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THE JEWELRY DESIGNER’S APPROACH TO COLOR

Posted by learntobead on February 16, 2019

THE JEWELRY DESIGNER’S APPROACH TO COLOR

by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer


Abstract
Color is the single most important Design Element, whether used alone, or in combination with other Design Elements.    Yet jewelry creates a series of dilemmas for the colorist not always anticipated by what jewelry designers are taught in a typical art class.    This article reviews the basic concepts in color theory and suggests how to adapt each of these to the special requirements of beads and jewelry.   Special attention is paid to differentiating those aspects of color use we can consider as objective and universal from those which are more subjective.    The fluent designer is one who can maneuver between universal understandings and subjective beliefs when selecting and implementing colors, color combinations and color blends.  This involves managing the sensation of color light value (balance), the sensation of color contrasts (proportion), and the sensation of simultaneous color contrasts (context) among designer, wearer and viewer.

RETHINKING THE TEACHING OF “COLOR” IN JEWELRY DESIGN
You cannot paint with beads and other jewelry components.
I am going to repeat this:   You cannot paint with beads and other jewelry components.
When you take color class after color class rooted in art, they are teaching you how to paint.    You can’t do this with jewelry and beads.

As frustrating as this can be, you cannot ignore the fact that Color is the single most important Design Element.   Colors, their selection, use and arrangement, are believed to have universal powers to get people to see things as harmonious and appealing.   Color attracts attention.   A great use of color within and object, not only makes that object more coherent, it can be contagious, as well.    Using colors that do not work well together, or using too many colors or not enough colors, or using colors which look good on paper but distort in reality can put people off.

Designers can learn the artistic basics of Color concepts and theories.   They can reference this visual language of color to influence how they go about making choices, including those about picking and using colors.    However, jewelry artists who are fluent in design will be very aware of the limitations this artistic, painterly language imposes on them.    They will have to learn how to decode, adjust and leverage their thinking to anticipate how the bead and other related and integrated materials assert their needs for color, and how to strategically compose, construct and manipulate them.

Jewelry, unlike painting or sculpture, has certain characteristics and requirements which rely on the management and control of color, its sensation and its variability with a slightly different emphasis than learned in a traditional art class.  Jewelry is a 3-dimensional object, composed of a range of materials.  Jewelry situates, moves and adjusts in relation to the human body and what that body is doing at the moment.   To get the attention their jewelry deserves, jewelry artists must become fluent with color selection and application from their own disciplinary perspective.    We must understand color in jewelry as the jewelry is worn, and worn in a particular context or situation.

Beads  [here I use ‘beads’ as a stand-in for all the component parts and stringing materials used in a piece of jewelry]  are curved or faceted or otherwise shaped, and the shape and texture and material and dimensionality affect the color, its variation and its placement and movement on the beads surface.  They affect how light reflects and refracts, so depending on the angle at which you are standing, and how you are looking at the bead, you get some unexpected, unanticipated, sometimes unwanted colors in your piece of jewelry.

Additionally, you need to anticipate how the bead, when worn, can alter its color, depending on the source of light, the type and pace of movement of the wearer, and how the eye interacts with the bead at any point of time or positioning.   There are many gaps of light between each pair of beads, and you can’t paint these in.  The colors don’t blend, don’t merge, don’t spill over, don’t integrate.    You can’t create the millions of subtle color variations that you can with paint.

I’m not suggesting that beaders and jewelry makers be afraid of colors.    Rather, they should embrace them.  They should learn insights into understanding colors.  They should be inspired by colors.   They should express their artistic and creative selves through color.    They should use color palettes to their fullest.    They should recognize how their various audiences see and claim and interact with color.

It is most important that jewelry designers understand color, its use and application from their own disciplinary standpoint.   In some sense, however, the approaches of most bead artists and jewelry designers too often remain somewhat painterly – too routed in the Art Model.    The Art Model ignores things about functionality and context.    It diminishes how the individuality of the designer, and the subjective responses of the wearer and viewer affect each other.  In many respects, these are synergetic, mutually dependent and reciprocal.  The Art model understands the success of jewelry as if sitting on an easel, not as it is worn.

As a result, color theories get oversimplified for the jewelry artist.   “Value” is barely differentiated from “Intensity”.   Color selection focuses too much on harmony, and too little on resonance and edginess.  Color training too often steers jewelry designers towards a step-by-step, paint-by-number sort of approach to color selection and application.   The co-dependent relationship between Color and other Design Elements is downplayed and glossed over.    This is a major disservice.

So, I’ve tried to re-think how we could and should think about and teach “color” to jewelry artists.     Not easy.   Art and Design Theory suggests that, in order to teach designers to make good choices, we need to break down color concepts and theories into teachable and digestible groups of skills.    And then show how the next set of skills builds upon the first.

We need to show jewelry artists what kinds of color choices they will be making as they create pieces of jewelry, and then put them in situations where they are forced to make these kinds of choices.     We need to think of colors as “building blocks”, and the process of using colors, as one of creative construction.   Creative construction requires focusing on how color (and multiple colors) is (are) sensed, and sensed by various audiences which include the artist him- or herself, and the wearer and the viewer, and the exhibitor, collector, and the seller, if need be.

So, that’s where I’ll begin with color:   Delineating the types of choices that the jewelry artist needs to make, starting with choices about picking colors.

Picking Colors
As a design element, color is used to attract attention.   It aids in grouping some objects and setting boundaries between others.   It can emphasize and focus.   It conveys meaning and value.   Usually color enhances the aesthetics and appeal.    Color can be used as an organizing tool and create segments, components, rhythms, movement, dimension and hierarchical arrangements within your jewelry composition.   Color can affect the figure/ground relationship of the composition.

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

Choices about colors based on our understanding of…
– Personal strategies for picking colors or finding inspirations for colors
– Color theories and concepts
– How the bead (and related jewelry materials) asserts its (their) needs for color
– How color affects the viewers of color
– The process for designing jewelry with color
– The situation or context within which the jewelry is to be worn

Part of picking colors is very personal and subjective.   And part of this is very strategic and must be managed.    That is, part of picking colors is about anticipating more universal understandings about how various audiences will sense and pick colors.     How do you actually go about picking your colors, and then deciding on your final colors for your piece?   What kinds of things influence you in choosing colors?   What inspires you?   Where do you look for inspiration?    Do you have favorite colors and color combinations?    Or colors and color combinations that you detest?    How do you anticipate how others will view and evaluate the colors you pick?

Choosing Colors is an involved exercise.     Most people avoid this kind of exercise, and settle for a set of colors that match.    But, in design terms, Colors are used by the designer to clarify and intensify the effects she or he wants to achieve.

What does it mean to “clarify and intensify” the effects you might want to achieve?   For example, the artist may use color to clarify and/or intensify any of these kinds of things…
– delineation of segments, forms, themes, areas
– expressions of naturalism or abstraction
– enhancing the sense of structure or physicality (forward/recede; emphasize mass or lines or surfaces or points)
– playing with light (surprise, distort, challenge, contradict, provoke)
– altering the natural relationship between the jewelry and the situation it is worn in (context, clothing, setting)

Color is the primary Design Element designers choose to express their intent, establish unity, create rhythm, set movement and dimensionality in place, enhance shape, make points, lines and planes come alive, and the like.    Alas, too few people apply this kind of thinking and make this kind of effort when choosing colors.

For myself, I know that as I start to play with my design arrangements, I also begin to identify potential color issues.    Designs are imperfect.   Beads are imperfect.  Colors are imperfect.   With each issue, I try to figure out solutions – other things I can do with colors to make everything work.   My choices begin with scientifically proven color theories – shared universals that virtually everyone has about picking colors.

In literacy terminology, this is called decoding. Then I begin to personalize my choices so that my results show more of my individuality as an artist.   Some of these latter choices do not necessarily reflect shared universal understandings about color, its sensation and its use.   In literacy terminology, my ability to move back and forth between the objective and subjective is called fluency.

Bead Choices
The bead – its very being – creates as series of dilemmas for the colorist.    And each dilemma is only overcome through strategically making and managing choices about color and design.
Such dilemmas include things like… 

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

Yet most people do not recognize or anticipate these kinds of dilemmas.

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


Designing With Color – Many Choices
The jewelry designer must be strategic with color, which comes down to..

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

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

Subjective or Objective Choices?
SOME TOOLS FROM ART THEORY

Many people are often skeptical that you can choose colors with any basis of rationality.     Choosing colors is intuitive, subjective, personal.    You can’t teach people to be better users of colors, because you’re either born with a sense of color, or you are not.

People seem to have cultural or social expectations about the meanings of some colors.   When Vanderbilt students see black and gold, they associate it with school colors.   When others see black and gold, they associate it with something else.    The same goes for University of Tennessee Orange, and so forth school to school.

If we are to be able to teach jewelry makers and beaders to be more scientific in their choices of colors, and be able to anticipate how their various audiences respond to colors, then we would need to have some objective rules, rules that refer universally to just about everyone.  Rules that inform people what colors are best.   What colors go together, which ones do not.   Rules that show how to manipulate color and its expression in perfect and predictable ways.

But everything seems so subjective.

When people see colors on the vertical, they may respond very differently than when they see these same colors on the horizontal.

Look at flags of countries around the world.   Many flag colors are red, white and blue.

If you look at France’s flag, you have red/white/blue on the vertical.

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

You frequently find that people might like a color arrangement in a vertical organization, but feel very uncomfortable, or have much disdain for those same colors, when found in the horizontal.

COLOR TOOLS AND THEIR THEORETICAL BASIS
Sensation Management

Color research over the past 100 years or so suggests that there are many universals in how people perceive, understand and respond to colors.   These universals provide the basis for several “sensation-management-tools” jewelry designers might use to help them manipulate various design elements and their arrangements within a jewelry composition.    Some of the most useful color tools are those which designers use to control how to make one color relate to another.     These have to do with creating and managing…

A. Sensations of Color Balance (Light Values)
B. Sensations of Color Proportions (Color Contrast)
C. Sensations of Simultaneous Color (Simultaneous Color Contrasts)

As jewelry designers, we need to know…

  • What these color TOOLS are, and with which we can play
  • What the special demands beads (and all other materials) place on our use of these TOOLS
  • How we can push the limits of these TOOLS to achieve harmony, variety and emotional responses
  • How Far We Can Push the limits of these TOOLS to achieve parsimony and resonance

Toward this end, we need to know a little bit about the research and theories these tools are based upon.We need to understand some things about perception and cognition.That is, we need to understand, as people interact with our jewelry, how the brain comes to see color, recognize color, and interpret color in context.

Theory / Research Underlying These Color-Sensation Management Tools
My favorite book on the research into the theoretical bases of these kinds of color management tools is by Johannes Itten [2] called The Elements of Color.    The most important theories about color universals for jewelry designers, as detailed in his book, include,

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

As a design element in and of itself, Color (and its attributes) are universally understood as if they were objective facts which comprise a visual grammar.  It is important to understand how to employ universal understandings about color.

Universality, in and of itself, however, is necessary but not sufficient for understanding why some color use draws your attention, and others do not.  Here aspects of subjective interpretations and reactions, given the context, have great influence.The fluent, successful jewelry designer should understand both those universal and subjective aspects of color.

The initial discussion below, however, primarily concerns itself about color as a design element – that is, as something universal and objective.

(1) After Images
The first research had to do with After Images.    If you stare at a particular color long enough, and close your eyes, you’ll begin to see the color on the opposite side of the color wheel.   So, if you stare at red, close your eyes, and you’ll see green.

I know you want to do this, so stare away:


So our first color-sensation tools are based on LIGHT VALUE.    Each color has its own energy signature.  This seems to be universally perceived, and perceived in the same way.

Some colors have a positive energy signature; other colors have a negative energy signature.   The brain wants to balance these out and harmonize them into some kind of zero-sum outcome.    Everyone seems to see after images and see the same after images.    It seems that the eye/brain wants somehow to neutralize the energy in color to achieve some balance or 0.0 point.      The brain always seeks a balanced energy in light and color.   The human eye is only “satisfied” when the complementary color is established.

[This is the basis underlying the various color schemes below. ]

If red had an energy of +10  (I’m making up this scale), and the eye/brain then convinced your psyche to see green, then I would suppose that green would have an energy of -10.   Hence, we reach a 0.0 point (+10 – 10 = 0).

Again, the brain wants balance, harmony, beauty, non-threatening situations.   The brain does not want edginess, tension, anxiety, fear, or ugliness.   So, when you perceive red, your brain, in knee-jerk fashion, and in the absence of other information which might lead to a different interpretation of the situation, tries to compensate for the imbalance by also seeing green.

And we can continue to speculate that your eye/brain does Not want you the designer to overly clarify and intensify, should this result in a more resonant, perhaps edgy, composition.   This takes you too far away from 0.0 energy, and starts to become threatening.   It might excite you.   It might revolt you.   In either case you would react, feel, sense the power of color, but maybe not in a more balanced way the eye/brain would prefer.

But all jewelry designers need to know, and this is important, that their guiding star is “Resonance”, and this can take you a little beyond the harmony the brain seeks.     Creating a little “edginess” in your jewelry can’t hurt, and might better help in achieving finish and success.   But creating too much “edginess” might strike too forcefully at the heart of our pre-wired anxiety response, and our brain will not let us go there.   Your eye/brain does Not want you to push yourself and your jewelry too far to the edge with color.  This countervailing force might create tensions with your artistic and design intentions.

The eye/brain wants balance, harmony, monotony.     Red and green can seem so much fun at Christmas time.    But if you put your red and green necklace on a copy machine, and took a photocopy of it, it would all look like one color of black.    Red and green will always copy as the same color and shade of black.

And that is how we perceive them.    And cognate them.   We see red and green as the same.   As the same color black.    And if we assign red a +10 score, and green a -10 score, the eye/brain is happy to end up with a 0.0 score.  This combination can be boring and monotonous.   Combinations of red and green can feel unified and appear varied, yet somehow fail as choices in our jewelry designs.

And it is important to recognized that if, your composition only uses red, that in reality, when something doesn’t balance off the color red, in this case, the brain will create its own after image – some sensation of green —  to force that balance.   The brain wants to feel safe and in harmony and balance.    Everyone’s brain seems to operate similarly so that this aspect of perceiving color is universally employed.

How far the jewelry designer should fight this universal tendency is up for debate.    However, when initially picking colors to combine in a piece, we might try to achieve this 0.0 balance score (thus, a point of harmony and balance), and then, by clarifying and intensifying, deviate from it a little bit, but always with an eye on that 0.0 – what anyone’s eye/brain is driving it to do.    We want the eye/brain to feel satisfied and “safe”, but as a designer, we also want to give the jewelry a punch, a wow, an edge.    There are many color tricks and techniques that the designer can apply here.


(2) The Color Wheel: A Spectrum of Light Values
Science and Art Theory have provided us with tools to help us pick and combine colors.    One tool is the Color Wheel.    With almost every book about color, there is a Color Wheel.   Some are more detailed than others.   Some are easier to turn and manipulate.    They all have different colors at the North, South, East and West points, but it is the same series of colors, ordered in the same way, color to color.

