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

Posted by learntobead on November 30, 2018


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


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

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

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

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



Jewelry design is a life lived with wearable art.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

There are two groups of lessons.

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

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

Last, I offer some final advice.

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

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

And yes, One More Thing…

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


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

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

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


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

I Will Be Teaching At Bead & Button This Year

Posted by learntobead on November 26, 2018



What’s New…What’s Happening




June 2-9, 2019

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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

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

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



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



Saturday, 6/8, 9am-Noon



Friday, 6/7,6-9pm



Saturday, 6/8, 1-4pm

Show Catalog (download .pdf file)

Online Browsing opens on December 11th, 2018

Registration opens at NOON CST on January 8th, 2019


to get announcements about our Wednesday afternoons
and once-a-month Saturday beading/jewelry making get-togethers.
No fees.



join our group on facebook at:


Land of Odds – Be Dazzled Beads

718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123

Nashville, TN 37204

PHONE: 615-292-0610

FAX: 615-460-7001

EMAIL: warren@bedazzledbeads.com

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


Posted by learntobead on May 31, 2018


An Article For You from Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads by Warren Feld, 2018



by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer



Color is the single most important Design Element, whether used alone, or in combination with other Design Elements.    Yet, the bead, and its use in jewelry,  – its very being – creates a series of dilemmas for the colorist.    And each dilemma is only overcome through strategically making choices about color and design.  This article reviews the basic concepts in color theory and suggests how to adapt each of these to the special requirements of beads and jewelry.   This paper seeks to answer how the bead (and its use in jewelry) asserts its need for color.   Special attention is paid to differentiating those aspects of color use we can consider as objective and universal from those which are not.    The fluent designer is one who can maneuver between universality and individuality when selecting and implementing colors, color combinations and color blends.



Color is the single most important Design Element.   Color concepts and theories form a language about how to best make choices about picking and using colors for universally attracting and involving both the wearer and the viewer.   The artist who is fluent in design will be very aware of how the bead and other materials assert their needs for color, and how to strategically compose, construct and manipulate them.
I’m always thrilled when someone tells me “I never thought of using those colors before, …But they work!”    I like to push the envelop with color, and incorporate some subtle tricks such as the use of “grays”, the selection of tertiary or “just-off” colors, the strategic use of color proportions, and the combinations of finishes and effects which often don’t get combined, but, from a color-theorist’s perspective, can be made to work, and made to work quite well.    As my friend Vera always tells me, “You have a way of using a lot of “pukey” colors, and making something spectacularly beautiful with them.”
But I also have this tendency, that I keep having to fight, to want to “paint” with the beads.   Painting with beads doesn’t work.  The colors don’t blend, don’t merge, don’t spill over, don’t integrate.    You can’t create the millions of subtle color variations that you can with paint.    Plus the beads are curved or faceted or otherwise shaped, and the shape and texture and dimensionality affects the color, its variation and its placement and movement on the beads surface.  They affect how light reflects and refracts, so depending on the angle at which you are standing, and how you are looking at the bead, you get some unexpected, unanticipated, sometimes unwanted colors in your piece of jewelry.   There are many gaps of light between each pair of beads, and you can’t paint these in.
So, when I plan a piece or visualize it in my mind, I have to fight this tendency to see things as a painter, or approach design from a painterly way.    It doesn’t work well.   You need to bring an understanding of both color and beads, not just color, to the project.   You need to understand how the bead asserts its need for color.   Contemplate.    You need to approach the subject of color as a jewelry designer who uses beads, not a painter who uses paints.   Additionally, you need to anticipate how the bead, when worn, can alter its color, depending on the source of light, the type and pace of movement of the wearer, and how the eye interacts with the bead at any point of time or positioning.
Beaders should not be afraid of colors, but should embrace them.  They should learn insights into understanding colors.  They should be inspired by colors.   They should express their artistic and creative selves through color.    They should use color palettes to their fullest.
In some sense, however, the approaches of most bead artists and jewelry designers are still somewhat painterly – too routed in the Art Model.    The Art Model ignores things about functionality and context.    It diminishes the individuality of the designer, and the subjective responses of the wearer and viewer.   As a result, color theories get oversimplified for the jewelry artist.   “Value” is barely differentiated from “Intensity”.   Color selection focuses too much on harmony, and too little on edginess.  It too often steers jewelry designers towards a step-by-step, paint-by-number sort of approach to color selection and application.   The co-dependent relationship between Color and other Design Elements is downplayed and glossed over.    This is a major disservice.
So, I’ve tried to re-think how we could and should teach “color” to jewelry artists.     Not easy.   Art and Design Theory suggests that, in order to teach designers to make good choices, we need to break down color concepts and theories into teachable and digestible groups of skills.    And then show how the next set of skills builds upon the first.    We need to show jewelry artists what kinds of choices they will be making as they create pieces of jewelry, and then put them in situations where they are forced to make these kinds of choices.     We need to think of colors as “building blocks”, and the process of using colors, as one of creative construction.  
We need to add a sense of realism and practicality to what we teach.   I doubt most beaders and jewelry makers start with the Color Wheel or Color Schemes when they pick their colors.    They start with colors they like, and then keep tweaking them until they feel the mix of colors are right.    So we should add some behavioral reality to how we teach about color and how we teach how/when/why to use the Color Wheel and Color Schemes.
So, that’s where we’ll begin with color:   Delineating the types of choices that the jewelry artist needs to make, starting with choices about picking colors.
Picking Colors

There are many different kinds of choices involved, when using Color:

Choices about colors based on our understanding of…

– Personal strategies for picking colors or finding inspirations for colors
– Color theories and concepts
– How the bead asserts its needs for color
– How color affects the viewers of color
– Designing jewelry with color
– The situation or context within which the jewelry is to be worn
How do you actually go about picking your colors, and then deciding on your final colors for your piece?   What kinds of things influence you in choosing colors?   What inspires you?   Where do you look for inspiration?    Do you have favorite colors and color combinations?    Or colors and color combinations that you detest?
Most people pick colors a little like they pick lottery tickets – they rely on a random numbers generator, OR, choose the same numbers like birth dates over and over again, OR use some kind of mystical “system”, the logical basis of which is never quite fully known and seems too good to be true.
Picking colors is about making strategic choices.   And picking Bead Colors is about understanding how the bead (and other materials) asserts its needs for color.

[If you are in your bead or jewelry making room, you might pause a few minutes, and go pick out three colors of beads that you feel go together well.    Try to be very conscious of why you picked them.    

Then pick a fourth color that you think goes with the first three.   

Take away one of the four colors, and see if you like a combination of 3 better than that of 4, or better than any other combination of 3.   Re-arrange the order of the cords.   Make a difference in how you like them?   

Try to think about why you prefer one combination or arrangement over another.]


Recently, I asked three of my students to pick 3 colors, and then a fourth.  One student picked pink and light purple colors.    She explained that these colors were bright and matched everything she wore.    Her mom had made her wear dark navy clothes, and only dark navy clothes, when she was a girl, so as an adult, she picked colors as different from navy as she could get.   
Another student had been up all the previous night making Easter-themed gifts for the customers of a store she worked at.    At class, she picked pastel pink, pastel purple and pastel green, as her first 3 colors.    At first, she said these were colors she liked, and they were very spring-like.   But after thinking how she had lived with these colors for the past 24 hours, she remarked that these were the colors on her brain, and that’s probably why she picked them.   
The third student picked colors with high contrast, and, searched for a fourth color that would tone them down or balance them off.   One color was Capri silver lined, and a 2nd was a metallic hot coral pink.   Her additional colors were gold and brown.    She did a lot of ballroom dancing and made her own costumes.   Her choice of colors anticipated what she felt she needed for these costumes.    She discussed at length how the costumes moved as she danced, and what her goals for color and bead embellishment were, given the movement.
I know I like to pick one or two colors to begin with, and then tweak them.    Based on my knowledge of the Color Wheel and Color Schemes, I might pull another 5 or 6 colors.    Then I narrow my choices.  I play with different shades and tones of these colors.  I rearrange the order of them.   I reposition their orientation – horizontal, vertical, diagonal.   I test whether an AB-effect (or other effects or finishes) works with or against my developing ideas.    As I settle in with a more limited number of colors, I try to play with proportions.    At this point, I start to lay out the beads into some kind of design and arrangement.

About Yellow

The great colorist debates about yellow in the latter part of the 19th century were whether urine could be a component, and if so, who’s.    People do have a lot of time on their hands.  
Tales from Pakistan and India told of secret animal urine added to the spice turmeric to create the basis of yellow pigment.   This was difficult to duplicate.   Camel or Cow or, Please-Don’t-Say-Human?   One scientist happened upon a farm in India that made this “puree of India”.   Here the cows were fed mangos, and their urine was very yellow.    But there were not enough cows to account for all the yellow pigment available in India at the time.    Whatever the recipe, production ceased around 1908, in favor of other methods.
Yellow is an attention getter.    It is often used to signal “caution”, as in a yield sign, or as in the “yellow” in yellow fever.    People lose their tempers more often in yellow rooms, and babies cry more.
I know I’m yellow-phobic, and, am not alone.    I can only use it in small doses. 

Color Choices

Choosing Colors is an involved exercise.     Most people avoid this kind of exercise, and settle for a set of colors that match.    But, in design terms, Colors are used by the designer to clarify and intensify the effects she or he wants to achieve.  
What does it mean to “clarify and intensify” the effects you might want to achieve?   For example, the artist may use color to clarify and/or intensify any of these kinds of things…

– delineation of segments, forms, themes, areas
– expressions of  naturalism or abstraction
– enhancing the sense of structure or physicality (forward/recede; emphasize mass or lines or surfaces or points)
– playing with light   (surprise, distort, challenge, contradict, provoke)
– altering the natural relationship between the jewelry and the situation it is worn in  (context, clothing, setting)
Color is the primary Design Element designers choose to express their intent, establish unity, create rhythm, set movement and dimensionality in place, enhance shape, make points, lines and planes come alive, and the like.    Alas, too few people apply this kind of thinking and make this kind of effort when choosing colors.
One designer I know – Jenna – spends an agonizingly amount of time trying to match colors within her pieces, but never tries to clarify and intensify her jewelry.    Her necklaces and bracelets are strings of matched colors.    Anyone could have strung them.  Anyone can wear them.   No one wearing them should expect to attract the kinds of compliments, interest and attention a well-designed piece should command.    These are pieces of jewelry best viewed through cataract’d eyes.    Acceptable, yet not appealing.    Wearable, but not exciting.   Matching, yet not wowing.   
We refer to her jewelry, with some sarcastic bite, as “Old Lady” jewelry – jewelry for older ladies who were used to having someone else make the decisions about color and design for them.    Older ladies who settled for blander necklaces which were not threatening, and jewelry which did not enhance or detract from their identities and places in the social scheme of things.   Adornment without emotion.     Art without intent.   
Jenna could have done lots of things with color, though she didn’t.   She could have delineated segments within the piece and establish a rhythm.   She could have selected colors which emphasize a naturalism, or conversely an abstraction.   Colors recede, project forward, have warmth, are cold, have tensions between mass, line and point, surprise, distort, challenge, contradict, provoke.   Colors intentionally designed can even alter the natural relationship between jewelry and the situation it’s worn in.  
Jenna did none of this.  
Annisette was a slave to fashion colors.     On her web-blog, she bookmarked every reference she could find to the current fashion colors for Spring, then for Summer, then for Autumn, then for Winter, and once again for Spring.    She was determined to make and sell jewelry that was up-to-date and current.    Never mind that different fashion magazines and other fashion sources often disagreed on what were the “IT” colors of the moment.   Annisette would usually pick one, just because.    
In reality, while some people follow color trends, most do not.   Most people wear similar colors from year to year.   They don’t change much.    And while fashion excitement might originate in New York and Los Angeles, it doesn’t necessarily trickle down to anywhere else.
For myself, I know that as I start to play with my design arrangements, I also begin to identify potential color issues.    Designs are imperfect.   Beads are imperfect.  Colors are imperfect.   With each issue, I try to figure out solutions – other things I can do with colors to make everything work.   My choices begin with scientifically proven color theories – shared universals that virtually everyone has about picking colors.   In literacy terminology, this is called decoding. Then I begin to personalize my choices so that my results show more of my individuality as an artist.   Some of these latter choices do not necessarily reflect shared universal understandings about color and its use.   In literacy terminology, my ability to move back and forth between the objective and subjective is called fluency.

About Red

Red is emotionally intense, full of itself, causing the heart to beat faster and the lungs to breathe faster, as well.   Red can be an extreme color.  
The ancient Egyptians wrote their curse-words in red ink.   I guess now we know that ancient Egyptians had curse-words.  
Red can evoke love, and anger.    Red can indicate a person (or people) is in control, and challenge others to question that control.  
Red can be destructive, as well as signify re-birth.    Red stimulates appetite.   Red does a lot – a lot of extreme things.
I like working with red to a point.    But I’m uncomfortable sitting in an entirely red room.

Bead Choices

The bead – its very being – creates as series of dilemmas for the colorist.    And each dilemma is only overcome through strategically making choices about color and design.

Such dilemmas include things like…


  • Beads are not the same as using paints
  • Can’t blend beads
  • Boundary issues
  • Issues associated with shapes, faceting, edges, crevices
  • Limits in the range of colors (and color tones) you can pick from
  • Issues associated with the fact that jewelry as worn, takes many shapes/positions, as the person moves, and the color appearance may change or vary
  • Beads are parts in whole compositions, and juxtaposition of 2 or more beads may change or vary the colors’ appearance
  • Jumping from bead to bead within the composition, means the viewer’s mind has to fill in where there are gaps of color to give the illusion there is a continuance of color throughout the composition

Yet most people do not recognize or anticipate these kinds of dilemmas.    They ignore the bead, instead of contemplating it.   The bead is a spiritual void, without much impact or consequence.    They look at color wheels, read color guides, and rely on a Pantone’d world – “from Pantone [1], the world-renowned authority on colour and provider of colour systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication”.    Each season’s fashion colors are reduced to Pantone codes, and beads are forced to conform to Pantone.   But this never works out well.
The bead is reduced to a flat circle in a diagram or in a photo.    It’s colored in with Crayola pencils or jet-dry inks.    It is static on the page.   Lifeless.   It makes no shifts.   The spaces between beads are white and show no shadows.    The threads are shown as lines at the beginning and end of the piece, and maybe a dotted line, if any, through the beads as they line up and progress along.   The bead is a monolith.    It’s trapped in a spatial odyssey, computer-designed, and reduced to a 1 and 0, Yes and No, black and white.   
So, when someone like Esther, always chooses blue, she does the bead a disservice, almost a put-down.   Blue, for Esther, is a safe choice, but it’s not necessarily a designed choice.   And it’s not a choice about beads.
Beads are not paints.  They are not inks, or colored pencils or magic markers.    You can blend paints, and inks and stains.   You can’t blend beads.   Beads do not come in every color.    Bead colors do not necessarily coordinate with similar palettes and in tones, shades or tints.
Beads have boundaries.   They have curvatures, other shaping, faceting, edges, crevices.
Beads reflect and refract light, and this reflection and refraction changes as the wearer moves from space to space, lighting to lighting, shade to shadow, angle and perspective to another angle and perspective.
Beads are parts in whole compositions.    The sum of the parts may not add up to the value of the whole.
Jumping from bead to bead within the composition – almost like your mind/eye jumping off a cliff — means the viewer’s mind has to fill in where there are gaps of color and light.   This requires some work.   It is effort.   What color choices – selections, combinations, arrangements — would motivate the person to be actually willing to jump off a cliff?   How many people will have the necessary energy it will take to intellectually work their way through a composition of beads, so that they can make sense of it and appreciate it?    That means filling in the gaps of light with color.    That means responding to all the myriad color choices – good, bad, incomplete, redundant or indifferent — in the composition.   Jewelry has to be really special to have this kind of motivating power.
And jewelry must be appreciated as it is worn.   That means the colors must be appreciated as well – as the person moves up and down, and side to side, and back and forth, and cattycorner to cattycorner.    The jewelry and its associated colors have to maintain their “power and appeal”, no matter what.   No matter if the person is working at a desk.  No matter if the person is dancing on the dance floor.   No matter if the person is negotiating a contract.  No matter if the person slips on a banana peel.


