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JEWELRY DESIGN COMPOSITION: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

Posted by learntobead on March 17, 2018

JEWELRY DESIGN COMPOSITION:
PLAYING WITH BUILDING BLOCKS
CALLED DESIGN ELEMENTS

by Warren Feld, Designer

image002.jpg


Abstract:
Jewelry making is a constructive process of expression.   The language of expression begins with the idea of Design Elements.   Design Elements are the smallest, meaningful units of design.  Design Elements
function in a similar way as vowels and consonants in a language.   They have form.  They have meaning.   They have expression.   Some can stand alone, and others are dependent and must be clustered together.  Better jewelry designers are aware of and can decode these expressive aspects of design elements and how they are included within any piece.  This is one part of learning a disciplinary
literacy in design. This literacy begins with a process of decoding and builds to an intuitive fluency in design.   This article focuses on this process of decoding.

Jewelry making is a constructive process of expression.
   

The language of expression begins with the idea of Design Elements.    Design Elements are like building blocks and function a bit like the vowel and consonant letters of the alphabet.   They have form.  They have meaning.   They can be assembled into different arrangements which extend their meaning and usefulness in expression.

There is an underlying logic to this process – a vocabulary and grammar, so to speak.    Recognizing how this vocabulary and grammar is structured and applied enables the jewelry designer to learn how to be fluent in design.    Such recognition is critical in developing a coherent, consistent disciplinary literacy in jewelry design.   Such disciplinary literacy is at the heart
of a professional identity for jewelry design artisans.  
This literacy structure in design has four  main components to it:

1) Vocabulary: Design Elements As The Basis Of Composition

2) Grammar:  Principles of Construction

3) Strategy:  Project Management[1]

4) Context/Culture:  Shared Understandings[2]

 

 

This article focuses on the first component – Design Elements.

It makes sense for the designer to begin with something like building blocks, which I call Design Elements.   Design Elements, like building blocks, are tangible things.   They can be visualized.   They can be touched and moved around.   They can be combined in different arrangements.   They can be used to create many types of expressions.  Design Elements include things like color, shape, movement, dimensionality, materials, use of space, and the like.   Design Elements are the smallest, meaningful units of design.

Not every Design Element is alike.    Color is different than Shape
is different than Texture.     Movement is different than Balance is
different than Dimensionality.    Learning about and understanding the
differentiation among Design Elements becomes very important if the jewelry designer is to have sufficient power and insight over consistency, variation, coherence and unity in their designs.    This power and insight is called decoding. Every jewelry designer needs to learn how to decode, if they are to be successful in design.

Some Design Elements are syllabic meaning they are independent
and can stand alone.   Others are non-syllabic, meaning they are dependent and cannot stand alone.

INDEPENDENT DESIGN ELEMENTS

DEPENDENT DESIGN ELEMENTS

Function like vowels in alphabet

Many expressive variations

Syllabic

Can stand alone and be expressive

Expressions sensitive to placement or context

Function like consonants in alphabet

Limited expressive variations if used alone and not in combination

Non-syllabic

Do not often stand alone and more usually require an assist from
an independent design element to extend their expression

Expressions consistent, somewhat insensitive to placement or
context


Design Elements have graphic representations.   Graphic representations allow these elements to be recognized symbolically as a sort of short-hand.

Each Design Element also encompasses a range of acceptable meanings, which I call expressive variations.    These expressive variations, while different among themselves, are still reflective of that Design Element.      They have universal qualities in that people tend to share understandings about what these expressive variations mean and how they are to be used.
Color Schemes, for example, are objective, agreed-upon combinations of colors seen as coherent and unifying.   Thus, any color scheme is an expressive variation on the element of Color.

The universal, expressive variations associated with each Design Element are, in effect, attributes of that Design Element.     These attributes have an
objective quality to them in that there is general agreement among designer,
viewer, wearer, buyer and seller as to what they express and how they might be used.     There is an expectation that whatever role a person plays relative to the piece of jewelry, the Design Elements and their attributes will be decoded in a similar way. 

At this stage in the jewelry design process, the focus is on a simple vocabulary.   The vocabulary is made up of Design Elements
and their expressive attributes.   The vocabulary encapsulates a generally shared understanding of its meaning and how it is to be used.    It is
at the point of grammar, thus manipulation and construction, that individual artists get to show their artistic hand in selecting and placing these elements into a finished piece of jewelry.

These Design Elements and their attributes can be arranged in different configurations I call clusters.     Clusters may consist of independent Design
Elements alone, dependent Design Elements alone, or a mix of both.    For example, we may use an arrangement of glossy and matte Color beads to
project Dimensionality.    We may use different Colors of beads, rhythmically arranged, to project Movement.

Combinations of Design Elements into clusters can have different effects, from synergyantagonism, blending, bounding, freeing and inflection.

Selecting Design Elements and clustering them does not occur in a vacuum.
The designer selects and arranges Design Elements in anticipation of how
these choices will be understood by others in a universal or objective sense.    

This is a process which I call “Backwards Designing”.[3]   The building blocks and their attributes are first selected in anticipation of these shared understandings.   For instance, the designer might choose colors by anticipating how others will recognize the legitimacy and appeal of
certain clusters of colors – color schemes.

If the viewer, wearer, buyer or seller of a piece of jewelry cannot understand and relate to its Design Elements and how they are clustered within the piece, they will not understand it.   They will not appreciate it.   They will not see it as a legitimate piece of artistic expression.    It will not
feel authentic.   To others, if the piece lacks evidence of shared understandings, this will result in that jewelry (and by implication, the jewelry artisan) getting labeled, for example, as unsatisfying or boring or ugly or monotonous.

 

DESIGN ELEMENTS COMPRISE A VOCABULARY
OF BASIC ARTISTIC EXPRESSION

Working with Design Elements is not much different than working with an alphabet.

An alphabet is made up of different letters.   Each letter has different
attributes – how it is written, how it sounds, how it is used.    Configurations of letters result in more sounds and more meanings and more ways to be used.    