It is important to understand how to use the Color Wheel.  This curtain of color provides the insights for selecting and arranging colors that might go together well.   The color wheel helps us delineate what color choices we can make, and which combinations of colors might work the best together, to achieve a perceived harmony and balance.

The Color Wheel is a tool and a guide.   It’s not an absolute.   Beads don’t always conform to the colors on the wheel; nor do they reflect light and color in ways consistent with how these colors appear on the wheel.

Look at this color wheel:

Get some color pencils, and color in all the colors around the wheel.

On the Color Wheel, there are 12 colors arranged into three families of color.

The Primary Color [3] family includes three colors:   yellow, blue and red.     These colors present the world as Absolutes.  They are definitive, certain, and steady.   They convey intelligence, security, and clarity.

The Secondary Color family includes those colors you can make by mixing any two primary colors.   These three colors are:  green, orange and violet.    These colors present the world as Contingencies.  They are situational, dependent on something, and questioning.   They convey questioning, inquiry, risks assessed against benefits.

The Tertiary Color family includes six colors.    Each of these colors is a mix of one of the primary colors and one of the secondary colors.  These include:  red-violet, yellow-orange, blue-green, blue-violet, yellow-green, red-orange.   These colors show Transitions.   These colors are useful for transitioning from one primary or secondary color to the next.    They bridge, integrate, tie things together, stretch things out.   They give a sense of before and after, lower then higher, inside and outside, betwixt and between.    They convey ambiguity or a teetering on the fulcrum of a scale.

As you begin to pick colors, you will also want to manipulate them – make them lighter or darker, brighter or duller, more forward projecting or more receding, and the like.   Expressions of color are referred to as attributes.  Expressive attributes are the ways you use color as building blocks in design.   So, here are some important building block/color terms/attributes and vocabulary.


(3) Color Schemes – Rules for Balancing Light Values
Color schemes are different, universally recognized and proven ways to use and combine colors, in order to achieve a pleasing or satisfying result.

Good color combinations based on color schemes have balanced, harmonious tonal values – their light energy levels balance out at the zero-zero (0.0) point.    Better designers like to tweak these combinations a bit, in order to evoke an emotional and resonant response to their work.

Color Schemes, then, as represented in a Color Wheel, are based on harmonizing (e.g., zero-sum) combinations of colors.   Color schemes – like the split complementary scheme of violet, yellow-green and yellow-orange – are different combinations of colors the Light Values of which add up to zero, and achieve harmony.

You can place geometric shapes inside the Color Wheel, and rotate them, and where the points hit the wheel, you have a good color combination.    For example, if you place an equilateral triangle (all sides are equal length) within the circle, as in the diagram below, the points touch Yellow, Red and Blue.   If you rotate it two colors to the right, it touches Orange, Violet and Green.

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


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

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

Let’s look at the three most popular, often-used Color Schemes – Analogous, Complementary, and Split Complementary.

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

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

Split Complementary
This is the most popular color scheme.  Here you choose three colors:  a hue and the hues on either side of its complement.   For example, you might choose yellow and blue-violet and red-violet  (thus, the two colors on either side of Violet – the complement).   In this scheme, one color needs to predominate.   This scheme works well with both symmetrical and asymmetrical designs.  You can use an isosceles triangle (has two sides with equal length) within the Color Wheel to pick colors.

One thing I like to do with this scheme is arrange all my beads, then replace one color with one of the others, and vice versa.    Let’s say you had 20 blue-green (aqua), 10 orange, and 5 red beads, which you had laid out in a satisfactory arrangement.    You could change it to 20 orange, 10 blue-green, and 5 red beads, and it would look just as good.

A lot of people have difficulty using the color orange in jewelry designs, but find it easy to use blue-green.   Here’s a nifty way to trick them into using orange, and liking it.   Do the composition with blue-green dominant, then switch out all the blue-green for orange, and any orange you used for blue-green.

There are many other color schemes.   Some examples:

Analogous Complementary
.(3 analogous colors, and one complement of one of these 3).             Example:  blue-violet, violet, red-violet with yellow-green.

Triadic
:  (3 tertiary hues equidistant on the color wheel.)             Example:  red-violet, yellow-orange, and blue-green.  You can use an equilateral triangle within the color wheel to help you pick choices.

Tetradic:
   (Using 4 colors, a double complementary scheme).   Example:   Yellow-green, orange, red-violet, and blue.   You can use a square or rectangle within the color wheel to help you pick choices.

Hexadic:   (Using 5 colors).   Can use a pentagon within the color wheel to select your colors.

Monochromatic:   (A single hue, though with different intensities, tints and shades)

Achromatic:  (black and white and gray  (without color))

Neutrals:   (mixes of hues to get browns (or grays))

Clash:  (combines a color hue with a color on either side of its complement).

Example:   blue w/red-orange or orange-yellow

There are many books, as well as free on-line color scheme designer apps to check out and play with.

(4) Color Proportions and the Sensation of Color Contrasts
Just because the colors picked conformed to a Color Wheel, doesn’t mean that they will be successful within your jewelry composition.   It turns out that making color choices based on Light Values alone are less than perfect.   Colors do not occur in a vacuum.    They appear next to other colors.   They appear within a situation or context.   They reflect and refract light and shadow differently, depending on setting, lighting, and context.

That means, perceiving and recognizing one or more colors is important information to have, but not enough information for the brain to determine if the object is satisfying or not, or safe or not.    People do not yet have enough information to make an absolute choice whether to wear or buy a piece of jewelry, at this point.

This bring us to the sensation of Color Contrasts.   Colors appear together in different proportions.   This also affects the brain’s processes of trying to harmonize them – that is, achieve a light value of zero.

Another series of color research focused on the effects of color proportions.   These scientifically derived proportions show the joint effect of 2 or more colors, if the brain is to score their sum as a value of 0.0.   (Again, I’ve made up this scoring, but you get the point about reaching equilibrium).     The brain would like to know, not only what color it is, but what proportion relative to other colors, we have before us.

As designers, to achieve a sense of harmony and balance, we are going to mimic what the brain does when seeing more than one color – we are going to vary the proportions so that, in combination, the sense of that perceptual and cognitive zero-sum game is still maintained.

And again, I’ll make the point that not all compositions have to be perfectly harmonious.

Itten has a picture of the ideal and relative proportions of colors in harmony and balance.

Yellow to purple, 1:4   (This is read as “1 in 4”, and means that given 4 parts, 1 should be yellow and the remaining 3 should be purple.  )

Orange to blue, 1:3
Red to green, 1:2
Yellow to orange: 1:1.3

Choreographing Color Blending and Transitioning:
Playing With Proportions

ColorBlock Bracelet, Warren Feld, 2017   (playing with progressive proportions)

Every so often, you might want to create a rainbow, or some sequencing of colors, say from light to dark, where all the colors seem to emerge from the last, and bleed into the next.    This is much more difficult with beads than with paints for all the usual reasons discussed above.

A “Random” selection or placement of colors doesn’t usually work as well as selecting and placing based on some more mathematical formula.  “Alternating” or “graduating” colors doesn’t always work as well, either.    You must create a more complex, involved patterning.   You must choreograph the layout of colors, so that, from a short distance, they look like they are blending, and gradually changing across the length of your piece.

Monet’s Garden Bracelet, Kathleen Lynam, 2013  (using math formula)

One of the easier mathematical formulas to come up with as a way to choreograph things, is to play with color proportions.   Go bead by bead or row by row, and begin with the ideal proportionate relationship between two colors.    Gradually manipulate this down the piece by anticipating the next ideal proportionate relationship between the next two colors that need to follow.

In fact, any kind of statistical or mathematical formula underlying an arrangement will work better than something random or intuitive, when managing color blending and transitions.

(5) Simultaneity Effects and the Sensation of Simultaneous Color Contrasts
It turns out there is even more to how the brain recognizes and tries to harmonize colors.  Knowing (1) the color (light value) and (2) the relative proportions (contrasts) of color within the piece of jewelry is necessary, but still not enough for the brain to decide whether the piece of jewelry will be satisfying, finished and successful, or somewhat ugly, not buy-able or unwearable.

Some colors, when sitting on or near a particular color, are experienced differently, than when sitting on or near a different color.    The line of research we are focusing on here deals with what are called Simultaneity Effects.   Colors can be affected by other colors around them (simultaneous color contrasts).    Colors in the presence of other colors get perceived differently, depending on the color combination.

Simultaneity Effects are a boon to the jewelry designer.   They are great tools for such things as… 

  • Filling in the gaps of light between beads
  • Assisting in the blending of colors or the sense of movement of colors along a line or plane
  • Assisting in establishing dimensionality in a piece that otherwise would appear flat
  • Harmonizing 2 or more colors which, on as a set, don’t quite match up on the color wheel
  • Establishing frames, boundaries or silhouettes
  • Re-directing the eye to another place, or creating sense of movement

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


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


Existence of these simultaneity effects is a great piece of information for the designer.  There will be gaps of color and light between beads.   Many bead colors are imperfect, particularly in combination.    Playing with what I call “grays” [thus, simultaneity effects] gives the designer tools to overcome some of the color limitations associated with the bead.

Simultaneity effects trick the brain into filling in those gaps of light between beads.  Simultaneity effects trick the brain into believing colors are more connected and blended and mutually-supportive than they would, if separately evaluated.    Simultaneity effects trick the brain into seeing satisfying arrangements, rhythms, and dimensionality, where, without them, things would be unsatisfying instead.

A final example of simultaneity effects has to do with how people sense whether colors are warm or cool.   In one composition, depending on the color mix, a particular color might be felt as “warm”.   In a second composition, with a different color mix, that same color might be felt as “cool”.

Here the yellow square surrounded by white feels lighter, brighter and a different temperature than its counterpart.    The red square surrounded by the black feels darker, duller, and a different temperature than its counterpart.

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

Simultaneity Effects are some of the easiest things the jewelry artist can control and manipulate, to fool the brain just a little bit.    They let you bring in unexpected colors, and fool the brain into seeing color coordination and color blending.   They let you convince the brain that the color proportions are correct when, in reality, they are not.  They let you convince the brain to jump the cliff, which the gap between beads presents.

For the brain, gaps between beads – that is, areas with undefined colors, creates work for the brain, and is fraught with danger.  The brain has to actually construct a color and meaning to fill in this gap.  Without any clues or rules or assistance, it is more risky for the brain to jump the cliff, so to speak, and fill in the gaps with color, than it is for the brain to follow an easier pathway and simply define the jewelry as ugly or boring and reject it and move on.   Similarly, simultaneity effects convince the brain to look around corners, go into crevices, explore and move around the whole piece from end to end.

It is at this point in the design process where the jewelry artist must be most fluent, creative and strategic in using color.     It is primarily and most often through establishing, and then managing, the sensation of simultaneous color contrasts where the artist begins to build that connection between audience and self, wearer and resonance, the wearing-of and the context, coherency and contagion.

With Simultaneity Effects, colors begin to take on meanings and emotions.    These can be as simple as sensations of warm and color, close and far, approaching and fleeing, soft and harsh.   Or they can be much more complex, even thematic and symbolic.


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

With beads, the eye often needs to merge or coordinate colors, as it scans any piece.  And then there are the gaps of light between beads.  The eye needs help in spanning those gaps.   The Artist needs to build color “bridges” and “transitions”, so that the eye doesn’t fall off a cliff or have to make a leap of death from one bead, across the gap, all the way to the next.

One easy technique to use is to play with simultaneity effects.  One such effect is where gray takes on the characteristics of the color(s) around it.

In beads, there are many colors that function as “grays” – gray, black diamond, alexandrite, Montana blue, prairie green, fuchsia, Colorado topaz – colors that have a lot of black or gray tones to them.    Most color lined beads result in a gray effect (where the class encasing distorts the inside color).  Metallic finishes can result in a gray effect.

Aqua/peach lined Antique rose Teal iris

In one piece I made, for example, I used 11/0 peach lined aqua beads as a “gray” to tie in larger teal and antique rose beads together.    While aqua is different than teal and the peach is different than the antique rose, in combination, the aqua/peach-lined beads acted like a gray.  When close to the teal iris beads, the aqua took on the teal color; when close to the antique rose beads, the peach took on the antique rose color.   Gray colors pull from one bead, and transition to the next in a very subtle way, that tricks the brain, but does not disturb it.


Expressive Attributes of Color and Color Contrasts:
Important Color Terms and Vocabulary

Each color on the wheel is called a HUE.     Hues are pure colors – any color except black or white.    And if you look again, there is no black or white on the Color Wheel.

BLACK
is the absence of color.   We consider black to be opaque.   Usually, when people see black, they tend to see shadows.   With black, designs tend to feel older, more antique’y, richer, more traditional and solid, and seem to have a patina around them.

WHITE is all the colors merged together.    When all colors in “light” merge, you get White.  When all the colors in paints or pigments are merged, you get a neutral gray-black or beige.   With White, designs tend to feel sharper, brighter, more contemporary.

INTENSITY and VALUE.  Better jewelry designers are those who master how to play with INTENSITIES and play with VALUES.   This means they know and are comfortable with manipulating bright and dull (intensity), and light and dark (value).    They know the subtle differences among red, pink and maroon, and how viewers react to these.    They know how to punctuate – BAM! – with Yellow, and EASE – with purple, and CALM – with blue.

The contrasts between Bright and Dull or Light and Dark are not quite the same.    Bright and Dull (intensity) has to do with how much white, gray or black underlay the Hue or pure color.    Low intensity is duller; high intensity is brighter.    Think of a Stop Sign.   It could have just as easily been Red, Pink or Maroon.    Red is the most intense – the brightest of the 3 – and hence the sign is Red.   You can see red from the farthest distance away.    Red is “Bright (intensity)”, but not necessarily “Lighter (values)” than Pink or Maroon.

The contrasts between Light and Dark are called VALUES.  A lower value is darker, though not necessarily duller (intensity).   Pink has a higher value than maroon, because it is lighter.   Yellow is the lightest color; violet is the darkest.    Yellow has a higher value than violet.

Unfortunately, in many texts and guides written by Bead Artists and Jewelry Designers, they combine the concepts of intensity and value into a single concept they refer to as “Values”.   Bead Artists and Colorists often write that the “secret” to using colors is to vary “values”.     When they refer to “values”, they are actually combining these two color theory concepts – “values” and “intensities”.    Both are really different, so this combined meaning is a disservice to the bead artist and jewelry designer trying to learn to control color choices and color expression.

INTENSITY AND VALUES EXERCISE
Intensity Exercise:

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

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

Values Exercise:

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

So, as you work with people to create jewelry for them, you make choices about, and then manipulate:

– colors
– balance and harmony (distribution, placement, and proportions)
– intensities
– values
– simultaneity effects

Let’s say you wanted to design a necklace with blue tones.   If you were designing this necklace for someone to wear at work, it would probably be made up of several blue colors which vary in values, but Not in intensities.   To give it some interest, it might be a mix of light blue, blue, dark blue and very dark blue.    Thus, the piece is pretty, but does not force any power or sexuality issues on the situation.

If you were making this same necklace for someone to go out on the town one evening, you might use several blue colors which vary in intensity.    You might mix periwinkles and Montana blues and cobalt blues and blue quartzes.     You want to make a power or sensual statement here, and the typical necklace someone would wear to work just won’t do.

