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Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Posted by learntobead on April 24, 2018

JEWELRY DESIGN PRINCIPLES:

COMPOSING, CONSTRUCTING, MANIPULATING

by Warren Feld, Designer

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Abstract:

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

JEWELRY DESIGN PRINCIPLES:

COMPOSING, CONSTRUCTING, MANIPULATING

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

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

Design Elements, which I have discussed in an earlier article [1], are like building blocks and function a bit like the vowel and consonant letters of the alphabet.   They have form.  They have meaning.   They can be assembled into different arrangements which extend their meaning and usefulness in expression.  Examples: color, shape, texture, point/line/plane, movement, dimensionality, and the like.   Each Design Element has a set of expressive attributes.  Color can be expressed as a color scheme, or as proportions, or as simultaneity effects.   Shape can be geometric or dimensional or recognizable or symbolic.   And so forth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Vocabulary: Design Elements As The Basis Of Composition

2) Grammar:  Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation

3) Strategy:  Project Management[2]

4) Context/Culture:  Shared Understandings[3]

This article focuses on the second component – Principles.

What Are Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These organizing and arranging schemes might include:

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

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

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

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

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

The Principles include,

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

TABLE OF PRINCIPLES

Principles of Composition, Construction, and Manipulation

(Organizing Schemes)

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

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

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

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

Repetition

Pattern

Random

Regular

Alternating

Flowing

Progressive

Vertical, Horizontal, Diagonal, Overlapping, Piercing

Placement

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

Directional

Contrast

Anomaly

Leading

Convergence

Size, Weight, Color Gradient

Framing

Focusing and Depth

Absence

Implied

  1. Linear and Planar Relationships

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

Orienting and Directional

Straight or Curved

2-D or 3D

Violating, Crossing or Intersecting, Interpenetrating

Parallel or Aligned

Perpendicular

Angular or Diagonal

Vector

Fixed, Directional,  Infinite, or Disappearing

Continuous, Broken or Perforated

Radial

At Edges or Within; Framed or Bound

Thin or Thick

Textured or Smooth

Opaque or Transparent

Moving, Rotating, Spinning, Darting, Flashing

Silhouette

  1. Interest

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

Give person an experience

Vibrance, Intensity

Unexpected use or positioning

Surprise

Sense of strength or fragility

Symbolic meaning

Perspective

Inspirational

Pattern

Clash

Juxtaposition

Simultaneity effects

  1. Statistical Distribution

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

 

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

Randomness

Color proportions

Scale

Measurements

Numbers of

  1. Balance

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

Symmetry or Asymmetry

Pattern or No Pattern

Regular or Irregular

Equalizing visual forces

Scale

Permanent, Illusory, Contingent

Placement, Alignment, Proximity, Repetition

Radial

Identical or Similar

  1. Forms, Their Proportions, Distributions, and

    Dimensionality

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

 

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

Evolving

Variety

Segmentation

2-D or 3-D

Realistic or Abstract

Geometric or Organic

Complete or Incomplete

Layering, Overlapping

Fringing, Surface Embellishment

Continuity

Coordinating

Clashing, Off-putting

  1. Temporal Extension: Time and Place

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

Materials Expectation

Techniques/Technology Expectation

Referents, Inscriptions, Images

Symbolism

Themes

Rule-bound or not

Revival style or Contemporized Traditional style

Appropriateness/Relevance to situation or context

Coordination with situation or context

  1. Physical Extension: Functionality

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

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

Length, Fit

Adjustability

Choices of stringing material or assembly strategy

Clasp Assembly (how piece attached to clasp)

Strap, Bail, Pendant, Fringe, Embellishment

Stiffness, Looseness, Bending, Conforming

Inclusion of technology

Structural Integrity

Application of architectural principles of construction

Physical mechanics

Weight-bearing

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

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

 

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

Goodness of fit

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

An economy in the use of resources

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

THE PRINCIPLES IN MORE DETAIL

1.   Rhythm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example:

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

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

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

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2.  Pointers

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

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

Examples:

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

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

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3.  Linear and Planar Relationships

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

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

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

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

– a strategic use of lines and planes

— shapes

— boundaries

– -silhouettes

— contours

– symmetry

– or, more difficult to achieve, a satisfying asymmetry

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

– how sections of the piece interlock

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

Example:

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

Example:

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

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4.   Interest

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

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

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

– selection of color combinations

– varying the sizes of things

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

– playing with the rhythm

– clever use of a focal point

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5.  Statistical Distribution

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

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

Examples:

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

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

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6.   Balance

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

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

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

There are different types of balance.