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

This is exactly what the jewelry designer does with Design Elements.  The
designer has to decode, that is, make sense of a series of elements and their attributes in light of our shared understandings about which Design Elements are appropriate, and how they should be legitimately expressed.   

Let’s examine a set of jewelry Design Elements in more detail and elaboration.

DESIGN ELEMENT

Independent

GRAPHIC

REPRESENTATION

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

Color


image004.jpg

 

Schemes

Hue and Saturation

Simultaneity Effects

Values and Intensity

Temperature

Receding or Projecting

Shape


image006.jpg

 

Recognizable

Focused

Distinct

Blended

Abstract

Filled or Empty

Delimited, fixed, geometric

Infinite, extending

Distorted or overlapped

Masculine or feminine

Organic or mechanical

Background, foreground, middle ground

Texture and
Pattern


image008.jpg

Regular, Predictable, Statistical

Repeated or singular

Random, Non-Statistical

Feel or look

Layered or Non-layered

Smooth or Rough

Point, Line,
Plane


image010.jpg

 

2-Dimensional

3-Dimensional

Conform or violate

Connected or Unconnected

Span and distance

Actual or implied

Thickness

Silhouette

Focused or unfocused

Bounded or unbounded

geometric or curved

 

Material


image012.jpg

 

Natural or Man-Made

Soft or solid

Heavy or light

Single or mixed media

Light refraction, reflection, absorption

Technique and
Technology


image014.jpg

Bead Weaving, Bead Stringing, Wire Working,
Fiber, Clay, etc.

With or without application of heat and/or
pressure

Fabricated or Machine Made

Pattern or freeform



DESIGN ELEMENT

Dependent

GRAPHIC
REPRESENTATION

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

EXPRESSIVE VARIATIONS

Dimensionality


image016.jpg

 

2-dimensional
(volume and mass; weight; density)

3-dimensional (relief, low relief, high relief)

 

Interior and Exterior Contours

Frontal or in-the-round

 

Open or closed forms

 

Static or dynamic forms

 

Movement


image018.jpg

 

Passive
(ex: use of color guides the eye)

 

Direction

 

Linear or wave

Physical
(ex: pieces, like fringe or spinners, actually move)

 

Stable or erratic

Mechanical
(ex: structure of piece allows piece to
drape and flow)

Color Blending


image020.jpg

Simultaneity effects

Value and intensity

 

Saturation and vibrance

Distinct or blurred

 

Dominant or recessive

Theme, Symbols


image022.jpg

Surface or interpreted meaning(s) or
inflected

 

Power, position, protection, identification

Clear or abstract referents

 

Object as whole, or parts of object

Repetition or not

 

Individual, group, cultural, societal,
universal

Beauty and
Appeal


image024.jpg

 

Sensually pleasing: visual, touch, auditory,
taste, smell

 

 

Objective or emotional

 

 

Coherence, harmony and unity

 

Fashion, style, timeliness, timelessness

Structure and
Support


image026.jpg

 

Stiff or flexible

 

Flow and drape

 

Linkage, connectivity

Wearability

 

Display

 

Organization

Articulation

 

Autonomy vs. Temporariness

 

Interactive with wearer, or not

Craftsmanship


image028.jpg

 

Inspiration

 

Skill and dexterity

 

With tools, or not

 

 

Design acumen

Personality and preferences

Form, Segmentation,
Components


image030.png

 

Shape with Volume

 

Whole or divided

 

Organized or chaotic

Perspective

 

2-dimensional or 3-dimensional

 

Alignment

Shading

 

Positioning or spacing

 

Simple or Complex

Balance and
Distribution


image032.jpg

Symmetrical (By size, color, or shape)

 

Visual weight

 

Visual size

Asymmetrical (By size, color, or shape)

 


Radial
(By size, color or shape)

 

Visual placement

Random
(By size, color, or shape)

 

Stable or unstable

 

Directed or undirected

Referents to specific
idea or style


image034.jpg

 

Vintage Revival

 

Direct or implied

Contemporary

 

Literal or figurative

Symbolic

Context,
Situation, Culture


image036.jpg

Economic, social, psychological, cultural,
situational values

Complicit artist, or not

Derived meaning, or objective meaning

Negative and
Positive Space


image038.png

Figure or ground

 

Form or no form

 

Shading

 

Perspective

Depth

 

Use of space around an object

Interpenetration of space

 

Illusion or reality

 

Placement

Light and
Shadow


image040.jpg

 

Suggestive

 

Gradient

 

Perspective

Shading

 

Illumination

 

Solid or Cast

 

Dimensionality

 

Moon

The Japanese Fragrance Garden Bracelet

image042.jpg

image044.jpg  image046.jpg

“Japanese Fragrance Garden Bracelet”, by Warren Feld, March 2018, photography by Warren Feld

For example, this is the kind of building blocks thinking I did when designing my Japanese Fragrance Garden Bracelet.   

This bracelet has a foundation base.  The finishes of these beads in the
base are either a luster finish or a dichroic finish.   Off the base, I created flower stalks that were 4-6 seed beads tall, and topped with a slightly
larger and more brightly colored seed bead. The colors of the beads in the stalks vary from dark (near the base) to light (near the flower tip).   Between
each bed of flowers is a “moon bridge” – the kind you might expect when
meandering through a Japanese garden.

See how I clustered independent and dependent Design Elements to achieve a particular expression.

What I Wanted To Achieve   

Design Elements I Thought About              


Movement
with flower stalks where they would retain their verticality
(thus not flop over) after the piece was worn.

Technique:   Fringing technique
Technology:  Use of One-G beading thread which, unlike
all other beading threads, has a springy quality to it.   When the fringe is pulled out during
wearing, the thread helps spring it back into place

Color:  To mimic how moving
colors will be perceived, I varied color in flower stalks from dark at the
bottom to medium to light at the top, just under the flower, and then used
bright colors for the flowers topping off each stalk
Point, Line:  Easy for viewer to perceive and follow
movement of points and lines, which are key elements in the piece


Dimensionality

where the piece would not be seen as flat

Point, Line: Visually, the flower stalks lead the eye from the foundation
base, up the stalks, and to the bright flower colors on top of the
stalks.   