Let’s continue with some more important color building blocks or concepts.

TINT, SHADE and TONE are similar to values and intensities.    They are another way of saying similar things about manipulating color Hues.    TINTS are colors with white added to them.  Pink is a tint of Red.    SHADES are colors with black or gray added to them.   Maroon is a shade of Red.    And TONES define the relative darkness of a color.    Violet is a dark tone and yellow is a light tone.    Red and green have the same tonal value.   “Tones” are what copy machines pick up, and the depth of the black on a photocopy relates to the tonal value of the colors on the original paper you are copying.   Red and green photocopy the same black color.   They have the same tonal value.

TEMPERATURE.  Colors also have Temperature.   Some colors are WARM.   The addition of black tends to warm colors up.   Warm colors are usually based in Red.   Red-Orange is considered the warmest color.   Warm colors tend to project forward.

COOL
colors are usually based in Blue.   Green-blue is the coldest color.   Addition of white often cools colors.   Cool colors tend to recede.

Given the other colors which surround them, however, usually warm colors may appear cold, and vice versa.

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


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

 

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



To Reiterate Some of The Key Ideas and Understandings
The color research begins to open up ideas about how the brain processes color, and which of these processes might be seen as universal, and which more subjective.

The brain first perceives, then tries to understand the color as a color.    It senses Light Values.

The brain perceives, then tries to understand the color relative to other colors around it.    It senses Color Contrasts.

At the same time, the brain perceives and tries to understand the color within some context or situation, to gauge more meaning or emotional content.   It interprets Simultaneous Color Contrasts within the boundaries of a context, situation, personal or group culture.

The END RESULT is simple:
Should we consider the jewelry to be finished and successful?
Should we like the jewelry or not like it?
Should it get and hold our attention, or not?
Should we approach it, or avoid it?
Should we get excited about it, or not?
Should we comment about it to others?
Should we buy it?
Should we wear it?

All this perceptual and cognitive and interpretive activity happens very quickly, but somewhat messy.  Some of it follows universal precepts.   Some of it is very subjective.   Our brain is trying everything it can to make sense of the situation.   It tries to zero-sum the light values.   It has to take in information about a color’s energy signature.  It has to take in information about how much of one color there is in relation to other colors.   It has to take in information about emotional and other meaningful content the juxtaposition of any group of colors within any context or situation represents.

With any piece of jewelry, the artist and designer is at the core of this all.    It is the designer, in anticipation of how others perceive, recognize and interpret colors in their lives, who establishes how color is used, and manages its expression within the piece.    The jewelry designer is the manager.    The designer is the controller.   The designer is the influencer.   The designer establishes and conveys intent and meaning.

DECODING COLOR AS A DESIGN ELEMENT


A composition in orange and blue.

Art and design theory informs us how to objectively use color.    That means, there are universally accepted shared understandings and expectations about what makes a piece of jewelry more satisfying (or dissatisfying) in terms of choices about color.

So, when we refer to our lessons above about color use, and examine the orange and blue necklace above, we can recognize some problematic choices about color.

The first is about color proportions.      The most satisfying proportionate relationship between orange and blue is 1:3.    That means, for every 3 parts, one should be orange and two should be blue.    In our illustrated composition, the relationship is more 1:2 or half orange and half blue.   To make this piece more attractive and satisfying, we would need to reduce the amount of orange and increase the amount of blue.

The second is about color schemes.    Here we have a 2-color, complimentary color scheme.   To make this piece more attractive and satisfying as a complimentary color scheme, we have learned that one of the two colors should predominate.   Either we have to add more orange, or have to add more blue.

So, we have decoded our Color Design Element and we see that the proportions are less than optimal, and the color scheme chosen is less than optimal.    To make the necklace more appealing, and in conformance with universally agreed upon understandings about good color use, we will need to increase the amount of blue and decrease the amount of orange, so that we get a 1:3 (orange to blue) proportionate outcome, and we allow one color to predominate.

Let’s look at another example:


Composition in green, white and red.

First, white is not considered a color.   We can ignore it.

Second, proportionately, there should be equal amounts of green to that of red.   The relationship is 1:2, meaning for every 2 parts, 1 should be green and 1 should be red.    Proportionately, in this piece, we are close to this proportionate relationship.

Third, we have, in effect, since we ignore white, a 2-color complimentary color scheme.    We have learned that in this scheme, one color should predominate.

That means, in this composition, the current use of color will not and cannot work.  It results in an unacceptable and unsatisfying use of color.    Proportionately, both colors need to be equal.   Color Scheme wise, one color needs to clearly predominate.    We can’t conform to both universally-accepted shared understandings about the use of green and red in a 2-color scheme.


DESIGNING JEWELRY WITH COLOR
Always remember that your choice of color(s) should be secondary to the choices you make about concept, theme, arrangement and organization.    Color should be used to enhance your design thinking.    Color should not, however, be the design.

When we study color from a design standpoint, we think of color as part of the jewelry’s structure.  That means, color is not merely a decorative effect or object.    It is more like an integral building component which has been organized or arranged within a larger composition.   As a component, it is a “Design Element”.    Color is the most important Design Element.      It can both stand alone, as well as easily be combined with other Design Elements.  There are some universal aspects when color is objectively understood as an element of design.   As part of an arrangement, we begin to treat color in terms of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation.   Color takes on some subjectivity.    Its effects become much more dependent on the artist’s intent and the situation in which the jewelry is worn.

Color is used to express meaning and enhance meaningful expressions.   We use color to express elements of the materials used, like glass or gemstone.   We use color to express or emphasize elements of the forms we are creating.   We use color to enhance a sense of movement or dimension.   We use color to express moods and emotions.   We use color to influence others in sharing the artist’s inspirations and aspirations.

As designers, we…
– Anticipate how the parts we use to make a piece of jewelry assert their needs for color
– Anticipate shared universal understandings among self, viewer, wearer, exhibitor and seller about color and its use
– Think through how colors relate to our inspirations and how they might impact our aspirations
– Pick colors
– Place and arrange colors
– Distribute the proportions of colors
– Play with and experiment with color values and color intensities
– Leverage the synergistic effects and what happens when two (or more) colors are placed next to one another
– Create focus, rhythm, balance, dimension and movement with color
– Create satisfying blending and transitioning strategies using color
– Anticipate how color and the play of color within our piece might be affected by contextual or situational variables
– Reflect on how our choices about color affect how the piece of jewelry is judged as finished and successful by our various client audiences
– Use color to promote the coherency of our pieces, and the speed and extent to which attention by others continues to spread

Fluent designers can decode color and its use intuitively and quickly, and apply color in more expressive ways to convey inspiration, show the artist’s strategy and intent, and trigger an especially resonant, energetic response by wearers and viewers alike.

Don’t get into a Color Rut
And a last piece of advice.

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

————————————————————————————


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

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

Warren leads a group of instructors at Be Dazzled Beads (www.bedazzledbeads.com).  He teaches many of the bead-weaving, bead-stringing, wire weaving, jewelry design and business-oriented courses. He works with people just getting started with beading and jewelry making, as well as those with more experience.    Many of his classes and projects have been turned into kits, available for purchase from www.warrenfeldjewelry.com  or www.landofodds.com.     He conducts workshops at many sites around the US, and the world.

Join Warren for an enrichment-travel adventure on Your World Of Jewelry Making Cruises.

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

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

He is currently writing a book – Fluency In Design:   Do You Speak Jewelry?

_________________________________________________________

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

[3] In reality, the selection of primary colors is arbitrary.    The primary colors depend on the light source, the color of the background, and the biology of the color-sensing components of the eye.    We choose red-yellow-blue when referencing painting or coloring on white background, like paper.   We choose red-green-blue when referencing color placed on a black background, such as a TV or computer screen.   We choose cyan-maroon-yellow-black when using overlapping inks to create color on a white background, and better reproduce true colors.    We understand that the eye sees red-greenish yellow-blue-violet most clearly.


Color References Worth Checking Out
Rockport Publishers, Color Harmony Workbook, Gloucester, MA: Rockport Publishers,
1999.
Deeb, Margie.  The Beader’s Guide to Jewelry Design, NY: Lark Jewelry & Beading,
2014.

 

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Posted in Art or Craft?, art theory, bead weaving, beads, beadwork, color, design management, design theory, jewelry collecting, jewelry design, jewelry making, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CONTEMPORIZING TRADITIONAL JEWELRY

Posted by learntobead on February 11, 2019

CONTEMPORIZING TRADITIONAL JEWELRY:

Transitioning From Conformity To Individuality

by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer

    

Etruscan Collar and Inspired Contemporary Pieces

Abstract

Many people, jewelry designers among them, draw inspirations from traditional jewelry styles.   The common inspirational thread here is a feeling of connectedness, coupled with a desire to feel connected.   But the core issue for jewelry designers today, striving to achieve jewelry which is more contemporary than merely a replay or reworking of traditional preferences and styles, is how to contemporize it.      That is, how to construct ideas into objects, challenge history and culture, produce that which is in opposition to standardization and monotony.    Contemporizing Traditional Jewelry has to do with how designers take these particular traditional forms and techniques, and both add in their personal style, as well as make them more relevant to today’s sense of fashion, style and individuality or personal expression. The challenge for the designer, when contemporizing traditional jewelry, is how to marry personal artistic intent with traditional ideas, keeping the jewelry design essential and alive for today’s audience.

 

CONTEMPORIZING TRADITIONAL JEWELRY:
Transitioning From Conformity To Individuality

Many people, jewelry designers among them, draw inspirations from traditional jewelry styles.   These styles could be ancient, like those of Egypt, Peru, Persia, India and China.    These styles could be more recent, like those of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and Modern.    These styles could be primitive, like those of tribal cultures in the rain forests of Brazil or the savannas of Africa or the Native American traditions in North, Central and South America.

The common inspirational thread here is a feeling of connectedness, coupled with a desire to feel connected.    These styles strongly reflect particular premises, cultures, moralities, characters, and perspectives.    People not only identify and connect with these, but use these style traits – almost ideologies – to explain and position themselves within the larger social contexts in which they find themselves.

Traditions represent reasons.    Reasons justify everyday life.   These reasons are the conditions and shared understandings necessary to regulate ideas, to generate opportunities for success, and to minimize the risk that comes from making choices about what to do next.    Traditions justify thought and action, and because many people share these traditional understandings, living life becomes safer, easier, clearer.    Traditions help people to understand each other and predict their behaviors.  Traditions are often expressed within the designs of jewelry.

Jewelry, then, often signifies certain traditions through imitation or reference, and when mirroring them, reaffirms the wearer’s thoughts, actions, self-identity, and self-reflection.   Jewelry design which recognizes tradition feels more understandable.   It feels safer and less risky to say out loud that it is beautiful, knowing that others will think so, too.   It is no wonder that many jewelers resort to traditional forms and themes of expression, traditional techniques, traditional materials, traditional uses of color, texture, pattern, point, line, plane and shape.    It feels like a short-cut to success.

But the issue for jewelry designers today, striving to achieve jewelry which is more contemporary than merely a replay or reworking of traditional preferences and styles, is how to contemporize it.      That is, how to construct ideas into objects, challenge history and culture, produce that which is in opposition to standardization and monotony.    Contemporizing Traditional Jewelry makes sense because this mirrors how most people live their lives today.   They adhere less rigidly to societal and cultural norms, and moreso create their own.  Jewelry, and its identify-reconfirming role it plays for the wearer, should reflect this.

The contemporary jewelry designer who wants to incorporate traditional elements or styles in some way, must come to grips with…

  1. How Traditional jewelry differs from Contemporary Jewelry
  2. Why so many people draw inspirations and connectedness to traditional styles
  3. How literal the designer should be when contemporizing a traditional piece

 

Contemporizing Traditional Jewelry

Contemporizing Traditional Jewelry has to do with how you take these particular traditional forms and techniques, and add both your personal style to the pieces, as well as make them more relevant to today’s sense of fashion, style and individuality or personal expression. The challenge for the designer, when contemporizing traditional jewelry, is how to marry personal artistic intent with traditional ideas, keeping the jewelry design essential and alive for today’s audience.

This may be trickier than it might first appear. To what degree should you reference the traditional design elements in your contemporary piece? Just the colors? The colors and the pattern? The materials?  The stitching, stringing or other techniques? The structural components, as well? How do you break down the traditional piece, in order to better understand it? And how do you use this understanding to figure out how and what you should manipulate, as you design and construct your contemporary piece?

If you walked into a Museum of Contemporary Art, you would find some things that were abstract, but other things that were realistic or impressionistic or surrealistic. You would find a lot of individualized expression – works associated with a particular artist, rather than a particular culture. You would find a wide use of modern materials and techniques and technologies. You would find unusual or especially noteworthy assemblages of pieces or materials or colors or textures. You would find pieces that in some way reflect modern culture and sensibilities – fashions, styles, purposes, statements. The exhibits would change on a regular basis, and you would also find something new and different to experience and marvel at each time.

Traditional Art, on the other hand, suppressed individualized expression. Instead, whatever the art form, traditional art emphasized a restatement of its cultural narrative. That is, artists, working within that cultural tradition, would use similar materials, similar designs, and similar motifs. The artwork was a symbolic representation of that culture’s values and self-image. The “doing of the artwork” was a reaffirmation of one’s place within that culture. Simply, if you did the same kinds of things in the same kinds of ways as everyone else, this reaffirmed your membership within that group and culture. And if you visited a Museum of Traditional Art, there would be many displays of wonderful, sometimes elaborate, pieces, but the exhibits would never have to change.

Approaches To Contemporizing Traditional Jewelry

There are many approaches jewelry designers use to contemporize traditional jewelry.   Some approaches rely on mimicking traditional visual styles, techniques and materials.   Some approaches rely on modifications.   Still others seek to reinterpret traditional elements or introduce new elements into traditional designs.    And yet other approaches attempt to create a completely different aesthetic starting from some traditional core.

I want to develop a very narrow, legitimate lane for what should be called “Contemporized”.   I want to differentiate the thinking and practice that underlies Contemporizing, from other things artists do when addressing traditional design in contemporary pieces.

The way these different approaches get defined in the literature can get very muddied, so I want to begin with some simple categorization before elaborating more on ideas about contemporizing traditional jewelry.    It is important to know how literal the artist should be.    It is equally as important to know how much of the artist’s hand should be reflected in the new piece.

