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Check out these new books by Warren Feld!

Posted by learntobead on April 26, 2022

Merging Your Voice With Form

588pp, many images and diagrams
Ebook or Print

You make jewelry. That is what you do.

But when you think jewelry and speak jewelry and work jewelry, this is what you have become. This is your purpose.

Becoming a Jewelry Designer is exciting. With each piece, you are challenged with this profound question: Why does some jewelry draw people’s attention, and others do not? When designers turn to how-to books or art theory texts, however, these do not uncover the necessary answers. They do not show you how to make trade-offs between beauty and function. Nor how to introduce your pieces publicly. You get insufficient practical guidance about knowing when your piece is finished and successful. In short, you do not learn about design. You do not learn the essentials about how to go beyond basic mechanics, anticipate the wearer’s understandings and desires, or gain management control over the process.

So You Want To Be A Jewelry Designer reinterprets how to apply techniques and modify art theories from the Jewelry Designer’s perspective. This very detailed book, by jewelry designer Warren S. Feld, reveals how to become literate and fluent in jewelry design.

Available here: Ebook or Print


Acknowledgements, p. 7
An Introduction, p. 11

1. Jewelry Beyond Craft, p. 21

Section 2-GETTING STARTED, p. 27
2a. Becoming the Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer, p. 29
2b. 5 Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For,
p. 39
2c. Channeling Excitement, p. 51
2d. Developing Your Passion, p. 65
2e. Cultivating Practice, p. 79

Section 3-WHAT IS JEWELRY, p. 97
3. What Is Jewelry, Really?, p. 99

p. 113
4a. Materials — Knowing What To Know, p. 115
4b. Techniques and Technologies — Knowing What To Do, p. 143
4c. Mixed Media, Mixed Techniques, p. 175

, p. 179
5a. Composition — Playing With Blocks Called Design Elements, p. 181
5b. The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color, p. 197
5c. Point Line Plane Shape Form Theme, p. 231
5d. Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating,
p. 253
5e. How To Design An Ugly Necklace — The Ultimate Challenge, p. 289
5f. Architectural Basics, p. 309

5g. Architectural Basics — Anatomy of a Necklace, p. 335
5h. Architectural Basics — Sizing, p. 343

Section 6-DESIGN MANAGEMENT, p. 349
6a. The Proficient Designer: The Path To Resonance, p. 351
6b. Jewelry Design: A Managed Process, p. 377
6c. Designing With Components, p. 387

7a. Shared Understandings and Desires, p. 409
7b. Backward-Design Is Forwards Thinking, p. 437

p. 445
8a. Creativity Isn’t Found, It’s Developed, p. 447
8b. Inspiration and Aspiration, p. 459
8c. Your Passion For Design, p. 467

Section 9-JEWELRY IN CONTEXT, p. 483
9a. Contemporary Jewelry Is Not A Look — It’s A Way Of Thinking, p. 485
9b. Contemporizing Traditional Jewelry, p. 499
9c Fashion Style Taste Art Design, p. 513
9d. Designing With The Brain In Mind: Perception, Cognition, Sexuality,
p. 523
9e. Self-Care, p. 535

10. Teaching Disciplinary Literacy In Jewelry Design, p. 545

Final Words of Advice, p. 579
Thank You, p. 581
About Warren Feld, p. 583
Other Articles and Tutorials, p. 587


Easy. Simple. No tools. Anyone Can Do!

184pp, many images and diagrams
Ebook or Print

In this very detailed book, with thoroughly-explained instructions and pictures, you are taught a non-traditional Pearl Knotting technique which is very easy for anyone to learn and do. Does not use special tools. Goes slowly step-by-step. Presents a simple way to tie knots and position the knots to securely abut the bead. Anticipates both appeal and functionality. Shows clearly how to attach your clasp and finish off your cords. And achieves that timeless, architectural perfection we want in our pearl knotted pieces.

Most traditional techniques are very frustrating. These can get overly complicated and awkward. They rely on tools for making and positioning the knots. When attempting to follow traditional techniques, people often find they cannot tie the knots, make good knots, get the knots close enough to the beads, nor centered between them. How to attach the piece to the clasp gets simplified or glossed over.

Fortunately, Pearl Knotting doesn’t need to be this hard.

Pearl Knotting…Warren’s Way teaches you how to:

· Hand-knot without tools

· Select stringing materials

· Begin and finish pieces by (1) attaching directly to the clasp, (2) using French wire bullion, (3), using clam shell bead tips, or, (4) making a continuous piece without a clasp

· Add cord

· Buy pearls, care for them, string and restring them, store them

By the end of this book, you will have mastered hand-knotting pearls.

I know you are eager to begin. Let’s get started.

Available here: Ebook or Print

Table of Contents

Intro To Book and Acknowledgements, p. 4

1. Pearl Knotting Is For You, p. 11

2. Materials-Tools-Your Workspace, p. 16

3. All About Pearls, p. 24

4. All About Hand-Knotting Pearls, p. 37

5. Design Considerations, p. 57

6. Measurements, p. 66

7. Selecting and Testing Bead Cord, p. 71

8a. Var1-Attaching Directly To Clasp, p. 76

8b. Var2-Using French Wire Bullion, p. 105

8c. Var3-Using Clam Shell Bead Tips, p. 125

8d. Var4-Continuous Without Clasp, p. 148

8e. About Adding Cord, p. 168

9. Handling Contingencies, p. 171

10. Finishing Touches, p.176

Final Words Of Advice, p. 177

About Warren Feld, p. 180


Thank you. I hope you found this chapter useful.

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

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft Video Tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE.

Follow my articles on Medium.com.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Check out my Jewelry Making and Beadwork Kits.

Add your name to my email list.







Posted in architecture, Art or Craft?, art theory, bead weaving, beads, beadwork, craft shows, creativity, design management, design theory, design thinking, jewelry collecting, jewelry design, jewelry making, pearl knotting, professional development, wire and metal, Workshops, Classes, Exhibits | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Designing With The Brain In Mind:Perception, Cognition, Sexuality

Posted by learntobead on October 16, 2021

Warren Feld

Warren FeldJust now·21 min read


Jewelry plays a lot of psychological functions for both the wearer and the viewer, so it is important to understand some things about perception and cognition and how the brain processes information. The jewelry designer plays with various design elements, let’s call these parts. The designer arranges these parts into a composition, let’s refer to this as the whole. The brain takes in information about, that is, attends to each part, and information about the whole, and assigns a meaning to these. The designer must anticipate all this, especially understanding Gestalt behavior. So the designer is not only dealing with aesthetic and functional considerations in their designs, but also the psycho-social-emotional triggers and filters these may represent. Some of these emotions may evoke a sense of sex, sexuality and sensuality. Last, jewelry designers must be very aware — metacognitive — of how they think through design, and be able to turn their experiences into thinking routines.


Jewelry plays a lot of psychological functions for the wearer, the viewer, and the buyer, so it is important to understand some things about perception and cognition and how the brain processes information. Jewelry is used to meet the individual’s needs for self-esteem and self-actualization. A sense of oneness and uniqueness. Or conversely, a sense of being a part of a larger group or community. A sense of survival and protection. A re-affirmation of values and perspectives. A connection to a higher power or spirituality. A sense of fantasy. An orientation to what is up and what is down and what is left and what is right.

The jewelry designer plays with various design elements, let’s call these parts. The designer arranges these parts into a composition, let’s refer to this as the whole. The brain takes in information about, that is, attends to each part, one by one, and then gathers information about the whole, and assigns a meaning to all these. Because of how the brain works, there may be several meanings that rise up to the surface, so the brain has to filter and prioritize these somehow. The resulting assigned meaning(s) results in some type of behavior. At its simplest level, the behavior is either one of placing attention or one of suggesting movement. The behavior, whatever it is, reaffirms for the observer that their goals are getting met or that there is some consistency and coherency with personal values and desires.

The designer must anticipate all this. So the designer is not only dealing with aesthetic and functional considerations in their designs, but also the psycho-social-emotional triggers and filters these may incur. Some of these emotions may evoke a sense of sex, sexuality and sensuality. Jewelry has sensual qualities. It has gender associations. It may symbolically represent what is safe and what is not to view or to touch.


Perceptions are ways of regarding, understanding or interpreting something. We perceive using our senses. We touch, we see, we feel, we hear, we smell, we sense positioning. Perceptions are subjective, and each person has their own subtle differences, even when responding to the same design or event. In fact, different people may have very different perceptions about the same design or event. Their assumptions, expectations and values may further color their perceptions.

Each person filters their perceptions with each move, each conversation, and each situation. Such filters may contingently alter perceptions. Perceptions are not fixed. They are very sensitive to the context and the situation. Any type of filter may result in selectively perceiving some things, but not others. In design work, our clients might selectively focus on brighter lights, louder sounds, stronger odors, sharper textures, silhouettes, proportions, placements and distributions, balance, harmony and variety. Selective perception can add some more muddiness to the interaction especially as designer and client try to find and develop the shared understandings necessary for success.

Adequately sharing understandings within a situation and among the people in it depends on the amount of information available to each person and how correctly they interpret it. Perception is one of the critical psychological abilities we have in order to survive in any environment.

The designer needs to be open to understanding how the client perceives the design tasks and proposed outcomes, and to adjust their own perceptions when the management of the relationship calls for this. There is no formula here. Each situation requires its own management strategy. Each designer is left with their own inventiveness, sensitivity, and introspective skills to deal with perceptions. But it comes down to asking the right questions and actively listening.

How does the client begin to understand your product or service?
Can the client describe what they think you will be doing and what the piece or product might look like when finished?
Can the client tell you how the finished piece or product will meet their needs and feelings?
Can the client tell you about different options?
How will they interpret what you want them to know?
What impressions do you want to leave with them?
Do they perceive a connection between you as a designer and your design work as proposed?
What levels of agreement and disagreement exist between your perceptions and theirs?
Can you get at any reasons which might explain their perceptions, and any agreement or difference?
Can you clear up any misperceptions?

The jewelry designer needs to distinguish between how the jewelry is perceived when it is not worn from when it is worn. When not worn, jewelry is an object admired and perceived more in art or sculptural terms. When worn, jewelry is an intent where perceptions about the jewelry as object are intertwined, complicated, distorted, amplified, subjugated — you get the idea — with the needs and desires of the individual as that person presents the self and the jewelry as worn in context. Either set of perceptions may support one another, or they may be contradictory.


Cognition involves how the brain processes our perceptions, particularly when these perceptions are incomplete or contradictory or otherwise messy or unresolvable. Cognition focuses on how the brain takes in existing knowledge and creates new knowledge. Cognition is both conscious or unconscious, concrete or abstract, intuitive or conceptual. Cognition may influence or determine someone’s emotions. Metacognition is your own awareness of your strategies and methods of thinking and problem-solving.

The brain takes in a lot of information all at once. The brain looks for clues. It compares clues to information stored in memory. Typically different parts of the brain will simultaneously process (e.g., parallel processing) either different clues or the same clues in different ways. Some information will have greater relevance or resonance than others. Some information will be rejected. Some information will be recategorized or reinterpreted.

You can think of all these mental processes going on in the brain as a huge, self-organizing undertaking, but happening within minute fractions of a second. What happens is very context- or situation-specific. The goal is the creation of some kind of understanding. This understanding will have some logic to it. It will be compatible with and reaffirm the individual’s memories, assumptions, expectations, values and desires. This understanding will typically result in some kind of behavioral response. The response will most often be related to attention or movement. The understanding and the behavioral response will likely get stored in memory.


The cognitive process starts with attention. Attention has to do with how we focus on some perceptual information, and not on others. A key function of attention is how to identify irrelevant data and filter it out, enabling other more significant data to be distributed to other parts of the brain for further processing.

Picture a piece of jewelry. This jewelry will present many stimuli — color, placement, proportion, balance, volume, positioning, its relation to the human body, the context within which it is worn, perhaps how comfortable it feels, symmetry, and the list can go on and on. Which perceptual clues are most important to the person who needs to decide whether to wear or buy it? Attention is the first cognitive step in determining how to answer this, though the observer does not always consciously grasp the specifics of what is going on.

There are two types of attention: (1) Orienting, and (2) Directing.

Orienting Attention works more reflexively. For example, we are prewired in our brainstem with a fear or anxiety response. This helps us reflexively avoid snakes and spiders. This anxiety response has major implications for how people initially respond to jewelry as it is worn.

Say a stranger is in a room and wearing a necklace. You approach the entrance to this room. You see the stranger who is wearing the jewelry. Your brain has to instantaneously evaluate the situation and determine if it is safe for you to approach and continue to enter the room, or whether you need to be fearful and turn around and flee. Jewelry can play a key role here.

The jewelry signals the primary information the brain needs to make this judgment. Perceptions are filtered to the very basic and very elemental. First the viewer wants to be able to make a complete circle around the jewelry. Anything which impedes this — an ugly clasp assembly, poor rhythm, colors that don’t work together, uncomfortable negative spaces — makes the brain edgy. If the brain gest edgy, the jewelry will start to get interpreted as boring, monotonous, unsatisfying, ugly, and we can go all the way to will cause death.

After the viewer makes that complete circle, a second perception kicks in and becomes key to whether the brain will signal it’s either OK to approach or, instead, you better flee. This second perception is a search for a natural place for the eye/brain to come to rest. In jewelry we achieve this by such things as placing a pendant in the center or graduating the sizes of the beads or doing something with colors.

In slightly more technical terms, the jewelry draws the observer to a focal point at which they can sense an equilibrium in all directions. The viewer feels physically oriented. The jewelry composition presents a coordinated form which connects spaces and masses within something that feels / looks / seems like a unique harmony. The observer is made to feel, as she or he is attenuating to how mass relates to space within the composition, that not only is each element of the jewelry related to the ones preceding or following it, but that each element is contributing to the concept of the whole — the jewelry form is greater than the sum of its parts. There is continuity. There is coherence. Space and mass are interdependent. The distinction among parts is removed. The brain likes this. It searches for it. It makes it restful.

The full experience of the jewelry only gains its full meaning within its total expression. The significance of the total jewelry composition unfolds as the observer moves about its separate parts. This expression, in turn, as it relates to the attention processes of cognition, gets reduced to the confluence of the two clues of (a) making a complete circle, and (b) finding a place to come to rest. If the two clues are satisfying, the jewelry is viewed as finished and successful, and the immediate environment is seen as safe.

The jewelry designer controls the limits and the possibilities for attention. If jewelry design were merely a matter of organizing a certain number of parts, the process would be very mechanical and not at all creative. All jewelry design would be equally good (or more likely, bad). The purpose of good jewelry design is to express particular meanings and experiences for the wearer, viewer or buyer to attend to. Jewelry design is only successful to the extent these are fully communicated to the observer, and are fully sensitive to how perception and cognition play out in our brains. That is, how the jewelry, through its design, enhances or impedes perception and cognition.

Directing Attention, the other type of attention, signals to the observer the possibilities for or constraints on movement. It is more deliberate rather than reflexive. It can divide one’s attention so that the person can pay attention to more than one thing at the same time. Using our example, there could be several strangers in the room, each wearing a different style and design of necklaces. As our observer walks into the room, attention can be shifted from one person / jewelry to another, or focused on one person / jewelry alone.

Directing Attention determines the potential for movement, so that the observer can anticipate the possibilities, or conceive the limits. With whatever piece of jewelry is worn, how freely or easily can the person shift positions, stand, run, dance, lay down? Will any type of movement change the appeal of the jewelry as worn? Is there anything about the design of the jewelry which anticipates different kinds of movements and positioning? Will the appeal of the jewelry remain should the wearer move to a different type of lighted situation or into a shadow? How much ease should be built into the construction of the piece?

The aesthetics of mass and space, such as the interplay of points, lines, planes and shapes, are rooted in a person’s psychology in order to arouse predictable patterns of experience. There seems to be a constant human need to perceive and attend to spatial relationships which distinguish harmony from cacophony. This psychological response to form most likely is connected to a person’s mechanisms for balance, movement and stature.

On the simplest level, observers use jewelry to assist them in knowing what is up and what is down, and what is left and what is right. Jewelry is used similarly in this directing sense as the floors, walls and ceilings are used towards this end in a room, or the horizon, landscape and trees are used outside. Without any clues about positioning, a human being would fall down and not be able to get up.

Picture, for example, how you might feel when the person standing next to you has one earring stuck in a 90 degree angle, or is only wearing one earring, or has a necklace mispositioned and slightly turned around the neck. You most likely feel a bit uncomfortable, perhaps uncomfortable enough to let the person know the jewelry needs to be adjusted in position, or that they seem to be missing an earring. Or perhaps not so comfortable to raise the issue publicly.

GESTALT: The Whole Vs. The Parts

One mechanism of cognition is called a Gestalt. At its root, Gestalt means that the whole composition is more meaningful than the meanings of its individual parts. There is a chicken and egg type of debate within the field about whether the person attends to the parts first with a stronger emergent whole, or whether the person needs to understand the whole first and use this understanding to interpret the parts. But for jewelry designers, we do not have to get into the debate here. Jewelry designers need to recognize that the resulting whole composition should always be more resonant, more finished-feeling and more successful than any of the individual design elements incorporated into the piece.

At its core, people are motivated to recognize entire patterns or configurations. If there are any gaps or flaws or mis-directions, the brain, cognitively, has a tendency to fill in the gaps or ignore the flaws or mis-directions. Where perceptual information does not exist or is somehow incomplete, the brain will fill in the blanks, so to speak, using perceptions about proximity, similarity, figure-ground, continuity, closure, and connection. This all involves work on the part of the brain. The brain may generate resistance towards this end, unless somehow coerced or tricked by aspects of the design choices themselves.

Jewelry will have a lot of gaps of light throughout. The individual beads and components do not blend into each other. They are distinct points of information. Instead, from the brain’s point of view, there are the equivalent of cliffs between each one. The brain, in effect, is asked to jump each cliff. It may be resistant to do so. The brain wants harmony. The brain wants to connect the dots into a smooth line. Or, if the composition were separate lines, the brain wants to connect the lines into a smooth, coherent plane. Or, if there were several distinct lines and planes, the brain wants to integrate these into a recognizable shape or form. But again, all this is not automatic. The brain will resist to do any more work than necessary. The designer will need to make smart, influencing, persuading choices in the design. The Gestalt mechanism is a set of these kinds of choices.