Color: I use a reflective foundation base of two types of bead
finishes, (a) luster, and (b) dichroic.
Both have a mirroring effect, making it difficult for the eye to see
the “bottom”, and at the same time reflecting the colors sitting above them.


Color Blending
where as the eye moves up and down any flower stalk, or moves
across the piece from end to end, everything feels coherent and unified

Color: I make a wide use of simultaneity effects, where the placement
of one color affects the perception of the color next to it.    This fools the brain into blending colors, which in reality, you cannot do easily with
beads (as opposed to paints).

Shape/Points/Line/Pattern:   There is a consistent repetition of shapes, points and lines, and pattern, leading the viewer to be able to predict what should happen next along the bracelet, and again, fooling the brain into doing some color blending perceptual tricks of its own.

 

How Do You Teach Designers A Vocabulary of Design?

Most designers most likely start theirjewelry making careers taking craft-oriented classes and following instructions in how-to books or online in how-to videos.  They learn to repeat a set of steps and end up with something like what is pictured.    The whole jewelry making approach assumes that jewelry making is a natural process.    Surround the budding artist with patterns, books and videos, and they will somehow become great jewelry designers.

Yet, although the artisans follow a set of steps over and over again, they never learn how to make choices or evaluate implications or get any experience making judgement calls and tradeoffs when designing something that must look good and wear well at the same time.   Jewelry making is not a natural skill that is learned automatically.    Jewelry designers need to be taught to design.

Towards this end, I think it is much more useful to build an educational curriculum and program around the idea of disciplinary literacy.   We need to teach designers to explicitly and systematically think design.   Designers need to be able to recognize the elements that make up a piece, how they were used, and how this leads to more or less success in evoking an expression or an emotional response.

Disciplinary Literacy, means, in part, that the designer is aware of the “codes” which were selected for a piece of jewelry.  The designer is able to segment the piece and identify its Design Elements.    The designer is also able to put Design Elements together and blend them to achieve a desired expression.    The better designer is very aware of all the codes, or Design Elements.     The better designer is very aware of how the codes, or Design Elements, were selected, combined, blended and expressed.    And the designer is very aware of how and why clusters of Design Elements may sometimes get bounded; that is, may be unfortunately stuck within some
indeterminant meaning or expression.

Towards this end, this means first teaching designers how to decode.   It means figuring out what universally accepted Design Elements should be used in a piece.   It also means recognizing how these elements can vary, and how such variation can change the artistic or design expression
of the piece.     Designers need to learn how Design Elements get clustered and constructed to convey certain expressions, and which cannot.

At this stage, we are training the designer to have some comfort recognizing and applying objective, shared understandings about what certain Design Elements mean, and the variations in how they might get expressed within a piece.

As the designer’s education progresses, we would gradually reduce the student’s involvement with decoding, and increase the involvement with tasks involving fluency.   This involves more in-depth learning about
manipulation and construction.   Here the designer is taught how to define a personal style and approach, and implement it.    The designer is guided from creating the merely appealing, to the more resounding resonant.    The designer is also taught to look for, anticipate and incorporate context clues.     All this gets into the areas of grammar and process management, which I discuss in other articles.[1,2]

_________________________________________________________

warrenFeld1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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



Footnotes

[1] Read my article Jewelry Design: A Managed Process, Klimt02.net Forum, https://klimt02.net/forum/articles/jewelry-design-managed-process-warren-feld

[2] I discuss a little about shared understandings in a yet unpublished article I wrote about Contemporary Design.    From that article…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] Backwards Design.  I had taken two graduate education courses in Literacy and one in Planning that were very influential in
my approach to disciplinary literacy.   One of the big take-aways from
Understanding by Design 
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe,
2nd Edition, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,
2005,  was 
the idea they introduced of “backwards design”.   Their point is that you can better teach understanding if you anticipate the evidence others will use in their assessments of what you are trying to do.
When coupled with ideas about teaching literacy and fluency (see
Literacy:Helping Students Construct Meaning
by J. David Cooper, M. Robinson, J.A. Slansky and N. Kiger, 9th Edition, Cengage Learning, 2015)
, you can begin to introduce ideas about managing the design process in a coherent and alignable way.

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

Posted by learntobead on February 15, 2018

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should the label be applied to all this variation?

Could it?

Why would we want it to?

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

What is contemporary jewelry?

“Contemporary” Is A Specific Approach For Thinking Through Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think of all that power!

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

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

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

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

1. Work within our shared understandings about contemporary jewelry.

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

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

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

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

Shared Understandings[3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are,

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

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

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

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

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

3. Jewelry should evoke emotions.

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

4. Jewelry should connect people with culture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The designer needs answers to several questions at this point.

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

How well have they anticipated these criteria of evaluation?

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

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

_________________________________________________________


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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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.

 

JEWELRY DESIGN IS A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WELL-DESIGNED JEWELRY MUST BE MANAGED
AT THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN JEWELRY AND PERSON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

JEWELRY DESIGN MANAGEMENT:
BUILDING A STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION FOR THINKING THROUGH DESIGN

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

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

 

 

DESIGN THINKING

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

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

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

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

Something to think about.