About Blue

It’s always disturbed me that there are virtually no blue fruits and vegetables.   Blue is so calming.   Did Nature not want us to be calm when we ate fruits and vegetables?    Blue is so In Nature, but seems so out of it as well.   The contradiction is disturbing.   The skies are blue, the ocean is blue, some flowers are blue.   Yet when we hear of a blue lobster or blue spider monkey, we are somehow surprised and taken aback by their “blue-ness”.    Don’t they have a right to be blue?   Shouldn’t we be calm about it?
Blue is the most popular color for fashion.    It shows loyalty, honesty, calmness, reliability.     It should come as no surprise – although it did to me – that people are most productive in rooms that are painted blue.     Even weight lifters can lift heavier weights in blue settings, than in non-blue settings.    Have you checked the color of the walls at your local gym lately?

Emotions, Moods and Choices

The emotional and psychological effects of color are undeniable.  These effects are usually felt through processes of color comparisons and contrasts.   The better designer anticipates the goals of the wearer, and what emotions and moods the wearer wants to evoke in all that see the jewelry as worn.    This might be appeal, beauty, trust, power, wealth, intelligence, and the list goes on.

About Green

Green was once the preferred color choice for wedding gowns and veils.   I wonder at what point brides-to-be decided that looking like a tree was no longer a positive thing.    They jumped ship and went to white.   
Green has so many good feelings going for it.   It brings you closer to nature.  It refreshes you.   It has a sense of renewal.   So it always seems so out of place to go from saying someone has a Green Thumb, to saying someone is Green With Envy or Green With Jealousy.  
Did you know that people in green rooms experience fewer stomach aches than people not in green rooms?  Or that if you lay a green transparent piece of plastic over a page in a book, you can read more attentively, and retain more of what you read?  

Designing With Color – Many Choices

The jewelry designer must be strategic with color, which comes down to..

  1. Selection
  2. Placement
  3. Distribution
  4. Transition
  5. Proportion

Designers must be intentional, not only with the selection of colors, but in the placement of color within the piece, as well.     The designer achieves balance and harmony, partly through the placement of colors.    The designer determines how colors are distributed within the piece, and how colors transition from one color to the next.   And the designer determines what proportions of each color are used, where in the piece, and how.   These kinds of choices affect movement and rhythm, dimensionality, and resonance.   

About Orange

Orange is another color, like Yellow, that is difficult for me to work with.   I like burnt oranges and hyacinths, but a simple bright orange is not usually my thing.   I hear that I am not alone.  Orange, it appears, is the least favorite color on earth.
The Sumptuary Laws in Elizabethan England dictated who could wear orange in their clothing, how much, and in what areas of the clothing.     This inclusion and placement of orange signaled to others the social status of the wearer in terms of wealth, social status, and religious conviction.     The Laws applied to the lower classes, as well as the upper classes.
It seems fascinating that the dye used to make orange at the time was very cheap and bled out and faded over time.    I guess this allowed for a little bit of democracy in action, ups and downs in class status, and some avoidance of class warfare, as well.     But I’m glad we get to pick our own colors to wear, and no longer have any limits proscribed by law.


Subjective or Objective Choices?

Can choices about color(s) ever be objective? Or are they primarily subjective?
If there are no objective, scientific, universally accepted understandings about color, can you ever teach jewelry artists to be better users of colors, that is, to clarify and intensify the effects the artist is trying to achieve?
Much of choosing colors is very subjective.    Different people prefer different colors and combinations of colors.   There are socio-cultural, preset expectations about colors, as well, where some colors are used to reaffirm membership in a larger group, or exclude others.   Some people like certain colors when part of a vertical positioning and arrangement, but may dislike those same colors when organized horizontally.   Some people gravitate to pristine colors, with little shading, and sharp boundaries, where others prefer shading and tinting, and blurred boundaries.    Some people prefer very rhythmic arrangements of colors where others are more satisfied with pieces which are more subdued and measured.
However, if we are to teach the use of color, and give students tools toward that end, we want some things which can be seen as objective and universally understood.    There has to be a set of objective, grammatical rules, for using and combining colors that have been proven over time, are workable, and good rules of thumb to use when selecting colors for any design.    
Here we can turn to some research history on color and universals about how people recognize color and satisfying color combinations. We can begin to know that there is an “Objective, Grammar of Color” by exploring some of the research on our reactions to color.    Understanding how viewers react to color helps us make choices.   Research shows us Universals – how everyone seems to be pre-wired to experience color and relationships between and among colors.     We find that there are certain universally agreed upon ways that people decode color, its selection and its expressive use in art and jewelry.   As teachers, we can think aloud and demonstrate for our students how to decode and become more fluent with design and color.


Many people are often skeptical that you can choose colors with any basis of rationality.     Choosing colors is intuitive, subjective, personal.    You can’t teach people to be better users of colors, because you’re either born with a sense of color, or you are not.
People seem to have cultural or social expectations about the meanings of some colors.   When Vanderbilt students see gold, they associate it with school colors.   When others see gold, they associate it with something else.    The same goes for University of Tennessee Orange, and so forth school to school.
I remember when I was a kid, I worked in my father’s pharmacy.  His pharmacy was in an old-world Italian community in central New Jersey.   One of the things I did was manage the Hallmark cards section.    I noticed that in the general cards, as well as the seasonal ones, we seemed to always be stuck with brown cards.   These old-world Italians did not like brown.   No brown.  No way.  
To save us from ending up with all brown cards in every general card slot, and in every seasonal card slot, I frantically called Hallmark.  How can I bypass your system, so I can weed out brown cards? I asked.   They told me how I could alter the computer codes.   I did.  And success.    In about a year’s time, I had weeded out all the unsalable brown cards.
And I got rid of brown wherever it predominated, (and wherever I could) – no brown earring cards, no brown cosmetic packaging, no brown displays, no brown bags, no brown stationery or stationery ink.    Again, big success.
But this doesn’t mean that all people, or even all Italians, have a distaste for brown.
If we are to be able to teach jewelry makers and beaders to be more scientific in their choices of colors, and be able to anticipate how their various audiences respond to colors, then we would need to have some objective rules, rules that refer universally to just about everyone.  Rules that inform people what colors are best.   What colors go together, which ones do not.   Rules that show how to manipulate color and its expression in perfect and predictable ways.    But everything seems so subjective.

About Purple

Purple has always been the color of royalty.    This was probably because purple dyes were very expensive.    One source was mollusk shells, and it took something like 10,000 crushed shells to produce enough purple dye to make a simple scarf.
The color purple is associated with spirituality, psychic powers, and healing.   
I love the poem by Jenny Joseph called Warning, in which she writes, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”    Later this line in the poem was used to expand on a collection of writings about growing older.  
There are many famous purple stories in literature.   There is the story of the two Japanese girls who went to Australia to see the purple kangaroos, only to be told that they were just two people, and that “two” people was not enough to warrant the opening of the zoo’s gates.  
There is the little girl whose parents told her to go to the forest to wait for the purple wood.    The girl is still waiting.    
And there is the story of purple friends who look green.    Too gory to go into the details.

When people see colors on the vertical, they may respond very differently than when they see these same colors on the horizontal.
Look at flags of countries around the world.   Many flag colors are red, white and blue.     If you look at France’s flag, you have red/white/blue on the vertical.

French Flag
Russia’s flag has red/white/blue on the horizontal.

Russian Flag
Do French people turn their head to the side when viewing the Russian flag?   Do French think Russians are gloomy and do not know how to have fun, because the rhythm on their flag, as suggested by the horizontal layout, is so much less energetic than the vertically organized colors on the French flag.     
Or do Russians, because of the color layout on the flags, have a great deal of suspicion about the French, when they see their flag?    Are the French too indecisive and too ready to change their minds?  
You frequently find that people might like a color arrangement in a vertical organization, but feel very uncomfortable, or have much disdain for those same colors, when found in the horizontal.
The same might be said of objects.    People often tend towards themes when buying jewelry, and collect jewelry which are all Native American, or all Wicca, or all Horses, or all Wolves, or all something.     The Fish people are especially interesting.   Some Fish people prefer to wear Dead Fish (hanging vertically), and others Live Fish (swimming horizontally). 

Debby was a student of mine.   She related to colors as if they were notes in a marching band’s score.    Sharp cacophony!  Sharp boundaries.   No color shall begin before the next color ends.   Each color’s note should be pure and clear.    COLOR A, COLOR B, COLOR A, COLOR B, COLOR A, COLOR B, Left, Right, Left Right.    Debby, in fact, goes ballistic over blurring, and shading, and tinting.   Any color pattern that isn’t the One-Two variety, is very disconcerting.    She doesn’t like it.
Again, the world and all its people seemed so preset to be biased in viewing colors, opinionated in understanding colors, and subjective in choosing colors.      Is there no place for Art Theory, Science, and the Objective Way?
Color Research suggests that there is.

About Black

Some fashion experts say a woman wearing black implies submission to men.   I’d don’t know about that.   A lot of women wear black.   Dracula wears black.   Villains and bad cowboys and mobsters wear black.    Priests and nuns wear black.  
Wearing black with another color can enhance that color’s energy, just like wearing black can enhance your body’s energy.      Black can convey an inner strength and control.  
I like to use black a lot.   I use it to create shadows, to frame things, to back up things, to create borders, to create a sense of negative spaces.    Black is a great non-color color.

Some Research History on Color

Color research over the past 100 years or so suggests that there are many universals in how people perceive, understand and respond to colors.   My favorite book on this research is by Johannes Itten [2] called
The Elements of Color
.    The most important color universals for jewelry designers, I feel, include,

  1. After Images
  2. Simultaneity Effects
  3. Color Proportions
  4. Color Schemes
  5. Use of the Color Wheel


(1) After Images

The first research had to do with After Images.    If you stare at a particular color long enough, and close your eyes, you’ll begin to see the color on the opposite side of the color wheel.   So, if you stare at red, close your eyes, and you’ll see green.      
I know you want to do this, so stare away:

Everyone seems to see after images and see the same after images.    It seems that the eye/brain wants somehow to neutralize the energy in color to achieve some balance or 0.0 point.      The brain always seeks a balanced energy in light and color.   The human eye is only “satisfied” when the complementary color is established.    [This is the basis underlying the various color schemes below.]

If red had an energy of 10  (I’m making up this scale), and the eye/brain then convinced your psyche to see green, then I would suppose that green would have an energy of -10.   Hence, we reach a 0.0 point.     Again, the brain wants balance, harmony, beauty, non-threatening situations.   The brain does not want anxiety, feel, ugliness.
And we can continue to speculate that your eye/brain does Not want you the designer to overly clarify and intensify, should this result in a more resonant, perhaps edgy, composition.   This takes you too far away from 0.0 energy, and starts to become threatening.   It might excite you.   It might revolt you.   In either case you would react, feel, sense the power of color.   
Your eye/brain does Not want you to push yourself and your jewelry to the edge with color.   The eye/brain wants balance, harmony, monotony.     Red and green can seem so much fun at Christmas time.    But if you put your red and green necklace on a copy machine, and took a photocopy of it, it would all look like one color of black.    Red and green will always copy as the same color black.  
And that is how we perceive them.    And cognate them.   We see red and green as the same.   As the same color black.    And if we assign red a 10 score, and green a -10 score, the eye/brain is happy to end up with a 0.0 score.  This combination can be boring and monotonous.   If, in reality, something doesn’t balance off the color red, in this case, the brain will create its own after image to force that balance.   The brain wants to feel safe.    Everyone’s brain seems to operate similarly so that this aspect of perceiving color is universally employed.
How far the jewelry designer should fight this universal tendency is up for debate.    However, when initially picking colors to combine in a piece, we might try to achieve this 0.0 balance score, and then, by clarifying and intensifying, deviate from it a little bit, but always with an eye on that 0.0 – what anyone’s eye/brain is driving it to do.    We want the eye/brain to feel satisfied and “safe”, but as a designer, we also want to give the jewelry a punch, a wow, and edge.    There are many color tricks and techniques that the designer can apply here.
(2) Simultaneity Effects

A second line of research dealt with Simultaneity Effects.   Colors can be affected by other colors around them.    Colors in the presence of other colors get perceived differently, depending on the color combination. 
Simultaneity effects are a boon to the jewelry designer.   They are great tools for such things as…

  • Filling in the gaps of light between beads
  • Assisting in the blending of colors or the sense of movement of colors along a line or plane
  • Assisting in establishing dimensionality in a piece that otherwise would appear flat
  • Harmonizing 2 or more colors which, on as a set, don’t quite match up on the color wheel

For example, a White Square on a Black background looks bigger than a Black Square on a white background.  White reaches out and overflows the boundary; black contracts.

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Gray always picks up some of the color characteristics of other colors around it.


Existence of these simultaneity effects is a great piece of information for the designer.  There will be gaps of color and light between beads.   Many bead colors are imperfect, particularly in combination.    Playing with what I call “grays” [thus, simultaneity effects] gives the designer tools to overcome some of the color limitations associated with the bead.    
Simultaneity effects trick the brain into filling in those gaps of light between beads.  Simultaneity effects trick the brain into believing colors are more connected and mutually-supportive than they would, if separately evaluated.    Simultaneity effects trick the brain into seeing satisfying arrangements, rhythms, and dimensionality, where, without them, things would be unsatisfying instead.
A final example of simultaneity effects has to do with how people sense whether colors are warm or cool.   In one composition, depending on the color mix, a particular color might be felt as “warm”.   In a second composition, with a different color mix, that same color might be felt as “cool”.   
Here the yellow square surrounded by white feels lighter, brighter and a different temperature than its counterpart.    The red square surrounded by the black feels darker, duller, and a different temperature than its counterpart.

Again, simultaneity effects give tools to the jewelry designer for intensifying and clarifying the design, without disturbing the eye/brain pre-wired fear and anxiety responses.    These allow you to “blend” and build “bridges” and create “transitions.”   You have a lot of tricks to use here which enable you to push the envelop with your designs.   And still have your piece be judged as beautiful and appealing. 