The brain needs to be sufficiently motivated to make the effort to harmonize the pattern or configuration. Gestalt is one of the cognitive, motivating, innate forces the brain uses. In music, when the brain hears part of a melody, it not only hears the notes, but also something else, let’s, for simplicity, call this a tune. This something else allows the brain to anticipate how the melody will continue. If the melody at this point changes key, the brain anticipates how the melody will play out in the new key as a similar tune but with different notes before it is played. How the brain interacts with a piece of jewelry has parallels.

One obvious example is the use of color simultaneity effects. Here the color of the next bead is affected by the color of the previous bead. Place a grey bead next to an orange bead, and the grey bead will take on some orange tones. Both beads get perceived as blended or bridged, even though, in reality, they are not. The observer generalizes the relationship between the two stimuli rather than the absolute properties of each. Take three beads, one emerald, one olivine and one grey. You would not normally find these two greens within the same composition. Place the grey bead between the two greens and, because of simultaneity effects, the two greens will harmonize as the grey forces a blending or bridging.

Jewelry designers need to learn the basic principles or laws of Gestalt. This allows them to predict the interpretation of sensation and explain the way someone will see their compositions. It allows them to anticipate how their jewelry will arouse predictable patterns of emotions and responses in others.

These laws can be used as guides for improving the design outcomes. They can be used to influence what design elements should be included. In what forms / volumes / placements / other attributes these design elements should take. How design elements should be arranged. How construction and function should best relate to aesthetics. How the jewelry should be worn. How the jewelry might coordinate with other clothes and accessories or contexts.

These principles are based on the following:

Principle of Proximity: In an assortment of elements, some which are closer together are perceived as forming groups. Emphasizes which aspects of elements are associated.

Principle of Similarity: Elements within an assortment are grouped together if similar. This similarity could be by color or shape or other quality. If the assortment is comprised of many elements, some similar and some dissimilar, the brain will sort this out so that the similar ones, no matter where placed within the assortment, will be perceived and grouped together.

Principle of Closure: People tend to perceive objects as complete, even when incomplete, rather than focusing on any gaps or negative spaces. When parts of the whole are missing, people tend to fill in the missing parts. The brain is preset to attempt to increase the regularity of sensation or the equilibrium within an experience or event.

Principle of Symmetry: The mind perceives objects as being symmetrical and forming around a center or focal point. Similar symmetrical elements will be grouped as one. The brain will attempt to make something which is asymmetric be perceived as symmetric as best as it can. The brain equates symmetry to coherency.

Principle of Common Fate: Elements are perceived as lines which move along the smoothest path. We perceive objects as having trends of motion. In jewelry design, think about something like rhythm. The beads are not moving in reality, but we perceive a direction and a quality of movement.

Principle of Continuity: Elements of objects tend to be grouped together, and therefore integrated into perceptual wholes, if they are aligned with an object. If two objects are next to each other or overlap, the brain tends to see each object distinctly as two separate wholes, if the elements within each object are aligned and continuous. Picture a 2-strand necklace. The brain will be primed to see these as 2 separate strands or wholes, rather than one whole necklace. Objects with abrupt and sharp directional changes will less likely be perceived as a whole.

Principle of Past Experience: Under some circumstances, visual stimuli are categorized according to past experience. Especially when faced with unknown or unfamiliar objects, the brain will resort to using past experience as a means for interpretation and whether to group elements within the objects as a whole.


There is a growing body of knowledge of the mechanics of sensory processes in cognition. A good design creates positive emotions for the viewer, wearer and/or buyer. Jewelry designers need a deeper understanding of types of emotions and their psychological underpinnings. People develop emotions with jewelry on three levels: (1) visceral (intrinsic), (2) behavioral (behavior), and reflective (reflection).

(1) Visceral (wants to feel): attractiveness, first impressions, feelings

(2) Behavioral (wants to do): usability, function, performance, effectiveness

(3) Reflective (wants to be): meaning, impact, shared experience, psycho-socio-cultural fit


Metacognition is an awareness of your own thought and problem-solving processes. It involves a search for patterns and the meanings behind them. It involves a lot of reflection. It involves a sensitivity to the choices made when confronting any unfamiliar or unknown situation. It concerns an awareness of why some choices worked better than others, or not at all.

For jewelry designers, it is important to take metacognition one step further. It is important to turn your experiences into thinking routines. These routines are fix-it strategies you bring with you when overcoming difficult or unfamiliar situations.


As a jewelry designer, you have to be very aware of the roles jewelry plays in sex, sexuality and sensuality. The act of sex. Everything leading up to it. Eroticism. Sex, however, differs from sensuality. Sensuality is how the jewelry brings out the sensual — the gratification of the appetite for visuals, sounds, tastes, smells and touch. Sensuality always makes jewelry desirable. But perhaps no two people experience the sensuality of a piece of jewelry in the same way.

These sex-sexuality-sensuality roles include,

(1) The Peacock Role

(2) The Gender Role

(3) The Safe Sex Role

One sexual role of jewelry is the Peacock Role. People wear personal adornment to attract the viewer’s attention. This means that the jewelry not only needs to be flashy enough, but also must contain culturally meaningful elements that the viewer will recognize and be sufficiently meaningful as to motivate the viewer to focus his or her attention on the jewelry and who is wearing it.

These culturally meaningful elements might include the use of color(s), talismans, shapes, forms. They clue the viewer to what is good, appealing, appropriate, and to what is not. But the jewelry must also provide clues to the individuality of the wearer — her (or his) personal style, social or cultural preferences, personal senses of the situation in which they find themselves.

Another of these sexuality roles — The Gender Role — is to define gender and gender-rooted culture. Certain jewelry, jewelry styles, and ways of wearing jewelry are associated with females, and others with males. Some are used to signal androgyny, others polyamory or gender fluidity. You can easily label which jewelry looks more masculine, and which more feminine. Some jewelry is associated with heterosexuality, and others with homosexuality. I remember when men, in a big way, started wearing one earring stud, it was critical to remember whether to wear the stud in the left ear lobe (hetero) or the right one (gay). For engaged and married women, it is important to recognize which style of ring is more appropriate, and which hand and finger to wear these on.

One of the most important sexuality roles, however — The Safe Sex Role — concerns the placement of jewelry on the body. Such placement is suggestive of where it is safe, and where it is unsafe, to look at or to touch the person wearing it. The length of the necklace, relative to the neck, the breast, or below the breast. How long the earring extends below the lobe of the ear. Whether the person wears bracelets. The size of the belt buckle. If a person has body piercings, where these are — the navel, the eyebrow, the nose, the lip.

Jewelry calls attention to areas of the body the wearer feels are safe to view or touch. It’s like taking a sharpie marker and drawing a boundary line across the body. Jewelry gives the viewer permission to look at these areas, say above the line, and not others below the line. Jewelry may give the viewer permission to touch these areas, as well. The wearer may want to call attention to the face, the neck, the hands, the ankle, but also to the breasts, the naval, the genital area.

We know that certain areas of the body are more sexually arousing than others. We know that different people are more or less comfortable with these areas on the body. But how does the wearer communicate that? How does the wearer communicate her (or his) personal views of what is sexually acceptable without having to physically and verbally interact with someone in order for that person to find out?

Jewelry. How jewelry is worn is one of the most critical and strategic ways for achieving this Safe-Sex goal. The linear form of the jewelry imposes a boundary line on the body. Do not cross it. And make no mistake, this boundary line separates the permissible from the impermissible, the non-erotic from the erotic, the safe from the unsafe. In a similar way the centerpiece focuses attention as if it were an arrow pointing the way. Jewelry is not just a style preference thing. It’s a safe-sex preference thing, as well.

When news of the AIDS epidemic first burst on-stage in the 1980s, you witnessed a very dramatic change in jewelry and how it was worn. Right before the AIDS epidemic, large long earrings were style. Remember shoulder dusters. But as awareness of AIDS spread, most women stopped wearing earrings for awhile. Then gradually, they began wearing studs. Then very small hoops. It wasn’t until around 2004 that some women wore the new chandelier earrings, and you saw longer earrings on actresses as they paraded down the red carpets of one award show after another.

Prior to AIDS, the necklace style was for longer necklaces — 24” to 36” long. The necklaces were full — multi-strand, lots of charms and dangles. Again, as awareness of AIDS spread, the necklace profile changed rapidly to no necklace at all, or to thin, short chains and chokers. You would typically find ONE charm, not many, on a necklace. Attention was pulled away from the genital area, the navel and the breasts, all the way back up to the face.

Prior to AIDS, necklaces and earrings were the best-sellers in my store. After AIDS, it became bracelets. Holding hands. Not necking. Not fondling. Not sexual intercourse. Holding hands was now the acceptable norm. This was safe.

Body piercings came into major vogue during the 1980s. And look what typically got pierced. Noses, belly buttons, eyebrows, lips. This of this as a big Body Chart for safe sex.

As society became more understanding of AIDS and how it spread, the jewelry became larger. It extended to more areas of the body. People wore more of it. But in 2009, it was still restrained, when compared to what people wore before the 1980s.

In the sexual hunt between the sexes, jewelry plays an important boundary-defining role. Let’s not forget about this. Jewelry, in some sense, is an embodiment of desire. Jewelry communicates to others how the wearer comes to define what desire might mean for the self. It communicates through placement, content, embellishment and elaboration.

Jewelry does not have to be visibly erotic, or include visual representations of sexual symbols, in order to play a role in sexuality and desire — a role that helps the hunter and the hunted define some acceptable rules for interacting without verbal communication.



Canel, Melissa. The Role of Perceptions in Conflict. April 9, 2016. As referenced:


Dunlop, Cole. You Are Not Worried Enough About Perceptions and Assumptions. May 7, 2014. As referenced:

Gangwani, Prachi. “Sexual or Sensual? Here’s The Difference Between The Two,” 9/30/2016. As referenced in:

Mausolf, Judy Kay. How To Avoid 4 Communication Pitfalls:
Assumptions, Perceptions, Comparison Expectations and Commitments. Spring, 2014. As referenced:
Progressive Dentist Magazine

Nguyen, Hoang. “10 Psychological Rules I Used To Make Users Love At First Sight,” As referenced in:

Wellington, Kiki. “Sensual Vs. Sexual: Do you know the difference?”, 11/7/20. As referenced in:

Wikipedia: Cognition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognition

Wikipedia: Gestalt Psychology. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology

Wikipedia: Perception. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perception


Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

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

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft Video Tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE.

Follow my articles on Medium.com.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Check out my Jewelry Making and Beadwork Kits.

Add your name to my email list.







Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Resiliency: Do You Have The Most Important Skill Designers Must Have?

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Backward Design is Forward Thinking

How Creatives Can Successfully Survive In Business

Part I: The First Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: Is What I do Craft, Art or Design?

Part 2: The Second Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: What Should I Create?

Part 3: The Third Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: What Materials (and Techniques) Work Best?

Part 4: The Fourth Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: How Do I Evoke A Resonant Response To My Work?

Part 5: The Firth Essential Question Every Designer Should Be Able To Answer: How Do I Know My Design Is Finished?

Doubt / Self-Doubt: 8 Pitfalls Designers Fall Into…And What To Do About Them

Part 1: Your Passion For Design: Is It Necessary To Have A Passion?

Part 2: Your Passion For Design: Do You Have To Be Passionate To Be Creative?

Part 3: Your Passion For Design: How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by learntobead on March 17, 2021


SCHOOL HOME PAGE: https://so-you-want-to-be-a-jewelry-designer.teachable.com

CLASS HOME PAGE: https://so-you-want-to-be-a-jewelry-designer.teachable.com/p/orientation-to-beads-jewelry-findings

FREE PREVIEW PAGE: https://so-you-want-to-be-a-jewelry-designer.teachable.com/courses/orientation-to-beads-jewelry-findings/lectures/16682282


Most people who make jewelry learn the craft in a haphazard way. Taking a course here or there. Watching some video tutorials online. Making a few pieces with some friends.

I have found over the years that, because of this, most jewelry designers are unfamiliar with all the various possible choices of stringing materials, clasps, jewelry findings, beads and the like. And they are unfamiliar with the implications of making one choice over another. They do not have a clear conception of how one part relates to another part or relates to how to execute a particular technique.

Because of this, most jewelry designers do not seem to fully understand quality issues associated with the materials they use. They have a weak understanding of what materials should best be used, and best not be used, and with what projects. They do not know what happens to all these different materials over time as the jewelry is worn. They do not know the required design tricks and strategies for making pieces more durable and more comfortable.

That’s why I developed this very comprehensive ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS.

This course reviews the various materials jewelry designers use. I point out the pros and cons for selecting and using these. I go over how these impede or enhance function, movement, and the mechanics of construction.

Some topics covered:


This Series of 18 modules, most around 20 minutes, and totaling a full 5 1/2 hours of introductory materials about all kinds of beads, metals, clasps and stringing materials for the beader and jewelry maker.

And one more thing. For those who take this Orientation, I also have a 75-page article for you to download about getting started in jewelry making. You have a purpose as a jewelry designer: To merge your voice with form. This covers things you will need to know to find that voice.

  • how to channel your excitement
  • what types of jobs are available for those with jewelry making skills
  • how to develop your passion
  • what you need to learn
  • what tools you will need
  • how to cultivate your practice
  • how to define a level of success right for you
  • what it takes to achieve that level of success

FREE PREVIEW PAGE: https://so-you-want-to-be-a-jewelry-designer.teachable.com/courses/orientation-to-beads-jewelry-findings/lectures/16682282

Warren Feld

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by learntobead on March 11, 2021

The Trunk Show

The women were so excited about the jewelry. Trying it on. Adjusting it to see if they could wear it a different way. Changing up the silhouettes. Pretending they were wearing different outfits to visualize what the pieces would look like. It was a very versatile line of jewelry, and all the women noticed that very quickly. They could wear necklaces as bracelets. Combine bracelets into necklaces. Take one bracelet, add it to a necklace, and create a longer piece. They could purchase different pendant drops, all as add-ons as they wished or none at all. And the drops easily converted into earrings. Imagine that! And the awe and glee and elation and animation — yes, these women were more than happy to have found this jewelry designer and her custom pieces.

I was there that day. In the store. At this one-day trunk show. I saw it all. These women were purchasing almost every last piece. It was the right aesthetic. Contemporary but conservative as well. An individualized look but not outlandish. Easy to wear. Easy to adapt. Easy to visualize what it would look like with different outfits and in different situations.

The jewelry designer was very attentive. She demonstrated the flexibility of each piece in the line. She, at first, asked the women individually a lot about themselves and how they liked to wear jewelry. Then she subtly shifted the conversation a bit so they were talking about themselves and how they would want to wear her jewelry.

At one point, I slowly looked around this upscale clothing, accessories and jewelry store. There were seven store associates standing around. Standing around. A glazed look on their faces. The enthusiasm and energy before them somehow foreign. After the trunk show, when the designer was no longer there, they would be the ones to represent her and her jewelry.

They stood there with blank faces. As if watching a movie they found uninteresting. None of them stepped in. None of them stepped up. Even though the jewelry designer was mobbed with seven or eight women at any one time. They obviously were unable to empathize with the crowd. They had no clue how to sell the pieces because these were pieces of jewelry they didn’t wear themselves. They were somewhat clueless about how to suggest how these store guests could put things together in a stylish, wearable way.

At the end of the day, the jewelry designer was very happy with her sales. But it hit her. Her jewelry would remain at this store for the next several months. But she would not. She would be leaving that day. And she was worried. She thought that over the 10 hours, her purpose was not only to sell to customers, but her purpose was also to model for the sales staff the smart ways for working with these customers and selling her product.

Had the store associates been reliable deputized partners with the jewelry designer that day, all would have made many more customers happy, and made a lot of money and commissions for store, sales staff and designer. Going forward, the designer now had doubts.

Jewelry Designers Often Have To Rely On Others,
 The Designers’ Success Relies On Their Whims

Most jewelry designers do not own their own shops. They rely on other people to sell their stuff. They might put their jewelry in a clothing, accessories or jewelry store on consignment. They might be represented by a gallery or sales representative, with their jewelry spread out in many stores. They might package their jewelry into trunk shows or pick boxes where they send out their jewelry to various stores. These other venues can pick and choose and sell what they want, then return the rest.

The success of sales becomes the whim of who sells it. Their understanding of the designs. Whether they like the pieces or not. Their motivations to keep things clean, neat and displayed well. If they can see themselves or their friends or spouses wearing these. Their sense of style, knowing what things might work well together with what fashions. How well they communicate with their customers. Perhaps even IF they communicate with their customers. If they follow-up with their customers.

Designers Must Take The Lead In Preparing Others To Sell Their Jewelry

The designer must play a leadership role here. The designer as leader must effectively influence, persuade, train and convince whoever will be selling their jewelry how to sell it. As best as possible, the designer must build shared understandings about the product with those who will sell it.

Passive assumptions won’t work here. The designer cannot assume that store owners and their sales staff, because they supposedly want to show a profit, will be good at their jobs. More likely, they are not — particularly when it comes to selling someone else’s stuff. The consequences of poor salesmanship are virtually invisible until many months, even years, later. That’s too late to wait.

To add to the difficulties, the opportunities in terms of time, resources, and follow-up are very limited. The designer may get just one shot to build shared understandings and accomplish several goals. Ideally this should happen in person. Often, it is not. Often it is reduced to shared emails, some printed materials, and some phone calls.

Six Key Shared Understandings

There are six key understandings which the designer must influence others to share. These include,

1. The Key Product Details

2. The Primary Product Benefits

3. The Smart Ways To Use The Products To Build Customer Relationships

4. What Rewards The Sales Staff Should Expect For Themselves, Based On Their Performance

5. At All Times, How To Maintain The Optimum Inventory and Product Mix

6. How To Routinize Timely Feedback

1. The Key Product Details

Think of every line of jewelry as its own culture with a group or tribal identity. Which three to six words or simple phrases encapsulate what that identify is all about? What were the key, primary design choices made which give this line of jewelry its character and resonance? How would anyone know that any piece of jewelry was a part of that group or tribe?

These key words or details might relate to materials and techniques. They might reference fashion, style and taste. They might be things about the designer or about jewelry design in general. There will be lots and lots of details which can be conveyed, but the list of details will need to be severely culled.

People have what is called finite rationality. They can only handle and remember between 4 and 10 pieces of information at a time, with 7 pieces of information usually the upper limit for most people.