 

 

HOW DO WE TEACH JEWELRY DESIGN THINKING
AS A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

5 Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Posted by learntobead on December 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Posted in Art or Craft?, jewelry design | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Ugly Necklace Contest – Submission Deadline Approaching

Posted by learntobead on April 28, 2014

 

THE UGLY NECKLACE CONTEST
– A JEWELRY DESIGN COMPETITION WITH A TWIST
Submission Deadline Approaching:  August 31, 2014

uglynecklace1

 

 

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.

deeb-jewelrydesign

 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Beaders-Guide-Jewelry-Design/dp/1454704063/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391443968&sr=8-1&keywords=the+beaders+guide+to+jewelry+design

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

BEZELWORKS PENDANT Workshop by Warren Feld, 4/12-13/2014

Posted by learntobead on February 7, 2014

Center for Beadwork &  Jewelry Arts:  Workshops

CBJA

WORKSHOPS

Warren Feld

BEZELWORKS PENDANT

2-Day
Workshop

Sat/Sun, 4/12-13/2014,

10am-5pm, Sat

10am-4pm, Sun

(with a break for lunch)

Held at

Be Dazzled Beads

718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123

Nashville, TN 37204

FEES: $90.00 plus supplies[Optional Kit available for purchase from instructor.Olive Fire Agate, $135.00]

Registration
Deposit: $90.00

The instructional
fee does not cover the cost of supplies
.

You may register
in person at Be Dazzled Beads, or by phone with a credit card (615-292-0610),
or by mail with a check to 718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123, Nashville,
TN 37204

limited to 12 registrants

registration
by

March 24th, 2014

beadschool@
landofodds.com

615-292-0610

 

 

CENTER for BEADWORK & JEWELRY
ARTS
718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123
Nashville, Tennessee
37204
PHONE:  615-292-0610
FAX:
615-292-0610
www.landofodds.com
/beadschool/

beadschool@landofodds.com

Location,
Lodging,

Access by Car, Plane

Center For Beadwork & Jewelry Arts - beadworking and jewelry-making classes
Be Dazzled Beads and
The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Artsin Nashvile, Tennessee

welcomes

Warren Feld

April 12-13, 2014

10am-5pm Sat (with break for lunch)

10am-4pm Sun (with break for lunch)

BezelWorks Pendant


Intermediate/Advanced Level

2 Days

Saturday – Sunday, April 12-13, 2014, 10am-5pm
(Sat), 10am-4pm (Sun)

(with a break for lunch)

FEES: $90.00 plus supplies

[Optional Kit available for puchase from instructor.

Olive
Fire Agate, $135.00
]

Registration
Deposit: $90.00

Registration by March
24th, 2014

BezelWorks Pendant


Guest Instructor:  Warren Feld

Intermediate/Advanced Level

Wear that mystical, bead-bezeled stone close to your heart!  Use tubular
peyote, circular peyote, and spirtal tube Ndebele stitches while
exploring design ideas about fringe, edge, bail, surface embellishment and strap.

 


The BezelWorks Pendant has a Center Piece, around which we create a
bezel or frame, then do some edge and surface embellishment. Attached
to this Center Piece is a bead woven butterfly bail. This piece
hangs from a bead woven strap. For the bead artist working from
an Art perspective, the frame, embellishment, bail, and strap should
be seen as supplemental to the center piece. But if working from
a Design Perspective, all these components should be seen more wholistically.

So, not only will we be creating a beautiful piece in this workshop.
We will also be discussing the implications for the choices we make
about each element or component for creating a successful and satisfying
piece. This includes our choices about managing the transition from
one element to the next.

The techniques we will be applying in this piece include:

– tubular peyote, open back bezel
– circular peyote
– fringe
– tubular spiral ndebele

Art or Design?

If jewelry is “art”, is the entire piece the art, or only
the center piece, or central focal part the art? Classical art theory
holds that the fringe, strap, edging, bail, and other similar parts
should supplement or support the center piece or focal center. This
theory holds that these jewelry structures are not art. They should
function like a frame to a painting, or a pedestal to a sculpture.

It is, however, often difficult to separate the jewelry’s anatomy like this, with
one part important and the other parts supplemental. This BezelWorks
Pendant project is, in part, designed to foster ideas, discussion
and debate about the roles of fringe, edge, strap, bail and surface
embellishment. Each of these is critical to the finished piece.

For each of these anatomical parts or extensions to our piece of jewelry, we
need to understand it in terms of:

– What it is, its purpose, its role

– What value it has to the piece

– How it makes the piece more or less satisfying

– What principles should regulate it

– Whether it is part of the art or not



Center Piece

The central project: A BezelWorks Pendant, with open-back peyote bezel. How
do we go about designing an aesthetically pleasing, well-functioning,
center piece? What functions does the center piece serve? How do
we make choices about size, design, proportions, placement?

Edge, Frame, Boundary, Line 

The Center Piece has a bezel, creating an interior edge encircling our stone. In
addition, the we weave a frame around the entire Center Piece, creating
an additional key edging component.

Edging is used to give a finished look to the piece. It might be used to hide threads.
It might be used to hide any irregularities in how beads line up
or are juxtaposed. An edging strategy is especially critical, however,
for creating, preserving, blurring, or otherwise affecting the boundary
line, line curvature, and/or silhouette of the center piece or the
piece of jewelry as a whole.

What role does the “border” of a piece play? Does it mark a beginning/ending?
How does it help the viewer appreciate the emotional content of the piece?

What kinds of positioning issues are associated with the placement on an edge,
boundary, border or line?


Fringe and Surface Embellishment

We weave Fringe Embellishment off our Frame. So what exactly is fringe, and what
can fringe be? How does the fringe make the piece more or less satisfying?
There are numerous possibilities.

 In good jewelry design, the Fringe and/or other Surface Embellishment would play
either a supporting, or a co-equal role, with the center piece.
It would not overwhelm or be overdone. It would seem as if the fringe
were organic part of the piece. It would not seem like an afterthought.
If it’s primary purpose is to hide flaws, no one should notice.
Too often, designers overdo the fringe.

Straps

The Center Piece hangs from a thin, twisted Ndebele tube Strap. What are the visual
and functional purposes of the strap? What should the strap look
like? How should the strap be connected to the piece? Where should
the strap be connected to the piece? To what extent is or should
the strap be as an integral part of the piece of jewelry as art?
How does the strap define a silhouette? How does the strap make
the piece more or less satisfying?

Bails

In our piece, a Bail is connected directly to the Center Piece, and the strap
moves through it. A bail changes the visual and artistic relationship
between the strap and the center piece. How might this be helpful,
and how not? The bail poses similar design challenges as the strap
— size, proportion, placement and attachment. However, it has to
succeed at one additional task — it has to control the visual,
aethestic and functional transitioning between the center piece
and the strap.

