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

Posted by learntobead on February 15, 2018

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should the label be applied to all this variation?

Could it?

Why would we want it to?

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

What is contemporary jewelry?

“Contemporary” Is A Specific Approach For Thinking Through Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think of all that power!

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

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

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

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

1. Work within our shared understandings about contemporary jewelry.

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

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

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

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

Shared Understandings[3]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are,

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

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

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

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

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

3. Jewelry should evoke emotions.

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

4. Jewelry should connect people with culture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The designer needs answers to several questions at this point.

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

How well have they anticipated these criteria of evaluation?

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

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

_________________________________________________________


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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES

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

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

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

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

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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?

clasp7strand

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?

bw3nb01-amethystsage-show-2-strips-opening-up

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.

 

gwynian-wine-detail2-medium

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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THE DESIGNERS’ GAZETTE, Fall 2010

Posted by learntobead on November 10, 2010

Read the current issue of:

THE DESIGNERS GAZETTE
Fall, 2010

http://www.warrenfeldjewelry.com/pdf/fg111510/fall2010pdf.pdf

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The “Educated” Beader

Posted by learntobead on July 17, 2009

The EDUCATED Beader
What Do We Mean By This?

 

What does it mean to be an “Educated” beader?      Exactly what would it have been that you would have learned or learned to do, to earn the label “educated”?   

 

What would be expected of this “Educated” beader?

 

What kinds of choices would be expect this “Educated” beader to be able to make?

 

 

 

If we do a Google search online for our educated beader, what would we find?

 

 

Educate you about the essential tools and techniques                  
– Bead Unique Magazine

promote socially responsible retailing
– South African cooperative MonkeyBiz

 educate more people about the art of beading
– Wikipedia

 We educate our customers from the very first purchase and continue to do so as needs and level of experience progress.
– Calebs Lighthouse

inform and educate beaders of the beauty and versatility of beads
– beadingtimes.com

Educate yourself about bead finishes and types
– the Illustrated Bead Bible

 

 

We get a lot of generalities and platitudes, but we don’t get a more specific, detailed, enlightened idea of who we want to called an “educated beader” and who we do not.   

Is it someone who beads a lot?   Learned specific skills?   Can do specific things?   Has knowledge of certain terms?  

Is the beader who has taken 15 beading classes more educated than the beader who has only taken 3?

Is the beader who can do peyote more educated than the beader who can do right angle weave?

Is the person who knows the differences between lobster claws, toggle clasps, slide clasps and doorknocker clasps more educated than the person who cannot?

 

We need answers to questions like these, if we are to be able to define what we should teach and how we should teach it.

 

 

What do you think?   Please add your comments to the discussion.

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GO VOTE – 2009 7th Annual The Ugly Necklace Contest

Posted by learntobead on May 27, 2009

PRESS RELEASE –5/27/09
TOPIC:  THE UGLY NECKLACE CONTEST 2009
uglynecklace header

Semi-Finalists Announced – Voting Begins!
7th Annual 2009 The Ugly Necklace Contest
– A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist
May 27, 2009 thru July 15, 2009

 

 VOTE HERE

Six Jewelry Artists from around the world have been selected as Semi-Finalists of The 7th Annual 2009 The Ugly Necklace Contest – A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist, by a panel of four judges from The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts and Land of Odds. Voting begins On-Line on May 27th, thru July 15th for the Winner and Runner Up Grand Prize: $992.93 shopping spree on Land of Odds web-site (www.landofodds.com ) Runner Up Prize: $399.07 shopping spree on Land of Odds web-site.

 

 

OUR SIX SEMI-FINALISTS

 


Lori-Ann Scott
Spokane, Washington
“Sweet”

Deborah Eve Rubin
Rockville, Maryland
“Ode To An Ugly Necklace”

Jolynn Casto
Logan, Ohio
“Four Season’s Necklace”

Sarah Allison
Gresham, Oregon
“Walk In My Garden”

Juli Brown
Wells, Minnesota
“Coffin Nail Necklace”

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

 

 

LAND OF ODDS
Attention: Warren Feld
www.landofodds.com
718 Thompson Lane, Ste 123, Nashville, TN 37204
Phone: 615-292-0610; Fax: 615-460-7001
Email: warren@landofodds.com

Synopsis:

It’s not easy to do Ugly!

So the many jewelry designers from across America and around the Globe who entered our 7th Annual 2009 The Ugly Necklace Contest, found this contest especially challenging. After all, your brain is pre-wired to avoid and reject things which are ugly. Think of snakes and spiders. And even if you start your necklace with a bunch of ugly pieces, once you organize them into a circle, the very nature of an ordered round form makes it difficult to achieve Ugly. Yes, “Ugly” is easier said than done.

Who will win? We need the public’s help to influence our panel of judges.