Don’t confuse the sales staff. Don’t let them confuse the customers. Limit that descriptive words you use when explaining your jewelry, your design choices, and your design goals. Keep these descriptors simple, un-jargoned, devoid of business babble and clichés.

Keep repeating these 3 to 6 things. Repeat them in ways you want the sales staff to learn them, understand them, and be able to repeat these 3 to 6 things to their customers when you are not around.

2. The Primary Product Benefits

It is not the features of your jewelry that result in sales; it is the benefits people perceive the jewelry will provide for them. People do not focus on what the product is. They focus on what the product means to them.

People buy things to solve problems. These problems might relate to needs and wants. They might relate to achieving status and position. They might resolve emotional desires.

What problems for the potential customer does your jewelry solve? Think carefully about this. Make lists.

Then reflect awhile on how you think your jewelry solves these problems for your customers better than any of your competitors. What are your competitive advantages?

Convey to store owners and sales staff the results of your thinking and synthesis. You do not only want to list for them what customer problems your jewelry solves for them. You do not want your explanation divorced from the actual selling situation. You are not presenting an academic assessment; you want to present a marketing assessment. You want to convey how your jewelry resolves customer problems better than anyone else. This is a little more difficult to do and get the words out, and requires some practice.

And, again, remember that people have finite rationality. Don’t talk about everything. Focus on the couple of primary competitive advantages your line of jewelry has.

As best as possible, make your benefits concrete and specific. Think of which benefits would most readily stick in people’s minds.

3. The Smart Ways To Use The Products To Build Customer Relationships

Any sale is an interaction based on communication. The sale is not the only result. The building of a relationship also results. Too often sales staff performance is rated based on number of sales, and too rarely rated on building relationships. But it is in the building of relationships where we get those repeat sales and bigger sales and broader sales and better word of mouth and more new customers and, you get the idea.

Ideally, if you get the chance, like in the trunk show described above, you can model these relationship building behaviors in front of the sales staff. You can demonstrate how you elicit customer needs, wants and problems to be solved, and how you gain their awareness and trust in how your jewelry will meet these in an advantageous way. If there are other types of products in the store, you can demonstrate how to co-market, such as your jewelry with the store’s clothing.

Absent the in-person approach, you can provide ideas in periodic emails. You might do some simple one-sided-page images and short descriptive content. You might create a fun video that you can share.

You can also work with store staff in developing customer lists detailing the who, how to contact them, the what they bought, the dates, the follow-up sales, customer preferences, any descriptive information about the customer to help future sales.

To help guarantee that sales staff keep these lists and fill them out completely, you can ask to see them periodically to review. You can encourage sales staff to communicate with customers pre-, during, and –post sales. Based on your review, you can suggest specific items in the line that each customer might like to see, and possibly buy. Even though you are not physically present, you can still show how building relationships can generate sales and profits.

4. What Rewards The Sales Staff Should Expect For Themselves, 
 Based On Their Performance

It is helpful if you not only generate commissions and sales for the store, but also some kind of reward for the sales staff each time they sell one of your pieces. Show you recognize their efforts and appreciate them. If sales staff get paid no matter what they do, they may not give your line of jewelry the attention and promotion it deserves.

Besides some reward, perhaps a thank you note, or giving either a monetary extra commission or a piece of your jewelry, you most likely also want to reward the sales staff’ customer follow-ups, without actual sales, such as sending thank you notes or calling them when you send new pieces to the store.

5. At All Times, How To Maintain The Optimum Inventory and Product Mix

Do not assume that the store will maintain the optimum inventory and product mix of your jewelry at all times. There will always be other companies, other designers and other product opportunities competing for any store’s attention. So you will need to step in and capture that attention on a regular basis.

Create an easily update-able plan for the store that details the ideal mix of product — types of jewelry, price points, color, finishes and textures.

Reduce this to a simple product inventory sheet to give the store.

Contact the store periodically to update the inventory, compare to your plan, and make inventory suggestions accordingly.

6. How To Routinize Timely Feedback

You need to get feedback routinely, say at least every 3 to 6 months. You need regular feedback on your jewelry, on the sales process, on other things you can do to help sales staff become better at selling your jewelry.

If your jewelry is not turning at least twice a year, the particular store is probably not right for you. It might be the inattentiveness of the sales staff. It might be a lack of fit with the store’s customer base. But, if you are not getting a minimum of 2 turns a year, this location is not working either for you or the store.

You might formalize requests for quarterly results. You might call the store or any of its sales staff periodically to get information feedback. You might send a questionnaire to customers who have previously purchased your jewelry.

It helps the feedback process along when you provide rewards. This might be in the form of refreshments, such us sending an evaluation form with a box of cookies. This might take the form of adding some free pieces of jewelry to be sold, or one-time discount on purchases.



James, Geoffrey. 6 Ways to Persuade Customers to Buy. Inc.com, 2020.

As referenced in:


McLeod, Saul. “Short Term Memory,” Simply Psychology, 2009.

As referenced in:

Sales Motivation: 18 Tips To Keep Your Salespeople Happy.
 As referenced in:



Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Should I Set Up My Craft Business On A Marketplace Online?

The Importance of Self-Promotion: Don’t Be Shy

Are You Prepared For When The Reporter Comes A-Calling?

A Fool-Proof Formula For Pricing And Selling Your Jewelry

Designer Connect Profile: Tony Perrin, Jewelry Designer

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

Copyrighting Your Pieces: Let’s Not Confuse The Moral With The Legal Issues

Naming Your Business / Naming Your Jewelry

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

To What Extent Should Business Concerns Influence Artistic and Jewelry Design Choices

How Creatives Can Successfully Survive In Business

Getting Started In Business: What You Do First To Make It Official

So You Want To Do Craft Shows: Lesson 4: Set Realistic Goals

The Competition: Underestimate Them At Your Peril!


I hope you found this article useful.

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

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Posted in Art or Craft?, bead weaving, beadwork, business of craft, craft shows, jewelry design, jewelry making, professional development, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by learntobead on February 14, 2021

Learn To Adapt Basic Concepts In Art When Making Jewelry



Jewelry creates a series of dilemmas for the jewelry maker — not always anticipated by what most jewelry makers are taught in a typical art class.

That’s the rub!

Painters can create any color and color effect they want with paints.

Jewelry makers do not have access, nor can they easily create, a full color palette and all the desired coloration effects with the beads and other components used to make jewelry.

Jewelry is not like a painting or sculpture that sits in one place, with controlled lighting, and a more passive interaction with anyone looking at it.

Jewelry moves with the person through different settings, lighting, times of day. Jewelry sits on different body shapes. Jewelry must function in many different contexts. Jewelry serves many different purposes.

People use and understand colors using their senses. These perceptions among wearer, viewer and designer include:

(1) The Sensation Of Color Balance

(2) The Sensation Of Color Proportions

(3) The Sensation Of Simultaneous Color Contrasts

Better designers are able to manage these sensations. They do so, in major part, by relying on a series of color sensation management tools.

We review these in great detail in this course.

In this course, you will learn some critical skills for jewelry designers that you will want to know…

  • How to pick colors for jewelry, and how this differs from picking colors as a painter
  • How to adapt basic color concepts in art when making jewelry
  • How to recognize the differences between universal responses to color from the more typical subjective ones, and what better designers do about this
  • How to manage the sensation of color within your pieces to achieve your designer goals

You will learn to make smart choices about color when designing and making jewelry.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.
Of special interest: My video tutorial THE JEWELRY DESIGNER’S APPROACH TO COLOR

8 Lesson Units
1 1/2 hours of video plus practice exercises and downloadable information .pdf files


I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.
Of special interest: My video tutorial THE JEWELRY DESIGNER’S APPROACH TO COLOR

Add your name to my email list.


Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color: Video Tutorial Preview

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

A Very Abbreviated, But Not Totally Fractured, History of Beads

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

When Choosing Colors Has You Down, Check Out The Magic Of Simultaneity Effects

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Everyone Has A Getting Started StoryThe Nature-Inspired Creations of Kathleen

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Stringing Materials

Posted in Art or Craft?, art theory, color, creativity, design theory, design thinking, jewelry design, jewelry making, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Stringing Materials

Posted by learntobead on November 22, 2020

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE. There are 18 video modules including handouts, which this is one of.


I’m not proud to admit it, but I used to string things on fishing line and dental floss. It was there. I knew about it. I understood it. It was simple. Uncomplicated. Didn’t need directions. Didn’t need a 20-minute explanation about when these were used, and when they were not, or what they were used for, and what they were not.

Then I discovered Tiger Tail cable wire. This seemed magical, somehow. It was something more than fishing line or dental floss. It seemed strong. It was metal. It was masculine. You could swing from trees on it. You could tie up old planks together to secure them. You could string things on easily without a needle. You didn’t need glue. You didn’t need bead tips or knot covers. It tied easily to clasps. And although, it turned out, the Tiger Tail broke rather easily, I’d pretend like it never broke for me.

Luckily, today, beaders have been blessed with an abundance of stringing materials to choose from. Each has it’s pros and cons. Each much better than the choices I had a few decades ago.

When beaders and jewelry makers select stringing materials, they need to ask a lot of questions of the people who sell these products, as well as the people who use them. You’ll get a lot of contradictory advice. But you need a lot of information to help make your choices. For me, I prefer stringing materials that don’t break easily, allow pieces to drape nicely, move freely and correctly with the body, and are relatively easy to use. But don’t we all.

From a design perspective, you typically get your best results with needle and thread. Needle and thread projects always take the shape of your body. So they feel the best, move the best, and drape the best. However, needle and thread are very involved and time-consuming to do. Especially if you’re selling your stuff, it’s difficult to use needle and thread and expect to recoup your labor costs. As long as you know what the ideal is, however, it becomes a little easier to step back from the ideal, and compensate for any weaknesses through various design techniques and devices.

Threads, Needles, and More Threads

I discovered Nymo beading thread, Size #12 English beading needles, and Tiger Tail cable wire. This wasn’t a match made in heaven. I didn’t take to it like a duck takes to water. It wasn’t a piece of cake.

Have you ever seen a beading needle? They’re so thin. They have even thinner eye holes. First you learn that cotton sewing thread is round and sewing needles have round holes. Next you learn that nylon beading thread is flat like a ribbon, and beading needles have rectangular, narrow holes.

The shape of the eye-hole of a beading needle is like a funnel –one side of the hole is bigger than the other. If you are having trouble fitting that thread through the hole, turn the needle around. Try again.

I started with size #12 needles. I find #10 needles to be more useful for bead stringing and both #10 and #12 most useful for bead weaving. Proportionally, the eye holes in the #10 are much bigger than those in the smaller, thinner needles.

Major Beading Threads

NYMO thread is the granddaddy of them all. It comes in many colors and thicknesses. It doesn’t look like it, but it is one of the strongest things you can string things on. With NYMO, the black is stronger than the white. The white is stronger than the colors.

C-LON thread (also called SuperLon) is a relatively new thread. It’s similar to Nymo, but a little stronger. It comes in a lot of colors, but only a couple of thicknesses. In our store, if you came in for a Nymo product, and there was an equivalent C-Lon product, we would suggest you switch to C-Lon. With C-Lon, the colors and the white are as strong as the black. All are as strong as Nymo black.

ONE-G thread is made by TOHO. This is a premium nylon beading thread, and much more expensive than Nymo or C-Lon. I’m very fond of the strength of the thread, and the feel, give and take of the thread while I’m beading. It has a stretching quality to it that makes it less tiring to use on long projects. It’s my beading thread of choice.

SILAMIDE is a prewaxed thread. Lots of beaders love this. I’m not a big fan of this because it breaks very easily. Some people suggest that you double the thread to deal with the breakage issue, but I find it awkward to use a doubled thread. Even though Silamide is prewaxed, if you purchased it from us, we would tell you to wax it. There’s no waxy buildup on it, and this, we feel, is the major advantage of waxing.

When you use beading thread as your stringing or weaving material, you want to pass through each bead about 3 times. Most weaving techniques do this automatically as part of the step-pattern of the technique.

A Note About Waxing Your Thread

natural beeswax
synthetic beeswax (microcrystalline wax)

I advise all my students to wax their thread before they use it. The wax has these advantages:

  • Protects the thread from chemicals in the environment, including pollutants in the air, chemicals in a person’s sweat, and chemicals in cosmetics and hair sprays. Natural beeswax will protect the thread for 150 years. Synthetic beeswax provides protection for centuries more.
  • The hole of a bead looks like a broken coke bottle. The wax will fill in some of the jagged rim, lowering the risk of the hole cutting your thread.
  • Helps you maintain a tighter thread tension while you weave or string.

There are products called thread conditions. One brand, now defunct, was called Thread Heaven. When you keep pulling the thread through your beads over and over again, static electricity builds up. This results in the thread getting tangle up and knotted while you work. The conditioner prevents this from happening. Waxing will not.

You cannot use both products. You have to pick one. I suggest always picking the wax.

The Hybrid “Cable Thread”

Every year there are many new stringing materials. Many start as advances in fishing lines. One recent advance is what I call the hybrid “cable thread”. These are made from threads that are braided together (instead of braided wires as in a cable wire, see below) and encased in nylon,

Three brands — Power Pro, WildFire, and FireLine are very prominent. I especially like the FireLine.

You use these with needles, but do not have to wax them, though I suggest you do. You don’t have to go through your beads three times, like with the threads. Once is sufficient, though I sometimes go through 2 or 3 times to firm up the way the beads lay on the stringing material, and so the beads don’t wobble.

You don’t necessarily have to wax the FireLine, but a lot of people like to do this. The major advantage of waxing is that the wax protects the integrity of the nylon encasing. Cable threads are strong only to the point the nylon encasing is able to maintain the twist in the braided threads. As soon as the encasing is violated, the thread immediately untwists and breaks. You might pierce the thread with the needle as you are working your piece; the wax will melt into the hole and plug it. A pollutant in the air, or a chemical in someone’s sweat, or cosmetics or hairspray will make the nylon encasing deteriorate. Perfume oils will dissolve it. The wax provides a protective shield to minimize this happening.

If you wax it, this will increase your thread tension considerably. In most projects a tight tension is very desirable. With some very tight bead weaving stitches, like Peyote, cable threads may result in too tight a tension. Usually, I use regular beading thread with the Peyote stitch. With weaving stitches with loose tension, like Right Angle Weave or Ndebele, the cable thread’s tightness is an advantage, giving you more control over managing the thread tension as you work your piece.

Beading thread is flat and shaped like a ribbon. Beading needles have rectangular holes. FireLine, however, is shaped round. To make it easier to thread FireLine into a beading needle, you can flatten the end of the FireLine. I pull the end between two of my fingernails. You can also use a chain nose pliers to flatten the end. Then pop it into your needle. Don’t pull this through your teeth. It will cut into your teeth.

Pieces done with the cable threads lay stiffer and feel stiffer than the threads, like Nymo or C-Lon, but they drape and feel much better than the cable wires.

Many stringers and bead weavers have switched to cable threads.

Bead Cords

For some types of jewelry projects, you don’t want to cover and hide all the stringing material with beads. You might be putting knots between beads, or you might be doing macramé, braiding or kumihimo with beads, or you might be doing something like a Tin Cup necklace, where you have a cluster of beads, then some cord showing, then another cluster of beads, then more cord showing, and you get the idea.

In this case, if we used threads, the raw and waxed threads would be kind of ugly. Most cable wires, if showing, would be ugly. So instead, we use what is called Bead Cord.

Bead Cords are threads which have been braided together to make the stringing material look pretty. However, we don’t wax the bead cord to deal with issues like fraying or stretching. This would ugly it up.

Thus, when we use Bead Cord, we are trading off durability for appearance. If we were going to cover all the bead cord with beads, then this would not be the best choice of stringing material. You would want to use either a thread or cable wire, in this case.

There are many brands and qualities of bead cord.

Most people prefer Griffin Bead Cord, which comes on cards, and has a needle fixed to one end of the 2-meter long cord. There are many colors and thicknesses. It is available in Nylon and in Silk. I’d give this cord a grade of a “B”. What people like about this cord is that it comes with a needle attached on one end. This makes it easier to use when you are knotting between beads. It allows you to start with a thicker cord.

I recommend using silk bead cord if your project is all pearls or mostly pearls. I suggest using nylon bead cord if your project is very few pearls or no pearls. Unfortunately, every other type of stringing material, except the silk, will ruin the pearls. These other materials cut into the nacre around the pearl, starting at the hole, leading to cracking and chipping around the bead, thus ruining them. Only silk won’t cut into the pearls. Unfortunately, silk naturally deteriorates in 3–5 years, so anything you do on silk will have to be re-done every 3–5 years.

Nylon doesn’t deteriorate, so that’s why we suggest it for everything else. Now some people tell me things were always done on silk. I tell them nylon wasn’t always. But I can reverse hats. Say you’re selling your pieces. There’s more marketing cache if you say “it was strung on silk”, than if you said “it was strung on nylon.” You can make it your customer’s problem to re-string in 3–5 years.

Basically, at the same level of quality, the pros and cons of nylon and silk are the same. At the same quality level, they fray the same, stretch the same and get dirty the same. It’s just that the silk deteriorates and the nylon does not.

Bead cords are also used in knotting, macramé, braiding, bead crochet and kumihomo.

C-lon or S-lon (same thing, two different brand names) is the A-grade nylon. It comes in 4 thicknesses. It’s excellent.

Flexible Cable Wires

When I first started beading and making jewelry, I was not a big fan of thread. I was never one to sew. Needle and thread seemed so complicated. It took so long. The threads seemed to break. They frayed. They stretched. They got tangled up and they got knotted up. It was hard to see and keep in my field of vision a very thin thread on a very thin needle going through some very small beads. I poked myself with the needle. It made me cranky.

I turned to Tiger Tail cable wire. Cable wires are flexible wires that are braided together and encased in nylon. The wire is stiff enough to be its own needle. Stringing beads on a cable wire seemed so perfect. You only had to go through your beads once. The wire was stiff enough to be its own self-needle. Zip, zip. Fast, fast. For years, I made everything on cable wires. Always satisfied, never a complaint.

Today, there are many brands, qualities and distinctions of cable wires. There are easily over 24 choices. Each brand organizes its worst to best wires differently. None of the brands provides sufficient information on their labels to make a fully informed choice. It’s very confusing. It’s virtually impossible to compare across brands. You need to know the materials the braided wires are made of, the thicknesses of the finished wires, and the number of wires braided together within the cable, the material the nylon sheathing is made of, and the thickness of this sheathing.