The Canvas

We have two things which serve as “Canvas”. The most obvious is the
stringing material. In this project, we use beading thread for some
parts, and a cable thread for others. The other part which serves
as “Canvas” are the woven beads which for the basis of
our Frame, and off of which we add Fringe.

The “canvas” in a piece of jewelry may be the stringing material, and how it
is worked off of. It might be another piece of beadwork, such as
a beaded base, off of which some center piece is developed. It might
be a core line of beads. It might be a piece of fabric or other
material. How does the canvas influence the interpretation of jewelry
as art? How should the canvas interact with the main piece and its
components? To what extent should it become part of the artwork
itself; and to what extent, not? Classic Art theory suggests that
the canvas should NOT be a part of the artwork at all.

What Techniques Students Need To Know Before The Workshop

The skill level required: Intermediate/Advanced. The student must be
comfortable with tubular peyote and the ndebele stitch.

Additional workshop information found here.

About Warren Feld

www.warrenfeldjewelry.com

Artist’s Statement: 

WARREN FELD
Jewelry Designer

Director, Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts and www.LearnToBead.net

For Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer, beading and jewelry making endeavors have been wonderful
adventures. These adventures, over the past 25 years, have taken Warren from the basics of bead stringing and bead weaving, to wire working and silver smithing, and onward to more complex jewelry
designs which build on the strengths of a full range of technical skills and experiences.

He, along with his partner Jayden Alfre Jones, opened a small bead shop in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, about 20 years ago, and called it Land of Odds. Over time, Land of Odds evolved from a bricks and mortar store into a successful internet business —www.landofodds.com
. In the late 1990s, James and Warren opened up another bricks and
mortar bead store — Be Dazzled Beads — in a trendy neighborhood of Nashville called
Berry Hill. Together both businesses supply beaders and jewelry artists with all the supplies and parts they need to make beautiful pieces of wearable art.

In 2000, Warren founded The Center For Beadwork & Jewelry Arts (CBJA) — www.landofodds.com/beadschool. CBJA is an educational program, associated with Be Dazzled Beads in Nashville, for beaders and jewelry makers. The program approaches education from a Design Perspective. There is a strong focus here on skills development. There are requirements for sequencing the
student’s classes; that is, taking classes in a developmental order. There is a major emphasis on teaching how to make better choices when selecting beads, other parts and stringing materials, and how
to bring these altogether into a beautiful, yet functional piece of jewelry.

Location,
Lodging,

 

 

//
//

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THE CHALLENGES OF CUSTOM WORK

Posted by learntobead on October 27, 2013

THE CHALLENGES OF CUSTOM WORK

QUESTIONS:
How do you handle the challenges of doing custom work?
What lessons have you learned, that you might share with others?

soundtrackcolor

When I began my jewelry making career, one of the smartest things I did was take on repairs.    I learned so much.   With each repair, I was able to re-construct in my mind the steps the jewelry designer made when creating this piece of jewelry – choices about stringing materials, clasps, beads, and how to connect everything up.    And at the same time, I could see where these choices were inadequate.   I could see where the piece broke or wore down.   I could question the customer about how the piece was worn, and what happened when it broke.

And with each repair, I gained more knowledge from yet another jewelry designer’s attempt to fashion a piece of jewelry.

All these repairs resulted in more self-confidence about designing jewelry and designing jewelry for others.   And it led to more custom work.

When you do custom work, I think you need an especially steeled personality to deal with everything that can go awry.

First comes the fitting.   You take some initial measurements, but after the piece is made, the perspective changes, and so do the desired measurements.

Then comes a lot of customer indecision – colors, lengths, beads, silhouettes, overall design.

Or they want to use several gemstones, but want them all to have the exact same markings and coloration.

Not to mention the sometimes questionable taste.

Or the possibilities of infringement of other jeweler’s designs, when the customer wants you to re-produce something they saw in a magazine or on-line.     Identically.

And then time-frame.   Can I finish the piece by the time the customer wants it done?

We discuss pricing, where many customers seem resistant to paying anything for my time.

And last, payment.     It’s not so easy to get some people to pay.

 

I still do a lot of custom work.    But I delay a bit, sitting down and actually constructing the piece.    I have a lot of discussions with the client.   If there are color or materials questions, I usually present the client for 3 colors or materials at a time, and ask them to choose which they prefer.   Then another 3-at-a-time forced-choice exercise, until things get narrowed down.

I photo-shop a lot of images – different colors, designs, beads – with the client, and get a lot of feedback.     As I assemble all the information, I sketch/photo-shop what a final piece might look like.   I superimpose this image on a mannequin to show the customer what it might look like.     I have the customer formally sign-off on a final design.    And only then, do I begin to construct the piece.

I require a 50% deposit up front.

I agree to make some adjustments for 6 months after the customer has the piece in hand.

 

 

 

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

HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY IMPACTED YOU AS A JEWELRY DESIGNER?

Posted by learntobead on August 26, 2013

 

HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY IMPACTED YOU AS A JEWELRY DESIGNER?

tech-3-d-print

The impact of technology on work and jobs was the focus of a recent opinion piece in the New York Times by David H. Autor and David Dorn.     And, as jewelry designers, we are living through and with all the positives and negatives that arise through this technological change.

How has technology affected what we do as designers?

How has it affected what we do to survive and thrive as designers?

Have we mechanized and computerized the jewelry design business into obsolescence?

How have you had to organize your jewelry designer lives differently?
given the rise of
-the internet,
-Ebay, Etsy and Amazon.com
-blogs, facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram
-new technologies and materials like precious metal clay, polymer clay, crystal clay, 3-D printing

What has happened to your local bead stores?

What has happened to bead magazines?

If you teach classes for pay, or sell kits and instructions, how do you compete against the literally millions of online tutorials, classes, instructions and kits offered for free?    How does this affect what you teach or design to sell as kits?