About White

Don’t wear white after Labor Day.    This is a rule among rules among rules.   It’s an instructive piece of advice to help the fashionista and colorist to maneuver their what-with-alls and get through the remainder of the year.
White is neutral.  It goes with everything.   And I extend the idea of White to that of Clear, Crystal, and Transparent.
White can also be used to frame and boundary.   It can be used to fill negative space.  
I once read an article about Europeans’ impressions about Americans.   One of the comments always stuck in my mind.    “WHITE TEETH”.     Americans have White Teeth, implying that Europeans don’t, and don’t care.    The article was illustrated, and next to this comment was a picture of ruby red lips and very white teeth.

(3) Color Proportions

A last series of research on color focused on balance and harmony by proportion of color use.   These scientifically derived proportions show the joint effect of 2 or more colors, if the brain is to score their sum as a value of 0.0.   (Again, I’ve made up this scoring, but you get the point about reaching equilibrium).    
And again, I’ll make the point that not all compositions have to be harmonious.

You can play with these concepts about proportions most easily with the colors Purple and Yellow.

Using your Yellow and your Violet pencils, color each row in with the following pattern:
First row:    alternating Yellow/Violet/Yellow/Violet etc.
Second row:   set this pattern:  Violet/Yellow/Violet/Violet/Violet/Yellow/Yellow/Violet/Violet/Violet/Yellow/Violet

Third row:   Violet/Violet/Yellow/Violet/Violet Violet/Yellow/Violet/Violet/Violet/Yellow/Violet







Which arrangement do you find most attractive or satisfying?
Yellow is very bright and draws your attention immediately.  You don’t need much yellow to make your point.    In fact, the scientific formula which balances yellow with purple is 1:4.   This is read as “1 in 4”, and means that given 4 parts, 1 should be yellow and the remaining 3 should be purple.     (This is the pattern in Arrangement 3/Third Channel above).

Some other harmonious proportional relationships:
Orange to blue, 1:3
Red to green, 1:2
Yellow to orange: 1:1.3
Itten has a picture of the relative proportions of colors.


(4) The Color Wheel

With almost every book about color, there is a Color Wheel.   Some are more detailed than others.   Some are easier to turn and manipulate.    They all have different colors at the North, South, East and West points, but it is the same series of colors, ordered in the same way, color to color.  
It is important to understand how to use the Color Wheel.  The Color Wheel is a tool and a guide.   It’s not an absolute.   A rainbow bent into a circle is a color wheel.   This curtain of color provides the insights for selecting and arranging colors that might go together well.   But beads don’t always conform to the colors on the wheel; nor do they reflect light and color in ways consistent with how these colors appear on the wheel.
Look at this color wheel:

Get some color pencils, and color in all the colors around the wheel.
Science and Art Theory have provided us with tools to help us pick and combine colors.    One tool is the Color Wheel.   This curtain of color provides the insights and tools for selecting and arranging colors in jewelry design.    The color wheel helps us delineate what color choices we can make, and which combinations of colors might work the best together.
There are 12 colors arranged into
three families of color
The Primary Color family includes three colors:   yellow, blue and red.     These colors present the world as Absolutes.  They are definitive, certain, and steady.   They convey intelligence, security, and clarity.
The Secondary Color family includes those colors you can make by mixing any two primary colors.   These three colors are:  green, orange and violet.    These colors present the world as Contingencies.  They are situational, dependent on something, and questioning.   They convey questioning, inquiry, risks assessed against benefits.
The Tertiary Color family includes six colors.    Each of these colors is a mix of one of the primary colors and one of the secondary colors.  These include:  red-violet, yellow-orange, blue-green, blue-violet, yellow-green, red-orange.   These colors show Transitions.   These colors are useful for transitioning from one primary or secondary color to the next.    They bridge, integrate, tie things together, stretch things out.   They give a sense of before and after, lower then higher, inside and outside, betwixt and between.    They convey ambiguity or a teetering on fulcrum of a scale.
In fact, you can create your own chart of colors, if you wish.   Perhaps your Color Wheel should show Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall quadrants of colors and transitional colors.    After all, we frequently name our fashions and cosmetics and moods after the seasons and their colorations.    What should you wear in May, and how would that differ than what you should wear in June?    What should someone with a Winter skin tone wear in July?
Or perhaps your Color Wheel should show Earth, Wind, Fire and Water quadrants of colors and transitional colors.      Take Water, for example, what colors would be Fish (water) or Mermaids (water-air) or Flying Birds (air-water) or Turtles (water-land)?    How would you color-illustrate a Surf N’ Turf necklace?     Or, Fire and Ice?     Our color and design choices are so often influenced by our experiences of nature and natural phenomenon, why not Earth, Wind, Fire and Water?
Whatever your take on The Color Wheel, the wheel provides you some ways to view and interrelate colors.   But remember the power to pick colors is in your hands – you have the power.  The Wheel is not the power.  
As you begin to pick colors, you will also want to manipulate them – make them lighter or darker, brighter or duller, more forward projecting or more receding, and the like.   Expressions of color are referred to as attributes.  Expressive attributes are the ways you use color as building blocks in design.   So, here are some important building block/color terms and vocabulary.
Expressive Attributes of Color:
Important Color Terms and Vocabulary

Each color on the wheel is called a HUE.     Hues are pure colors – any color except black or white.    And if you look again, there is no black or white on the Color Wheel. 
BLACK is the absence of color.   We consider black to be opaque.   Usually, when people see black, they tend to see shadows.   With black, designs tend to feel older, more antique’y, richer, more traditional and solid, and seem to have a patina around them.
WHITE is all the colors merged together.    When all colors in “light” merge, you get White.  When all the colors in paints or pigments are merged, you get a neutral gray-black or beige.   With White, designs tend to feel sharper, brighter, more contemporary.
INTENSITY and VALUE.  Better jewelry designers are those who master how to play with INTENSITIES and play with VALUES.   This means they know and are comfortable with manipulating bright and dull, and light and dark.    They know the subtle differences among red, pink and maroon, and how viewers react to these.    They know how to punctuate – BAM! – with Yellow and EASE… with purple and CALM… with blue.  
The contrasts between Bright and Dull or Light and Dark are not quite the same.    Bright and Dull (intensity) has to do with how much white, gray or black underlay the Hue or pure color.    Low intensity is duller; high intensity is brighter.    Think of a Stop Sign.   It could have just as easily been Red, Pink or Maroon.    Red is the most intense – the brightest of the 3 – and hence the sign is Red.   You can see red from the farthest distance away.    Red is “Bright (intensity)”, but not necessarily “Lighter (values)” than the other colors.
The contrasts between Light and Dark are called VALUES.  A lower value is darker, though not necessarily duller (intensity).  
Pink has a higher value than maroon, because it is lighter.   Yellow is the lightest color; violet is the darkest.    Yellow has a higher value than violet.
Unfortunately, in many texts and guides written by Bead Artists and Jewelry Designers, they combine the concepts of intensity and value into a single concept they refer to as “Values”.   Bead Artists and Colorists often write that the “secret” to using colors is to vary “values”.     When they refer to “values”, they are actually combining these two color theory concepts – “values” and “intensities”.    Both are really different, so this combined meaning is a disservice to the bead artist and jewelry designer trying to learn to control color choices and color expression.


Intensity Exercise:

Use your Blue Pencil, as well as your White, Gray and Black Pencils, to color in the 2nd column.   Start by coloring in all the squares with a medium shade of blue.

Using your white, gray and black pencils, now vary the darkness of the blue to approximate the darkness of the grays in the 1st column. 


Values Exercise:

Using your Blue Pencil only, color in each cell in the table below, making the top cell the lightest (highest value), subsequent cells darker than the previous ones, and the last bottom cell, the darkest (lowest value).   [Press lightly on the pencil when coloring in the first cell, and then harder and harder as you go down the column.]

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So, as you work with people to create jewelry for them, you make choices about, and then manipulate:
– colors
– simultaneity effects
– balance and harmony (distribution, placement, and proportions)
– intensities
– values
Let’s say you wanted to design a necklace with blue tones.   If you were designing this necklace for someone to wear at work, it would probably be made up of several blue colors which vary in values, but Not in intensities.   To give it some interest, it might be a mix of light blue, blue, dark blue and very dark blue.    Thus, the piece is pretty, but does not force any power or sexuality issues on the situation.
If you were making this same necklace for someone to go out on the town one evening, you might use several blue colors which vary in intensity.    You might mix periwinkles and Montana blues and cobalt blues and blue quartzes.     You want to make a power or sensual statement here, and the typical necklace someone would wear to work just won’t do.
Let’s continue with some more important color building blocks or concepts.

TINT, SHADE and TONE are similar to values and intensities.    They are another way of saying similar things about manipulating color Hues.    TINTS are colors with white added to them.  Pink is a tint of Red.    SHADES are colors with black or gray added to them.   Maroon is a shade of Red.    And TONES define the relative darkness of a color.    Violet is a dark tone and yellow is a light tone.    Red and green have the same tonal value.   “Tones” are what copy machines pick up, and the depth of the black on a photocopy relates to the tonal value of the colors on the original paper you are copying.   Red and green photocopy the same black color.   They have the same tonal value.
TEMPERATURE.  Colors also have Temperature.   Some colors are WARM.   The addition of black tends to warm colors up.   Warm colors are usually based in Red.   Red-Orange is considered the warmest color.   Warm colors tend to project forward.
COOL colors are usually based in Blue.   Green-blue is the coldest color.   Addition of white often cools colors.   Cool colors tend to recede.

ac5930f5-db85-4243-b5ac-0c9388d7706a.jpg 56b0a61d-8e40-49c2-b281-b8eaeea7e93b.jpg fa399cbb-ca3c-4f1b-bb5a-b6654c296d0a.jpg

Juxtaposing colors creates MOVEMENT and RHYTHM.   By creating patterns, you guide the brain/eye in its circuitous route around the piece, as it tries to make sense of it.   Juxtaposing Warm with Cool colors increases the speed or sense of movement.

Some colors tend to PROJECT FORWARD and others tend to RECEDE.   Yellow is an advancing color.  Black recedes.     You can play with this effect to trick the viewer into seeing a more MULTI-DIMENSIONAL piece of jewelry before her.   By mixing different colors and different finishes, you can create a marvelous sense of dimensionality.

  • Faceted, Glossy beads will tend to look closer and capture the foreground
  • Smooth, Glossy beads will tend to capture the middle ground
  • Matte, Dull, Frosted, or Muted beads will tend to fall into the background

Colors Have Quirks

Color names have always fascinated me, but they are a bit quirky.    When I started in the bead business, many colors went by names I had never heard of before – like Smaragd (Kelly green) or Chroust (a brown tiger eye looking color), or were colors that I did not associate with the color name, like Hyacinth (which was orange) and Amber (which was a bright yellow).   There are over 12,000 named colors.  
Glass beads, particularly glass seed beads, are created in so many colors, that you can’t make every color using glass alone.   Some of the processes used to make some of the colors are unstable.   That means, the color can fade, bleed out or rub off.    That could end up as a nasty surprise.   And somewhat quirky.
And each time the factory makes a batch of a particular color, that same color but next batch, may be different.   The color of the beads is affected by the barometric pressure outside the factory when they are made.   This is something the factory cannot control.
Traditionally in Europe, transparent color names were given jewel tone names and opaque color names were given what I call crayon color names.    So we have Amethyst and Purple, Sapphire and Blue, Rosaline and Pink, Ruby and Red, Emerald and Green, Jet and Black, Black Diamond and Gray, Hyacinth (for the orange version of Zircon) and Orange, and so forth.     But this tradition, however elegant, is not kept to very much these days.   Things are quirkier.
The violet and blue violet colors of purple were reserved for European royalty, so today, we find very few choices of beads in this part of the color spectrum.    Too bad, because people seem to love purples.
The Japanese like to rename their colors every two years.   They view color naming in a similar way to “fashion”, and, they reintroduce colors in new names every two years or so.    Over the years, I’ve seen “yellow-lined crystal” become “transparent yellow Ceylon” become “daffodil lined transparent crystal” become “daffodil Ceylon lined crystal” become “luminescent yellow lined Ceylon crystal”.    The color names don’t make it seem like the bead is the same color.   Ceylon means “pearlized”, but none of these color names are used with pearlized beads.  The beads are clear with a yellow lining.   And so this changing-name-thing is quirky.
The Czechs started doing this.    Smaragd is now Kelly.   Chroust is now Tiger Eye.   Sphinx first became Hematite.   More recently, Hematite has become Gunmetal.   With some lines, Gunmetal is morphing into Antique Brass.  Amber is Citrine.     It’s very difficult keeping  up when you don’t deal with these quirks of naming on a day-to-day basis.
I came to find out over the years that people claim to own certain colors.   This sounds strange, but it’s true.    Like in, “Janice, here’s your brown.”   Or, “Elaine, come quick, this was the red you wanted.”    Or, “Cynthia, that’s not my purple.   That’s Ellen’s purple.  You know she’ll only work with that one purple color.   And I don’t like it.  It’s not for me.   I don’t even think it’s for Ellen, but God knows, she sure loves that purple.  No, it’s not mine.   It’s hers.   Not mine.  No.”
Other quirky things come up with color as well.   A lot of people get unpleasantly surprised when they cut seed beads off the hank, or pour them out of the tube.    The color of 1 bead alone is often different than when bulked up together.
You cannot easily mix Czech glass and Japanese glass.    They use different color palettes.   This is most noticeable with the purple color.   The Czech purple is reddish; the Japanese purple is dark bluish/black.     There is a similar problem with seed beads and delica beads.   Again, look at the color purple iris in each.    These don’t mix.
Nor can you easily mix Swarovski crystal with glass, or different Swarovski crystal colors with each other, because Swarovski doesn’t coordinate the tones/shades/tints of all the colors.   Your eye/brain also wants to blend all the crystal colors, when confronted with more than one color in a composition.    It’s very difficult to work with Swarovski Crystallized Elements and control your colors, as a designer should, would, and can.
And it’s difficult to mix crystal beads made in different countries.   Swarovski, the Czechs and the Chinese do not use the same color palettes.     Swarovski’s color palette is more intense.   Swarovski and the Czechs use more lead so their beads are brighter; the Chinese less lead, so their beads are duller.  Swarovski modifies the shapes of their beads so that the light refracts through the glass differently than similar beads made in other countries.   This altered shaped – a 4mm bicone is 3x4mm, a 10mm round is 9.5x10mm – also changes the way the light refracts through the glass, and results in an intensifying of the bead color.
Familiarity with these different quirks about color make it a little easier to apply and interpret color schemes and theories to beads.