The true measure of wire strength is called “tensile strength.” This is the amount of force it takes to keep the wire from untwisting within the nylon sheathing. Tensile strength depends on what the wire is made of, what the nylon sheathing is made of, and how thick and nonporous this nylon sheathing is. This information is not found on any of the labels.

On the labels of these products, the manufacturers list the number of strands braided together within the cable. This gives you some information, but not enough information to make a choice. You don’t know what the wire is made of, or it might say “stainless steel”, but there are hundreds of grades of stainless steel. They do not list what the nylon sheathing is made of, or how thick and nonporous it is. Some companies differentiate their lowest from highest qualities based on the number of strands. For example, one company’s low end is 7-strand and its high-end is 49-strand. However, other companies do not differentiate by number of strands. Another company’s 7-strand high end product is stronger and softer than its middle-range 49-strand product. It’s middle range 49-strand product is stronger and softer than that first company’s high-end 49-strand product.

A long time ago, manufacturers put “pound strength” on their labels. It’s on some labels, but not all. The actual pound strength numbers change more often than feels comfortable.

There are no government standards about measuring “pound strength.” Because of this, whenever you see “pound strength” on a label, whatever the product, you need to take this with a large degree of skepticism. First, there are two definitions of how to measure pound strength — (1) how heavy the fish is that the line will support, and (2) how much force the line will support when reeling in a fish of a given weight. But because there are no standards, it is up to the factory to put whatever they want. Most of these wires are made in total or in part in one factory in Taiwan. The person at the factory responsible for labeling pound strength many years ago never got it right, and never got it the same. One batch would show 20#, then the next time it might show 2#, then 5#, back to 20#, down to 10#. Since he could never get this right, the manufacturers asked him to leave this information off the label.

There are many brands of flexible, nylon coated cable wires. These cable wires can be grouped into three levels of quality:

— Craft (Tiger Tail)
 — Designer (Flex Wire)
 — Professional or Artist

I start people at the Designer (flex wire) quality cable wires. Most craft stores only carry the Craft quality. This is rather useless. Most bead stores carry the Craft and Designer levels, and sometimes the Professional or Artist level as well. The “best” level is extremely expensive, so I feel the beader or jewelry-maker needs to justify the extra expense when moving up to this quality. I’ve rarely seen a situation where the Professional quality was needed.

Tiger Tail was the original cable wire, and today it is the low-end product. It’s the Craft level wire, and all brands carry it. Often you don’t see the word Tiger Tail on the label. You can tell it’s Tiger Tail because it’s very cheap — substantially cheaper than anything else — usually under $5.99 for a 30ft spool. Tiger Tail wire breaks very easily in and of itself. The wire tends to kink. The way you should attach Tiger Tail to the clasp is to tie the wire into a knot or a double-knot. This gives you a very secure connection to the clasp.

Tiger Tail Cable Wire

Flex-wire is the Designer Level. Flex-wire (again available in several forms in each of the brand lines) is noticeably more expensive than the Tiger Tail — usually starting at $10.99 — $18.99 and up for a 30ft spool. It does not break easily in and of itself. It does not kink. However, it is very difficult to tie into a knot. So you have to use a crimp bead in order to hold the wire in place and secure the clasp. [I only recommend 2 brands — Soft Flex and Flexrite. These are very supple; the nylon sheathing has a high degree of integrity; they are very strong]

Flex wire cable wire

The way you use a crimp bead is that you take the wire and go through the crimp, through the clasp, then back through the crimp. You crush the crimp with a pliers (preferably a crimping pliers) to hold it into place. The major reason to use a crimp bead is to make your piece look more finished, than if you had tied a knot. However, it does make your piece less secure.

When you crush your crimp bead onto the wire, this flattened crimp becomes like a little razor blade. All jewelry moves. So your crimp is constantly trying to saw through your wire. On Tiger Tail, crimps easily cut through the wire, so that is why we suggest tying a knot. If you don’t like the look of the knot, you can either use beads on either end with large enough holes to swallow the knot. Or you can use a piece called a crimp cover and slip this over the knot, squeeze it shut, and it looks like you have a bead there.

With Flex-wire, this wire is so strong that we feel very comfortable recommending that you use a crimp bead on each end. However, and this is a big However, we DO NOT suggest that you use more than one crimp on each end. Sometimes your friends, or your mind, will tell you that if 1 crimp was good, then using 2 or 3 crimps on each end will be more secure. It’s not. All you are doing is adding razor blades. You’re increasing the chances that one of these crimps will cut through the wire.

If you’ve crimped correctly, one crimp on either end is sufficient. It doesn’t matter what the shape or the size of the crimp bead is. It doesn’t matter how heavy the beads are.

Cable wires come in different thicknesses.

For necklaces, you want to choose the thinnest wire that is the most durable. This is because the major design goal here is to have your necklace drape as best and as comfortably as possible. We suggest something around .014” or .015”. If someone sits at their desk and fidgets with the necklace a lot, then this thinner thickness will break. In this case, since durability is becoming an issue, the .018″ or .019″ will work fine.

For bracelets, you want to use the thickest wire that is most comfortable. Bracelets take a huge beating on a daily basis. We suggest something around .018” or .019”.

For eyeglass leashes, we suggest .024” or .019”. These take the most beating. You don’t want the leash or the eyeglasses themselves to break.

Cable wires are fast and easy. They are not as involved as using needle and thread. However, with the cable wires, the finished projects tend to be stiff. They don’t lay well. They don’t move well at all. If you make a bracelet with needle and thread, the bracelet, when worn, conforms to your wrist. If you move your wrist to the right, your bracelet also moves in the same direction to the right. If you made that same bracelet on cable wire, the wire takes the shape of a circle. Your wrist is actually oval. If you moved your wrist to the right, the bracelet done on cable wire would actually move in the opposite direction — to the left.

Lots of deep physics here. But the results are obvious, and often embarrassing. This most often happens with necklaces that turn around when worn, bringing the clasp front and off-centered, sometimes making the wearer look somewhat clownish.

Most brands of cable wire I find too stiff. They have major problems of draping and moving with the body. They lay on the body funny. Two brands I find particularly good, and these are the only brands I use, are Soft Flex and Flexrite.

Hard Wire

People use hard wire to make things like ear wires and clasps, earring dangles, chains, rosaries, coils and components, and wire-wrapped settings for stones.

But hard wire is not a stringing wire. You can’t simply put beads on it and attach the ends. The hard wire would bend and distort, but not return to its original shape, like a cable wire would.

There are many kinds of hard wire.

At the low end is called Craft Wire. Craft Wire is plated wire over steel or a brass alloy of steel. Craft Wire is bad for finished jewelry projects. It’s OK for practice. It’s OK for stationary objects like a beaded ornament. All jewelry moves. The plating doesn’t bond at all to steel. So when you bend the steel back and forth, the plating tends to wear off quickly. Also when you bend steel back and forth, it doesn’t take long before it breaks.

Craft wire, no matter the brand, tends to be packaged like the white spool pictured below.

Above Craft Wire is Plated Copper Wire. If you need to work with a plated wire, then Plated Copper Wire is a great product. There are many brands. The packaging varies but it never looks like that of the craft wire above. The plating and enameling bonds well to copper, so it takes a very long time to wear off. Also, when you bend copper back and forth, it takes a very long time to break. It comes in lots of colors and lots of metallics.

Higher in quality than plated wire is called “Raw” wire. In our store, we sell raw brass, raw copper, raw nickel. We sell sterling silver wire, fine silver wire, gold-filled wire and a new metal called argentium silver. Argentium is tarnish-resistant sterling silver.

The sizes of wire are measured by “gauge”. What Gauge means is that somewhere on earth there is a standard sized pipe. Gauge refers to how many wires will fit into the pipe. So, if you can fit 20 wires into the pipe, the wire is 20 gauge. If you can only fit 6 wires into the pipe, that wire is 6 gauge.

When buying wire, another choice to make is how HARD or stiff the wire should be at the start of your project. Wire is usually sold as 
 “Half-Hard”, or

With “Hard” hard wire, you can’t bend the wire. This is useful when making a hat pin or stick pin. You cut the length of wire you want. You take a metal file and file one end into a point. The wire is stiff, so it will easily puncture a hat or a fabric, without bending. However, if you wanted to make a loop on one end of the hard wire, say to make an earring dangle, you could not; it won’t bend.

With “Half-Hard” and “Dead-Soft” wire, you can manipulate the wire. You can twist it, bend it, curve it, wrap it, hammer it. Each time you manipulate the wire, you harden it. If you keep manipulating and manipulating the wire, it eventually hardens to the point where it is “Hard”, that is, unbendable. If you kept going still, the wire would become brittle and break.

Your goal as a wire artist is to find that level of hardness/softness where, after you manipulate the wire the way you want, you’ll end up with wire that keeps its shape, stays in place, or if it is holding a stone in, that the stone won’t pop out.

If I want to make an earring dangle by putting some beads on a wire, and bending one end into a loop so that I can hang it, if I started with “Half-Hard” wire, I would grab the end of my wire with a round nose pliers, twist my wrist to form the loop-shape, and let go of the wire with the pliers. I can trust that the loop-shape will keep its shape.

If I had started with “Dead-Soft” wire, however, and repeated this same procedure, the loop would open up and lose its shape. The wire is too soft. To start at “Dead-Soft”, I probably would have to grab the wire at both ends with vises or pliers, twist the wire until it started to harden, make a loop with a round nose pliers, and perhaps hammer on this loop a bit — all before I could trust that the loop-shape will keep its shape.

Most wire artists and how to books tell you to start at dead soft. Many of my students and customers who follow these directions have their bracelets pull apart, their shapes distort, their stones pop out of their settings. This is because they have not manipulated the dead soft wire enough to get it stiff enough. I suggest, either starting with half hard wire, or to twist the dead soft wire somewhat to stiffen it before you begin to shape it.

Plated Craft and Copper-Core wire typically comes as “dead soft”. It is up to the manufacturer to determine what that means. So, you will find that one company’s dead soft might be stiffer or softer than another’s. Typically, if I start at dead soft, I twist the wire or hammer it to harden it a little bit, before I start my projects.

Some Other Popular Stringing Products

Elastic String: People hate clasps. So they love this material. You put the beads on, tie a surgeon’s or square knot, put a drop of glue on the inside, then the outside of the knot, cut the tails, and that’s it. Comes in different colors, different thicknesses, different textures. Does deteriorate a little over time, and it does lose its memory. There are many brands. Some labels say they don’t deteriorate or lose their memory, but from experience, they all do.

The elastic string which is round lasts a long time. The elastic string which is flat like floss shreds rather quickly.

When using elastic string, you first take some super glue and coat the beginning 3/4″ to 1” of the string. Let it dry. Take a single edge razor blade and cut the end at an angle, so you have a point, and the end becomes a self needle. Put your beads on. Then tie a surgeon’s knot or square knot. As you tie your knot, put a drop of glue on the inside of the knot, pull tight, and put another drop of glue on the outside of the knot. Any glue EXCEPT super glue.

We suggest E6000 or Beacon 527, but, with this product, you can use school glue, rubber cement or elmers glue. Super glue dries like glass, so the bond becomes like a piece of glass. When you pull the string, the bond shatters like glass. Moreover, the broken bond looks like a piece of broken glass. The other glues dry more like rubber, so when you pull on the string, the bond acts like a shock absorber.

Elastic string can deteriorate in about 1–2 years, depending on its exposure to the air and sunlight.

Illusion Cord (monofilament): Basically a thin fishing line. Used to make illusion necklaces. Small crimp beads are used to hold clusters of beads in place. Not particularly durable. Any monofilament will dry out and crack from exposure to ultraviolet light and heat.

Hemp: Used with various macramé, micro-macrame, knotting and braiding techniques.

Irish Waxed Linen: Similar to hemp, but a higher quality. Used for more fashion-oriented jewelry that incorporates macramé, knotting and braiding techniques. In jewelry, the waxiness of this product draws dust and dirt to it. You might want to use, instead, an unwaxed bead cord for jewelry.

Leather: Always popular. Greek leather is the highest quality. Don’t shower in this. It makes the leather dry out and crack.

Waxed Cotton: A more durable leather substitute. It doesn’t have that great earthy smell of leather, however. Simply a waxed or glazed cotton wrapped around a nylon monofilament. You can shower in this.

Pearl Cotton #8: Used in making bead-knitted bags. 11/0 seed beads will slip over the Pearl Cotton #8.

Rubber Thong: Another leather substitute and more durable. Very soft to the skin.

Satin Cord (Rat Tail): A shiny, colorful cord that’s used to hang pendants from. Pretty. Frays relatively quickly. Not durable at all.

Organza Ribbon: The type of ribbon that you would string beads on. Use a Big-Eye needle to get your beads onto the ribbon.

Memory Wire: A stainless steel coil, like a slinky. Cut off some rings, put beads on, then, bend the ends. Caution: Memory wire will ruin all your jewelry tools. If you are using Memory Wire, then use industrial strength tools — things you would find in a wood-working shop.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Preparers

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Controllers and Adapters

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

A Very Abbreviated, But Not Totally Fractured, History of Beads

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

When Choosing Colors Has You Down, Check Out The Magic Of Simultaneity Effects

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Brick Stitch

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Everyone Has A Getting Started StoryThe Nature-Inspired Creations of Kathleen

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE.

Add your name to my email list.

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

JEWELRY DESIGN: What You Need To Know About Sizing

Posted by learntobead on October 30, 2020


To look great in a piece of jewelry — whether a necklace, or chain, or pendant, or bracelet, or ring and the like — people should look to the face, the neck, the wrist, the finger, the body type to get the right fit and look. There are often two main reasons why people do not wear their jewelry. First, it doesn’t work with their wardrobe or skin tone. But second, it doesn’t flatter them because of the silhouette, volume and length. Learning both about standard sizing and sizing customization measurement rules are critical for any jewelry designer.


To look great in a piece of jewelry — whether a necklace, or chain, or pendant, or bracelet, or ring and the like — look to the face, the neck, the wrist, the finger, the body type to get the right fit and look.

There are often two main reasons why people do not wear their jewelry. First, it doesn’t work with their wardrobe or skin tone. But second, it doesn’t flatter them because of the silhouette, volume and length.

When designing a piece of jewelry, it sometimes is helpful to make the size of the piece adjustable. This is usually accomplished with the design of the clasp assembly, such as adding a chain extension, or having 2 or 3 button loops.


There are many standard length options for necklaces for women. If you have a narrower or wider neck than average, you may have to adjust these standards. If you have a longer or shorter neck, you might prefer a particular length over another.

When choosing a size, start with your neck. Narrow, thin necks might prefer shorter lengths. Thicker, fatter necks might prefer the medium size lengths.

Next, consider your upper torso. If the necklace length will place the necklace over your breast, be sure it flatters your appearance.

Third, consider your height. Short women are usually overwhelmed by longer lengths. Taller women sometimes look funny with short lengths.

Last, consider the shape of your face. Faces are usually described as oval, round, square and heart-shaped. Oval faces can wear any length. Round faces do better with longer lengths, and silhouettes that take the shape of a “V”. Heart-shaped faces do better with shorter lengths, and silhouettes that are curved. Squarer, more rectangular faces do better with shorter lengths and rounded silhouettes.

For men,

Bracelets [1]

Usually, with bracelets, size is less an issue than with necklaces.

Measure the wrist at the wrist bone, using a piece of string or tape measure. If you use a string, it’s best to use a bracelet sizing cone to determine the actual wrist measurement. If you like your bracelets to be somewhat loose, add ¾” or 1” to the measurement. With larger beads or adornments, the linear length against a ruler will have to be larger than the actual size of your wrist, since these larger components will pull the bracelet further out from your wrist as you wear the piece.

For women, most wear between a 6” and 7” length.

For men, most wear between a 7” and 8” length.

But obviously, there will be some deviation from the typical, because not everyone is a standard size.

Also, some people like to wear their bracelets tight to their wrist, while others like to wear them somewhat or very loose on their wrists.

For bangles, it becomes important to anticipate the width of the widest part of the hand for which the bangle has to slide over.

This bangle formula works in general, but, again, everyone’s hand-width and wrist size will vary.

Rings [1]

Rings sizes are standardized and unisex, running in numbers (whole sizes and half sizes).

For women, standard size is 7, with the range from 5 to 9.

For men, standard size is 10, with the range from 8 to 12. Wider rings on men tend to run smaller in size when worn.

But again, as with necklaces and bracelets, people’s finger sizes will often vary from the standards.

Also, fingers swell and contract in size, depending on the weather, heat and humidity, or how active a lifestyle some has, or with age. Some people prefer to order a ring size a half size larger to accommodate these kinds of things.



1 REEDS JEWELERS, Jewelry Wise, “Choosing the Right Necklace Length For You”, as reference


Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

A Very Abbreviated, But Not Totally Fractured, History of Beads

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

When Choosing Colors Has You Down, Check Out The Magic Of Simultaneity Effects

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Brick Stitch

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Everyone Has A Getting Started Story

The Nature-Inspired Creations of Kathleen

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

I hope you found this article useful.

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

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HOW TO DESIGN AN UGLY NECKLACE: The Ultimate Designer’s Challenge / You Be The Judge

Posted by learntobead on October 25, 2020

One of our The Ugly Necklace Contest Winners

It’s not easy to do Ugly! Your mind and eye won’t let you go there. We are prewired with an anxiety response to help us avoid things that might harm us. So, it turns out, it is easier to design a beautiful piece of jewelry than an ugly one. Designing an ugly necklace, then, presents the designer with the ultimate challenge. 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. The International Ugly Necklace Contest, first announced in 2002, and held 10 times since then, was one of the programs we launched as a way to reaffirm our beliefs in a design-oriented, theory-based, professional craft education curriculum. This article discusses the idea of “Ugly”, and provides some clues to designers about achieving it.

At the end of the article, you are given the chance to review and judge three of the submissions to The Ugly Necklace Contest — How Ugly Are They? You decide.

 The Ultimate Designer’s Challenge

Can you put together a well-designed and functional, yet UGLY, necklace? What kinds of things might you do if you were trying to design a necklace that is ugly, hideous, unsatisfying and what have you?

It’s Not Easy To Do Ugly!

Your mind and eye won’t let you go there. 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.

