Technique.   Through Skill.    And a Philosophy.

 

 

TECHNIQUES INVOLVE RELATIONSHIPS

Techniques, and the relative skill in applying them, are used to resolve the relational tensions underlying the craftmanship, artistry and design of any piece of jewelry.     How these relationships are implemented and managed affect how the finished jewelry will be perceived sensorially, sensually, and symbolically.     These will affect how the wearer/viewer recognizes the artist’s intent.    These will affect how the wearer/viewer sees their desires reflected within the piece, thus the value and worth of the piece to them.

In design terms, this is called Expression.    Expression in design is the communication of quality and meaning.     The designer expresses quality and meaning through the selection, implementation and application of technique.    We sometimes refer to this as skill.    A technique will have a function.      It will have a set of mechanics and processes.    It will have purpose.    There will be variations in how the mechanics and processes will be put into effect.    Sometimes it will require a stiffening up; othertimes a loosening up.    A pressing or pulling harder or softer.   A curving or straightening.   A transformation from 2 dimensions to 3 dimensions.  Repositioning.   Altering texture.

The technique, its function and application will further get interpreted and transformed, that is, expressed, into wearable art.    Similar to how sounds are made into music.    And how words are made into literature.     There is an underlying vocabulary and grammar to jewelry design, from decoding to comprehension to fluency.

Some aspects of expression are universal, but perhaps most are very subjective, reflective of the interpretations and intents (philosophies) of the artist, the wearer/viewer, and the general culture.    Because of this, each and every expression of design through technique will have to resolve some underlying tensions.     Of special concern are these tensions and relationships:

  1. Aesthetic (beauty) vs. Architectural (function)
  2. Should Parts Be Considered Center Stage or Supplemental
  3. Special Relationship to Light and Shadow
  4. Special Relationship to Texture
  5. Special Relationship to Color and Ornamentation
  1. Aesthetic vs.Architectural

Jewelry Design all too often is viewed apart from the human body, as if we were creating sculptures, rather than wearable art.     Yet its successful creation and implementation is not independent of the body, but moreso dependent upon it.    It must feel good, move with the body, minimize the stresses and strains on the components and materials.    And look good at the same time.

This sets up a tension in the relationship between the Aesthetic and the Architectural.    The problems of jewelry design extend beyond the organizing of space and mass(es) within it.   The designer must plan for and create a harmonious and expressive relationship between object and body and between object and person as the object is worn.    This often means compromising.    Trading off some of the aesthetics for more functionality.

Before you choose and implement any technique…

STOP
ASK YOURSELF:
What about this technique and the steps involved in implementing this technique will help my piece maintain its shape (structure)?

Before you choose and implement any technique…

STOP
ASK YOURSELF:

What about this technique and the steps involved in implementing this technique will help my piece move, drape and low (support)?

 

  1. Should Parts Be Considered Center Stage or Supplemental

The question becomes how the various parts or segments of the jewelry should relate to one another.    We might have strap, a yoke, a centerpiece or focal point, a bail, and a clasp assembly.    The tension here becomes whether the jewelry as a whole should be judged critically as an expression of art and design, or only the centerpiece or focal point should be so judged.

With the latter, the non-center/focus parts of the jewelry are seen merely as supplemental.     This is similar to how a frame functions for painting or a pedestal for a sculpture.

With the former, each segment or component part cannot exist or be expressive apart from any other.     The piece must be judged as a whole.   The whole must be more resonant or evocative than the sum of its parts.

Here we begin to question what exactly technique is.    Is it only that set of mechanics and processes applied to only a section of the whole piece of jewelry?    Or is it how the designer makes choices about construction and manipulation from getting from one end of the piece of jewelry to the other?

 

  1. Special RelationshipTo Light And Shadow 

Light and shadow are both critical design elements to be manipulated as a part of the jewelry designer’s active decision making process.   Yet, light and shadow affect the experience of any piece of jewelry in ways which are outside that designer’s scope and control, as well.

Light and shadow are necessary for the expression of the artist’s intent and inspiration in jewelry.    Because light and shadow move, change character, and come and go with their source, light and shadow have the power to give that mass of component parts a living quality.     This effect is compounded (or foiled) as the wearer moves, changes position, travels from room to room or inside to outside.

The designer cannot control all this, but should be able to predict a lot of this behavior, and make appropriate design choices accordingly.

The designer can channel light through the selection of materials and their reflective, absorptive and refractive properties.   The designer can play with color, pattern and texture.    The designer can be strategic about the placement of positive and negative spaces.   The designer can arrange or embellish surfaces in anticipation of all this.   The designer can diffuse light or transform or distort colors.    The designer can add movement or dimensionality to enliven their forms.   The designer can even use light or shadow to hide things which might negatively affect the overall aesthetic.

The points, lines, planes and shapes incorporated into any piece of jewelry become receptacles of light and shadow which can change in character or form as time progresses, people move and contexts change.    An important part in the success of jewelry designs is played by the quality and intensity of light (and shadow) within context.

 

  1. Special RelationshipTo Texture

Jewelry is experienced both tactilely and visually.

Sometimes these complement each other; othertimes, they compete or conflict.   Texture plays a major role here.    On the one hand, it expresses something about the quality of the materials used.   On the other, it gives a particular quality to light and shadow, and their interplay with the piece as worn.

Designers often select materials partly based on their tactile textures.    They might also alter these textures to expand on the variety of expressive qualities that might be offered.    The stone might be used as is.   It might be smoothed and polished.   It might be roughed up, carved or chiseled.   The material might end up expressing something about the natural state or about refinement and sophistication.

Visually, the designer makes many choices about how to employ the materials.      They may emphasize verticality over horizontality.    Projecting over recession.    Slow or fast rhythm.    Opacity may be altered.   The designer produces differing visual expressions based on patterns and how lighting of the surface conveys the sensory experience of these patterns.

A single texture, whether the goal is tactile or visual, is rarely employed alone in jewelry design.      The actual variety of materials and treatments produces a complex of textures that must be composed and harmonized and resonant into the jewelry’s expressive and consistent whole.

 

  1. Special Relationship To Color and Ornament

Color is a characteristic of all jewelry making materials.     It is a constant feature of any piece of jewelry.    Materials might be selected for their color and visual appeal.   Techniques might be selected for their ability to enhance or play with color and its visual appeal.

Yet, on the other hand, other jewelry making materials and techniques might be selected primarily for their structural properties – that is, their ability to be used to  create, maintain, and retain shape or silhouette.   They might be used as mere armature or to create that armature.   The colors of these materials or the effects resulting from how techniques manipulated them may not be suited to the expressive goals of the designer.    Because of the nature of jewelry making techniques and components, there also may be an unintended or unwanted absence of color, such as gaps of light between beads.

Thus, because of these kinds of things, materials with more suitable expressive colors, either as is or as manipulated, are added to the surface as embellishment and ornamentation.   Sometimes these materials are dyes or coatings or fired-on chemicals.    Sometimes these materials are more substantive materials like glass, gemstone, wood or shell.

These ornamental materials may cover parts of the surface or hide the entire surface of the piece.    They may disguise it.   They may be used to alter how color is perceived and experienced.    They may completely change the experience.      But without technique, and a philosophy of technique, these ornamental options may make it impossible to achieve the sensory, visual or structural powers the ornamentation is meant to provide.

The tension arises when the designer makes choices whether the ornamentation is to be used to enhance the expressiveness of the piece as originally designed (applied ornamentation), or, whether the ornamentation is to be used to create a completely different meaning, decorative motif, or symbolic expression, regardless of appropriateness to that original design (mimetic ornamentation).

Applied ornamentation enhances the designer’s power and control to assert intent and inspiration within the jewelry.   Often applied ornamentation makes some reference to the underlying structures behind it.  But the designer needs to be careful that this doesn’t turn into merely applied decoration.    As ornament, whatever is done is integral to the piece.   As decoration, it is not.

Mimetic ornamentation is often used to make a piece more familiar, more accepting, more reassuring to various audiences.   It might be used to disguise something.  It might have symbolic value.   Here, too, the designer needs to be careful that this doesn’t turn into merely applied decoration.

A third consideration is whether the ornamentation is critical to the jewelry’s functioning or materials (inherent ornamentation).     It is important that it be organic to the piece.    That is, it should derive directly from and be a function of the nature of the jewelry and the materials used.     It may allow size adjustment.    Its placement may reinforce to overcome vulnerabilities.    It may redistribute stresses and strains.    It may aid in movement.   It may assist in maintaining a shape.    It may rationalize color, texture and/or pattern within and throughout the piece.

 

SURVEY OF JEWELRY MAKING TECHNIQUES

There are many, many different types of techniques used in jewelry making.    Each encompasses basic mechanics.    Each is implemented within a procedure or process.    Each is a form of expression.

These techniques or forms of expression differ from each other in terms of the choices the designer makes about how mass should get related to space for creating composition.  They differ in how structure (shape) is created and preserved, and in how support (movement, drape and flow) is built in, achieved and maintained.   They differ in how pattern and texture is created or added.    These techniques differ, apart from the materials used, in how people interact with them, aesthetically, functionally, sensorially and sensually.

These techniques are not mutually exclusive, and are often combined.   It is up to the designer to select the technique or techniques to be used, maximizing the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses of each.    Usually, the designer, when combining techniques, will want one technique to predominate.    The designer does not want the underlying philosophies of two or more techniques to conflict, compete, or not coordinate.

 

Stringing, Bead Weaving

Beads and other components are assembled together into a composition and silhouette.    The stringing materials range from the very narrow, like beading thread, cable thread and cable wire, to thicker, like bead cord, leather, waxed cotton, ribbon, satin cord, and braided leather.     The stringing materials are often hidden, and typically play a supplemental role to the beads and other components within any composition.

Philosophy of Technique:    Objects are placed and assembled together within a space in relationship to the direction and linearity of some type of stringing material or canvas.    There is great attention to the use of points and lines, usually within a singular plane.    Shapes are basic, often only in reference to a silhouette.    Minimal attention is paid to dimensionality.

A piece is made stable by the rigidity of the stringing material or canvas.  The stringing material or canvas is able to withstand tension and compression.

Often, designers place too much reliance on the clasp assembly to provide support (movement, drape and flow), instead of embedding support elements (rings, loops, unglued-knots, hinges, springs, coils, rivets, rotators) throughout the piece.    In a similar way, often designers place too much reliance on the placement of objects on the canvas (that is, stringing material) for maintaining structure (shape), instead of other elements that could be used to maintain shape, while mitigating against stress and strain.

Each stringing and bead weaving technique and its procedures and processes for implementation rely on part of the implementation to maintain a shape, and on part of the implementation to allow for movement, drape and flow.      The particular technique used to assemble the beads (and related components) sets the tone in pattern, shape, form and texture.   Some stringing and bead weaving techniques are great at maintaining shapes.   Other techniques are good at allowing for movement.    The better techniques are good at accommodating both structure and support.

 

Knotting, Braiding, Knitting, Crocheting

The stringing materials take center stage, either in combination with other elements, or alone.    The composition may or may not include beads and other components.     Occasionally glue is used, but its use should be minimized.

Philosophy of Technique:  Within a space, the artist places and intertwines various types of stringing materials.    The artist varies tightness and looseness, placement and distribution of sizes, volumes and mass to achieve the dual goals of structure and support.

A piece is made stable by the rigidity of the intertwining (knotting, chaining, braiding) of the stringing material or canvas.  The intertwined stringing material or canvas is able to withstand tension and compression.

Each strategy for knotting or braiding attempts to simultaneously achieve structure and support.  The technique might vary the placement of fixed points with the use of chaining to create lines, forms and planes within the composition.   Considerable attention is paid to the positioning of positive and negative spaces.

There is a lot of attention to the use of line.     These techniques allow for incorporation of various strategies for achieving a sense of dimensionality.    The shapes may be allowed to stretch or contract, allowing easy response to issues resulting from stress or strain.    Texture is a major emphasis.

 

Embroidery, Embellishment, Fringing

Elements are attached to the surface of the canvas.   This surface is often referred to as the foundation or base.    These elements may be glued or sewn or woven on.    The canvas typically plays a diminished or supplemental role, though this is not a requirement.

Philosophy of Technique:   The space available has been defined by a particular canvas.    This might be a string.    This might be a flat surface.    Elements are placed on and secured to this surface; the mechanics here relate to structural goals.    The pliability, manipulability, and/or maneuverability  of the canvas relate to support goals.

A piece is made stable by the rigidity of the stringing material or canvas.  The stringing material or canvas is able to withstand tension and compression.

The embellishment may be used to create a particular image, or pattern, or texture.    Often it is used to add a sense of dimensionality and/or movement to a piece.    It invites people to want to touch the composition because it adds a very sensual quality to a piece beyond the characteristics of the materials or colors used.

 

Stamping, Engraving, Etching


 

Elements are embedded on or worked into the surface of the canvas.    The canvas may be comprised of any material.

Philosophy of Technique:   The space available has been defined by a particular canvas.    This is typically a flat surface of some kind, but not limited to any one material.    Structural, as well as support, goals depend on the physical, functional and chemical properties of the canvas.    Sometimes these properties are altered through the application of the techniques.    Texture and pattern are major focuses.

A piece is made stable by the rigidity and material strength of the canvas coupled with that canvas’s ability to maintain its integrity after it has been physically or chemically altered.  The resulting canvas is able to with stand tension and compression.

 

Wire Working, Wire Wrapping, Wire Weaving

Hard Wire is manipulated into forms which hold their shape, serve as structural supports, or create pleasing patterns and textures.

Philosophy of Technique:    The designer places wires into a space.    The wires may be bent to form lines, planes, shapes and forms.    The wires may be interwoven, bundled together, coiled, or otherwise anchored or tied together to create a canvas and form the basic foundation of a piece of jewelry.

During the process of applying a wire technique and creating a piece of jewelry, the physical properties of the wire must be changed.   The designer takes wire, applies a technique to it, and continues to apply the technique until the wire is stiff enough to hold a shape.    Each time you manipulate wire, it gets harder and harder and harder.    If you manipulate it too much, it will become brittle and break.    The wire can be pulled, coiled, bent, twisted, or hammered.

A piece is made stable by the stiffness or hardness of the canvas and its material strength, where it is stiff enough to hold a shape, but not so stiff as to become brittle and break.   The resulting canvas is able towithstand tension and compression.

Considerable attention must be paid to strategies of support, that is, how things get joined and jointed.    That is, whatever the piece of jewelry, it must be able to move freely, and withstand all sources of stress or strain.

For example, hard wire would not be used as a stringing material.   If you put beads on the hard wire to create a bracelet or necklace, the wire would distort in shape when the piece is worn, but not return to its original shape.    In this case, you would have to create several segments or components using the wire, and then make some kind of chain to create that jointedness and support.     Picture a rosary which is a bead chain made of wire.

 

Metalsmithing, Fabrication, Cold Connections

Here metal is shaped and formed into a broad, layered canvas or a series of canvases we call components.    Layers of sheet, wire and granules, or a series of components may be combined in some way, either to create a more complex composition, increase a sense of dimensionality or movement, or allow for jointedness, connectivity and support.    The designer might use heat and solder – fabrication.    Or the designer might use rivets, hinges, loops, rings, rotators – cold connections.      The layers  or the series of components may be textured or not.

Philosophy of Technique:   Into a space, the designer places pieces of metal.     These pieces of metal may sit side-by-side, on top of each other, overlap, sit perpendicular or at an angle.   The components are attached together, using heat and solder, glue, or cold connections.    Each layered canvas or component is a composition unto itself.

Canvases and components are rigid shapes and are constructed to withstand stress and strain.   When constructing a piece of jewelry, typically the designer interconnects various components in a way which allows movement, drape and flow.

Interconnected components may be thematic or tell a story.

A piece is made stable by the rigidity and material strength of the canvas after it has been successfully altered through shaping, heat, soldered connection, glue or cold connection.    The resulting canvas is able to withstand tension and compression, up until the point it bends or dents.    Usually, if that happens, the piece can be unbent or undented.     Considerable attention must be paid to strategies of support, that is, how things get joined and jointed.

 

Casting, Modeling, Molding, Carving, Shaping

Here a material is reconfigured and altered into some kind of shape or form.    The material may be rigid, like wood or stone.    It may be malleable like clay or casting material.    The material, once altered, may or may not be subject to additional actions to change its physical, functional or chemical properties, such as the application of heat or cold or a chemical bath.

Philosophy of Technique:  The material is positioned within a space.    As it is manipulated, it most likely will alter its relationship to that space.    It will be able to play many roles from point to line to plane, and from shape to form to theme.      The designer must be critically aware of how the technique will alter this relationship between space and mass, and light and shadow, and how these in turn, will affect form and composition.

A piece is made stable by the rigidity of the canvas after it has been shaped.    Cast pieces have difficulty responding to strong forces.   The resulting canvas is able to withstand tension and compression only to that point before it crumbles and breaks.

Structure and support considerations can either be built into the resulting component, or components may be treated in similar ways as in metalsmithing.

 

Lampworking, Wound Glass, Encasing

Rods and stringers of glass are heated by a torch and wound around a steel rod called a mandrel.   Sometimes shards of glass, sometimes with abstract patterns, sometimes representative of realistic images, are laid on the hot glass, and covered (encased) by a transparent glass wound over them.    The result is a bead or pendant or a small sculpture.

Philosophy of Technique:  The material slowly enters and occupies a defined space.    The artist plays with different types of glass, glass colors and transparencies, rods of glass, pieces of glass, ground up glass, and metallic foils.    Things are placed and layered and spiraled.   Surfaces can be altered by tools.   Once begun, the artist must take the technique to completion.    Thus, the artist’s ideas, focus, and intent are very concentrated and intense.      Glass as a material requires the manipulation of the interpenetration of mass with space.

A piece is made stable by the properties of the glass.  The resulting canvas is able to withstand tension and compression to the extent the properties of the glass will allow.

 

Glass Blowing

Air is forced through a steel straw.     At the end of this straw is a blob of molten glass.    The air forces it to hollow out.     As this happens, the artist rolls it, hammers it, textures it, domes it, otherwise shapes it until it is a finished piece.    The artist may roll the glass over other pieces of glass, to melt them into the piece.    As the glass cools, the result might be a bead or a pendant or a small sculpture.

Philosophy of Technique:  The material expands within a space.   This space may be very narrow and defined, or very expansive, perhaps ill-defined.    The resulting object has surface and interior and exterior spaces.    The qualities of the surface create a play between mass and space, and their interpenetration.

A piece is made stable by the properties of the glass.  The resulting canvas is able to withstand tension and compression to the extent the properties of the glass walls will allow.

 

Computer Aided Design (CAD), 3-D Printing

Here the artist uses computers to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design.   The output is typically in the form of electronic files or technical drawings for 3-D printing, machining or other manufacturing operation.    3-D printing takes a CAD model and builds it, material layer by layer in an additive manufacturing fashion.     Frequently, the 3-D printed object is a casting mold, rather than the finished piece.

Philosophy of Technique:   CAD can place points, lines and curves within a 2-dimensional space, or curves, surfaces and solids within a 3-dimensional space.    CAD can simulate motion and its impact on any object.   It can take into account other parameters and constraints.   The final technical output must convey more than information about shape.   It must convey information about the extents to which various materials may be used in the design, their dimensions and tolerances.   It must convey information about the pros and cons of processes the artist might use in the design.

One pay-off for the artist is that the computer can detail many more ways, and many more unexpected ways, to relate mass to space than typically thought of without it.

 

 

HOW TO LEARN TECHNIQUE

A good design, poorly executed, is not worth all that much.

So, how do we learn techniques is ways which help us develop ourselves as designers and be fluent in how we select, implement and apply them?

We need to be very aware of what influences us in our

o Selection of Technique

o Implementation of Technique

o Application of Technique

Selection: Anticipating What Will Happen If And When

We begin to develop our fluency in technique at the point of selection.      To select a technique is to anticipate what will happen to the piece of jewelry after it is designed, constructed and worn.    This involves all our senses from thought to touch to sight.

When we touch a piece constructed using a particular technique, how will it feel?   Will it curve or bend?   Will it curve or bend in the direction we need it to?    Will it drape nicely on the body?   Move easily with the body?  Feel comfortable when worn?    Will it hold its shape?

When we see a piece constructed using a particular technique, what will be the resulting pattern and texture?   What will be the interplay of light and shadow?    Will it look good from all sides when sitting on an easel?   Will it look good from all sides when someone is wearing it?    When that person is moving?   Will all color issues be resolved?

We play a What-If game.    What-If we used a variation on the technique?   What-If we used another technique?   What-If we combined techniques or sequenced them or staggered them?  What-if we settled for a little less beauty to achieve better movement, drape and flow?

We might do some research.    Has the technique been used by another artist or in another project you were attracted to?    Was it used successfully?   Did it work well in terms of structure and support?    Did it contribute to (or at least not detract from) the visual appearance of the piece?

We might do some pre-testing.    Will the technique hold up to our expectations?   Will it still work with some variation?    Will it work under differing circumstances?

We are honest with ourselves about our biases.     Will we pick something only because we have done it before?   Or we are very familiar with it?   Or it is the easiest or path of least resistance?

 

Implementation: Basic Mechanics and Processes     

We want to learn the basic mechanics of each technique in a way which highlights their philosophies – that is, how we think them through.    We think about managing:

–         Structure and Support

–         How To Hold The Piece To Work It

–         How To Distribute Stresses and Points of Vulnerability

–         How To Create A Clasp Assembly

–         How To Finish Off The Piece

 

 

Structure and Support.   To begin, we know that each and every technique has as part of its mechanics and processes some aspects which help us create and maintain structures (shape).     And each and everytechnique has some aspects which help us create and maintain support (movement, drape and flow).     We want to be able to break down any technique so that we can recognize what results in what.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holding The Piece To Work It   Next, the basic mechanics also includes strategies for how to hold the piece while you work it.

Picture yourself as an artist.    An artist has an easel and something to use as a clamp to hold things in place.

A bead weaver would use their forefinger on one hand as an easel, pressing the developing bead work project against it, and then take their thumb on that same hand, and clamp down over the work to keep it in place.

A silversmith might use a steel bench block as an easel, and a vice as a clamp.

Someone doing braiding or knotting might use a clipboard as an easel and a bulldog clip as a clamp.

Your challenge is to hold the piece in such a way that you maximize your ability to implement a technique all the while maximizing the strengths of that technique and minimizing its weaknesses.    This is called leveraging.    You use whatever it is that is equivalent to the artist’s easel and clamp in such a way that you can successfully leverage the technique for your purposes.

Holding your piece correctly also sends signals to your hands telling you when each individual step is completed, and when you are finished.

 

 

Distribute Stresses and Points of Vulnerability.   

In any piece of jewelry, it can be expected that the stress-bearing and strain-bearing strengths and weaknesses of each component will be unevenly distributed throughout the pieces.   That is, there will be some areas or points in the piece of jewelry which will be vulnerable to stresses and strains.   This may cause the piece to break or lose its shape or otherwise disrupt its integrity.

The jewelry designer needs to be able to easily look at a piece or its sketch or design plan and identify all the points of vulnerability.     After identifying these, the designer will need to figure out ways to compensate for these weaknesses in design.

Usually points of vulnerability occur in these places or situations:

  • Where the clasp assembly is attached to the piece
  • At the beginning and the end of the piece
  • Along the edges
  • Corners and inside corners
  • Where components have very sharp holes or edges
  • When using materials which degrade, deteriorate, bleed, rub off, distort, are too soft
  • Where there is not an exact fit between two pieces or elements
  • Where there is insufficient support or jointedness

These points of vulnerability may need reinforcement.    More support or structural elements may need to be added.    Things may need to be re-located or positioned within the design.    They may need to be eliminated from the design.

Most often, places of vulnerability occur where the structures or supports in place take on the shapes of either HLT, or U.    Think of these shapes as hazards.  These shapes tend to split when confronted with external or internal forces.   They tend to split because each leg is often confronted with different levels or directions of force.   The legs are not braced.     These hazardous shapes cry out for additional reinforcements or support or structural systems.

 

 

The Clasp Assembly.    The “CLASP ASSEMBLY” usually consists of several parts.  It includes everything it takes to attach the clasp to your beadwork.    Besides the Clasp itself, there are probably jump rings and connectors, crimp beads, clamps, cones, end caps or other jewelry findings.

Visually, the Clasp Assembly is part of the vernacular of the piece.     Ideally, it should seem organically related to the piece or at least a logical inclusion.

Structurally, the Clasp Assembly should hold the piece together as the piece is worn.     It may have some impact on maintaining the shape of the silhouette.