The Kayapo

The Kayapo live in villages in the Amazon River basin in Brazil.     One of my anthropology friends studied them for awhile.    An interesting thing that she found was a peculiar cultural behavior related to naming colors.   
The Kayapo have three names for colors:  White, Black and Red.    They can see and recognize all the colors of the rainbow, but have not found the cultural or social need to have specific names for them all.   So some colors might be light white, or dark white, or very dark white, off-white, and so forth.
When the Kayapo perform ritual feasts and ceremonies, they drop one of the color names – the name for Red.   So during rituals, they use White and Black for all colors.   During non-ritual times, they use White, Black and Red for all colors. 
During the rituals, and I was lucky to watch hours of video on this, when the anthropologist points to red, and asks what color it is, the Kayapo will say Black.   If you tell them, that an hour earlier before the ritual, they called this Red, they look at you quixotically and wonder what planet you live on.   It’s clearly Black, at least at this moment.     During non-ritual times, when you ask them about what just happened, they still think you’re crazy.    It’s obviously Red, at least at this new moment.
These naming behaviors triggered several lines of inquiry.   One of them was to see if there was a predictable ordering to when color names are created for specific colors.   It turns out that you can highly correlate the level of technological development to the number of colors which have specific names.   Moreover, every society in the world seems to find the need to name colors in the same order.
So, the least technologically developed cultures have two names – Black and White.   Again, they can see and describe all colors, but only have the need for two color names.    The next color to be named is Red.   Red, then, is the first true Hue or color that people recognize and want the kind of control over it, that giving a name to it would provide.    We can only speculate Why.    Perhaps it is a color that is easy to make and the materials to make it are readily at hand.   Perhaps it relates to the color of blood or the color of something else that is particularly important in society.
Nevertheless, after Red comes Yellow.    Then it’s a toss up.  Some groups go with Green, then Blue.  Other groups go with Blue, then Green.    Finally then, comes Orange, and last Purple.
As a jewelry designer, your choice of colors might mimic some of this naming behavior.   If you wanted to do a more primitive look, you  might emphasize Black, White and Red.    An ancient Egyptian piece might emphasis White, Red, Yellow and Blue.   A contemporary piece might emphasize Green, Orange and Purple.  


(5) Color Schemes – Rules of Composition

Color schemes are different, proven ways to use and combine colors, in order to achieve a pleasing or satisfying result.    Good color combinations based on color schemes have balanced, harmonious tonal values – their light energy levels balance out at the zero-zero (0.0) point.    Better designers like to tweak these combinations a bit, in order to evoke an emotional and resonant response to their work.
You can place geometric shapes inside the Color Wheel, and rotate them, and where the points hit the wheel, you have a good color combination.    For example, if you place an equilateral triangle (all sides are equal length) within the circle, as in the diagram below, the points touch Yellow, Red and Blue.   If you rotate it two colors to the right, it touches Orange, Violet and Green.


Different color schemes are associated with different geometric shapes that you can overlay within the wheel, and rotate, thus helping you select colors that work well together.



With color schemes, you always need to think about things like:

  1. Whether one color should predominate, or all colors should be more or less equal
  2. Whether there should always be a “splash of color”, as interior designers like to say.  Do you always need a “drama” color to achieve exciting, focal, look at me first effects?
  3. If symmetry works with or against your color choices
  4. If you need to adjust intensity or value in each color, to get a better sense of satisfaction
  5. If you need to adjust the proportions  or distributional patterns or arrangements of each color used; that is, experiment with same colors, different placement

With any Color Scheme, you not only pick particular colors to play with, but you also must decide if one is to be Predominant, and the others Subordinate, or not.   Some Color Schemes work best if one color is dominant; others work best where all the colors are co-equal.
With some Color Schemes, symmetrical arrangements are more satisfying and asymmetrical ones are less.    
When you select a Color Scheme, sometimes tweaking the intensities and/or values of some of the colors you’ve chosen, will end up with a more satisfying outcome.
In a similar way, when you select a Color Scheme, sometimes tweaking the proportions or placement of colors will end up with a more satisfying outcome.
When you study Interior Design, there is a rule accepted by most Interior Designers about always adding a “Splash of Color.”   I don’t know if this is critical to jewelry design, or not.    A room will not look right without some drama, some focal point, some surprise.      Does jewelry need the equivalent of that Splash of Color?    If so, how does this relate to choosing colors on the Color Wheel?   Or is it to be some afterthought – some fourth color from the fourth dimension?     Is there a science here, or some intuitive emotional irrational choice?
We’re not going to find the answer to this mystery today.    So let’s look at the three most popular, often-used Color Schemes – Analogous, Complementary, and Split Complementary.

The analogous color scheme is where you pick any 3 hues which are adjacent to one another on the color wheel.   For example, you might pick yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange.   This scheme is a little trickier than it seems.    It works best when no color predominates.    Where the intensity of each color is similar.   And the design is symmetrical.   I also think this scheme works best when you have blocks of each color, rather than alternating each color.   That is, BETTER:  color 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3 rather than WORSE: color 1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 2, 1.

Exercise: Test drive the Analogous Color Scheme.    Take 10 beads of each of 3 analogous colors, and arrange them on the bead board into a pleasing analogous design.    Try changing the proportions of each color, and then evaluate which arrangement seems more satisfying.

Complementary   (also known as “true complementary” or “dyadic”)
The complementary color scheme is where you pick any 2 colors which are the direct opposite on the color wheel.   For example, you might pick yellow and violet.   To use this color scheme effectively, you would balance the contrast of the colors by value (lightness/darkness) and/or intensity (brightness/dullness).   In this color scheme, one color has to predominate.

Try these exercises:
Exercise:   Take 15 beads of each of two complementary colors, and arrange them on the bead board into a pleasing design.      
Exercise:  Now put back 10 beads of one color, and replace with 10 beads of the other color, so you now have 5 beads of one color and 25 beads of the other.     Arrange them on the bead board into a pleasing complementary design.

Which arrangement is more satisfying?


Split Complementary

This is the most popular color scheme.  Here you choose a hue and the hues on either side of its complement.   For example, you might choose yellow and blue-violet and red-violet.   In this scheme, one color needs to predominate.   This scheme works well with both symmetrical and asymmetrical designs.  You can use an isosceles triangle (has two sides with equal length) within the Color Wheel to pick colors.
One thing I like to do with this scheme is arrange all my beads, then replace one color with one of the others, and vice versa.    Let’s say you had 20 blue-green (aqua), 10 orange, and 5 red beads, which you had laid out in a satisfactory arrangement.    You could change it to 20 orange, 10 blue-green, and 5 red beads, and it would look just as good.     A lot of people have difficulty using the color orange in jewelry designs, but find it easy to use blue-green.   Here’s a nifty way to trick them into using orange, and liking it.   Do the composition with blue-green dominant, then switch out all the blue-green for orange, and any orange you used for blue-green.

Exercise:   Choose a hue and its two split complements.   Take as many beads of each of these three colors as you like, up to a maximum of 30 beads, and arrange them on the bead board into a pleasing split complementary design.
Play with these beads awhile.   Take some away.  Add some.   Replace one color with another.  Change patterns.   Change rhythm.  Which approaches feel more satisfying than others?

There are many other color schemes.   Some examples:
Analogous Complementary.(3 analogous colors, and one complement of one of these 3).             Example:  blue-violet, violet, red-violet with yellow-green.
Triadic:  (3 tertiary hues equidistant on the color wheel.)             Example:  red-violet, yellow-orange, and blue-green.  You can use an equilateral triangle within the color wheel to help you pick choices.
Tetradic:   (Using 4 colors, a double complementary scheme).   Example:   Yellow-green, orange, red-violet, and blue.   You can use a square or rectangle within the color wheel to help you pick choices.
Hexadic:   (Using 5 colors).   Can use a pentagon within the color wheel to select your colors.
Monochromatic:   (A single hue, though with different intensities, tints and shades)
Achromatic:  (black and white and gray  (without color))
Neutrals:   (mixes of hues to get browns (or grays))
Clash:  (combines a color hue with a color on either side of its complement). 
            Example:   blue w/red-orange or orange-yellow
There are many books, as well as free on-line color scheme designer apps to check out and play with.


The bead presents greater complexity and depth, in terms of color, than any flat surface, like paint.   We need to know how the bead asserts its need for color.   We need to spend some time contemplating this.   [In fact, we need to know how all the materials we use in our jewelry compositions assert their needs for color and spend time in contemplation.]

After you thread the needle and pierce the hole of a bead, you are eyeball to Bead.   You cannot fail to notice the sharp and steady interplay of color that rushes to your eye and your brain.   That interplay could be subtle, as shadows and subtle differences in shade and tone.   Or it could be dramatic, as an Aurora Borealis effect on the bead opens up like a silk and paper fan across the lenses of your eyes.    That interplay is often unexpected, as if directed by “someone else’s hand”.    
Before you know it, your needle is through this bead and on to the next.   You almost gasp, to take in all the color, its powers and effects.    As you string or weave more beads together, the developing composition provides more intellectual challenges and stimulations to your mind and eye.   Beads demand much more commitment, they are much more assertive, they require much more attention, than paint.   And you are there to provide it.
Bead shapes, dimensionality, and movement-when-worn create shadows and highlights.    They force you to perceive and have to interpret your perceptions.    They offer many plays on light, reflections and refractions, some anticipated, others not.   
The Bead has many levels upon which to target your eye.     There is the surface.   There are the outer edges.   There are the inner edges that come with faceting, and texturing, and crevicing.   There are the layered inner spaces you see in opalescents and micas and color lined and quartzes and Picassos and hurricanes and tortoises and cubas and conglomerations.    There are many other applied effects from aurora borealis to celsian to valentinit to azuro to Labrador to clarit to vega.
And there is the hole, its rim, its recesses, and its channel through the object we call Bead.    And as the eye and brain try to target the eye on the bead, it is important to realize that some materials of beads restrict the eye to its surface colors; other materials bring the eye into the bead to different levels or layers below the surface and within the bead itself.
Although many people try to “paint” with beads, you really can’t.    Beads don’t come in every color, and they don’t “blend” like paints.   Often, you have to make work the limited color palette you have with beads on hand.   You rely on techniques based in proven color theories to trick the brain and steer the brain into seeing blends, seeing coherence, seeing continuity, seeing unity of effect.

Each bead already presents some color variation in terms of intensity and value, as the viewer experiences the bead in its entirety, examining the bead over and around each curve and surface.    The intensity of value of the bead color may be more or less near the curvature or hole, and more or less at its center.
Sometimes this works to the artist’s advantage, in that the color as experienced on, with, within, through and around the bead might be more “forgiving” than picking a paint color.    On some beads, you find color effects fired on to one side, but not the other, and this affects intensity and value, as well.

Color must “jump a cliff” in the spaces between any two beads.    The smaller the bead, the less “gap” created between beads, and the more intense and sharper the colors.   A composition with 15/0 seed beads would be viewed more favorably, than if the same piece had been done with 11/0 seed beads or 8/0 seed beads.   Smaller gaps.

The color and its effects with a bead, as you hold it in the air, may vary considerably than when you place it over cloth.   In a similar way, the color of beads on hanks or in tubes or on strands, may be very different than when used within a particular composition. 
The time of day, the brightness or dimness of the sun or moon, the casts of shadows along the landscape – these all affect perceptions of color, and the bead, its shape and texturing and coloration effects only makes these perceptions more complex and multi-plex.   The color of lighting in a room – fluorescent day, cool or white, or incandescent yellow – and the colors of the walls and floors and ceilings, and the amount of windows, and their positioning – these all affect perceptions of color, as well.    The list can go on – the direction of lighting, directed lighting, filtering of lighting, and so forth.    The good jewelry designer needs to understand these things.


With Beads, to understand color combination, you must also understand the materials the beads are made of, and how the materials contribute to or work against such combinations.   Whether the material is of the bead itself, or of the stringing material, the light-conveying and light-inhibiting qualities of these materials will also be critical, when choosing color combinations.
One time, we were experimenting with making simple beaded beads.    Traditionally, you would use a wooden bead as the “core”, and bead weave all around it.    Usually, you would color the wood bead with magic markers or paint, in a color similar to the beads you were weaving with.   We tried doing the same beaded bead, first around an acrylic bead, and then around a glass bead.    Bead weaving around the acrylic bead seemed more attractive and satisfying than around the wood one.   Bead weaving around the glass bead had a considerably bigger and more positive impact on the result.   
With the wood core bead, the beaded bead looked a little listless, with little resonance.   With the glass core bead, the beaded bead had a lot of resonance.   Light flashed all around and through the bead from side to side.   The colors seemed more vibrant.   With the acrylic bead, the resonance seemed in between that of wood and glass.
It’s very difficult to mix materials within the same piece of jewelry.    The eye/brain interacts differently with different materials.     When you mix materials, it can get awkward for the eye/brain to perceive and interpret what it’s seeing.   When this happens, you begin to trigger our pre-wired fear and anxiety response.  This makes the brain edgy because the brain always prefers harmony and balance.   So things start to get translated as ugly, boring, monotonous, unsatisfying and the like.
With most glass, the eye/brain sees the outer surface.   The light travels to the surface and reflects back from the surface.  With most gemstones, the eye/brain sees the surface, as well as sees into the bead and below the surface among many levels and layers.   The light travels below the surface, and then is reflected back from below the surface.  
When you mix glass and gemstones, you need to try to pick glass that duplicates the eye/brain/gemstone interaction.   Opalescent colors of glass work well.    Matte transparent beads with color lining, or color effects beneath the surface layer work very well.
It’s also difficult to mix glass and glass crystal (leaded glass) within the same piece.   Swarovski crystals use a very different color palette than Czech glass and from which to work.   Crystal beads draw the eye/brain deep within the bead and below the surface.   Light diffuses, and often, with crystal beads, we see the brightness before we recognize the color itself.   This is a very different dynamic than our brain/eye/material interactions associated with most glass and most gemstones.
Each color within the Swarovski crystal line does not seem to be from the same color palette when compared to each other, either – they don’t have the same underlying tones/shades/hues.  When mixed, many colors become muted, and less distinct, then when separated.   There are many color boundary issues – your eye wants to merge/blend/wash the colors together.  Some lighter colors seem to fade or wash out, when next to others, or in a finished piece.
Mixing fibers and other related stringing materials have big impacts on perceptions of color and color combinations.     In transparent or translucent beads, the color of the stringing material, or its finish, (glossy, matte, waxed, metallic, dull), can affect the perception of the bead color.  Your eye/brain can actually see the stringing material between each pair of beads butted up against each other.   This affects color.  
How you finish off your necklace or bracelet, and attach a clasp – The Clasp Assembly – can affect perceptions of color.    This can be as simple as a gold clasp vs. a silver clasp, or it could be more involved.

The Color Effects of Threads

The color of the stringing material has a big impact on color perceptions of the piece as a whole.
With Black Thread, you see shadows.   Black seems to make things look richer, older, more antique-y, with a patina.   Black Thread works in most pieces. 
With White Thread, you can see the white, where you tie knots.   White seems to make things look sharper, brighter, more contemporary.
Most people, when using color threads, match the color of their thread to the predominant color in their piece.  In this case, there is little color effect.  However, you can get very strategic with color threads.  You can take an amethyst colored thread and an olivine colored bead, and get a neat color-lined effect.    There is no reason that you have to use the same color of thread throughout your piece.  You can change colors, and also get unusual color effects.