You are pre-wired with an innate fear and anxiety response to subconsciously avoid anything that is disorienting, disturbing or distracting. You are genetically predisposed to avoid things that might hurt you or kill you, like snakes and spiders.

Moreover, necklaces are arranged in a circle. The circle shape itself errs on the side of beauty, and anything arranged, ordered or organized, such as the component parts of a necklace, will err on the side of beauty.

Because of all this, beauty is the norm. It is easier to design a beautiful necklace than an ugly one! How about that! Any jewelry designer who attempts to achieve “Ugly,” has to have enough control and discipline to override, perhaps overcome, intuitive, internally integrated principles of good design.

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. These are designers who can break the boundaries of form, material and technique.

What Is Ugly?

Some The Ugly Necklace Contest Submissions

We often like to say that beauty (and by inference, ugly) is in the eye of the beholder. But once we utter that phrase, we deny the possibilities of design — and the perspective from the eye of the designer. We refuse to accept universal understandings of beauty and appeal. We take away much of our power to reflect and evaluate and judge. We leave too much to the situation, and too little to our abilities as jewelry designers to translate inspiration into aspiration into finished designs which emotionally affect those around us.

As designers, we like to think we are capable of designing something beautiful. As teachers, we like to believe we are capable of training someone to be a better designer — one who can more readily choose colors, patterns, textures, forms and arrangements — in universally pleasing ways. As a discipline, we like to think of good design as resulting from sets of learned information, insights and behaviors.

Some The Ugly Necklace Contest Submissions

Different people interpret “Ugly” in different ways. Some might focus on the ugliness of each individual component. Some might use materials they feel convey a sense of ugly, such as llama droppings, or felted matted dog hair, or rusty nails, or cigarette butts, or a banana peel. Some might focus on mood and consciousness, and how certain configurations of pieces and colors evoke these moods or states of consciousness. Others might focus on combining colors which don’t combine well. Still others might focus 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 might view Ugly as a sense of psychological consciousness, such as being homeless, or an uncomfortable transition from adolescence to adulthood. For some Ugly might mean 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. Actually, if you look at many ugly pieces or components, once they are arranged and organized, they no longer seem as ugly anymore. Organization and arrangement contribute their own qualities and sense of beauty which transcend the ugly parts.

Adding to the fun (?difficulty?), designers want their ugly necklaces to also be functional and wearable. This goes to the heart of what jewelry is all about. Otherwise, they would merely be creating sculptures. The parts and techniques used to design an ugly necklace must also anticipate functional requirements. Otherwise, the piece of jewelry becomes a failure not only as a piece of jewelry, but of art, as well.

About The International Ugly Necklace Contest

The Ugly Necklace Contest, first announced in 2002, and held 10 times since then, was one of the programs Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads launched as a way to reaffirm our beliefs in a design-oriented, theory-based, professional craft education curriculum. The Contest was conceived as a fun way to break students out of the traditional craft mold, and get them to think, ponder, and translate their feelings and perceptions of what is UGLY into an organized and functional necklace design.

We made the contest international. We launched it on-line. Our goal was to politely influence the entire beading community to think in different terms and to try to work outside the box. We also wanted very actively to stimulate discussion about whether there are universal and practical design theories which underlie beadwork, and which can be taught.

Can you really design UGLY, or is UGLY merely in the eye of the beholder?

Four conceptual precepts underlying the creation of the Contest itself included:

1. The Necklace should be Ugly, yet still function as a piece of jewelry.
 2. Better designers will demonstrate a degree of control over achieving these ends.
 3. Better designers will show a sense of how both the larger context within which the jewelry is worn, as well as the overall effects of the wearer wearing the piece, will increase the piece’s Ugliness.
 4. Better designers will have an intuitive design sense; best designers will show some strategic control over the design process.

Our judges evaluated each Ugly Necklace submission according to 10 jewelry design criteria (See Below), and scored each criteria. Each criterion was weighted equally. The 10 necklaces with the highest average scores were selected as our 10 semi-finalists.
Ten Semi-Finalists were picked. They were asked to submit the actual necklaces to us, to be put on display at Be Dazzled Beads. We took images of each one — a full frontal image showing someone wearing the piece, a close-up, and a close-up of the clasp assembly. We posted these images, along with the poems, on-line (now on display here) so that visitors to the site could vote for the winner and runner up. The winner got a $992.93 shopping spree on the Land of Odds web-site; the runner-up got a $399.07 shopping spree on the web-site.

NOW, You be the JUDGE!

Below, I present three very different Ugly Necklace submissions. Each artist submitting their necklace must include the following in their packet:
 1) At least 4 images (front, back, someone wearing it, detail of clasp assembly)
 2) A poem where they get to put into rhyme the kinds of things they were thinking when they made their various design decisions
 3) A list of materials and techniques.

Some of this material is provided below to assist you when scoring each piece.

And you might want to take some aspirin first. It’s difficult to get your mind to evaluate things opposite to how you normally would do it.

The Judges Criteria

Each necklace is scored on 10 jewelry design criteria.

1. Overall Hideousness (first impressions; piece has noteworthy 
 elements which slant your impressions toward Ugliness)

2. Clever Use of Materials (something about the materials chosen 
 contribute to a sense of Ugliness)

3. The Clasp Assembly (any creativity applied here?)

4. Color Principles (the more violations, the better)

5. Balance or Arrangement (the more violations, the better)

6. Rhythm and Focus (the more violations, the better)

7. Orienting (the more disorienting, the better)

8. Parsimony (adding or subtracting 1 more element would make the 
 piece more appealing, satisfying, even beautiful rather than more 
 ugly; artist achieved maximum ugly effect efficiently and 

9. Wearability (piece must be wearable; extra points if the wearing of 
 the piece makes the piece even uglier)

10. The Poem (expresses artist’s intent; artist shows power to 
 translate intent into Ugly)

The Criteria In More Detail

1. Overall Hideousness (first impressions; piece has noteworthy 
 elements which slant your impressions toward Ugliness)

The idea of “Noteworthiness” is key here. Noteworthiness means the extent the artist took something ordinary and made it extraordinary.

The best examples were the unexpected use of familiar materials. For example, felted dog hair shaped into beads; llama droppings, colored and drilled to be used as beads; a toothbrush used as part of a clasp assembly; a banana peel used as a pendant drop.

In some cases, the artist tried to make the necklace into a political statement, such as the Saddam Hussein necklace with bullets and pink shoes; or the glutenous fast food necklace with the gummi hot dog and gummi bun as the clasp.

In many cases, found objects, insignificant on their own, were organized to call attention to special meanings, such as the grenade box found among shells at the beach; or the remaining parts of a cat along with the chicken bone that led to her demise; or plastic jewels that seemed electrifying to the designer as a young girl, and so not as an adult.

Other things the judges look at include the clasp assembly, the artist’s anticipation of the effects of wearing the piece, the overall goals of the artist with the piece, and their first reaction to the piece.

2. Clever Use of Materials (something about the materials chosen 
 contribute to a sense of Ugliness)

In too many cases, the jewelry artist chose ugly pieces and assumed that a necklace made of ugly pieces would itself be ugly as well. But as you can see from the images on this web-site, this strategy does not work well.

The artist has to have a deeper understanding of why the materials are ugly. The artist also needs to stay focused and strategic enough in the design process, so that she or he maintains this sense of ugly as the necklace gets organized.

For example, one necklace used felted matted dog hair, and made beads out of this. This was a start at a clever use of materials. But once strung into a circle, the necklace looked like something someone might actually wear.

A necklace of cigarette butts, again once organized into a circle, doesn’t look quite as ugly. In addition, the necklace over-used cigarette butts — too many — which started to make the necklace a bit boring. While “boring” might take us in the direction of “ugly”, in this case, it diminished the power of the cigarette butts to make a statement about “ugly”.

This criteria looks at the total picture. Not just the ugliness of each individual piece. But also the degree to which the assembly of pieces maintains this sense of ugliness. The concern here is “design-cleverness in the USE of materials”.

3. The Clasp Assembly (any creativity applied here?)

A better clasp assembly is one that seems to be an integral part of the necklace, not just an after-thought or add-on. It should anticipate how it contributes to the ugliness of the piece, how it re-affirms the artist’s concept and goals, and how it adds to the wearability of the piece.

Successful Clasp Assemblies:

A gummy hot dog closes into a candy gummy bun

There is an elaborate strap, zipper, and suspender toggles system as the clasp assembly. With different configurations of parts, the necklace may be worn as a choker, a back pack, a wrap, a fanny pack, a clutch, or a traditional over-the-shoulder and around the neck necklace.

A troll doll is the clasp. One end of necklace string is tied into a loop and wraps around the left hand of the troll doll. The other end of the necklace string is tied into a loop and wraps around the right hand of the troll doll. The two hands of the troll doll push apart to open up, and push closed to secure the necklace.

4. Color Principles (the more violations, the better)

The degree the piece violates good principles of color. This might include using colors in incorrect proportions; or which violate color schemes; or violate rules of dominance/submission; or disturbing arrangements — vertical vs. horizontal, shading and tinting, sharp vs. blurred boundaries, placements and balance, projecting forward vs. receding; or violating socio-cultural rules and expectations.

This is self-explanatory. For example, the appropriate proportions of yellow to purple should be 1:4, meaning in any grouping of 5 beads, 4 should be purple and 1 yellow. When you deviate from this, your piece gets uglier.

COLOR THEORY discusses the use of the color wheel to select colors that work together within a “scheme”. There are many schemes, including Analogous, Complementary, and Split Complementary. An ugly necklace would select colors that violate this scheme. This might mean selecting colors that do not fit together within a scheme. It might mean using the wrong proportions of color within the scheme. It might also mean violating expectations about which colors should and should not predominate within the scheme.

5. Balance or Arrangement (the more violations, the better)

This is self-explanatory. Does the placement seem satisfying, such as a graduated necklace that starts with smaller sizes, works up to larger sizes in the center, then works back down to smaller sizes at the clasp? Or, not?

When looking at the piece, can you see alternative arrangements that might make the piece look even uglier?

Another aspect of bad balance and arrangement has to do with “dimensionality”. This is the degree, whether the piece is flat or 3-dimensional, that this is satisfying, or not. For example, a flat loomed piece with an extra large button clasp on the top of it, would probably be less satisfying than one with a smaller clasp on the end of the piece. Dimensionality can also be created through mixing beads or objects with different finishes, like mixing glossy and matte. An ugly mix somehow would feel dissatisfying.

6. Rhythm and Focus (the more violations, the better)

One of the goals of the jewelry artist is to motivate the viewer to take in, experience and appreciate the whole necklace. One of the major techniques is to create a rhythm with the patterning of the beads, and to create a focal point. This influences the viewer’s brain/eye to want to see each part of the necklace from beginning to end, and then come to rest.

An ugly necklace, would either have no rhythm or a boring rhythm or a nauseating rhythm. An ugly necklace would either have no focal point, or have a focal point that is in a very disorienting or disturbing place on the necklace, or be very disorienting or disturbing in and of itself.

7. Orienting (the more disorienting, the better)

Jewelry plays a critical psychological role for the viewer in a room or in a space. It orients them. It is one of the important things in any person’s visual environment that lets the person know what is up and what is down, and what is right and what is left.

The natural state in life is to be dis-oriented. It takes walls and ceilings, trees and horizons, things with clear right angles, clear perpendicularity, obvious horizontal and vertical planes, to enable us to orient ourselves within any space. Otherwise people would fall down, lose a sense of how to turn or position themselves, or feel paralyzed.

The wearing of jewelry plays a critical function here, in that it visually establishes for the viewer appropriate horizontal and vertical lines and planes. If you see someone with their earring dangle at a 90 degree angle, or their necklace turned around so that the clasp is showing when it shouldn’t — you know how uncomfortable this makes you feel, even wanting to cringe. And you know you want and need them to straighten things out. This jewelry is dis-orienting you, at a time when you subconsciously rely on it to be orienting.

If this wasn’t important, things like the odd-angled dangle wouldn’t bother you….But we know that it does.

8. Parsimony (adding or subtracting 1 more element would make the 
 piece more appealing, satisfying, even beautiful rather than more 
 ugly; artist achieved maximum ugly effect efficiently and 

Once the artist has made their point, they don’t need to keep making it. For example, one entry used plastic trolls to create a sense of Ugly. There were over 20 on the necklace, but in their particular design, 6 or 8 were probably sufficient to make the point. The additional trolls served no other purpose in this piece. Just throwing in a lot of ugly pieces doesn’t necessarily result in something that is uglier. The additional trolls could have been used to make additional design points, but they were not. Instead they added a sense of repetition and disinterest.

A necklace of felted dog hair beads was a very clever idea. It was over 36″. No other design points were made, so an 18″ necklace of felted dog hair beads would have been as good as 36″. In a similar way, a very long necklace of cigarette butts would have been equally as good, or better if shorter, since no other design points were made.

9. Wearability (piece must be wearable; extra points if the wearing of 
 the piece makes the piece even uglier)

From a design perspective, Jewelry is Art As It Is Worn.

In other words, you can only appreciate the artistic qualities and sensibilities of any piece of jewelry only when you see it worn — as it moves with the body, as it conforms to the body, as it enhances the wearer’s sense of self, and the viewer’s sense of the situation and context.

In our contest, we set the rule that the piece has to be Wearable.
 This rule tends to make it more difficult to achieve “Ugly”, but we’ve had some clever submissions that succeed here.

Some examples from our entries:
— Peacock feathers that would fill the wearer’s mouth
 — An over-the-shoulder necklace that struggles to stay on the shoulders
 — A breast pocket strategically placed on the tip of the breast
 — Bloody teeth or a rotting banana peel meant to be worn against the skin

To the judges, wearability means that there should be clear evidence that the designer anticipated where the parts came from, and where they are going to, when the piece is worn.

10. The Poem (expresses artist’s intent; artist shows power to 
 translate intent into Ugly)

The poem must relate to the piece. It should clearly explain the artist’s goals and concept. It should detail the artist’s strategies for making the design choices she or he did.

The judges ask themselves, given what the artist wrote in the poem, to what degree have they successfully created an ugly piece of jewelry?

Your Turn

Use the scoring sheets below to evaluate UGLY NECKLACE #1 and UGLY NECKLACE #2 and UGLY NECKLACE #3.

Or even try your own hand at designing an Ugly Necklace. Can you do it?

UGLY NECKLACE #1: Brings Me To Tears

UGLY NECKLACE #2: Oooh! It Smells!

UGLY NECKLACE #3: Venerable Spirits

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Design Philosophy: Not Craft, Not Art, But Design

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

Creativity: How Do You Get It? How Do You Enhance It?

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form, Theme: Creating Something Out Of Nothing

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

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

Deeb, Margie. The Beader’s Guide To Jewelry Design: A Beautiful 
 Exploration of Unity, Balance, Color & More. NY: Lark Jewelry & 
 Beading, 2014.

The International Ugly Necklace Contest, sponsored by Warren Feld Jewelry, Land of Odds, Be Dazzled Beads, LearnToBead.net. As referenced:

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I hope you found this article useful.

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

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

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Doubt / Self-Doubt: 8 Major Pitfalls For Designers… And What To Do About Them

Posted by learntobead on September 6, 2020

Practice-By-Design Series

Warren Feld at work, around 2010

For the novice, all that excitement at the beginning, when thinking about designing things, sometimes collides with a wall of developing self-doubt. It’s not easy to quiet a doubt.

The designer organizes their life around an inspiration. There is some fuzziness here. That inspiration has some elements of ideas, but not necessarily crystal clear ones. That inspiration has some elements of emotions — it makes you feel something — but not necessarily something you can put into words or images or fully explain. You then need to translate this fuzzy inspiration into materials, into techniques, into color, into arrangements, into a coherent whole.

You start to create something, but realize you don’t know how to do it. But you want to do it, and do it now. However, to pick up the needed skills, you realize you can’t learn things all at once. You can’t do everything you want to do all at once. That initial excitement often hits a wall. Things take time to learn. There are a lot of trial and error moments, with a lot of errors. Pieces break. Projects don’t gel. Combining colors and other design elements feels very awkward. Silhouettes or structural layouts are confusing. You might get the right shape for your piece, but it is difficult to get the right movement, drape and flow, without compromising that shape. Or you might get the right placement of objects, but difficult to get everything into the frame, without compromising the placements. Things take time to do.

To add to this stress and strain, you need to show your designs off. You might want someone to like it. To want it. To need it. To buy it. To wear or use it. To wear or use it more than once. To wear or use it often. To exhibit it. To collect it. To publicize it. And how will all these other people recognize your creative spark, and your abilities to translate that spark into a wonderful, beautiful, functional design, appropriate for the wearer or user and appropriate for the situation? Things need to be shared.

Frequently, because of all this, the designer experiences some sense of doubt and self-doubt. Some paralysis. Can’t get started. Can’t finish something. Wondering why they became a designer in the first place.

Doubt holds you back from seizing your opportunities.

It makes getting started or finishing things harder than they need to be.

It adds uncertainty.

It makes you question yourself.

It blocks your excitement, perhaps diminishing it.

While sometimes doubt and self-doubt can be useful in forcing you to think about and question your choices, it mostly holds you back.

Having doubt and self-doubt is common among all artistic types. What becomes important is how to manage, channel and overcome it, so that doubts do not get in the way of your creative process and disciplinary development.


There are 8 major ways in which designers get caught beginning to fall into that abyss we call self-doubt:

1) What If I’m Not Creative Enough or Original Enough or Cannot Learn or Master or Don’t Know a Particular Technique?

2) What If No One Likes What I Make?

3) What If No One Takes Me Seriously As An Artist And Designer?

4) I Overthink Things and Am A Bit of a Perfectionist.

5) How Can I Stay Inspired?

6) Won’t People Steal My Work?

7) Being Over Confident or Under Confident

8) Role Confusion

1. What If I’m Not Creative Enough or Original Enough or Cannot Learn or Master or Don’t Know a Particular Technique?

Everyone has some creativity baked into their being. It is a matter of developing your way of thinking and doing so that you can apply it. This takes time.

So does originality. Originality is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Originality grows in stages. At first, you’ll try different ways of personalizing projects. There are always things you can do to bring some aspects of originality to your pieces. This might be the choice of colors, or using a special component or object, or rearranging some elements in your composition. Again, as with creativity, the ability to be more and more original will evolve over time. It is helpful to think of originality, not necessarily as coming up with something completely new, but rather as differentiation — how you differentiate yourself from other designers.