APPROACHES TO ADDRESSING TRADITIONAL DESIGN IN CONTEMPORARY PIECES
APPROACH DESCRIPTION DEGREE NOW FROM THEN IS DIFFERENTIATED RISK FOR THE CONTEMPORARY DESIGNER
ARCHAEOLOGICAL Preserving the style and techniques of historic artisans, characterized by attention to duplicating and mimicking period styles, craftsmanship, and materials. All about what existed then, and what should be preserved. No risk
HISTORICISM Imitating or recreating the work of historic artisans, characterized by attention to accurate period detail and thinking.  Very literal.   If new elements are added, these do not compete with or overshadow the historic vernacular. Primarily about what was relevant then, and what should be imitated or copied now. Very little risk
REVIVAL (sometimes referred to as CLASSICAL) Begins with an existential or sentimental romanticism of feelings about lifestyles, beliefs, imagery, symbols, cultures strongly associated with a particular historic group, society or period.    Characterized by use of traditional themes, materials and styles based on inspirations from the past.   Mostly literal with opportunities for reinterpretation and expression. Often emphasizes some contrast between antiquity and modernity, industrial and hand-crafted, power now vs. power then, then and now. Some risk, but does not create a barrier or roadblock to design
DECONSTRUCTIVE Here the artist begins with traditional pieces, components and materials, and breaks them up to form new pieces, components and materials.   The new piece results from the parts of the old piece, but that is the only connection.   Nothing is literal; everything is reinterpreted. Emphasizes the now, not much of the then. High risk
CONTEMPORIZED The artist imbues the design with inspirations from a rich cultural past, but creates a piece that has the sense it belongs in contemporary time.   Characterized by how tradition is leveraged to conceive new ideas and forms. Emphasizes the now, sometimes with reference to the then, but not really a matter of differentiating now from then. Considerable risk, where artist substitutes his/her ideas and values for those extending from various traditions.

 

Archaeological Approach

 

Zoe Davidson recreated this Pictish Necklace (circa 600 AD) using original techniques and materials

 

The Archaeological Approach seeks to replicate and preserve the original ways of making jewelry and the original materials used to make them.   The goal is to bring to life how things were thought about and constructed back then for a new contemporary audience.    New techniques, technologies and materials are not introduced.   There is a purity of belief in the traditional craftsmanship, norms and values reflected in these pieces of jewelry.

Often the Archaeological Approach requires years of detective work.   There is a sense of urgency to rescue the past before it decays or fades away.

There is an accompanying assumption that this is what people who make and wear jewelry want to see happen today.    This assumption seems to bear out because so many people express some kind of connectedness to these pieces and how they were originally crafted.    They draw a line from the past to the present, and the clearer and cleaner that line is, the more legitimate the present seems to be.

 

Historicism

Castellani Jewelry Company, Italian, circa 1927, reproduction of Roman piece to commemorate historic occasion

 

Historicism seeks to recreate or imitate the work of artisans in past periods of time, culture and society.    There is great attention to accuracy of period detail.     They might use new materials or modern equipment and technique, but these should never replace or overshadow the historic visual vernacular and grammar.

Historicism may draw parallels between the then and the now, but these are not sentimentalized or romanticized, as in Revival or Classicism approaches.    In Historicism, the emphasis is on thoughts and reasons.   History is presented as an analogy between then and now.   It creates a logical linkage.  Characteristics are specific and shared.  (This is in contrast to Revival or Classicism, where the emphasis is on feeling).   In Historicism, the past is presented as metaphor for now.   As it was then, so it is now.   It creates a meaningful, felt linkage.   Characteristics are not necessarily literal, but are to be interpreted and experienced.   Again, in contrast to Historicism, Revival styles (discussed below) more easily and powerfully evoke emotions, which is one of the primary goals of artists.

Revival or Classicism

Isadoras, Etruscan Earrings, 2015, created with the look and flourishes of gold, metal work, granulation, turquoise stones strongly associated with Etruscan style and culture, but befitting current earring styles, as well

 

Revival or Classicism approaches reflect the influences of pivotal fashion eras.    The goal in Revival or Classicism styles is to evoke a personal emotional experience, rather than something that is learned from afar or as part of an intellectual exercise.   The romanticized experience is like a call to conversion or rebirth, with a radical change in one’s sense of identity and existence.   There is a sense of a revived spirit in relation to the standard, dull, repetitive and boring jewelry seen all over.   Often revival jewelry evokes a reaction against modern technology, materials and ways.   Sometimes there is a call or push to connect the present day to some glorious past.

Revival approaches begin with inspirations from traditional themes and jewelry.   The past is felt as a simpler and purer time, where the individual was much closer to the earth and the earth’s spirit.   Inspiration is coupled with the natural curiosity of peoples around the world, their events, and their pasts.    The jewelry is not only an opportunity to express a personal identify and emotion, but a chance to explore something other than the everyday mundane and routine.   There is always this underlying tension of comparison and contrast between the past and the present, the current situation and situations faced by others, the advantages and disadvantages of modern life and antiquity.

The use of hand-craft, rather than machine-craft, is highlighted, even when the pieces are actually manufactured by machine.   Jewelry is defined as art-centered and artist-centered, one-of-a-kind, again, in spite of the fact that it is often machine made and mass produced.

Revival approaches often capitalize on the use of representative motifs and symbols.   These are evocative elements.    Often they are anti-Industrial.   As often, they are used to either impose or ease restrictions upon the female form and expressions of sensuality.

Deconstructivism

    
Pieces by Walid, for CoutureLab, 2009

 

Deconstructivism tears apart old pieces, and repositions all the parts into a new design.    It is a play on evoking those feelings of connectedness and recognizability in the wearer, but forcing that wearer to redefine or somehow rethink those feelings in terms meaningful for this individual and at the moment or within a context.

Deconstructivism anticipates the shared understandings of its various audiences about what contemporized jewelry should reflect, which include,

 

a. An appreciation for hand-craft

  1. Equating things of wealth and value with elegance and status
  2. Disengagement from, then a new re-engagement with ideas and values
  3. Sense of eccentricity and individuality – uniqueness in a cookie-cutter era
  4. Ephemeral – Here today, gone tomorrow

 

Contemporizing

Etruscan Collar and Inspired Contemporary Pieces (Feld, 2012)

 Contemporizing traditional jewelry really has nothing to do with nostalgia for a bygone era.   It might reinterpret tradition, but not preserve it.    It may strategically utilize tradition and leverage something about it in the current context.    While contemporized jewelry designs may be imbued with inspirations and symbolism from a rich cultural past, the design is kept contemporary.   That means, the piece is seen as belonging in a contemporary time.

The contemporized traditional piece is conceived as a new idea with new forms emerging from the inspirations of an individual artist and with aspirations to be judged by various contemporary audiences as finished and successful.    The jewelry designer, in effect, is bringing together modern aesthetics with traditional craftmanship, to give a fresh outlook on contemporary individual and/or group culture.    The jewelry designer is using a visual grammar, partly rooted in tradition, to portray or reveal a different narrative.

The difficulty for the contemporizing artist is how to disconnect or divorce the wearer from the memories and traditions of the past, while still representing inspirations and influences of tradition within the piece.  The past provides a visual alphabet and a strong and established sense of legitimacy of meanings that is difficult to compete with and overcome.

The jewelry designer must address and manage all the identify issues people have when viewing and experiencing traditional designs, or contemporary designs with traditional components.    The ultimate goal is for the jewelry designer, through the design and implementation of the piece, to establish new ideas and meanings about identity, history, culture, the present, perspectives, challenges, moralities, values, and characterizations.    This involves recognizing and managing the shared understandings among various client groups.

Contemporizing Etruscan Jewelry:

Process and Application

Etruscan Collar (circa 300 B.C.)

I was contracted to do a series of workshops in Cortona, Italy regarding Contemporizing Etruscan Jewelry.    I began with examining several pieces of Etruscan jewelry.    For the Etruscans, jewelry was a display of wealth and a depository of someone’s wealth maintained and preserved as jewelry. Jewelry tended to be worn for very special occasions and was buried with the individual upon her or his death.  One piece, an Etruscan Collar, (see above), was one I immediately connected with.

The challenge, here for me, was to create a sophisticated, wearable, and attractive piece that exemplified concepts about contemporizing traditional jewelry.    I began to interpret and analyze it.

I first broke it down in terms of its Traditional Components.

The use of Traditional Components serves many functions. When the whole group uses the same design elements — materials, techniques, colors, patterns and the like — this reinforces a sense of membership and community. Often Traditional choices are limited by what materials are available and the existing technologies for manipulating them. Traditional choices also reflect style and fashion preferences, as well as functional prerequisites.

If you were contemporizing a traditional piece, the first thing you would need to do would be to re-interpret the piece – that is, decode it — in terms of its characteristics and parts.These are the kinds of things you the designer can control:colors, materials, shapes, scale, positioning, balance, proportions, # of elements, use of line/plane/point, silhouette, etc.

Traditional Components in our Traditional Etruscan Collar included:

Gold metal plates, pendants and chain. The use of metal, especially precious metal was important to the Etruscans. They had a strong preference for gold.

Linearity. In traditional work, there is often a regimented use of line and plane, with a greater comfort for simple straight lines and flat planes. The Etruscans did not often use many variations of the line, such as a wavy-line or spiral.

Predictable, regular, symmetrical sequencing and placement of rectangular metal objects, pendant drops, centered button clasp, and chain embellishment. Balance and symmetry are always key.

Flat. The surface is flat, and there is little here that intentionally pushes any boundaries with dimensionality.

Rigidity – seemed that, while it definitely makes a power statement, it would be uncomfortable to wear

Silhouette.  Brings attention to the wearer’s face. Traditional silhouettes were often drawn to the face.

Focal Point.   Often resorted to clearly defined and centered focal point.

Wire and metal working techniques. There were not many choices in stringing materials. Wire working, by creating links, rings, rivets, chains and connectors secured individual metal components.  The metal plates were created using repousse.

The designer would also try to surmise who, why and when someone might wear the piece.    A final assessment would be made about how finished and successful the Traditional piece would have been seen at the time it was made.

I researched what jewelry meant to the Etruscans, and how their jewelry compared to other societies around them.

There is considerable artistry and craftsmanship underlying Etruscan jewelry. They brought to their designs clever techniques of texturing, ornamentation, color, relief, filigree, granulation and geometric, floral and figurative patterning. While their techniques were borrowed from the Greeks and other Mediterranean cultures, the Etruscans perfected these to a level of sophistication not seen before, and not often even today.

While Roman law outlawed the wearing of more than one ring or more than ½ ounce of jewelry at any one time, the Romans loved their jewelry, and wore many pieces, in spite of this. Most Roman jewelry designs were rigid interpretations of Greek and Etruscan jewelry.

I reflected on what might it mean to contemporize these Etruscan and Roman pieces? In other words, how would we manipulate the design elements to end up with something that was contemporary, paid some kind of reference or homage to the traditional piece, and was also a satisfying work of art?

I designed each of these two contemporized pieces, each taking me in a slightly different direction in what it means to Contemporize Traditional Jewelry.   The Vestment is definitely more literal, with a mix of Revival and Contemporized approaches.    The Collar is more Contemporized.

Vestment, Feld, 2012

Materials: Japanese seed beads, cube beads, delicas, Swarovski 2mm rounds, 14KT findings, Lampwork glass bead, fireline cable thread

Two overlapping and staggered layers of Ndebele stitched strips

Etruscan Collar, Feld, 2012

Materials:  Japanese seed beads, cube beads, delicas, Swarovski 2mm rounds, 14KT findings, fireline cable thread

Two overlapping and staggered layers of Ndebele stitched strips

Detail

 

Detail

 

To contemporize the traditional Etruscan Collar, I wanted to:

Simplify design.  Reference the overall sense of the design, but simplify the overall appearance a bit. Contemporary pieces find that point of parsimony — not too many elements, not too few — that best evokes the power of jewelry to resonate.

Use contemporary materials. I wanted to use glass seed beads and cable threads, with the addition of gold ornamentation and clasp.

Make it more feminine. I wanted my piece to have a sexy-ness about it.

Give it a curvilinearity, rather than a flatness and straightness. Dimensionality and curvilinearity are very characteristic of Contemporary design.   Here two Ndebele bead woven strips are layered, overlapping and staggered to get a curved edge.

Coordinate color choices, but not feel forced to match them.

Challenge strict linearity.  Keep the general symmetry, but with a lighter hand – for example, overlapping, staggered layers that don’t conform as tightly to an outline boundary. I wanted less social conviction and more artistry and the representation of the artist’s hand.

To break the sense of rigidity and predictability, I used the Ndebele Stitch, which is very fluid with an unexpected patterning, and stitched two overlapped, staggered layers of beadwork together.

Use of simultaneity color effects.    The application of more involved color theories and tricks to create more of a sense of excitement, as well as more multi-dimensionality. There is a complex interplay of colors within either strip of Ndebele bead work, as well as between each strip, as one lays on top of the other.

Use of contemporary techniques.  The use of bead weaving techniques which result in a soft, malleable, piece that drapes well and moves well. The result with bead weaving is something much more cloth-like.

_____________________________________________________________

WARREN FELD, Jewelry Designer

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

615-292-0610

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

Warren leads a group of instructors at Be Dazzled Beads (www.bedazzledbeads.com).  He teaches many of the bead-weaving, bead-stringing, wire weaving, jewelry design and business-oriented courses. He works with people just getting started with beading and jewelry making, as well as those with more experience.    Many of his classes and projects have been turned into kits, available for purchase from www.warrenfeldjewelry.com  or www.landofodds.com.     He conducts workshops at many sites around the US, and the world.

Join Warren for an enrichment-travel adventure on Your World Of Jewelry Making Cruises.

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

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

He is currently writing a book – Fluency In Design:   Do You Speak Jewelry?

_________________________________________________________

COPYRIGHT, FELD, 2019

 

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BEAD & BUTTON SHOW REGISTRATION BEGINS 1/8/19

Posted by learntobead on January 7, 2019

BEAD AND BUTTON SHOW
June 2-9, 2019
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 
Registration opens at NOON CST on January 8th, 2019 http://www.beadandbuttonshow.com/store
 
 
Join jewelry designer Warren Feld, who will be teaching these three classes:
ETRUSCAN SQUARE STITCH BRACELET
JAPANESE GARDEN BRACELET
COLORBLOCK BRACELET

 

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

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

Posted by learntobead on November 30, 2018


SO YOU WANT TO DO CRAFT SHOWS…

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

PREVIEW

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jewelry design is a life lived with wearable art.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

There are two groups of lessons.

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

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

Last, I offer some final advice.

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

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



And yes, One More Thing…

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

Find out more about our YOUR WORLD OF JEWELRY MAKING CRUISE!

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

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

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

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

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Posted by learntobead on August 18, 2018


<!–

 


Land of Odds-Be Dazzled Beads

Article of Interest For You

ARCHITECTURAL BASICS OF JEWELRY DESIGN:

Building In The Necessary Support and Structure

by Warren Feld, Jewelry Designer

Abstract

Whenever you create a piece of jewelry, it is important to try to anticipate how your choice of materials, techniques and technologies might positively or negatively affect how the piece moves and feels (called Support) when worn and how its components maintain shape and integrity (called Structure).  Towards this end, it is important to redefine your techniques and materials in architectural terms.    Every jewelry making technique is an applied process with the end goal of trying to reach some type of equilibrium.  That is, balancing off all the external and internal forces impacting the piece.    Achieving this balance means that the piece of jewelry is at its point of least vulnerability.    This is where all the materials, techniques and technologies have been leveraged to maximize the four S’s:  Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy.  I find that most jewelry designers do not learn their techniques with architectural principles in mind.    They arrange a set of materials into a composition, and assume its success is solely based on the visual grammar they applied.    But if the piece of jewelry doesn’t wear well, feels uncomfortable, gets in a weird position making the wearer look clownish, or breaks or comes apart too easily, the jewelry designer has failed in their mission. 