Most importantly, the Clasp Assembly should be put together as a support system. It is the most important support system in any piece of jewelry.  Support systems used in a necklace or bracelet are similar tothe joints in your body.   They aid in movement.   They prevent any one piece from being adversely affected by the forces this movement brings to the piece.   They keep the piece from being stiff.   They make the piece look and feel better, when worn.

The Clasp Assembly of any piece of jewelry should be designed first before the rest of the piece is designed, or designed currently with the rest of the piece.   Too often, jewelry designers select the clasp after they have finished the rest of the piece.    They do not seem to understand how the clasp assembly is an integral part of the implementation of any technique.    In this case, not only does the clasp assembly look like it was the last choice, but it usually falls short of meeting its visual, structural and support roles.

 

 

Finishing Off The Piece.    We always need to step back and reflect whether the piece as designed and implemented will be judged as finished and successful by each of the myriad audiences we hope to please.      Will their judgments confirm or reject our philosophy of the particular technique(s) we used?

It is the challenge for the designer not to make the piece under-done or over-done.   Each and every material and component part should be integral to the piece as a whole.

 

 

Application:   Achieving Expressiveness 

Expressiveness refers to the power of the piece of jewelry to fit with both the designer’s as well as all other’s expectations about desire, connectedness, power, value and worth.    This is one and the same thing as measuring the extent to which both materials and techniques can be seen to have been leveraged, to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

A technique has been applied in the most expressive way at that point where the design elements and the materials  selected have been composed, manipulated and constructed in the most optimum way.   We can judge the degree of expressiveness by honing in on two concepts:   Parsimony and Resonance.

 

Parsimony (maximum applied impact):    Parsimony is when you know enough is enough.  When the finished and successful piece is parsimonious, the relationship of all the Design Elements and their expressed attributes will be so strong, that to add or remove any one thing would diminish, not just the design, but rather the significance of the design.

Parsimony is sometimes referred to in art and design as Economy, but the idea of economy is reserved for the visual effects.  For jewelry designers, we want that economy or parsimony to apply to functional and situational effects, as well.   The designer needs to be able to decide when enough is enough.

Parsimony…
– forces explanation; its forced-choice nature is most revealing about the artist’s understandings and intentions

– relies on evidence moreso than assumptions to get at criticality

– focuses examination of the few elements that make a difference

 

Resonance  (coherency of applied impact):  Resonance is some level of felt energy that is a little more than an emotional response.    The difference between saying that piece of jewelry is “beautiful” vs. saying that piece of jewelry “makes me want to wear it”.   Or that “I want to touch it”.   Or “My friends need to see this.”

Resonance is something more than emotion.   It is some kind of additional energy we see, feel and otherwise experience.   Emotion is very reactive.   Resonance is intuitive, involving, identifying.    Resonance is an empathetic response where artist and audience realize a shared (or contradictory) understanding without losing sight of whose views and feelings belong to whom.

Resonance results from how the artist applies technique to control light, shadow, and their characteristics of warmth and cold, receding and approaching, bright and dull, light and dark.   Resonance results from how the artist leverages the strengths of materials and techniques and minimizes their weaknesses.   Resonance results from social, cultural and situational cues.   Resonance results from how the artist takes us to the edge of universal, objective understandings, and pushes us every so slightly, but not too, too far, beyond that edge.

 

Jewelry which resonates…
– is communicative and authentic

– shows the artist’s hand as intention, not instinct

– evokes both an emotional as well as energetic response from wearer and viewer

– shows both degrees of control, as well as moments of the unexpected

– makes something noteworthy from something ordinary

– finds the whole greater than the sum of the parts

 

– lets the materials and techniques speak

– anticipates shared understandings of many different audiences about design elements and principles, and some obvious inclusion, exclusion or intentional violation of them

– results from a design process that appears to have been more systemic (e.g., ingrained within an integrated process) than systematic (e.g., a step-by-step approach)

– both appeals and functions at the boundary where jewelry meets person

 

 

TECHNOLOGY AND JEWELRY DESIGN

The potential of technology merged with craft is infinite.

Technology includes things like,

–         New methods, processes and materials

–         New ways to implement ideas

–         Ability to generate new styles

–         Opportunity to create meaningful forms

–         Unseen contributions to aesthetic structure and composition

–         Less costly and/or more production-friendly methods for creating pieces, especially for projects which might not otherwise get implemented

New materials and composites are created and enter the marketplace every year.

New ways of extracting, shaping, finishing, stabilizing materials come on line each year.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) and 3-D printing provide the tools to jewelry designers to create things beyond their imaginations.

Electroforming  enables the creation of lightweight pieces from various metals.

Lasers are used to weld, cut and decorate.

Laser-Sintering melts powdered metal, layer by layer, into a finished piece.

Jewelry makers and beaders frequently come up with new techniques, mechanics and processes for creating jewelry.     Technology provides creatives with original ways of expression.

“Smart” elements are getting introduced into some designs, transforming your jewelry into a smart device.    These might measure health and fitness; might change color and appearance to suit different environments or clothing; might warm or cool the body.

 

 

TO WHAT EXTENT SHOULD JEWELRY DESIGNERS
RESPOND TO TECHNOLOGY?

Technology is a very powerful tool.    Combined with craftmanship, it can create a new language of shape, object, and sensation.    We have to be careful, however, that we use technology to support jewelry which is hand-made, and not supplant it.

The use of technology allows the designer to create new forms and materials that otherwise would not exist.   Technology often translates into convenience and more rapid production.   In today’s globalized world, this might offer a competitive edge.     Technology also enables more customization, and faster customization.    Again, in a globalized world, this would offer a competitive advantage.     Technology encourages us to look forward, rather than back, for our inspirations and insights.

Again, it is important to emphasize that we do not want all this technological efficiency to diminish the act of “creativity”.    We don’t want to standardize everything and reduce everything into a set of how-to instructions.     We want to expand our creative abilities.   We want to increase the power of the designer to produce pieces reflective of the artist’s hand.     We want our jewelry to be as expressive as possible of the needs, wants and desires of our various clientele.

 

The impact of jewelry on our professional practice.   Whether we use new technologies in our professional practice, or not, we cannot escape them.   We must be up-to-date and aware of technological impacts on what we do and how we do it.

The impact of technology on work and jobs was the focus of an opinion piece in the New York Times by David H. Autor and David Dorn.

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? Jewelry stores? Boutiques?
  • What has happened to bead and jewelry making 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 the arts and crafts show circuit, will there still be a need for this in the future?

 

_________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

Autor, David H. and Dorn, David.   “How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class”, New York Times, August 24, 2013.

          As reference in:
https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/how-technology-wrecks-the-middle-class/

 

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JEWELRY MAKING MATERIALS: Knowing What To Know

Posted by learntobead on December 31, 2019

 

JEWELRY MAKING MATERIALS

Knowing What To Know

by Warren Feld

Abstract:

There are no perfect jewelry making materials for every project.   Selecting materials is about making smart, strategic choices.    This means relating your materials choices to your design and marketing goals.   It also frequently means having to make tradeoffs and judgment calls between aesthetics and functionality.   Materials differ in quality and value.   They differ in their sensorial effects on people.   They differ in how people perceive them.  They differ in the associational and emotional connections which they evoke.   They differ in their functional efficiency and effectiveness to lend pieces an ability to retain a shape, while at the same time, an ability to move, drape and flow.    They differ in cost and durability.  Last, materials may have different relationships with the designer, wearer or viewer depending on how they are intended to be used, and the situational or cultural contexts.

JEWELRY MAKING MATERIALS:
Knowing What To Know

The materials I use are alive

The world of jewelry design and the materials used can be complex, especially for jewelry designers just starting out in their careers. The novice, but also the more experienced designer, as well, often run up against some terms and properties of materials they have not dealt with before. Materials affect the appeal of the piece.    They affect its structural
integrity.   They affect the cost.   They affect how people view, sense, desire and understand the piece.

You Would Be Very Aware Of…

If you want to gain an understanding of materials, you would be very aware of where they come from, how they are described, sold and marketed.   You would be very aware of the beads and jewelry findings and stringing materials and tools, their qualities, when they are useful and when they are not, and what happens to them when they age.   You would be very aware of what country the material is made or found in, how the material is manufactured, synthesized or gotten at, if it is modified or changed in any way, and how it comes to market.   You would be very aware if the product is sold at different levels of quality, even if this is not differentiated on the product’s label.   It is also important to be very aware how any of these aspects of the material have changed over time, or might change over time in the future.

You would be very aware that there is no such thing as the perfect material.   There are only better materials, given your situation and goals.   There is no perfect bead for every situation.   No perfect clasp.  No perfect stringing material. Every choice you make as a jewelry designer will require some tradeoffs and judgment calls.   The more you understand the quality of the materials in the pieces you are working with are made of, and the clearer you are about your design goals, and if you are selling things, your marketing goals, as well, the more prepared you will be to make these kinds of choices.

You would be very aware that materials have different values and life spans, and this must relate to your project goals.   You would not want to use metalized plastic beads, for example, in a piece you call an heirloom bracelet.   Metalized plastic beads are a metal shell around a milky white plastic bead.   The shell will chip easily.   On the other hand, when doing fashion jewelry, these very inexpensive beads, and which have a short life-span, would be perfect.    Not only are they cheap, but because they are cheap, there are lots and lots of designs and shapes and textures.   

If your goal is to create more investment quality pieces, then you would not want to buy lampwork beads which have not been appropriately annealed (that is, if not cooled down correctly, they will fracture and break easily).    You would buy appropriately annealed ones, but which are considerably more expensive.    This may affect the look of your pieces.     For an inexpensive, fashion oriented piece, your necklace made up entirely of lampwork beads which have not been appropriately annealed might be very affordable.    It would have that great handmade, artisan look.  It might sell for only $60.00.    With more investment quality lampwork beads, however, you might just use one, or perhaps three lampwork beads, and
have a lot of cord showing, or a lot of filler beads, to keep the piece
affordable.    This would be a very different design look and style.    If the
necklace was made up of all quality lampwork beads, — to have the same look and style as its inexpensive cousin — it might have to retail for $600-800.00.

Again, for an investment quality piece, you would want to use crystal beads manufactured in Austria or the Czech Republic, and not ones manufactured elsewhere.    And you would not let yourself be fooled when the front of the package says “Austrian Crystal” when the back says “Made In China”.    Crystal beads made in China are not as bright, there are more production issues and flaws in the beads, and the holes are often drilled off-center when compared to their “Made In Austria” counterparts.   But crystal beads more appropriate for that investment quality piece might be overkill for a fashion piece where you want to add a pop of brightness without a lot of additional cost.

You would want to be very aware of the treatments of beads and metals.     Some things are radiated, heated, reconstituted, partly synthesized, lacquered or dyed.    Sometimes this is a good thing and these treatments enhance the quality of materials in appearance and durability.   Othertimes this is a bad thing, negatively affecting the quality of materials.  

You would be very aware that many of the materials you use are described in ways that do not provide you with sufficient information to make a choice.    Take the material gold-filled. The definition of gold-filled is that the material is a measurable layer of real gold fused to brass, sometimes copper.   But the legal definition does not tell you how thick the gold has to be over the brass for the material to be called gold-filled.    So in the market, some gold-filled has very little gold and will lose its gold very quickly, and other gold-filled has a thicker layer and will keep its gold, its shine and its shape for decades.    

Or sterling silver.  Sterling silver is supposed to be 92.5% silver (marked .925).    The alloy, that is the remaining 7.5%, is supposed to contain, by law, a lot of copper. However, many manufacturers substitute some nickel for the copper to keep the cost down.   This makes the sterling silver less expensive, yes, but it also makes it more brittle.   It is the difference between being able to open and close the loop on an ear wire, off of which to hang the dangle, many, many times or only two or three times before the wire loop breaks. 

Lots of sterling silver items get marked .925.   And in jewelry making, many of the pieces we use are so small, there is no .925 stamp on them.     Besides a change of what is in the alloy affecting the usefulness and value, many other things happen in the marketplace, as well.    Many sterling silver items have been cast.   What frequently happens is that some of the silver is lost in the casting process, so it is no longer at 92.5%.   Manufacturers are supposed to make note of this, but many just stamp .925 on these items.   Some shops label items as sterling silver, but in reality, are selling you pieces that are nickel.    And some places will sell you something silver plated, and put sterling silver .925 tag which is marked .925 on it off the clasp.    The tag is sterling; the jewelry is not.   I’ve seen some major craft stores and some major jewelry stores sell metalized plastic jewelry and jewelry components and label it .925.

Flexible, nylon coated cable wires are one of the primary types of stringing materials.    The measure of cable wire strength is called tensile strength.   This has to do with what the wires are made of, what the nylon sheathing is made of, and how thick that nylon sheathing is.   What makes the wire strong is the nylon sheathing’s ability to maintain the twist in the wire.   As soon as the integrity of the nylon sheathing is violated, the wire untwists and immediately breaks.  You will not see tensile strength referenced on the labels of these products. The information that is referenced (number of strands, wire thickness) gives you some information needed to make a choice, but insufficient to make an actual choice.   Even when they list the number of strands, this doesn’t give you enough factual information to depend on.   One brand’s high-end, 7-strand is stronger and more supple than that same brand’s 49-strand middle range product.    This same brand’s middle range 49-strand product is stronger and more supple than another brand’s high end 49-strand product.

You would also be very aware that you cannot assume that there is consistency and uniformity for any given product.   There are many production issues that arise in the manufacture of glass beads, for example.   Some beads are perfect.   Some have flaws.  These flaws might include some flat surfaces when everything should be rounded.   The color not going all the way through.   Holes drilled off-centered.    Bead sizes and hole sizes inconsistent from bead to bead. Some bead holes that are especially sharp.    Some beads which have coated coloration which is poorly applied and chips off quickly.    In clothing, these beads with flaws would be labeled irregulars, but they are not so labeled in beads.    Some companies specialize in selling you perfect manufactured glass beads; other companies specialize in selling you the irregulars.    They don’t advertise that fact.    Either quality looks the same when you buy it; they just don’t hold up the same in close examination or from wear.

You would be aware that fabricated and stamped metal pieces are more durable than cast metal pieces, but a lot more expensive, and with a smaller palette of designs for the artist.    You would be aware that the measure of pound strength on any label is the weakest piece of information to grab onto.   The law only defines how pound strength should be measured.    Since most products are manufactured abroad, little care is taken to guarantee the validity of this information.   

You would be aware that there are a lot of things to know about the materials used in jewelry design.

It Is All About Choices

Materials play a significant role in jewelry design.   You need to relate and justify the choices you make about selecting and using materials to your design goals (and your marketing goals, as well).    Sometimes your choices are preformulated and planned; othertimes, these choices are spontaneous and emerge within your process of design.   But these are all choices to be made, with inevitable impacts and consequences.

It is through the characteristics and qualities of the materials that the designer comes to keenly and fully appreciate values, intents, desires, and understandings associated with any design.

It is also through the most effective presentation specific to the materials that the designer experiences the piece to its best advantage and potential.     The effectiveness results from the designer’s ability to maximize the strengths of each material, while minimizing its weaknesses.    This is called leveraging.

It is a useful exercise, as well, to attempt to simplify the materials and reflect upon whether the piece feels more satisfying and successful, or less so.    One key goal of any designer is to reach a point of parsimony where enough is enough.

Appreciation of materials, their selection, use and arrangement lead the designer to see, feel, think and listen to the visual poetry laid out before them.    Jewelry is more than functional adornment.    It resonates.   Materials contribute to this.   This appreciation allows the artist to share inspiration and intent with other audiences, the wearer and viewer included.   The materials influence the artist in discovery, expression, invention, re-invention, and originality.   They become part of the human experience in jewelry design.


For example, you might be in a situation having decide whether to purchase an $80.00 strand of 6mm round garnet beads, or a $28.00 strand of these same beads. 

In that $80.00 strand, all the beads actually measure 6mm.    They are all perfectly round.   The holes are drilled well, and drilled through the center.    There are no chips at the hole.   There is good coloration, and the coloration from bead to bead is very consistent.

In that $28.00 strand, none of the beads measure 6mm.    They are a bit smaller, perhaps 5.5mm.    The beads from bead to bead on the strand are not consistent.   Sizes are approximate, not exact.   Several beads on the strand are not perfectly round.   Some have flat surfaces on them.   There are many chips at the hole, suggesting that they are not drilled well.    Some are drilled off-center. The coloration is good from afar, but a close exam reveals that some beads are less desirable than others.

This situation doesn’t present an easy choice, however.    If you are making fashion jewelry, the less expensive strand might be the best choice.    Fashion jewelry is not worn for a long time.   It is not an investment.   It is a look.    These beads are less expensive.   In this context, the flaws, in this case, may not be so much as a flaw, as more a variation.    The variations might enhance the fashion piece, adding a sense of fun, surprise and funkiness.    The poorly drilled holes might mean that these beads will crack and break from wear, but given that fashion jewelry is not worn for a long time, this is a non-issue.

If you are making a more investment quality piece, the more expensive garnet beads might be the better choice.   They have more value, resulting from the higher quality.    The consistency in quality results in a more classic, timeless look.    These beads will last a long time.    Here, the inconsistencies in the less expensive strand of beads definitely would be viewed as flaws, not variations.

Types of Materials

One of the most fundamental and practical aspects of jewelry design is the importance of the materials.    The choices jewelry designers make when selecting materials influence the form, content and movement of their pieces.     Every material brings something special to the creative process and the finished jewelry pieces.    The material influences, not only the designer, but the wearer and viewer themselves, how they perceive it, the values they place on it, and the extent they desire it.

The types of materials jewelry designers might choose are only limited by the imagination of the designer, and that designer’s budget.     I have compiled a short listing of the more prevalent materials used in jewelry design.    I distinguish those materials called

Stringing Materials

which are used to form the canvas of our jewelry,

from those materials called

Aesthetic Materials

which form the primary visual vocabulary and expressiveness of the piece, but also may contribute some functionality,

from those materials called

Functional Materials

which solely or primarily have practical value, but only sometimes, most likely inadvertently, add to the aesthetic expression of the piece.

STRINGING MATERIALS
(The Canvas)

The canvas is the part of the piece of jewelry onto which things are placed.     The canvas is usually some kind of stringing material, and the things placed on it typically are beads and charms.    The canvas supports the piece, its shaping and its silhouette.  It may or may not be visible in the piece.    But the canvas can be anything, including fabric and ribbon, wire mesh, chains, and the like.   It can be like a string, or it can be like a flat sheet.

The designer selects the canvas or stringing material based on a vision of the structure of the piece, including both its supportive requirements as well as its appearance-related qualities.     The particular selection will also impact the durability of the structure.    Sometimes the selection of canvas takes on a symbolic meaning, such as using hemp in friendship bracelets or antiwar jewelry, or using leather in biker jewelry.

(  (1)Beading thread:    Typically shaped like a typewriter ribbon, made from bonded nylon.   It is something we wax before using it. Materials are strung onto thread using a beading needle.    The thread is attached to the clasp assembly by tying knots.   Glue should never be applied to these knots.   If the beading thread is twisted, rather than bonded, it will break very easily.

Structure:   Piece is very supple and moves, drapes and flows very easily.   Provides little resistance to the weight of materials placed on it

Durability:   Very durable when waxed, unless the holes of beads are very sharp

 


(2) Cable thread:    This is a material where threads are braided together and encased in a nylon sheathing.    Used similarly as beading thread.   You use a needle.   Waxing is optional, but strongly suggested. You tie knots to the clasp assembly.  Glue should never be applied to these knots.   Cable thread sold in bead stores is non-biodegradable.    That sold in fishing stores or fishing departments is biodegradable.

Structure:  Piece is very supple and moves, drapes and flows easily, but
not as easily as with beading thread.

Durability: Very durable, but the nylon sheathing can be compromised easily from body oils, perfume oils, and cosmetics.    Waxing will protect the nylon sheathing.

 


(3) Bead cord, hemp, knotting cord:   This is a material where threads or
fibers are braided or twisted together so that they look pretty.     This cord
is used when you want the stringing material to show, such as putting knots
between beads, or where you have a cluster of beads, then the cord showing, another cluster of beads, the cord showing, and so forth.   You use this material to macramé, knot, braid, knit, and crochet.    You do not wax this material.   That would make it look ugly.    The primary purpose is to make your piece look attractive when the stringing material is to show.    Bead cord may be nylon or silk.    You use silk with real pearls, but, I suggest using the nylon with other materials.    You will need a needle, usually a collapsible eye or big eye needle.   You tie knots to secure the cord to a clasp assembly. You minimize the use of glue applied to knots, but you usually need to apply glue to the final knot.

Structure:  Piece is a little stiffer than with bead thread or cable
thread, but still feels supple.    Will drape well, but respond imperfectly to
the movement of the body.

Durability:  Silk naturally deteriorates in 3-5 years; nylon does not.   Bead cord made from other natural materials will also deteriorate over a relatively short period of time.

 


(4) Cable Wires:  This flexible stringing material consists of wires braided together and encased in nylon.    The strength comes from the ability of the nylon sheathing to keep the twist in the wires.   If the nylon sheathing is compromised in any way, the wires will immediately untwist and the cable will break at that point.     The wire is stiff enough to be its own needle.   You use crimp beads to secure the cable wire to a clasp assembly because it is more difficult to tie a secure knot with the cable wire. A crushed crimp adds a more pleasing appearance than tying a knot, but it adds risk.   A crushed crimp is like razor blade, always trying to saw right through the cable when the jewelry is worn.

Structure: Piece will be stiff, and never take the shape of the body.  Piece will typically rotate in the opposite direction from the movement of the body or arm it rests on.

Durability:  Very durable.   The nylon sheathing can be compromised easily from body oils, perfume oils, and cosmetics.  Usually crimp beads are used to secure the clasp, and these increase the risk the cable will break at the crimp, when compared to the durability of tying a knot.

 

(5) Stretchy Cords, like elastic string,
gossamer floss, elastic cord:
  These materials are not particularly durable and lose their elasticity over time.    People like these because they hate clasps, and you don’t use clasps with these.    You secure these by tying knots, and putting glue (any glue except superglue) on the knots.  Be sure
to coat the bottom of the knot, as well as the top of the knot.  Elastic
cord is fabric covered around an elastic thong or floss.

Structure:  Piece will stretch and return back to its original shape and size.

Durability:   Material deteriorates and loses both its integrity as well as its memory over time, especially if left exposed to the air, or worn frequently.   The round elastic string is the most durable among the stretchy cords.   The floss is the least durable.

 


(6) Thicker cords like leather, waxed
cotton, ultra suede lace, rubber thong, and rat tail (satin cord):
  These cords are stiff enough to be their own needle.   You usually need special jewelry findings, such as crimp ends, end caps, or cones with larger interior openings, to prepare the ends of the thicker cord, so that you can attach a clasp assembly.   Some are glued on; some crimped.

Structure: Similar to bead cord, but little stiffer.

Durability:  Some cords, like leather, dry out over time and crack.    Other cords, like waxed cotton and ultra suede, last a very long time.    The rat tail tends to shred.

 


(7) Hard Wire:  Hard wire is not a stringing wire, per se.   You can use it to make a chain or bead-chain.   You can use it to make shapes, like clasps and ear wires.   You can bundle it so that it might be stiff enough to retain the shape of a bracelet or cuff.    You can weave it or knit it to create patterns and textures.   You create loops and rings to attach hard wire to a clasp assembly.

Structure: Wire stiffness comes as dead soft, half hard and hard.   You determine, given how much manipulation of the wire you plan on doing, how stiff you want the wire to be when you begin your project, so that it will hold and retain its shape.    Each time you manipulate the wire, it becomes stiffer and stiffer and stiffer, until it becomes brittle and breaks.

Durability: Very durable.   Wire 18 gauge or thicker has little risk of losing its shape, distorting, breaking, opening up or pulling apart.    As you get thinner, the risk increases dramatically.    Dead soft wire requires a lot more  manipulation until it can hold its shape, than half hard or hard hard wire.

     (8) Chain:Wire is bent into links of various shapes and sizes, and
these are interlinked together into a chain.   Sometimes the links are soldered closed.   Usually they are not.   You can string things onto the chain.   You can use the chain as part of the clasp assembly, often to make the size adjustable.    You can use the chain as a design element throughout your piece.

Structure: Thinner chains will be less able to keep their shape.

Durability: Chains can be very durable, particularly ones that have soldered links, wider links, and/or links created from thicker gauge wires.

(9) Ribbon, fabric:These wider cords are sometimes used as a stringing
material.    They are secured at each end with ribbon or bar clamps, which then form either side of your clasp assembly.

Structure:   Usually, these don’t by themselves support a shape.