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

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

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

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

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7.  Forms, Their Proportions, Distributions and Dimensionality

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

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

The artist might play with things like:
Layering

Surface embellishment

Fringing

Curvature

Overlapping planes

Balance

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

Example:

Flat loomed bracelet and a button clasp, that sits so high on the bracelet, that it detracts from the 2-dimensional reason-for-being of the piece.

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8.   Temporal Extension: Time and Place

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

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

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

Other examples:

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

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9.   Physical Extension: Functionality

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Any piece of jewelry must be functional when worn.

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

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

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

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

Example:   The crimped bracelet which breaks at the crimp.

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

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

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

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

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

– over-embellish the surface

– add too much fringe

– repeat themes and design elements too often

– use too many colors

Parsimony vs. Unity

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

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

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

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

Parsimony…

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

– relies on evidence moreso than assumptions to get at criticality

– focuses examination of the few elements that make a difference

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THINKING ROUTINE[4]:   LOOK – SCORE – EXPLAIN

LOOK:

CLASSICISM NECKLACE
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Warren Feld, 2001.

Materials and Description:

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

 

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

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

S-clasp in back.

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

(see key at bottom of table for list)

  1. COLOR

 

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

 

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

1a. Some Tonal quality and finish

1b. Split Complementary color scheme

1c. Gradation dark to light

2a. Symmetry

3a. Same size druk rondelles

4a. Strong lines core design feature

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

5a. Mixing glass, metal and gemstone

6a. Center stones allowed to spin on tubes

7a. Layering of center stones

8a. Unexpected connection of strap to centerpiece

SCORE:

SCORE CARD ON PRINCIPLES:

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

EXPLAIN:

RHYTHM:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

One smooth flow from clasp to centerpiece down straps

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

BALANCE AND DISTRIBUTION

POINTERS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

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

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

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

POINTERS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Overlapping stones in centerpiece

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT/LINE/PLANE

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Strengthen: better color coordination between center piece and straps

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

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

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

LINEAR/PLANAR RELATIONSHIPS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

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

 

Overlapping planes in centerpiece

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT/LINE/PLANE

STRUCTURE/SUPPORT

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

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

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

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

INTEREST:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Overlapping stones in centerpiece

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

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT/LINE/PLANE

MATERIAL

MOVEMENT

STRUCTURE/SUPPORT

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

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

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

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

STATISTICAL DISTRIBUTION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

One shape and size of bead in the 3 straps.

Single color within each strand.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

SHAPE

COLOR

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken: vary shape or add more colors

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

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

BALANCE:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Single color in each strand

Symmetry

Repeated same length in each strand

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

BALANCE/DISTRIBUTION

POINT/LINE/PLANE

FORM/SEGMENTS/COMPONENTS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken:  Make piece unbalanced, or asymmetrical

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

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

FORMS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Clear forms:

– 3 strands, one of each color

– clear sense of right side and left side and center

– segmented centerpiece

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

FORM/SEGMENTS/COMPONENTS

COLOR

BALANCE/DISTRIBUTION

POINTER

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

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

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

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

TEMPORAL EXTENSION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

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

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

FORMS/SEGMENTS/COMPONENTS

COLOR

BALANCE/DISTRIBUTION

BEAUTY/APPEAL

CONTEXT/SITUATION/CULTURE

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN THIS….

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

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

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

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

PHYSICAL EXTENSION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

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

 

The 3 strands on each side of the necklace can move independently and allow better movement, drape and flow.

 

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

STRUCTURE/SUPPORT

TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken: leave out middle tube which lays between top and bottom center stone; connect the 3 strands together at two or more places along their length.

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

If could not get support structure to work, come up with different design.

PARSIMONY:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

The choice of colors, materials, bead sizes, length of strands, symmetry

 

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

SHAPE

COLOR

POINT/LINE/PLANE

MOVEMENT

FORMS/SEGMENTS/COMPONENTS

BALANCE/DISTRIBUTION

MATERIAL

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken: change any color, material, bead size, length, symmetry

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

If did not have sufficient access to these resources, would have to come up with a different design.