Mixed Media Projects

When you mix Beads and Other Media, like fibers, in the same composition, the different materials compete for attention and dominance.     The Designer leads the way in how this unfolds.    Frequently, though, the person making the jewelry loses control over the materials, their powers, their essence, their color.    One of the major things that goes wrong here is a failure to control the colors and the light reflections and refractions.  
Say you were creating a felted piece with some additional braiding on it, and embellished the piece with crystal beads.   You might have created some fascinating scroll work and layering with your fibers.     The brightness of the beads, however, might distract the viewer, or the experiencing of colors within each material might be distracting, making her turn her head.   The crux of your piece, then, goes unnoticed.  

The Use of “GRAYS” (simultaneity effects) to tie things together – Blending and Bridging

With beads, the eye often needs to merge or coordinate colors, as it scans any piece.  And then there are the gaps of light between beads.  The eye needs help in spanning those gaps.   The Artist needs to build color “bridges” and “transitions”, so that the eye doesn’t fall off a cliff or have to make a leap of death from one bead, across the gap, all the way to the next.
One easy technique to use is to play with simultaneity effects.  One such effect is where gray takes on the characteristics of the color(s) around it.
In beads, there are many colors that function as “grays” – gray, black diamond, alexandrite, Montana blue, Colorado topaz – colors that have a lot of black tones to them.    Most color lined beads result in a gray effect.    Metallic finishes can result in a gray effect.
In one piece I made, for example, I used 11/0 peach lined aqua beads as a “gray” to tie in larger teal and antique amethyst  beads together.    Gray colors pull from one bead, and transition to the next in a very subtle way, that tricks the brain, but does not disturb it.


I like to put “frames” around things.    I like to frame segments of beads in my pieces, to delineate sections, forms and themes.  I like to frame pendant drops so that there is a clear top and bottom, beginning and end.   I like to frame color blocks to play with line, silhouette and boundaries.
Framing means using colors on either end of something, so that you establish a start and stop, a beginning and end, a top and bottom, or some related boundary.   For example, you can put two black seed beads on either side of an 8mm round red bead, to frame the bead, not detract from it, and enhance the viewer’s experience with it.

Need Focal Point In Piece

Not necessarily a “splash of color”, but there is some need to create a sense of drama, life, excitement, a look-at-me-first bead or color.   These could be high contrast, or a monochromatic piece.  But something because of size or pattern or texture needs to draw focal interest.

Color Blending

Every so often, you might want to create a rainbow, or some sequencing of colors, say from light to dark, where all the colors seem to emerge from the last, and bleed into the next.    This is much more difficult with beads than with paints for all the usual reasons discussed above.
A “Random” selection or placement of colors doesn’t usually work.  “Alternating” or “graduating” colors doesn’t always work well.    You must create a more complex, involved patterning.   You must choreograph the layout of colors, so that, from a short distance, they look like they are blending, and gradually changing across the length of your piece.
One way to choreograph things, is to play with color proportions.   Go bead by bead or row by row, and begin with the ideal proportionate relationship between two colors.    Gradually manipulate this down the piece by anticipating the next ideal proportionate relationship between the next two colors that need to follow.  


QUESTION: If your jewelry needs something else, how do you make these choices…That color’s not right, what’s not right about it? I want to add a color, which one?   My colors are not working 100% within the composition, what can I tweak?

When we study color from a design standpoint, we think of color as part of the jewelry’s structure.  That means, color is not merely a decorative effect.    It is more like a building component.    The specific term is “Design Element”.    Color is the most important Design Element.      It can both stand alone, as well as easily be combined with other Design Elements.
We use color to express elements of the materials used, like glass or gemstone.   We use color to express or emphasize elements of the forms we are creating.   We use color to enhance a sense of movement or dimension.   We use color to express moods and emotions
Often, the first problem with color in design is the distribution of lights and darks.      Using the same colors, you can get very different results, based on how the colors are arranged.    When you have questions, it is useful to take a black and white photocopy of the different patterns, and to choose, based on the black and white image.
The second problem is creating a focal point with color.
The third problem is creating a rhythmic feeling, using the distribution of colors and their proportions.
Better pieces are either
(a) those with a dominant color, and some variation in values or intensities, or
(b) those that are dominant in 1 or 2 complementary or analogous colors, with some change in values and/or intensities
Better designers are able to decode the use of color and its expression within any piece.   This means being able to determine which colors were selected, define the intensity of values of these colors, determine whether placement, distribution and proportion is applied well, identify where color combined with other Design Elements creates additional expressive qualities, such as movement, dimension, and balance.    Fluent designers can decode intuitively and quickly, and apply color in more expressive ways to convey inspiration, show the artist’s strategy and intent, and trigger an especially resonant, energetic response by wearers and viewers alike.

Good Jewelry Design has
1. Resonance
2. Strategic Use of Line
3. Strategic Placement of Colors and Proportions of Colors
4. The Use of Shapes, Forms and Themes
5. The Power To Affect the Viewer’s Emotions, Moods and Understandings of the Situations Around Her
6. Parsimony  (knowing when enough is enough)

1. Resonance

Resonance is the energy the jewelry exudes.   Without resonance, jewelry is lifeless and listless.   Resonance reflects the jewelry designer’s control of light and shadow, warm and cold, receding and extending out.
Resonance doesn’t mean “sparkle.”   It doesn’t mean “bright”.   It means the mood, the rhythm, the tonality.    It means that the piece of jewelry reflects a sense of design, and a sense of the designer.    Not just art.  And definitely not just craft.    Resonance is the reason why some jewelry gets your attention, and others do not.    Pick up a fashion magazine or a bead magazine, and page through it.    Which pieces catch your eye, and which ones do not?   
The jewelry designer is responsible for creating jewelry which resonates.   That is, the jewelry reflects the artist’s intentions, and fully utilizes the powers of color, their combinations, their variations, their arrangements, and distributions with their pieces.
2.  Strategic Use of Line

A second aspect of good jewelry design is the strategic use of line.    First off, most jewelry is, in essence, a line.    Things are lined up.  They are organized into a line.   They are worn as a line.   You don’t necessarily want that line to be creepy or disjointed or disconnected.   
The line has many points along it.   It outlines things.  It sets boundaries.   It separates things which are above it from things which are below it.  

The line can come to a point.   It can curve.   It can undulate.   It can snake in and around things.  
It can be very long.   Or it can be short.   It can serve alone, or be joined by other lines in sequence or opposition.
The use of line accomplishes two goals.   

First, the use of line creates an outline or a shape or boundary.  We call this “silhouette”.   Usually the silhouette identifies for the viewer, where the wearer feels comfortable accepting the viewer’s gaze, and where she does not.    Can/Should the viewer gaze upon the wearer’s face, neck, breasts, belly button, wrist, elbow, upper arm, ankle, knee, thigh, groin?    The line demarks the acceptable paths for gazing.

Second, the use of line creates a contour, as the eye moves all around the piece as it is worn; the line and the use of color choreographs the sense and direction and speed of movement that the viewer’s eye follows.    This choreography reveals part of the wearer’s personality, moods, and aspirations.    It can excite the viewer, or bore her.   It can resonate power, or be demure.    It can command the viewer to step forward, follow, hesitate, wait, or turn around.    It can affect self-image or social class.
Many women are afraid to wear jewelry which does not conform to a straight line.   They don’t know how to wear it.     They seek the simple straight line, over the multiple straight lines.   They seek the simple straight line, over non-straight lines.   They seek parallel lines over ones which are skewed.  
It’s the jewelry designer’s duty to make the wearer comfortable with whatever line(s) the jewelry embodies.   Often this is done with the use of color.
3. Strategic Placement of Colors and Proportions of Colors

A third aspect of good design is the placement and proportions of colors.   Colors and their placement work best when they appear to have been coordinated, not necessarily matched perfectly, but neither as afterthoughts.   Everything must feel balanced and harmonious, even when the piece is asymmetrical.   Placement shows purpose.   It reflects choice.   It provides a mechanism for the viewer to evaluate the success of the piece, therefore, the success of the wearer.   It is very signifying.
4.  The Use of Shapes, Forms and Themes

Interpretations and experiences with colors may change, when the color is presented within a shape, or is part of a form or theme within your piece.   After all, clusters of Design Elements can have synergistic or antagonistic effects.
Shape is an important Design Element, made up of lines and points, yet different than lines and different than points, when these stand apart from shape.  Shapes serve to provide positioning, direction and orientation to the pieces, often better than lines and points. This is an important psychological function. 
Shapes provide more dimensionality to pieces.   Greater dimensionality is often perceived as more contemporary, smarter, wealthier, higher status, more creative, more beautiful.  
Shapes convey symbolic meanings.   Triangles suggest action. They are dynamic. They are directional. They seem purposeful and strong. They have a power over the viewer, in that they can control the viewer’s process of perception.   Triangles can be made into pyramids, flags, arrows, beacons. They are often used as elements in religious symbols.
Square shapes denote honesty and stability. They are trusted, familiar, safe, comfortable. Most shapes we encounter are squares and rectangles. Squares could also symbolize rigidity and uniformity. [An unexpected placement of squares within a piece, could evoke the opposite feelings and symbols.]

Circle shapes suggest infinity. They are associated with protection (you’re inside the circle or outside). They are associated with movement and freedom. They suggest completeness.
5. The Power To Affect the Viewer’s Emotions, Moods and Understandings of the Situations Around Her

Color affects the viewer.   It affects the viewer’s perceptions about reality.   If affects the viewer’s understandings of social relationships, power relationships, sexual relationships.   It orients the viewer to what is up and down, and left and right, and skews the viewer’s interpretations about right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, satisfying and unsatisfying, that which is to be feared and that which is to be approached.   
Some colors get very associated with certain moods.   These include,
1.        Power/Highly Emotional  (red)
2.        Rich  (burgundy; red with black)
3.        Romantic  (pink, red with white)
4.        Vital  (red-orange)
5.        Earthy  (red-orange with black)
6.        Friendly (orange-yellow)
7.        Soft  (peach)
8.        Welcoming  (amber)
9.        Moving   (yellow)
10.      Elegant  (pale yellow)
11.      Fresh  (green)
12.      Traditional (green with black)
13.      Refreshing  (blue-green, teal, aqua)
14.      Tropical  (blue-green or teal or aqua with white)
15.      Classic (royal blue)
16.      Dependable  (navy Blue)
17.      Calm  (pale blue, blue with white)
18.      Regal (deep blue-violet)
19.      Magical  (deep red-violet
20.      Energetic  (fuchsia)
21.      Subdued  (any color with gray, like mauve)
22.      Professional/Corporate  (gray)
But it is so easy to make a misstep with color.     The choice of the wrong color, or wrong intensity or wrong value can lead to misunderstanding, anxiety, stress, avoidance, diminished social status, destroyed relationships, and the like.    So, if you have the time, you might want to practice a little with color and evoking moods and emotions.
6.  Parsimony

Parsimony means that the designed piece is finished and successful, and should the artist add or subtract one more element, the piece would be less so.    Parsimony signals when enough is enough.    The artist has not overdone or underdone the selection or application of colors.

Don’t get into a Color Rut

And a last piece of advice.  
Don’t get into a color rut.    Experiment with different colors.   Force yourself to use colors you usually do not use or avoid.     If it’s too psychologically painful, make a game of it.

[1] Pantone website   https://www.pantone.com
[2]  Itten, Johannes.  The Elements of Color: A Treatise on the Color System of Johannes Itten, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2001
Color References Worth Checking Out

Rockport Publishers, Color Harmony Workbook, Gloucester, MA: Rockport Publishers, 
Deeb, Margie.  The Beader’s Guide to Jewelry Design, NY: Lark Jewelry & Beading,


Posted in Art or Craft?, art theory, beads, beadwork, design management, design theory, jewelry design, jewelry making | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Goal-Oriented Designer: The Path To Resonance

Posted by learntobead on May 18, 2018


The Path To Resonance

by Warren Feld, Designer


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


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


The Path To Resonance

Jewelry Designers want to be successful.   

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

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


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


The Path To Resonance

Jewelry Designers want to be successful.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTEMPLATION: An Intimacy with Materials and Techniques

Contemplation is a mystical theology.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INSPIRATION:   Becoming One with What Inspires You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ASPIRATION: Translating Creativity into A Technical Product Design

Aspiration motivates the artist to actualize inspiration.  

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

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

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

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

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

ANTICIPATION: Shared Understandings[4]

Shared understandings dictate opportunities, contingencies and constraints.

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

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

Understanding is not one achievement, but more the result of several loosely organized choices.    Understanding is revealed through performance and evidence.    Jewelry designers must perform effectively with knowledge, insight, wisdom and skill to convince us – the world at large and the client in particular — that they really understand what design is all about.     This involves a big interpersonal component where the artist introduces their jewelry to a wider audience and subjects it to psychological, social, cultural, and economic assessment.

Understanding is more than knowledge.  The designer may be able to articulate what needs to be done to achieve something labeled good jewelry design, but, may not know how to apply it.

Understanding is more than interpretation.   The designer may be able to explain how a piece was constructed and conformed to ideas about good jewelry design, but this does not necessarily account for the significance of the results.

Understanding is more than applying principles of construction.    It is more than simply organizing a set of design elements into an arrangement.     The designer must match knowledge and interpretation about good jewelry design to the context.   Application is a context-dependent skill.

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

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

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

How the jewelry designer begins the process of creating a piece of jewelry is very revealing about the potential for success, and ultimately achieving a level of resonance.    The designer should always begin the process by articulating the essential shared understandings against which their work will be evaluated and judged.    For now, let’s refer to this as Backwards Design[5].    The designer starts with questions about assessment, and then allows this understanding to influence all other choices going forward.

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

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

SPECIFICATION:  Goal-Orientation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

APPLICATION:  Unity, Emotions, Resonance

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

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

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

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

Parsimony vs. Unity/Variety

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

– relies on evidence moreso than assumptions to get at criticality

– focuses examination of the few elements that make a difference

Resonance vs. Evoking Emotions

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

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

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

Jewelry which resonates…
– is communicative and authentic

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

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

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

– makes something noteworthy from something ordinary

– finds the whole greater than the sum of the parts

– lets the materials and techniques speak

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

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

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

FLUENCY[7] AND EMPOWERMENT: Managing Choices In Expression

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

These choices could be as simple as whether to follow through on some inspiration.  They might involve selection of elements of design, or principled arrangements of beads, forms and components.   The designer will make choices about how to draw someone’s attention to the piece, or, present the piece to a larger audience. The designer will make choices between aesthetics and functionality.   She or he may decide to submit the piece to a magazine or contest. She or he may want to sell the piece and market it. The designer will make choices about how a piece might be worn, or who might wear it, or when it might be worn, in what context.

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

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

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

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

More proficient, fluent jewelry designers will be comfortable

and somewhat intentional and fluid in their abilities to…

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

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



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

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

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

RUBRIC:  How Proficient Am I In Achieving Resonance?