Durability:  More aesthetic than functional

 

(10) Lacy’s Stiff Stuff, Stiff Felt, Ultra suede sheet, Paper, Card Board, Poster Board, Rolled Out Polymer or Metal Clay, Brass Cuff Blank:The canvas or stringing material does not have to be a narrow cord.   It can be a wide, flat surface, off of which to bead, glue, stitch, embroider, carve, or sculpt.   This  type of canvas needs to have some amount of stiffness to hold a shape, but not too much that the jewelry made with it feels uncomfortable, or does not move naturally with the person.

Structure:   If you were creating a pendant, you might want your
canvas o be a little stiffer than if you were creating a bracelet.

Durability:   Average durability

(11) Fused Glass:Sometimes the flat canvas is a piece of
glass.    Other pieces of glass are fused onto this, using a kiln, in order to create a pattern or image.  

 Structure:   Rigid shape.

Durability:  Same as any other piece of glass.

 

(12) Metal Sheet and Wire:Sometimes we fabricate a piece of
jewelry, either using soldering, stamping, molding, casting, 3-D printing, or cold connections.    Part of the sheet and/or wire becomes our canvas or stringing material.

Structure:  These are very reliable materials for creating and maintaining
shapes.

Durability:   Soldered and stamped pieces are much more durable than molded or cast ones.    3-D printed materials would be used with casting.    Cold connections could be used with any technique.

 

 

 

AESTHETIC MATERIALS

The canvas either passes through various aesthetic materials, or these are applied to the canvas or attached off the canvas in some way.    These aesthetic materials are used for the yoke, the clasp assembly, the frame, the focal point, the center piece, the strap, and the bail.    

Aesthetic Materials are expressive.   They are part of the visual vocabulary and grammar of the jewelry.    While some play functional roles, as well, they are usually selected for their expressive powers.     Some materials evoke sensory  or symbolic responses, as well.    A touch, a feel, a color sense, sometimes a smell, which extends beyond its factual elements.

Any type of material can be selected to use as an aesthetic material.    It can be something very specific, or a found object, or some kind of combobulation of things.  

Aesthetic Materials we see often include,

·
    Glass, Fused glass, lampwork glass, blown glass

        Metals and Plated Metals

·      Fibers

       Natural (gemstones, wood, bone, horn)

       Synthetic (plastic)

      Polymer and Precious Metal Clay

     Ceramic, Porcelain, Clay, Raku

      Paper, lacquered paper

      Oxidizers, Patinas, Paints, Fabric Dyes and Paints, Stains, Metal Paints and  Rouges

      Platings, Coatings

     Enameling

 

These aesthetic materials can be selected for their qualities of

(a) Appeal

(b) Functionality

(c) Sensations or symbolism extending beyond the physical and decorative bases underlying these materials

Aesthetic Materials: Appeal

The idea of appeal is a broad concept.    It is sometimes universal.   But often subjective. 

There are many variables underlying the ideas of appeal and beauty.    These include things like,


Clarity, translucence, opacity

      –Hardness, brittleness, softness, suppleness

      –Malleability

      –Luminescence, brightness, reflectiveness, refraction

      –Color, color combinations, intensity, value

      –Weight, lightness, heaviness, volume, density

      –Perceived value, worth, rarity

      –Cut, faceting, smoothness, carving, sculpting

      –Shapes

      –Direction, pointer, focal points, markings, striations, inclusions

 

Aesthetic Materials: Functionality

Some materials function better than others in certain situations.    For example, sterling silver is very malleable, nickel is more brittle.    Bending, shaping, coiling, weaving sterling silver requires much less effort, and with this, can lead to more artistic and design success, than using nickel or other wire material that is stiffer and harder than sterling.

Another example:   Using needle and thread as your stringing material is very time consuming.   It is awkward using needle and thread.   You have to wax it.   You want to pass through each bead a minimum of three times.    Using a cable wire, instead, lets you go much faster.    The cable wire is a self needle.   You don’t wax it.   You only have to go through each bead once.    If you are selling your pieces, it is virtually impossible to get your labor out of a needle and thread project.    You almost have to use a cable wire, if you don’t want to commit yourself to a life of slave labor.

 

Aesthetic Materials:  Sensations and Symbolism

Materials have sensory and symbolic powers which extend beyond the materials themselves.   Obviously, this can be very subjective.    It might have psychological roots, sociological roots and/or cultural roots.   

Things may feel warm, cold, soft, rough, oily, weighty.    Things may represent romance, power, membership, religiosity, status.

Vanderbilt University’s colors are gold and black, so using those colors in the Nashville, TN area might evoke a different emotional response than when used elsewhere.    And here’s that very-difficult-to-design-with University of Tennessee orange, again, in the Nashville area will evoke a very different response than elsewhere.

Materials like amber and bone and crystal are things people like to touch, not just look at.    The sensation extends beyond the visual grammar.

 

 

 

FUNCTIONAL MATERIALS

These materials are used in practical terms.   They help things hold together.   They help pieces stay in place.   They help make pieces adjustable in size.   They help polish, finish things off, assist materials through stages in their processing and development. They may be used to prevent or retard a change in color, such as a lacquer finish or rhodium plating over sterling to prevent tarnishing.  They help capture a form or shape.     They are not a part of the visual and expressive vocabulary and grammar of the piece.   Nor are they any kind of canvas.   

Functional Materials which are more prominent include,

·
Adhesives

      ·Solders

      ·Pickling, Flux

      ·Molding compounds

      ·Bead release

      ·Fixatives (like Krylon, lacquering, special platings, waxes, other things which create a protective barrier over something else).

 

It is especially important to know a lot about adhesives.   Many people reach for a tube of Superglue for everything.   Superglue has few uses in jewelry design.     This glue dries like glass, so the bond is like a piece of glass.    When the jewelry moves, the bond shatters like glass, and the bond looks like a broken piece of glass.   All jewelry moves when worn, so not a good choice.

Another glue many people reach for is hot glue.    This glue melts at body temperature, so not a wise choice for necklaces, bracelets and pendants.  

The best glue to use is jeweler’s glue.    Two brands are E6000 and Beacon 527.   Basically the same glue, but the former is thick and the latter is runny.    These glues take 10 minutes to set, so you can move things around for 10 minutes.   At about 20 minutes, the consistency is like rubber cement and you can use your finger or a tweezers to take off any excess glue.   Both glues take 24 hours to dry hard.    They dry clear and remain clear over time.    The bond does not expand.

If using fabric, particularly silk  (ribbon, bead cord, thread), you want to use a cement, rather than a glue.     Glues work by forming a collar around an object, then tighten up as the water or other solvent evaporates.    Cements work by adhering to each individual fiber.    Glue on fabric, as opposed to cement, will lose its grip, so to speak.   With silk, I suggest either G-S Hypo Fabric Cement, or any fabric glue.

Before using a glue, you want to know the characteristics of the bond, once dried.    These include things like,

– hardness

– whether dries clear, or yellows

– whether yellows with age

– whether it expands or not when it dries

– what materials it is most useful for

– whether you have to prepare the material’s surface before using

– how long it takes to fully set

– how easy it is to wipe away and remove any excess glue

– whether where-ever you purchase the particular brand of glue, such as at a craft store or discount store or bead store, that this brand of glue is the same quality product

– how long the glue will last in its container before hardening or drying out

Besides the importance of knowing the types of materials, it is also important to know the properties of materials.     These include (a) mechanical properties, (b) physical properties, and (c) chemical properties.

 

Mechanical Properties

Mechanical properties describe how a material reacts to an applied force.   These include,

·
Strength:   It’s ability not to break under stress or strain

·
Hardness:  How easily it can be scratched, faceted, carved, sculpted, cut, sand blasted

·
Elasticity:   The ability to regain its shape after a stress has been applied to it

·
Plasticity and Malleability:   How much force it takes to make a material permanently deform without breaking

·
Stiffness and Brittleness:  At some point, these materials will be so brittle, they will not bend, and will just break in response to force.    Wire materials, for example, get stiffer and more brittle, the more they are worked, such as from twisting, pulling, hammering, coiling and the like.    Crystal is much more brittle than glass, so it more likely to break from movement or other force.

·
Fatigue:   When the material fails, after repeated wear and use

·
Impact Strength:   how much a material can withstand an impact

·
Abrasion Resistance:   When two materials rub against each other, what is the resistance before one or both break

·
Creep: the slow movement of a material over time

 

Physical Properties

Physical properties
describe the inherent nature of the material.    Some more important ones
related to materials used in jewelry include:

·
Density:   mass and volume

·
Porosity: the quality of being full of tiny holes;
these might hold in something, like a perfume oil, or that something might
easily leach out through washing or sweating, like a dye or lead

·
Water
absorption, permeability and solubility

·
Softening and
Compression:
   how
material holds up under different conditions

·
Resistance to
Heat and Fire

·
Resistance to
Cold

·
Resistance to
a number of cycles of sharp temperature variations without failing

·
Changing form
from solid to liquid to gas

 

Chemical Properties

Chemical properties refer to how well the material holds up when exposed to chemicals.   These chemicals may be in the air.    They may be present in cosmetics, perfumes or hair sprays.   They may be present in a person’s sweat.    These include,


Corrosion

·    Melting, Dissolving, Removing

·
Etching

·
Colorizing, Oxidizing, Patinas

·
Platings

·
Bonding, Adherring

·
Biodegrading

 

We have looked at types of materials and their properties.   Now we need to understand how materials help establish the viability, finish and success of jewelry.   Here, our materials selection process begins to incorporate some value judgments.

 

 

Materials Help Establish
the Viability, Finish and Success of The Jewelry

Jewelry has character and personality.    People intuitively or consciously recognize when it is finished, that is, when the addition or subtraction of any one design element would make the piece seem less satisfying or desirable. Jewelry is judged as successful, to the extent it can maintain its shape while concurrently feeling comfortable, and moving, draping and flowing with the person, as the person wears the jewelry and moves with it on.

Every piece of jewelry has its artistic and individual character due to the many facets from which it is constructed.    Stringing, Aesthetic and Functional Materials are three of these facets.   Mechanical, Physical and Chemical Properties add some additional facets.    These among other additional material choices determine both what can be made, as well as the character of what is made.

Material selection in jewelry design is not only about choosing the most attractive, or most obvious, or most affordable, or most durable materials available.    Designers also choose materials for their sensual sensations, like warmth, their formal appearance, like classical, their functional practicality, like a clamp, or their geo-locality, like using materials found locally.   

The material selection process is complex.    It is influenced by many preconditions, choices made, and considerations to accommodate.    Too often, however, designers focus mainly on the visual aspects of the materials, and not enough on other factors.    In order to make well-considered and smart choices about materials, jewelry designers need a lot more information.    They need information about the entirety of the material, as created or constructed, as visually impactful, as functionally helpful, as perceptually and cognitively understood and as symbolically relevant for designer, wearer and viewer.

 

Selecting
Materials Is A Complicated Process

MATERIAL

(type and
property)


stringing

– aesthetic

– functional


mechanical

– physical

– chemical

JEWELRY
MAKING

 


production process

– assembly, fabrication, construction

– finishing

– accommodating temporal issues

– cost

EXPERIENCE

 


sensorial

– perception

– association and symbolism

– emotion and resonance

CONTEXT

 


of use

– physical

– historical and geographic

– socio-cultural and psychological

PERSPECTIVE

– artist

– wearer

– viewer

– seller, buyer, exhibiter, collector, student, teacher

Stringing,  Aesthetic, and sometimes, Functional Materials, coupled with their various Mechanical, Physical and Chemical properties, help to:

      (1)Establish a relationship between visual quality and structural stability (physical properties, shape, silhouette)

      (2)Establish a relationship between visual quality and support or jointedness (movement, drape and flow)

      (3)Influence the selection of the appropriate technique

      (4)Provide character and visual appeal

      (5)Reflect the time, era, and socio-cultural context and historical value of the piece

      (6)Mix aesthetic elements with functional ones

      (7)Highlight a theme or concept expressed in the design

      (8)Link the piece to a particular geography or location

      (9)Link the piece to its appropriate placement on the body

      (10) Determine the budget for the piece

      (11) Establish the relationship between quantity and quality, that is, how many similar pieces can be made

      (12) Best combine the materialistic qualities with the non-materialistic qualities of the project

 

 

 

(1) Establish a relationship between visual quality and structural stability (physical properties, shape, silhouette)

Jewelry making materials signify structural significance.    This may relate to the physical properties of the materials, such as hardness, brittleness, softness, pliability, porousness, and this list can go on and on.   This may relate to the shapes of the materials, and the placement and interaction of the shapes within the piece, or the final silhouette.    The same may be said for size, weight and volume.    This may relate to the stability of the material or its color or finish over time.

The choices and arrangement of materials within a piece of jewelry determines its structure.     Structure means shape and material integrity.     Shape in jewelry may refer to the silhouette of the piece as a whole, or to individual shapes which occupy one or more sections of our finished piece of jewelry.    It may refer to the positioning of positive and negatives areas within the piece.   When we refer to structure and shape and material, we imply structural integrity, and the degree we are able to maintain any shape, color or finish while the jewelry is worn over some period of time.

Example 1:   We may create a bracelet using Austrian crystal beads strung on a beading thread.   We achieve a high visual quality, at least initially.    But these beads will cut through the threads when the bracelet is worn, thus ending with a very low structural stability.

Example 2:  Sometimes a clam-shell bead tip is used to finish off each end of bead cord, when that is the stringing material.   The bead cord, at its end, is tied into a knot, which sits inside the clam-shell, the cord coming out a hole in the bottom of the clam shell.    We do not want the knot to work itself loose and slip through the hole.   So we glue it.   If we use a jeweler’s glue, like E6000 or Beacon 527, these glues dry like rubber.    With these glues, the knot can actually contort and work itself through the hole.    If we use a glue like Superglue or G-S Hypo Cement,
the knot will remain stiff and not be able to slip through the hole.   However, the stiff knot reduces what is called
support.   It reduces the piece’s jointedness, or ability to respond to stress and strain, thus an ability to best move, drape and flow.     An alternative to glue is to thread an 11/0 seed bead, passing through the bead twice, before bringing the cord through the hole.   This is secure.  No glue is used as all.    Full support is preserved.

Example 3:  How long a metal plated finish lasts depends partly on the metal underneath it, and if it bonds to that metal.    Metal plating bonds well to brass, so it lasts a long time before it fades away.   Metal plating does not bond at all to aluminum, so it quickly chips off.

 

(2)Establish a relationship between visual quality and support or jointedness (movement, drape and flow)

Jewelry making materials enhance or impede support or jointedness.    The selection and placement of materials, their density, weight, shape, and the like may enable the jewelry to take the shape of the body and move with the body, or not.  

Things strung on beading thread will always take the shape of the body and move with the body; things strung on cable wire will not.     But the designer has at their disposal several jewelry design tricks in construction which will make the cable wire function closer to needle and thread.

Example 1: A bracelet made up of very large beads, that when encircling the wrist, create a very stiff circle, with much strain and stress on each bead, on the stringing material and on the clasp assembly.    If the designer reworks the piece, to include small round spacer beads between each very large bead, the designer, in effect, has added what is called a rotator support system. Each very large bead can freely respond to stresses and strain which result from adjusting to the body and its movement by rotating and pivoting around the spacer bead.

Example 2:  People usually pick a clasp after they have designed their piece.   They look for something that will make do, perhaps easier to get on and off, and hopefully have some match to the piece.   A clasp, however, should be understood as more than a clasp.   It should be understood as a clasp assembly, which is a type of support system.
S-clasps are very attractive and a S-clasp design can always be found that feels an organic extension of the jewelry.   An S-clasp needs a soldered ring off of each arm, and, if stringing on cable wire, a loop in the wire where it connects to the soldered ring.      The crimp is never pushed all the way up to the clasp or ring.    Each ring or loop is a support system, so our S-clasp needs 4 support systems in this case, to function correctly.   With 4 supports on the S-clasp in a necklace, the clasp will always remain on the back of the neck, no matter how the person moves.   Without 4 supports, it will not, and the necklace will keep turning around. 

 

(3)Influence the selection of the appropriate technique

The designer must coordinate the selection of Stringing, Aesthetic and Functional Materials, and their inherent Mechanical, Physical and Chemical properties, so that they work in harmony with a particular technique used to assemble, weave, or otherwise secure them together in a finished piece of jewelry.

Conversely, the technique might dictate which materials will work best, and which will not.    Bead weaving works with thread or cable thread, but not as easily with elastic string or cable wire.

There was a time when the materials used in any one piece were restricted to a few.   Today any material can be used, as well as any combination of materials, without losing any appeal or value or desire.

Examples:  A Czech glass bead with a hole size of .8mm would not slip a leather cord with a diameter of 1.5mm.    It would be very difficult to create a loomed piece with beads of widely varying sizes.     If mixing metals (say, silver, gold and brass) in a fabricated and soldered bracelet, care must be taken in the soldering strategy because each metal melts at a different temperature.   You could not begin a wire weaving project using hard hard-wire.    We may select cable wire for our canvas. This would not be a suitable stringing material if the technique we wanted to apply was bead weaving.

 

(4)Provide character and visual appeal

The surface of a material has many characteristics which the jewelry designer leverages within the finished piece.    Light might reflect off this surface, such as with opaque glass or shiny metal.   Light might be brought into and below the surface before reflected back, such as with many gemstones and opalescent glass.  Light might refract through the piece at different angles, even creating a prism effect.

The surface might be a solid color.   It might be a mix of colors.    It might be matte.   It may have inclusions or markings.    It may have fired on coloration effects.   There may be tonal differences.    There may be pattern or textural differences.    It may have movement.   It may have depth.

Example:   It is often difficult to mix gemstone beads with glass beads.   However, if you use glass beads which have a translucent quality to them, this glass mimics the relationship of light reflecting
back to the eye with that of the gemstones.    The finished piece will feel
harmonious.

 

(5)Reflect the time, era, and socio-cultural context and historical value of the piece

Jewelry and its design and materials used can be iconic.   

Jewelry can relate the symbolic value of the piece to certain historical themes and ideas, or to specific functions.

Jewelry can be used to preserve, conserve or restore certain cultural or historical values.    The material(s) selected may glorify these.    Their availability may be closely tied to the time and place.   Their use within a piece may be socially subscribed.

Our understanding of how jewelry relates to these contexts can be used to document how jewelry and its design has evolved and spread.

Name an historical period, and you can visualize many of the materials used and design sense.    Roman. Victorian.    Prehistoric.   Modern.    

Name a socio-cultural context.     Religious.   Wedding.   Military.    American Southwest.   Any rite of passage.

Example 1:   Pearl knotted jewelry is very strongly associated with silk bead cord, pearl clasps, and bead tips.   It is also very associated with Victorian jewelry.   It would be difficult to substitute other materials and pieces, such as a different kind of clasp, or not knotting between beads, without the piece losing its appeal.

Example 2:  A rosary is made as a bead chain, with a certain number of beads, often a certain size and material of bead, with a Y-shaped connector at its center.   The rosary assists the wearer
in prayer and religiosity.   It’s specific design and use of materials
differentiates Catholicism from other religions.

 

(6)Mix aesthetic elements with functional ones

Jewelry is art only as it is worn.    Its aesthetic elements must tightly coordinate with its functional ones, if the piece is to maintain its shape and silhouette, and move with the person, without distorting, feeling uncomfortable or breaking.    Thus, its quality and durability are dependent upon how the designer successfully maneuvers the tradeoffs required between function and appeal.    A good part of this success stems from how materials are selected, combined and arranged.

Jewelry and its design preserve the aesthetic qualities, without disrupting and losing focus of the practical ones.

Example:   The clasp assembly on a piece of jewelry can be very organic, feeling an integral part of the piece.    Or it can be very disruptive and annoying, as if it were a last choice and consideration, and the designer found a clasp that would make do.   For an S-clasp to function appropriately, it needs at least one soldered ring off of the arm on each side
of the clasp.    This will force the clasp assembly to take up more space and
volume in the piece.   This too might end up detracting from the overall appeal of the piece.

 

(7)Highlight a theme or concept expressed in the design

Materials may be selected, combined and arranged into forms and themes so that they represent larger meanings and concepts.    Often this comes down to color, shape, placement, and arrangement.   The materials bring out the theme or concept in the design.

Example:    You create a piece of jewelry with a blue color scheme, using 4 shades of blue.    If the piece is to be worn, say, going clubbing in the evening, you might select 4 shades of blue (metallic blue iris, montana blue, blue quartz, cornflower) which vary in intensity. That means, varying how bright or dull they are by selecting tones with more or less underlying black, gray or white.    If the piece is to be worn, say, at work during the day, you might select 4 shades of blue (cobalt, sapphire, light sapphire, ultralight sapphire) which vary in value.    That means, varying how light or dark they are by selecting tones that are basically the same, but some
are lighter or darker than others.

 

(8)Link the piece to a particular geography or location

Materials may be strongly associated with a particular geography or location.    Lapis is strongly associated with Afghanistan.     Paint Rock with Tennessee.   

Example:  A necklace by a Tennessee designer made entirely with lampwork beads made by Tennessee artisans.

 

(9)Link the piece to its appropriate placement on the body

Jewelry can only be judged successful at the boundary between jewelry and the body.   It must be able to conform to the body’s shape.   It must be able to comfortably move, drape and flow as the person moves and shifts positions.

Materials selection might begin with what materials would be most appropriate for a given type of jewelry.    Or it might begin with what materials would be most appropriate for a certain body shape or size or placement.

Example:   Very heavy beads used in earrings can make them uncomfortable.    Creating a 4” earring dangle on a 4” head pin is not quite as a good a strategy as making a 4” earring dangle chain using eye pins.    Think about what happens to the former vs. the latter when the wearer bends her head, then returns to the upright position.

 

(10) Determine the budget for the piece

The total expenditure incurred while designing a piece of jewelry might be, to a large extent, determined by the materials used.     A designer often selects the material type based on a budget for the project.     [Techniques can also have a big impact on the cost, particularly when accounting for the time it takes to design and construct a piece of jewelry.]

Example:  A necklace made entirely of lapis lazuli beads might retail for $150.00.    A similar necklace made entirely of lapis color glass beads might retail for $25.00.    Both would look similar and take the same time to make.    

 

(11) Establish the relationship between quantity and quality, that is, how many similar pieces can be made

The choice of materials affects the quality of the elements.     Within a given project budget, and within a particular design goal, the quality of the materials may limit the number of similar pieces to be made, or the complexity or elaborateness of the design of any one piece.

Example:   A stretchy bracelet made with lava beads might retail for $15.00.    The materials – elastic string, lava beads, glue – are readily available and inexpensive.    The designer could easily make 50 of these to sell, and stay within a reasonable budget.    Change the materials to cable wire, crimp bead, horseshoe wire protector, crimp cover, black onyx beads, toggle clasp, and the investment in parts is considerably more.   We have more materials and more expensive materials.   This bracelet might have to retail for  $45.00.    Staying within the same budget framework, the designer would only be able to make 16 of these.

 

(12)Best combine the materialistic qualities with the non-materialistic qualities of the project

Every material has two over-arching qualities.   The obvious is its physical properties and physicality.    Let’s call this materialistic.   It is something that is measurable.   In the realm of the mystic, it is ordinary or profane.

But the material also has qualities that extend beyond this.   They can be sensory.   They can be symbolic.    They can be psychological.   They can be contextual.     Let’s call this non-materialistic.   It is something that is non-measurable.  In the realm of the mystic, it is extraordinary and sacred.

Both properties must be considered when designing a piece of jewelry.    They have equal importance, when selecting, placing and arranging materials and design elements within a piece.

Example:    Take a Chakra bracelet strung on cable wire with a clasp.      The beads used are gemstones.   Each gemstone has spiritual and healing properties.   Each gemstone has a coloration, and each different coloration, too, is associated with certain spiritual and healing properties.    Moreover, every individual has their own unique needs
for which set of gemstones and which assortment of colorations are best and most  appropriate.   This can get even more complicated in that each situation and context may have its own requirements.     The person may end up needing several Chakra bracelets for different occasions.     The designer could have used glass or acrylic beads, instead, which have less non-materialistic value, and might be less durable over time.    The designer could have strung the beads on elastic string without using a clasp, again, less non-materialistic value and durability.

 

 

 

LESSONS LEARNED

Selecting materials involves a complicated set of choices, some tangible, some intangible, some personal, some in anticipation of the perceptions of others.