Does our Minnesota entry make even lung cancer look pretty? Or does our entry from Ohio give the four seasons a bad name? Surely, our Oregon entry didn’t mean to step on and crush all the flowers in her garden. Nor did our entry from Washington intentionally put down anyone with a sweet tooth or an obsessed passion for the fork. From Maryland comes this perplexing challenge: can Trash be Ugly? We would assume so, until we try to make a necklace from it. And from England, another kind of trash – bead project trash – comes to signify what ugly things happen when you don’t finish what you started.

Our respected judges evaluated these creatively-designed pieces in terms of hideousness, use of materials and clasp, the number of jewelry design principles violated, and the designer’s artistic control. Extra points were awarded for artists’ use of smaller beads, because it’s much more difficult to do Ugly with these.
Now it’s time for America and the World to help finalize the decision about which of these 6 semi-finalists’ Ugly Necklaces to vote for. The winner will truly be an exceptional jewelry designer. The losers….well….this isn’t a contest where you really can “lose”.

Come see these and the other semi-finalists’ pieces at www.landofodds.com, and vote your choice for the Ugliest Necklace, 2009.
And if you are in the Nashville, Tennessee area, please stop by The Open Windows Gallery (fine art jewelry) at Be Dazzled Beads, where the 6 semi-finalists’ Ugly Necklaces are on display through September 15, 2009.

 

ABOUT UGLY NECKLACES

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call for Entries – 8th Annual 2010 The Ugly Necklace Contest
A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist

Read the Contest Rules at www.landofodds.com/store/uglynecklace.htm . Entries accepted between 9/15/09 and 3/15/10.
To add your name to our email list associated with The Ugly Necklace Contest, send an email to: oddsian@landofodds.com
and Write “Ugly Necklace Email List” in the subject line.


Sponsors:
Land of Odds www.landofodds.com,
Phone: 615-292-0610; Email :warren@landofodds.com
Land of Odds provides bead and jewelry making artists with virtually all their beads, supplies, books and jewelry findings needs, with over 30,000 products. Retail/Discounts/Wholesale.

Be Dazzled Beads www.bedazzledbeads.com
Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts www.landofodds.com/beadschool
Open Windows Gallery – Fine Art Jewelry www.landofodds.com/store/openwindowgallery.htm
Learn To Bead…At Land of Odds Blog blog.landofodds.com

Other Programs at Land of Odds:
ALL DOLLED UP: Beaded Art Doll Competition
www.landofodds.com/store/alldolledup.htm

Jewelry Design Workshops in Cortona, Italy, with Toscana Americana
www.landofodds.com/store/toscananarrativesynopsis.htm

 


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What’s Showing In the Galleries

Posted by learntobead on May 21, 2009

Jewelry artists are often, perhaps most often, inspired by nature.   Inspiration could mean imitating forms, transposing reality, or utilizing natural materials.   

These three artists are inspired by nature in very different ways.

 

Sally Grant, Edinburgh
try to capture the vibrancy, transience and intricate patterns found in the natural world in my jewellery. Nature does not stand still – it is a joy to capture a moment in time with my camera and transfer this image forever onto silver by the technique, photoetching.

gallery052009sallygrant1

Ulrike Hamm is an artist from Berlin who makes jewelry from parchment

gallery052009ulrikehamm1

gallery052009ulrikehamm2

gallery052009ulrikehamm3

Sabine Lang
Loops, circles and soap bubbles

gallery052009sabinelang1

gallery052009sabinelang2

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2009 The Ugly Necklace Contest SemiFinalists

Posted by learntobead on April 7, 2009

2009 The Ugly Necklace Contest SemiFinalists
have been announced

The Ugly Necklace Contest

In early May, images of their necklaces will be posted online at Land of Odds.   Along with these images, each contestant also had to submit a list of materials and write a poem.    These too will be posted.   Voting will begin at the end of May.  Stay tuned for announcements.

 

The 6 SemiFinalists Are:

 

Lynn Margaret Davy
Dorset, England
The Story of My Beading Life…

ugly7davywear

 

Jolynn Casto
Logan, Ohio
Four Seasons Necklace

ugly7castowear

Sarah Allison
Gresham, Oregon
Walk In My Garden

ugly7allisonwear1

Lori-Ann Scott
Spokane, Washington
Sweet

ugly7scottwear

Juli Brown
Wells, Minnesota
Coffin Nail Necklace!

ugly7brownwear

Deborah Eve Rubin
Rockville, Maryland
Ode To An Ugly Necklace

ugly7rubinwear

 

 

Entries for the 8th Annual The Ugly Necklace Contest 2010- A Jewelry Design Competition With A Twist – will be accepted beginning September 1, 2009.  Deadline: March 15th, 2010.

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Selling Your Jewelry In Recessionary Times

Posted by learntobead on March 30, 2009

Selling Your Jewelry
In Recessionary Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a group,

– develop and share mailing and emailing lists

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

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

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

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

– interlink your websites into a web-ring

– have regular discussions about business strategies

– approach suppliers as a group to bargain for group discounts

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

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