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MY ONLINE VIDEO TUTORIALS: So You Want To Be A Jewelry Designer

Posted by learntobead on September 25, 2020

 


VISIT MY ONLINE SCHOOL

Learn to Think and Speak and Work
Like a Jewelry Designer!

Making and designing jewelry is fun, awesome, challenging and rewarding.  You enter a world full of inspiration, creativity, color, texture, construction, beauty and appeal.  With your jewelry, you impact the lives of many people as they go about their day, attend special events, or interact with friends, acquaintances and strangers.

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, and why this piece of jewelry is right for them.

Your success as a designer is the result of all these choices you make.   Our courses are here to help you learn and apply key insights about materials, techniques and the jewelry design process when making these kinds of choices.  We also introduce you to things you need to know when trying to conquer the creative marketplace.

Empower yourself to become fluent, flexible and original in jewelry design.

Enroll now.

Begin with our ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE. For newbies just getting started, or experienced designers as a great refresher.

 


Everything People Wished They Had Known
Before They Started Beading and Making Jewelry!

We require all our students to take our ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS class first, before taking any of our other classes.

I have created an updated, extended version of this class online, which you can register for.    The class is divided into 18 short video tutorials on such topics of seed and delica beads, metal beads, clasps, stringing materials, adhesives, miscellaneous findings, and the like.   There is a downloadable handout that accompanies each video segment.

19 lesson modules.   This class is $30.00.
You can find it online and register here.


 

16 Important Lessons I Learned Doing Craft Shows!

In this SO YOU WANT TO DO CRAFT SHOWS… video tutorial 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

…Determine a Set Realistic Goals Right For You

…Compute a Simple Break-Even Analysis

…Best Ways 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.

 

19 lesson modules.  This class is $45.00.
You can find it online and register here.


 

Learn An Easy-To-Use Pricing Formula
and Some Marketing Tips
Especially Relevant for Jewelry Designers!

 

This PRICING AND SELLING YOUR JEWELRY course is about one key to success: SMART PRICING!

 

I share with you my knowledge, experiences and insights about…

(1) Why Jewelry Sells

(2) Three alternative pricing formulas used by jewelry makers and the jewelry industry

(3) A simple, mathematical formula for pricing your jewelry which I developed and prefer to use

(4) How to break down this mathematical pricing formula intoa series of easy to implement steps

 

Then, we practice applying the formula to some different pieces of jewelry.

At the end of the course, I discuss the differences among retail, wholesale and consignment.

I briefly discuss several key business strategies which are very related to pricing.

And I offer some final words of advice.

11 lesson modules.  This class is $35.00.
You can find it online and register here.

 


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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 Ambition/Motivation Type For Why You Became A Jewelry Designer?

Posted by learntobead on November 16, 2019

Not Just One Type Of Person

There is not just one type of person who becomes a jewelry designer.    There are many, many types of people who find jewelry design a common passion.    They may have different ambitions.   They may prefer to use different techniques and materials.    They may have different levels of financial success.    They may have different compulsions for creating jewelry.

We can differentiate people who become jewelry designers by their aspirations (1 Neuendorf, 2016) – why they became jewelry designers.    Some jewelry designers fit one type of aspiration; others, more than one.

Social Interactants

Creatives often seek out other creatives and form a social network.    They may be makers.   They may be sellers or exhibiters or collectors.     But they look for ways to interact and meet and share close-knot social ties.     Part of the reason is to learn new ideas.   Another part is to get feedback and critique.   The social group and network will offer support, advice, career and business opportunities and direction.   These are people you can lean on when times get tough.   There might even be some shared glamour and celebrity, depending on the artists and their group.

Social Interactants typically seek recognition for their efforts and their works.   The success of any piece of jewelry depends on the judgements of the various audiences which interact with it.     Social interactants allocate a good deal of their time anticipating how others will understand and react to any piece of jewelry.   They spend time seeking out opportunities to display their works publicly.

 

Compulsive Creators

There is this innate, compulsive, don’t-fight-it desire that some jewelry designers have for creating jewelry.    Composing, constructing and manipulating design elements is intrinsically rewarding.    There is a strong, profound commitment to jewelry design, and this directed energy is often associated with productivity and success.

Compulsive Creators love what they do.    It allows them to think creatively.    They allocate a lot of their time towards achieving a high level of quality and sophistication.

 

Lifestyle of Freedom Seekers

These designers like to set their own pace, establish their own routines, work when the spirit moves them.   A regular 9 to 5 job is not for them.   They like to make their own rules and be self-directive.       Any financial insecurity and uncertainty that comes with this is worth the price to pay for a lifestyle of freedom.

These designers believe that this freedom allows them to experience the world around them in a greater depth and to a greater degree.    In turn, they have more understandings for how to find and then turn inspirations into finished jewelry designs.