Some lessons learned…

      1.You can use any material you want when designing jewelry

      2.Material selection is a complicated decision making process

      3.No material is perfect for every project

      4.Don’t assume you know what you know

      5.Be skeptical

      6.Always ask questions

      7.Select materials on both their aesthetic as well as functional properties

      8.Don’t sacrifice functionality for aesthetics

      9.Anticipate what might happen to your materials over time as the jewelry is worn

      10.Anticipate how your various audiences will respond to your selections of materials

      11.Work within a budget

      12.Match the quality of material to your design (and marketing) goals

 

 

 

 

Warren Feld,
Jewelry Designer

 

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 pearl knotting, micro-macrame, wire
working, wire weaving and silversmithing, and onward to more complex jewelry designs which build on the strengths of a full range of technical skills and experiences.

In 2000, Warren founded The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts (CBJA) as the educational program
for Be Dazzled Beads-Land of Odds.     The program approaches education from a Design Perspective.

There is a strong focus on skills development.   There is a major emphasis on
teaching how to make better choices when selecting beads, other parts and
stringing materials, and how to bring these altogether into a beautiful, yet
functional, piece of jewelry.   There are requirements for sequencing classes –
that is, taking classes in a developmental order.  

Theory is tightly wedded to applications throughout the program, from beginner to
advanced classes.    Since jewelry, unlike painting and sculpture, must
interrelate aesthetics, function and context, much attention is paid to how
such relationships should influence the designer.    Jewelry Design is seen as
an authentic performance task.    As such, the student explores ideas about
artistic intent, shared understandings among all audiences, and developing
evidence in design sufficient for determining whether a piece is finished and
successful.     The design educational program is envisioned as preparing the
student towards gaining a disciplinary literacy in design — one that begins
with how to decode the expressive attributes associated with Design Elements to
a fluency in the management of Principles of Composition, Construction and
Manipulation, as well as the systems management of the design process itself. 

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

His pieces have appeared in beading and jewelry magazines and books, including
Perlen Posie (“Gwynian Ropes Bracelet”,
No. 21, 2014), Showcase 500 Beaded
Jewelry (“Little Tapestries: Ghindia”, Lark Publications, 2012). One piece
(“Canyon Sunrise”), which won 4th place in Swarovski’s Naturally
Inspired Competition
(2008), is in the Swarovski museum in Innsbruck,
Austria.   His work has been written up in The Beader’s Guide to Jewelry
Design
(Margie Deeb, Lark Publications, 2014). He has been a faculty member
at CraftArtEdu.com, developing video tutorials.   

He has been selected as an instructor for the Bead & Button Show, June, 2019,
teaching 3 pieces – Japanese Garden Bracelet, Etruscan Square Stitch Bracelet,
and ColorBlock Bracelet.    In March 2020, Warren will be leading a
travel-enrichment program on Celebrity Cruise Lines, centered on jewelry
making, beginning with a cruise from Miami to Cozumel and Key West.

Personal style: multi-method, intricate color play, adaptive of traditions to
contemporary design, experimental.

Warren is currently working on a book tentatively titled:  SO YOU WANT TO BE A JEWELRY
DESIGNER… Merging Your Voice With Form.

Owner, Be Dazzled Beads in Nashville, and Land of Odds (www.landofodds.com). 

He is probably best known for creating the international The Ugly Necklace Contest,
where good jewelry designers attempt to overcome our pre-wired brains’ fear
response for resisting anything Ugly.    He has also sponsored All Dolled Up: Beaded
Art Doll Competition and The Illustrative Beader: Beaded Tapestry Competition.

Instructor, Bead & Button Show, Milwaukee, WI, 2019

Workshop Leader, Your World Of Jewelry Making Cruises, Celebrity Cruise Line,
2019-2020

 

 

_______________________________

FOOTNOTES

     (1) WASTIELS, Lisa and WOUTERS, Ine.  Material Considerations in Architectural Design: A Study of the Aspects Identified by Architects for Selecting Materials.   July, 2008.

As referenced in:

http://shura.shu.ac.uk/511/1/fulltext.pdf

Posted in architecture, Art or Craft?, art theory, bead weaving, beads, beadwork, business of craft, color, design management, design theory, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, wire and metal | Leave a Comment »

What Is Your Learning Style?

Posted by learntobead on November 17, 2019

There Are Many Ways To Learn

There are many ways to learn beading and jewelry making.

  • Rote Memory
  • Analogously
  • Contradictions
  • Assimilation
  • Constructing Meanings

Most people learn by Rote Memory.    They follow a set of steps, and they end up with something.  They memorize all the steps.   In this approach, all the choices have been made for them.    So they never get a chance to learn the implications of their choices.    Why one bead over another?  Why one stringing material over another?   How would you use the same technique in a different situation?   You pick up a lot of techniques, but not necessarily many skills.

Other people learn Analogously.    They have experiences with other crafts, such as sewing or knitting or other craft, and they draw analogies.   Such and Such is similar to Whatnot, so I do Whatnot the same way I do Such and Such.    This can work to a point.  However, beading and jewelry making can often be much more involved, requiring making many more types of choices, than in other crafts.    And there are still the issues of understanding the quality of the pieces you use, and what happens to them, both when jewelry is worn, as well as when jewelry is worn over time.

 

Yet another way people learn is through Contradictions.    They see cheap jewelry and expensive jewelry, and analyze the differences.   They see jewelry people are happy with, and jewelry people are not happy with, and analyze the differences.    They see fashion jewelry looked down upon by artists, and art jewelry looked down upon by fashionistas, and they analyze the differences.

Assimilation is a learning approach that combines Analogous Learning and Learning Through Contradictions.      People pursue more than one craft, keeping one foot in one arena, and another foot in the other.    They teach themselves by analogy and contradiction.      This assumes that multiple media mix, and mix easily.   Often, however, this is not true.    Usually one medium has to predominate for any one project to be successful.   So assimilative learning can lead to confusion and poor products, trying to meet the special concerns and structures of each craft simultaneously.   It is challenging to mix media.  Often the fundamentals of each particular craft need to be learned and understood in and of themselves.

The last approach to learning a craft is called Constructing Meanings.   In this approach, you learn groups of things, and how to apply an active or thematic label to that grouping.   For example, you might learn about beading threads, such as Nymo, C-Lon and FireLine, and, at the same time, learn to evaluate each one’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of Managing Thread Tension or allowing movement, drape and flow.   You might learn about crystal beads, Czech glass beads, and lampwork beads, and then, again concurrently and in comparison,  learn the pros and cons of each, in terms of achieving good color blending strategies.     You might learn peyote stitch and ndebele stitch, and how to combine them within the same project.

 

 

In reality, you learn a little in each of these different learning styles.    The Constructing Meanings approach, what is often referred to as the Art & Design Tradition, usually is associated with more successful and satisfying learning.    This approach provides you with the tools for making sense of a whole lot of information – all the information you need to bring to bear to make a successful piece of jewelry, one that is both aesthetically pleasing and optimally functioning.

Posted in Art or Craft?, art theory, bead weaving, beadwork, design management, design theory, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Stitch 'n Bitch | Leave a Comment »

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Posted by learntobead on November 10, 2019

DISCIPLINARY LITERACY AND FLUENCY IN DESIGN

Jeremy thought that the only thing he could do in life was design jewelry.    He loved it.   So it was not a question of “if” or “when” or “how”.    But he told me it was always important not to get tricked by fashion.    It was mandatory not to seek the trendy object.    Not to turn away from that odd thing.    And to pay very close attention to the details of how jewelry designers think, act, speak and reflect.

I thought about his advice a lot over the years of my own career as a jewelry designer.    The disciplined designer needs to be attuned to the discipline way of seeing the world, understanding it, responding to it, and asserting that creative spark within it.

Yet jewelry design does not yet exist as an established discipline.    It is claimed by art.   It is claimed by craft.  It is claimed by design.    And each of these more established disciplines offer conflicting advice about what is expected of the designer.    How should she think?  How should she organize her tasks?   How should she tap into her creative self?   How should she select materials, techniques and technologies?   How should she assert her creativity and introduce her ideas and objects to others?   How much does she need to know about how and why people wear and inhabit jewelry?   What impact should she strive to have on others or the more general culture and society as a whole?

In this book, I try to formulate a disciplinary literacy unique and special and legitimate for jewelry designers.    Such literacy encompasses a basic vocabulary about materials, techniques, color and other design elements and rules of composition.    It also includes the kinds of thinking routines and strategies jewelry designers need to know in order to be fluent, flexible and original.   These routines and strategies are at the heart of the designer’s knowledges, skills and understandings related to creativity, elaboration, embellishment, reflection, critique and metacognition.

At the heart of this disciplinary literacy are the strategies designers use to think through and make choices which optimize aesthetics and functionality within a specific context.     These enable the designer to create something out of nothing, to translate inspiration into aspiration, and to influence content and meaning in context.

There are four sets of routines and strategies which designers employ to determine how to create, what to create, how to know a piece is finished and how to know a piece is successful.    These are,

  • Decoding
  • Composing, Constructing and Manipulating
  • Expressing Intent and Content
  • Contextual Analysis of Shared Understandings as these relate to Desire, and in line with that, Determining Value and Worth

 

 

You don’t become a jewelry designer to be something.

You become a jewelry designer to do something.

The question becomes: How do you learn to do something?

How do you learn to be fluent, flexible and original in design?     And develop an automaticity?   And self-direction?

We call this ‘literacy’.     For the jewelry designer, literacy means developing the abilities to think like a designer.    These include,

  • Reading a piece of jewelry. Here you the designer are able to break down and decode a piece of jewelry into its essential graphical and design elements.   This aspect of fluency and literacy is very descriptive.
  • Writing a piece of jewelry. Here you the designer are able to identify, create or change the arrangement of these design elements within a composition.     Fluency and literacy are very analytical.
  • Expressing a piece of jewelry. Here you the designer use the design elements and principles underlying any arrangement to convey content and meaning.     Fluency and literacy are very interpretive.
  • Expressing a piece of jewelry in context. Here you the designer are able to anticipate, reflect upon and incorporate into your own thinking the reactions of various client groups to the piece, the degree they desire and value the piece, and whether they see the piece as finished and successful.    The designer comfortably moves back and forth between the objective and subjective, and the universal and the specific.   Fluency and literacy are very judgmental.

 

 

 

Everyone knows that anyone can put beads and other pieces together on a string and make a necklace.      But can anyone make a necklace that draws attention?   That evokes some kind of emotional response?    That resonates with someone where they say, not merely “I like that”, but, more importantly, say “I want to wear that!”?    That wears well, drapes well, moves well as the person wearing it moves?     That is durable, supportive and keeps its silhouette and shape?    That doesn’t feel underdone or over done?    That is appropriate for a given context, situation, culture or society?

True, anyone can put beads on a string.    But that does not make them artists or designers.    From artists and designers, we expect jewelry which is something more.    More than parts.  More than an assemblage of colors, shapes, lines, points and other design elements.   More than simple arrangements of lights and darks, rounds and squares, longs and shorts.    We expect to see the artist’s hand.   We expect the jewelry to be impactful for the wearer.    We expect both wearer and viewer, and seller and buyer, to share expectations for what makes the jewelry finished and successful.

Jewelry design is an occupation in the process of professionalization.    That means, when the designer seeks answers to things like what goes together well, or what would happen if, or what would things be like if I had made different choices, the designer still has to rely on contradictory advice and answers.    Should s/he follow the Craft Approach?  Or rely on Art Tradition?    Or take cues from the Design Perspective?    Each larger paradigm, so to speak, would take the designer in different directions.    This can be confusing.  Frustrating.   Unsettling.

As a whole, the profession has become strong in identifying things which go together well.   There are color schemes, and proven ideas about shapes, and balance, and distribution, and proportions.     But when we try to factor in the individualistic characteristics associated with the designer and his or her intent, things get muddied.   And when we try to anticipate the subjective reactions of all our audiences, as we introduce our creative products into the creative marketplace, things get more muddied still.     What should govern our judgments about success and failure, right and wrong?   What should guide us?   What can we look to for helping us answer the what would happen if or what would things be like if questions?

Posted in architecture, Art or Craft?, art theory, beadwork, design management, design theory, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Stitch 'n Bitch | Leave a Comment »

JEWELRY DESIGN: An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Posted by learntobead on November 7, 2019

JEWELRY DESIGN:  An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Jewelry design is an activity which occupies your time.

How the world understands what you do when you occupy that time, however, is in a state of flux and confusion.

Is what you are doing merely a hobby or avocation?    Is it something anyone can do, anytime they want, without much preparation and learning?

Is what you do an occupation?   Does it required learning specialized skills?   Is it something that involves your interaction with others?     Is it something you are payed to do?

Or is what you do a profession?    Is there a specialized body of knowledge, perspectives and values to learn and apply?    Do you provide a service to the public?    Do you need to learn and acquire certain insights which enable you to serve the needs of others?

Are you part of another occupation or profession, or have your own?     Is jewelry design merely a craft, where you make things by following sets of steps?

Is jewelry design an art, where your personal inspirations and artistic sense is employed to create things of aesthetic beauty for others to admire, as if they were sculptures?    Is the jewelry you create to be judged as something separate and apart from the person wearing it?

Or is jewelry design its own thing.    Is it a design activity where you learn specialized knowledge in how to integrate aesthetics and functionality, and where your success can only be judged at the boundary between jewelry and person – that is, only as the jewelry is worn?

The line of demarcation between occupation and profession is thin, often blurred, but for the jewelry designer, this distinction is very important.     It feeds into our sense of self and self-esteem.    It guides us in the choices we make to become better and better at our craft, art and trade.    It influences how we introduce our jewelry to the public, and how we influence the public to view, wear, exhibit, purchase or collect the things we make.

 

What does it mean to become a professional?

At the heart of this question is whether we are paid and rewarded solely for the number of jewelry pieces that we make, or for the skill, knowledge and intent underlying our jewelry designs.

If the former, we do not need much training.   Entry into the activity of jewelry design is very open, with a low bar.     Our responsibility is to turn out pieces of jewelry.     We do not encumber ourselves too much with art theory or design theory.

If the latter, we need a lot of specialized training and experience.    Entry into the activity of jewelry design is more controlled, most likely staged from novice to master.     Our responsibility it to translate our inspirations into aspirations into designs.    It is also to influence others viewing our work to be inspired to think about and reflect and emote those things which have excited the artist, as represented by the jewelry itself.    And it is also to enable others to find personal success and satisfaction when wearing or purchasing this piece of jewelry.

To become a professional jewelry designer is learn, apply and experience a way of thinking like a designer.     Fluent in terms about materials, techniques and technologies.   Flexible in the applications of techniques and the organizing of design elements into compositions which excite people.    Able to develop workable design strategies in unfamiliar or difficult situations.    Communicative about intent, desire, purpose,  no matter the context or situation within which the designer and his various audiences find themselves.   Original in how concepts are introduced, organized and manipulated.

The designs of artisans who make jewelry reflect and refract cultural norms, societal expectations, historical explanations and justifications, psychological precepts individuals apply to make sense of themselves within a larger setting.    As such, the jewelry designer has a major responsibility, both to the individual client, as well as to the larger social setting or society, to foster that the ability for the client to fulfill that hierarchy of needs, and to foster the coherency and rationality of the community-at-large.

All this can happen in a very small, narrow way, or a very large and profound way.    In either case, the professional roles of the jewelry designer remain the same.    Successfully learning how to play these roles – fluency, flexibility, communication, originality – becomes the basis for how the jewelry designer is judged and the extent of his recognition and success.

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BECOMING THE BEAD ARTIST AND JEWELRY DESIGNER: The Ongoing Tension Between Inspiration and Form

Posted by learntobead on November 7, 2019

BECOMING THE BEAD ARTIST AND JEWELRY DESIGNER:
The Ongoing Tension Between Inspiration and Form

As a jewelry designer, you have a purpose.  Your purpose is to figure out, untangle and solve, with each new piece of jewelry you make, how both you, as well as the wearer, will understand your inspirations and the design elements and forms you chose to express them.   Not as easy as it might first appear.

You will want the piece to be beautiful and appealing.    So you will be applying a lot of art theories about color, perspective, composition and the like.     You will quickly discover that much about color use and the use of lines and planes and shapes and so forth in art is very subjective.    People see things differently.    They may bring with them some biases to the situation.   Many of the physical materials you will use may not reflect or refract the color and other artistic effects more easily achieved with paints.

You want the piece to be durable.    So you will be applying a lot of theories and practices of architects and engineers.   You will need to intuitively and intrinsically understand what about your choices leads to the jewelry keeping its shape, and what about your choices allows the jewelry to move, drape and flow.    You also will be attentive to issues of physical mechanics, particularly how jewelry responds to forces of stress, strain and movement.

You want the piece to be satisfying and accepted by various wearing and viewing audiences.    So you will have some understanding of the role jewelry plays in different people’s lives.   Jewelry is more than some object to them; jewelry is something they inhabit —  reflective of soul, culture, status, aspiration.    You will recognize that people ascribe the qualities of the jewelry to the qualities of the person wearing it.    You will bring to the forefront ideas underlying psychology and anthropology and sociology, and even party planning, while designing your jewelry or introducing it publicly.

 

 

 

BECOMING THE BEAD ARTIST AND JEWELRY DESIGNER

Sometimes becoming a designer begins by touching some beads.   Or running a strand of pearls through your hand.   Or the sight of something perfectly worn around the wrist, upon the breast, or up near the neck.

Jewelry designers are extraordinarily blessed to do what they love for a living.   For many, they have turned a hobby into an avocation into a lifestyle.

But it’s not like a regular job.    There are many intangibles.    Such as, what exactly is creativity?    What are all the things that have to come together to recognize that creative spark when it hits you in your heart, groin or head, and how to translate that into something real, with beauty, with function, and with purpose?    How do you mesh your view of aesthetics and functionality with those of your many audiences – wearer, viewer, buyer, seller, collector, exhibiter, teacher and student?

What exactly does it mean to design jewelry, and how do you know it is the right path for you?    This is a tough question.    You may love jewelry, but not know how to make it.   You may get off on creative problem solving or be a color addict but not know what specific techniques and skills you need to learn, in what organized way, with what direction, leading you towards becoming that better jewelry designer.    You may feel the motivation, but not know what the jewelry designer really has to do each day.

You may be taking classes and getting some training, but how do you know when you have arrived?  How do you know when you have emerged as a successful professional jewelry designer?    And what are your responsibilities and obligations, once you get there?

 

 

THERE IS SO MUCH TO KNOW

There is so much to know, and so many types of choices to make.    Which clasp?  Which stringing material?  Which technique?   Which beads?   Which strategy of construction?    What aesthetic you want to achieve?   How you want to achieve it?    Drape, movement, context, durability?    How to organize and manage the design process?

And this is the essence of this book – a way to learn all the kinds of things you need to bring to bear, in order to create a wonderful and functional piece of jewelry.   When you are just beginning your beading or jewelry making avocation, or have been beading and making jewelry awhile – time spent with the material in these segments will be very useful.    You’ll learn the critical skills and ideas.  You’ll learn how these inter-relate.   And you’ll learn how to make better choices.

Everyone knows that anyone can put beads and other pieces together on a string and make a necklace. But can anyone make a necklace that draws attention? That evokes some kind of emotional response? That resonates with someone where they say, I want to wear that!? That wears well, drapes well, moves well as the person wearing it moves? That is durable, supportive and keeps its silhouette and shape? That doesn’t feel underdone or over done? That is appropriate for a given context, situation, culture or society?

True, anyone can put beads on a string. But that does not make them artists or designers. From artists and designers, we expect jewelry which is something more. More than parts. More than an assemblage of colors, shapes, lines, points and other design elements. More than simple arrangements of lights and darks, rounds and squares, longs and shorts. We expect to see the artist’s hand. We expect the jewelry to be impactful for the wearer.

We want to gauge how the designer grows within the craft, and takes on the challenges during their professional lives.    This involves an ongoing effort to merge voice with form.     Often this effort is challenging.   Sometimes paralyzing.    Always fulfilling and rewarding.

Jewelry design is a conversation.   The conversation in ongoing, perhaps never-ending.   The conversation is partly a reflection about process, refinement, questioning, translating feelings into form, impressions into arrangements; life influences into choice.    It touches on desire.   It reflects value and values.   Aesthetics matter.   Architecture and function matters.   Context and situation matter.

Jewelry focuses attention.    Inward for the artist.  Outward for the wearer and viewer.    In many directions socially and culturally.     Jewelry is a voice which must be expressed and heard, and hopefully, responded to.

At first that voice might not find that fit with its audience.   There is some back and forth in expression, as the jewelry is designed, refined, redesigned, and re-introduced publicly.   But jewelry, and its design, has great power.   It has the power to synthesize a great many voices and expectations into something exciting and resonant.

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BEAD & BUTTON SHOW REGISTRATION BEGINS 1/8/19

Posted by learntobead on January 7, 2019

BEAD AND BUTTON SHOW
June 2-9, 2019
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 
Registration opens at NOON CST on January 8th, 2019 http://www.beadandbuttonshow.com/store
 
 
Join jewelry designer Warren Feld, who will be teaching these three classes:
ETRUSCAN SQUARE STITCH BRACELET
JAPANESE GARDEN BRACELET
COLORBLOCK BRACELET

 

Posted in bead weaving, beads, beadwork, craft shows, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Stitch 'n Bitch, Travel Opportunities, Workshops, Classes, Exhibits | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

So You Want To Do Craft Shows… A Free Video Tutorial For You

Posted by learntobead on November 30, 2018


SO YOU WANT TO DO CRAFT SHOWS…

A Free Video Tutorial for You
by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer
Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads
www.landofodds.com

PREVIEW

View the full video tutorial online (1 hour and 45 minutes). Found on top of home page of Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads.

In this class, I discuss critical choices jewelry designers need to make when doing craft shows.  
That means, understanding everything involved, and asking the right questions.

Learn How To…
…Find, Evaluate and Select Craft Shows Right For You
…Set Realistic Goals
…Compute a Simple Break-Even Analysis
…Best to Develop Your Applications and Apply
…Understand How Much Inventory To Bring
…Best Promote and Operate Your Craft Show Business

Doing craft shows is a wonderful experience.  
You can make a lot of money. 
You meet new people. 
You have new adventures.  
And you learn a lot about business and arts and crafts designing.

 

 

Jewelry design is a life lived with wearable art.

My name is Warren Feld.
And I am here to share some of my life experiences and insights with you about beading and jewelry making.

In this class, I discuss critical choices jewelry designers need to make when doing craft shows.

It is very important for anyone thinking about selling at craft shows, festivals, markets or similar settings to be smart about it.
That means, understanding everything involved, and asking the right questions.

 

Many years ago, I started my business with my partner Jayden, by doing flea markets and craft shows. Eventually, our business evolved into one store, then a second store, and an online business. But you never forget your roots.

You can learn a lot of good business tricks and find out about a lot of good resources if,… And that’s a big, “IF”! you know what you are doing. All too often, jewelry designers who want to do craft shows, have not done their homework. They have not researched and evaluated which shows to do, and which not to do. They have not figured out how best to set up their booths and displays. They are clueless about what inventory to make, and to bring, and how to price it. They are unprepared to promote, to market and to sell.

I developed this online tutorial to help prepare you for doing this kind of craft show homework.

I discuss:
– What information you need to gather
– How to set personal and business goals
– How to find, evaluate and select craftshows
– How best to promote and operate your business at these craftshows

In fact, I go over 16 lessons I learned for successfully doing craftshows.

There are two groups of lessons.

First, I discuss lessons about finding and selecting craft shows, and determining how well your business will fit in.

In the second group of lessons, I discuss how to promote and operate your business at these craft shows.

Last, I offer some final advice.

At the end of the tutorial, I have a list of resources for you to explore in more detail.

You will find the full 1 hour and 45 minute tutorial
at the top of the Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads website.



And yes, One More Thing…

We are so Excited to offer an Awesome, fun Enrichment-Travel opportunity!

Find out more about our YOUR WORLD OF JEWELRY MAKING CRUISE!

Join us, Miami – Cozumel, Mexico – Key West, Florida, an unforgettable, 5-nights, February 29th thru March 5th, 2020

Jewelry Making Classes, Skills Development, Design Seminars, Fun Get-Togethers and Mixers
Unwind, Make New Friends, Learn New Skills

Sponsored by Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads, Be Well Travel, and Celebrity Cruise Lines

Posted in Art or Craft?, bead weaving, beads, beadwork, business of craft, craft shows, cruises, enrichment travel, jewelry collecting, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Resources, Stitch 'n Bitch, Travel Opportunities, Workshops, Classes, Exhibits | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I Will Be Teaching At Bead & Button This Year

Posted by learntobead on November 26, 2018

 

 

What’s New…What’s Happening

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BEAD AND BUTTON SHOW

June 2-9, 2019

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Since its humble origins during the 20th century’s final year, this annual event has swiftly transformed from small trade show to “the largest consumer bead show event in the world.” Hosted by Bead & Button Magazine, which is the crown jewel of Waukesha-based Kalmbach Publishing Company.