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:
COLOR MOVEMENT BALANCE / DISTRIBUTION DIMENSIONALITY
SHAPE COLOR BLENDING REFERENTS FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS
TEXTURE/PATTERN THEME/SYMBOLS CONTEXT, SITUATION, CULTURE CRAFTSMANSHIP
POINT/LINE/PLANE BEAUTY, APPEAL NEGATIVE , POSITIVE SPACES TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY
MATERIAL STRUCTURE, SUPPORT LIGHT, SHADOW

 

 

LOOK:

THE BLUE WATERFALL NECKLACE

b0627895-b67f-4226-9dff-3c10d6095453.jpg

Warren Feld, 2001.

Materials and Description:

Mix of glass, crystal, and sterling silver beads.

 

Each segment of beads has a different number of bead, and different sizes/color/finish of beads within it.

 

The colors are not part of a color scheme, and would be seen to clash if compared one to one outside of their use in the bracelet.   Example: sapphire blues and montana blues; golds and silvers; matte and glossy.

 

The segments nearer the clasp are shorter than those further from the clasp.

 

The sterling silver tubes are all curved.

 

There is no focal point per se.

 

The clasp is an adjustable hook and eye choker clasp.

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

(see key at bottom of table for list)

  1. COLOR
  1. COLOR BLENDING
  1. BALANCE AND DISTRIBUTION
  2. POINT/LINE/PLANE
  3. MOVEMENT
  4. SHAPE

 

  1. STRUCTURE / SUPPORT

 

  1. FORM /SEGMENTS/ COMPONENTS
KEY ATTRIBUTES OF DESIGN ELEMENTS:

1a. No conformance to color scheme, though leans toward the monochromatic

2a. Simultaneity effects

3a. Feels balanced though there the distribution of sizes, numbers and segment lengths varies within each strand and between each strand

4a. Brings your eye down to a central place, but no specific focal point

4b. Curved lines distort the linearity

5a. Expresses feeling of moving water, but no moving parts

6a. Curved tubes key element

6b. Bead of different shapes

7a. Adjustable choker clasp allows wearer to adjust necklace to body, to achieve that optimum sense of balance and movement

8a. Consists of each length segments separating unequal length segments.

8b. Important that segments on both strands do not match up with each other, but feel staggered

8c. Important that no segment shows dominance or becomes a clear focal point.

SCORE:

SCORE CARD ON PRINCIPLES:

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

EXPLAIN:

RHYTHM:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

The forms or segments alternate between clusters of beads and a curved sterling silver tube.

 

The length of each bead cluster varies, with longer clusters furthest from the clasp.

 

Staggered alignment of forms.

 

The perceived “weight” of the left side seems the same as the perceived “weight” of the right side.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken: making every bead cluster the same length and the same assortment of beads; having a clear focal point; using straight rather than curved tubes; having forms in both strands align more tightly.

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

Can’t get curved sterling silver tubes, will need to find alternative, either plated, or different sizes

POINTERS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

There is no specific pointer per se, but piece feels as if it has a definite top and bottom, and brings your eye downward.

 

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT, LINE, PLANE

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken:  Adding too much color/size variation within each cluster of beads.

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

If desired effect of a waterfall was achieved, would have to rethink the piece.

LINEAR/PLANAR RELATIONSHIPS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece dependent on staggered clustering of points and connecting curved lines.

 

The two strands and the forms suggest a greater dimensionality than 2-D.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT, LINE, PLANE

FORMS, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken:  making relationship of parts more consistent, including using straight lines rather than curves; lining up the two strands more symmetrically

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

If piece felt too flat, work more with sizes and shapes of beads in each cluster.

INTEREST:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece evokes feeling of a waterfall. 

 

Piece feels finished and successful.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

COLOR BLENDING

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

SHAPE

TEXTURE, PATTERN

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

LIGHT, SHADOW

DIMENSIONALITY

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken: making piece longer or shorter; making forms more consistent in size and design; giving piece clear focal point

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

The bead colors are carefully matched and coordinated through simultaneity effects.   If cannot get same beads, near very close substitutes, or need to redesign cluster from start.

STATISTICAL DISTRIBUTION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Selection of colors, sizes and shapes within and across bead clusters.

 

Numbers of clusters and numbers of sterling silver curved tubes.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT, LINE, PLANE

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken: more consistency in size, shape, color, form

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

The bead colors and sizes are carefully matched and coordinated through simultaneity effects.   If cannot get same beads, near very close substitutes, or need to redesign cluster from start.