ARCHITECTURAL BASICS OF JEWELRY DESIGN:

Building In The Necessary Support and Structure

Everything boils down to support and structure.

Support is anything about the materials or techniques used which allow the finished piece to best move, drape and flow while the piece is worn.

Structure is anything about the materials or techniques used which allow the finished piece to maintain its shape and integrity while the piece is worn.

Constructing a bracelet or a necklace is really not much different than engineering and building a bridge.    Bridges have purpose and functions.   Jewelry has purpose and functions.   These are very much the same.  The jewelry designer needs to anticipate how the piece will purpose and function within a context or situation or environment, as worn.

Designers have to worry about the bracelet maintaining its shape and not falling apart, in the face of many stresses which come from movement, adjustments, obstructions, twisting, body geography and contour, aging of materials, and so forth.  They need to anticipate how the piece will comfortably move, drape and flow while worn.   They have to construct something that is appealing and friendly to the user.     Designers have to be fluent in, and be able to apply, not just a visual grammar, but a functional grammar, as well.

This means that the jewelry artist needs to know a little bit about physical mechanics.    A little bit about how to create, control and maintain shape.   A little bit about how to build in support and jointedness.    A lot about materials, how they go together and how they age together over time.   A lot about how various jewelry making techniques enhance or impede support and structure over time.   Some comfort about making tradeoffs and judgement calls between aesthetics and functionality.    And their finished jewelry needs to reflect all this jewelry artist knowledge, so it maintains its appeal, but doesn’t fall apart when worn.

We have all heard and seen the complaints.

  • Clasp slips around neck to the front
  • Necklace bezel settings turn around
  • Earring dangle gets locked in a 90 degree angle
  • Jump rings open up and bracelet pulls apart
  • Necklace doesn’t lay flat
  • Earring dangles don’t face the right way
  • Stone pops out of its setting
  • Stringing material breaks or pulls apart
  • Finishes on beads and components flake off
  • Necklace or bracelet breaks at the crimp
  • Solder or glue doesn’t hold
  • Beads crack and string breaks in overly tight pieces

These things that happen are not natural to jewelry.   They are examples of bad jewelry design.    They can be corrected by building in an architectural awareness of how materials and techniques function.     They may need more support, such as loops, rings, and hinges, for example.   They may need better structure, such as smarter selection of materials, or more strategic implementation of technique, or extra reinforcement at points of potential weakness.

This wire work bracelet pulls apart when worn.   The jump rings open up.   Upon closer inspection, we learn that the designer used dead soft wire to make the jump rings, and did nothing to harden the wire, either before or after shaping.   Harding the wire, such as twisting it before shaping it, or starting with half hard wire may have solved this problem.

 

This necklace clasp has slipped to the front.    This is not natural to jewelry; it is a design flaw.    The clasp assembly has insufficient support or jointedness.    This problem can more easily be prevented by building in more support.  In this case, adding additional rings – at least one where the clasp is attached to the chain, and at least one to the ring on the other end of the chain – would probably suffice.    Added support would absorb the stress movement places on the piece.   Without it, the necklace will always turn around in the opposite direction to the force applied.

 

This earring dangle is stuck at a 90 degree angle.    The problem is simple.    There is insufficient support.   This means that either the size of the loop where the dangle connects to the ear wire, is too small, or that the thickness of the wire making this loop is too thick for the opening on the ear wire.    

SUPPORT SYSTEMS

Support systems are components or design elements we build into our pieces, which allow good movement, flow, and drape.     This is known as support or jointedness.    Sufficient support allows for the absorption or channeling of stress so that negative impacts on a piece of jewelry when worn are minimized.

These may be things like

  • Rings
  • Loops
  • Links
  • Hinges
  • Rivets
  • Knots  (unglued)

They may involve different kinds of chaining or connecting.

I include knots as support systems.   Unglued knots provide a lot of support and jointedness.   Glued knots do not.  Glued knots are stiff, and increase the risk of breakage or support failure.   Some knots are looser, like lark’s head knots or weaver’s knots or overhand knots.    Looser knots provide a lot of support and jointedness.   Other knots are tighter, like square knots and surgeon’s knots, and provide less support and jointedness.

Without these kinds of support systems, pieces of jewelry become stiff.    When jewelry is worn, movement puts a tremendous amount of force on all our parts.   There is a lot of stress and strain on our beads, our stringing materials and other adornments.   There is a lot of stress on the clasp assembly.   There is a lot of stress on our larger components and forms.   If everything is too stiff, movement would force these components to crumble, chip, crack or break.

The designer’s choices about clasps, materials, string, technique, and design all affect the success or failure of the support systems integral to their pieces of jewelry.

Often, when people string beads on cable wire, and crimp the ends of the wire to secure the clasp, they ignore concerns about support or jointedness.   If the artist pushed the crimp all the way up to the clasp, the connection between crimped wire and clasp would be too stiff.   It would not allow movement.   It could not absorb any forces placed on the piece, such as from moving, pulling, tugging, getting caught on something, and the like.

When the connection between wire and clasp is too stiff, the metal pieces will bend back and forth, eventually breaking.   In this case, the crimp bead is metal, the cable wire is metal and the clasp is metal.    When someone wears a necklace or bracelet where no joint or support is created at the clasp, a couple of things might happen.    The necklace or bracelet will start to pull on itself, and as the person moves, and necklace or bracelet moves, and the clasp slides up to the front.   The turning around of the necklace or bracelet is that piece’s response for alleviating the forces of stress.      If, for some reason, the necklace or bracelet cannot turn around, then all these metal parts will bend back and forth and break.

The better designer, one more familiar with architectural considerations, will avoid these kinds of design flaws which result from leaving an inadequate amount of support or jointedness within the piece.     Leaving an adequately sized loop on the cable, as it attaches to the clasp, thus never pushing the crimp all the way up to the clasp, allows for movement and support.

When there is sufficient support, in our necklace example, the clasp will always rest securely on the back of the neck, no matter if the wearer is sitting, dancing, or bending forward to pick something up.   It will not turn around.   It will not break.

You will find that most clasps, and most jewelry findings, will need an extra intervening ring – either a jump ring, split ring or soldered ring, in order to have sufficient support and jointedness.

There are 4 key types of support systems:

Type of support Type of movement allowed Example
Loop Allows multi-directional movement Ring, Loop, Chain links, Netting
Pin Allows uni-directional movement Hinge, rivet
Roller Allows rotational movement Knot, Stringing material which can twist, Small spacer beads between larger beads
Rigid Movement occurs through bending or absorbing additional stress and strain Soldered joint, glued section, coil, spring

STRUCTURAL SYSTEMS

As designers, we always want to think about our piece of jewelry, its construction and execution in terms of what might happen when:

  • Pulling left and right, up or down  (horizontal movement)
  • Bearing weight (vertical movement)
  • Balancing from side to side or section to section or twisting (rotational  movement)

These structures are described in reference to how external forces operate on them.    The labels of horizontal, vertical and rotational do not refer to the placement or positioning of these structures, per se.

The structures we build into our jewelry help us manage shapes and their integrity as the piece of jewelry is worn.     They help us achieve that sweet-spot among the four S’s: strength, suppleness, stability and synergy.

Truss

Funicular Structure

Arch

Horizontal structures assist us in managing the effects of horizontal movement, such as pulling, tugging, stretching.   Horizontal structures are the most common ones we build into jewelry.   These include arches and trusses, funicular structures, and nets or webs.   Horizontal structures can more easily deflect and deform their shapes in response to adverse forces.

They may require adjustments in lengths as requirements for stability might require inward sloping, thus shorter lines, as things get connected closer to the neck, and elongated outer boundaries.    Well-designed Trusses and other horizontal structures will distribute the weight and channel the stresses placed on the piece in an equitable way.     They will alleviate dead space, drooping, and unsatisfying drape and flow.     Horizontal structures designed for strength will allow for more dimensionality, and allow the piece to include arches and puffed out components (vaults).

The success of horizontal systems is very dependent on the length of their span.   Their ability to adapt to the adverse effects of mechanical forces decreases or increases with their increasing length.    As the length shortens, it becomes more important how well these structures can bend.   As the length increases, it becomes more important how well these structures can deflect these forces.

Wall (which in jewelry can be vertical or horizontal)

Cantilever

 

Frame

Vertical structures assist us in managing the effects of vertical movement, such as bearing weight or resisting bending.    These include things like walls, cantilevers and frames.   They may be foundational bases for compositions.    They may be a set of wires bounded together to secure them and leverage their properties in the finished piece.   They may be bails or connectors for drops or charms.   They may be columns.   Most vertical structures are characterized by a certain amount of inflexibility, but will vary somewhat in flexibility by type or dimension (width, length, height).    With vertical structures, we sometimes worry about shift or drift or bending out of shape.

Vertical structures, like Walls, are things which allow jewelry or jewelry components to find a satisfying point of stability between the effects of gravity and the effects of their own weight (loads).

Roma, a cubic right-angle weave necklace by Sabine Lippert, is composed of square-shaped vertical units of cubic right-angle weave

This point of stability must hold when the jewelry is static (thus not worn) as well as when it is dynamic (thus, worn).

A Cantilever looks and functions like a tree with branches.    This vertical structure allows for a lot of bending.      You might visualize a necklace with a lot of charms or pendant drops cantilevered off a strap.

The Moment Frame is an additional type of vertical structure which allows for some temporary give and take.   The Moment Frame might involve the addition of several support systems, like loops, rings or rivets, and may allow some bending and compression without deformity of the piece.

A Braced Frame involves the placement of some kind of diagonal element across a section of the piece, thus bracing two sides at that section.    This functions similar to Trusses, and allows for bending and compression without deformity of the piece.

Rotational structures assist us in managing the effects of rotational movement, such as twisting, rotating, slipping over or under, or curling.    They enable these structures to deform without breaking.   Rotational structures can be either horizontal or vertical.    What is key is how they are attached.    The points of connection are allowed to rotate, temporarily adjusting or bending in shape in response to outside forces, but then rotating back in place.

EVERY JEWELRY MAKING TECHNIQUE

IS A TYPE OF DESIGN SYSTEM

Jewelry designers apply many different approaches to the creation of jewelry.   They may string.   They may bead weave.   They may wire work.  They may silversmith.   They may work with fibers or glass or other unusual materials to create components and appealing arrangements for people to wear as jewelry.

Every technique has, at its heart and the ways it should be best implemented, things which allow it to give jewelry support, and things which allow it to give jewelry structure.   Some techniques have a good balance between steps or strategies which support movement, drape and flow, with steps or strategies which structure shape and the maintenance of its integrity.    Other techniques are sometimes stronger in one side of the equation, say support, and weaker on the other side, which would be structure, or vice versa.

Every technique or design system is an applied process with the end goal of trying to reach some type of equilibrium.   Each piece of jewelry is the designer’s effort at figuring out, given the materials, techniques and technologies at hand, how to balance off all the external and internal forces impacting the piece.    Achieving this balance means that the finished and successful piece of jewelry is at its point of least vulnerability.    This is where the materials, techniques and technologies have been leveraged to best concurrently optimize all of our four S’s:  Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy.

Achieving this balance or equilibrium is partly a function of the materials chosen, but mostly a function of how the designer selects techniques, makes choices about their implementation, and manages support and structure.    Every technique will have some steps which require stronger, heavier, firmer, tighter efforts, and some steps which require looser, lighter, weaker efforts.    Where the particular steps of the technique are supposed to lend more support, usually the designer will lighten up, and where the particular steps are supposed to lead to greater structural integrity, the designer will tighten up.

I find that most jewelry designers do not learn their techniques with architectural principles in mind.    They arrange a set of materials into a composition, and assume its success is solely based on the visual grammar they applied.    But if the piece of jewelry doesn’t wear well, feels uncomfortable, gets in a weird position making the wearer look clownish, or breaks or comes apart too easily, the jewelry designer has failed in their mission.

I also find most jewelry designers apply their techniques with the same amount of strength, tightness and tension, rather than learn to vary, manage and control these.    This suggests they are unaware of how the techniques they apply result in more or less support, and more or less structural integrity.

Let’s explore some bead weaving examples.   Bead weaving encapsulates and easily shows how all these support and structural issues come into play.

The Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet

Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet, Warren Feld 2014

The Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet is bead woven using a technique called brick stitch.    The brick stitch is a very robust bead weaving stitch, in that it allows for a lot of support while at the same time allows for good structure.   To phrase this another way, the brick stitch allows the piece to keep its shape and integrity, yet respond to all the forces and stress of movement.    The thread pathway of this stitch allows each individual bead to self-adjust in response to stress, while concurrently influencing all the beads around it in how they individually adjust to this same stress.

There are two major support systems in this bracelet.

The first support system is the thread path design system of the brick stitch itself.    The brick stitch attaches the new bead to the previous row by snagging a thread loop between two beads.   This looping not only ties all the beads together within our composition, but also, allows each bead and each row to bend in response to the forces of movement and then bend back into its original position.    And, importantly, it allows this flexing all the while maintaining the solidity and shape of our component.

The thread-looping pattern of the stitch also allows us to manipulate the flat beadwork into a curve.    It allows us to slide and stretch the bangle over our hand and also return to its original shape as it sits on the wrist.

It is important, while weaving the brick stitch, to maintain the integrity of the support systems, that is, of each thread-looping-over-thread intersection as best as can be.    Anything done which disrupts this looping, will begin to stiffen the joints, so to speak.   So, if our needle pierces an existing thread as we create the next loop-connection, this will begin to impede the support, or in a sense, those “swinging” properties of the looping.    If we tie off the thread into a knot, such as when we end an old thread and begin a new one, this too will impede support.   If we glue any knot, this will end all the support properties at that point in the piece.

The second major support system is in the design of the Tuxedo Park Bangle Bracelet itself.   We are creating a chain of links.   These links or “rings” provide support.   That is, they allow the bangle to easily curve around the wrist and to freely move when worn.

In our long link, we have cinched and sewn down the middle of the link.   This begins to disrupt that support in our chain-link.  So, we have to be comfortable with the size, thus support, of our now bi-furcated two new ring openings on either side of this cinched long link.    If these new openings are too small, one ring would lock into place with the preceding one, making the piece stiff, and thus, uncomfortable to wear, and perhaps putting too much pressure on the parts.

Russian Right Angle Weave Necklace

Russian Right Necklace, Warren Feld, 2008

It is important to understand each technique you use, whether a bead stringing technique, or wire working technique, or bead weaving stitch, or silversmithing technique, in terms of how it might enhance or impede support or structure.    How might it allow movement.  How might it absorb and direct the forces this movement places on our beads, stringing materials and other components within our piece.    How it allows the piece to encompass a shape and maintain that shape as worn.

The Russian Right Angle Weave Necklace is an example of another bead weaving stitch which has great properties allowing for both support and structure.

The basic right angle weave stitch begins with a circle of 4 beads.   It then moves on to create a second circle of four beads.    These two circles are linked with one shared bead, common to both circles, and which acts like a hinge.