Hope you will be able to join us in Milwaukee to kick off your summer for great jewelry-making classes and shopping. Beads, metal, enamel, wire, polymer, gems, stones, fiber and more!

Classes are offered in a huge variety of techniques, skill levels and price points. The Expo had all the supplies and materials you need to make your own jewelry, plus so much unique finished jewelry directly from the artists.

 

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Join jewelry designer Warren Feld,
who will be teaching these three classes:

 

JAPANESE GARDEN BRACELET

Saturday, 6/8, 9am-Noon
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ETRUSCAN SQUARE STITCH BRACELET

Friday, 6/7,6-9pm
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COLORBLOCK BRACELET

Saturday, 6/8, 1-4pm
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Show Catalog (download .pdf file)

Online Browsing opens on December 11th, 2018

Registration opens at NOON CST on January 8th, 2019



 

Join our NASHVILLE BEADING AND JEWELRY DESIGN meetupLogo.png GROUP on line
to get announcements about our Wednesday afternoons
and once-a-month Saturday beading/jewelry making get-togethers.
No fees.


 


THE
JEWELRY DESIGN DISCUSSION GROUP

Please
join our group on facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/jewelrydesign/

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Land of Odds – Be Dazzled Beads

718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123

Nashville, TN 37204

PHONE: 615-292-0610

FAX: 615-460-7001

EMAIL: warren@bedazzledbeads.com

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Posted in Art or Craft?, bead weaving, beads, beadwork, design theory, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Stitch 'n Bitch, Travel Opportunities, Workshops, Classes, Exhibits | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

POINTS, LINES, PLANES, SHAPES, FORMS, THEMES: Creating Something Out Of Nothing

Posted by learntobead on July 20, 2018


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POINT, LINE, PLANE, SHAPE, FORM, THEME:
Creating Something Out Of Nothing
by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer

      
      

Abstract
The artist creates something out of nothing.   And the jewelry artist does the same, but also imposes this act on the person who wears the result, who in turn, decides whether to display or demonstrate its desirability and wearability, and all within a particular context or situation. So, we start with nothing into something.   That something takes up space.   That space might be filled with objects we call points, lines, planes, shapes, forms and themes.    With whatever that space is filled, and however these objects are organized, the space and its composition convey meaning and value, communicated not merely to the artist, but as importantly, to the wearer and viewer, as well.     As Design Elements, it is important to differentiate among the power of each of these objects to focus, anchor, direct, balance, move, expand, synergize, coordinate, conform, bound, connect, and violate.
 
 
 
 
POINT, LINE, PLANE, SHAPE, FORM, THEME:
Creating Something Out Of Nothing

 
The artist creates something out of nothing.

And the jewelry artist does the same, but also imposes this act on the person who wears the result, who in turn, decides whether to display or demonstrate its desirability and wearability, and all within a particular context or situation.
 
So, we start with nothing into something.
 
That something takes up space.
 
Space separates and connects us with things.     It is these arrangements and contrasts which allows us to find meaning, feel connected, recognize implications.   
 
That space might be filled with points, lines, planes, shapes, forms and themes.    We might add color, texture and pattern.
 
With whatever that space is filled and organized, the space and its composition convey meaning and value, not merely for the jewelry artist, but as importantly, for the wearer and viewer, as well.    Filling space with objects will always create a level of tension because any viewer will feel compelled to make sense of it all.   This is work.   This is risky – what if the person evaluates poorly or makes a mistake or shows bad judgement or is compelled to pretend to understand?    It’s always easier (and perhaps safer) for the person to turn and look away.   To reject the jewelry.   Not wear it.  Not buy it.
 
Jewelry designers do not want people to avoid their creations.   So, it is important to also anticipate what happens when more objects are added to the composition.    Further adding to and organizing and arranging these points, lines, planes, shapes, forms and themes into a design will exacerbate things even more, increasing the risk, but also the reward, for the viewer to maintain their stance, keep looking at it, and keep trying to figure out what it all means, and what it all means for him or her.
 
Meaning and value emerge from some type of this dialectic-type interaction, first between artist and self, and then between artist and client, often reflected in the selection of materials and choices about arrangements.   The meta-qualities and inspirations and aspirations underlying these decisions then transition into forms and themes.
 
This emergence is contextually bound by shared understandings about whether the piece should be judged as finished and successful.
 
The choices are infinite.  
 
 

Let’s begin to decode points, lines, planes, shapes, forms and themes.    The jewelry designer’s ability to learn about, manage and control space is perhaps the most critical skills to develop.
 
[1]Points, lines, planes, and shapes are independent design elements, and forms and themes are their dependent cousins.   Independent design elements function a little like vowels in the alphabet, and can stand alone and be expressive.  Dependent design elements function more like consonants, and typically require some combination with independent elements to have fully formed expressions.
 
Whatever their independence or dependence, these design elements are progressively interrelated.     As we move from point along the list to theme, we increase our power to express meaning, establish value, create tensions, and resonate.     As we use more than one of these elements – either more of the same element or combinations of different ones — within the same composition, we also are increasing our artistic and design control, power, and ability to show intent, establish meaning, and achieve a successful result.
 
These design elements discussed here are considered objects to the extent that they are things to be positioned and manipulated.    They are considered parts of structures to the extent that they are part of some organization or arrangement.   Both objects and structures express meaning and value, but structures moreso.
 
Themes are explanatory meanings resulting from the interpretation of forms.   They may be literal or abstract.   They may be symbolic and layered.   They may be culturally- or situationally-specific.
 
Forms are especially coherent combinations and arrangements of points, lines, planes and shapes.   They may be distinct or overlapping.    They may be fully formed or partially formed.   They reflect broader, deeper meanings and reflections – something considerably beyond the meanings of the component parts.
 
Shapes are bounded lines and planes, delimiting spatial units which convey much more meaning than their individual component lines and planes could ever suggest on their own.    Shapes function in 2- or 3-dimensions.  Shapes are interpretable, whether they are immediately or easily recognized, or not.
 
Planes are defined by the intersection of 2 lines, or the presence of 3 noncollinear (not on the same line) points, or 2 parallel lines, or a line and a point not on that line.   Planes suggest the ideas of existence, thought, and development.   Planes imply the possibilities for movement and dimension. 
 
Lines are defined as a series of points.  Lines imply the possibilities for boundaries, directions and movement.    They can be used to measure things.    They can demarcate that which is OK and sacred from that which is unacceptable or dangerous or profane.
 
Points change the nothingness of space into something-ness.   They can focus the attention.    Points are the simplest geometric elements which imply the possibilities for imposing individual intent, meaning and value on the universe.   The presence of two or more points can suggest relativity.
 
 
The jewelry designer cannot ignore any of this.   As design elements, points, lines, planes, shapes, forms and themes are an integral part of the jewelry artist’s tool box.    As elements within compositions, they are to be constructed or manipulated into principled arrangements we call jewelry.   They allow the artist to show his or her hand.   They are some of the major building blocks the artist uses to convey meaning and connectedness, show intent and inspire others.
 
As Design Elements, it is important to differentiate among the power of each of these elements to…

(1) Focus the eye
(2) Anchor or establish some kind of predominance or hierarchy within a composition
(3) Direct the eye
(4) Establish balance, order, and a satisfying distribution of proportions and sizes, or their opposite
(5) Give a sense of movement and flow
(6) Give a sense of dimension
(7) Synergize or marry the relationship between positive and negative space
(8) Establish a sense of coherence, coordination, sameness, unity, difference, and/or variety, or some grouping rules for elements
(9) Conform to the shape of the body
(10) Establish a silhouette or personal identity
(11) Connect to a time frame, context, or situation
(12) Conform to or violate shared expectations about good design
 
As used with Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation, it is important to understand how each of these elements can enhance or impede the artist’s ability to arrange objects to achieve a finished and successful piece of jewelry.    Each can support or detract from a compelling arrangement.   
 
The designer does not have to use all of these elements.    But the designer does need to know what each can and cannot be used to do.    The designer must develop that intuitive and fluent knowledge how each of these elements function.    The goal of jewelry design is to communicate.   Communicate the artist’s inspirations and aspirations.  Communicate the choices made to turn aspirations into concrete products.    Communicate the self-identifying relevance of jewelry pieces to the wearers.    Communicate the socio-cultural relevance of jewelry pieces both wearers and viewers.
 
Finally, each element should be used parsimoniously (that is, that Goldilocks point of just right), to attain a level of resonance.    Our jewelry, at the minimum, should evoke an emotion, and more importantly, go a little beyond this and resonate.

 
POINTS

In math, the point exists but has no mass.     However, for this and our other design elements discussed in this article, we use a looser definition in art and design.    The point is the simplest geometrically based design element the artist can use to create something out of nothing and draw someone’s attention to a piece.    The point can be very small, or medium or large.   It can be a simple circle, or a blob, or a square, or anything that might get interpreted as a point.
 

   

 

 

 
 
The point is the building block for everything else.     Every mark we can make will be a combination of one or more points.   Every line, plane, shape or form is essentially a point, regardless of its size.
 
Most importantly, the point calls one’s attention to a place where no attention was called for or placed before.   They create a reference point.    With 2 or more points, that reference point builds up much more meaning.   It shows relativity in a relationship.   It suggests distance and direction.    It can suggest layering or dimension – think two over-lapping points.  

 

 

 
Relationships between and among points pose two especially important meanings.    One, the relationship that emerges about proportions of the point(s) to the space around it.    Two, the relationship that emerges about the position of the point(s) within the space around it.     Proportions and positioning.   
 
 
Jewelry Applications/Decoding Points

 


A continuous series of points

Points directing your attention

Points which convey distance and relativity

A Point which steers your eye to the upper right, partly due to proportion and placement

 
           
The jewelry designer usually starts with a collection of different kinds of points with some determination and a lot of experimentation to arrange them in some pleasing way.    Some points might be various round beads.   They might be beads of different shapes.    They might be a clustering of beads into some shape or form.    They might be a fully formed component.
 
The artist thinks about the distribution and balance of points.   Sizes,  relative sizes, shapes and variety of shapes are pondered over.   Then points are placed, usually, with jewelry, in some kind of circle or silhouette.  Their placement may establish a sense of balance, such as symmetry.    Their placement might create a rhythm, either fast or slow. 
 
The artist determines where any emphasis should go.    Often the artist uses a pendant drop, some variation in proportion, or some color placement effect to call a viewer’s attention to a certain part of the jewelry.   These function as points.
 
The artist determines how emphasis, size, proportionate relationships and placement affect how the piece will be interpreted and decoded by others.   In what way(s) does the point influence the space around it?  Should attention be focused or directed?   What kind of rhythm should be established?  Should a feeling of closeness, apartness, integration or skew be created?   Have the dots contributed to a sense of symmetry or asymmetry?   Do the points lose their “point-ness” and suddenly get perceived as a lines or shapes, when they move closer together?
 
The artist decides the number of points to be used, and decides their parsimonious selection and placement.    That is, the artist decides when enough points are enough.      Using more than one point adds a level of tension to the piece.   There is a competition for space and how position and proportion will affect interpretation of the artist’s intent, whether the piece feels finished, and whether the piece is seen as successful.
 
Overlapping points create a figure/ground perspective.    They change the nature of the space and the person’s interaction with it.   They add depth.    Overlapping points might get re-translated into a new point, or into a new shape.
 
 
 
 
LINES

Lines are defined by the connections between 2 or more points.     Lines have length and width.     They connect, they divide, they direct.     The points along the line can attract or repel each other.    They can emote strength, weakness, or harmony.    They can excite, muddle or confuse.    They can be actual or implied.    
 
Where points are about emphasis, lines are mostly about direction and movement.    A line is not attracting you to a point in space, but rather, it is directing you.    Lines prevent the viewer from getting stuck staring at one point in your jewelry composition.    They encourage the viewer to move around and take into account the whole piece.  
 

Lines both separate and join things.    They establish a silhouette.    They demarcate boundaries.    They signal a beginning and an end, or travel in one or both directions all the way out to infinity, and perhaps beyond.   Lines can violate boundaries, or establish walls around something.  
 
 

They can curve and curve around things.   A line which curves around and connects its beginning to its end becomes a circle.    If the line delineating the circle becomes too thick and fills all the negative space, it becomes a point.    If the curving line does not meet itself, beginning to end, it becomes a spiral.    A curved line usually conveys a different sense of beauty and romance than a straight line.
 

As lines become thicker, they begin to take on the characteristics of planes.   To maintain their identity and integrity as lines, they must always be longer than they are wide.     Changing the ratio of the length to the width has the greatest impact on how any line will be perceived and understood.
 
 

As lines become thinner, they more and more emphasize the quality of direction.   As both endpoints of lines seem to extend towards infinity, they emphasize movement.   If one endpoint is fixed, while the other endpoint is allowed to extend towards infinity, more tension is perceived as the space around the line is interpreted by the viewer.
 
Two or more lines together create a measure of things.   People try to make sense of each line, sometimes in combination, but often as individual segments.     The interval space between the lines becomes critical in this endeavor.
 


 
Eloquence, by Warren Feld, 2018, jasper, jade, Japanese seed beads
 
Here we have a 7-strand necklace.   Look at the use of points, lines, planes and shapes.   Look at the interval
spaces between each strand.

 
 
When two lines converge, they create an angle between them.    This joint or connecting point becomes the nexus for things moving in two different or altering directions.   The angle and juxtapositions of multiple angles can establish a rhythm.    Angles smaller than 90 degrees generate perceptions of more rapid movement than angles larger than 90 degrees.
 
When two lines are separated, they often are perceived separately, each with its own identify.    Think of the single vs. the multiple strand necklace or bracelet.    The interval between the lines becomes a critical part of the story ascribed to each line separately.    It is important how that interval’s negative space is filled up or left empty.  It is important how wide that interval is between each pair of lines.   Pieces with narrower interval spaces have more tension resulting from how the lines are perceived and thought about.
 
The width of interval spaces between lines creates rhythm.    The use of color can further enhance (or impede) this perception of rhythm within a piece of jewelry.    Varying the intensity and values of the lines can create dimensionality, where some lines appear to advance and others appear to recede.     
 
Thicker lines placed close together can change the gestalt, where the viewer’s attention shifts from the original lines to the negative interval spaces, now seen as the lines.
 
 
 
 
Jewelry Applications/Decoding Lines

 


Parallel lines

Curved lines

Directional lines

Circular lines

 
 
Lines are design elements used to compose, construct and manipulate beads and other pieces into jewelry.    They assist the artist in translating inspiration into aspiration, establishing intent, and securing shared understandings about whether the piece is finished and how successful that piece should be judged.
 
We’ve learned that the control over line includes choices about thinness or thickness, finite or infinite, continuous or sporadic, integrated or disjointed, connected or not, and spacing between intervals.     The presence of more than one line, and the chosen attributes of each line, adds more meaning, more complexity, and more opportunity for the jewelry artist to play with materials, techniques and designs.
 
The tensions underlying points get assessed and managed differently by the jewelry artist than those underlying lines.   While the point is more about attracting your eye, the line is more about directing it.    Points emphasize and focus and anchor.   Lines add movement and flow.    Points lead us to ideas about balance and predominance.   Lines lead us to ideas about alignment, coordination, closeness, grouping.     Lines add additional measures of meaning, such as those associated with violation, conformance, span of control, silhouette, dimensionality, boundaries and framing and walls.
 
 
 
PLANES
 

 
Planes are used to encompass a space.    Planes suggest unity.    Planes provide reference and boundaries and direction.    They suggest dimension and movement.   As such, the use of planes often makes it easier for the viewer to find and interpret meaning of all the other design elements found within or outside that plane.   
 
Because of this, establishing planar relationships among design elements can also lead to a measured sense of history and time and timeliness.    They can lead to more concrete understandings of context and situation within which the other design elements present themselves, and seek to affect.
 
Planes are created in different ways.   These include,
(a) Two intersecting lines
(b) A line and a point not on that line
(c) Three points, one of which is not on the same linear path as the other two
(d) Two parallel lines
 
Planes are not restricted to a single point of view.      They allow widespread placement and fragmentation.    
 
Planes may overlap.  They may be parallel.   They may intersect.    They may be flat or curved.     Their boundaries may be linear or nonlinear.    They may have clearly defined or diffuse boundaries.    They may be warped and pulled in different directions.
 
Just as lines can be thought of as an accumulation of points, planes can be thought of as an accumulation of lines.
 
As a plane becomes larger, it sometimes takes on the characteristics of a point.    If it takes on the characteristics of a point, then its contour takes on more critical importance, diminishing the point-like characteristics, and increasing those of shape-like attributes.
 
 

For jewelry designers, planes can be seen to have surfaces.   Textures and patterns may be added to these surfaces.     Textures involve the placement of 2 or more design elements within the same space and which are seen to somehow relate to one another.   Textures have visual impacts.   When this structural relationship among textural objects seems to have some order or regularity to it, we refer to the texture as a pattern.
 
Textures and patterns may be 2- or 3-dimensional.      They may be regular, predictable and statistical.   Or they may seem random and non-statistical.    They may be repeated or singular.    They may be both visual and tactile.    We may see textures and patterns which are layered or not, or smooth or rough.
 
 
 
 
Jewelry Applications/Decoding Planes

 


Simple planes

Multiple planes


 
 
Intersecting planes

 
 
Overlapping planes

 
 
For the jewelry artist, planes can become both a help and a hinderance.    They can aid the designer in establishing a coherent point of view.   But they can get away from the designer, and allow incoherence and irrelevance to slip into the composition.  
 
 
 
 

 
SHAPES
 

 
When we come to focus on the outer contours of a plane, we begin to recognize this design element as something we call a shape.
 
Shapes are areas in 2- or 3-dimensions which have defined or implied boundaries.    They are somehow separated from the space surrounding them.     Shapes may be delineated by lines.  They may be filled or emptied. They may be formed by differences in color values and intensities.   They may be formed by patterns and textures.   They suggest both mass and volume.
 
Shapes may be organic or mechanical.   They may relate to the background, foreground or middle ground.    They may be geometrical (regular, predictable contours) or organic, distorted or overlapping, blended or distinct or abstract.
 
Shapes may be interrelated by angle, sometimes forcing a sense of movement and rotation.
 
More than one shape in a particular space may make one shape appear more active or more important or more prominent.   This may change the perception of what that shape is about, particularly when shapes overlap.     Secondary shapes may seem more point-like or line-like in relation to the primary shape.   
 
When we recognize something as a shape, we begin to try to impose meaning on it.   Shapes provide orientation.    They are very powerful connectors between viewer and object.   They may take on attribute qualities, such as masculine or feminine.
 
Shapes have meaning in and of themselves, and are not dependent on the human body for their expressive qualities and powers.     When dependent on the human body, they become forms, rather than shapes.
 
 
 
 
 
Jewelry Applications/Decoding Shapes
 


Repeated butterfly shapes with clear boundaries

Implied butterfly shapes and no boundaries

 
Jewelry artists need to be able to relate the shape to the message they hope the shape will convey.   The shape should reconfirm, rather than obscure, that message.
 
Part of successfully working with shapes is controlling whether the boundaries are distinct, blurred or implied.     Another important part is controlling how the interior space is depicted – such as, left empty and negative, shaded, colored, textured, either partially or fully, densely or not.      A last important part is whether the shape represents a 2-dimensional or a 3-dimensional space.
 
 
 
 
 
 
FORMS

 
 
Form is any positive element in a composition.    It may be related to points, lines, planes and shapes.   
 
A form cannot be decoded and understood without referencing the space around it.    A viewer must be able to understand and impose some meaning on the relationship between the form and the space it occupies.   A viewer must be able to differentiate the form or figure from the space or ground.    The artist cannot change the form without concurrently changing the space, thus how things get interpreted and related to.   The tension established between form and space determines the extent, time, and motivation of the viewer to interact with that form, and find it satisfying or not.
 
With jewelry, forms are primarily actualized as they relate to and are worn on the body.   They convey and solidify the expressive relationships among design elements, person and context.     Jewelry forms are not merely structures with wearability.   They are expressive design elements which resonate their expressive purpose and power as they are juxtaposed and positioned against the curvilinearity the human body.   
 
Form tends to be similar to shapes, but more 3D in reality or implied by illusion.    Form can be delineated by light and shadow on it’s surface, whether actual or illusory.
 
 
 
Jewelry Applications/Decoding Forms
 


Forms supercede their constituent point, line and shape elements

 
For the jewelry artist, she or he must determine where the point, line, shape and plane end, and where the form begins.    This means developing the decoding and fluency skills which can delineate and anticipate what happens to the expressive powers of the jewelry when the piece is worn.
 
The choice of form becomes a primary consideration in communicating the artist’s message and intent.
 
The artist must manage the tensions between form and space, foreground (advancing) and background (receding), object (design element) and structure (arrangement).
 
Forms can have magnetic powers, stickiness, and synergy.    Forms can pull your eye in certain directions, or multiply, add, subtract or divide meaning and value, based on positioning, mass and volume.     Forms can provide additional control over balance and movement felt within a piece.  
 
 
 
 
 
THEMES


 
Themes are ideas which are conveyed by the visual, tactile and contextual experience with the piece of jewelry.   Most often themes are implied, rather than explicit.   They relate the jewelry to the mind, and cannot be understood apart from the individual or group culture in which the jewelry is worn.
 
Themes are forms which reference, or can be interpreted to have reference, or inflect in some way some reference to individual, group, cultural, societal or universal norms, values and expectations.  
 
Themes infuse or imply power, position, protection, or identification.    They may be clear or abstract.    They may be repeated or not.   They may result from interpretations of individual forms, or whole compositions.     They may be obvious or they may be symbolic.
 
 
 
 
  
 
Jewelry Applications/Decoding Themes
 


Thematic use of forms

 
Well developed themes enhance excitement, interest and investigation.    They increase the chances the artist’s design will achieve a level of resonance.   
 
 
 
 
In Summary
 
Points, Lines, Planes, Shapes, Forms, and Themes are objects used to turn nothingness into something.
 
That something holds meaning, asserts meaning and expresses meaning.   
 
Points anchor.
Lines direct.
Planes encompass.
Shapes orient.
Forms provide referents.
Themes connect ideas.
 
Meaning is dialectic, in that how it is ultimately received and interpreted results partly from the fluency of the jewelry designer to use these objects (and other design elements, as well) to translate inspiration into aspiration and aspiration into a finished result, and partly from the various audiences of the designer and their shared understandings about what it means to be finished and what it means to be successful.
 
Arranging these objects into some organized composition provides a structure for them.    Both the objects themselves, and the structures they are arranged and embedded in, convey expressive meanings.    As these meanings get expressed within shapes, forms and these, their complexity, tensions and implications become deeper and more resonant.
 
At some point in the design process, points, lines, planes and shapes take on the characteristics of forms and themes.    That is, the jewelry is no longer decoded as a set of individual parts.    Decoding jewelry becomes more contingent on how the jewelry relates to the body (forms) and how the jewelry relates to the individual or group culture within which it is worn (themes).   The whole of the composition takes on meaning and value beyond that of the sum of its parts.
 
 
 
So, take a moment.   Grab a pen and blank piece of paper.      Draw a dot.
 
You are now an artist.
Draw a series of dots, lines, planes and shapes in the form of a necklace.
 
You are now an artist with an interest in jewelry.
 
Jot down some ideas how you would build upon your initial sketch and develop forms and themes.    You might re-interpret what you drew as a series of components.   You might select other design elements – particularly Color – to better define the forms and establish a them.
 
You are now a jewelry artist.
 
Think about how your developing piece of jewelry reflects your personal inspirations and intent.    Anticipate how others will view your piece of jewelry and judge it as finished and successful.    Think about clues you can look for to reconfirm to yourself that your jewelry has degree of resonance  — that others will not just appreciate it, but want to wear it.
 
You are now a jewelry designer.
 
 
 

 

 
 

_________________________________________________________
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.
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FOOTNOTES
 
[1]Bradley, Steven, Points, Dots, And Lines: The Elements of Design Part II, Web Design, 7/12/2010.    This article incorporates many ideas from this article.
as seen on https://vanseodesign.com/web-design/points-dots-lines/


Copyright © 2018 FELD, LearnToBead.net

Posted in Art or Craft?, art theory, design management, design theory, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Goal-Oriented Designer: The Path To Resonance

Posted by learntobead on May 18, 2018

THE GOAL-ORIENTED DESIGNER:

The Path To Resonance

by Warren Feld, Designer

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“Vestment”, Warren Feld, 2004, Miyuki cubes, seed beads and delicas, Austrian crystals, with 14KT, gold filled, sterling silver, and antiqued copper chain, clasps and other findings, lampwork bead by Lori Greenberg

Abstract:

Jewelry Designers want to be successful.     But things can get a little muddled when thinking about how to get there.    Our teachers, our friends, our colleagues often disagree on this point, and tell us to look for conflicting measures of success.  We can often lose sight of what we want to end up with.    The Goal-Oriented Jewelry Designer has but one guiding star: To achieve Resonance.   Everything else is secondary.   We achieve Resonance by gaining a comfort in communicating about design.   This comfort, or disciplinary fluency, translates into all our composing, constructing and manipulating choices.    This is empowering.   Our pieces resonate.  We achieve success.

THE GOAL-ORIENTED DESIGNER:

The Path To Resonance

Jewelry Designers want to be successful.   

But things can get a little muddled when thinking about how to get there.    Where should they start?   What should they learn first?  What materials should they accumulate?   What techniques should they start with?   Should they focus on the process of designing jewelry?   Or moreso on making jewelry?   Or still yet, on achieving certain target measures, such as numbers of pieces made, or numbers of sales, or numbers of venues in which their jewelry is sold?    Are there qualitative things which are important to accumulate, such as self-satisfaction or customer-satisfaction?    Or style?  Or recognition?   Acceptance?   Understanding?

Our teachers, our friends, our colleagues often disagree on how to get there, and tell us to look for“Vestment”, Warren Feld, 2004, Miyuki cubes, seed beads and delicas, Austrian crystals, with 14KT, gold filled, sterling silver, and antiqued copper chain, clasps and other findings, lampwork bead by Lori Greenberg

Abstract:

Jewelry Designers want to be successful.     But things can get a little muddled when thinking about how to get there.    Our teachers, our friends, our colleagues often disagree on this point, and tell us to look for conflicting measures of success.  We can often lose sight of what we want to end up with.    The Goal-Oriented Jewelry Designer has but one guiding star: To achieve Resonance.   Everything else is secondary.   We achieve Resonance by gaining a comfort in communicating about design.   This comfort, or disciplinary fluency, translates into all our composing, constructing and manipulating choices.    This is empowering.   Our pieces resonate.  We achieve success.

THE GOAL-ORIENTED DESIGNER: 

The Path To Resonance

Jewelry Designers want to be successful.   

But things can get a little muddled when thinking about how to get there.    Where should they start?   What should they learn first?  What materials should they accumulate?   What techniques should they start with?   Should they focus on the process of designing jewelry?   Or moreso on making jewelry?   Or still yet, on achieving certain target measures, such as numbers of pieces made, or numbers of sales, or numbers of venues in which their jewelry is sold?    Are there qualitative things which are important to accumulate, such as self-satisfaction or customer-satisfaction?    Or style?  Or recognition?   Acceptance?   Understanding?

Our teachers, our friends, our colleagues often disagree on how to get there, and tell us to look for, what turn out to be in effect, conflicting measures of success.  We can often lose sight of what we want to end up with.    We get a lot of contradictory advice.   How should we organize our creative work and our time?  How should we select materials and techniques?   How do we know when our piece is finished?  How should we anticipate our client’s desires?   How should we showcase our jewelry?  How should we be judged and evaluated?   We need to perform, we want to perform authentically, but how – how should we perform as a jewelry designer?   The search for answers can be very frustrating, confusing, even demoralizing.

But it shouldn’t be.    Every jewelry designer should have but one guiding star – Resonance.    If our jewelry does not have some degree of resonance, we keep working on it.   If the process of creative exploration and design does not lead us in the direction of resonance, we change it.    If the results we achieve – numbers of pieces made and numbers of pieces sold – is not synced tightly with resonance, we cannot call ourselves designers.

The Goal-Oriented Jewelry Designer specifies those goals about performance which will lead to one primary outcome:  To achieve Resonance.   Everything else is secondary.   Design elements are selected and applied with that idea of Resonance in mind.    Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation are applied with that idea of Resonance in mind, with extra special attention paid to the Principle of Parsimony – knowing when enough is enough.

People may approach the performance tasks in varied ways.   For some this means getting very detailed on pathways, activities, and objectives.  For others, they let the process of design emerge and see where it takes them.   Whatever approach they take in their creative process, for all designers, a focus on one outcome – Resonance – frees them up to think through design without encumbrance.

This singular focus becomes a framework within which to question everything and try to make sense of everything.    Make sense of what the materials and techniques can allow them to do, and what they cannot.   Make sense of what understandings other people – clients, sellers, buyers, students, colleagues, teachers – will bring to the situation, when exploring and evaluating their work.     Make sense of why some things inspire you, and other things do not.   Make sense of why you are a jewelry designer designing jewelry.     Make sense of the fluency of your artistic expression, what works, how it works, why it works.

We achieve Resonance by gaining a comfort and ease in communicating about design.    This comfort and ease, or disciplinary fluency, has to do with how we translate our inspirations and aspirations into all our compositional, constructive and manipulative choices.    It is empowering.   Our pieces resonate.  We achieve success.

Resonance, communication, success, fluency – these are all words that stand in place for an intimacy between the designer and the materials, the designer and the techniques, the designer and inspiration.     They reflect the designer’s aspirations.   They reflect the shared understandings of everyone the designer’s jewelry is expected to touch.   They reflect the designer’s managerial prowess in bringing all these things together.

Resonance and disciplinary fluency result from a well-managed jewelry design process [3].  This process of creativity involves artist, audience and context.   It is very interactional.   Transactional.  Integrative.   Contingent.

For the artist, this process functions on several, coordinated levels, including…

  1. Contemplation
  2. Inspiration
  3. Aspiration
  4. Anticipation
  5. Specification
  6. Application
  7. Fluency and Empowerment

CONTEMPLATION: An Intimacy with Materials and Techniques

Contemplation is a mystical theology.   

Beads have a mystique to them.   You stare at a bead, and, ask what it is. You put some thread on a needle, then the bead on the needle, and ask what to do. You stitch a few beads together, and wonder what will become of this. You create a necklace, and, ask how it will be worn. And you stare at each bead again, and, think where do all these feelings welling up within you come from – curiosity, beauty, peace and calm, reflection, satisfaction, magic, appeal, a sensuousness and sexuality. Your brain and eye enter into this fantastic dance, a fugue of focusing, refocusing, gauging and re-gauging light, color, shadow, a shadow’s shadow, harmony, and discord.

You don’t just bead and make jewelry.   There’s a lot involved here.

You have to buy (or fabricate) beads and findings and stringing materials, organize them, buy some extra parts, think about them, create with them, live with some failed creations, and go from there. If there wasn’t something special about how our materials translate light into color, shade and shadow, then jewelry making would simply be work. But it’s not.

You have to put one piece next to another…and then another. And when you put two beads next to each other, or one on top of the other, you’re doing God’s work. There’s nothing as spectacular as painting and sculpting with light.

This bead before you — why is it so enticing? Why do you beg it to let you be addicted? An object with a hole. How ridiculous its power. Some curving, some faceting, some coloration, some crevicing or texturing, some shadow, some bending of light. That’s all it is. Yet you’re drawn to it in a slap-silly sort of way.

When you arrange many beads, the excitement explodes geometrically within your being. Two beads together are so much more than one. Four beads so much more than two. A hundred beads so much more than twenty-five times four. The pleasure is uncontainable. You feel so powerful. Creative. You can make more of what you have than with what you started.

You need to select a method or strategy for arranging your beads.   There are so many choices.    Your organization should be appealing.   It must enhance the power the bead has for you, then transcend as a power the bead has for others.    It must be architecturally correct because this architecture determines the wear, drape and flow where the jewelry meets the person at the boundary between bead and body.

And this assembling — another gift. String through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align. So meditative. Calming. How could beads be so stress-relieving, other-worldly-visiting, and creative-exciting at the same time?

Contemplation. To contemplate the bead is to enter the deep reaches of your mind where emotion is one with geometry, and geometry is one with art, and art is one with physics, and beads are one with self.

Designing jewelry is an authentic performance task.    This involves a profound intimacy with the materials (and techniques) the artist relies on.   This intimacy means understanding how to select them, how to leverage their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, and how to manage their ability to enhance or impede resonance.

INSPIRATION:   Becoming One with What Inspires You

Inspirations are sacred revelations you want to share through art and design.

The word inspiration comes from the Latin roots meaning “to breathe into.”   But  before you can breathe your inspiration into your jewelry, you need to become one with it.

There are these wonderfully exciting, sensually terrific, incredibly fulfilling things that you find as you try to imagine the jewelry you will create.   They come from many sources:   ideas, nature, images, people, behaviors.   They might be realistic or abstract.   They may be the particular color or pattern or texture or the way the light hits it and casts a shadow.   They may be a need for order over chaos.  They may be points of view.   They may flow from some inner imagination.

For some reason, these inspirations take on a divine, sacred revelation for you – so meaningful that you want to incorporate them somehow into what you do.   A fire in your soul.   You want to translate these inspirations into colors, shapes, lines, patterns and textures.   You want to impose an organization on them.    You want to recapture their energy and power they have had over you.   You feel compelled to bring these feelings into ideas.

There are many challenges to inspiration.    That which we call “inspiring” can often be somewhat fuzzy.   It might be a feeling.  It might be a piece of an idea, or a small spot on an image.   You might feel inspired, but, cannot put the What or the Why into words or images.    On the surface, it may seem important to you, but unimportant to others.   You the artist may not feel in control of the inspiration in that it seems like it is something that is evoked, not necessarily directed, by you.

When inspired, artists perceive new possibilities that transcend that which is ordinary around them.   Too often, the artist feels passive in this process.    This transcendence does not feel like a willfully generated idea.    However, it needs to be.  The successful artist – one who eventually can achieve a level of resonance – is one who is not only inspired by, but also inspired to.    This all requires a great deal of metacognitive self-awareness.   The artist must be able to perceive the intrinsic value of the inspiring object, and how to extend this value in design, where the piece of jewelry becomes its expression.

Inspiration is motivating.  Inspiration is not the source of creativity; creativity does not come from it.   Inspiration, instead, should be viewed as a motivational response to creativity.   It motivates the artist, through jewelry and its design,  to connect this inspiration with others.   It serves as a mediator between the self and the anticipated shared understandings of others.    The jewelry encapsulates the artist’s ability to make this connection.    When the connection is well-made, resonance follows.

But finding inspirations is not only personal, but more importantly, it is an effort to influence others.    It is an act of translating the emotions which resonate in you into some object of art which, in turn, will inspire and resonate with others.     How does the inspiration occur to you, and how do you anticipate how this inspiration might occur to others?

Too often we lose sight of the importance of inspiration to the authentic performance task of creating jewelry.   We operate with the belief that anyone can be inspired by anything.   There’s nothing more to it.   Moreover, inspiration gets downplayed when put next to the discussion of the effort of making jewelry itself.    But it should not.   Inspiration is not less important than perspiration.   It plays an equal role in the creative process.   The artist’s clarity about why something is inspiring, and why this inspiration motivates the artist to respond, will be critical for achieving success, that is resonance.

ASPIRATION: Translating Creativity into A Technical Product Design

Aspiration motivates the artist to actualize inspiration.  

Aspiration is where the artist translates inspiration into a completed product design.   The artist begins to control and regulate what happens next.    This involves selecting Design Elements[1] and clustering them to formulate meaningful expressions.    The artist then applies Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation[2] for organizing and arranging things into a more complete whole with more elaborated expressions.    The greater value the artist places on resonance, the stronger the aspiration will be to achieve it.

Aspiration is future-oriented.    It requires a stick-to-it-ness.   The artist must be sufficiently motivated to invest the time, energy and money into designing and making the jewelry that will not necessarily be finished, displayed or sold right away.   It may require some additional learning and skills-development time.   The artist may need to find a level of creativity within, and discover the kinds of skills, techniques and insights necessary for bringing this creativity to the aspired task at hand.

Aspiration requires the calculus:  Is it worth it?    It adds a level of risk to the project.    It forces the artist to pay attention to the world around her or him.    This world presents dynamic clues – what I discuss below as shared understandings – about opportunities, constraints, risks, contingencies, consequences, strategies and goals, and likely successes.

For some artists, motivation primarily is seen as instinctual.    Think of seat-of-the-pants.   Emergent, not controlled.   A search for harmony, balance, rhythm, unity as something that feels right and looks right and seems right with the universe.    Expressive, yes.  Imaginative, yes.   But not necessarily resonant.

Achieving resonance, however, is, for the most part, more than instinctual.  It has some deliberate quality to it.   It is communicative.  It requires a purposeful act on the part of the artist.    It is a different type of motivation — intentional.   The artist might want to convey a specific emotion.   Or advocate for some change.  Or illustrate a point of view.    The artist may want to entertain or teach.   Heal.  Attract mates.  Propagandize.     Where a jewelry’s design is not reflective of an artist’s intent, there can be no resonance.

ANTICIPATION: Shared Understandings[4]

Shared understandings dictate opportunities, contingencies and constraints.

The question of whether the audience correctly infers the presence of the artist’s inspiration, and the sense of how the artist’s hand comes into play within the design, remains.   The answer revolves around a dynamic interaction between artist and audience, as they anticipate understandings they share, and ones they do not.

Shared understandings should be enduring, transferable, big ideas at the heart of what we think of as good jewelry design.   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 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 good jewelry design, 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 good jewelry design, 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 good jewelry design 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 good jewelry design.   The designer must dispassionately anticipate these various perspectives about 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 good jewelry design.

How the jewelry designer begins the process of creating a piece of jewelry is very revealing about the potential for success, and ultimately achieving a level of resonance.    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[5].    The designer starts with questions about assessment, and then allows this understanding to influence all other choices going forward.

Some essential shared understandings for good jewelry design, I would posit, might include the following:

  1. Every designer has some creative ability, but may need to learn concepts and techniques and ways to apply them
  2. Some understandings are universal and objective, particularly in reference to the selection, clustering and application of various Design Elements, such as color, shape, movement and dimension.
  3. Other understandings are both objective and subjective.     There is universal acceptance of what various organization and arrangement schemes — Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation – might be applied by the artist.   However, how they are actually applied, and how satisfying that is to various audiences, is very personal and subjective.
  4. The strengths and limitations of various materials or techniques should be respected, maximizing the strengths and minimizing the limitations 
  5. Jewelry should communicate and reflect the artist’s intent
  6. Jewelry should affirm the wearer’s purpose and identity in context
  7. Jewelry can only be considered as art, as it is worn
  8. We know the jewelry is finished and successful when the choices made and the tradeoffs among appeal, function, and context are implemented to the point we see parsimony and resonance.

SPECIFICATION:  Goal-Orientation

It’s not just what you do…it’s how you get there.

Jewelry designers are too quick to focus on the outcome, and too lax to focus on the process.    It’s always things like getting it done.   Getting it to the client on deadline.   Ending up with something concrete to show someone.   Too much concentration on outcome can lead to taking shortcuts.   Shortsightedness.  Inflexibility.  A misunderstanding, perhaps illusion about, whether the piece is finished and successful.

Artists more appropriately should focus on goals.   Artists who are focused on goals tend to embrace process.   It’s about all the smart choices regarding composition, construction and manipulation you made at each increment along the way.     By specifying goals, the artist is encouraged to find connections, and be connected to and aware of shared understandings and their impact on perceived success.   When problems arise, a goal-oriented focus allows the artist to be flexible and problem solve.   The artist is present from contemplation to inspiration and through to aspiration, anticipation, specification and application.   The goal-orientation prevents the artist from becoming lost or paralyzed with inaction.

The jewelry artist pursues several goals at once.    The jewelry should be both appealing and functional.   It should evoke emotion, elicit response, and resonate.   The piece should show both unity and variety.   The piece should create opinions, validate status, and reconfirm a cultural and social identify.   The piece should be reflective and communicative.    It should be pleasurable to the maker, the wearer and the viewer alike.

When specifying goals, it is important to remember that not all goals are alike.    The goals I am discussing here are the essential elements related to effective performance.   That effective performance results in a finished and successful piece of jewelry reflective of the artist’s hand and which resonates among a varied set of audiences.

The artist needs to set goals which clarify what results need to be accomplished by the time any piece of jewelry is finished and showcased.   Goals provide perspective.   They are there to prevent the artist from achieving anything less than resonance.   These goals relate to generating deep understandings and competence at performance.     They are not results-specific per se; they are overarching.    They serve as sign-posts to point to and highlight what jewelry designers need to engage with when thinking through and implementing design.

The jewelry designer specifies goals as standards of professional performance, such as…

  • Leveraging the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses of desired materials and techniques
  • Discussing and reflecting upon inspirations and motivations toward the expression of the creative self
  • Defining aspirational intent, point of view, and what it means to connect to various audiences
  • Delineating shared understandings among self, wearer, viewer, student, master, buyer and seller, in relationship to how the jewelry will be observed and assessed and worn within a context
  • Elaborating on all artistic and architectural elements and principles which should come into play, and why
  • Reflecting on personal learning throughout the process, particularly as it relates to developing and expanding on skills related to fluency in design
  • Determining how skills, insights and lessons learned from the current project might be transferred to your next one

Within each generalized performance goal, the designer can further identify particular tasks, knowledges and skills required in order to accomplish them.    Often, with too many choices about what to do, what to include, and how to proceed, priorities and timeframes will need to be set, as well.

Resonance is more easily achieved when the designer approaches design as a process, an understanding of the myriad sets and levels of choices as made within a coherent system of creative thinking and activity, and with clear performance goals to guide the way.

APPLICATION:  Unity, Emotions, Resonance

Think like an assessor[6]…find evidence related to desired results.

What is the evidence we need to know for determining when a piece is finished and successful?   What clear and appropriate criteria specify what we should look at?

There are different opinions in craft, art and design about what are the most revealing and important aspects of the work, and which every authentic jewelry design performance must meet.

The traditional criteria used in the art world are that the designer should achieve unity, variety and evoke emotions.     These, I feel, may work well when applied to paintings or sculpture, but they are insufficient measures of success when applied to jewelry.   Jewelry involves the creation of objects where both artistic appeal as well as practical considerations of use are essential.   The artistry of jewelry cannot be distinguished from that jewelry as it is worn, and the context within which it is worn.   So, when referencing any jewelry’s design,  I prefer to use criteria of parsimony and resonance, instead.    We know when a piece is finished and successful when the choices of the artist are deemed parsimonious, and the various audiences perceive the piece to resonate.

Parsimony vs. Unity/Variety

In art, the traditional measure of completion and success is a feeling or sense of “Unity.”   Unity signifies how everything feels all right.   All the Design Elements used, and how they were coordinated and placed, are very coherent, clear, balanced, harmonious and satisfying.   I think the idea of unity begins to get at the place we want to end up.   But this concept is not concrete enough for me.

What bothers me the most is that you can have unity, but the piece still be seen as boring when there is no variety.   Criteria provided from the art perspective recognizes this.   But somehow tempering unity with variety starts to add some ambiguity to our measurements of finish and success.   This ambiguity is unacceptable as a principled outcome of jewelry construction.

Another concern I have, is that you can have unity with variety, but, from the art perspective, these assessments rely too much on universal, objective perceptions of design elements and their attributes (for example, the use of color schemes).   Resonance is not about picking the correct color scheme.    It is more about how that color scheme is used, manipulated, leveraged or violated within the piece.   We must not leave the artist, the wearer, and the situation out of the equation.    We must not minimize the artist’s hand – the artist’s intent, thinking, strategizing, arranging, pushing the boundaries, even violating the universal, objective rules.

Jewelry creation usually demands a series of judgment calls and tradeoffs.   Tradeoffs between aesthetics and functionality.  Tradeoffs between artist goals and audience understandings and expectations.   Tradeoffs between a full palette of colors-shapes-textures and a very limited one.    Any measure of completeness and success needs to result from the forced choice decisions of the artist.    It needs to account for the significance of the results, not just the organization of them.    It needs to explain the Why, not just the What.

For me, the more appropriate concept here is Parsimony.  Parsimony is when you know enough is enough.  When the finished and successful piece is parsimonious, the relationship of all the Design Elements and their expressed attributes will be so strong, that to add or remove any one thing would diminish, not just the design, but rather the significance of the design.

Parsimony is sometimes referred to in art and design as Economy, but the idea of economy is reserved for the visual effects.  The designer needs to be able to decide when enough is enough.   For jewelry designers, we want that economy or parsimony to apply to functional and situational effects, as well.

Parsimony…

– forces explanation; its forced-choice nature is most revealing about the artist’s understandings and intentions

– relies on evidence moreso than assumptions to get at criticality

– focuses examination of the few elements that make a difference

Resonance vs. Evoking Emotions

Finished and successful jewelry should not only evoke emotions, but, should resonate.

Resonance is something more than emotion.   It is some kind of additional energy we see, feel and otherwise experience.   Emotion is very reactive.   Resonance is intuitive, involving, identifying.    Resonance is an empathetic response where artist and audience realize a shared (or contradictory) understanding without losing sight of whose views and feelings belong to whom.

Resonance results from how the artist controls light, shadow, and their characteristics of warmth and cold, receding and approaching, bright and dull, light and dark.   Resonance results from how the artist leverages the strengths of materials and techniques and minimizes their weaknesses.   Resonance results from social, cultural and situational cues.   Resonance results from how the artist takes us to the edge of universal, objective understandings, and pushes us every so slightly, but not too, too far, beyond that edge.

Jewelry which resonates…
– is communicative and authentic

– shows the artist’s hand as intention, not instinct

– evokes both an emotional as well as energetic response from wearer and viewer

– shows both degrees of control, as well as moments of the unexpected

– makes something noteworthy from something ordinary

– finds the whole greater than the sum of the parts

– lets the materials and techniques speak

– anticipates shared understandings of many different audiences about design elements and principles, and some obvious inclusion, exclusion or intentional violation of them

– results from a design process that appears to have been more systemic (e.g., ingrained within an integrated process) than systematic (e.g., a step-by-step approach)

– both appeals and functions at the boundary where jewelry meets person

FLUENCY[7] AND EMPOWERMENT: Managing Choices In Expression

Empowerment is about successfully making choices.   These are choices about expressing one’s intent through art and design.

These choices could be as simple as whether to follow through on some inspiration.  They might involve selection of elements of design, or principled arrangements of beads, forms and components.   The designer will make choices about how to draw someone’s attention to the piece, or, present the piece to a larger audience. The designer will make choices between aesthetics and functionality.   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.

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

Fluency is the ability of the designer to select and connect Design Elements smoothly, in visually and functionally and situationally appropriate ways with understanding. The idea of understanding is broadly defined, to include the artist’s personal goals for expression, as well as the expectations of all the audiences – the wearer, the viewer, the buyer, the seller, the student, the master. The better designer achieves a level of disciplinary literacy where fluency becomes automatic, accurate, and rapidly applied.

The better, more fluent jewelry designer is able to anticipate how others will come to understand these mechanisms and the implications for applying them in one way or another.    For example, the better and more fluent designer would be able to select and combine design elements to appropriately differentiate jewelry that would best be worn at work, and jewelry that would best be worn, say, when someone was going to a night club for dancing and socializing.

Lastly, fluency means that the designer has also been taught to look for, anticipate and incorporate context clues. Design does not occur in a vacuum. It has implications which become realized in a context. That context might be historical, cultural or situational.

More proficient, fluent jewelry designers will be comfortable

and somewhat intentional and fluid in their abilities to…

  1. Leverage strengths and minimize weaknesses of materials and techniques.
  1. Decode, select, cluster and apply Design Elements, and implement and apply various organizational arrangements related to Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation.
  2. Work within shared understandings about jewelry and its successful design.

  3. Apply key knowledge and skills to achieve the desired result.
  4. Anticipate how their work will be reviewed, judged and evaluated by criteria reflective of these same shared understandings.
  5. Communicate their intent.
  6. Step back, reflect, and validate all their thinking to reject any misunderstandings, and make adjustments accordingly.

 

RUBRIC[8] AS THINKING ROUTINE

Designers need a simple map to all these ideas about literacy and fluency – something they can easily review and determine where their strengths and weaknesses are as they gain proficiency and fluency in design.     One type of map is a rubric.

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

Such a rubric is presented below for the artist to use as a thinking routine.[9]  Here I have used one rubric to represent both (1) understanding and (2) performance, but, I could have easily created two separate rubrics toward this end.   In this rubric table below, the rows represent contemplation, inspiration, aspiration, anticipation, application, and fluency and empowerment.    The columns represent the degrees of understanding and performance along a continuum, from proficient on one end to not there yet on the other.   By way of example, I use the rubric to assess my performance with a piece I created called Vestment (Feld, 2004).


RUBRIC:  How Proficient Am I In Achieving Resonance?

The Rubric…

           
UNDERSTANDING

&

PERFORMANCE

4- Proficient

Insightful, intuitive understanding, effectively established, with clear intent, and  well supported by details

3-Capable

Well-considered understanding, appropriately established and supported by details

2-Shows Potential

Some plausible understanding, some consistency established and supported by details, but not always sustained

1-Not There Yet

Superficial or no understanding, not consistent or sustained, perhaps vague or incomplete

CONTEMPLATION

Exhibiting an intimacy with the materials and techniques

Purposeful in selection of materials and techniques which synergistically work together

Insightful understanding and clear ability to leverage strengths and minimize weaknesses of materials and techniques

Selects materials appropriate for technique used, and select technique appropriate for task at hand

Some ability to leverage strengths and minimize weaknesses of materials and techniques

Selects materials and techniques for which may have some fit the task at hand, but could not articulate the reasons why

Has limited understanding of the strengths and weaknesses materials and techniques bring to the task at hand

Does not understand the relationship between the selection of materials and techniques and the task at hand

Has no understanding of the strengths and weaknesses materials and technique

INSPIRATION

Sharing sacred revelations art and design

Clearly recognizes intrinsic value between inspiration and the design of finished piece; applies inspiration

Deliberately reflects on using inspiration and the design of the piece to motivate and energized others to so be inspired

Some recognition of the connection between inspiration and the design of finished piece; applies inspiration

Thinks how others might be inspired by and emotionally connected to the piece as well

Passively responds to inspiring objects while designing piece with some intent to evoke a personal emotion but limited intent to evoke that emotion in others; consumes inspiration

Does not think deeply about how the piece might inspire others

Either does not begin with an inspiration, or only a weak connection between an inspiring object and the design of a piece

Does not think about how the piece might inspire others

ASPIRATION

Actualizing inspiration into a design

Can clearly and intentionally

translate a feeling or idea into a jewelry design or model; With considerable intention and control, select and arrange Design Elements, Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation resulting in an inspiring design which resonates

Can clearly determine risk-calculus comparing all costs associated with constructing piece relative to all benefits from how the finished piece will be received

Can, with some clarity, translate a feeling or idea into a jewelry design or model, and select Design Elements and Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation which come together well and evokes emotion

Has an intuitive feel for the risk-calculus, comparing all costs associated with constructing piece relative to all benefits from how the finished piece will be received

Can translate a feeling or idea into a jewelry design or model, but mostly based on instinct rather than intent; can select Design Elements and Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation which results in a satisfying design

Has not taken the time to think about the risk-calculus for implementing a design

A jewelry design emerges somehow, but there is little obvious connection to an inspiration or an artist’s intention

Does not know how to think about the risk-calculus for implementing a design

ANTICIPATION

Awareness of shared understandings

Shows empathy;

can anticipate others’ points of view, and how to incorporate them with his/her own

Can engage with others around this project

Can delineate misunderstandings

Can explain how a piece and its construction conforms to others’ ideas of good jewelry design, and shows some evidence in applying this

Anticipates some understandings, but is somewhat reactive to them

Can explain, in an academic sense, how a piece fits broad understandings about good design, but is weak in applying this

Is weak, in reality, at anticipating others’ understandings about design and is very reactive to them

Cannot explain or apply understandings of how a piece fits a definition of good design

Does not anticipate others’ understandings about design, nor responds to them in any significant way

SPECIFICATION

Clarifying what results need to be accomplished

Can clearly define and articulate those performance goals necessary to achieve resonance

Can implement a coherent process and system of creative thinking and activity as a series of smart choices leading up to the finished product

Can make visible the consequences of his/her design process choices

Can identify what it will take to overcome misunderstandings, and flexibly problem solve, when necessary

Can define some performance goals necessary to achieve resonance

Can implement an organized process of creative production

Can identify some consequences related to his/her design process choices

Can identify misunderstandings and determine some strategies in response, when necessary

Does not overtly define performance goals necessary to achieve resonance; however, may have an intuitive sense of some performance goals which need to occur

Does not work within an organized process of creative production

Does not identify consequences related to his/her design process choices

Does not identify misunderstandings, nor develop strategies for overcoming these when they occur

Is not yet performance goal-oriented.

Does not understand how to define or work within an organized process of creative production

Cannot identify consequences related to his/her design process choices

Does not recognize, or incorporate shared understandings or misunderstandings into the creative process

APPLICATION

Strategically and parsimoniously selecting Design Elements and applying of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation

Provides in-depth, coherent, insightful, and credible reasons, based on evidence and both art and design theory, for all design choices, particularly tradeoffs among aesthetics, function and context

Argues what is central to piece that makes it work; emphasizes application in context

Uses materials, techniques, design elements and principles in an especially novel way

Determines confidently that piece is finished and successful, that is parsimonious and resonant

Provides coherent, insightful reasons based on evidence in art theory for all design choices

Weak or no tradeoffs among aesthetics, function and context.

Uses materials, techniques, design elements and principles in novel way

Judges based on personal and art theory assumptions when piece is finished and successful, that is unified with some variety, and evokes emotions

Provides justifications for design choices, but not grounded in art or design theory and perspective

Does not make any accommodations among aesthetics, function and context

Uses materials, techniques, design elements and principles in interesting or generally appealing way

The piece is finished when the artist stops working on it; no judgements related to success

Does not recognize the design process as a series of choices, or in any way rooted in art or design theory and perspective

Does not understand that tradeoffs may need to get made among aesthetics, function and context

Does not show significant understanding about materials, techniques, design elements, principles, and how to choose, cluster them

Shows no confidence in determining whether piece is finished or successful.

EMPOWERMENT

Managing design process and demonstrating disciplinary literacy

Intuitive; metacognitive; can make choices based on intent, and anticipate implications of choices; can take a critical stance; can

recognize personal and situational biases

Effective and appearing almost effortless decoding Design Elements and applying Principles of Composition, Construction, and Manipulation; has complete and extensive knowledge about Elements and Principles and their application in context

Somewhat intuitive; can articulate some of the intentional choices and their implications made in design process; may not be fully aware of personal and situational biases

Understands what is required for decoding Design Elements and applying Principles of Composition, Construction, and Manipulation, but does this with some effort and some varying degrees of effectiveness; has extensive knowledge of Elements and Principles

Weak demonstration of process management; typically following step-by-step process outline or instructions where most choices have been made for the artist; unaware of implications of choices

Doing some decoding of Design Elements and some applying of Principles, but with some difficulties or misconceptions; may have considerable but not full knowledge of Elements and Principles

No demonstration of process management; requires others to delineate the necessary design and implementation choices; unaware that there are implications for any choice

Noticeable difficulties (or unable to do) decoding Design Elements and applying Principles; generally unfamiliar with full range of Elements and Principles

RUBRIC:  How Proficient Am I In Achieving Resonance?

The piece…

b01c915a-72b0-4913-a464-9f60fccbf9cc.jpg

“Vestment”, by Warren Feld, 2008

I was contracted to do a series of workshops on Contemporizing Etruscan Jewelry.   “Vestment” was one of the pieces I created as a contemporized version of a traditional Etruscan collar.    Contemporized refers to drawing inspiration from a traditional piece, not reviving or imitating it per se.

With my contemporized version of this Etruscan Collar, I’ve used bead weaving techniques (Ndebele stitch and Petersburg chain stitch) to get a more dimensional effect, stronger color play, and a more               contemporary sense of fashion and wearability.

The piece shown uses Miyuki cubes, seed beads and delicas, Austrian crystals, with 14KT, gold filled, sterling silver, and antiqued copper chain, clasps and other findings. With some pieces, I include artist-created handmade lampwork beads made by Lori Greenberg.

My Etruscan VESTMENT is worn like a scarf. It is meant to present a different jewelry profile than a typical necklace. It is at once formal  and relaxed, complementing the body and fashion, rather than  competing with it. The Vestment fastens in the front.

The main strips of the vestment are created using a double-layered, Ndebele stitch. These strips are attached to the clasp with an assemblage of pieces created using the Petersburg chain stitch.

2edceb2b-d8e6-433a-9274-22b70f7526e2.jpg

Detail 1

88166275-7bd0-456c-8abd-1caa483f5048.jpg

Detail 2

17bd664e-1b9f-455d-a617-7ef04af9dbab.jpg

Traditional Etruscan Collar

If I were using the Rubric above to evaluate my conception, design and implementation of this piece – Vestment – I would be thinking about the following…
CONTEMPLATION Score 4

Exhibiting an intimacy with the materials and techniques

The Ndebele stitch allows a fluidity and draping while still maintaining the basic shape.   Using two small beads and a cube to make the Ndebele stitch, rather than the traditional four small beads to complete the stitch, adds resonance.  Creating two overlapping layers of stitching creates unusual color/shadow effects while the piece is worn.

INSPIRATION Score 4

Sharing sacred revelations art and design

This piece draws inspiration from form, cultural color preferences, yet results in a very contemporary piece with more fluidity, dimensionality, movement, and sensual appeal.

ASPIRATION Score 4

Actualizing inspiration into a design

The design shows considerable intent and forethought in bringing together color, materials, techniques, forms, in a coherent arrangement.

ANTICIPATION Score 3

Awareness of shared understandings

The piece is generally well-received, with some questions about how and when it is to be worn, and whether it is sufficiently contemporary in design.

SPECIFICATION Score 3

Clarifying what results need to be accomplished

At the time I created this design, my process was generally organized but with considerable trial and error.   Tried to get result of appealing piece, had difficulty making tradeoffs between aesthetics and functionality.  Did not have a clear understanding of resonance.

APPLICATION Score 3

Strategically and parsimoniously selecting Design Elements and applying of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation

Was primarily driven by art theory, with more last minute choices about functionality.   Otherwise, made strategic choices in selecting materials, construction techniques, and meeting most contemporary expectations.

EMPOWERMENT Score 3

Managing design process and demonstrating disciplinary literacy

Was not fluent in design at this point in time.     Most of my great strategic choices were more intuitive than intentional.

_________________________________________________________

WARREN FELD, Jewelry Designer

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

615-292-0610

2b2fc2fb-12df-4dee-a17d-7f9684461a84.jpg

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] Feld, Warren.  “Jewelry Design Composition: Playing with Building Blocks Called Design Elements,” 3/17/2018

[2] Feld, Warren.  “Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating,” 4/25/2018

[3] Feld, Warren.  “Jewelry Design: A Managed Process,” Klimt02, 2/2/18. https://klimt02.net/forum/articles/jewelry-design-managed-process-warren-feld

 [4]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.
[5]  Backwards Design.  One of the big take-aways from
Understanding by Design
(see footnote 3) 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 2), you can begin to introduce ideas about managing the design process in a coherent and alignable way.
[6]
Understanding by Design
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, p. 146, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
[7]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.

[8]Rubrics.  
Understanding by Design
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, p. 146, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
[9]  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 .

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Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Posted by learntobead on April 24, 2018

JEWELRY DESIGN PRINCIPLES:

COMPOSING, CONSTRUCTING, MANIPULATING

by Warren Feld, Designer

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Abstract:

It is not happenstance that some pieces of jewelry draw your attention, and others do not.   It is the result of an artist fluent in design.   That fluency begins with selecting Design Elements, but it comes to full fruition with the application of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation.  This is where the artist flourishes, shows a recognition of shared understandings about good design, and makes that cluster of jewelry design choices resulting in a piece that is seen as both finished and successful.    These Principles represent different organizing schemes the artist might resort to.    Jewelry artists translate these Principles a little differently than painters or sculptors, in that jewelry presents different demands and expectations on the artist.  The better artist/designer achieves a level of disciplinary literacy – selecting Design Elements and applying Principles — where fluency becomes automatic, accurate, and rapidly applied.

JEWELRY DESIGN PRINCIPLES:

COMPOSING, CONSTRUCTING, MANIPULATING

Some pieces of jewelry draw your attention.   Others do not.

This is not a matter of happenstance.    It is the result of an artist fluent in design.    That fluency begins with the selection of Design Elements – the smallest meaningful units of design.    But it comes to full fulfillment with the application and manipulation of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation.    These “organizing schemes” reflect what the individual artist wants to express, and how the individual artist anticipates how others will understand and respond to this expression.

Design Elements, which I have discussed in an earlier article [1], 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.  Examples: color, shape, texture, point/line/plane, movement, dimensionality, and the like.   Each Design Element has a set of expressive attributes.  Color can be expressed as a color scheme, or as proportions, or as simultaneity effects.   Shape can be geometric or dimensional or recognizable or symbolic.   And so forth.

Design Elements function like a vocabulary.   They represent universally accepted expressive content.    Visualize the analogy between design elements and vocabulary.   Picture a “t”, perhaps combined with an “h”, and then with an “e”.  Or, picture the difficulty in trying to combine a “th” with a “z”.   Or, still yet, picture how the “c” in “cat” is pronounced differently than the “c” in “sense”, yet still recognized as a “c”.  In similar ways, the artist might decide to use the design elements of “color” and “line,” and combine them to yield another design element of “movement.”    Literacy begins with the ability to decode, and this ability centers on the selection and use of Design Elements.

Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation function more like a grammar.    Given the Design Elements selected by the artist, Principles represent organizing strategies to which the artist resorts when attempting to achieve a piece that will be seen as both “finished” and “successful”, both by the artist, as well as that artist’s audience.   The artist might arrange several design elements and their expressive attributes to yield a higher level organizing principle.   For example, the artist might combine color(intensity)+line(direction)+

shape( geometry)+placement(symmetry)+balance+material” to yield a sense of “rhythm.

To continue our analogy with vocabulary, grammar and literacy, picture our “t”, “h” and “e” put together to form a full word like ”thesaurus”, then expanded into an idea, like “teachers like to use a thesaurus”, and further expressed, in anticipation of a response, to something like “but students hate when the teacher asks them to use a thesaurus.” 

Literacy goes beyond decoding; it includes a fluency in how the Design Elements are organized to evoke an emotional response.   This involves an intuitive understanding of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation, and how to apply them.    While Design Elements are selected primarily based on shared, more universal understandings of what they express, often, Principles are applied in ways more reflective of artist’s hand, and its subjective expression.

The successful jewelry designer has developed a fluency in the Disciplinary Literacy of jewelry design.    Fluency is the ability of the designer to select and connect Design Elements smoothly, in visually and functionally and situationally appropriate ways with understanding.   The idea of understanding is broadly defined, to include the artist’s personal goals for expression, as well as the expectations of all the audiences – the wearer, the viewer, the buyer, the seller, the student, the master.   The better designer achieves a level of disciplinary literacy where fluency becomes automatic, accurate, and rapidly applied.

This Disciplinary Literacy in jewelry design has a structure all its own.  There are four main components to it:

1) Vocabulary: Design Elements As The Basis Of Composition

2) Grammar:  Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation

3) Strategy:  Project Management[2]

4) Context/Culture:  Shared Understandings[3]

This article focuses on the second component – Principles.

What Are Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation?

Jewelry Design is the strategic application of basic principles of organization and expression to achieve a piece which evokes emotion, resonates, and is appealing as it is worn.    Traditionally the art and design worlds referred to these as “Principles of Composition.”   Often artists and designers get tripped up on the word Principles, and jewelry designers get a bit confused or frustrated with the word Composition.

The use of the word “Principles” in art and design can be somewhat confusing.   These Principles do not represent a set of universal, dependable and repeatable standards to strive for, which we might assume, at first.

A different meaning about “Principles” applies here.   A Principle is an organizing scheme as a way to combine design elements into a more pleasing whole composition.   The design elements include things which are visual effects; but, for jewelry designers, they also include things which functional, as well as things which are more social, psychological, cultural and situational.   Principles inform artists in their expressive, authentic performances.   Every artist is expected to apply these Principles, but only in ways the artist chooses.   There might be better or worse ways to apply them, but no right or wrong ways.

Another aspect of confusion is the use of the word “Composition”.   I’ve expanded the phrase, though somewhat awkwardly, to “Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation.”   The traditional art and design idea of “composition” covers two very different types of jewelry design literacy skills under a single label, namely decoding (Design Elements) and fluency (Principles).    The better jewelry designer needs to learn and apply both aspects of disciplinary literacy, but each involves different ways of thinking.   As a teacher, both require different sets of strategies for training and educating jewelry designers.

Jewelry designers, by the nature of jewelry, have to deal equally with functional aspects of design, not just artistic composition.    Traditional Principles of Composition need to be re-oriented for the jewelry artist to be more sensitive to the more architectural aspects of design.     Design choices are also best understood at the boundary between the art of design and the body it adorns.

Limited to the idea of composition, jewelry might be judged successful as “art”, as if it was displayed on a mannequin or easel.    But jewelry, in reality, can only be judged as a constructive, manipulated result situated at the boundary between art and body; that is, jewelry can only be judged as “art as it is worn.”

In this article, I focus on Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation.   The Principles, as organizing schemes, are intertwined, and, the use of one will often depend on another.   Movement might be achieved by the placement of lines, which might also establish a rhythm.    Such placement of lines might be symmetrically balanced, with line thinness and thickness statistically distributed evenly through the piece.

These organizing and arranging schemes might include:

  • the Positioning and/or Ordering of things    (white/black/white/black   vs.  black/black/black/white)
  • the Volume or Area the piece takes up   (one row of beads vs. 3 rows of beads)
  • the Scale and Size of the pieces      (6mm 6mm 6mm  vs. 10mm 10mm 10mm)
  • the Colors, Textures and Patterns of individual pieces, and/or sets or groupings of pieces    (matte/matte/shiny/matte/matte   vs.  shiny/shiny/matte/shiny/shiny)
  • the Forms  (identifiable sets of pieces, highly integrated)
  • the Materials
  • the interplay of Light, Dark, Shadow, Reflection and Refraction    (dark/dark/transparent/dark/dark   vs. transparent/transparent/dark/transparent/transparent)
  • the clasp assembly and other supporting systems

Some of these design Principles are applied in similar ways to all art forms, such as painting and sculpture, no matter what the medium.

For other Principles, jewelry creates its own challenges, because all jewelry places some different demands and expectations on the artist than painting or sculpture does.    Jewelry…

  • functions in a 3-dimensional space, particularly sensitive to position, volume and scale
  • must stand on its own as an object of art
  • but must also exist as an object of art which interacts with the body, movement, personality, and quirks of the wearer
  • serves many purposes, some aesthetic, some functional, some social, cultural or situational
  • has a much more integrated and inter-dependent relationship of the center piece, strap, fringe, edge, bail and surface embellishment – an arrangement that traditional Art theory rejects.   Art sees the center piece as the “art”, and these other things as supporting, not artistic details, like a frame for a painting or a pedestal for a sculpture.

Good jewelry should exude an energy.  It should resonate.   This energy results from how the artist applies these Principles to compose with, construct and manipulate light and shadow, and their characteristics of warmth and cold, receding and approaching, bright and dull, light and dark.    The artist’s piece is judged on whether the resulting piece feels coherent, organized, controlled, and strategically designed, again, as the jewelry is worn.   Successful application of these Principles results in a piece which feels finished and successful.

The Principles include,

  1. Rhythm
  2. Pointers
  3. Linear and Planar Relationships
  4. Interest
  5. Statistical Distribution
  6. Balance
  7. Forms, Their Proportions, Distributions and Dimensionality
  8. Temporal Extension: Time and Place
  9. Physical Extension: Functionality
  10. Parsimony (something similar to, but a little beyond harmony and unity)

TABLE OF PRINCIPLES

Principles of Composition, Construction, and Manipulation

(Organizing Schemes)

What the Principle is About How Principle Might Get Expressed as Organizing Schema
  1. Rhythm

    46adb9dc-c42d-4cac-8a66-c6fc262a4504.png

This is how the piece leads the viewer through sequences of steps.   It is a measure of the degree the piece engages the viewer’s eye.

There is a continuance, a flow or a feeling of movement from one place of the piece to another.

Repetition

Pattern

Random

Regular

Alternating

Flowing

Progressive

Vertical, Horizontal, Diagonal, Overlapping, Piercing

Placement

  1. Pointers
    e48219c2-5b33-448b-a8dc-bfb5220297b2.png
Pointers are places of emphasis, dominance or focus.    Certain elements assume more importance than others within the same composition. Isolating

Directional

Contrast

Anomaly

Leading

Convergence

Size, Weight, Color Gradient

Framing

Focusing and Depth

Absence

Implied

  1. Linear and Planar Relationships

    2c537434-032f-4025-9ab9-9ce9ea2fa53d.png

The degree the piece is not disorienting; obvious what is “up” and what is “down”.

Orienting and Directional

Straight or Curved

2-D or 3D

Violating, Crossing or Intersecting, Interpenetrating

Parallel or Aligned

Perpendicular

Angular or Diagonal

Vector

Fixed, Directional,  Infinite, or Disappearing

Continuous, Broken or Perforated

Radial

At Edges or Within; Framed or Bound

Thin or Thick

Textured or Smooth

Opaque or Transparent

Moving, Rotating, Spinning, Darting, Flashing

Silhouette

  1. Interest

    ebe92b2f-d212-4798-a0c9-04c3f1f398e3.png

 

The degree the artist has made the ordinary…”noteworthy” Add variety

Give person an experience

Vibrance, Intensity

Unexpected use or positioning

Surprise

Sense of strength or fragility

Symbolic meaning

Perspective

Inspirational

Pattern

Clash

Juxtaposition

Simultaneity effects

  1. Statistical Distribution

    7d9627a3-3f88-41a1-95cf-1dd2ebc8b4ad.png

 

How satisfying the numbers and sizes and measures of objects within the piece are Equality, Equity, Equal Weight, Mass, Volume, Visual Effect (or the opposite of equality)

Randomness

Color proportions

Scale

Measurements

Numbers of

  1. Balance

    2e326072-d239-4d54-b8d8-03dc764e4cfe.png

 

How satisfying the placement of objects (and their attributes) is Equilibrium in Weight, Mass, Volume, Visual Effect

Symmetry or Asymmetry

Pattern or No Pattern

Regular or Irregular

Equalizing visual forces

Scale

Permanent, Illusory, Contingent

Placement, Alignment, Proximity, Repetition

Radial

Identical or Similar

  1. Forms, Their Proportions, Distributions, and

    Dimensionality

    4297ff8c-e117-46a8-babc-136b136ea57d.png

 

Jewelry often can be structured in terms of segments, components or forms.    How the pieces get interconnected or amassed is of concern. Unique, Singular, Parallel/Symmetrical, Repeated, Multiple

Evolving

Variety

Segmentation

2-D or 3-D

Realistic or Abstract

Geometric or Organic

Complete or Incomplete

Layering, Overlapping

Fringing, Surface Embellishment

Continuity

Coordinating

Clashing, Off-putting

  1. Temporal Extension: Time and Place

    404016db-e237-403e-9a98-7f3b64a86976.png

 

Any piece of jewelry must be acceptable within a certain historical, social, cultural or situational context. Visual Expectation

Materials Expectation

Techniques/Technology Expectation

Referents, Inscriptions, Images

Symbolism

Themes

Rule-bound or not

Revival style or Contemporized Traditional style

Appropriateness/Relevance to situation or context

Coordination with situation or context

  1. Physical Extension: Functionality

    9c4e225d-cb59-411f-b9e5-8d2d7a86ec60.png

 

The degree the piece is designed so that it accommodates physical stresses when the piece is worn Jointedness and Support (links, rivets, hinges, loops, unglued knots, and the like)

Drape, Flow, Movement (built-in features allowing adjustment to body shape or body movement)

Length, Fit

Adjustability

Choices of stringing material or assembly strategy

Clasp Assembly (how piece attached to clasp)

Strap, Bail, Pendant, Fringe, Embellishment

Stiffness, Looseness, Bending, Conforming

Inclusion of technology

Structural Integrity

Application of architectural principles of construction

Physical mechanics

Weight-bearing

  1. Parsimony (something similar to but beyond harmony and unity)

    c6d606c7-4029-466c-85a0-ada6ac4860c4.png

 

There should be no nonessential elements; the addition or subtraction of one element or its attribute will make the piece less satisfying Length, Volume, Mass, Weight, Visual Effects

Goodness of fit

Sufficient balance between unity and variety to evoke an emotional response and resonance

An economy in the use of resources

A result which feels finished and successful, reflecting the artist’s hand, as well as an anticipation of shared understandings among all audiences – viewer, wearer, buyer, seller, student, master

THE PRINCIPLES IN MORE DETAIL

1.   Rhythm

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Movement is the path our eyes follow when we look at a work of art, and it is generally very important to keep a viewer’s eyes engaged in the work. Without movement, artwork becomes stagnant. A few good strategies to evoke a sense of movement (among many others) are using diagonal lines, placing shapes so that the extend beyond the boundaries of the picture plane, and using changing values.