BALANCE:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece feels balanced, although the forms do not line up, and in reality are made up of different colors/shapes/sizes of beads.

 

Shorter clusters of beads near clasp; longer near bottom of necklace.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

POINT, LINE, PLANE

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken: more consistency in size, shape, color, form

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

If the placement of colors/shapes/sizes does not work, have to rethink the design.

FORMS:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Two types of forms – bead clusters and single sterling silver curved tubes.

 

Forms vary in length and makeup.

 

Forms in both strands feel coordinated, but do not align or include the same or parallel colors/shapes/sizes.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

POINT, LINE, PLANE

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken:  More standardizing of lengths and bead colors, shapes, sizes; changing the patterning from alternating clusters and long curved tubes, to something else

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

Could not get curved tubes, have to rethink design.

TEMPORAL EXTENSION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

We expect this piece can be worn both casually and formally.  

 

Piece has a very fluid feel to it, and we expect that this sense of fluidity will always be felt, no matter where the piece is worn.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

REFERENTS

POINT, LINE, PLANE

FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN THIS….

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

Weaken:  More standardizing of lengths and bead colors, shapes, sizes; changing the patterning from alternating clusters and long curved tubes, to something else

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

Could not get curved tubes, have to rethink design.

PHYSICAL EXTENSION:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Adjustable necklace clasp allows wearer to adjust the piece, so that both strands lay so that they evoke this feeling of a waterfall.    Otherwise, piece would not lay right on every body shape.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken: use of fixed clasp

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

Could not get an adjustable choker clasp, would have to craft something to be adjustable

PARSIMONY:

 

How you see this playing out in this piece:

 

Piece is neither too short or too long.

 

Forms in piece do not seem to need to be longer or shorter or more consistent or less consistent.

ESTABLISHED BY KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:

FORM, SEGMENT, COMPONENTS

POINT, LINE, PLANE

BALANCE, DISTRIBUTION

COLOR BLENDING

POINTER

WHAT DESIGN CHOICES MIGHT WEAKEN OR STRENGTHEN THIS….

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

Weaken:  More standardizing of lengths and bead colors, shapes, sizes; changing the patterning from alternating clusters and long curved tubes, to something else; changing length or silhouette of necklace

WHAT IF CONTINGENCIES…

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

Could not achieve color blending, sense of balance, or an up-down orientation, then would need to rethink design.

KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS:
COLOR MOVEMENT BALANCE / DISTRIBUTION DIMENSIONALITY
SHAPE COLOR BLENDING REFERENTS FORM, SEGMENTS, COMPONENTS
TEXTURE/PATTERN THEME/SYMBOLS CONTEXT, SITUATION, CULTURE CRAFTSMANSHIP
POINT/LINE/PLANE BEAUTY, APPEAL NEGATIVE , POSITIVE SPACES TECHNIQUE/TECHNOLOGY
MATERIAL STRUCTURE, SUPPORT LIGHT, SHADOW

 

FOOTNOTES
 [1] Feld, Warren.  “Jewelry Design Composition: Playing with Building Blocks Called Design Elements,” 3/17/2018
[2] Feld, Warren.  “Jewelry Design: A Managed Process,” Klimt02, 2/2/18. https://klimt02.net/forum/articles/jewelry-design-managed-process-warren-feld

 [3]Shared Understandings.  In another graduate education class, the major text reviewed the differences between understanding and knowledge.   The question was how to teach understanding.    Worth the read to gain many insights about how to structure teaching to get sufficient understanding to enrich learning.   
Understanding by Design
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
[4]  Thinking Routines.  I teach jewelry design.   I find it useful to engage students with various ways of thinking out loud.    They need to hear me think out loud about what choices I am making and what things I am considering when making those choices.   They need to hear themselves think out loud so that they can develop strategies for getting more organized and strategic in dealing with information and making decisions.    My inspiration here was based on the work done by Visible Thinking by Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education .

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Posted in Art or Craft?, design management, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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

Posted by learntobead on February 15, 2018

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should the label be applied to all this variation?

Could it?

Why would we want it to?

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

What is contemporary jewelry?

“Contemporary” Is A Specific Approach For Thinking Through Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think of all that power!