If you sell jewelry, how do you compete against the 60,000,000 other people who sell jewelry online?   How does this affect your marketing, your pricing, your designs?

If you make part of your living doing a arts and crafts show circuit, will there still be a need for this in the future?

 

tech-3-d-print2

 

The authors in this NYT article pose the questions raised by several prominent authors and scholars:

Are we in danger of losing the “race against the machine?” (M.I.T. scholars Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee)

Are we becoming enslaved to our “robot overlords,?” (journalist Kevin Drum warned in Mother Jones)

Do “smart machines” threaten us with “long-term misery?” (economists Jeffrey D. Sachs and Laurence J. Kotlikoff)

Have we reached “the end of labor?” (Noah Smith in The Atlantic)

 

tech-crystal-clay

 

 

Let me paraphrase these a bit in terms more specific to jewelry design and beadwork.

Does the reach of technology, through such vehicles as the Internet, make things so productive and efficient, that we no longer need so many people making jewelry, or teaching jewelry  making, or marketing businesses / products or selling the parts to make jewelry?

If we do not need so many people to design / teach / market / or sell, and there happen to be a lot of people doing this anyway, does this necessarily make the relative worth and price for any of these activities “$zero”?

Does all this technological efficiency diminish the act of “creativity”?   Now so many things can be standardized that everything – even the manufacture of complex pieces of jewelry through 3-D technology – can be reduced to a set of how-to instructions – mere recipes?

Has this technology reduced the need for bead magazines, and bead stores, and traditional classes?

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, technology has made jewelry design, and good jewelry design, more and more accessible to more and more people.

It has opened up a myriad of possibilities for people to explore their creative selves.

It has let jewelry designers reach a broader audience with their wares, their knowledge and their endeavors.

With new materials and technologies have come many new possibilities for creating jewelry.

It has made it easier for more people to get into the various jewelry design-related businesses.

It has made it easier to stay current and learn.

It has made it easier to meet and learn with fellow jewelry designers.

It has made it easier to mine big data, identify the most relevant target customers, and to market to them in very specific, cost-effective ways.

It has made it easier for retail outlets to find the merchandise they need to sell.

 

tech-internet

 

 

Some quick observations from my own professional life:

–          We have an elaborate curriculum of classes that we teach.   However, many of the beginning classes are becoming obsolete, in the sense that students can find similar classes on YouTube, in bead magazines, and throughout the internet, now for free.    The issue for us is how to adapt, given that one of our goals is still to charge money for these classes, and make money.   And a concurrent goal is to offer the student a learning opportunity worth the price paid.

–          Each year, we used to have 1 or 2 national level instructors do workshops at our store.    But it has become difficult to attract students.    There are so many projects easily available – including from these national-level instructors – that students started to indicate that their interests in these workshops had diminished.   They could do these same or similar projects on their own.

–          When we opened our store in 1991, there were few places for people to acquire what we sell.    Now there are almost 100 million places for people to go.    It is obvious that most of our in-store customers purchase more of their supplies online or through catalogs than they do in the store.

–          We used to do craft shows a long time ago.    But the cost of travel got very expensive, and, with the internet, people had more opportunity to find what we sold without going to the craft shows.

–          It used to be that the crux of our advertising dollars were spent with bead magazines.   No longer.   Bead magazines get a very small part of our advertising dollars.    I can remember when all our customers read the bead magazines to get all their information.   Now very few do.   Most have organized themselves into small groups in various social media sites.   To get your marketing message across, you have to spend a lot of time doing this online, and you can no longer market with a “broad brush”.   That is, it has become ever-more-difficult to reach people.

–          Our online business – Land of Odds – has been in existence since 1995.   It has gone through 6 technology upgrades/re-designs since then.    The e-commerce and website design technology moves and evolves so incredibly fast.   Personally this constant updating has been grueling. The site needs more re-design, but my motivation to learn and cope with yet another computer language and new sets of tasks has diminished.   Land of Odds was a pioneering online business.  But the very large bead companies have gotten their acts together online, and are much better capitalized to expand their operations.

Technology has been a dauntingly mixed bag for us.   On the negative side, the rapid advance and spread of technology has overwhelmed the various activities we do.   On the positive side, it has forced us to become ever more creative and ever more efficient in what we do.    It forces us to constantly re-define who we are and what we want to do.   And it forces us to constantly re-define how we do things.

What do you think?

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MAKING THE ORDINARY NOTEWORTHY

Posted by learntobead on July 26, 2013

MAKING THE ORDINARY NOTEWORTHY

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I want to continue the discussion about Jewelry Design Principles of Composition with the principle I call “INTEREST”.

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

Better designed and more satisfying jewelry has more Interest.

The WHOLE will be GREATER THAN the SUM OF THE PARTS.

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Towards this end, the jewelry artist might do something of INTEREST when
– selecting materials or a mix of materials
– selecting color combinations
– varying the sizes of things
– pushing the envelope on interrelating lines, curves and planes
– playing with the rhythm
– using a focal point, or using it in a clever way

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THE QUESTIONS FOR YOU….

Among the pieces you have made, can you think of examples you can share with the group, in which you made the ordinary…noteworthy?

Can you think of examples, and share with the group, times where trying to make the ordinary…noteworthy did not work out well? Why do you think that was?

In this same vein, can jewelry artists often try too hard to make the ordinary…noteworthy?

Or not try hard enough? Have you visited stores – boutiques, department stores, galleries – in which everything seems too plain, uninteresting, boring? Too much like blue jewelry for a blue dress, without any distinction?

What kinds of things can teachers do to encourage students to make the ordinary…noteworthy?

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One example of the successful application of this principle…

There’s a company called Firefly, and I have always been intrigued by their jewelry. It is made up of mosaic components they fashion themselves from things you might use every day. I’ve included some pictures of their pieces with this post.

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Their creativity is infinite. In one component, they take a Swarovski square donut and glue a back on it, typically a piece of metal which has been stamped or otherwise decorated, and has two holes or two rings near the top corners. In the center of the donut, they might inlay some seed beads, some crystal beads, some colorful metal shards.

In another piece, they do the same thing with a Swarovski ring donut.

On the back of some bezel settings for drops they etch in words, like Spirit or Hope.

They have beautiful and often unexpected combinations of colors in their pieces.

Often a simple bead drop has that extra, “interesting” touch; it is not only a bead on a head pin, with a loop on one end. This bead would be set off by two small 15/0 seed beads, often of a contrasting color and finish.

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Their website is: http://www.fireflyjewelrydesigns.net/

You can read up on all the principles of composition on this webpage:
http://www.landofodds.com/store/goodjewelrydesign.htm

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HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED?

Posted by learntobead on July 13, 2013

 

HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED?

It is easy to get distracted.   Dagmar sent me an email with a link to a picture of a bead woven piece she liked.    At first, I reacted with some resistance, to click the link.   I needed to finish up several projects, and didn’t want to cloud my thinking, or add one more image or one more pattern I liked, or color I liked, or technique I liked, to that mix of ideas and tasks and things swirling around and around in my head.

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But, you guessed it, I clicked.   The piece was beautiful, intriguing, and l discovered many more of this artist’s work on display online.    I spent time with each piece.   I read the artist’s statement because I wanted to learn more about her inspiration.    She had many embedded links in her statement.  Which led me to many other websites.   One concept was discussed, and I did a Google search on that.     And then an images.google.com search on it as well.    Which somehow got me over to Amazon, then Wikipedia, and over to some other bead artist’s website.

 

Three hours later – how does time pass away so quickly?    A simple click three hours earlier had led me through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole, through, what must have looked like to others, some torturous pathways, meeting all kinds of strangers.

I am always working on several projects at a time.     So in my head, are several sets of instructions, several color palettes, several understandings of inspiration.    And I want to keep some focus.   And I want to finish all of these projects.    And I want to be able to conceptualize and invent my next projects, which involves lots of trial and error experimentation.    I want to have the time and clear head space for all this.

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And yet, there are so many easily accessible distractions.

I know I’m not alone, so the question I put forward to you:

How do you stay focused?

 

And perhaps, I should phrase the question differently:   Can you stay focused?

Or, in the face of so many great examples of jewelry and bead art, so many evolving changes in styles and fashions, the introduction of many new colors and new bead shapes and new techniques – in the face of so much wonderfully inspiring, so many things to learn and educate yourself about – how do you keep in touch with your inner designer self, and find the time and energy for self-expression?

 

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HOW DO YOU MAKE “ASYMMETRY” WORK FOR YOU?

Posted by learntobead on July 7, 2013

HOW DO YOU MAKE “ASYMMETRY” WORK FOR YOU?

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Another Principle of Jewelry Design Composition is called “PLANAR RELATIONSHIPS”.     This primarily has to do with the placement of lines and planar surfaces within your piece, and how satisfying all this placement is, so that the lines and/or planes interrelate.

 

It turns out it is relatively easy to have lines and planes relate symmetrically.   That is, it is easy to get people to be more satisfied with your pieces, if you makes things line up evenly to the right and to the left of your center point or line.

 

Conversely, it is not so easy when you try to create something asymmetrical.     In fact, based on the art theory and cognitive psychology theory underlying this principle of planar relationships, I would say that, if your piece is asymmetrical, there must be something else on the person wearing the piece to create the illusion of symmetry.   This might be the way the hair is styled, the pattern on a dress, the neckline silhouette of the dress, the shape and positioning of the person’s ears, and the like.

 

So, for those of you who have tried and succeeded, or tried and failed, to create asymmetrical pieces, how would you describe your design process?    And people’s reactions to your piece?   Or how it looked on the wearer?     If successful, what kinds of things did you do in the design process, that worked in your favor?

 

Off-centered piece or someone wearing just one earring, can be disorienting and disturbing.   How do you feel about asymmetrical pieces, or people wearing only one earring?

 

 

— Warren

 

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Excerpts from some of my writings about this principle of planar relationships…
(also read: Principles of Good Jewelry Design Composition online at http://www.landofodds.com/store/goodjewelrydesign.htm

 

 

PLANAR RELATIONSHIPS

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The goal here is to “see” the piece of jewelry, especially when worn, as something that is coherent, organized, controlled, and orienting.

 

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

– a strategic use of lines and planes
— shapes

— boundaries

– -silhouettes

— contours
– symmetry

– or, more difficult to achieve, a satisfying asymmetry

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

– how sections of the piece interlock

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

 

 

 

Example:

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

 

 

Example:

When wearing a necklace, where the clasp is worn on the side, instead of the back, sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. Again, what about the composition of the necklace, allows this to work; what about the composition doesn’t?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH?

Posted by learntobead on June 30, 2013

 

 

WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH?

Beading and jewelry making can be so much fun, and you have so many choices of so many beautiful pieces to play with, that sometimes, from a design sense, it’s easy to go overboard.

Too many strands. Too many different kinds of beads. Too many colors. Too much embellishment. Too much fringe. Too much repetition of themes and design elements.

There is a tendency too often to over-do.

How do you answer this question for yourself – when is enough enough?

Do you tend to over-do (or under-do) your pieces?

How do you edit? Do you make a piece, and get the judgment of others? Is this based on some kind of intuition?

How do you work with students or friends who have difficulty answering this question?

Let me know what you think.

Warren

Could this be better or worse? or more satisfying or less satisfying? With more strands? If longer? More colors? More involved patterning?

Could this be better or worse? or more satisfying or less satisfying?
With more strands?
If longer?
More colors?
More involved patterning?

From an article I’ve posted online…

I had discussed in an article – 10 Principles of Jewelry Design Composition (http://www.landofodds.com/store/goodjewelrydesign.htm) – what is in effect a type of grammar and vocabulary for good jewelry design. The last principle was called Parsimony. And this one is really difficult to achieve. The jewelry artist who is good at Parsimony has a great deal of control over the design process.

Parsimony means that there should be no nonessential elements.

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

Many jewelry designers, when they like a particular bead, or a particular design, often over-do their pieces. The thinking here is that, if they have a beautiful part, adding many of these parts will make the whole even more beautiful. Often, it results in the finished product that is boring or uninteresting. The finished product loses a type of tension, power and energy.

The artist has made a good point with their choices, but then beats a dead horse to death by trying to make the point over and over again, too many times.

Good Parsimony shows that the designer has a good sense of the relationship of the parts to the whole.

There should be no nonessential elements.

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

There is a tendency of beaders and jewelry makers to over-do:
– over-embellish the surface
– add too much fringe
– repeat themes and design elements too often
– use too many colors

More often than not, people over-do, rather than under-do.

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ANATOMY OF A NECKLACE: THE YOKE

Posted by learntobead on June 16, 2013

 

Anatomy of a Necklace: The Yoke

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

 

 

Let’s focus on one part today – The Yoke.    The Yoke is one section of the Strap which is the part around the back of the neck, including the Clasp Assembly.

 

To what extent, during your design process, do you divide your necklace into its anatomical parts, in order to have more strategic control over its design?

 

In an average necklace, how long should the Yoke be?    What proportional length relative to the rest of the strap should this be?

 

How do you determine the design and placement of beads or connectors along the Yoke, given that most of it would either not be particularly visible, or not often-visible when worn?

 

The Yoke continues into the section of the Strap called the Frame.    There are always transitional issues here?   Do you have any strategies for managing these transitions?   When your piece moves from Yoke to Frame, do you find yourself doing anything special at this point?

Maldives Necklace at www.stelladot.com

Maldives Necklace
at
http://www.stelladot.com

 

Do you prefer your Yoke to be visually distinct from the Frame?  Or more organically connected, perhaps not distinguished at all?

 

Do you use any special visual cues to signal to the viewer that the piece is moving from Yoke to Frame – placement of special connector?  Or change in bead size?  Or change in Color?  Or Pattern?   How do you know where to place these visual cues?

 

To what extent should the Yoke be integral to the design of the whole piece, or, on the other hand, be supplemental to the whole piece?

 

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

 

So, what do you think?  What do you do?    What things can be done?

 

 

 

 

To summarize the anatomy of a necklace:

 

We can envision the Anatomy of the Necklace to include these parts:

 

Yoke:  Part around the neck.   Typically 6-7”, including the clasp assembly

 

Clasp Assembly:  Part of the Yoke.   This includes all the pieces it takes, including a clasp, in order to attach your beadwork to your clasp.

 

Break:  Transition from Yoke to Frame, usually at the collar bone on either side of the neck.

 

Frame:  The “line” seen on the front of the wearer, demarcating a “silhouette,” and connecting to the Yoke on each side, at the Break.   On a 16” necklace, this would typically be around 9-10” long.

 

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

 

Focal Point:  While not every necklace has a focal point, most do.  The Focal Point gives the viewer’s eye a place to rest or focus.   Sometimes this is done with a centerpiece pendant.   Can also be created by graduating the sizes of beads or playing with color or playing with fringe.

 

Centerpiece:   A part that extends beyond the line of the Frame, usually below it.    Forces transitional concerns between it and the Frame.

 

Centerpiece with Bail:    A part that drops the Centerpiece below the Frame, forcing additional transitional concerns among Centerpiece, Bail and Frame.

 

Strap:  A word summarizing the full connectivity of the Clasp Assembly, Yoke and Frame.

 

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

 

Embellishment:    Things like fringe, edging, surface decoration.

 

 

 

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

 

– making connections
– determining angularity, curvature, and roundedness
– transitioning color, pattern and texture
– placing objects
– extending lengths
– adding extensions
– creating balance and coherency
– keeping things organic, so nothing looks like an afterthought, or an outlier, or something designed by a committee
– determining which parts or critical to understanding the piece of jewelry as art, and which parts are merely supplemental to the piece.

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BAILS POSE MANAGEMENT ISSUES

Posted by learntobead on June 4, 2013

BAILS POSE MANAGEMENT ISSUES

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In our Jewelry Design Camp (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com/jewelrydesigncamp/), one of the topics we cover is the Bail. From a Design standpoint, it is not necessarily a simple jewelry finding to incorporate into our pieces.

There are many types of bails, some off-the-shelf and some hand-made, and there are different ways of attaching them.

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A bail changes the visual and artistic relationship between the strap and the center piece. How might this be helpful, and how not? The bail poses similar design challenges as the strap — size, proportion, placement and attachment. However, it has to succeed at one additional task — it has to control the visual, aesthetic and functional transitioning between the center piece and the strap. It is the management of this transitioning which poses the most difficult design design dilemmas for the jewelry artist.

Too often, I see people use a bail because it adds another pretty component to the piece. But it doesn’t necessarily fit. Sometimes it competes with the center piece or strap. Sometimes it creates a series of functioning or wearing or movement issues.

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So the questions for this discussion include:
(1) Do you use bails, and if so, do you have any favorite — either machine-made or hand-made?
(2) Do you have good or bad design-experiences with bails that you would like to share with the group?

Warren

 

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Suzanne Belperron — Influential Jeweler, 1930’s thru 1970’s

Posted by learntobead on February 10, 2013

Suzanne Belperron — Influential Jeweler, 1930’s thru 1970’s

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Suzanne Belperron was a successful jeweler, widely influential.   She was one of the few female jewelry designers of her time.   Her daring creations remain today of extraordinary modernity and aesthetics.  She began her career in 1919 at age 19.  She died in 1983. Her life and career spanned the modern movement in the arts, feminism and the emergence of fashion as a big business.   Her style reflected the movement in the jewelry design field away from very ornamental pieces, to those which emphasize bold forms.

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Her creations appeared in the most influential fashion magazines of the time, including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.  Her clients included royalty, celebrities and aristocrats.

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She never signed her pieces.     She claimed, “My style is my signature.”

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She introduced unprecedented combinations of stones and minerals in her designs.

 

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