Architecturally, we want each circle of 4 beads – what we call a right angle weave unit, to move in tandem, that is, all at the same time.    We want, as well, for each right angle weave unit to be able to influence the movement of all other right angle weave units within the piece, but to also move somewhat independently of all other right angle weave units within our piece.   Each unit should move as one.   Each unit should be allowed to somewhat self-adjust to stress independently, but at the same time, affect the interdependency of all units within the piece.

The right angle woven piece should move like a coil spring mattress.   Picture someone lying down on this mattress.   Each coil adjusts somewhat independently to the pressure of the body part immediately above it.   Yet each coil with the mattress also adjusts relative to the movement of the other coils as well.   Nothing gets out of line.   No matter what the person laying on the mattress does, or how they move around, all the coils adjust to the changes in weight very smoothly and coherently.

This is how right angle weave works, and maintains itself as a support system.  To achieve the optimal performance with right angle weave, the designer would want their four beads within a unit to be as tightly connected as possible, so that they always move and respond to forces as a whole unit.   The designer would want a looser tension at the place each right angle unit connects to another at the point of their shared bead.

VULNERABILTY:

Areas of Potential Instability and Weakness

Whenever a project is begun, it is important to carefully anticipate and identify potential areas of instability and weakness.    Where might your piece be vulnerable?   Where might the forces of movement, when the piece is worn, cause the stringing material or threads or beads or clasps to loosen up, and perhaps break.  Or the wire or metal to bend, distort or deform?

Most often, places of vulnerability occur where the structures or supports in place take on the shapes of either H, L, T, or U.    Think of these shapes as hazards.  These shapes tend to split when confronted with external or internal forces.   They tend to split because each leg is often confronted with different levels or directions of force.   These hazardous shapes cry out for additional reinforcements or support systems.

Vulnerability and instability will also occur where the structures or supports are very thin or very soft or very brittle.    They will occur at points where there is a slant or a wedge or an unusual angle.

Pieces are vulnerable because the jewelry designer has made poor choices in selecting materials, techniques, or technologies, and in managing design from inspiration to execution.    REMEMBER: A piece of jewelry results from a Design System.   This system is a back and forth process of anticipating how others will judge the piece to be finished and successful, how choices are made and implemented regarding materials, techniques, arrangements and technologies in light of these shared understandings coupled with the artist’s intent.

If the piece is vulnerable, then the designer has failed to reflect upon what things will make the piece endure.    What will be expected of the piece when the person wearing it moves?   As the piece moves from a static place, say from in a jewelry box, and then must transition to the body as a person begins to put it on, what are those transitional issues the piece must accommodate?    What parts of the piece must always maintain their shape or position?    What happens when the piece has to either shrink, elongate or expand?    Does the piece need to bend or rotate for any reason?   What happens to all the materials and pieces over time?

Reinforcements at points of potential instability and vulnerability can take many forms, such as:

  • Anchoring
  • Bracing
  • Framing
  • Attaching/Securing
  • Connecting
  • Blocking
  • Adding in slack or elasticity
  • Isolating the area

THE 4 S’s:

Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy

Jewelry must be designed, from an architectural standpoint, to find a special point of equilibrium.   This equilibrium point is a sweet efficient and effective spot among Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy.     As our choices force us to deviate from this optimized sweet-spot, our pieces of jewelry become more vulnerable when worn.   They are more likely to distort and deform, pull apart, lose tension, and break.

To find this sweet-spot for any particular piece of jewelry, we first assess what shared understandings our various audiences will apply when determining if the piece is finished and successful.    A big part of this is figuring out how a piece will be worn, how often a piece will be worn, and how long a duration this piece is expected to hold up.   The designer assesses all this, then begins to incorporate personal artistic intent into the design process.

Strength involves choices we make about materials and techniques which prevent breaking.      For example, a well-done soldering joint or correctly crimping to secure a clasp to cable wire, would increase the strength.

Suppleness involves choices we make about materials and techniques which maximize elasticity and flexibility.   For example, the addition of intervening rings to various jewelry findings would increase suppleness.

Stability involves choices we make about materials and techniques which prevent deterioration, malformation or collapse.    For example, we might reject coated beads for a project, or might use a multi-strand rather than a single-strand clasp for a multi-strand piece of jewelry.  We might add extra reinforcement to the ends and the corners of pieces.

Synergy involves choices we make about materials, techniques, and technologies which not only reinforce our design, but also increase, enhance or extend the design’s appeal and functionality.    For example, a tight clustering of beads into an attractive pendant drop might be many times stronger, more supple, more stable and/or more appealing than any one bead alone.

Anatomy of a Necklace

The Vivian, Warren Feld, 2012

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

If we looked at these sections of a necklace from solely an art standpoint, we might primarily focus on the centerpiece of the jewelry and consider The Strap (and most other parts) as supplemental to the piece, in a similar relationship as the frame to a painting or the pedestal to a sculpture.

However, jewelry is a 3-dimensional object serving both aesthetic as well as functional purposes.    As such, we need to be more sensitive to the entire jewelry-anatomy and both its art and architectural reason for being.

Typical structural parts of a necklace might include,

The Strap: The entire linear component of the piece, comprising Yoke, Clasp Assembly, and Frame

The Yoke:  The part of The Strap behind the neck, typically 6-7” including clasp assembly

The Clasp Assembly: Part of The Yoke, and includes all the pieces it takes to attach your Strap to the Clasp, including clasp, rings, loops at ends of stringing material

The Frame: The visually accessible part of The Strap, connecting to The Yoke at The Break point.   On a 16” necklace, The Frame might be 9-10”

The Break:  The point where The Yoke connects to The Frame, often at the collar bone on either side of the neck.  Very often, this point is one of a critical change in vector – that means, the angle The Frame lays radically changes from the angle of The Yoke.  Think of this as an inflection point.

The Bail:  A separate part which drops the centerpiece of pendant drop below the line of the Frame

The Focal Point, Centerpiece, or Pendant Drop:   A part which emphasizes or focuses the eye, usually dropped below the line of The Frame

The Canvas:  Typically the stringing material or foundation of the piece

The Embellishment:   Things added to the surface or edge of The Canvas, The Strap, or the Centerpiece which serve as decorative, rather than structural or supportive roles

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

  • Making connections
  • Determining angularity, curvature, and roundedness
  • Transitioning color, pattern and texture
  • Placing objects
  • Extending lengths
  • Adding extensions
  • Creating balance and coherency
  • Anticipating issues about compression, stretching, bending, load-bearing, and distortion
  • Anticipating issues related to physical mechanics, both when the piece is static (sitting) and dynamic (as worn)
  • Keeping things organic, so nothing looks like an afterthought, or an outlier, or out of place, or something designed by a committee
  • Determining which parts are critical to understanding the piece of jewelry as art and as it is worn, and which parts are merely supplemental to the piece

The Strap

The Strap is that continuous line that extends from one end of the clasp to the other.   The Strap may or may not consist of the exposed Canvas.   The Strap typically delineates a silhouette or boundary.    This usually sends the message to the viewer about where they may comfortably and appropriately place their gaze on the wearer’s body.

The Strap is a type of funicular structure.   A funicular structure is one where something like a string or chain or cable is held up at two points, and one or more loads are placed on it.   Loads increase tension.   Loads lead to compression.

The placement can be centered or off-centered.   If more than one object is placed on The Strap, each object can vary in mass, volume and weight.     We do not want The Strap to break because of the weight or placement of any load or loads.   We do want to control the resulting shape of the silhouette or curvature of The Strap which results from the weight or placement of any load or loads.

The Yoke

The Yoke is one section of the Strap which is the part around the back of the neck, including The Clasp Assembly.    The length of The Yoke, and whether the beginning and end parts of The Yoke should be exposed  on the front of the body is something to be determined by the designer.    The designer must also determine the proportional size of The Yoke relative to the remaining part of The Strap.    The designer must determine what role the elements, such as beads, which comprise The Yoke, will play, and whether they should be an active part of the visual composition, and/or a critical part in the functional success of the piece, or merely supplemental.   The Yoke balances the load requirements of the remaining Strap, Bail and Pendant.

The Break

At the point The Yoke connects to the remaining Strap (called The Break leading to The Frame) on either side of the neck, this is a point of vulnerability, often assisted and reduced with the addition of support elements.   Because it is at this point – The Break – where The Strap may alter its vector position in a dramatic way – that is, the angular positioning of the Strap at the point of The Break may vary a lot as The Strap continues around the front of the body – this is a major point of vulnerability.

There are always transitional issues at The Break.   The designer needs to have strategies for managing these transitions.   This might involve using visual cues and doing something with color or pattern/texture or rhythm or sizes.    The designer must decide the degree The Frame should be visually distinct from The Yoke.

The Clasp Assembly

The Clasp Assembly is part of The Yoke.   The Clasp Assembly includes, not just the clasp itself, but also all the other parts necessary to attach it to the Strap.    There might be some additional soldered rings.   There might be loops left at the ends of the stringing material.    There might be crimp beads or knots or glue or solder.

Whenever choosing a clasp, it is more important to think in terms of choosing a clasp assembly.   You might want to use a very attractive clasp, but it may take so many parts and turns to attach it to your beadwork, that you end up with a visually ugly clasp assembly.

The Frame

The Frame is that part of The Strap which connects to either side of The Yoke at The Break.

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

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

The Focal Point, Centerpiece or Pendant Drop

While not every necklace has a focal point, centerpiece or pendant drop, most do.  The Focal Point gives the viewer’s eye a place to rest or focus.    Sometimes this is done with a centerpiece pendant.  Othertimes, the centerpiece is more integrated with The Strap.  This can be created by graduating the sizes or beads or playing with color or playing with rhythm or playing with fringe.

A Centerpiece would be a part that extends beyond the line of The Frame, usually below it, around it, or in front of it.   This forces transitional concerns between it and The Frame.

There should be a natural transition from The Strap to The Focal Point, Centerpiece or Pendant Drop.

The Bail

The Bail is a part that drops the Centerpiece below the Frame, forcing additional transitional concerns among Centerpiece, Bail and Frame.    We are concerned about its impact on emphasis, harmony, balance, distribution of size and proportion, point, line, plane and shape.    We are concerned about its ability to maintain stability, given the effects of gravity, the weight of the drop, and its relationship with and fit to The Frame of The Strap.  Most Bails would be considered vertical structures

The Canvas

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

It is important to know what The Canvas is made of, and how its function and appeal might improve or weaken as its Span is lengthened or shortened, widened or narrowed.     The steepness of its slope or positioning might also affect its integrity.

Sometimes more than one Canvas are interconnected.   You can picture a necklace with additional strands crossing the chest from one side of The Strap to the other.   You might also have a necklace where strands radiate out at angles from the neck and across the chest.

 

A Truss

Necklace with Trusses

Architecturally, additional Canvases which span from one side to the other of a piece of jewelry operate like Trusses, Arches or Support Beams.   These types of structures are referred to as Horizontal Structures.

The Embellishment

The Embellishment includes things like fringe, edging and surface decoration.    Embellishments are decorative elements added for purposes of improving the visual appeal of a piece.   Embellishments typically do not play any support or structural roles.

PHYSICAL MECHANICS:

Statics and Dynamics

Mechanics represents the behaviors of the jewelry when subjected to the forces which arise when wearing a piece.    These forces include movement.   They include pulling, tugging, bending, stretching, realigning, readjusting, bearing weight, carrying weight, securing weight, brushing against, rubbing against, curving and taking the shape of the body, loose- to just-right- to tight-fit, positioning, repositioning, and the like.

Statics are descriptions of jewelry behaviors when that piece of jewelry is on the body, but at rest.

Dynamics are descriptions of jewelry behaviors when that piece of jewelry is on the body, and the body is in motion.

Forces are external to the piece of jewelry.

Stresses are internal to the piece of jewelry.

Strains result from the deformation of the jewelry, as it responds to either external forces or internal stresses.

As jewelry designers, we want to understand jewelry mechanical behaviors in terms of our 4 S’s.   We do not need to go into any of the math here.    We primarily need to be aware of the kinds of things we need to think about, manage and control.   Some of these things will be forces external to the materials and construction of our piece of jewelry.   Other things will be internal stresses within our piece of jewelry.   Our jewelry will strain to respond to either forces or stresses or both, until it can strain no more and it loses its shape, breaks or otherwise becomes unwearable.

We want to anticipate jewelry mechanical behaviors at the points of (a) maintaining shape (strength), (b) maintaining comfort (suppleness), (c) maintaining position or placement (stability), and (d) right at that point where all the materials, techniques, and technologies are leveraged to their full effect (synergy).

TYPES OF FORCES
FORCE TYPE ACTION RESULTS FROM
Tension Elongates Strain on parts
Compression Shortens Weight and Pressure
Shear Sliding Force Resistance to sliding of adjacent parts
Bending Elongates one side, shortens the other Unevenly applied weight and pressure
Torsion Twists A turning force applied at some angle

Think about what the flow of forces through the piece of jewelry would be as worn in different situations.     The wearer could be sitting, perhaps writing at a desk.   The wearer might be walking, running, dancing, skipping, crouching, bending over, bending backwards.    With mechanics, again, we want to think about our piece of jewelry, its construction and execution in terms of what might happen when:

  • Pulling left and right, up or down  (horizontal movement)
  • Bearing weight (vertical movement)
  • Balancing from side to side or section to section, or twisting (rotation)

What about our choices of materials, techniques or technology leads us to design jewelry which mechanically achieves these points of equilibrium of forces?    What about the structures we use and the support systems we build in allows us (or prevents us) from achieving this point of force equilibrium?

DESIGNING IN ANTICIPATION OF

THE EFFECTS OF PHYSICAL MECHANICAL FORCES

The fluent jewelry designer can think about art and about architecture and context.    He or she can be able to anticipate the types of issues that arise, and the types of solutions that might be available.    And he or she can evaluate and reflect upon the choices and successes or failures.

Jewelry takes quite a beating when worn.   We want it to hold up.   We don’t want it to break.  We don’t want it to stretch out or distort or deform.   We don’t want the materials we use to fail, such as the finishes fading or rubbing off, the material cracking, or the material becoming too brittle or too soft relative to how it should function in the piece.    We do not want the individual components to shift positions, or inadvertently glom on top of each other.   We want the jewelry to make the person wearing look good, feel good, and get that sense of connectedness they seek when wearing a piece of jewelry.

The architecturally-sensitive designer will design for strength, suppleness, stability and synergy.    The forces affecting these can be very complex.    They might depend upon or vary based on physical dimensions (width, length, height and depth).    They might depend upon or vary based on environmental considerations, such as cosmetics, perfumes, body oils, pollution in the air, or certain chemicals in someone’s sweat.   And of course they are dependent and may vary based on anything that causes movement or prevents movement, such as the movement of the wearer, the wind, getting something caught on something, brushing against something, twisting, bending, shaking, and the like.

Jewelry is both art and architecture, and must be thought about and implemented as such.

It is always important to remember to think about any technique applied as a design system.

This design system will include the characteristics of the materials used, the strategy for implementing the technique, the technology incorporated into the process, support and structure, and finding equilibrium among the 4 S’s.

The design system is a process that is to be managed and controlled by the jewelry designer, in line with assessments about shared understandings and artist intent.