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

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

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

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

1. Work within our shared understandings about contemporary jewelry.

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

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

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

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

Shared Understandings[3]

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

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

Understanding is more than interpretation. The designer may be able to explain how a piece was constructed and conformed to ideas about contemporary, but this does not necessarily account for the significance of the results.
Understanding is more than applying principles of construction. It is more than simply organizing a set of design elements into an arrangement. The designer must match knowledge and interpretation about contemporary to the context. Application is a context-dependent skill.

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

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

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

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

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

These are,

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

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

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

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

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

3. Jewelry should evoke emotions.

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

4. Jewelry should connect people with culture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The combination of any two or more design elements can have synergistic effects.
Working with design elements is not much different than working with an alphabet. An alphabet is made up of different letters. Each letter has different attributes – how it is written, how it sounds, how it is used. Configurations of letters result in more sounds and more meanings and more ways to be used.

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

This is exactly what the jewelry designer does with design elements. The designer has to decode, that is, make sense of a series of elements and their attributes in light of our shared understandings about jewelry design. The contemporary designer decodes in light of our further shared understandings about contemporary jewelry design.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The designer needs answers to several questions at this point.

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

How well have they anticipated these criteria of evaluation?

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

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

_________________________________________________________


WARREN FELD, Jewelry Designer
warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com
615-292-0610

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

4 Backwards Design. One of the big take-aways from Understanding by Design (see footnote 2) was the idea they introduced of “backwards design”. Their point is that you can better teach understanding if you anticipate the evidence others will use in their assessments of what you are trying to do. When coupled with ideas about teaching literacy and fluency (see footnote 1), you can begin to introduce ideas about managing the design process in a coherent and alignable way.

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5 Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Posted by learntobead on December 14, 2017

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

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

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

Empowerment is about making choices. These choices could be as simple as whether to finish a piece or not. Or whether to begin a second piece. The designer will make choices about how to draw someone’s attention to the piece, or present the piece to a larger audience. She or he may decide to submit the piece to a magazine or contest. She or he may want to sell the piece and market it. The designer will make choices about how a piece might be worn, or who might wear it, or when it might be worn, in what context.

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

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

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

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

When defined as “art,” jewelry is seen as something which transcends itself and its design. It evokes an emotional response from the viewer.   It has more of a sense of clarity of purpose and choice, a sense of presence. As “jewelry art,”  things done to improve functionality – durability, movement, drape and flow – should play no role at all, or as a compromise, merely be supplemental.

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

QUESTION 2:  How do you decide what you want to create?
What kinds of things do you do to translate your passions and inspirations into jewelry? What is your creative process?

Applying yourself creatively can be fun at times, but scary at other times. It is work. There is an element of risk. You might not like what you end up doing. Your friends might not like it. Nor your family. You might not finish it.  Or you might do it wrong. It may seem easier to go with someone else’s project.

Set no boundaries and set no rules. Be free. Go with the flow. Don’t conform to expectations.
Play. Pretend you’re a kid again. Have fun. Get the giggles.
Experiment. Take the time to do a lot of What Ifs and Variations On A Theme and Trial and Error.
Keep good records. Make good notes and sketches of what seems to work, and what seems to not work.
Evaluate. Learn from your successes and mistakes. Figure out the Why did something work, and the Why Nots.

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

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

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

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

Techniques are necessary but not sufficient to get you there. You need skills. The classic analogy comparing techniques and skills references cutting bread with a knife. Technique:  How to hold the knife relative to the bread in order to cut it. Skill:  The force applied so that the bread gets cut successfully.

Skills are the kinds of things the jewelry designer applies which enhance his or her capacity to control for bad workmanship. These include:
– Judgment
– Presentation
– Care and dexterity
– Taking risks

QUESTION #5: When is enough enough?
How does the jewelry artist know when the piece is done? Overdone? Or underdone? How do you edit?

In the bead and jewelry arenas, you see piece after piece that is either over-embellished or under-done. Things may get too repetitive with the elements and materials. Or the pieces don’t feel that they are quite there yet.

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

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

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

 

Warren FFor Warren F., Jewelry Designer and teacher in Nashville, TN, beading and jewelry making endeavors have been wonderful adventures. These adventures, over the past 25 years, have taken Warren from the basics of bead stringing and bead weaving, to wire working and silver smithing, and onward to more complex jewelry designs which build on the strengths of a full range of technical skills and experiences. Learn more about Warren here!