 

Financial Success Achievers

Successful jewelry designers can do quite well for themselves, but it takes a lot of drive, organization and business and marketing sense.    Jewelry design can be a lucrative career with such determination, gaining visibility, and a little bit of being in the right place at the right time.

But many designers primarily look for money to supplement their income or retirement.    Some look to make enough money to pay for their supplies.

Sometimes, designers make jewelry to seek wealth, rather than income.    They accumulate many pieces of jewelry and many unusual supplies and components to achieve wealth as success.

Financial Success Achievers typically try to create a business around their jewelry.

 

Happenstance and Chance

Not everyone who becomes a jewelry designer aspired to be one.   Sometimes people fall into it.   They need a piece of jewelry to match an outfit and decide to make something themselves, then get hooked.    They watch someone make jewelry, then get intrigued.    They try to repair a broken piece of jewelry by themselves.   They accompany a friend to a jewelry making class, then want to try it out.

 

 

Aspirations and ambitions vary.   There is no best way or right way.   It becomes a matter of the designer finding that balance of design, self, and other-life which works for them, and drives their passion.

Jewelry designers were motivated to become designers for many different reasons.    But motivations are only a start.   These make up only a small part of what it truly takes to be a successful designer.     Designers need to develop skills and techniques, creative thinking, design process management, and disciplinary literacy, to continue on their pathway to success.

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

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Posted by learntobead on August 18, 2018


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Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads

Article of Interest For You

ARCHITECTURAL BASICS OF JEWELRY DESIGN:

Building In The Necessary Support and Structure

by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer

Abstract

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

ARCHITECTURAL BASICS OF JEWELRY DESIGN:

Building In The Necessary Support and Structure

Everything boils down to support and structure.

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

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

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

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

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

We have all heard and seen the complaints.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

SUPPORT SYSTEMS

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

These may be things like

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

They may involve different kinds of chaining or connecting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are 4 key types of support systems:

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

STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS

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

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

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

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

Truss

Funicular Structure

Arch

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

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

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

Wall (which in jewelry can be vertical or horizontal)

Cantilever

 

Frame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EVERY JEWELRY MAKING TECHNIQUE

IS A TYPE OF DESIGN SYSTEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet

Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet, Warren Feld 2014

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

There are two major support systems in this bracelet.

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

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

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

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

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

Russian Right Angle Weave Necklace

Russian Right Necklace, Warren Feld, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

VULNERABILTY:

Areas of Potential Instability and Weakness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE 4 S’s:

Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anatomy of a Necklace

The Vivian, Warren Feld, 2012

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

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

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

Typical structural parts of a necklace might include,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Strap

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

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

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

The Yoke

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

The Break

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

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

The Clasp Assembly

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

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

The Frame

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

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

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

The Focal Point, Centerpiece or Pendant Drop

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

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

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

The Bail

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

The Canvas

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

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

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

 

A Truss

Necklace with Trusses

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

The Embellishment

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

PHYSICAL MECHANICS:

Statics and Dynamics

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

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

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

Forces are external to the piece of jewelry.

Stresses are internal to the piece of jewelry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DESIGNING IN ANTICIPATION OF

THE EFFECTS OF PHYSICAL MECHANICAL FORCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…if one is to be fluent in design!

_________________________________________________________

WARREN FELD, Jewelry Designer

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

615-292-0610

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

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

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

Copyright, FELD, LearnToBead.net, 2018

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

 

Posted in architecture, Art or Craft?, art theory, bead weaving, beadwork, design management, design theory, jewelry design, jewelry making, Stitch 'n Bitch, wire and metal | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Mary Lee Hu – Wire Artist

Posted by learntobead on September 26, 2012

Mary Lee Hu — Wire Artist

Have you ever wondered how far you could push your wire so that it sings?    Mary Lee Hu shows you just how far.

She frames, knits, braids, weaves, shapes wire into wonderful jewelry compositions.

Her textile approach to wire working is captivating.    We can learn alot about how to use wire by studing techniques in fiber, textiles, tablet weaving and basketry.

 

There is also a beautiful book  Knitted, Knotted, Twisted, and Twined: The Jewelry of Mary Lee Hu which celebrates 100 of her designs over the years.

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Take a Trip Through Metal Cyberspace

Posted by learntobead on November 12, 2009

Take A Trip Through Metal Cyberspace

http://www.metalcyberspace.com/index.html

 

This online directory of contemporary jewelry artists is very large.    It makes a wonderful tour of important and creative pieces from some of the world’s best metal artists.

Some highlights:

 

Barbara Cohen

http://www.bcohendesign.com/


metalartcohen

 

 

Melissa Finelli

http://mellefinellijewelry.com/

metalartfinelli

 

 

Anoush Waddington

http://www.anoushwaddington.co.uk/portfolio.htm#

metalartwaddington2

 

 

metalartwaddington

 

 

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