It is always important to visually and functionally specify how the design incorporates support.

It is always important to visually and functionally specify how the design incorporates structure.

And it is always important to remember we want to achieve a point of equilibrium among the four S’s:  Strength, Suppleness, Stability and Synergy.

…if one is to be fluent in design!

_________________________________________________________

WARREN FELD, Jewelry Designer

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

615-292-0610

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

G.G.Schierle, Architectural Structures, 1990-2006, as referenced at,

https://disegnodiezunibe.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/architectural-structures.pdf

Copyright, FELD, LearnToBead.net, 2018

warren@warrenfeldjewelry.com

 

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DESIGNER CONNECT: Tony Perrin of Lock & Key

Posted by learntobead on July 5, 2018

designerConnect-banner.jpg

DESIGNER CONNECT

Following The Bead

Be Dazzled Beads is a community of Creatives. Some people use our beads to make jewelry. Some to do mosaics. Some to adorn and embellish costumes. Some to enhance things like wine classes or drapes or mirrors or sweaters or cross stitch patterns. Some to embellish paintings or sculptures. Some actually use our beads in science experiments.
To us, all Creatives are Designers. That is, they make artistic and functional choices about how to incorporate the types of supplies we sell into personal visions. Some design for themselves. Some design for friends and family. Some design as a business.
It is not as much fun to work alone or isolated when you realize you are part of the larger Be Dazzled, Land of Odds and Nashville communities. We can learn a lot of insights from each other. We can support each other. It’s all about Connection!

DESIGNER CONNECT PROFILE

Tony Perrin, Jewelry Designer

Founder and Designer, Lock & Key (www.lockandkeydesign.com)

tony perrin Tony: “I feel lucky. Blessed. Is the world easy? No. I have multiple jobs. I am part of the gig economy. I am trying to succeed in a world that favors large businesses. But I am working creatively. Finding my groove. There are a lot of sleepless nights. It’s not easy to be a Professional-Creative. But I would not change things for the world.”

STARTING OUT

Tony: “I have memories of always being surrounded by the arts.”

Tony comes from a family that was very arts-oriented, and very supportive of him pursuing the arts and crafts — wherever it took him. His mom was a watercolorwatercolorist and oil painter. His father was a small business owner as well as a photographer. His dad’s dad sculpted for Lockheed, and even was a street dancer. He had a great uncle in New York who had a jewelry business, and Tony remembers, even at age 5 or 6, his uncle was always making jewelry for everyone in the family.

Starting out with gymnastics, Tony graduated to dancing (because his older sister danced). As a dancer, he had to teach himself to sew for costumes as his Mom was much better with a glue gun then a needle. He remembers his family always making things — food, pastry, lapidary, painting. He has fond memories of always being surrounded by art and creativity.

A family friend — Frank — taught him how to bead weave the summer he was ten. That Summer Frank and his wife exposed Tony to the artisan craft as well lapidary, jewelry festivals and much more.

As many designers are, Tony is self taught. tony2.jpg

Warren: “Do you think now, with all the creative things you are doing, that you, in some respects are re-creating your childhood?”

Tony: “Oh, for sure! I would say that’s part of a goal I have. I swore I would never be a teacher, but kids gravitate towards me like a moth to a flame. I realized it is because I am ‘5’. Kids get me, which should be the other way around. I am young at heart. I think trying to retain that naivete, that sort of blissful ignorance, especially as a Creative, just allows you to be a little more free with your aspirations. All of a sudden you grow up. It’s like Peter Pan. You lose that sense of innocence and exploration.”

Tony grew up in Los Angeles, spent some time pursuing a career in fashion in New York City. He moved back to Los Angeles for a few years. And then he came to Nashville with his wife who is a singer-songwriter. Today Tony wears several hats: Jewelry Designer, Dance Educator, Choreographer, Costume Designer, Jewelry Design Educator.

Tony: “Growing Up, I always thought I had to do one of these things, or the other. Before I moved to Nashville, jewelry making was just a hobby. When I moved here, one of my goals was how do I interweave all of the creative aspects that make me whole. I think a lot of creatives are creative in more than one discipline, as well. So I’m just trying to figure out how to make it one — one happy world.”

KEEPING GOING

tony3.jpg

Tony: “It’s been a curvy road.”

Warren:“Today, how would you describe what your jewelry making is like today?”

Tony:“I describe Lock & Key as a modern interpretation honoring an artisan craft. I am doing something that is ancient in terms of its art, as a form of communication and expression. The loom that I use is about 80 years old at this point, so it’s touched many different hands and many different stories. It’s definitely art jewelry. I describe what I do as boho eclecticism. Tribal influences, so I say it is international in feel. One of the main feedbacks I get is that it is fashion, but not trendy.”

Tony continues by describing his core consumer.

Tony:“My core consumer is 40+. Is a woman who appreciates artisan product, as well as pieces which make them feel modern with a sense of timeless appeal.”

Warren:“So, that first day you decided to become a business. What was that like?”

Tony’s first piece, done around 1998, was a custom piece. He was asked to design a piece for the head designer at Betsey Johnson, a New York fashion designer of clothes and accessories. It was a loomed piece, 1 1/2″ wide choker with multi-colored skulls in it and dangling feathers. He was excited, to say the least. He shared the story about making this one piece, which inspired other people to ask him to design a piece. People responded to his authenticity, and then it became all about the product.

When Tony moved to Nashville, he decided to focus on jewelry. It was part, what was he going to do to make a living? Part, honoring his childhood mentor who had made the Indian jewelry. Part passion about his loom, and gradually adding precious metal clay to the mix of media he relied on for his jewelry designs.

Tony:“And I still love it. Exhausted. Up until 3am getting production ready. Fingers chewed up by my drill bits. But I absolutely still love it!

CREATIVE PROCESS

In describing a typical piece, Tony begins with multi-media. This includes some loom bead weaving. He incorporates ball and chain. He likes to use a lot of color and texture, and mix matte and glossy. People respond well to his color sensibility. He uses many square shaped beads with round beads. With the beadwork, he includes a piece of metal, like a sculpted metal clay piece, either an integral part of the piece, or as a pendant. He often includes semi-precious stones. He likes to mix metal finishes. “Silver and Gold is the same conversation as Navy and Black. If it is well-balanced, it makes it very versatile.”

tony1.jpg

Tony mentions that, to understand his creative process, you have to go back to his goal of trying to meld together all his creative worlds. His creative process is not a linear process.

He cites as an example a very successful pair of earrings he designed which are precious metal clay based. But they were flowers, which is very specific seasonal iconography. When he started thinking about what he wanted to do the next season, he thought about how he could adapt these earrings. He mentioned that a lot of his pieces and his bead weaving have an almost art deco or art nouveau feeling to them. At the time, there was an Egyptian revival style that was prominent because of a world wide tour of Egyptian antiquities.

He reflected on his artistic style and the current revival trend, and asked himself: This was a successful piece. I’m thinking business here. How do I creatively then come up with the next version of it? So for the Fall holiday he explored hieroglyphics and lotus flower motifs. And for the following Spring, he thought about incorporating the scarab and other Egyptian touches.

Tony: “Things started to trend in High Fashion — snakes, beetles, insects, and bees. I have a scarab beetle tattooed on my back that is about 14″ long, the whole width of my back. It’s an icon that is important to me. It symbolizes the sun god Ra. It represents newness and renewal, and I have chronic back pain, so it was interconnected. It started from something that was authentic and meaningful for me, and which started to become a trend years after I had gotten my tattoo. I introduced this sculpt and coupled it with beadwork. People responded to it. Then I started thinking how to tie this all up from a business perspective. If we’re just creating ‘pretty’, who cares? You have to be able to speak to an audience.”

Tony discussed that jewelry artists have to be able to synergize the Business-Creative Mind. Both worlds need to be respected. It’s a hard business, he agrees. Artists have to monetize their creative output and still remain authentic to themselves.

Frequently, he asks himself: Do I need to break up with my design? It is OK, he indicated, to say Yes! His scarab beetle was a good idea, but some reality testing was in order. Was it too early before the trend? Would it be marketable?

On a second business level, Tony poses the question: Can I stand behind my product? Can the store that sells his pieces be able to stand behind his products?

A third major consideration is whether he has successfully differentiated his products from the mass market. That is one reason he incorporates glass seed beads and Czech beads within his work. Glass beads allow him to inject colors, where more mass market pieces are mostly metal and look very machine made.

MOVING ALONG

Tony reflects daily how art jewelry, as opposed to jewelry mass produced overseas, will be accepted by the general public.

Tony: “Art Jewelry is a term I use a lot in my marketing. At an apparel show, where people are used to mass produced jewelry, it’s starting to change in perception and openness to my product.”

Warren:“Is the world helping you change people’s perceptions, or do you feel you are out there alone doing this?”

Tony:“It will be four years in September since I started pursuing jewelry as a business. In my microworld, there has always been acceptance. My wife is very accepting, but at first was hesitant. I said, Let’s look at this year by year and see what happens. She gets it now.”

tony4.jpg

Warren:“And in the broader world?”

Tony:“In the macro level, I think it’s interesting. I think if you look at the culture today, with technology and oversaturation and what is happening in mass market production, and fast fashion, which is down-trending, I think you’re having baby boomers that are looking for nostalgia in terms of smaller, handmade jewelry.”

He sees that consumer demand for artisan jewelry is on the rise, but there are still nagging questions whether you can make a viable business out of it. Can you make enough product? Can you do it efficiently? Can you transition from a one person designer business to having staff make the pieces, as well? Meeting business goals gets more complicated if you are not going to produce your jewelry overseas.

One of his biggest challenges coming up is to create sufficient infrastructure — studio space, supplies and personnel — to be able to easily kick out 30 pieces of 20 styles on demand.

MARKETING

Tony is natural marketer, so I asked him what kinds of things he does to reach his target audience. The extent of things he does can provide a lot of ideas and insights for all of us.

Tony:“I always try to make marketing creative so I still enjoy it.”

Things Tony Does…
– trunk shows at boutiques

– pop-up shows

– collaborates with fashion designers and creates evening events with them

– collaborates with sculptors, painters, and ceramic artists to do a joint show, say in a donated gallery space

– always thinking about marketing ideas which merge his interests in dance, photography, jewelry and sculpture

– for people who have bought, or even collect, his jewelry, he sends snail-mail postcards, hand-written notes, email blasts, and personal emails

– posts images with captions on instagram

– follows other people’s instagram sites with whom he feels some kind of fit or opportunity

– sometimes buys ads, but has not seen a risk/reward balance from purchased ads

– puts himself in situations where he can meet people, shake their hands, and talk with them

– develops relationships and works at maintaining them

– plays the “6-degrees of separation” game, identifying among his network of friends and relationships, who they know, who those people know, who those people of those people know, and so forth, to search for opportunities

– develops different strategies for returning customers as opposed to new customers

– visibly creates understanding that he sticks behind his products, and will immediately fix something if it breaks

– works with “influencers” — people who, usually in return for some free jewelry, will promote your products and show images of people wearing your products in social media sites

– looks for examples of “market-disrupters” — people who disrupt the market to be noticed — that he can be inspired by

– always carries samples with him

FUTURE PLANNING

Tony is a planner. He’s developed a clear vision for the future. Some of the things he wants to accomplish over the next 3 years include,

– maintaining a 60% year-over-year rate of growth

– grow from a more regional line to a national one

– focus on his infrastructure — studio space, materials and personnel — to keep production, shipping/receiving, website and marketing all on track

The big questions before him: How does he meet demand that he has created for his jewelry? How does he enhance his brand? How does he grow his ability to distribute his products?

He wants to contine to be flexible, given the instability of our economy. He wants to maintain his constant rate of sales so his business can sustain itself. He sees, perhaps, his line represented in a showroom. Perhaps he can gain more presence in museum shops.

Tony:“I have a lot of jobs right now and it would be great to have one focus. Or add a couple hours to the day.”

FINAL WORDS

Tony: “The true test of a good designer is an ability to sell it.”

Tony: “If I don’t get that gut feeling that my piece is going to be successful, it’s time to move on.”

Tony has had to create the opportunities himself. This has involved a lot of reflection, reality testing and planning. He has created a business plan framework with year over year goals for design, production, and distribution.

Tony:“In today’s world, you always have to be creating your own rules to stay on your feet. There is wide competition. Email inundation. I like the challenge but it’s exhausting.”

Tony: “Whether or not these jewelry artists work professionally, they need patrons, and that sometimes is even more important than being an artist.”

Tony wishes there was more of a connected jewelry designer/artist community in Nashville. It is still very fragmented. He finds that politics gets in the way of creative collaboration.

Tony:“There’s room at the table for everyone.”

He wants to call artists attention to the Arts and Business Council of Nashville, as well as their Periscope program. There are opportunities for networking, expanded contacts, a support system of creatives and their ideas, developing business skills and confidence.

Jewelry designers in Nashville still need a more functional, consistent support system, particularly to thread the business-needle better. Help to find studio space. Getting a small business loan. Finding an angel investor. Connecting to mentors. This is all important, and we need more organized systems to make these kinds of things easier, smoother and more reliable.

WHERE TO FIND TONY’S JEWELRY

Tony has taken a shot-gun approach to getting his jewelry out there. He does a little direct retail through an e-commerce site. He finds that this is a great billboard for him, but not a great selling outlet. He does art and craft festivals. He likes to focus on juried or well-curated shows in particular.

He wholesales his products to stores. Sometimes this involves cold-calling on stores, with product in hand. But he also does wholesale markets, like the Atlanta Gift and Apparel Market. In 2017, he did 2 shows there; in 2018, he plans on doing 4 shows. His pieces currently are in 28 stores in the United States and the Virgin Islands. He is looking at other wholesale markets. He is exploring options to lock in with a jewelry rep or a jewelry show room.

You may find Tony’s jewelry locally at:

Two Old Hippies (the Gulch)

401 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203

Stacey Rhodes Boutique (Brentwood)

144 Franklin Rd Suite A, Brentwood, TN 37027

T. Nesbitt & Co. (Franklin)

2nd Ave N, Franklin, TN 37064

Kitty (East Nashville)

521 Gallatin Ave #2, Nashville, TN 37206

Tony has an eye out to find his ideal studio-showroom. He pictures it full of natural light. Small and intimate. A low wall separating the front from the studio. Inspirational and calming. A sancturary.

Find Tony online at www.lockandkeydesign.com









bedazzled-storeshot1.jpg

Visit BE DAZZLED BEADS online to view our classes, jewelry clinics, mini-lessons, and jewelry design discussion seminars!

Shop with us online at Land of Odds

Talk with us about Custom Jewelry Design
and Jewelry Repairs

Visit us in Nashville

718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123

Nashville, TN 37204

615-292-0610
(across from 100 Oaks Mall where the Applebees Restaurant is)

 

Posted in business of craft, design management, jewelry making, Stitch 'n Bitch | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by learntobead on February 15, 2018

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should the label be applied to all this variation?

Could it?

Why would we want it to?

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

What is contemporary jewelry?

“Contemporary” Is A Specific Approach For Thinking Through Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think of all that power!