Rhythm is one Principle used to shape the viewer’s experience with the piece.  Rhythm is how the piece leads the viewer through sequences of steps.   It is a measure of the degree the piece engages the viewer’s eye.

There is a continuance, a flow or a feeling of movement from one place of the piece to another.

Repetition and pattern are key here.   The artist might achieve a rhythm by varying or repeating colors, textures, sizes, forms.   The rhythm might be slow, fast, predictable, random, staccato, measured, safe, edgy, and so forth.  The intervals between repetitions and patterns can create a sense of rhythm in the viewer and a sense of movement.    Repetitions and patterns can be random, regular, alternating, flowing, progressive – there are many directions the artist can go in establishing a rhythm.

When a piece has multiple and coordinated rhythms, we call this Symphonic Rhythm.  For example, in a piece, there might be a clear rhythm set by the use of colors throughout the piece, as well as the positioning of definable forms, such as a series of beaded leaves or other shapes.

The Rhythm should assist the viewer in cognitively making a complete circle around the piece.   You don’t want the viewer to lose interest, get bored, or fall flat, before the eye and brain can make that complete circle.

Example:

Black-o-Black-o-Black-o-White-o-Black-o-Black-o-Black-o-White-o
Or,

Black-o-White-o-Black-o-White-o-Black-o-White-o-Black-o-White-o

The better designer can empower the design, if using Rhythm in the right way.

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2.  Pointers

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Pointers are places of emphasis, dominance or focus.    Certain elements assume more importance than others within the same composition.

Pointers guide the viewer to a specific place, or focal point.    Cognitively, you want to create the place for the eye/brain to come to rest.

Examples:

  • Something can be centered
  • The color can be varied, say from dark to light, to serve as an “arrow” or “Pointer” to a section of the necklace
  • The positioning of the clasp might serve as a pointer
  • A dangling pendant might serve as a pointer
  • The size of the beads can be varied, such as smallest to largest, to serve as an “arrow” or “Pointer”
  • Coordinating the placement of Focal Point on jewelry with the pattern in the clothing upon which the piece will rest
  • Something can be strategically off-centered.

The better designer is able to capture the viewer’s attention to more important parts of the piece.

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3.  Linear and Planar Relationships

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This is the degree the piece is not disorienting to the viewer, or particularly confusing in terms of what is up and what is down.

People always need to orient themselves to their surroundings, so that they know what is up and what is down.   They usually do this by recognizing the horizontal planes of the floor and the ceiling of a room (ground and sky outside), and the vertical planes of the walls of a room (buildings, trees and the like outside).

Jewelry must assist, or at least not get in the way, of this natural orienting process.   It accomplishes this in how its “lines” are arranged and organized.  If a piece is very 3-dimensional, then how its “planes” are arranged and organized becomes important, as well.

Design elements we might use to achieve a satisfactory planar relationship within our piece:

– a strategic use of lines and planes

— shapes

— boundaries

– -silhouettes

— contours

– symmetry

– or, more difficult to achieve, a satisfying asymmetry

– a planar pattern in how each section of the piece relates to the other sections

– how sections of the piece interlock

– how we “draw and interrelate” parallel lines/planes, perpendicular lines/planes and curved lines/planes within the piece

Example:

How can a person truly pull off wearing only one earring?    After all, visually, it pulls the person off to one side, thus violating the basic orienting planar relationships.    What about the composition of the earring, allows this to work; what about the composition doesn’t?

Example:

Wearing a necklace, where the clasp is worn on the side, instead of the back.    Again, what about the composition of the necklace, allows this to work; what about the composition doesn’t?

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4.   Interest

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“Interest” means the degree to which the artist makes the ordinary…noteworthy.

Here the artist demonstrates how to balance off and control “variety” with “unity” and “harmony”.     Without unity and harmony, the piece becomes chaotic.   Without variety, the piece becomes boring, monotonous and uninteresting.

Arranging and organizing Design Elements might involve:
– selection of materials and mix of materials

– selection of color combinations

– varying the sizes of things

– pushing the envelop on interrelating planar relationships among the sections of the jewelry

– playing with the rhythm

– clever use of a focal point

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5.  Statistical Distribution

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The artist is always concerned with the number or size or scale or measurement of things.    This principle focuses on these statistics.      With this principle, we are not concerned with the placement or balance of things – just the numbers and measurements.

We ask:  How pleasing and satisfying are the selection of the numbers, sizes, proportions, volumes/weights, and color/textures of objects the artist wants to use in the piece.   The artist might, at this point, anticipate creating a pattern, or not.

Examples:

BIG-o-BIG-o-small-o-BIG-o-BIG-o-small-o-

PURPLE-o-PURPLE-o-PURPLE-o-YELLOW-o-PURPLE-o-YELLOW-o-

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6.   Balance

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Balance has to do with placement.       How pleasing or satisfying is the placement of objects (and their attributes) within a piece?

Usually, the designer is trying to achieve a feeling of equality in weight, attention or attraction of the various visual design elements.  The design attributes would include such things as the positioning or relative positioning of the materials used, the colors, textures and patterns, the sizes and scales.

The artist might play with placement in terms of proximity, alignment or repetition.

There are different types of balance.

(1) symmetry:   the use of identical compositional units on either side of a vertical axis

(2) approximate symmetry:   the use of similarly balanced compositional units on either side of a vertical axis

(3) radial symmetry:   an even, radiating out from a central point to all four quadrants (directions) of the shape’s plane (surface)

(4) asymmetry:  even though the compositional units are not identical on either side of a vertical axis, there is a “felt” equilibrium of the total piece.   Often, with jewelry, this equilibrium depends on what clothes or other jewelry the person is wearing, or something about that person’s body/body shape.

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7.  Forms, Their Proportions, Distributions and Dimensionality

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Jewelry often can be structured in terms of segments, components or forms.    How are pieces interconnected or amassed?    Is this achieved through optical effects or reality?

The designer is concerned with managing these structures in terms of proportions, distributions and/or dimensionality.    The artist makes choices about how each part relates to the whole in terms of scale or relevance.

The artist might play with things like:
Layering

Surface embellishment

Fringing

Curvature

Overlapping planes

Balance

The better designer creates pieces where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Example:

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.

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8.   Temporal Extension: Time and Place

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Any piece of jewelry must be acceptable within a certain historical, social, cultural or situational context.

For example, is a piece appropriate for a wedding also appropriate for office wear?    Is a great University of Tennessee Orange Necklace as successful when worn to a Vanderbilt football game?

Temporal Extension may narrowly refer to one specific wearer in particular, or more broadly to group, situational, social or societal expectations.

Other examples:

  • white pearls are associated with bridal jewelry
  • using metalized plastic beads, where the plating chips off in a short period of time, should not be used in an heirloom bracelet
  • making a matching set of earrings and necklace for jewelry that typically should be worn as a matching set
  • gifting a carved jade pendant with an message-word carving inappropriate for the religion of the person receiving it

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9.   Physical Extension: Functionality

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Any piece of jewelry must be functional when worn.

Functionality has to do with such things as movement, drape, comfort, flow and durability.    The piece of jewelry needs to feel comfortable when worn, always look good on the wearer no matter what the wearer is doing, and be durable.    This involves a lot of building in understandings of physical mechanics and architectural principles of construction.

When there is (or should be) movement in a piece, there should be clear evidence that the designer anticipated where the parts came from, and where they are going to.   Jewelry is worn by people who move, so the design should be a natural physical extension to such movements, and the stress they put on the piece.

For example, in a necklace, the clasp should remain on the neck, even as the beadwork moves with the person, without the necklace turning around on the neck, or breaking.

Example:   The dangle earring which has the dangle stuck in a 90 degree angle.

Example:   The crimped bracelet which breaks at the crimp.

Example: The bracelet too tight when the design is turned into a circle placed around the wrist

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10.  Parsimony
(something similar to, but a little bit beyond harmony and unity)

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At the point where the piece is judged to be finished and successful, there should be no nonessential elements.     When the piece is finished and successful, it should evoke emotions and resonate.

The designer should achieve the maximal effect with the least effort or excess.

There is a tendency of beaders and jewelry makers to over-do:

– over-embellish the surface

– add too much fringe

– repeat themes and design elements too often

– use too many colors

Parsimony vs. Unity

In art, the traditional measure of completion and success was a feeling or sense of “Unity.”   Unity signified how everything felt all right.   All the Design Elements used, and how they were coordinated and placed, were very coherent, clear, harmonious and satisfying.

I think the idea of unity begins to get at the place we want to end up.   But this concept is not concrete enough for me.    You can have unity, but the piece still seen as boring when there is no variety.   This condition is unacceptable as a principled outcome of jewelry construction.    Finished and successful jewelry should evoke emotions and resonate.    You can have unity, but the assessments rely too much on universal, objective perceptions of design elements and their attributes.   The artist, the wearer, and the situation are too easily left out of the equation.

Jewelry creation usually demands a series of judgment calls and tradeoffs between aesthetics and functionality, artist goals and audience understandings and expectations, a full palette of colors, shapes and textures and a very limited one.    A measure of completeness and success needs to result from the forced choice decisions of the artist.    It needs to account for the significance of the results, not just the organization of them.    It needs to explain the Why, not just the What.

For me, the more appropriate concept here is “Parsimony.”  Parsimony is sometimes referred to in art and design as “Economy”, but the idea of economy is reserved for the visual effects.  For jewelry designers, we want that economy or parsimony to apply to functional and situational effects, as well.   When the finished and successful piece is parsimonious, the relationship of all the Design Elements and their expressed attributes will be so strong, that to add or remove any one thing would diminish, not just the design, but rather the significance of the design.

Parsimony…

– forces explanation; its forced-choice nature is most revealing about the artist’s understandings and intentions

– relies on evidence moreso than assumptions to get at criticality

– focuses examination of the few elements that make a difference

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THINKING ROUTINE[4]:   LOOK – SCORE – EXPLAIN

LOOK:

CLASSICISM NECKLACE
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Warren Feld, 2001.

Materials and Description:

Three strands, druk rondelles Czech glass, in matte amethyst, matte olivine, and matte topaz.   Center, overlapping agate stones.

 

At the center, each of the three strands pass through a 3-hole separator bar, and through one of three thin sterling silver tubes.

The centerpiece stones slide over the top and bottom tubes.   The middle tube is sandwiched between the stones.  These stones can spin around on the tubes, allowing them to adjust to body shape and movement, but the middle tube restricts the movement to maintain the general visual appearance as in the image.

S-clasp in back.

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

(see key at bottom of table for list)

  1. COLOR

 

  1. BALANCE AND DISTRIBUTION
  2. SHAPE
  3. POINT/LINE/PLANE

 

  1. MATERIALS
  1. MOVEMENT
  1. DIMENSIONALITY
  1. TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY
KEY ATTRIBUTES OF DESIGN ELEMENTS:

1a. Some Tonal quality and finish

1b. Split Complementary color scheme

1c. Gradation dark to light

2a. Symmetry

3a. Same size druk rondelles

4a. Strong lines core design feature

4b. Overlapping centerpiece stones establishes 2 planes; can move but restricted from violating planes

5a. Mixing glass, metal and gemstone

6a. Center stones allowed to spin on tubes

7a. Layering of center stones

8a. Unexpected connection of strap to centerpiece

SCORE:

SCORE CARD ON PRINCIPLES:

DESIGN CRITERIA Very Unsatisfying…….Very Satisfying
1.  Rhythm 1     2    3    4    5
2.  Pointers 1     2    3    4    5
3.  Linear and Planar Relationships 1     2    3    4    5
4.  Interest 1     2    3    4    5
5.  Statistical Distribution 1     2    3    4    5
6.  Balance 1     2    3    4    5
7.  Forms 1     2    3    4    5
8.  Temporal Extension: Time, Place 1     2    3    4    5
9.  Physical Extension: Functionality 1     2    3    4    5
10. Parsimony 1     2    3    4    5

EXPLAIN:

RHYTHM:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

One smooth flow from clasp to centerpiece down straps

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

BALANCE AND DISTRIBUTION

POINTERS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: Mixing different sizes; adding more colors within each strand; changing length

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If cannot get any one of 3 colors or finishes or sizes, would have to change to 3 different split complementary colors and new stones for focal point

POINTERS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Overlapping stones in centerpiece

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT/LINE/PLANE

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Strengthen: better color coordination between center piece and straps

Weaken: mix colors/sizes in strap; change rhythm in strap; add patterns

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

Would need to have alternative gemstones, similar sizing to original, color coordinated with strap colors

LINEAR/PLANAR RELATIONSHIPS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Strong sense of line and downward direction towards centerpiece, represented by 3 strands, strong implementation of 3-color scheme

 

Overlapping planes in centerpiece

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT/LINE/PLANE

STRUCTURE/SUPPORT

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken:  have less fluid structure support connecting one side through centerpiece to other side; have only one center stone rather than two which overlap

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If hole in center stones not big enough to slide over sterling silver tube, would have to make holes larger, find thinner tubes or alternative stones

INTEREST:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Overlapping stones in centerpiece

Structure of tubes and stones in centerpiece, particularly in terms of allowing and restricting movement

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT/LINE/PLANE

MATERIAL

MOVEMENT

STRUCTURE/SUPPORT

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: no overlap stones and no movement; put pattern or change bead sizes in strap

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If could not create the structure creating the overlapping stone centerpiece, use a centerpiece with some dimension that supports the rhythm of the piece.

STATISTICAL DISTRIBUTION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

One shape and size of bead in the 3 straps.

Single color within each strand.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

SHAPE

COLOR

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: vary shape or add more colors

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If could not get enough beads in specific size, shape, color for each strap, come up with different design.

BALANCE:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Single color in each strand

Symmetry

Repeated same length in each strand

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

BALANCE/DISTRIBUTION

POINT/LINE/PLANE

FORM/SEGMENTS/COMPONENTS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken:  Make piece unbalanced, or asymmetrical

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If could not restrict the movement of the center stones, would lose visual balance; would have to come up with different strategy for restricting movement, or just use one, rather than two stones.

FORMS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Clear forms:

– 3 strands, one of each color

– clear sense of right side and left side and center

– segmented centerpiece

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

FORM/SEGMENTS/COMPONENTS

COLOR

BALANCE/DISTRIBUTION

POINTER

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: create a size or color pattern in the straps; additional segmentation

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If could not get enough beads in specific size, shape, color for each strap, come up with different design or color scheme.

TEMPORAL EXTENSION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece has a classical elegance to it.   Can picture it worn in a more upscale social setting like a banquet or dinner party.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

FORMS/SEGMENTS/COMPONENTS

COLOR

BALANCE/DISTRIBUTION

BEAUTY/APPEAL

CONTEXT/SITUATION/CULTURE

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: brighter or primary colors; glossy color finishes; shorter or longer length

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If could not get enough beads in specific size, shape, color for each strap, come up with different design or color scheme.

PHYSICAL EXTENSION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

The support structure for the centerpiece which both allows and restricts movement.

 

The 3 strands on each side of the necklace can move independently and allow better movement, drape and flow.

 

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

STRUCTURE/SUPPORT

TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: leave out middle tube which lays between top and bottom center stone; connect the 3 strands together at two or more places along their length.

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If could not get support structure to work, come up with different design.

PARSIMONY:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

The choice of colors, materials, bead sizes, length of strands, symmetry

 

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

SHAPE

COLOR

POINT/LINE/PLANE

MOVEMENT

FORMS/SEGMENTS/COMPONENTS

BALANCE/DISTRIBUTION

MATERIAL

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: change any color, material, bead size, length, symmetry

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If did not have sufficient access to these resources, would have to come up with a different design.

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:
COLOR MOVEMENT BALANCE / DISTRIBUTION DIMENSIONALITY
SHAPE COLOR BLENDING REFERENTS FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS
TEXTURE/PATTERN THEME/SYMBOLS CONTEXT, SITUATION, CULTURE CRAFTSMANSHIP
POINT/LINE/PLANE BEAUTY, APPEAL NEGATIVE , POSITIVE SPACES TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY
MATERIAL STRUCTURE, SUPPORT LIGHT, SHADOW

 

 

LOOK:

THE BLUE WATERFALL NECKLACE

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Warren Feld, 2001.

Materials and Description:

Mix of glass, crystal, and sterling silver beads.

 

Each segment of beads has a different number of bead, and different sizes/color/finish of beads within it.

 

The colors are not part of a color scheme, and would be seen to clash if compared one to one outside of their use in the bracelet.   Example: sapphire blues and montana blues; golds and silvers; matte and glossy.

 

The segments nearer the clasp are shorter than those further from the clasp.

 

The sterling silver tubes are all curved.

 

There is no focal point per se.

 

The clasp is an adjustable hook and eye choker clasp.

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

(see key at bottom of table for list)

  1. COLOR
  1. COLOR BLENDING
  1. BALANCE AND DISTRIBUTION
  2. POINT/LINE/PLANE
  3. MOVEMENT
  4. SHAPE

 

  1. STRUCTURE / SUPPORT

 

  1. FORM /SEGMENTS/ COMPONENTS
KEY ATTRIBUTES OF DESIGN ELEMENTS:

1a. No conformance to color scheme, though leans toward the monochromatic

2a. Simultaneity effects

3a. Feels balanced though there the distribution of sizes, numbers and segment lengths varies within each strand and between each strand

4a. Brings your eye down to a central place, but no specific focal point

4b. Curved lines distort the linearity

5a. Expresses feeling of moving water, but no moving parts

6a. Curved tubes key element

6b. Bead of different shapes

7a. Adjustable choker clasp allows wearer to adjust necklace to body, to achieve that optimum sense of balance and movement

8a. Consists of each length segments separating unequal length segments.

8b. Important that segments on both strands do not match up with each other, but feel staggered

8c. Important that no segment shows dominance or becomes a clear focal point.

SCORE:

SCORE CARD ON PRINCIPLES:

DESIGN CRITERIA Very Unsatisfying…….Very Satisfying
1.  Rhythm 1     2    3    4    5
2.  Pointers 1     2    3    4    5
3.  Linear and Planar Relationships 1     2    3    4    5
4.  Interest 1     2    3    4    5
5.  Statistical Distribution 1     2    3    4    5
6.  Balance 1     2    3    4    5
7.  Forms 1     2    3    4    5
8.  Temporal Extension: Time, Place 1     2    3    4    5
9.  Physical Extension: Functionality 1     2    3    4    5
10. Parsimony 1     2    3    4    5

EXPLAIN:

RHYTHM:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

The forms or segments alternate between clusters of beads and a curved sterling silver tube.

 

The length of each bead cluster varies, with longer clusters furthest from the clasp.

 

Staggered alignment of forms.

 

The perceived “weight” of the left side seems the same as the perceived “weight” of the right side.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: making every bead cluster the same length and the same assortment of beads; having a clear focal point; using straight rather than curved tubes; having forms in both strands align more tightly.

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

Can’t get curved sterling silver tubes, will need to find alternative, either plated, or different sizes

POINTERS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

There is no specific pointer per se, but piece feels as if it has a definite top and bottom, and brings your eye downward.

 

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT, LINE, PLANE

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken:  Adding too much color/size variation within each cluster of beads.

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If desired effect of a waterfall was achieved, would have to rethink the piece.

LINEAR/PLANAR RELATIONSHIPS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece dependent on staggered clustering of points and connecting curved lines.

 

The two strands and the forms suggest a greater dimensionality than 2-D.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT, LINE, PLANE

FORMS, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken:  making relationship of parts more consistent, including using straight lines rather than curves; lining up the two strands more symmetrically

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If piece felt too flat, work more with sizes and shapes of beads in each cluster.

INTEREST:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece evokes feeling of a waterfall. 

 

Piece feels finished and successful.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

COLOR BLENDING

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

SHAPE

TEXTURE, PATTERN

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

LIGHT, SHADOW

DIMENSIONALITY

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: making piece longer or shorter; making forms more consistent in size and design; giving piece clear focal point

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

The bead colors are carefully matched and coordinated through simultaneity effects.   If cannot get same beads, near very close substitutes, or need to redesign cluster from start.

STATISTICAL DISTRIBUTION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Selection of colors, sizes and shapes within and across bead clusters.

 

Numbers of clusters and numbers of sterling silver curved tubes.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT, LINE, PLANE

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: more consistency in size, shape, color, form

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

The bead colors and sizes are carefully matched and coordinated through simultaneity effects.   If cannot get same beads, near very close substitutes, or need to redesign cluster from start.

BALANCE:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece feels balanced, although the forms do not line up, and in reality are made up of different colors/shapes/sizes of beads.

 

Shorter clusters of beads near clasp; longer near bottom of necklace.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

POINT, LINE, PLANE

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: more consistency in size, shape, color, form

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

If the placement of colors/shapes/sizes does not work, have to rethink the design.

FORMS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Two types of forms – bead clusters and single sterling silver curved tubes.

 

Forms vary in length and makeup.

 

Forms in both strands feel coordinated, but do not align or include the same or parallel colors/shapes/sizes.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT, LINE, PLANE

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken:  More standardizing of lengths and bead colors, shapes, sizes; changing the patterning from alternating clusters and long curved tubes, to something else

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

Could not get curved tubes, have to rethink design.

TEMPORAL EXTENSION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

We expect this piece can be worn both casually and formally.  

 

Piece has a very fluid feel to it, and we expect that this sense of fluidity will always be felt, no matter where the piece is worn.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

REFERENTS

POINT, LINE, PLANE

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken:  More standardizing of lengths and bead colors, shapes, sizes; changing the patterning from alternating clusters and long curved tubes, to something else

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

Could not get curved tubes, have to rethink design.

PHYSICAL EXTENSION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Adjustable necklace clasp allows wearer to adjust the piece, so that both strands lay so that they evoke this feeling of a waterfall.    Otherwise, piece would not lay right on every body shape.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken: use of fixed clasp

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

Could not get an adjustable choker clasp, would have to craft something to be adjustable

PARSIMONY:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece is neither too short or too long.

 

Forms in piece do not seem to need to be longer or shorter or more consistent or less consistent.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

FORM, SEGMENT, COMPONENTS

POINT, LINE, PLANE

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

COLOR BLENDING

POINTER

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

(examples: change length, shapes, lines, bead size, bead color, bead placement)

Weaken:  More standardizing of lengths and bead colors, shapes, sizes; changing the patterning from alternating clusters and long curved tubes, to something else; changing length or silhouette of necklace

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

(examples: If cannot get some bead, color, size, finish, clasp, what could you resort to instead)

Could not achieve color blending, sense of balance, or an up-down orientation, then would need to rethink design.

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:
COLOR MOVEMENT BALANCE / DISTRIBUTION DIMENSIONALITY
SHAPE COLOR BLENDING REFERENTS FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS
TEXTURE/PATTERN THEME/SYMBOLS CONTEXT, SITUATION, CULTURE CRAFTSMANSHIP
POINT/LINE/PLANE BEAUTY, APPEAL NEGATIVE , POSITIVE SPACES TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY
MATERIAL STRUCTURE, SUPPORT LIGHT, SHADOW

 

FOOTNOTES
 [1] Feld, Warren.  “Jewelry Design Composition: Playing with Building Blocks Called Design Elements,” 3/17/2018
[2] Feld, Warren.  “Jewelry Design: A Managed Process,” Klimt02, 2/2/18. https://klimt02.net/forum/articles/jewelry-design-managed-process-warren-feld

 [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]  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 .

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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.

Posted in Art or Craft?, bead weaving, beads, beadwork, design management, jewelry collecting, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

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.

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JEWELRY DESIGN: A Managed Process

Posted by learntobead on January 4, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making jewelry is doing.   Not thinking.

Creating.  Not managing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

JEWELRY DESIGN IS A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

DESIGN THINKING

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

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

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

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

Something to think about.

 

 

HOW DO WE TEACH JEWELRY DESIGN THINKING
AS A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

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

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

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

I link our developing discussions to some goals.    We want good thread management for a bead woven piece.    We want the beads to lay correctly within the piece.    We want the piece to feel fluid.    We return to Guided Thinking.     I summarize all the choices we have made in order to begin the project:   type of bead, size of bead, shape of bead, type of thread, strategy for holding the piece while working it, strategy for bringing the new bead to the work in progress.    I ask the students what ideas are emerging in their minds about how to bring all they have done so far together.

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

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

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

With guidance, demonstration and repetition, it is my hope that such thinking becomes a series of Thinking Routines my students resort to when starting a new project.    As students develop and internalize more Thinking Routines, they develop greater Fluency with design.

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

 

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