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Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

Posted by learntobead on June 28, 2020

Existence for the jewelry designer is befuddling.

Making jewelry is such a happy endeavor. But is the designer always happy? Always ready to lay out all the parts, and get to it? Forever on top of the game? You are the jewelry designer. Alone, at first, with your thoughts. Your inspirations and aspirations. There is such a long path forward from selecting materials and arranging them in a satisfying way. Then you have to show your piece to others.

It is so scary, risky, fraught with anxiety, difficult to decide, sometimes impossible to fully visualize. Yes, you answer to yourself and your own sense of aesthetics and construction. But yet, you make things for other people to wear, perhaps to buy, perhaps to display, perhaps to comment and evaluate and criticize and tear to shreds. Or ‘like’ it on some level.

Befuddling. Yes, indeed.

And perhaps a bit overwhelming. Somewhat un-motivating. Somewhat problematic.


The act of making jewelry, at any point, in any and every situation, forces too many rules and social conventions upon you. Rules of construction. Rules of aesthetics. Rules of meaning. You must sift through all these rules, lest they paralyze you. So you choose what you want and think will work and think will be OK. And, yes, your choices are leading you in a direction of satisfaction and happiness — you are, after all, narrowing the feasible, the possible and the desirable. But you also find yourself partly or fully forced to be compliant to the expectations of others.

At this initial point, everything is not fully satisfying. You are trying to figure out what to do. What direction. What options. How should I start? What pieces do I need? What colors do I want to use? What clasp? Stringing material? Process of construction? Where will I find everything I need? What will they like? What will they want? Why will they pay for it?

Thoughtfully Alone

But, finally, these questions get some answers. You get to block out the world for a while. You get to be alone with your thoughts.

Yes, you have all the pieces picked. You have a sketch drawn out. And you begin to organize and assemble. You get in touch with your inner self. You rapidly search your cognitive rolodex, and settle in on the feelings and images and values and meanings and emotions you want to apply to your piece, and have that piece reflect. You positively go orgasmic with the colors you have selected and how these are arranged, and with your clever ideas to connect each element and fragment of your piece, one to the other. But at the same time, you go lethargic, meditative, rhythmic in the steps you take to make your piece, one step at a time, over and again, over and again, and once again.

Doubt and self-doubt rear their ugly heads. Will my idea work? Will my colors coordinate and blend? My materials mix? My artistic sense be maintained when subjected to my functional purposes? Can I translate what I see in my head to something real? How literal a path should I take from my inspiration to what I make? How far on a limb do I want to crawl?

When the jewelry designer sits down to make a piece of jewelry, how does it feel? The very act of making jewelry reconfirms for you the very act of being yourself. This feeling is other-worldly. You are the world, at least for this moment in time. This feeling is surreal. Creation in the absence of control.

Finally, you sit in front of your finished piece. You have created an object from nothingness. You have made the intangible tangible. You have forced objects and textures and patterns and colors into an uncharted space. You have transformed thread or wire or string and glass or metal or gemstone and sterling silver or gold-filled or pewter or brass into an expression of the personal. Your personal. You.

And for the moment, you have lived a befuddled life.

With many emotional highs and lows.

As loss of control, a whirlwind of creativity, and a reassertion of control.

And you smile.

Betwixt and Between

Design is a rite of passage. A voyage between the sacred and the profane. A relinquishing of control leading, by grit, perseverance and determination, to a re-imposition of control, structure, shape, silhouette, mass and construction.

You enter a period of liminality. Between the concluding night and the entering dawn. Somewhere above the ocean pouring over the horizon, but below the clouds in the sky along the far away horizon. You are thinking how to put words to your feelings of accomplishment. Set categories to the things you did, such as manipulating colors or materials. Determine forms and themes and segments and values and meanings. Explain all your feelings and choices and desires in words and concepts and phrases for others to recognize and understand.

This is a Rite of Passage. You must move from this ecstasy of your creative self to the reality that your jewelry is merely one object you are introducing into a complex and elaborated world. You must share what you have done with others, and, I know so well, can be very scary. Will they like it? Is there a place for this? Will they understand what I personally contributed to the design? Should I worry if someone might copy this? Or abuse it? Or abuse me in some way, as a designer?


And as you successfully, so we hope, maneuver this Rite of Passage, and come out the other side, you return to this object before you. A piece of jewelry. Some metal, some stone, some string. You are ready to pick up that piece of jewelry off your work table, and show it to the world. Now you must sell its virtues. You must market its strengths and gloss over its weaknesses. How wearable is it? How beautiful? How appropriate for which person? In which context? How saleable? How usable?

The world impedes. Those ecstatic hours of creation, losing yourself in this process of essence, dreamily playing with colors, experimenting with arrangements, testing ideas about construction, are slowed down, are gone, are halted, until you begin to make your next piece.

In their place, your fun is tempered by history. By reality. By others determined that your creative self conforms to their ideas. And the ideas of their friends and acquaintances. And, in turn, their friends and acquaintances. Will your piece feel finished? Will they see it as coherent? Satisfying? Will the essence of your piece be contagious as it physically moves further and further away from you?

You are befuddled once again.

The process of designing jewelry is transformative.

The intangible is transformed into the tangible.

Sadness is transformed into happiness.

Shadow is transformed into light.

Inanimate objects are transformed into resonant ones.

The transformative powers of the jewelry designer are heroic. The designer overcomes the lethargy, the blah, the uninspired. The designer crafts functional beauty evoking response and emotion. The designer provides the key to the personal and social success of the wearer. The designer hopes to triumph, lest she or he fall into some kind of professional suicide, characterized by jeweler’s block, resistance, and many unfinished projects. Thus, becomes hero no more.

Is jewelry design, then, merely a cycle of vain-glorious misery? Some temporal happiness and joy following by some ill-defined period of existence? Full of doubts about whether the cycle will every complete itself, or re-start itself, even if it did?

So the question becomes, how do jewelry designers live with all this befuddlement? What keeps them happy? How can the successful jewelry designer think of himself or herself as a designer, fulfilled and happy, if he or she always lives in a world of uncertainty. If the designer personally dis-values their own work. If the designer doesn’t see himself or herself in his work. If the designer doesn’t imbue his or her work with meaning, life and force. If the designer never finishes what he or she started. If the designer substitutes quantity for quality. Or, if the designer only replays and reworks the works of others.

Then existence as a jewelry designer becomes futile.



And you miss out.

On living this befuddled existence.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

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