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

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

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

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

1. Work within our shared understandings about contemporary jewelry.

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

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

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

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

Shared Understandings[3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are,

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

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

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

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

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

3. Jewelry should evoke emotions.

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

4. Jewelry should connect people with culture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The designer needs answers to several questions at this point.

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

How well have they anticipated these criteria of evaluation?

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

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

_________________________________________________________


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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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

ADDICTED TO BEADS

Posted by learntobead on January 23, 2014

ADDICTED TO BEADS

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QUESTION:
At what point did you realize you were addicted to beads?

 

People are always saying how addicting beads are.    They expressed surprise that the pull of beads was so strong.    They couldn’t stop buying and accumulating beads.    They couldn’t go anywhere without stopping at the local bead store for a bead fix.    They found themselves intentionally fooling or deceiving themselves about how many beads they actually had, or how much money they had spent on them.

 

Yes, beads are very addicting.   Even though your drawers are full, you never have enough.

 

We asked our students, customers and colleagues to complete this sentence:

 

I never knew how addicting this was until….

 

…My car automatically turned into the parking lot in front of the bead store.

 

…I was laying in bed looking at my ceiling tiles and realized they were done in a “Peyote” stitch pattern!

 

…I made my beaded fish in progress into a screen-saver.  It is all about the process, when will I finish?  who cares… I have this beautiful thing to handle and see as I work.  Such a pleasure! 

 

… I began hiding a stash of money to buy beads:   “It’s not like I’m sleeping around….I’m just buying beads.”

 

… I went shopping for clothes, but came back with only one bag – a bag of mixed beads.

 

…. I used 3 checks to pay for my order – one from a joint account with my husband, a second from an account in my name only, and a 3rd from my son’s account – luckily I had his checkbook in my purse.   So now, my husband will think that I’m only spending a little bit, I can fool myself, and my son doesn’t care one way or the other.

 

… I  converted my dining room to a bead room, and made my family eat in the den on TV trays.

 

… I found that despite my long and mostly constant love of fabric – I am after all a lifetime seamstress, having been comforted by the smell and color of fabric stores and the chush, chush, chushing of my mom’s Kenmore machine since first memories – could not resist the magnetic pull into the unknown.  There, standing at the front door of my local craft store with nothing on my mind or agenda but 2 yards of multi-colored backing fabric for a client’s project, I saw the front of my wobbly plastic basket steering to the Northwest (Fabric is definitely to the Southwest) with such abandon that the lovely glass shelves in the center front of the store were in danger!

 

…I turned to beads for solace and a quiet focus. I have been going through a very hard time trying to keep a very ailing relationship together and when I could have been stressed out and worrying, I spent the time quietly beading.  When I just wanted to go to bed and stay there for days, I was able to sit in my living room with my son and do bead work.  To him, I was being with him and calm; to me, I was hiding in my beadwork and being near him.  Beads have been my refuge.  I have even read where hand needle work is a stress reliever, I am a living testament to that!

 

…I saw seed beads in what I scooped out of my cat box!  I took my bead work and worked in the car on vacation. Every time I vacuum the sound of beads is heard. It seems every purse I clean out has some beads in it. I find beads on the back porch, when I sweep. It is a really tough decision, when I come to the off ramp which leads to the bead store and I really need to get home! I have more beads than projects for them!

 

…I gave up a Shoe Addiction for this…it better be worth it!

 

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THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-PROMOTION

Posted by learntobead on August 21, 2013

THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-PROMOTION

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

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

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

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

From an article I wrote….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this brings up the third point – be relevant.

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

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

The last point – inspire people to spread your message.

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

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

Some Self-Promotion Strategies That Have Worked Well For Others

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

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HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CHOOSING CLASPS?

Posted by learntobead on May 28, 2013

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CHOOSING CLASPS?

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The Jewelry Designer makes many choices when creating a piece of jewelry. Lots of things to manage and accomplish.

Probably the two most important choices, right up front, in creating a wearable art-piece that will be around for future generations are your:
(1) Stringing Material, and
(2) Clasp

 

When you work with so many customers in a store, and so many students in classes, you begin to see that people are not necessarily that great in selecting clasps. Many are in a clasps-rut — they use the same clasp over and over again. Others pick out clasps they find appealing, whether or not they would visually or functionally work with the piece they have made. Few people anticipate how they are going to attach the clasp to their beadwork, often resulting in an overly long, awkwardly connected clasp assembly. So, how to you go about choosing clasps?

 

From an article I had written…

 

Clasps always seem like they’ve been someone’s last thought. They should be the first thought. But many people get so excited creating their beadwork, that they forget about the clasp – until the last moment. You can tell when the jewelry maker hasn’t put much thought into their choice of clasp in many ways. Often, the clasp doesn’t look like it was meant to go with the bead work or general design. It might be out of proportion. It might be a different texture or sensibility. Its function – how you open and close it, while wearing your jewelry — might seem odd, perhaps unnatural. And not only does the choice of clasp seem as an after-thought, but how to attach to the bead work to that clasp seems un-thought out, as well.

So it’s not surprising, that when we were repairing jewelry on a regular basis, about 80% of the pieces to be fixed had broken at the clasp.

It is best to, in part, build your design around your clasp. If your piece has a centerpiece or focal point, then how does this link up to or coordinate with the clasp. At the least, when visualizing your beadwork, include an image of the clasp and how it is attached at both ends. The world is full of clasps. Not every clasp is a jeweler’s best friend. But it depends.

The clasp needs to visually fit with the beadwork. It needs to function as the artist intended. It needs to function in a way the wearer can relate to, use and handle. It needs to be appropriate for the piece and the context in which it is too be worn. It should not compete with the beadwork. It should complement it. Ideally, at least from a design perspective, your clasp should look and feel as if it were an integral part of the entire piece.

In a Gallery setting, if you are selling your jewelry there, you usually want a very functional, but not overwhelming, clasp. You are selling your beadwork, and you don’t want your clasp to compete with this.

In a Department Store, setting, however, often the clasp sells the piece. In this setting, choosing a clasp requires a different kind of logic, thinking and anticipation. Some clasp-types are “expected” to be a part of the piece – even if the particular choice of type would not be the best choice in the world.

The former owner of a local Tennessee pearl company was very frustrated with clasps. She sold a lot of finished pearl jewelry at very high prices, and had been using 14KT gold pearl and safety clasps. Her customers sent a lot of their pearl necklaces and bracelets back for repairs, because their clasps broke. And this company felt, because the prices of these pieces were very high, that they were obligated to replace the clasps and re-string these pearl-knotted pieces at no additional charge. 14KT clasps – particularly the pearl, safety and filigree box clasps — do not hold up well, because gold is a very soft metal.

Replacing clasps on a pearl-knotted piece is quite some job. You have to cut up the piece to free up each bead, and then you begin the knotting and finishing off processes again. It turns out, the 14KT clasps were not the only expensive part of the bracelets – making the knots between each pearl was the time-consuming and costly part. She desperately wanted to reduce the number of repairs. Her first idea was to replace the pearl and safety clasps with other styles which were sturdier. However, these pieces didn’t sell. People wanted the pearl and filigree clasps. The designs of these clasps were so traditional and so locked into their expectations for what pearl-knotted jewelry should look like, that they would not compromise.

Her second effort, she tried replacing the 14KT pearl and filigree clasps with gold-filled ones which were stronger, but this made her customers very angry – they wanted 14KT gold.

So, her final strategy, she returned to using 14KT gold, and doubled her prices. She built in the cost of one repair into the prices she charged. And only then could she present her happy face to her customers, and her somewhat-happy face to herself when she was in private.

 

 

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HOW DO YOU PLAY WITH SHAPES?

Posted by learntobead on May 14, 2013

SHAPES — HOW DO YOU PLAY WITH SHAPES?

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How has “shape” entered into your design thinking, your design work, and your design frameworks?

Over the past few months, I’ve been intrigued with all the new shapes of seed beads coming out on the market. I’ve been trying, really struggling, with ideas for using them in compositions — pieces that have a lot of dimensionality to them, great interest, some levels of complexity. And I’ve been trying to mix the shapes within the same composition, things like long magatamas, superduos, mini fringe drops, peanuts, tila beads. … And of course, it’s always fun to think about ways to bead-weave beads into larger shapes.

 

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SHAPE

The shape of the bead and the orientation of its hole or holes is critical to the success of a piece. These are the “building blocks”. Connecting the blocks affects what the piece looks like, how light and shadow impact the aesthetic, how it moves, how it drapes and feels, and how it holds up in its entirety as a composition.

Around 2010, the various bead companies in Japan and The Czech Republic began introducing many new shapes of seed beads. I began experimenting with how to push these new shapes to their limits.

Then there are the shapes created by assembling beads into ever greater shapes.

Shape differs from the use of “line” or the use of “point”. Shapes serve to provide positioning, direction and orientation to the pieces, often better than lines and points.

Shapes are often the basis of many strategies for adding more dimensionality to your pieces. And you can embellish these shapes with other beads, or overlap shapes, to achieve even greater dimensional effects. You can combine different kinds of shapes.

The Designer must ask these kinds of questions, when using shapes:
How do we position each bead?
How do we link them?
How do we stack them or layer them?
When visual impact does each have, given which side or “face” is seen?
How do we use shape to create appealing textures and patterns?
How do we create “forms” and “themes” with them.

Playing with shapes can be both an encumbrance, as well as an opportunity for the designer.

How has the playing with shapes affected your work?

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Was Freedom Enough?

Posted by learntobead on November 14, 2011

Excerpt from column 
HOW TO BEAD A ROGUE ELEPHANT

WAS FREEDOM ENOUGH? 

I emancipated myself from my upwardly mobile position, after 18 years of progressively more responsible positions, having attained an annual salary the income taxes from which supported one whole government worker.

And what did that do for me?   Emancipation.  Over the next 20 plus years of starting all over again.  At the bottom.  Learning another trade.  Having no accumulated reputation or power or wherewithal to get ahead.  I had freed myself to make my own choices.  I  had painted myself into a picture of my own dreams.   To be an artist.  To make jewelry.  To play with beads.  And to make a living at it.

But what did I achieve, except for the very freedom itself to be free to make my own choices?  …

 Continue reading….

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The DESIGN PERSPECTIVE

Posted by learntobead on November 3, 2011

The DESIGN Perspective
On Beading and Jewelry Making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read: ABOUT GOOD JEWELRY DESIGN: Principles of Composition

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

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Ceramics and Clay All Grown Up As Jewelry Medium

Posted by learntobead on July 28, 2011

Ceramics and Clay All Grown Up As Jewelry Medium

There have been some prominent exhibits and collections around the country highlighting the work of ceramics artists in jewelry.   Some of it is high-fired clay, some raku, some polymer clay and some metal clay.      It’s always very exciting to see how artists can achieve good jewelry design goals with new materials or new applications of materials.

Wearable Ceramics

One of the most prominent exhibits was called Wearable-Ceramics, at  Pewabic Pottery, in Detroit, Michigan.

From their promotional materials:

Wearable Ceramics: Jewelry from International Artists is a collaboration between Linda Ross Contemporary: Art + Projects and Tara Robinson, Curator of Ceramics, Pewabic Pottery. It brings together some of the finest established and emerging artists who are staking out new territories of design, transforming clay into jewelry often combined with found objects and other non-traditional materials. The show features a collection of intriguing and innovative brooches, necklaces, earrings and rings which demonstrate the bridge between ceramics and functional objects for the body; form and material. The tactile nature of ceramics creates a particularly visual language when translated into functional objects to wear – clay is fragile, yet direct contact with the body provides a personal resting place that is warm, protective and very intimate.

Sixteen established and emerging artists representing six countries are participating in the exhibition. The new generation of Dutch designers will be well represented in the show. True to their country’s reputation for producing outstanding craftsmen, they bring a unique international overview of avant-garde jewelry design to the mix. Likewise, artists from the U.S., Spain, Taiwan, Germany and Australia are all masters at technique and highly innovative makers who are staking out new territories of experimentation.

Some works of artists featured:

Rian de Jong. eft to right: Porcelain Necklace: gold luster, copper, tombac | Brooch: bone china, copper, garnets | Brooch: bone china, copper | Brooch: bone china, copper

Iris Eichenberg. Brooch: porcelain, coin and bone

Maria Hees. Necklace: foam, porcelain, rubber

Peter Hoogeboom. “Shaoxing Peony”, Brooch: porcelain, silver, lacquer, nylon, steel

Jet Mous. Necklace: porcelain w/luster and patina

Pauline Wietz. Limonges Eggs | Materials: Porcelain, ceramic transfers | photo credit: Ron Zijlstra

Shu-lin Wu. “Mokume Olive”, Necklace: carved porcelain, steel wire and silver

Shu-lin Wu. Mokume Game series. By hollowing out motifs in the colored porcelain, I achieved a layered polychromatic effect.

Shu-lin Wu. Earrings

Gaby Wandscher. Necklace: porcelain, pearls

David Eliot. Necklace: Vitreous porcelain beads, metal oxide pigments, sterling silver clasp

Evert Nijland. “Rococo,” 2010, Necklace: porcelain, hand-woven linen

For & Forlano. Brooch: polymer clay, metal, colored oxides

Featured Artists:
Sebastian Buescher
Pilar Cotter Nunez
Rian de Jong
Iris Eichenberg
David Elliot
Ford & Forlano
Caroline Gore
Maria Hees
Peter Hoogeboom
Jet Mous
Evert Nijland
Karin Seufert
Andrea Wagner
Gaby Wandscher
Pauline Wiertz
Shu-lin Wu

A Bit of Clay On The Skin

Another exhibit, running through september 2011, is this new ceramics jewelry show at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.

Some of the works on display here:

Peter Hoojeboorn. Collar

Ceramics always have great eye-appeal.  They are very alluring.   They can have stark colors, or unusual colorations and color blendings.   They can be almost unnervingly smooth, or have many different kinds of textures — all drawing the viewer to want to touch.   Ceramics can be modelled or cast, and are very versatile.

It is fascinating to see the many ways ceramics are used in jewelry.  In some cases, they are used to mimic traditional jewelry materials and forms.  In other cases, they are a material cast against type.

In the thousands of years between Egyptian faience and today, ceramics, for the most part, have not played a major role in jewelry.   People found the material too close to the earth, too humble to use to convey wealth and elegance.    But this is changing.

Gesine Hacklenberg

Gesine Hacklenberg

Gesine Hacklenberg

Marie Pendaries

Marie Pendaries

Wearable Ceramics Gallery

This online  Gallery showcases sculptural jewelry by Canadian artist Erika Ferrarin.   Some of her pieces:

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Grape Cluster Earrings

Posted by learntobead on December 4, 2010

Grape Cluster Earrings

This is a good 2nd project for beginner earring makers, after making simple dangles using head pins.     Instead of head pins as the “skeleton”, you would use a piece of cable chain as the “skeleton”.

Here are simple instructions how:

http://www.ehow.com/how_5591811_make-grape-cluster-earrings.html

 

 

Use your imagination.     You can make these into necklaces.   You can make them bushier, or more spare.    You can leave part of the chain showing, and dangle only from the end, or dangle intermittently up the chain.

 

 

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