For almost everyone, you don’t begin your design career at the height of your levels of creativity and originality. Yes, if you look around you, other people are more creative and original than you or have more skills than you. Don’t let these observations be a barrier to your own development as a designer. You get there through persistence and hard work. You handle your inner critic. You may not be there, yet — the key word here is yet. But you will be.

2. What If No One Likes What I Make?

We all have fears about how our creativity and originality are going to be evaluated and judged. We project our self-doubts to the doubts we think we see and feel from others. What if no one wants to wear my pieces, or buy my works, or use my projects?

We can’t let these outsider reactions dictate our lives and creative selves. A key part of successful design is learning how to introduce what we do publicly. At the least, it is the core nature of the things we create that they are to be worn on the body. Design is a very public thing.

Turn negative comments into positive ideas, motivators, insights, explorations. Allow yourself some give and take, some needs to step back awhile, some needs to tweak. Design is an iterative processes. It in no way is linear. Your outcomes and their success are more evolutionary, than guaranteed.

Distressing about what others may think of your work can be very damaging to your self-esteem. It can amplify your worries. Don’t go there.

Don’t become your worst critic.

3. What If No One Takes Me Seriously As An Artist And Designer?

Design is an occupation in search of a profession. You will find that a lot of people won’t recognize your passion and commitment. They may think anyone can design. They may think of design as a craft or some subset of art, not as something unique and important in and of itself. They may wonder how you can make a living at this.

The bottom line: if you don’t take yourself seriously as a designer, no one else will.

People will take you seriously as they see all the steps you are taking to master your craft and develop yourself as a professional.

4. I Over Think Things And Am A Bit Of A Perfectionist

Some designers let a sense that their work is not as good as imagined get in the way. They never finish anything. They let doubt eat away at them.

Perfectionism is the enemy of the good. It’s great to be meticulous, but emotionally, we get wrecked when anything goes astray, or any little thing is missing, or you don’t have that exact color or part you originally wanted.

Go ahead and plan. Planning is good. It’s insightful. It can be strategic. But also be sure to be adaptable and realistic. Each piece is a stepping stone to something that will come next.

The better designer develops a Designer’s Toolbox — a collection of fix-it strategies to deal with the unfamiliar or the problematic.

Overthinking can be very detrimental. You can’t keep changing your mind, trying out every option, thinking that somewhere, someplace there exists a better option. Make a choice and get on with it. You can tweak things later.

Yes, attention to detail is important. But so is the value of your time. You do not want to waste too much time on trivial details.

Be aware when you begin over-analyzing things. Stop, take a breath, make a decision, and move on.

5. How Can I Stay Inspired?

Designing something takes time, sometimes a long time. That initial inspirational spark might feel like it’s a dying ember.

Don’t let that happen.

Translate that inspiration into images, colors, words, sample designs, and surround your work space with these.

Talk about your inspiration in detail with family and friends.

6. Won’t People Steal My Work and Ideas?

Many designers fear that if they show their work publicly, people will steal their work and ideas. So they stop designing.

Yet design is a very communicative process which requires introducing your work publicly. If you are not doing this, then you are creating simple sculptures or paintings, not designed work.

Yes, other people may copy your work and co-opt your ideas. See this source of doubt as an excuse. It is a self-imposed, but unnecessary, barrier we might impose to prevent us from experiencing that excitement as a designer. Other people will never be able to copy your design prowess — how you translate inspiration into a finished piece. That is unique and special to you, and why the general public responds positively to you and your work.

7. Over Confidence can blind you to the things you need to be doing and learning, and Under Confidence can hinder your development as a designer.

Too often, we allow under confidence to deter us from the design tasks at hand. We always question our lack of ability and technical prowess for accomplishing the necessary tasks at hand. It is important, however, to believe in yourself. To believe that you can work things out when confronted with unfamiliar or problematic situations. It is important to develop your skills for thinking like a designer. Fluency. Flexibility. Originality. There is a vocabulary to learn. Techniques to learn. Strategies to learn. These develop over time with practice and experience. You need to believe in your abilities to develop as a designer over time.

With over confidence comes a naivete. You close off the wisdom to listen to what others have to say or offer. You stunt your development as an designer. You overlook important factors about materials and techniques to the detriment of your final designs and products. You close yourself off to doubt and self-doubt, which is unfortunate. Doubt and self-doubt are tools for asking questions and questioning things. These help you grow and develop as an artist and designer. These influence your ability to make good, professional choices in your career.

8. Role Confusion

Designers play many roles and wear different hats. Each has its own set of opportunities, requirements, and pressures that the designer must cope with. It’s a balancing act extraordinaire.

First, people who design often wear different hats: Artist and Designer, Manufacturer, Architect and Engineer, Distributor, Retailer, Accountant, Exhibitor, Marketer and Promoter.

Second, people who design have different needs: Artistic Excellence, Recognition, Monetary Gain, or Financial Stability.

Third, the designer needs to please and satisfy themselves, as well as other various clients.

Fourth, the designer constructs things which need to function in different settings: Situational, Cultural, Sociological, Psychological.

Last, the designer must negotiate a betwixt and between situation — a rite of passage — as they relinquish control over the piece or project and its underlying inspirations to the user (and the user’s various audiences), who have their own needs, desires and expectations.

This gets confusing. It affects how you pick materials and supplies. Which techniques you use. What marketing strategies you employ. How you value and price things. And the list goes on.

It is important to be aware (metacognitive) of what role(s) you play, what goals you have, what clients desires you need to satisfy, in what contexts your work will function, when, and why. Given these things, it is important to understand the types of choices you need to make, when constructing an object or a project. It is critical to understand the tradeoffs you will invariably end up making, and their consequences for the aesthetic, emotional and functional success of your designs.

Some Advice

While doubt and self-doubt can hinder our development as designers, some degree of these may be helpful, as well.

To develop yourself as a designer, and to continue to grow and expand in your profession, you must have a balanced amount of both doubt and self-doubt. Uncertainty leads to questioning. A search for knowledge. Some acceptance of trial and error and experimentation. A yearning for more reliable information and feedback.

Design uses a great deal of emotion as a Way of Knowing. Emotions cloud or distort how we perceive things. They may lead to more doubt and worry and lack of confidence. But they also enhance our excitement when translating inspirations into designs.

· Don’t let your inner doubts spin out of control. Be aware and suppress them.

· Be real with yourself and your abilities.

· Keep a journal. Detail what your doubts are and the things you are doing to overcome them.

· Create a developmental plan for yourself. Identify the knowledge, skills and understandings you want to develop and grow into.

· Remember what happened in the past the last time doubt got in your way. Remember what you did to overcome this doubt. Remember that probably nothing negative actually happened.

· Talk to people. These can be friends, relatives and colleagues. Don’t keep doubts unto yourself.

· Don’t compare yourself to others. This is a trap. Self-reflect and self-evaluate you on your own terms.

· Worrying about what others think? The truth is that people don’t really care that much about what you do or not do.

· Don’t beat yourself up.

· Get re-inspired. This might mean surrounding yourself with images and photos of things. It might mean a walk in nature. It might me letting someone else’s excitement flow over to you.

· Take breaks.

· See setbacks as temporary.

· Celebrate small steps.

· Keep developing your skills.

· Set goals for yourself.



(1) Henri Neuendorf, A Young Artist’s Brief Guide to Art World 
Art World, November 18, 2016
 As referenced: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/4-motivations-that-make- 
 (2) Drew Kimble, Five Fears That Can Destroy An Artist, Skinny Artist, 
 As referenced: https://skinnyartist.com/5-fears-that-can-destroy-an-artist/

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Other related articles of interest by Warren Feld:

Is What I Am Doing Craft, Art or Design?

GETTING STARTED IN BUSINESS: What You Do First To Make It Official! Design-In Practice Series

How Creatives Can Successfully Survive In Business? Design-In-Practice Series

“Backward-Design” is Forward Thinking: Design-In-Practice Series

Are You Prepared For When The Reporter Comes A-Calling?

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I hope you found this article useful.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by learntobead on July 16, 2020

lMy niece Dara and her bridesmaids

For years, I fretted. I worried, and fretted, and paced up and down, and down and up. I rubbed my hands in the way that worried people rub their hands. I shouldn’t go. I would not go.

To my niece’s wedding.

My only niece.

Of my only sister.

My niece who I had hoped and prayed and prayed some more that she would never get married. Why couldn’t she just live with the guy? Why marry? Marriage is an encumbrance. It’s an outdated, middle ages kind of thing that denigrates women under the guise of “protecting them”. They sign a contract giving themselves over to the man, vowing to obey. Respect. Follow. Bear babies. Cook. Clean. Even earn a living, if he can’t.

Yet the man keeps the power. His voice to God. Her voice through his to God.

Marriage. Not for me.

And I didn’t want to go.

Too afraid I’d say something or do something to upset people.

Because they would be there.

Those cousins.

And their children.

And their children’s children.

Too many of them, and only one of me.

But my cousins had rejected me because I was gay.

And that hurt.

And then that rejection became an idea of rejection and a symbol of rejection, and I thought how often in life, from when I was very young, to when I was much, much older, — how often in life had I been rejected for some label or category or reason having nothing to do with me. Rejected as a Jew. Rejected as gay. Rejected by friends. Rejected by strangers. Rejected by family.

So toxic.

Didn’t want to deal with this.

Preferred avoidance.

Thought over and over again what excuses I could give my sister.

I thought about this when my niece was 13.

I thought about this when she was 18.

Then 20, and 23, and 24 and finally 28, when I had to make a choice.

My sister and her family were very close to these cousins, closer to them in most ways than to me. Years ago, my sister used to invite me for Thanksgiving and for Passover. And she invited all these cousins, as well. She liked to give a party.

Partying with these cousins was too toxic for me, so I made excuses. Too busy at work. Things too slow in business so couldn’t afford it. Had other things scheduled.

For me to feel comfortable, my sister’s choice would have to have been “ME”, not “THEM”. I felt bad. I felt guilty. I didn’t want to put my sister in this situation. It was easier to come up with an excuse.

But year after year, the situation took its toll. Rejection — a symbol, but painful nonetheless. Not because of the act itself, but the symbolic power of the act to affect me — Rejection — put a wedge between my sister and myself. I did not have the self-confidence, and I didn’t value myself enough, to prevent caving in before this symbolically powerful act of rejection because I was gay.

And I didn’t have to deal with this as long as I stayed hundreds of miles away from New Jersey and Maryland and Virginia and Florida. Tucked safely in middle Tennessee.

The wedding was in March.

The previous summer, I decided I would go. Not exactly sure what changed my mind, perhaps a feeling of familial obligation, perhaps putting my sense of self to the test, perhaps wanting to try out all that good food and cake and drink specially prepared for the occasion. My sister plans the best parties.

I offered to make bracelets for all the bridesmaids.

I wasn’t just being a good guy here. Jewelry and design are at the core of my identity. The jewelry I design is the result of my choices. Choices about colors. Choices about the placement of lines, shapes and forms. Choices about the clasp and how to attach it. Choices about materials and techniques.

My inner being. On display. Irrefutable.

My choices have little to nothing to do with the label “JEW”.

Nor do my choices have much to do with the label “GAY”.

They are about me. A Designer.

Reflected in my jewelry.

And would be on display.

Accept or reject my jewelry.

And you accept or reject me.

On my terms.

My own terms.


My essence.

My resonance.

My jewelry.

This was my chance to shine. I was going to create a special bead woven design for these bracelets. Something frilly and girly for a wedding, but something also indicative of my style. Something that would not take too much work, but would look very rich and substantial.

I designed what I thought would be the perfect bracelet. A mix of stitches. Great looking beads. Had movement and dimension. But I was struggling to find the perfect color palette. The bracelet was made up of 4 colors, and a 4-color color scheme is one of the most difficult to work with — especially when it comes to beads, which are not available in all colors, let alone 4 colors which could specifically work in a specific color scheme in this specific bracelet.

While I was struggling to pick colors, Dara, my niece, had been doing a little online research, as well. She found two bead-strung bracelets on Etsy that she particularly liked, and shared these with me.

No, No, No!!!

My first reaction was Horror! Oh No!, she wants something bead strung and so non-artisan looking. Making these up would not signify to my terrible cousins nor to my good cousins, who I was all about. As Jayden, my partner, said, buy all the parts and do it quick. You’re not close to your niece, so who cares. But to me, although the work involved would be minimal — it would not be enough of a gift for the wedding.

Don’t get me wrong. These two bracelets were very attractive. They were just so out of sync with everything I wanted to do, and everything I wanted to accomplish. And I had to ask myself: give Dara what she wants, or go off in a different direction?

The question was kind of rhetorical. Of course, I’d give Dara what she wanted. But what to do. How can I construe, mold, fashion, arrange the bracelet to be reflective of me? Jewelry designer Me. Bead artist Me. Worthy cousin to be awed and ooh’ed over Me.

The bracelet Dara wanted was 3 strands of 6mm round fire polish beads in two coordinating colors which matched the color of her bridesmaid dresses. The beads were staggered in a V-shape like bowling pins, each section separated by a diagonally placed 3-hole spacer bar.

Bead woven spacer bar, with right angle weave sides and flat peyote top and bottom, top embellished with Austrian crystal beads

I thought long and hard about how I could make this general design my own. A few weeks passed. And an idea came to me. I could bead weave the spacer bars. I could alternate right angle weave and flat peyote to create a stable, rectangular shape. The right angle weave sections would be the two sides, which would allow me to build in the “holes”. The flat peyote would be the top and the bottom, which would allow me to build in a shape-supporting structure. I would embellish the tops of the bars with 2mm round Austrian crystal beads, and I would create bead woven end caps on either side of the bar, to give the bars a finished and polished look. Then I would use needle and thread to string everything up.

That was my answer.

It was a good one.

So, first, I set about coming up with the bead woven pattern for my spacer bars. This did not take very long because I had a clear idea about what I wanted in my head. What was not in my head, however, was how long to make the bars and how many holes each should have. And would they work in the whole composition.

I ended up making 5 test bracelets, each requiring 11 spacer bars, and each with some variety in the design or placement of the spacer bars, and in the attachment strategy for the clasp.

Now I had three key tasks finished:
 (1) The design of the spacer bars
 (2) The construction plan for the bracelet
 (3) The construction plan for attaching the clasp

Next, selecting the right colors of beads.

First off, I wanted to use 6mm round Austrian crystal beads, instead of Czech glass.

There were images of the bridesmaid dresses on line, but the actual color skirted that area between blue teal and green teal, and not every computer screen showed the color exactly. It became critical to the choice of colors, given some limited choices available in the Swarovski line in this range, whether the dress was more on the green side or more on the blue side.

My sister said Blue.

My niece said Green.

My sister was supposed to send me a fabric sample, but she lost it.

I mocked up 3 bracelets, one all blue teal, one a mix of blue and green teal, and one more green teal.

My sister picked the green.

My niece picked the mix of blue and green.

And my gut, from looking at the computer images, was telling me it should be all blue.


I went with my gut, and settled on all blue, actually a mix of capri blue and Caribbean opal.

Dara’s Bracelet w/Austrian crystal beads

There were four bridesmaids. I asked my niece to get their wrist measurements. One the bridesmaids had a very, very thin wrist. Would my design work for her? I agonized over it. The sections were very rigidly organized, and I’d have to remove a whole section at a time. Luckily, this worked OK.

The only other hitch that came up had to do with the availability of the parts.

In another color palette using Czech glass

I designed the piece in September. The wedding was in March. In November, I tried to acquire enough clasps and end bars for the clasp assembly, and found out that both the clasp and end bar I had chosen were either out of stock until the following April, or no longer manufactured.

So began the desperate hunt for these parts. The end bars had to be 22mm wide, or very close to that, with 3 holes and 3 holes spaced out evenly across the bar. Most 3-hole end bars were around 15mm wide. Found some in Israel, which while no longer manufactured, the supplier had just the amount I needed left in stock. Easily found a substitute clasp.

Then there were the beads. Again, I’m in November. The capri beads were out of stock from my supplier, and 2 of my alternative suppliers, but due back by December. The Caribbean opal beads were out of stock, and not due back anytime soon. I found a supplier who charged a little bit more for these, but got enough for my needs.


It was a few weeks before the wedding, and I was wondering if my choice to attend was the right one. Over and over and over again, I played out in my head what I would or would not say to my very prejudiced relatives. One part of me wanted me to be pleasant but distant. Another part of me wanted me to say something pointed and ugly.

I asked each of my friends, what they would do. I wanted so badly to be pointed and ugly. I was leaning in that direction. Of course, I didn’t want to upset my sister or my niece.

I thought back on the event that started it all. It was really so insignificant. An expected invitation never came. But I hadn’t planned on going. I expected to receive an invitation, however. Because everyone expected me to receive an invitation. We all had been planning vacations and things to do around this invitation. For well over a year at that point. We had been planning. All of us. When we were going to arrive, where we were going to stay, and what we were going to do. And while I didn’t plan on going, I expected the invitation.

I’m a firm believer that every few years, we each go through a life crisis. When we are babies, we have to resolve a crisis of finding out who to trust, and who not to. A few life crises later, we’re in puberty, having to resolve whether we’re still a kid, or some kind of adult. Several life crises after puberty, we go through a mother of all life crisis — what we call Mid-Life Crisis. This crisis is filled with anger, frustration, regret, disappointment, fear.

Eventually we come to terms with mid-life. That’s what I did. And then I had a sudden, almost primal, no, yes it was primal, urge to reconnect with my family. I had grown apart from my sister and father and brother. From my first cousins in Florida and those in New Jersey, New York and Maryland. And from their children, my new second cousins. And I was feeling the need to re-connect. Post mid-life I felt the need to re-connect.

And I did.

I slowly began to let everyone know I was gay. They kinda knew and suspected already. But I made it official. Pretty much everyone except my sister was supportive at some level. Eventually she got used to it.

I was invited to my cousin Michele’s oldest son’s wedding. And then, over the next few years, to some other weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs and special occasions. I re-connected. I was happy. Soon there were the occasional phone calls and emails. A few of my cousins sent out the periodic mass emails, and I was on their lists. I kept up with their newsy news and not-so-newsy news, their shared successes, their joys in life, and the every-so-often sadnesses. I felt included. Supported.

It was important to everyone, and you could tell, because they spent so much time doing it, to anticipate the next event we’d all attend. The next event was the marriage of my cousin Michele’s middle son.