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DIMENSIONALITY: One Principle of Composition

Posted by learntobead on February 25, 2014

DIMENSIONALITY: One Principle of Composition

hrstep10c

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

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

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

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

Share images, if you have them.

gjddimbb1

Dimensionality

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

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

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

gjddimbb2

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

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

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

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

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

gwynian-wine-detail2-medium

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WHAT SHAPE ARE YOU?

Posted by learntobead on May 14, 2013

WHAT “SHAPE” ARE YOU?
— Spiral, Cross, Triangle, Round or Square?

shapes

Signs of Life: The Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them, by Angelese Arrien

Diane Fitzgerald had pointed this out as an interesting book about shapes, I think in her book SHAPED BEADWORK. I read the book. Fascinating and goes into a lot of interesting detail.

In this book, the author, who is a cultural anthropologist, studied shapes, and searched for universals. She found that cross-culturally, people use 5 particular shapes to describe and understand themselves in relationship to others within their culture.

These shapes were:

Circle, Square, Triangle, Cross and Spiral

She developed what she calls the Preferential Shapes Test.

Take this test, and use Arrien’s book to interpret the results.

I’m going to oversimplify this test and paraphrase her words, so you can try it, if you haven’t already. However, to read more details about interpretations and to read stories about people who fit various patterns, I’d suggest you visit this book.

STEP 1:
On a piece of paper, write the numbers 1 thru 5 across the page.

Here are the shapes to play with:

SPIRAL, CROSS, TRIANGLE, ROUND, or SQUARE.

STEP 2:
Under the first position number, put your favorite shape.
Under the 2nd position number, put your second favorite shape.
Under the 3rd position, your third favorite shape
Under the 4th position, your fourth favorite
Under the 5th position, your least favorite.

STEP 3:
Use the information below to interpret the results:

POSITION 1: Where you Think You Are
This is where you think you are today or want to go in the future, but not necessarily the most accurate indicator of where you actually are right now.

POSITION 2: Your Strengths
An inherent strength predominant in you at this time, whether you know it or not. Often, this is how other people see you.

POSITION 3: Where You Are
This is the most significant shape.
This shape shows your true current self.

Think of the goldilocks story – the porridge is too hot, the next too cold, the third just right.

POSITION 4: Your Motivation
This shape points to past events or things which motivated or provoked you to get to Position 3.

POSITION 5: Old, Unfinished Business
A process you have outgrown, dislike, resist, or are judging. Unresolved issues you want to put aside.

CIRCLE: wholeness
Position 1: desire to be independent and self-sufficient
Position 2: strengths are self-reliance and resourcefulness
Position 3: process of achieving independence is at core of your nature
Position 4: something in your past motivated you to become responsible and self-reliant
Position 5: you may be resisting or denying this process of individuation

CROSS: relationships
Position 1: forming relationships is most important to you
Position 2: you rely on good people skills
Position 3: forming relationships is something deep within your nature
Position 4: a past shared journey inspired you to become who you are today
Position 5: you may want to ignore or dismiss relationships

SPIRAL: growth and change
Position 1: change holds great importance to you
Position 2: easy for you to handle change
Position 3: you are profoundly engaged in process of change
Position 4: your were challenged in your past to make significant changes in your life
Position 5:you are unlikely to show interest in process of change and growth

TRIANGLE: goals, dreams, visions
Position 1:process of envisioning seems especially important to you now
Position 2:you carry the gift of vision naturally, whether you are fully aware of this or not
Position 3:the process of envisioning is central to your current development
Position 4:your process of following dreams in your past motivated you to change your life
Position 5:you are resisting the process of honoring your dreams and establishing goals

SQUARE: stability
Position 1:stability and authenticity are inspirational to you
Position 2:you are responsible, authentic, and fully committed when you give your word
Position 3:it is vitally important to you to stabilize and implement your creative endeavors
Position 4:past issues of responsibility and accountability led you to make changes in your life
Position 5:you may be denying process of stability and responsibility

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The DESIGN PERSPECTIVE

Posted by learntobead on November 3, 2011

The DESIGN Perspective
On Beading and Jewelry Making

The DESIGN PERSPECTIVE is very focused on teaching beaders and jewelry makers how to make choices. Choices about what materials to include, and not to include. Choices about strategies and techniques of construction. Choices about mechanics. Choices about aesthetics. Choices about how best to evoke emotions.

These choices must also reflect an understanding of the bead and its related components, and how all these pieces, in conjunction with stringing materials, assert their needs. Their needs for color, light and shadow. Their needs for durability, flexibility, drape, movement and wearability. Their needs for social and psychological and cultural and contextual appropriateness, satisfaction, beauty, fashion, style, power and influence.

This DESIGN PERSPECTIVE contrasts with the more predominant Craft Approach, where the beader or jewelry maker merely follows a set of steps and ends up with something. Here, in this step-by-step approach, all the choices have been made for them.

And this DESIGN PERSPECTIVE also contrasts with another widespread approach – the Art Tradition – which focuses on achieving ideals of beauty, whether the jewelry is worn or not. Here the beader or jewelry maker learns to apply art theories learned by painters and sculptors, and assumed to apply equally to beads and jewelry, as well.

The Craft Approach and the Art Tradition ignore too much of the functional essence of jewelry. Because of this, they often steer the beader and jewelry maker in the wrong directions. Making the wrong choices. Exercising the wrong judgments. Applying the wrong tradeoffs between aesthetics and functionality.

The focus of the DESIGN PERSPECTIVE is strategic thinking. At the core of this thinking are a series of design principles and their applications. These principles provide the beader and jewelry maker with some clarity in a muddled world.

The belief here is that, since there are so many different kinds of information to be learned and applied, it is impossible to clearly integrate this information all at once. When learned haphazardly or randomly, it becomes too difficult or confusing to bring to bear all these kinds of things the beader or jewelry maker needs to do when designing and constructing a piece of jewelry. Thus, the beader and jewelry maker best learn all this related yet disparate information in a developmental order, based on some coherent grammer or set of rules of design. This is the DESIGN PERSPECTIVE.

So, we begin with a Core set of skills and concepts, and how these are interrelated and applied. Then we move on to a Second Set of skills and concepts, their interrelationships and applications, and identifying how they are related to the Core. And onward again to a Third Set of skills and concepts, their interrelationships and applications and relationship to the Second Set and the Core, and so forth.

In the DESIGN PERSPECTIVE, “Jewelry” is understood as Art, but is only Art as it is worn. It is not considered Art when sitting on a mannequin or easel. Because of this, the principles learned through Craft or Art are important, but not sufficient for learning good jewelry design and fashioning good jewelry.

Learning good jewelry design creates its own challenges. All jewelry functions in a 3-dimensional space, particularly sensitive to position, volume and scale. Jewelry must stand on its own as an object of art. But it must also exist as an object of art which interacts with people (and a person’s body), movement, personality, and quirks of the wearer, and of the viewer, as well as the environment and context. Jewelry serves many purposes, some aesthetic, some functional, some social and cultural, some psychological.

The focus of the DESIGN PERSPECTIVE is on the parts. How do you choose them? How should they be used, and not be used? How do you assemble them and combine them in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? How do you create and build in support systems within your jewelry to enable that greater movement, more flexibility, better draping, longer durability? How do you best use all these parts, making them resonate and evoking that emotional response from your audience to your style, vision and creative hand that you so desire?

The beader and jewelry maker is seen as a multi-functional professional, similar to an architect who builds houses and an engineer who builds bridges. In all these cases, the professional must bring a lot of very different kinds of skills and abilities to bear, when constructing, whether house or bridge or jewelry. The professional has to be able to manage artistic design, functionality, and the interaction of the object with the person and that person’s environment.

Read: ABOUT GOOD JEWELRY DESIGN: Principles of Composition

Enter: The Ugly Necklace Contest – A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist!

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Web-Surf to the Primavera Gallery

Posted by learntobead on April 3, 2009

THE PRIMAVERA GALLERY
210 11th Avenue at 25th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001
http://www.primaveragallery.com/index.asp

Jewelry

Jewelry is a major part of Primavera Gallery. They offer fine, rare and collectible jewels spanning over 200 years of jewelry design, with pieces dating from the late 17th century up until the present. Their  emphasis, however, is on unusual signed pieces, Art Deco through the 1960’s.

They are not interested in large diamonds or masses of precious stones — this, for them, is geology rather than jewelry. They are interested in great style, exciting design and integrity of workmanship. Their collection includes all of the major individual designers, as well as the great jewelry houses. In their spacious new Chelsea gallery, they are also showing jewelry by both well-known and emerging Studio jewelers.

Dali-Ruby-Lips-With-Teeth-L.jpg (Small)

They also offer the work of individual contemporary jewelry designers of special merit, among them Pol Bury, Bruno Martinazzi and Andrew Grima, and they are adding interesting contemporary and studio jewelry from many talented designers working today.

Some things in the Gallery:

 

MARCHAK TURQUOISE AND DIAMOND RING
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A very unique cocktail ring. The sugar-loaf turquoise set in a domed turquoise and diamond base creates, literally, high drama. The House of Marchak excelled at creating unusual pieces, and especially this kind of jewelry in the 1950’s.
Marchak, Paris

ART DECO BRACELET WATCH

primavera2An elegant and refined bracelet with great Art Deco style in 18k gold set with damonds and calibre-cut rubies. The clasp is also set with rubies, and the central motif cleverly conceals a watch.

 

BOIVIN “LILAC LEAF” BROOCH

primavera3The House of Boivin is well known for beautiful jewelry based on natural forms. This leaf shimmers with the colors of aquamarines, peridots, citrines, and amethysts. It will bring Springtime to any season.
French, ca. 1938

 

 

 

 

 

BUCCELLATI DIAMOND RING

primavera4A wonderful vintage Buccellati, with their famous exquisite gold and silver work, and a 4 carat diamond of unusual and mysterious color.
Buccellati, Italy
 

 

 

 

 

SUSANNE BELPERRON RING

primavera5Pale blue chalcedony was one of Suzanne Belperron’s favorite materials. Here, it is finely carved and centers a fine pearl. Belperron’s jewelry is in great demand, and there are few pieces around. This is a beauty.
France
 

 

 

 

Lot’s of pretty stuff to admire on their website.

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What Is Craft?

Posted by learntobead on March 27, 2009

This question comes up often:
What is Craft?

Is Craft Art?

Can Craft be Art?

In many circles “jewelry” is considered a craft.  In others, “jewelry” is art.

At the Victoria and Albert Museum in England, they have opened up their art collections to include those of craft.  Yet they continue to make a distinction between the two, as seems to be common across Europe.    Craft is what you do with your hands, and Art is what you do with your mind.

To celebrate a new partnership between the V&A and the Crafts Council, we asked leading figures in the craft world to tell us what the term craft means to them. We hope these comments will inspire you send us your views too, resulting in some healthy debate.”

[While you are visiting the V&A museum online, check out their jewellery collections — don’t you love the way the British spell jewelry!.]

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I think in America, any distinctions between craft and art are starting to get very murky.    I guess we tend to be much more democratic about things.

I recently finished reading a book called SHARDS by Garth Clark on ceramic art.   Clark’s is a major voice for understanding craft as art.  But he decries the lack of leadership in the ceramics field in how ceramics are taught, and how ceramics are promoted.    He feels that ceramics relies too much on an industrial model — making the best toilets, and not enough on an art model — making objects that resonate from an artist’s personality, sensibilities, and social/cultural perspectives.

I wonder sometimes if there are not parallels in jewelry and beading to Clark’s assessments of ceramics.

Another book I’ve just begun is THINKING THROUGH CRAFT by Glenn Adamson.    He asks provocative questions about the marginalization of craft within modern art.   He advocates for visual artists to take a renewed look at craft to better understand the “working in media” craft techniques and theories which also underly the visual arts, but are too often ignored.

 And just in time for our blog discussion on craft vs. art, I received this announcement from the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, OR.

Community Conversations
Museum of Contemporary Craft, Pacific Northwest College of Art and panelists from Oregon’s creative community invite you to engage in a series of conversations about the anticipated integration of these two institutions. Explore the broader concepts relevant to creating a more vibrant and expanded organization that will strengthen its contribution to the cultural voice and economic vitality of the region. Conversations are moderated by Tim DuRoche, community program manager at Portland Center Stage.
 

Thursday, April 9, 6:30 pm
The Changing Dynamics of Craft and Design

Pacific Northwest College of Art, 1241 NW Johnson, Portland

Panelists
:
Andrew Wagner
, editor-in-chief, American Craft magazine
Namita Gupta Wiggers, curator, Museum of Contemporary Craft
JP Reuer, chair, MFA in applied craft and design, Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC) and PNCA

Karl Burkheimer
, head, OCAC wood department

What Does Craft Mean To You?   What Do You Think It Means To Others?
How Does This Affect Jewely Making, Beadwork and Jewelry Design?  
PLEASE POST YOUR VIEWS AND FEELINGS:

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