The Rubric…




4- Proficient

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


Well-considered understanding, appropriately established and supported by details

2-Shows Potential

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

1-Not There Yet

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


Exhibiting an intimacy with the materials and techniques

Purposeful in selection of materials and techniques which synergistically work together

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

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

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

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

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

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

Has no understanding of the strengths and weaknesses materials and technique


Sharing sacred revelations art and design

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

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

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

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

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

Does not think deeply about how the piece might inspire others

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

Does not think about how the piece might inspire others


Actualizing inspiration into a design

Can clearly and intentionally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Awareness of shared understandings

Shows empathy;

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

Can engage with others around this project

Can delineate misunderstandings

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

Anticipates some understandings, but is somewhat reactive to them

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

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

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

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


Clarifying what results need to be accomplished

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

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

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

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

Can define some performance goals necessary to achieve resonance

Can implement an organized process of creative production

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

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

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

Does not work within an organized process of creative production

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

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

Is not yet performance goal-oriented.

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

Cannot identify consequences related to his/her design process choices

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Weak or no tradeoffs among aesthetics, function and context.

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

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

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

Does not make any accommodations among aesthetics, function and context

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

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

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

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

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

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


Managing design process and demonstrating disciplinary literacy

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

recognize personal and situational biases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUBRIC:  How Proficient Am I In Achieving Resonance?

The piece…


“Vestment”, by Warren Feld, 2008

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

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

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

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

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


Detail 1


Detail 2


Traditional Etruscan Collar

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

Exhibiting an intimacy with the materials and techniques

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


Sharing sacred revelations art and design

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


Actualizing inspiration into a design

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


Awareness of shared understandings

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


Clarifying what results need to be accomplished

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


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

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


Managing design process and demonstrating disciplinary literacy

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


WARREN FELD, Jewelry Designer




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.


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

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

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

 [4]Shared Understandings.  In another graduate education class, the major text reviewed the differences between understanding and knowledge.   The question was how to teach understanding.    Worth the read to gain many insights about how to structure teaching to get sufficient understanding to enrich learning.   
Understanding by Design
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
[5]  Backwards Design.  One of the big take-aways from
Understanding by Design
(see footnote 3) was the idea they introduced of “backwards design”.   Their point is that you can better teach understanding if you anticipate the evidence others will use in their assessments of what you are trying to do.    When coupled with ideas about teaching literacy and fluency (see footnote 2), you can begin to introduce ideas about managing the design process in a coherent and alignable way.
Understanding by Design
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, p. 146, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
[7]Fluency. I took two graduate education courses in Literacy. The primary text we used was Literacy: Helping Students Construct Meaning by J. David Cooper, M. Robinson, J.A. Slansky and N. Kiger, 9th Edition, Cengage Learning, 2015. Even though the text was not about jewelry designing per se, it provides an excellent framework for understanding what fluency is all about, and how fluency with language develops over a period of years. I have relied on many of the ideas in the text to develop my own ideas about a disciplinary literacy for jewelry design.

Understanding by Design
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, p. 146, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
[9]  Thinking Routines.  I teach jewelry design.   I find it useful to engage students with various ways of thinking out loud.    They need to hear me think out loud about what choices I am making and what things I am considering when making those choices.   They need to hear themselves think out loud so that they can develop strategies for getting more organized and strategic in dealing with information and making decisions.    My inspiration here was based on the work done by Visible Thinking by Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education .

Posted in Art or Craft?, art theory, beads, beadwork, design management, design theory, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by learntobead on February 15, 2018


by Warren Feld, Jewelry Artisan
718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123, Nashville, TN 37204

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.



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

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

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

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

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

JEWELRY DESIGN: A Managed Process

Posted by learntobead on January 4, 2018


“Jewelry is art, but only art as it is worn.”

That’s a powerful idea, — “as it is worn” — but, when making jewelry, we somewhat ignore it.    We bury it somewhere in the back of our brains, so it doesn’t get in the way of what we are trying to do.   We relegate it to a phrase on the last page of a book we have promised ourselves to read sometime, so it doesn’t put any road blocks in front of our process of creation.

We like to follow steps, and are thrilled when a lot of the thinking has been done for us.  We like to make beautiful things.   But, we do not want to have to make a lot of choices.    We don’t want anything to disrupt our creative process.

We do not want to worry about and think about and agonize over jewelry “as it is to be worn.”    Let’s not deal with those movement, architectural, engineering, context, interpersonal and behavioral stuff.    We just want to make things.

To most artisans, making jewelry should never be work.   It should always be fun.

Making jewelry should be putting a lot of things on a table in front of you, and going for it.

Making jewelry just is.   It is not something we have to worry about managing.

It is easy to make, copy or mimic jewelry someone else has designed, either through kits or through imitation.

Making jewelry is doing.   Not thinking.

Creating.  Not managing.

We prefer to make jewelry distinct from any context in which it might be worn or sold.    We don’t want someone looking over our shoulder, while we create.   We don’t want to adjust any design choice we make because the client won’t like it, or, perhaps, it is out of fashion or color-shaded with colors not everyone likes.    Perhaps our design choices at-the-moment do not fit with the necessities associated with how we need to market our wares to sell them.  Our pieces might somehow be off-brand.

All too often, we avoid having to think about the difficult choices and tradeoffs we need to make, when searching for balance.  That is balance among aesthetics, functionality, context, materials and technique.    And balance between our needs as designers and the wearer’s needs, as well.   So, too, we shy aware from making any extra effort to please “others” or “them”. Even though this hardly makes sense if we want these “others” or “them” to wear our jewelry or buy our jewelry creations.

Everything comes down to a series of difficult choices.   We are resistant to making many of them.   So we ignore them.   We pretend they are choices better left to other people, though never fully sure who those other people are.     We yearn to be artists, but resign ourselves to be craftspersons.    We dabble with art, but avoid design.

We hate to make trade-offs between art and function; that is, allow something to be a little less beautiful so that it won’t break or not drape and move well when worn.    We hate to make things in colors or silhouettes we don’t like.    We hate to make the same design over and over again, even though it might be popular or sell well.

But make these kinds of choices we must!    Your jewelry is a reflection of the sum of these choices.    It is a reflection of you.    You as an artist.  You as a crafter.   You as architect and engineer.   You as social scientist.   You as a business person.   You as a designer.

So, the more we can anticipate what kinds of choices we need to make, and the more experience we have to successfully manage and maneuver within these choices, the more enjoyable and successful our jewelry designs become … and the more satisfying for the people for whom we make them.



Designers who are able to re-interpret the steps she or he go through and see them in “process” terms, that is, with organization and purpose, have the advantage.

There are many different kinds of choices to be made, but they are interdependent and connected.    Recognizing interdependency and connectedness makes it easier to learn about, visualize and execute these choices as part of an organized, deliberate and managed jewelry design process.

I am going to get on my soap box here.    We tend to teach students to very mechanically follow a series of steps.    We need, instead, to teach them “Process”.   Strategy.   Insight.   Connectedness.    Contingency.   Dependency.    Construction.    Context.    Problem-Solving.   Consequences.

Good jewelry design must answer questions and teach practitioners about managing the processes of anticipating the audience, selecting materials, implementing techniques, and constructing the piece from one end to the other.     Again, this is not a mechanical process.    Often, it is not a linear step-by-step pathway.    There is a lot of iteration – that is, the next choice made will limit some things and make more relevant other things which are to happen next.

A “process” is something to be managed, from beginning to end, as the designer’s knowledge, techniques and skills are put to the test.   That test could be very small-scale and simple, such as creating a piece of jewelry to give to someone as a gift.    Or creating a visual for a customer.    Or when you need to know the costs.   Or, that test could be very large-scale and more complex, such as convincing a sales agent to represent your jewelry in their showroom.

Better Jewelry Designers smartly manage their design processes at the boundary between jewelry and person.    It is at this boundary where all the interdependencies of all the various types of choices we designers make are clearest and have the most consequence.



What exactly does it mean to “manage design at the boundary between jewelry and person?”  What kinds of things happen at that boundary?

A person breathes.   She moves.    She sits at a desk, perhaps fidgeting with her jewelry.     She might make sudden turns.    She gracefully transitions from one space to another.    She has shape, actually many shapes.

Her jewelry serves many purposes.    It signifies her as someone or something.     It expresses her feelings.   Or status.   Or future intentions.   Or past history.   It ties her to people and places, events and times.    It suggests power, or lack thereof.    It hides faults, and amplifies strengths.    It implies whether she fits with the situation.

Jewelry attracts.     It attracts seekers of the wearer’s attention.    It wards off denigrators.   It orients people to the world around them.    It tells them a story with enough symbol, clue and information to allow people to decide whether to flee or approach, run away or walk toward, hide or shine.

Jewelry has a feel and sparkle to it.    It reminds us that we are real.    It empowers a sensuality and a sexuality.    It elevates our esteem.     Sometimes uncomfortable or scratchy.   Sometimes not.    Sometimes reflective of our moods.  Othertimes not.

Jewelry is a shared experience.      It helps similar people find one another.   It signals what level of respect will be demanded.    It entices.   It repels.    It offers themes both desirable and otherwise.

Jewelry has shape, form and mechanics.    All the components must self-adjust to forces of movement, yet at the same time, not lose shape or form or maneuverability.    If a piece is designed to visually display in a particular way, forces cannot be allowed to disrupt its presentation.    Jewelry should take the shape of the body and move with the body.    It should not make a mockery of the body, or resist the body as it wants to express itself.

Jewelry defines a silhouette.    It draws a line on the body, often demarcating what to look at and what to look away from.    What to touch, and what to avoid.    What is important, and what is less so.


Managing here at the boundary between jewelry and person means understanding what wearing jewelry involves and is all about.     There is an especially high level of clarity at this boundary because it is here where the implications of any choice matters.

The choice of stringing material anticipates durability, movement, drape.    The choices of color and shape and silhouette anticipate aesthetics, tensions between light and shadow, context, the viewer’s needs or personality or preferences at the moment.    The choice of technique anticipates how best to coordinate choices about materials with purpose and objective.    The choice of price determines marketability, and where it’s out there, and whether it’s out there.

You choose Fireline cable thread and this choice means your piece will be stiffer, might hold a shape better, might resist the abrasion of beads, but also might mean less comfort or adaptability.

You choose cable wire and this choice means that your piece might not lay right or comfortably.    A necklace will be more likely to turn around on the neck.      It might make the wearer look clownish.    At the same time, it might make the stringing process go more quickly.  Efficiency translates into less money charged, and perhaps more sales.

You choose to mix opaque glass with gemstone beads, mixing media which do not necessarily interact with the eye and brain in the same way.   This may make interacting with the piece seem more like work or annoying.

The ends of your wirework will not keep from bending or unraveling, so you solder them.     Visually this disrupts the dance you achieve with wire bending and cheapens it.

You choose gray-toned beads to intersperse among your brightly colored ones.    The grays pick up the colors around them, adding vibrancy and resonance to your piece.    The gaps of light between each bead more easily fade away as the brain is tricked into filling them in with color.

You mix metalized plastic beads in with your Austrian crystal beads.    In a fortnight, the finish has chipped off all the plastic beads.

You construct a loom bracelet, flat, lacking depth or a sense of movement.    Your piece may be seen as pretty, but out of step with contemporary ideas of fashion, style, and design.

If we pretend our management choices here do not matter, we fool ourselves into thinking we are greater artists and designers than we really are.



Design management is multi-faceted.   We intuitively know that proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.     So let’s properly prepare.   This means…

    Defining what I do as a “Project To Be Managed” — My Project is seen as a “system”, not merely a set of steps. The “system” encompasses everything it takes that enables creativity and leads it to success.   These include things related to art, architecture, engineering, management, behavioral and context analysis, problem-solving, and innovation.    For some designers, these also include things related to business, marketing, branding, selling and cost-accounting.
    Documenting, through image, writing or both, the kinds of things that are inspiring me and influencing my design
    Elaborating on the purpose or mission of my Project – why am I doing this Project as it applies to me, and as it applies to others?
    Measuring the context and situation as these will/might/could impact my Project
    Developing a strategy for designing my piece — outlining everything that needs to come together to successfully work through my Project from beginning to end
    Verifying, Learning or Re-Learning the necessary techniques and skills
    Securing my supply chain to get all our materials, tools and supplies needed when I need them
    Applying design principles of composition, form and structure. Paying careful attention to building in architectural pre-requisites, particularly those involved with support, jointedness and movement.
    Introducing my Jewelry Design to a wider audience. This might involve sharing, show-casing, or marketing and selling
    Anticipating all that it will take to replicate the piece, if it is not a one-off, especially if I am developing kits or selling my pieces
    Evaluating whether I could repeat this or a similar Project with any greater efficiency or effectiveness – The better jewelry artist is one who is more reflective.




Designing jewelry demands that we both do and think.    Create and manage.    Experience and reflect.

The better Jewelry Designer sees any Project as a system of things, activities and outcomes.     These are interconnected and mutually dependent.    Things are sometimes linear, but most often iterative – a lot of back and forth and readjustments.

The better Jewelry Designer is very reflective.     She or he thinks about every detail, plays mental exercises of what-if analyses, monitors and evaluates all throughout the Project’s management.     She or he thinks through the implications of each choice made.    The Designer does not blindly follow a set of instructions without questioning them.

At the end of the day, your jewelry is the result of the decisions you made.

Something to think about.




We should teach students to design jewelry, not craft it.    Rather than have students merely follow a set of steps, we need to do what is called “Guided Thinking”.

For example, we might encourage students to construct and feel and touch similar pieces made with different materials, beads and techniques, and have them tell us what differences they perceive.   We should guide them in thinking through the implications for these differences.     When teaching a stitch, I typically have students make samples using two different beads – say a cylinder bead and a seed bead, and try two different stringing materials, say Fireline and Nymo threads.

We also should guide them in thinking through all the management and control issues they were experiencing.    Very often beginning students have difficulty finding a comfortable way to hold their pieces while working them.    I let them work a little on a project, stop them, and then ask them to explain what was difficult and what was not.     I suggest some alternative solutions – but do not impose a one-best-way – and have them try these solutions.    Then we discuss them, fine-tuning our thinking.

I link our developing discussions to some goals.    We want good thread management for a bead woven piece.    We want the beads to lay correctly within the piece.    We want the piece to feel fluid.    We return to Guided Thinking.     I summarize all the choices we have made in order to begin the project:   type of bead, size of bead, shape of bead, type of thread, strategy for holding the piece while working it, strategy for bringing the new bead to the work in progress.    I ask the students what ideas are emerging in their minds about how to bring all they have done so far together.

At this point, I usually would interject a Mini-Lesson, where I demonstrate, given the discussions, the smarter way to begin the Project.     In the Mini-Lesson, I “Think Aloud” so that my students can see and hear how I am approaching our Project.

And then I continue with Guided Thinking as we work through various sections of the Project towards completion.      Whatever we do – select materials, select and apply techniques, set goals, anticipate how we want the Project to end up – is shown as resulting from a managed process of thinking through our design.

In “Guided Thinking”, I would prompt my students to try to explain what is/is not going on, what is/is not working as desired, where the student hopes to end up, what seems to be enhancing/impeding getting there.

With guidance, demonstration and repetition, it is my hope that such thinking becomes a series of Thinking Routines my students resort to when starting a new project.    As students develop and internalize more Thinking Routines, they develop greater Fluency with design.

And that should be our primary goal as teachers:   developing our students’ Fluency with design.


Posted in Art or Craft?, bead weaving, beads, beadwork, business of craft, design management, jewelry design, jewelry making, Learn To Bead | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Ugly Necklace Contest – Submission Deadline Approaching

Posted by learntobead on April 28, 2014


Submission Deadline Approaching:  August 31, 2014




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

Past Contests — View  the Galleries of Entries

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



What Is Ugly?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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




Posted in Contests, jewelry design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by learntobead on August 21, 2013



If you are a jewelry designer who has ambitions to have your work publicized in books or magazines, or to be accepted into a juried show or exhibit, or to sell your things in a store or gallery, you need to be able to promote your work.     Often, I have found, creative-types can be shy when it comes to self-promotion and marketing.

What insights, from your own experiences, can you offer your fellow jewelry designers about self-promotion?

What kinds of things help you to overcome any fears about marketing your work?

How do you handle criticism and other rejection like getting the dreaded “No”?

From an article I wrote….

Jewelry designers often find a self-satisfaction in working intensely on a project, often in isolation or solitude.   But when it comes to tooting their own horns – this is not as easy or satisfying for them.   There is a discomfort here.     You might want to show your pieces to others, perhaps submitting them for review or a juried competition, or perhaps wanting a store or gallery to accept your pieces for sale.

Then humility kicks in.   Or perhaps a lack of confidence in yourself.   Or a fear of criticism.    Or a rejection.    Hearing: No, we don’t want your pieces.

We don’t want to appear desperate for a sale, or too eager for acceptance.

But, if you don’t believe in yourself and your products, no one will.      Your fantasy of striking out on your own will never materialize, if you don’t find it within yourself to do some self-promotion.

And the first step is understanding and recognizing that to promote yourself means promoting your value.

Your jewelry has VALUE to them, why….?     If something has value to someone, then they typically want to know about it.   Your jewelry has value to them because it solves a problem for them.   It might make them happier, more beautiful, more enriched, more satisfied, more powerful, more socially accepted, more understanding of construction or technique or art and aesthetics.    It might be better than other jewelry they see or wear or think about buying.

For a store or gallery, your jewelry might be more saleable, more attractive as displayed, better constructed, more artistic, more stylish or fashionable, a better fit with their customer base, with good price points.

You promote the value of your jewelry to your audience.   You do not have to brag.   You do not have to be shameless.   You do not have to do or say anything embarrassing.    Just speak the truth about value.   Share examples of your work and what you have done, not your ego.

And that brings up the second point – speakingPeople who are more comfortable speaking about themselves and their products tend to be more successful in their careers.

Products don’t sell themselves.   People need to be nudged.

This “speaking-about-themselves and their products” is a basic communication process.   This communication process is a process of sharing information.    You want to educate the right people, in the right way at the right time.    You want to speak about who you are, and what you make.   The values your jewelry has to offer them.    And how you would like to develop your relationship – whether designer/client or designer/retailer or designer/jury – so that you may both benefit.

Fundamentally self-promotion is about communication.   Communicators frame the narrative.   Communicators start the conversation.   They begin on favorable terms.    They would not say:  Would you like to see my jewelry?    Instead, they would say:  I have jewelry you are going to love.

And this brings up the third point – be relevant.

Know your audience, what their needs are, what their problems are that need solving.    You may have created the original piece to satisfying some personal yearning and desire.  But if you want someone to buy the piece, wear the piece or sell the piece, you need to anticipate why.   Why would they want to buy, wear, review or sell your piece of jewelry?

Do not assume they will figure all this out on their own.   You will need to help them along in this process.  You will need to communicate about the value your jewelry will have for them.   You will need to do some self-promotion.

The last point – inspire people to spread your message.

Your best marketing and promotion will be what is called “word-of-mouth”.   So you want to create supporters and fans and collaborators and colleagues.     And you want them to be inspired enough about you, your creativity and your jewelry, so that they tell others about you.     You inspire your current network of family and friends.   You might make a presentation or teach a class.  You might share images of your work on social media like FaceBook or Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest.     You want to regularly connect with people, so that you and your work are frequently in their thoughts.

There are many self-promotion strategies that you can do.   You don’t need to do everything at once.  You might try one or two ideas first, and do those, then pick a third, and so on.

Some Self-Promotion Strategies That Have Worked Well For Others

  1. Wear your jewelry all the time, and don’t be shy about saying you made it!
  2. Have attractive business cards  made, perhaps a brochure
  3. Have an active presence on social media, particularly FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+; participate in discussions; get people to click on those LIKE buttons (or similar thumbs-up registers) next to your images and your discussions
  4. Have a website, either as a “billboard”, or as a full-fledged e-commerce site
  5. Get your website listed in as many online directories and search engines as you can
  6. Generate a emailing list and use it regularly, such as sending out a newsletter; get into the habit of asking people if you can add them to your mailing list
  7. Collect testimonials about your work, and post them publicly
  8. Always speak and act passionately when discussing or showing your work
  9. Organize your own discussion groups on FaceBook and Google+, or begin a blog  (WORDPRESS is a good place to start a blog)
  10. Post video tutorials or videos showing you making things on YouTube
  11. Submit images of your pieces to bead, craft and jewelry magazines
  12. Teach courses, either locally, or as a connection with one of the many websites promoting teachers online, such as Betterfly.com or CraftArtEdu.com
  13. List yourself with websites that list custom jewelry makers for hire, such as Custommade.com
  14. If your jewelry has done well for a store, convince them to carry more of it and let it take up more display space
  15. Doing the occasional craft show, bazaar or flea market is also a good form of advertising and getting your message out to a large number of people you probably would never have met otherwise
  16. Create a good, rememberable image to use as your avatar, on such websites as FaceBook
  17. Follow up with customers and contacts, such as after a purchase, or after someone accepting to include you piece in a magazine, or sell their pieces in a shop.   Thank them.   Reinforce your personal brand with a short comment about the value of your pieces for them.
  18. Have a clear personal style that you can point to in your jewelry, and that you can speak about.
  19. Have a clear idea of what is called your “competitive advantage”.   What are those 5-10 things about you and your work that sets you apart from, and perhaps makes you better than, the competition.
  20. Search for companies or people that may want to see or buy your work.   Use directories on Yahoo and Google.   Use LinkedIn.com.    Search Twitter looking for people who are saying they need custom jewelry work done.
  21. Network with other jewelry designers, both in your local area, as well as online.   Ask for feedback on the self-promotional activities you are doing.  Have any of these worked well for them?   Are they doing other things you haven’t thought of?
  22. Get out of your studio and meet people in the flesh.
  23. Attend trade shows, networking events and charity events, or other types of places where your clients might also attend.
  24. Offer something – one time only — for free.    A free class, a free repair, a free pair of earrings.
  25. Publish or self-publish a book or book-on-CD, and promote that

Posted in business of craft | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by learntobead on June 4, 2013



We are always debating here whether to wax your thread or not, and if so, what wax or thread conditioner to use.

I have some strong opinions about this.

How about you?

Some people never wax.
Some people think it makes no difference as to whether the thread breaks.
Some people think it ruins the beads.


By the way, my opinions:
With beading thread, like Nymo or C-Lon, always wax.
Always use microcrystalline wax
Never use Thread Heaven.

With cable threads, like FireLine, sometimes wax.
I wax when the stitch I am doing is a loose one, like Ndebele or Right Angle Weave. The stickiness of the wax helps me maintain a tight thread tension.

Never use pre-waxed thread like Silamide.
Silamide is not abrasion-resistant, so it breaks too easily with beads. The holes of most beads are pretty sharp.

Waxing keeps the beading thread from fraying.
It’s stickiness allows greater control over managing thread tension.
The process of waxing stretches the thread a bit before you use it.
The waxy buildup helps fill in the jagged rim of the holes of your beads, making them a little less likely to cut into your stringing material.

Posted in beadwork, jewelry making | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Last Chance to Vote OnLine – Beaded Dolls

Posted by learntobead on January 5, 2010

ALL DOLLED UP: Beaded Art Doll Competition
Last Chance To Vote On-Line:

Voting for our 6 semi-finalists ends 1/15/10

Artists around the nation were asked to create a Beaded Art Doll by manipulating beads and forms into an imaginative tactile and visual 3-dimensional representation of this year’s theme:Earthen Mother .

And then writing a Short Story (between 1000-2000 words) about your Beaded Art Doll, what it represents, and how it was created, starting with the sentence:

“The mirror reflects more than my hands can feel.
Lines, edges, shadings, a weariness under the eyes, an awkward stance.
Yet, not reflected is a certain vibrancy —
a compassion and wisdom and wonder so many people rely on.
Only you, my beaded art doll,
capture the fullness of me as I age in place .
You embody changes I want to make, so I aptly name you…”

The Fourth Bi-Annual 2009 ALL DOLLED UP: BEADED ART DOLL COMPETITION is offering a first prize of a $1000.00 shopping spree on the Land of Odds web-site (www.landofodds.com), and a Runner-Up prize of a $400.00 shopping spree on the web-site.

Our SemiFinalists:
Kathy Ford, Deep Gap, North Carolina
Vera Fox-Bond, LaVergne, Tennessee
Cathy Helmers, Dayton, Ohio
Ralonda Patterson, Decatur, Texas
Dot Lewallen, Westerville, Ohio
Joan Cromley, Sedro Woolley, Washington

Other programs of interest:
The Ugly Necklace Contest – A Jewelry Design Competition with a Twist
THE ILLUSTRATIVE BEADER: Beaded Tapestry Competition

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Do You Know Where All Your Beading Needles Are?

Posted by learntobead on December 18, 2009

Do You Know Where
All Your Beading Needles Are?

Cleo is a cat owned by one of our customers.     She has a propensity, or is it proclivity, or is it pronounced desire for, or something which attracts her to beading needles.    It turns out that cats especially are attracted to things like beading needles….And they swallow them.

I’m sure they have the mechanical physics wrong in their brains — after all, cats aren’t specifically trained in physics.   Because instead of passing all the way through their digestive systems — like other things they eat that they are not supposed to — beading needles pass through the esophageal walls, and lodge into other organs, muscles and bones.

Here is one of Cleo’s recent X-rays.   You can see the needle on the left side of the image, near her heart.

So, do you know where all your beading needles are today?    Be sure to keep them out of sight of your cat.

Posted in beadwork | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Need for Critical Writing About Beading

Posted by learntobead on August 27, 2009

Need For Critical Writing and Dialog About Beading

One of the major gaps in Bead World is the support of more open and frequent critical writing and dialog about beading.   What it is.  Why it is.   It’s relationship to art.   The relationship of current modes and techniques to historical ones.   Contemporizing Traditional Beadwork.    Adding dimensionality.   Why there are numerous ways to work thru the same stitch, like Peyote, Brick, Daisy Stitch or Right Angle Weave.    Design elements and rules of composition underlying beading.    Beading structures.  Documenting beading techniques.  Forms and functions of beading.    Sex and sexuality, wealth and poverty, emotion and no emotion, and other pertinent themes underlying beading.   Comparative analyses of artists works.    Use of color with beads.    The relationship of jewelry as display item and jewelry as item as it is worn.   Why beads have power.   What makes some jewelry resonate.

Bead World lacks an academic center, which would encourage such discussions.   Bead World lacks magazines and journals which support these kinds of discussions.   Bead World is very step-by-step craft focused, and doesn’t tend to raise a lot of questions.     It doesn’t tend to support detailed documenting of beading traditions.   It doesn’t support urgent efforts to document and collect beadwork of rapidly disappearing ethnic groups, such as those in Dafur Africa.   It doesn’t create a clear sense of what is good beadwork, and what is sloppy beadwork. 

We have a recent history of beading in the US that began around 1960, and few people have witnessed the story.   Few people have asked deeper questions of the artists and teachers who first brought about an unbelievable increase in beading in the  1990s.   A lot of information has been lost.  

The information could be used to broaden the field, attract more people into beading, and encourage experimentation, research, deliberation.

Very sad.

At the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon, they have created exhibits and ongoing discussions about criticality in craft, in general at least.   Beading and jewelry come into play occasionally.  

Their new discussion series — CALL + RESPONSE — is outlined on their web-site:


It’s definitely worth a visit.   Be sure to read the full essays from each participant, as well as view images of the works associated with each essay.

Anya Kivarkis, area head, jewelry and metalsmithing, University of Oregon

Anya Kivarkis, area head, jewelry and metalsmithing, University of Oregon




Namita Gupta Wiggers, curator, Museum of Contemporary Craft
Complaints about a need for critical writing on craft surface with great frequency. Drawing on the musical concept of “call and response,” this exhibition opens a space for critical dialogue and exchange between craft-based artists and art historians. From nearly three years of discussion, studio visits and exchanges of ideas, the resulting exhibition presents artwork and essays by eight pairs of artists and art historians, all of whom currently teach in Oregon colleges and universities.





Kate Mondloch, assistant professor of contemporary art history and theory, University of Oregon on
Josh Faught, assistant professor and program coordinator of fibers, University of Oregon
Knitting was passed down to me from my grandmother. However, I attribute most of my early experiences with craft to my time in summer camp. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I learned to weave before I learned to draw or paint. It’s a biographical aspect of my work that I still like to talk about since it locates my skill set from a time iconically loaded with issues of identity construction. In college, I studied art history and English but when I graduated I gained a bit more confidence in my creative abilities. 






Abby McGehee, associate professor, Oregon College of Art and Craft on
Anya Kivarkis, area head, jewelry and metalsmithing, University of Oregon

For any student of material culture, objects provide the means for understanding social values, ritual and domestic procedure, and individual artistic development. Objects and structures are proxies for vanished makers and patrons, and remnants of the world they created. But there is always a tension between the substantiality of these physical remains and the absence of their historical context.





Kirsi Peltomäki, assistant professor of art history, department of art, Oregon State University on
Jiseon Lee Isbara, associate professor and fibers department head, Oregon College of Art and Craft

Hand-sewing, whether to join fabric pieces together or make a mark on them by embroidery, remains at the center of Jiseon Lee Isbara’s artistic practice, although she freely makes use of a sewing machine as well, and, on occasion, includes other techniques such as inkjet printing on fabric. A fiber-based artist by training and profession, the material and conceptual dimensions of Lee Isbara’s works simultaneously resonate with contemporary sculpture, particularly work by Eva Hesse and Mona Hatoum, and with the Korean textile tradition of pojagi wrapping cloths. Lee Isbara’s recent work involves pieced fabric stitched into patchwork forms and displayed in three-dimensional installations or two-dimensional wall arrangements. In any configuration, Lee Isbara’s work constitutes mental maps, visualizing territories that are coded and decoded in languages at once familiar and uncharted.





Dawn Odell, assistant professor, department of art and art history, Lewis & Clark College on
Sam Morgan, ceramics instructor and art chair, Cascade Campus, Portland Community College

Although the necessity for a division between the fine and decorative arts has been under assault for decades, the ghost of this separation continues to haunt discussions of contemporary craft. When considering ceramics, for example, the fine/decorative divide is often breeched by emphasizing the sculptural qualities of ceramics, both in terms of the objects’ three-dimensional form and also by assuming that the work is best contemplated from a distance. Sam Morgan’s art resists this conflation of ceramic as sculpture. 





Rob Slifkin, assistant professor of art and humanities, Reed College on
Studio Gorm (John Arndt and Wonhee Jeong), associate professors, product design, University of Oregon

Understood in its most expansive sense, to design is to forge a possibility. Whether one sketches a preliminary study for a painting or sculpture, or draws a plan for a building or a piece of furniture – or outlines a draft for an essay – the act of design entails the projection of a desired future outcome from a present moment. 





Matt Johnston, assistant professor, department of art, Lewis & Clark College on 
Karl Burkheimer, associate professor and head of the wood department, Oregon College of Art and Craft
From Karl Marx to Clement Greenberg and beyond (and probably echoing as a refrain in this collection of essays), both craft and art are portrayed as heroic but losing enterprises within an increasingly pervasive dehumanization of life brought about by the growth of capitalist society. A tool-making species, in this apocalypse of our own creation, we are losing touch with basic hand-eye skills required to fashion, manipulate, and interpret objects; in effect losing the ability to re-imagine and re-make the world, and are instead becoming mere passive consumers of machine-fabricated commodities. 





Anne Marie Oliver, assistant professor of intermedia and contemporary art theory, Pacific Northwest College of Art on
David Eckard, chair of the sculpture department and an instructor in the foundation and intermedia departments, Pacific Northwest College of Art

It would be a mistake, however, to view magic simply as a reenactment of social behavior, the logic of belief, or a mere lure or decoy by which attention is drawn away from some tasks in order for others, often traumatic or violatory, to be accomplished. In the final analysis, magic is far more disturbing than any conjectured relation between duplicity and consciousness, belief and disbelief, distraction and destruction. 





Posted in Art or Craft? | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Winner and Runner Up Announced

Posted by learntobead on July 16, 2009

2009 7th Annual The Ugly Necklace Contest
Winner and Runner-Up Announced

And the Winner is…..

Land of Odds, Be Dazzled Beads, The Open Window Gallery, and The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts are proud to announce the Winner and Runner-Up in this year’s The Ugly Necklace Contest!    These two contestants have succeeded in creating necklaces which were hideous, using clever materials, fashioning a creative clasp assembly, and showing a strong degree of artistic control in their jewelry-making endeavors.   Doing something “Ugly” is easier said, than done!

The Winner of The Ugly Necklace Contest – the Jewelry Designer who demonstrated exceptional jewelry design skills by creating The Ugliest Necklace in the America and the rest of the World in the year 2009, and the winner of a $992.93 shopping spree on the Land of Odds web-site (www.landofodds.com), is:

Lynn Margaret Davy of Wimborne, Dorset, United Kingdom
“The Story Of My Beading Life”


MORE DETAILS, Images and her Poem:





The Runner-Up in The Ugly Necklace Contest — the Jewelry Designer who also displayed obvious design talents by creating the 2nd Ugliest Necklace in America and the rest of the World in the year 2009, and the winner of a $399.07 shopping spree on the Land of Odds web-site (www.landofodds.com) is:


Juli Brown of Wells, Minnesota
“Coffin Nails Necklace”


MORE DETAILS, Images and her Poem:


These beadwork and jewelry artists have demonstrated their commendable design skills. They have been judged, from among  entrants from across America, Great Britain, and Canada by a distinguished panel of four judges from The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, and voted on by visitors to the Land of Odds web-site.


To view additional images of the necklaces submitted by the winner, runner up and the other semi-finalists of the 7th Annual 2009 The Ugly Necklace Contest, please visit us at www.landofodds.com/store/ugly7contest.htm on-line.


The Ugly Necklace review criteria are discussed on this web-page:


Entries for the  Eighth Annual 2010 The Ugly Necklace Contest will be accepted between September 1st, 2009 and March 15th, 2010.   For official rules, and 2010 special requirements, please visit our web-site at www.landofodds.com/store/uglynecklace.htm .


And if you are in the Nashville area, please stop by Be Dazzled Beads, where the 6 selected Ugly Necklaces are on display through September 15th.


The Ugly Necklace Contest is one of the programs of The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, to encourage beadwork and jewelry makers to test their design skills, push the envelope, and learn some fundamentals about jewelry design in the process.   

1.         Lynn Margaret Davy, Wimborne, Dorset, United Kingdom

2.         Juli Brown, Wells, Minnesota

3.         Sarah Allison, Gresham, Oregon
4.         Jolynn Casto, Logan, Ohio
5.         Deborah Eve Rubin, Rockville, Maryland
6.         Lori-Ann Scott, Spokane, Washington


Posted in Contests, jewelry design | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Beading Needles – What Do You Prefer?

Posted by learntobead on April 29, 2009



Connie posted the following on ALL ABOUT BEADS group, and got some of these responses.   What do you think?





Warren I posted on All About Beads about the needles, and so far these are the answer





At my bead group – we have been discussing beading needles. I know that is a subject with as many opinions as thread. So could you please tell what kind of a needle you use and why you like them.

I will go first – for general beading such as peyote, etc. I use Pony needles, or John James – which ever I grab first. I use long needles 99% of the time, but when I do bead embroidery I use short beading sharp size 12.


I use long size 12 loom needles when I loom (which I haven’t done for a while and should think about), and John James long size 12 or 13 needles for everything else. (What I really need is sewing needles because I keep using beading needles for mending.)


  8867.3 in reply to 8867.1 
I too prefer John James and size 12.  Carol Perrenoud from BEADCATS in Wilsonville, OR just gave a presentation to our bead society (Bead Society of Northern California) on the History of Beading Needles and it was amazing.  The one thing that she told us that I had NEVER heard before is to match the shape of your needle’s eye to the “thread” you are using.  Most beading needles have skinny oval eyes which is best for NYMO-type threads that compress. BUT if you use FIRELINE which is more rounded and has a coating, to pick a needle that has a more oval eye.  The needle that she had, I had never seen before ~ they are called STRAW NEEDLES. The issue is that the skinny oval eye will squish/remove the coating on the fireline which can cause it to twist, kink, and eventually even break with the coating gone.  I wish I had picked up more packets. marilyn

  8867.5 in reply to 8867.1 
When I am doing a pin, or a doll or something “odd” shaped, I use my curved needles.   I do use more thread with them, but the curve allows me to get in to spaces I could not before.katieB

  8867.7 in reply to 8867.1 
For embroidery I use my curved needles and for regular beading like peyote I use my Big Eye needles because it is so hard for me to see to thread the dang things :)Dot

Size 12 John James are my standard needle of choice.  If I must stray I’ll use a Size 12 Pony, but I hate how brittle they can be.  And I am super near-sighted so will take my glasses off and bring my work right up to my face to get a “magnified” look.  When those puppies break it is a scary moment for sure!

I also like the Mary Arden needles…they are apparently made in the same factory as the John James, just in a prettier package.

When the project calls for it, I’ll move down to a size 13 John James.

I don’t like Sharps…I can’t seem to get a good grip on them.  But I have noticed over the years that customers with small, thin fingers enjoy working with them better than a standard length.

We were introduced to Straw Needles last fall.
I’m still looking for them.

I am sold out again….much to Thom’s disappointment.  =o/

  8867.13 in reply to 8867.1 
I use Pony 11’s most of the time. If I need something smaller, I go to a 12. The only John James I use with any regularity is the curved needles.Arline

  8867.14 in reply to 8867.9 
I don’t like Sharps…I can’t seem to get a good grip on them.  But I have noticed over the years that customers with small, thin fingers enjoy working with them better than a standard length.”Hmm, maybe that explains why I like them! :)Maia

Hi, Connie!

Usually I go for Pony or John James, which are the two brands I can find easily in Chicago. I also buy the Coats & Clark ones when I can find them, but I wish they came in bigger sets than just 4 needles as they last a long time – even when they are really bent, the Pony and Coats and Clark ones are still strong, my latest batch of John James ones were rather brittle this time .

I use the long beading needles for bead weaving, and also sharps and tapestry needles for bead embroidery.Most of the beads I use are smaller than size 8/0 so I tend to use 12s or 13 needles and I keep size 15 needles for beads with small holes.I also have twisted wire ones for stringing beads for pearl knotting.

I hope this helps a bit,

Love, Jan




For beadweaving, I prefer the John James 12’s, for dolls I like the John James 12 sharps.  For most other work, I think the John James 13’s are what I use.  I may try some of the straw needles, if I can figure out the sizing.  May have to buy a packet of each of two sizes to see which direction they go… are the large numbers smaller needles, or vice versa?

  8867.17 in reply to 8867.4 
I love straw needles. They don’t bend and break easily and they have an easy to thread eye.They are also known as milliner’s needles and I like the size 11.Both Richard Hemmings and John James make these and they are easily available on the internet for about $1.95 to $3.00 a pack.

Highly recommended.

  8867.18 in reply to 8867.1 
I prefer short needles unless I am doing fringe.  I don’t like Pony brand, so I stick with John James.  I’ll use the thickest needle that I can get away with for as long as I can, unless I’m beading into leather when I’ll grab the thinnest needle that I have available. 

Some people like the Japanese beading needles because they are stiffer.   Some people think that the John James needles went downhill in quality when they started making them in China, instead of England.   I prefer the John James regular English Beading Needles, and try to use size 10 and size 12.    I like that they are not super stiff.   The sharps needs are too small for my hand — my hand cramps when I use them.  — Warren




8867.19 in reply to 8867.1






I’m like Sandi, in that I like to use the thickest needle I can get away with. I do prefer long needles, though, it seems easier to pick up my beads with a long needle. Most of my things are done using a John James size 10 needle. I keep some JJ 13’s around as well as a couple big eye needles, but I only like the big eye for loom work and sometimes fringe. I’ve never tried a size 12 long or short, but I don’t care for the 13’s as they seem very fragile and never last very long for me.

I tend to muscle up on my needles, so they get very bendy. I can usually straighten them out by rolling them between my big anvil and a slab of steel I keep around. It does make them brittle, but I get a little more life out of them.


I prefer sharps (10?12?) for bead embroidery, unless I’m using charlottes and then I have to use a beading needle. As several people have said, I use the largest needle I can get away with – 10 or 12. For awhile I was using size 15 seed beads a lot and used the 15 needles – crispy critters! I’ve had a bad batch of larger John James needles also. That’s when I tried Pony needles, which I liked. And about the same time a friend who sells historical reproduction items for re-enactors gave me some beading needles – I think they are English, but I don’t know if they are JJ. They might be Japanese. They were great though. I really should get some more from her. The most of JJ needles I bought seem to be fine. I have more problems with losing needles than I do breaking them!Cathy

Fortunately, I don’t often lose needles.  Stepping on a few has made me very careful.  I tend to use JJ 12s and 13s most of the time and the 15s when necessary (for some charlottes and gemstones).  I will occasionally use the cheap Indian needles.  For me, they work as well and last as long as the JJ.  I have some sharps but I don’t care for them.  I’ve tried the big eye needles, but the ones I’ve tried have been too large for the beads I use (mostly 15s and charlottes).  I just accept that the 13s and 15s won’t last that long.  Needles aren’t that pricey, so that’s just the way it is.

8867.23 in reply to 8867.1 
I use size 10 Pony needles almost all the time. I can’t stand a bent needle and these stay straight most of the time!


8867.23 in reply to 8867.1 
I use size 10 Pony needles almost all the time. I can’t stand a bent needle and these stay straight most of the time!




8867.23 in reply to 8867.1 
  8867.27 in reply to 8867.19 
I like my needles getting a gentle curve; I can pick up beads easier that way. My first JJ 12 packet lasted for more than 10 years, and I bought some more from Sandi recently so I may never have to buy more of my regular needles.Marilee

I think it interesting that your first packet of needles lasted so long. I’m having a hard time with the finish flaking off the packet of needles I am using right now. It flakes off then gradually the thread snags on the uneven coating. I hope it is only this pack as I’m having to change needles several times for each project.

Karen, are they Delica needles?  I have a friend who used them once, and they wore off so quickly she would go through two or three in one small project.  We were thinking it might be something in her skin that caused it.
I loved my first package of 25 John James size 12 needles. They rarely broke, just got nice and bendy. And if I worked slowly and carefully, I could even gently straighten most of the bends with two pairs of pliers. That package lasted almost two years, and I’ve only used two from a package of 10 JJ size 13 purchased at the same time.About two months ago, I purchased another package of 25 JJ size 12. They are twisted, rough, and break easily, especially near the eye; 12 are already broken. After grumbling and muttering, I read the fine print on the package and see that JJ are now made in China. And JJ is now owned by Entaco Ltd.

from John James Company:


The John James factory was sold to new owners who are Chinese.  They did have a couple of batches of needles that were incorrectly annealed and snapped very easily.  They seem to have gotten that back under control again and are producing quality needles again.  We accepted bad needles back and exchanged them.  We also went through our stock and threw out any bad packages.  We lost a bit of money, but it’s nothing short of frustrating to work with bad tools and we were happy to make sure that the products functioned the way they were supposed to.

Posted in bead weaving, beadwork | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Selling Your Jewelry In Recessionary Times

Posted by learntobead on March 30, 2009

Selling Your Jewelry
In Recessionary Times

With a financial crisis in full swing, it has become more difficult to sell your jewelry. Fewer stores, fewer customers, fewer craft shows. At the same time, the costs of all the supplies – beads, stringing materials, jewelry findings – have been increasing at much faster rates than inflation. This adds to the problem.

At the same time, it is getting more difficult to get your “message” to your “customer.” With things like blogs, facebook, my space, twitter, other interactive sites and social networks, people are organizing into ever-smaller market niches.   It’s too expensive and too time-consuming to get enough people to be aware of your business, that you can continue to make a living.

They are no longer reading the mainstream magazines and newspapers to get their primary sources of information, to the extent that they have in the past. They are not going to local craft shows or local stores as much, because they have an online world of Etsy and Ebay and 26 million jewelry sites listed on Google.

Perhaps these times and prospects can be reinterpreted as an opportunity to rethink how you approach your jewelry selling business. At the least, perhaps you can better secure your base during these times, in preparation for more growth and expansion as the financial crisis bottoms out, and then gradually improves.

It’s time to take a hard look at your “business model.” You have probably been operating as a one or two person operation. You, or both of you, do everything. You create the designs. You make the jewelry. You market and sell your jewelry. You wear many hats.

“Unbundling” is a strategy where you give up control of some business functions, and rely on the expertise of other companies or organized groups. One obvious thing is to rely on UPS or FedEX for your shipping needs.

I suggest you think about no-cost and low-cost ways to unbundle some of your marketing and promotion. One inexpensive and effective way is to get a regular group together of others who sell hand-crafted jewelry or other hand-crafted items.

As a group,

– develop and share mailing and emailing lists

– try to brand the group with an identify of having quality, affordable hand crafted items for sale

– have a major presence, even a controlling presence, at a local craft show

– generate a logo that everyone includes on their websites and their packaging

– set up your own blog and try to attract potential customers to your blog

– interlink your websites into a web-ring

– have regular discussions about business strategies

– approach suppliers as a group to bargain for group discounts

On one level, you give up some control in managing these aspects of your business. On another, however, you get to leverage the talents and time and resources of these other businesses. This might be the smartest way to continue to reach your customers, and continue surviving and thriving when things are tough, and the business environment keeps changing and evolving.

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