It was to be a June wedding. I got a phone call sometime in April from my sister. “Did you get your invitation yet?” And a day later, from my cousin Leslie. “Did you get your invitation yet?” And obviously the answer was, No! Not yet. I kept checking the mail for several days, and then it began to dawn on me that I wasn’t invited. I wasn’t going to be invited. And if not getting invited to an event that I wasn’t planning on going to wasn’t enough of a jolt and shock, both my cousins Michele and Paulette dropped me from their almost daily mass email lists.

I was person non-grata. Why?

I asked myself, Why?

And I asked some cousins, Why?

And it became known that the Why was because I was gay.

And that was that.

Excluded again.

Of course, I wanted my sister to make the choice not to go.

She went.

And that put a wedge in our relationship that never really healed, because it was irreconcilable.

And I got very depressed for a few months afterwards.

And this what otherwise would have been a little incidental event, over the years, took on more and more negative meanings for me. I think of the event, and I also think of all times I struggled for acceptance and inclusion as a Jew. I think of my sister, and I also think of all the times I struggled for acceptance and inclusion as a Jew. I think of how my parents, in the face of all the times I struggled for acceptance and inclusion as a Jew and was physically or emotionally punished by the powers that be for trying to step outside this imposed boundary referred to as “Jew”, looking the other way. Pretending there were no issues. Telling me over and over again that I lived in a Christian world and had to accept that fact. Accept lower grades just because I was Jewish. Accept exclusion from student activities just because I was Jewish. Accept the fact that I couldn’t play with my friends who went to the local country club, accept the fact that I had difficulty getting dates with Christian girls, except when they wanted me to show up on their doorsteps and shove this “Jewish thing, monstrosity” into their parents face, even accept the fact that barely a day went by without someone accusing me of killing Christ.

And you can see where all this goes. Getting rejected as gay brought up deeper feelings of getting rejected as a Jew.

So I wasn’t invited to a wedding. So my relationship with my sister and her family never became close — at least for a long while. So I no longer kept up with my cousins and second cousins and all their offspring. So I had some issues with my parents and my school and the dominant Christian culture. That’s largely behind me. Not an obsession. But the oncoming wedding of my sister’s daughter forced me to focus on these things again.

Thank God the wedding only lasted a weekend.

True to form, my sister threw a grand event people are probably still talking about.

In the few months leading up to the wedding, I concentrated on designing the bridesmaids bracelets. As I determined how I would make the pieces my own, I got very excited. I developed a very clever and professional way to bead weave the 3-hole separator bars. I combined Right Angle Weave and Flat Peyote, using the structural and inherent properties of each in a strategic way. This allowed be to create holes in the sides through when to thread the strands, and structural support to allow the bars to keep their shape.

I kept thinking that, while the bridesmaids would find the bracelets appealing and desirable, they would never appreciate the amount of thought, work and insight involved in their construction. So, I decided I would later turn this piece into a kit and a workshop. This piece was a great example of my evolving ideas and writings about the architectural bases of bead weaving stitches.

Dara’s bracelet in Czech glass

The wedding itself was beautiful, and went off without a hitch. The food was terrific. The location romantic. The flowers and bridal gown beautiful. There were over 200 guests. And about 60 of those I was trying to avoid.

I arrived a day earlier. One of my cousins, whom I do speak with occasionally, arrived at the airport at the same time. After we checked in at our hotel, we went to lunch and unloaded about all the relatives. She and I have similar opinions about these people.

In the late afternoon, I stopped by the Bridal Suite, where they had set up to greet guests arriving early and staying at the hotel. You walked into the equivalent of a living room. Off to the left were a bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom. Off to the right were a dining room and an outdoor patio. It was in the 30’s and wet and snowy, so no one went out there.

As more and more people gathered in the Suite, I found myself talking to some folks in the dining room. And then, one by one, two by two, three by three, these cousins I wanted to avoid started filling up the center room. And I found myself backing up against the far dining room wall, seemingly pushing myself into the wall and through it, or so it felt to me. My mind left the room and merged into the wall. I desperately looked for an opening where I could run through the living room and out the door. But more and more people came flooding in. I was having trouble catching my breath, slowly going into panic.

At last, an opening. I escaped. Hyperventilating. I went up to my room, and waited until I regained some composure. My panic attack had run its course.

Twenty minutes later, I returned to the Bridal Suite, bridesmaids bracelets in hand. I had put each into its own jewelry box, with the name of the bridesmaid written on a card in each box. They were going to take the bridal pictures in the morning, and I wanted to be sure they were wearing their bracelets. And I secretly wanted a lot of these people crowding this Bridal Suite to get a glimpse of what I had made.

As I had thought, they loved the bracelets — they were beautiful — but were clueless about design. That “full” feedback is so very important to me, but often missing.

Luckily the colors of the bracelet perfectly matched the dresses.

My job was done.

Dara’s bracelet, different palette, Czech glass

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

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

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS video tutorial.

Add your name to my email list.

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Posted by learntobead on June 28, 2020

“28 Coins Necklace”, FELD, 2010

One 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?


Planar Relationships refers to the degree the piece is not disorienting to the viewer, or particularly confusing in terms of what is up and what is down, or what is left and what is right.

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, especially, 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 1: Asymmetric Earrings

How can a person truly pull off wearing only one earring, or two very different earrings, one on each ear? 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 2: Asymmetric Necklace

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?

With jewelry, asymmetry is a trend the pops up everyso often. In theory, it feels new, different, cool. It allows the wearer to assert a level of individuality and spirit. In practice, it can be awkward, but can be pulled off. As designers, when we want to achieve asymmetry, we have to fight off the brain’s natural tendency to want harmony and balance, thus symmetry.

The easiest way to achieve this is to use other environmental clues — hair styles, clothing styles, patterns in fabric — to assist. We can also play with things like volume, mass and color proportions, where both sides of a piece are visually different, but equal in either total volume, total mass or total color proportions, as if the piece of jewelry were a surrogate balance scale.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Best Way To Thread Your Needle

Bead Stringing With Needle and Thread

Beading Threads vs. Bead Cord

Turning Silver and Copper Metals Black: Some Oxidizing Techniques

Color Blending; A Management Approach

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

When Choosing Colors Has You Down, Check Out The Magic Of Simultaneity Effects

The Color Effects of Threads

Wax, Wax, Wax

When You Attend A Bead Show…

When Your Cord Doesn’t Come With A Needle…What You Can Do

Duct Tape Your Pliers

What To Know About Gluing Rhinestones

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

How Does The Jewelry Designer Make Asymmetry Work?

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Changing Careers: From Health Care to Jewelry Design

Posted by learntobead on June 19, 2020

For many people, jewelry design is a career choice that comes later in life. You work hard, continually frustrated or disappointed or unsatisfied in your current job. And you reach a point where you want to find something — a job or hobby or avocation — that makes you happy. That gives you a personal sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. You want to make a change.

That’s what happened to me.

I had been in the health care field for over 25 years. I never really liked health care as a field, but it paid a lot, it was a big source of status and power for me, and I did very well. I reached a point where I was near the top of my field, and no longer could push myself to take the next step.

Money had been one of my prime motivators. But that was less important to me now. I had traveled a lot, had lots of stuff and collectibles, a $10,000 wardrobe of the finest clothes and shoes. Except for the travel, I didn’t care about much of these things anymore.

Proving myself to myself had been another motivator. And I had proved myself to myself. I had accomplished some Herculean tasks and projects, under difficult conditions, with good and not so good people. And, though I hate to say it, I didn’t care about promoting health care and health care access anymore. I had done my part thoroughly and thoroughly well. It was time for someone else to take over these reigns.

I was at the top of my field, and social relationships equated with work relationships. I didn’t have friends outside of work. Many “friendships” were shallow in that they involved the machiavellian maneuverings you have to do when involved with work. My staff were not particularly honest and forthright with me, unnecessarily fearing for their jobs, if they were. And while I was surrounded by people every day, and I talked with people every day, and I played and worked with people every day, I felt very alone and lonely. My social connections were shallow or political or discolored by events. A few years earlier it was fun and challenging to manipulate these relationships. But now I yearned for something more real, more personal.

My life was going to continue to wither on the vine if I didn’t do something more drastic. I had to stop my world, and step off.

I had grown up in retail. My parents owned a pharmacy. They put me to work when I was 11 years old. I did so well, that they never put my younger brother or sister to work. [Still a psychological issue for me, though this is for another story…..]

When I graduated college, I looked for a non-retail pathway, because the money potential wasn’t there, and the social status potential wasn’t there, the hours were terrible, and the stresses that come with the monthly ups and downs in business were unpleasant.

Yet “retail” was in my blood. I always envisioned having a little retail store on the side. And when I was ready to make my change in careers, it was retail to which I jumped.

It wasn’t one big jump. Rather it was a managed transition over a period of two years. I made deliberate decisions. I pretested each of my ideas. I assembled the funds I needed to get started. And I started small.

The retail grew, had set-backs, grew again.

After a few years, I evolved from a passion for selling jewelry to one for making it. A lot of things were trial and error, but gradually I began to define a philosophy of design and build upon some great ideas.

I’m very happy to make a living in the creative arts. And to have some of my income and success flow from my designs for jewelry.

I have to admit that my family and friends were horrified at my decision. The saw it as a come-down. Loss of prestige. A failure.

But that is not what it felt like to me. I was happy, motivated, and reconnected to the world.

It’s less money. Less status. Less opportunity to travel. But every day, I wake up and go to work at something I love.

Some final words of wisdom:

1) Be purpose driven.

2) Surround yourself with other creative people who can be supportive of you as a person and as a designer

3) Be a continual learner. Styles, techniques, technologies and materials constantly change. As do fashions and tastes. And there are always new jewelry designers to admire and gain insights from.

4) Always set aside some time each day for reflection and self-care

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Oy Ve! The Challenges of Custom Work

The Importance of Self-Promotion: Don’t Be Shy

Are You Prepared For When The Reporter Comes A-Calling?

Don’t Just Wear Your Jewelry…Inhabit It!

Two Insightful Psych Phenomena Every Jewelry Designer Needs To Know

A Dog’s Life by Lily

Copyrighting Your Pieces: Let’s Not Confuse The Moral With The Legal Issues

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Design: An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

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

Beads and Race

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

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by learntobead on June 17, 2020

One of the first times I noticed that some people were treated differently than others had to do with Miss Divinity Daughtry — an heiress. I was in elementary school at the time. Miss Daughtry had an estate across the Raritan River from my Dad’s pharmacy. She had been in our store a couple of times, but mostly she stayed on the estate.

She had just killed — that is, allegedly, just killed — another boy friend. In the same way as the first. Car accident. Hit the wrong pedal, or gas pedal stuck, something like that. Man dead. She walked away without a scratch. Poor thing. Bored with her man. Disposed of the best way she knew how — allegedly.

Her estate was very large. She had given some of it over to local communities to use as a park. I spent many-a-day at Island Park — hiking, swimming at the dam, playing on the swings, picnicking. Beautiful park. They held the July 4th fire works there. The land was flat and wooded — flood plain. The ponds attracted many ducks and geese. People loved that park. Though they didn’t necessarily love Miss Daughtry. Few knew her, but all knew of her.

The local police never arrested Miss Daughtry or charged her with a crime. Accident, they said. Convenient accident, everyone else said. No investigation, no trial, no examination of the car. The accidents both took place on Miss Daughtry’s estate. On her driveways. Fast enough to kill the passengers, but not the driver. In the same way. Almost in the same spot. An act of God. An act with God’s blessing. Poor little rich girl. If there’s a boy friend of yours you’d like to get rid of, you might want to try this at your home, and see if it works for you.

It was clear to all that money bought extra understanding, a bigger dose of empathy, a larger amount of believability, more room for magnanimity, and a two-faced measure of justice. Like the drama masks, a tragedy if you looked at the situation from one angle, and a comedy, if you looked at it from another. The rules, the culture, the daily behaviors of life — all work differently for different folks for different measures of wealth.

Whether you’re a Dodge or a Helmsley, leaving $100 million or $50 million to your dog, when you pass away, there’s a certain disconnect you often find based on class and income. What’s important to one class, is not to the other. What are appropriate behaviors to one class, are not to the other. What are measures of success to one class, are not necessarily understood in the same way by the other, or are not necessarily achievable in one generation. Economic classes can be very distinct, and each class creates many social and linguistic behaviors which serve to maintain these distinctions.

So, when Miss Daughtry, again, for the third time, yes, Third Time, had a car accident, while she was driving, with her new boy-friend as a passenger in the car, on her estate, as before, near the same spot, she was again not questioned by the police, or had her car examined. In fact, she left New Jersey to spend time on another one of her estates, I think in Hawaii. Her boy friend was hurt, but not critically so. Miss Daughtry, this time, suffered a fractured bone in her leg. Her driving skills were obviously declining with age. They should at least have forced her to give up her drivers license.

Miss Daughtry died at 81 years of age. One day, she collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath. Her butler watched her choke on food or medicine and did not call for help. She passed away. He was obviously ready to receive her fortune — all of it which she left to him. Although he was eventually put on trial for murder, the jury found him innocent. This was as they should have. When someone rich mistakes the money-grubbing of a butler for loyalty and devotion, society has no other choice, though this innocence is not necessarily as the rich of society would see it. Her obituary told of all her philanthropic works. I remembered her in a different way.

As far as I know, Miss Daughtry didn’t bead or make jewelry or any crafts. Her main hobbies were sexual exploits and mystical explorations. But had she beaded, she would have found beading, as a hobby, to be very expensive, and as a social endeavor, to raise many interesting societal questions related to income and class. Beading, with its upstairs/downstairs implications, mystical and sexual connotations, the potential dangers and thrilling possibilities that come with needle, and scissors, and torch, might have been something she may have enjoyed.

While beading attracts people of all income classes, often there are funny, and not-so-funny, “Upstairs/Downstairs” qualities where beadwork and jewelry are made, where beads and jewelry are bought, and where beads and jewelry are sold. You might assume that this doesn’t concern jewelry makers, but it does. You bead and make jewelry in a social context, and Upstairs/Downstairs tensions are very much among the kinds of things you must manage, to be successful.

So when Nancy, who is middle class, was riding in a car with Letitia, who is upper class, on their way to a beading workshop in the mountains, Letitia complained and complained about having less money, now that her husband was retired. She had to edit down her European tour, cutting out 3 days and 4 countries. She had to change landscaping companies for a less expensive one. Her husband wanted to sit down and come up with a weekly budget. Which meant she’d have to cut back her spending on beads — running about $150–200.00 each week. She’d probably have to cut this down to about $100.00 per week.

Nancy was counting down the minutes — minute by minute — hoping their trip would end soon. Nancy’s husband recently lost his job. Her family was overextended financially. And she probably spent less than $100.00 a month on beads. All Letitia’s talk was making Nancy feel more and more uncomfortable. Nancy was ready to push Letitia out the window. “How will I survive the drive back?” Nancy thought to herself. They stopped to get gas, and Letitia asked Nancy if she wanted to split the cost of a soda.

Crissa points to a staff member at the shop. “Hey, you,” Crissa shouts, then snaps her fingers. “Over here,” she orders. “Get these trays out for me,” she continues. I witness part of this, but it isn’t the first time. I don’t think anyone on my staff likes to be finger-snapped at. All too often, some customers treat staff as servants. They aren’t servants. They don’t want to be. It’s very difficult to maintain a sense of dignity if people treat you that way.

And staff do respond passive-aggressively. “Here?” they say, pointing to trays not even close where to Crissa was looking. “Here?” again feigning interest and concern. When they arrive at the correct trays, they take them out one-by-one, very slowly. They don’t open up the lids. They take their time writing down what Crissa selects. And play as dumb and dumb-founded as they can. They will make Crissa wait and struggle and get frustrated. And delight in this.

Ernesta was another customer who was very haughty with staff. Her husband had been a special American ambassador to Japan. They had spent 15 years living a life of privilege in Japan. When they returned home, she picked up beading as a hobby to fill her time. She missed the people, the parties, the conversations she had had routinely in Japan. Nothing similar was to be had in Nashville, particularly since her husband had now retired. Beading would fill the void.

She came in weekly and, each time, spent hundreds of dollars on beads. She finger-snapped at staff. She asked questions which clearly showed her superiority, and staff inferiority. It came to a point where no one on staff wanted to wait on her. When she entered the shop, everyone found a place to busy themselves and hide. Several years later, her husband died. He left her nothing in his will. Nothing. She had little money of her own. But she had accumulated a bead stash worth thousands of dollars. One day she came into the store, and quietly, meekly, with pleading in her voice, she asked if she could bring back the beads a little at a time for money. Without hesitation, I said she could. But it’s unbelievably awkward each time she comes in. The thoughts going through my head, and what I imagine the thoughts going through her head — a lot to contemplate.

Neva loves to bead. She spends most of her time each week beading. She beads while she does the laundry. She beads while she prepares dinner for her husband and three children. She beads incessantly. Her husband works full-time some weeks and part-time in others. When he works, he gets some decent pay, but it’s never steady, and never enough. Neva works part time as a store clerk to support her beading habit. But she also has supported her beading habit with over $20,000 of credit card debt.

Beading and jewelry making are Neva’s ticket out of poverty. It’s a fantasy ticket to a fantasy island with fantasy riches. But at the same time, she gets to socialize with women who are upper class, who take the classes she takes and joins the bead society she belongs to and attends the same bead shows she does. She visits their homes for beading sessions, or meetings, or special dinners. She travels with them. She meets their friends. She shares their stories, their experiences, their excitement that only money can buy. Occasionally they buy her gifts, or give her hand-me-downs, which in Neva’s hands, are prize possessions. She gets to sell some of her jewelry at prices she could never afford herself. She feels she’s among friends. Among equals.

Sally lives in the wealthiest neighborhood in town. It’s not a stretch for her and her husband. It’s a place they feel they belong, and can easily afford. Sally discovered that she liked to design and sell jewelry. Marketing to her friends, however, has proven a challenge. First, she has to explain to them that, yes, you can make a piece a jewelry. A finished piece doesn’t magically appear that way on a store shelf. Then, she has to explain what “make” means. They assume that “make” means you fly to New York and buy it. Then she tackles the meaning of “design”. “Is that something that you can do?” they ask, implying that really no one makes jewelry, except a few designers whose names they can remember. And she dare not come across as if she has to make jewelry to bring in extra money. While money is not her motivator here, she has to subtly convey to others that she makes and sells for fun, not because she needs to.

Her potential customers in her neighborhood want jewelry. They just can’t make the connection between Sally, designing/making jewelry, and how a piece of jewelry would end up coming to them. Talk about hard sell! And Sally, bless her heart, when someone agrees to let her design something for them, she feels she needs to follow through, no matter what the request. Getting these people to make a request is so fraught with complications of life and meanings, she dare not say No! Even when many requests are unreal. Of course, they would be. Otherwise, they would just fly to New York and pick up what they need.

One woman asked Sally to make something that she could wear, when accepting an award for her horsewomanship. The jewelry had to match the horse’s colors — apparently, show horses have assigned colors — which she described as the pink-rose color in a famous rose given to Queen Elizabeth, the navy blue of an insignia at the local Club, and white. She wanted the necklace to look rich and elegant, and complement both she and her horse. Aside from the fact that making something that is pink and navy and white is difficult, especially if you want it to be rich-looking, we had to find that pink-rose color, and match it with beads.

Google IMAGES came in very handy. We found the Queen and her rose and matching beads. We used blue goldstone for the navy, minimized the white, and brainstormed a great design. Sally was not only making a necklace to go with a dress. She had to learn a lot about horses, horse colors, horse awards, and what kinds of statements her client wanted to make, when wearing the piece.

“Do you carry plastic?” People inquire over and over again. “No,” we say, “There’s a Michael’s craft store across the street. They carry plastic.” I don’t personally want to carry plastic beads. Yet, everytime I say No and Michael’s across the street, I feel a twinge of class consciousness.

Often a customer will say something like, “Are you familiar with the clothing line — ‘Lily’?” And may continue with a related comment like, “Is your dog Lily named after this clothing line?” I sometimes wonder why they would ask such questions? Is she trying to establish that she is somehow above everyone who has never heard of the line? Is she more superior because she is familiar with the line, and others are not? Does the line, and its brand name, relate in anyway to the types of jewelry she intends or make, or the particular beads and findings she wants to buy? Does she think she deserves special attention or more attention, because somehow she is more “in” than “out” than the staff and other customers around her?

Or you will hear the questions, “Are you going to Bead & Button?” or “Are you going to Tucson?”, or “Are you going to take that class with So-and-So?” Each trip involves a great expense, a big time commitment, and shows that the “go-er” has big bucks to spend on beads and related materials, or instruction. And the answer “No,” to each question shows that the “not-go-er” can’t afford the expense, doesn’t have that kind of time, nor does she have a lot of extra cash on hand to spend on things or instruction. The responses to these questions range from, “I have too many beads in my stash already,” or, “I have to work,” or “I can’t afford it right now,” or “I’ve bought her book”. And one person feels superior, and the other inferior.

Class distinctions, even class warfare, is not an acceptable topic of conversation in America. It makes people feel uncomfortable. They feel such discussion is dangerous and divisive. They feel that any beader and jewelry designer, if their work is great, the doors will open. They don’t want to see how class status offers advantages, or even disadvantages. They think that design is design is design, no matter what the income and class situations.

Rather than pretend that class distinctions have very little impact on beading and jewelry making, the good designer should be sensitive to impacts of class, and how to leverage this understanding in the jewelry design process, as well as the business promotion process.

A Revealing Tax Cut

I remember in the early 2000’s, President Bush convinced Congress to pass a massive tax cut. The taxes of the top 10% of the population accounted for 90% of the total tax cut amount. Very Republican. Republicans believe in “trickle-down” economics, and this was the first time in my life that I truly witnessed and slowly experienced a totally trickle-down policy.

Now, as I wrote before, Beading is an expensive hobby. Our customer base is definitely skewed to the up-scale, but we serve people of all economic backgrounds. Before these massive tax cuts, the economy had been faltering. Severely. People were scared. They were cutting back a lot.

In the bead store, we experienced this in a strange way. The first thing we noticed is that our Saturday business dropped to near nothing. Saturdays overall are the busiest days of the week. We serve three or more times as many customers, and usually have the strongest or second strongest dollar-day of the week, on Saturdays. So, what was happening on Saturdays was very surprising and very disturbing.

The next thing that began to waver was our late afternoon business during the week. We would always have a rush after 3pm and through closing each day. Now it was very quiet during the week-day afternoons. And getting more disturbing.

This left us living on the weekday morning business. And we had been living on this for about a year. Before President Bush’s tax cut, this weekday morning business was beginning to weaken, as well. God, how disturbing can things get?

I was forced to cut out the equivalent of 1.5 F.T.E’s — one and a half (thus 60 work hours) full time equivalents, which meant three staff were either out of a job, or had fewer hours. Over the year, I reduced our inventory by over $10,000. I let a lot of things not get done, like the cleaning of our floors, or the replacement of broken light fixtures.

Our usual daily ebbs and flows were breaking down. In the mornings during the week, our wealthiest customers were disappearing. In the late afternoons during the week, our customers on their way home from work passed us by. And on Saturdays, our mix of customers, people who don’t work or don’t make a lot of money, were no where to be seen.

Then came the tax cut. And Trickle-Down Economics. Within weeks, weekday mornings started to get very busy. It took several months, but all of a sudden, our weekday afternoon business started to kick in again. And after about a year and a few months, Saturdays slowly got stronger, and began justifying what I had to pay our Saturday staff.

But Saturday business never returned to its heights for many, many years.

The tax-cut moneys never could quite trickle down to everyone on the bottom.

Like the Colorado River.

On the map, it reaches the Gulf of California.

In real life, it rarely does. The river beds goes all the way to the Gulf. The water often doesn’t. Residents and towns and farmers use up more water than the river carries, and it often doesn’t reach the sea.

The economy, the tax cuts, trickle down, the impacts and effects — — these all made sharper the class distinctions among our customers.

The upstairs/downstairs dynamic shows itself over and over again in the bead business. Think about Jewelry. People wear jewelry to show wealth, status, importance. People get competitive with jewelry — Who wears more, nicer, pricier? Who sells more? To whom? Which stores, located in which parts of town, show-case your jewelry?

People in different income groups shop at different times. Not often crossing paths. They shop for different kinds of products. They make different kinds of projects. They treat staff differently. And they treat each other differently.

Dressing For Success

I was shopping in Green Hills the other day, one of the better parts of town, and dropped off some packages at the local post office branch. I was standing in line, waiting my turn, and noticed how so many of the women, also in line, dressed in a similar way. And I began trying to analyze and categorize all this — it’s so boring to have to stand in line waiting, waiting, waiting. What better thing to do?

And I came up with the idea that richer people, when they dress, emphasize the horizontal. And, with further thought, I began to visualize how working class people, in contrast, when they dress, emphasize the vertical. Classes operate and dress themselves on different planes. Whether this is learned or genetic or any kind of universal mathematical fact, I don’t really know. But look around you.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems to me that wealthier people wear boxier cloths. They emphasize the shoulder-to-shoulder, and de-emphasize their breasts. Their pants line up with the lines going hip-to-hip, and de-emphasize as much as possible, the crack-to-crotch. Shoulders are puffy or padded. If big hair, it’s some variation of left-to-right or side-to-side, like that of Princess Laia and her “ear-muffs”. And if not, it is straight and close to the head. The necklace contour line is a gradual curve, from side to side, as it moves around the neck. The whole profile is as if they were presenting a door for you to knock on. Doors seem all-too-alike, plain, flat, and do not unduly call for your attention. Unthreatening. Accommodating. Asexual.

The whole profile of working class people, on the other hand, and I hope I’m not stretching the metaphors too far for everyone — humor me — is like a sharp knife coming right out at you. The breasts are pointy and pulled together. Hair long and narrow — pony tail, mullet, or Mohawk. The necklace contour line forms a “V”, often long, with large focal point. Pants tight and creased. Pants draw your eye to a tight upside down “V” from waste to either ankle. Sharp. Aggressive. Sexy.

It’s like staring down at a compass. If you were looking straight down onto the compass, that class of people who shower before work would take up the great East-West plane. On the other hand, that class of people who shower after work would run up and down the sharp vertical line running from North to South. Each class would reinforce their compass positions through style choices about clothes, jewelry, hair-style, and accessories.

There’s definitely a different body form emphasis in the way each social class dresses. You see it in the construction of the clothes. You see it in the use of point, line, shape and silhouette in the jewelry. So, it should come as no surprise that class consciousness, even class wars, should enter your local bead store or society.

Luckily for us, class distinctions in America are as much behavioral as economic. You can dress-up as-if, and dress-up anyone else, to fit in. You just have to pick up the subtle clues which show the boundaries between one class and another. That Great Chain of Social Being, connecting the low with the high and the lowly with the sophisticated in America, is not person-specific. It’s situational specific.

Income Class Competition

I have to listen to this several times a week.

“Why is she so successful?”
“Her stuff is Ugly!”
“Cheaply made.”
“She doesn’t even make it herself. She hires people to make it.”
“How did she get into that trunk show?”
“She buys all these things, and has all these things manufactured for her, and she doesn’t charge a full price!”

The “She” here is always someone very wealthy, has access to the “right” and “better” people in town, and probably owns a business and sells jewelry as much for status, as for making money. The title of “designer”, the fact of “owner”, and the visibility of the jewelry design business have as much currency for her (or her or her or her) as making a real profit, or creating truly well-designed and appealing pieces.

And my employee bemoans the fact that she works very hard at creating jewelry, but doesn’t get ahead. Her jewelry is prettier and better made. But everyone seems to want to buy “the other Her’s” jewelry. Her jewelry is for sale in several stores throughout town, but not the best stores as “the other Her’s” jewelry is. She spends days researching opportunities to sell her pieces, when opportunities seem to find “the other Her”, without effort. And my employee has to mark up her pieces so that she actually makes money at this endeavor, and “the other Her” does not. Or worse, “the other Her” has her jewelry marked up many times more than it’s worth, and it sells, because of the particular stores who display it — stores who do not accept just anyone’s jewelry, just those of wealthy women who live in the same part of town as the store owner does.

It is easier to compete with yourself, on your own terms, than with others. The jewelry business, with all its money, status and wealth implications and connections, offers different people different kinds of opportunities. There will be many people who won’t have the resources with which to compete. Realize that, accept it, and move on. Work with the resources you have and can afford. In America, it’s relatively easy to move in and out of situations with different income-class characteristics. But don’t get competitive by class status. Compete against yourself.

This doesn’t mean, if you are not rich, that you have to consign yourself to a second-status role in jewelry design. The sky’s the limit. Smart design, smart planning, smart management, smart marketing will take you wherever you want to go. But don’t waste a lot of time trying to tame the shrew in others. It’s a waste of energy. Stay self-focused.

The Great Equalizers

Although our wealthier customers might be very familiar with the 4 C’s — cut, color, carat, and clarity — they are generally clueless about most jewelry making materials, and even more clueless about the skills, techniques and strategies for assembling pieces of jewelry. And these are the Great Equalizers — Materials and Techniques.

There are no class distinctions when it comes to knowing what “gold-filled” is — few know. Or the differences between A+ and AB quality gemstones — few know. Or which stringing materials are appropriate for which situations — few know. Or which stitch works best with which beads — again, few people know.

So, Beading, because it is an art and requires learning a bag of specialized ideas and tricks, it has certain communal powers and undertones. People become dependent upon one another, no matter their economic class, in order to select materials, learn construction, and create beaded objects d’art, including jewelry.

No matter what the contradictions. No matter what the conflict. No matter what the class warfare. No matter what the personal conviction.

The Beads always win.

And that’s reassuring.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

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

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

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Posted by learntobead on June 17, 2020

Shawn and Jessica brought their two adopted Korean boys to the Korean restaurant. It was important that they immerse their sons in Korean culture wherever they could. When they finished the meal, they told their two boys to say “Good-bye” to the hostess in Korean.

“Annyonghi kaysayo”

Good bye, the hostess replied.

And a little sparkle was added to their lives.

Each month, Laura and her co-workers would clean up their Adopt-A-Highway. The work was not hard. The camaraderie great. The task important. And each month she returned home with a great sense of self-satisfaction. And some sparkle was added to her life.

The two little Guatemalan girls were fascinated by the Spanish-English dictionary. They stood on the side of the road, giggling with eyes very wide open in amazement. With the Atitlan Volcano behind them and Lake Trinitaria in front of them, they marveled at seeing so many words in such a small book — so many more words than their teacher could ever write on their chalkboard. And some sparkle was added to their lives.

Like other things in life, jewelry adds a little sparkle to people’s lives. And the jewelry designer, in many ways, determines how.

Sarah had never been to a large fabric store before. So when she entered MOOD in New York City, she nearly collapsed with excitement. She was shaking. Where to begin? Where to begin? She ran here. She ran there. She ran her hands along yards and yards and yards and yards of material. She found fabric patterns to compliment the line of jewelry she made. And some sparkle was added to her life.

Sue and Allan had made reservations for the Chef’s table at Dandelion’s eleven months ago. And they were lucky to get the reservation even then, but someone had canceled just minutes before Sue called to make the reservation. This was their very special night. As they were ushered into the restaurant, past one dining room, then another, past patrons enjoying their meals, and then they entered the kitchen door and were seated at the very cozy table. The Chef greeted them. Sue lightly touched her necklace, in a reassuring manner. And their night was as special as they imagined. And, yes, some sparkle was added to their lives, as well.

Aldia was on vacation, and the store clerk asked where she was from. I live in The Villages near Orlando in Florida, she said. They have 45 golf courses in that community! Do you believe it? she continued. I love The Villages. Everyone says Hello! to you. Everyone will love the beads I bought here. And there was a sparkle that came to her eye.

And as in other situations in life, the jewelry designer not only creates sparkle, but also must be very sensitive to how this sparkle enters people’s lives.

Jewelry may help people feel attached to their surroundings, Be more aware of themselves. Their status. Their situation. Their power. Their sexuality. Jewelry may serve to open up a whole new world for someone. Jewelry may signify how people may safely interact, and not interact. It may start conversations. As well as end them.

The jewelry artist designs jewelry. She or he selects materials to use. An order or arrangement is decided upon. A hypothesis is formulated about how best to assemble the pieces. And the hypothesis is put to the test. And hopefully the finished piece is more than the sum of its parts. Because it has to add sparkle to people’s lives.

The crazy black-white-brown-black-white-brown-black-white-brown piece Lucinda wore to the Latin dance club.

The silken pearl necklace which adorned Gena at her wedding.

The long, multi-strand necklace, with strong navy blues, and very large beads with almost mirror-polished flat surfaces that Paula always wore on days of staff meetings.

The very tiny hoops with simple 3mm crystal dangles that Missy wore every day in her life, everywhere she went, every time she left her home.

Jewelry adds sparkle not only to the life of the person wearing it, but also to the person viewing it. So the jewelry designer, in actuality, has to be doubly-effective with his or her designs. The successful jewelry designer has to be able to come up with designs that create sparkled “squared” — a double dose.

Adding “sparkle” is not, however, only about bright, sparkly things. It doesn’t mean adding glitz. It is not about bling. It’s some more subtle thing. Sparkle is something that wells up within. It is completing, reassuring, reaffirming, self-actualizing, reconnecting. It is a momentary oneness with the air, a breathlessness, a feeling so good welling up within you. A smile.

So, we must have some insight, some clue, some fathoming of how the person — whether the wearer or the viewer — begins to sparkle from within. What are they seeing? What are they noticing? How are they interpreting? How are they understanding?

How is their eye and brain working, when it interacts with jewelry, on a perceptual level? What is the eye and brain really seeing? What is it really responding to?

How is their brain interpreting what it sees? How does the brain come to evaluate the degree to which any piece of jewelry meets a person’s needs, wants, desires, motivations? For sparkle.

How does all this translation of lines and points and shapes and colors and textures and patterns and lights and shadows and drapes and flows and movements and silhouettes result in a sparkling from within?

The search for these answers is very much a part of what it means to pursue a sense of design. Otherwise, you will never truly succeed, through your jewelry, at adding a little sparkle in people’s lives.

Except in a random sense.

And that’s not good enough.

The Jewelry Designer Is A Conductor … Of Sparkle

The elements in jewelry, and their arrangement, play a song. These can be one note. These can be many notes. Or chords. Harmonic. Orchestral. Symphonic. Jazz. Waltz. Hip Hop. Cacophony. The jewelry designer needs to be able to hear this song in their inner ear as they design. Because they are responsible for the arrangement. And tweaking or changing the arrangement.

The jewelry designer is a Conductor.

Of sparkle.

Avoiding discord.

Sparkle Requires No Non-Essential Elements

The best jewelry — the most attractive, the most powerful, the most functional, the most inner-sparkling — are pieces within which there are no extraneous elements. Adding (or subtracting) anything within the pieces no longer makes it a better piece.

Here’s where many prospective jewelry designers trip up. Most try to over-embellish their pieces. If one fringe works, 12 fringes will work better. If bead-bezeled cabochons worked, 6 more will be better. They think if one sparkle is enough, many sparkles will be better.

And others are afraid to add more pieces, for fear someone will think they are show’y. They are afraid of too much sparkle. They shy away from asserting power. They are uncertain. If someone says one piece is beautiful, they wonder if they could create it again. Successful jewelry scares them.

These kinds of jewelry designers substitute more sparkle (or less sparkle) as a way of avoiding making hard choices — choices to find that parsimonious array of sparkle and conclusion which works.

And sparkles.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

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

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jewelry Design: A Managed Process

Posted by learntobead on June 12, 2020

Little Ghindia (tapestry necklace) by Warren Feld, with overwritten text, source, FELD, 2019

“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 trade-offs 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 craft-persons. 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 creator. You as an architect and an engineer. You as a social scientist. You as a business person. You as a designer.

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


Designers who are able to re-interpret the steps they 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 inter-dependency 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 inter-dependencies of all the various types of choices we designers make are clearest and have the most consequence.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Jewelry has shape, form and mechanics. All the components must self-adjust to forces of movement, yet at the same time, not lose shape or form or maneuverability or appeal. 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 wire-work will not keep from bending or unraveling, so you solder them. Visually this disrupts the dance you achieve with wire bending and cheapens it.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Something to think about.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Design Philosophy: Not Craft, Not Art, But Design

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

Creativity: How Do You Get It? How Do You Enhance It?

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form, Theme: Creating Something Out Of Nothing

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

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

I hope you found this article useful.

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

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

Posted in Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »