Learn To Bead

At Land of Odds / Be Dazzled Beads – Beads, Jewelry Findings, and More

Posts Tagged ‘jewelry making’

Were The Ways Of Women Or Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry?

Posted by learntobead on June 24, 2020

Women get together and bead. They sit around a table. They talk. They gossip. They share bead stories. They share personal stories. They complain about the difficulties in life, and they extol the joys of living their lives. And they bead. At least a little. Some more than others. But it’s often difficult to tell if the talk is more important, or the beading. Or if all the talk is too distracting for some. Or not distracting enough.

Women get together and bead in classes. They get together and bead around the dining room tables in their homes. They attend workshops, and sit in a circle and bead. They join bead societies, and sit in a circle and bead. They arrange retreats so that they can sit in circles and bead. Why do so many woman like to sit around in a circle and talk and bead? Vera says it’s so I can get an education about women when I’m with women.

But anthropologists tell us this was always so. Women sat in circles and talked and crafted. The circles provided a measure of convenience. They provided a sense of safety. They allowed women to reconfirm their places within the group. They allowed women to learn the basic rituals in life, and to transfer this knowledge to their children. They offered women some sharing of responsibilities, especially for child raising.

It was because women so frequently came together to sit, circular, with one another, and because the tasks they did, while in these circles, were so involved and complex, that language was born. Women had a lot to say. They had to keep their children alive. They had to influence their child’s development. They had to balance the gathering of food with the rearing of children. A few guttural sounds, and the waving of hands, was insufficient. So a language of purpose was born, and the circles of women had one more added responsibility — keeping the language going.

Men, on the other hand, only needed a few sounds to get through their day. A “grunt” for “This is a good place to hunt.” A “grunt-grunt” for “Here comes the woolly mammoth”. And a “grunt-grunt-grunt” for “Run, here comes the woolly mammoth!”

Men also had an “Ah” for “This rock looks like it will sharpen up well.” They had an “Ah-Ah” for “I’ve made a sharp point with this rock.” There was an “Ah-Ah-Ah” for “Look at the spear I’ve made with this sharp rock point.” And then an “Aaaaaahhhh!” for “I speared myself with my sharp rock point!”

These grunts and ah’s would get the men through their day. They were sufficient.

But not for the women. Grunts and ah’s couldn’t capture ideas like, “Your baby threw up over me,” or, “Don’t eat those berries — they’re poisonous,” or, “These leaves and shoots would make a pretty dress.”

At first, in the earliest circles of women, various women would invent words, but they would talk across each other. [I’ve heard some say that this continues even until today.] Women had difficulty making themselves heard and understood. They might try shouting the word louder, or more frequently, or right into another woman’s face. But this probably precipitated fighting, perhaps a punch in the face. Early language use was probably a tower of Babel — no one speaking the same things.

To rein this in, to correct for this chaos, to bring order to language, rituals were born. By convincing all the women in a circle to perform in the same way, they could label each performance. And with each label, everyone could understand. Some rituals were religious. Some were social. Some social rituals were oriented around life cycle events, like birth, puberty, marriage and death. Some social rituals were oriented around the gathering and preparing of food. And other social rituals were oriented around making things. It was important that everyone perform in the same way, do the same things, and use the same labels for things. This had survival value.

Concepts were channeled into words. Words delineated activities and events. Women whose performance held closest to the words — as defined by the beliefs about the concepts underlying these words — had higher status. Women were keepers of the “word”, and those that did a better job of “keeping”, had higher status. These women were judged better. More right. More righteous. More proficient.

And beading and jewelry making were eventually born. Women used the small seeds and berries around them to adorn themselves. They added small shells, pieces off bushes and trees, and animal parts. They figured out ways to string these together and secure them in place. They developed the “Needle” and concepts for making and utilizing these needles. And women sought to preserve beading by performing it over and over again in the same way. And performing it within their tight circles. And with the smaller materials, objects and tools they had at hand.

Which brings us to men.

Men made jewelry, too. They made jewelry that did not need an elaborated language to inform them what to do. Given how men envisioned the design of hand-made things, they gravitated towards larger objects. Men hammered these. They put holes in things. They bent things into hooks, and rings, and connectors. Their jewelry was informed by strength. It didn’t take much of a language to demonstrate how to hammer things and make holes in things. They could easily teach others.

And this teaching was a source of power and strength. Men who could teach faster had higher status. Those that could develop tools to hammer and drill faster, cleaner, better, more exacting, using ever-harder and harder stones and other materials, continued to have higher status. Those that could build mechanical devices to achieve even better ends, secured their higher status.

For women, large, heavy tools and objects were inconvenient. They preferred smaller things they could manipulate, while gathering nuts and berries, and while nursing and caring for their children. Women relied on their fingers and hands in different ways than men. Some might suggest this was only a difference in scale; others might argue that these differences were significant. But the importance of the hand in craft was critical from the start.

As humans, for both WOMEN and men, their beading and jewelry making were informed by a sense of design. Undeniably, there was always a sense of design in craft. The degree to which WOMEN and men could implement their design sense, however, was limited by language and ritual. If they couldn’t provide a Name for something that they could envision in their mind, it was difficult to make it so. If they couldn’t create ways to teach themselves or others to recreate these Imaginations over and over again, the design concepts would be lost. And humanity would be lost. Or at least, set back.

Earliest humans most often assigned spiritual meanings to words and concepts associated with jewelry, to help them remember their sense of design. Some shapes and designs became strongly associated with social rules and social preservation. Eventually Art was born, and many more meanings could be assigned, and assigned in more complicated, elaborated ways. The expression of design would come to have many more pathways. It became much easier to progress with humanity. And more challenging. And more fulfilling.

Whether the ways of WOMEN or the ways of men were better at fostering jewelry, beading, design and creativity, … well, this battle is still getting fought out today.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

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

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation to Crystal Beads

Posted by learntobead on June 21, 2020

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

Crystal Beads

Crystal is glass with lead in it. The more lead you put into the glass, the brighter the glass is. Lead causes health effects. If you looked at glass under a microscope, it would look like a sponge. Basically anything you put into glass, like lead or a dye, will leach out when the glass gets wet, such as when washing or sweating.

The negative health effects of lead result from an accumulation of lead in your body. It doesn’t really leave your body once there. The major way lead gets into your body is ingestion — through the mouth — but it can be absorbed through the skin. So, for jewelry, there is some concern with the older leaded crystal when it touches the skin, or when your hands touch the jewelry and you touch them to your mouth, or you put the jewelry in your mouth. The U.S. has done an incredible job of reducing lead exposure to the general population, but we still have some concerns with the older crystal beads.

The international community started regulating the amount of lead in glass crystal around 1970. They didn’t take it all out, or a big amount all at once. They’ve gradually reduced the amount of lead in crystal. Supposedly, the amount of lead in crystal today is an acceptable risk. They can’t take it all out because then there would be no crystal, and the world would fall apart.

It turns out, as you go back in time, there is more and more lead in crystal. The barrier to putting lead in crystal before regulation was the price of the lead, and lead always went up in price. So there’s more lead in the 1950’s than the 1960’s; more in the 1940’s than the 1950’s; more in the 1930’s than the 1940’s; and so forth. The crystal beads today seem very bright and attractive, but if you held them up next to beads from the 1930’s and 1920’s, the newer ones would look dull and uninteresting like plastic. If you are re-working old jewelry or working with old beads, ideally, you would want to either make things so they are worn over cloth, or put non-crystal beads on either side of your crystal ones, so they are raised above the skin.

Crystal beads are very, very popular. People really value that brightness. They are more expensive than regular glass, but not that much more expensive. These beads are always in high demand. They are always in short supply. The market for distributing and selling these beads is a bit screwy.

And this is the kind of bead that businesses actively try to scam their customers on. I want to give you a sense of what those scams are, and what questions to ask.

SCAM #1: Selling You New Stuff, But Labeling It As Old

The older crystal has much more lead in it, so is considerably brighter and more attractive. Way back when there were some very interesting colors, coloration effects and faceting effects, that only recently have been duplicated or equaled. But they can’t duplicate the brightness. The brightness results from the lead content, not the faceting. Almost all the old stuff has been collected up, so people are not used to seeing it, and seeing any comparisons between old and new. The new stuff looks bright and appealing. People are generally trusting, so it’s easy to get away with.

So you can go into jewelry stores, bead stores, antique stores, estate sales, flea markets, on-line, and see a lot of new stuff getting labeled as old. The old stuff is much more valuable and collectible. If you held the new stuff up next to the old stuff, it would tend to look like plastic.

You won’t be carrying around with you a color chart that shows you color brightness by year of manufacture. But there’s a pretty easy test. If someone says something is old — an old piece of jewelry, or a bag of old beads, hold out your hand straight ahead of you and into the air, and tell them to put it into your hand. If it’s old, your hand will drop. Even if it’s from 1970, your hand will drop. You’re just not used to how heavy things were, when they had a lot of lead in them. When you get back to the 1920’s, each bead is like a lead pellet. One bead will make your hand drop.

If you hand doesn’t drop, then maybe it’s not as old as they are saying, or maybe it’s new.

SCAM #2: Selling You Stuff From A Country Other-Than-Austria, 
 But Telling You It’s Austrian

Just like the Druks and Fire Polish beads, crystal beads are made in many, many countries. Beads from different countries vary in quality, and again knowing what country they come from tells you about the quality and value. The scam here is selling you something from a lower quality country, and telling you it’s Austrian (the highest valued country). They either say they are going to give you a discount on the Austrian, or they pocket the difference.

Swarovski is a company based in Austria that makes the highest quality crystal, and the most expensive. They were the first company to make these, they have the best equipment, and are viewed as top of the line. While Swarovski has offices all over the world, they make these in Austria, (though we know today a lot of production is in China). There are other companies in Austria that either distribute these beads, or turn them into other kinds of jewelry components, but do not make these beads.

Another major source of crystal beads is The Czech Republic. A major Czech crystal manufacturer is Preciosa. Czech crystal usually runs about 10–15% less in cost than the Austrian. Swarovski does a lot of markting; the Czech companies do not. That price difference reflects the differences in marketing costs.

Some similarities and differences: Both the Czechs and the Austrians use the highest amount of lead allowed at any one time, so their beads are equally as bright.

The Austrians have a cultural preference for very sharp facets. The facets on these beads are so sharp that jewelry made with them can scratch the skin. The Czechs have a cultural preference for smoother facets. To the Austrians, the sharper facets make the beads look more like real diamonds. To the Czechs, smoother facets do. Americans seem to prefer the sharper facets. Remember, it’s primarily the lead that gives these pieces their brightness, not the faceting. The Czechs have been moving to sharper facets to compete with the Austrians, because America is the major market for these beads.

The Austrians start with a more intense color palette, and reinforce that intensity through slight modifications in the shape of the bead. You can see this best in the bi-cone, which they make a little less symmetrical and a little more saucer like. This affects how the light refracts through the glass, thus increasing the color intensity.

The Czechs use what I call crayon colors. What’s nice here is that if you are looking for basic colors, like a red-red, or a green-green, you are more likely and more easily to find this color in the Czech line — even though Swarovski offers hundreds of color choices. For example, to get a red-red in the Swarovski line, you would get a red-orange.

The Austrian crystal beads tend to be slightly different in size, because of this shape difference, than advertised. So, if you were purchasing a 4mm bicone, the Austrian crystal is actually 3x4mm; the Czech crystal (and crystal from any other country other than Austria) is 4x4mm. Austrian bicones are smaller than the size you see on their label.

The size differences in the round shape are more difficult to spot. Swarovski also altered its round shapes slightly in the early 2000’s. An 8mm round crystal from any other country would be 8mm x 8mm. From Austria, the older ones are 8mm x 7.5mm. The newer ones are 8mm x 8.5mm. Again, the slightly altered shape changes the way the light refracts through the beads, and enhances the color’s intensity.

In the image below, both 4mm ruby AB bicones would be labeled the same size and color. Both have the same lead content, so they are equally as bright. The Czech color is less intense than the Austrian. The Czech bead is slightly larger and more symmetrical than the Austrian.

If you went into a store to buy 4mm Austrian crystal bicones, you won’t have a chart with you that shows you color intensity by country of manufacture. However, all you would have to do is pull off a strand of 4mm round druks off the wall, or ask to see some 4mm round sterling silver beads. If the 4mm crystal beads you are looking at are the same size as anything else that is 4mm, then the crystal beads are NOT from Austria. In the bicones, the Austrian will always be a different size than the label.

One woman who took one of my classes told the story where she had gone into a bead store she hadn’t been in before, to buy 5mm Austrian crystal bicones. The beads were smaller than 5mm, so she thought she was getting ripped off. She said she threw a temper tantrum, cursing out the store owner, and storming out. You see, it was the company she had been buying them from originally that was ripping her off. Theirs were 5mm.

One problem that people often have when they buy crystal beads from different sources is that many sources will label their crystal beads “Austrian”, but one might send you true Austrian, and another might send you Czech. There’s nothing wrong with Czech crystal. You are getting an equivalent product. The problem that arises is that the actual colors will be different, as will be the sizes and shapes. So, you can order 4mm ruby AB bicones from two sources, and if one sends you Austrian and the other sends you Czech, these will be so different from each other in color, size and shape, that they won’t mix in the same piece.

Another major source of crystal beads is China. While China is working on coming out with a line of crystal equivalent to Swarovski, most Chinese crystal you’ll find on the US market uses considerably less lead, thus is a lot less bright, and more unattractive. This Chinese crystal runs about 1/3 the price of the Austrian crystal. If you held this Chinese crystal up next to Austrian crystal, you would immediately notice that it is cloudier and less bright than the Austrian.

However, when people sell Chinese crystal, they don’t hold it up next to Austrian crystal. They hold it up next to glass. It’s much prettier than glass. Plus, they are in the business of marketing and displaying Chinese crystal so it looks great at the point of sale. If asked, I usually tell people to think carefully before they buy this. At the point of sale, it’s cheap and it’s attractive. But when you take it home, you usually have nothing to mix it with. It’s too dull to mix with Austrian crystal; it’s too bright to mix with glass. However, if you are making fashion jewelry, the Chinese crystal might be the best choice. It is very inexpensive, but will definitely add that extra level of sparkle and brightness that people find so attractive. Moreover, the Chinese line has some interesting color effects and shapes that the Swarovski line does not.

Suppose you are very familiar with the realities of the crystal market. Say you are in the business of selling eyeglass leashes, and that you had been using Austrian crystals in your leash, and having to sell them for $20.00. You have a brainstorm. If you substitute Chinese crystals for Austrian crystals, you’ll be able to sell your eyeglass leashes for $10.00, and become a millionaire.

With this particular type of bead, this relationship based on cost doesn’t really play out. People really value that brightness, and are willing to pay for it. Say I had an eyeglass leash done with Chinese crystals at $10.00 side by side with one done with Austrian crystals at $20.00. I’d sell more at $20.00. Say I had my Chinese one alone. I wouldn’t sell that many more at $10.00, based on a cost projection, because people come to the situation with an expectation about brightness. People shop around. People go to Macy’s and look at tennis bracelets, and they go to Wal-Mart and look at tennis bracelets. Subconsciously, they see and know the difference, and they bring this understanding with them to any purchasing situation.

With Chinese crystal, you are definitely getting an inferior product. But how do you know what you’re buying? I’ve been in many bead stores, bead shows, on-line, and seen many people selling Other-Than-Austrian crystal, but having this labeled as Austrian.

SCAM #3: Selling You Grade “B” as Grade “A”

Crystal in the market can be sorted into two groupings, though they are rarely labeled as such. Grade “A” is perfect. Grade “B” may or may not have scratches and chips. This works like clothing and “irregulars.” Grade “B” comes from many sources. Stores that have these loose in a tray may be selling them out, and they’ve gotten bumped up and bruised in the trays. Some people cannibalize old jewelry. Distributors and manufacturers sell off cartons that have gotten roughed up somehow, through dropping cases, moving and the like.

These beads are so bright that it is difficult to examine them for scratches and chips over a sustained time without hurting your eyes. The only yellow flag that I can suggest is that, if you see these crystal beads getting sold on strands, I’d be more suspicious. When crystal beads come to a store, they come loose in an envelope. If you see them on strands, that means that someone had to pay someone to strand them.

A good reason to put them on strands is that they sell better on strands. But you can only do so many strands in an hour, so the price of these would reflect that extra effort.

Usually when I’ve seen grade B sold as grade A, they’ve been on strands. So I’d suggest examining the beads a little more closely, if you buy them on strands.

Scams Over Crystal Beads Are Easy To Get Away With

The reason so many businesses actively try to scam their customers on crystal beads, is that it’s easy to get away with. Customers are often in a frenzy to get beads which are always in short supply. There can be a lot of wheeling and dealing when distributors sell crystal beads, so often there is not a clear and strong relationship between the price and the cost of these beads. A small retail store may have an incredibly great price, and a national distributor might have an average price. Not all the distributors carry all the colors and all the sizes and all the shapes. Often, people, while on vacation, will see some color or shape at a local bead store, and assume they can find the same thing when they get back home. There are often notorious and seemingly unexplainable shortages of certain colors or shapes.

And Swarovski, in the 2000’s, began rebranding their crystal products as “Crystallized”, which only muddied the water more. You can’t trademark an adjective. What began happening is that many crystal producers and distributors around the world began re-naming themselves “Crystallized”-something. One Chinese company became “Chwarovski.” In January, 2010, Swarovski returned to “Swarovski”, dropping “crystallized.”

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Preparers

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

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

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

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

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

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Brick Stitch

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

BEADS AND RACE

Posted by learntobead on June 19, 2020

Is there racism in beading?

“No,” yells the white beader chick carefully stitching her beadwork to perfection.

But I’m not sure about that. I don’t think there’s racism with a capital “R”, but maybe some things with a little “r”.

Look around. Very, very, very few, virtually none, Black bead artists. Or Latino. Or Asian. Look at the major national instructors. We have Joyce Scott. Who else?

Look at the faces of the women and men who contribute articles to the various bead magazines. White, white, white.

Look at the complexion of the attendees at bead shows, or the customers, staff and owners of bead shops, or the members of the local bead societies. Or at the entrants to all our national and international contests sponsored by Land of Odds and The Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts — The Ugly Necklace Contest, All Dolled Up: Beaded Art Doll Competition or The Illustrative Beader: Beaded Tapestry Competition.

Does this mean, from a color palette sense, that beading is primarily monochromatic, with no color clash, contrast, coordination or complimentarity — mostly of interest to white folks, and not black, brown, or yellow? I have my doubts. I imagine everyone loves jewelry, and the same proportions of people within any cultural group probably like to make jewelry as much as any other group, as well.

One of my friends told me that in New York and New Jersey, there is a diversity of culture and complexion, and one that is very natural. But this diversity doesn’t extend across the country. Certainly not in Nashville, Tennessee.

And I always have wondered why some people called the Ndebele Stitch, the “Herringbone Stitch”. Is it the pronunciation of the word “Ndebele” that influenced the switch? Or something more sinister?

All this is sad. If all there was to Jewelry Design was following a set of instructions and mimicking someone else’s work, a concern about diversity would not be that important. You follow the steps. You get the job done. No socio-cultural issues influencing any of your choices.

But for people who design things, this isn’t the case. Design is about creative construction. Design is where you take ideas and you take emotions and you apply your hands. Segregating ideas weakens your own. Segregating ideas result in failed opportunities to interact with others who are not like yourself. Segregating ideas are failed opportunities to learn new designs. They are failed opportunities for manipulating design elements in ways you’ve never thought about.

As a designer, you want to have many and varied experiences all through life. These experiences influence your recognition of colors, your choices for linking beads and pieces to stringing materials, your ideas about styles and looks and lengths and fashions. You don’t want to close yourself off to any part of the world. If you did, you would short-change your creative spirit. That essence within you and from which your jewelry resonates.

Yes, I know, you often bead and make jewelry as a type of escape from the real world. A meditative, relaxing, no problemo means of production. But you can’t escape the real world entirely. And you shouldn’t want to.

Race issues aren’t new problems that suddenly appeared circa 2020. They have historical roots, and an unsettling lingering quality to them. The day I wrote this article, these were some of the headlines on the MSNBC.com website home-page:

“Interracial couple denied marriage license [in Louisiana]”
“Appearance matters more for black CEO’s”
 “Breaking Barriers: US Minority Leaders”

I remember when I was in high school, there were only 7 other Jewish-Americans and only 1 other Chinese-American in the entire school. We were all called the N-word by our peers. They used the N-word because they didn’t know the K-word or the C-word. The N-word would do. It was uncomfortable and awkward to go to school, and I learned, at least while I was in high school, to see an anti-Semite under every rock, whether there was one or not.

I can remember, also, and this was decades ago, when I was young and in junior high and high school, that my dad had to manage racial issues on a different level. It wasn’t discrimination against him. It was he discriminating against others — a perhaps necessary discrimination, from a business standpoint.

My dad owned a small pharmacy in a very small town called Raritan, New Jersey. Raritan was inhabited mostly by old world Italians, and was very insular. There were no black people in town. The people in town wouldn’t allow it. I remember once that a black family had bought a house there. A week later, before this family had moved in, it was suspiciously burnt to the ground. No one knew who did this, and everyone knew who did this. This family did not rebuild.

My father was not racist. Yet he would never hire a black person as a clerk or as a delivery driver. A black clerk, he feared, would keep his customers away. And a black driver, he feared, would be shot dead.

All these tensions in the air did not mean that we had no black customers. In fact, we had many black customers. They boarded the bus — during the day, not at night — and traveled the 2 miles from the next town over — Somerville. There were two drugstores in Somerville at the time. Blacks perceived that they were discriminated against at these stores, and not at ours. As I said, my father was not a racist.

Similar issues still arise. And while not as emotionally charged as when I was young, they’re still a bit emotionally charged. Owning the bead store means I can’t run and hide and bury myself. I have to deal with uncomfortable situations involving race. And I do.

It wasn’t until around 2009–22 years after starting this business — that we seemed to have some regular, repeat customers who were black, and Latino, and Asian. But still very few. Definitely not enough. I can’t imagine that there are not many, many more minority beaders and jewelry makers in town.

Each time we advertise to fill a staff position, we try to go out of our way to attract qualified minority applicants. We talk to our minority customers. We contact newspapers and agencies that target various minority communities. We contact the state’s Job Service. We get very few minority applicants, and fewer qualified ones. We pay well. The job is very interesting and rarely boring. While I’ve offered jobs to minority applicants, I’ve never had a taker. Whether I project this onto the situation, or it’s real, I get a sense of ill-ease, some risk, some discomfort.

Minority customers seem to self-select where they shop, where they look for jobs, and where they take classes. They seem to go to the large craft stores and discount stores, rather than the small bead and craft shops. This is understandable. As a minority, you are more likely to get discriminated against in a mom-and-pop shop in the South, than you are in a large corporate retail setting. You more likely have to deviate from the major roads or what are safe neighborhoods for you in order to visit these mom-and-pop shops. The odds are against you of getting hired in these small shops, because, just like with my dad, even if the owners are not racist, they have to be realists.

It doesn’t take much to make someone feel uncomfortable and ill-at-ease. Perceived slights are everywhere. Not getting asked if you need some help. A too-abrupt explanation of classes. A question which reveals that assumptions have been made about you, because of your ethnicity. Often an expected level of service rises and falls with the energy-level of the staff, or how pressured they have been during the day, or other things going on in their personal lives. It rarely rises and falls because of race. But it’s not always perceived or understood that way.

I had one minority student who tried to register for one of my advanced jewelry design classes — a class with 3 other prerequisites — and I turned her down. She was furious. She explained that she had taken all these other classes at other bead stores. I told her that our classes are not the same as at other beads stores. They teach steps; we teach theory and applications. I asked her a couple of design-theory questions — things I cover in my other classes — and she was clueless. My first question is always “Do you know the difference between gold-filled and gold-plated?” Rarely does anyone know the answer, and she did not either. I explained to her that I make everyone start at the beginning of our curriculum, including experienced beaders and jewelry makers, because classes elsewhere are craft-oriented project classes, and our classes are skills-based and more academic. I told her she would be wasting her money starting with this advanced class. She took it to mean that, as a minority, I felt she was incapable of learning. I tried to reason with her, but to no avail. Lost a student, garnered more bad word of mouth, and felt I was not heard nor understood.

On another occasion, a minority customer walked into the store, and was not greeted by staff. She walked in at a moment where the staff member who would have greeted her, had gotten sick and was throwing up in the bathroom, two other staff working on internet orders had been dealing with a problem with a customer on the phone, and another staff was getting some inventory from the back room. She expected to be greeted. She assumed the lack of any attention — and she did not even have a staff member glance her way and smile — was because she was black. She complained vociferously to me. Barely stretching my voice over her anger, I explained in great detail what was happening around her. Eventually, she calmed down. She has remained a customer. But she could as easily have gone elsewhere. She did not have to complain to me, and in effect, challenge her first assumptions. But she did. And this was a subject I did not want to deal with — not at all. But glad we had that conversation.

People make assumptions about other people based on their race. This is an unfortunate, but rationale thing that people do. It can be both funny and tragic. Someone puts you into a box in terms of the types of beading or jewelry making they expect you to do, because of your skin color or the slant of your eyes. Someone assumes that your level of jewelry-making proficiency must be based on your cultural and social and biological history.

Time and again over the years, I’ve introduced minority students to one of our bead study groups or jewelry making classes. The groups and classes are very inviting. But how many times I’ve overheard them peppering the person with questions, assuming, for instance, a black person would automatically be interested in Zulu beadwork, tribal jewelry and motifs, or African Trade Beads. And they’re not. Or that an Asian student would only be interested in bead weaving or pearl knotting, and only with Japanese seed beads or Japanese pearls. And they’re not. Or that a Latino student would prefer to use very bright colors. When they’re not. And they get asked all these questions which re-emphasizes that they are not necessarily among friends. And they don’t come back.

While these occurrences are the exception, rather than the rule, they happen often enough to make you think about the relationship of beads to race, beading to race, and bead stores to race. We don’t want to contribute to a hostile environment, even if this sense of hostility is very slight, often unintended. We want to contribute to a free flowing and overflowing multitudinous outpouring of ideas.

The beader’s job is not to solve the problems of the world. But in a quest for good design, the beader has to let some of the world in — problems and all.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

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

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation to Lampwork Beads

Posted by learntobead on June 18, 2020

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

MAKING GLASS BEADS BY HAND

Lampworking. The major way of making glass beads by hand is called “Lampworking.” It’s not the only way to make beads by hand, but it’s the major way. It’s called “Lampworking” because these beads were originally made over lamp flames. Another name for this is called “wound glass”, because you are winding glass around a steel rod, using the flame to soften the glass.

In lampworking, the bead artist sits at a workbench. A torch is centered in front of him or her, with a flame shooting out away from him/her. The lampwork artist takes a steel rod called a “mandrel”, and turns the mandrel between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, each hand on either end of the mandrel. The flame is shooting out over the middle of this steel rod. The thickness of this rod becomes the thickness of the hole of the bead.

Around the artist are many glass rods, each a different color. The artist usually starts with a clear rod. S/he puts the tip of the clear rod in the flame, and melts the glass onto the mandrel. Now if the artist takes the mandrel too far from the flame, or stops turning the mandrel, the glass at this point is like water, and it would drop to the table. So basically the artist has to keep turning. It takes about 40 minutes to do a ¾’ to 1” bead with some decoration on it

The artist keeps on layering the glass on the mandrel while turning it between thumbs and forefingers on either end. S/he’ll stop for a few seconds. Then the artist might take a blue rod, and melt a dot of blue onto the glass. And then keep turning. Briefly stop again. The artist will take what looks like a dental tool, and pull at the blue dot, then keep turning. This is called raking. Then he’ll stop a few more seconds, and rake some more. This is how you begin to do a pattern or a picture. The artist might also lay some shards or stringers of glass for decoration and let these melt into the developing glass bead.

Then, when the bead is built up the way the artist wants, s/he takes the mandrel with the hot bead on it, and puts this all into a hot kiln, and lets it cool, usually overnight. It’s critical in lampworking that the outside of the bead, and the inside of the bead, cool down at the same rate. This is called annealing. If it doesn’t cool down at the same rate, the bead will fracture. If the bead fractures, it means the bead will break. It may break in the kiln. It may break when you take it out. It may take a week. It may take a month. It may take a year before it will break, but it will break.

In my shop, I carry lampwork beads from many countries, including India, China, Indonesia, Venice, the Czech Republic and the United States. In lampworking price-wise, you can get low-end (inexpensive) or high-end (expensive), but no in-between. Either the bead has been annealed (cooled down) correctly and will not break, or it hasn’t and it will.

As a designer, this creates some hard choices for you. In India, they don’t worry about the cooling down process, and there are a few other craftsmanship issues, so all their beads will eventually break. Most of the India lampwork glass are copies of famous Venetian lampwork beads. Venice is top of the line for lampworking.

One raised flower rose bead with aventurine detail, and about 1” in diameter, might be $2.00 retail for the India “imitation” bead, and $20.00 retail for the Venetian original. If a person wants a necklace with a hand-made look, and is only going to wear that piece occasionally over the next year or two, then the India bead will be fine. If someone wants a more investment quality piece, then most people can’t afford a whole necklace of quality lampwork beads. You would be looking at a $600–800.00 necklace. So, often, with top quality lampwork beads, you might use just one, or say three beads, and either have a lot of cord showing, or use a lot of spacer beads. A very different design aesthetic.

One of my students had lived in Venice for a long time. She said that a lot of what you see in the souvenir stores there that is labeled “Venetian” is actually from India. There’s a real easy test. If I took the bead from India and dropped it on the floor, it would break. If I took the bead from Venice and dropped it on the floor, it may or may not chip. Great test!

One more point here. Also on the low-end are lampwork beads from Indonesia, China and Taiwan. What I like about these lampwork beads is that they copy more American styles, rather than the old-world Venetian styles of the India glass. But remember, lampworking in these countries also have similar craftsmanship issues of cooling down and the like. These beads also chip and break easily.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Preparers

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

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

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

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

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

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Brick Stitch

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

Posted by learntobead on June 17, 2020

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

Not All Beads Are Alike

Not all beads are alike. When you see them in a store or a catalog or online, they might look the same in appearance. But appearances are deceiving. There are underlying quality differences which can be very wide indeed. Such differences will have a big impact, sometimes negative, on the success of your pieces.

Beads are made in many countries around the world, but few are made in the United States. Making beads is a difficult task. Bead-making is often done by workers who are exploited in some way, and this is a reality of the craft. Knowing what country the beads were manufactured in tells you a lot about their quality and usefulness. In fact, country-of-origin is your best indicator of quality.

[NOTE: Increased Globalization these days tends to blur geographical boundaries. What’s labeled “Made in Germany” might actually be manufactured in Pakistan. Austrian Crystal and Murano Glass might originate in China. Bali Silver might begin its creation in India or Turkey. Yet we still associate our understanding of “quality” by the country label stamped on the beads packaging, where we assume, that the primary “country” on the label of the product maintains its sense of quality standards, no matter where the product has actually been produced. So crystal labeled “Made in Austria”, which may have actually been manufactured in China, would have the higher qualities associated with Austria; whereas, crystal labeled “Made in China” and manufactured in China would have the lower qualities associated with China.

The journey of a glass bead might transverse 5 or 6 countries before it ended up on the retail shelf. One country might make a core bead. It may go to another country to do some shaping. Still another country to do some finishing. Yet another country for some coloration. And yet one more country to apply a special coloration effect. And, yes, still yet another country to get packaged up as retail-ready.]

Not all beads are useful for all projects. Beads come in all levels of quality and sophistication. Knowing which beads to select for your project, — whether you want to bead a professional jewelry designer, or not is a key skill every beader and jewelry maker needs to learn.

In this module, I’m going to focus on glass beads, and try to give you a sense of what “quality” means. My descriptions are broad generalizations, but will give you a good grounding in quality issues and considerations.

Picture in your mind a strand of 8mm round glass beads. We will call these “large” beads, as opposed to the “small” seed beads we’ll cover later in another module. For our purposes here, it does not matter what color or finish these beads are, only that they are glass, are round, and that we’re looking at several of them that are supposed to be the same bead, typically on a strand.

These are 8mm, Round, Pressed Glass Beads

Look at the glass beads in the image above. They are machine made (pressed glass). I want to give you a sense of what quality means, when it comes to glass beads. I am going to pretend they are made in different countries to give you a sense of what quality means.

Our criteria:
1) perfection in shape
 2) consistency in shape from bead to bead on a strand
 3) hole sharpness or smoothness
 4) hole size consistency from bead to bead on a strand
 5) whether hole is drilled through the center or not
 6) whether the color is in the glass, or applied to the surface of the glass using a coating, film or decal

CZECH GLASS: If these 8mm round glass beads had been made in The Czech Republic, we’d give them a grade of “B”. We would consider the price to be above average, by a good typical benchmark for quality jewelry.

NOTE: The “grade” and “price” refers to beads (and other components) for jewelry making purposes. The quality of the pieces you would use in making jewelry have to be of a much higher quality than those you would use to make something stationery, like a beaded Christmas ornament. All jewelry moves. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure and force on each component. So they have to be a higher quality. My reference in our discussions in on jewelry.

These 8mm round Czech glass beads would be considered “generally perfectly round.” They are not perfectly round, but close.

The beads on a strand from bead to bead are pretty much the same size and shape. They are not really the exact size and shape, just close.

The manufacturer produces thousands of beads, basically one at a time. At the point they are ready to get strung up as strands, they are piled in up into a huge pyramid on a table. Someone, usually a woman, sits there all day and eyeballs them and sorts them by quality. She separates the A-quality from the B-quality. B-quality beads may have some flat sides, the color may not fill the entire bead, the holes may have chips or other problems, the shape might be somewhat distorted. For the A-quality, she chooses which ones are similar enough to be included on the same strand, and the customer will think they are all exactly the same. This process of selection is less important for the B-quality beads.

The Czech beads have a good size hole. The holes from bead to bead on a strand are pretty much the same size. They are drilled through the center.

These holes would be called “generally smooth”. This is a marketing term. The hole of a bead is not very smooth. Instead it looks like a broken soda bottle. If I took a soda bottle and smashed it on the edge of a table, this resulting jagged rim would be what the hole looked like — rough, jagged edges, potential to cut your stringing material. Because you cannot see this roughness with your naked eye, marketers can get away with calling these holes “generally smooth”. However, you always have to worry about the holes of your beads cutting your stringing materials.

One last point. The Czechs use colored glass, so if the bead scratched or chipped, it would be the same color on the inside.

JAPANESE GLASS: If these 8mm round beads had been made in Japan, we’d give them a grade of “A”. The Japanese beads would cost about 3–5 times that of the Czech beads.

These beads would be “generally perfectly round”. They would not be perfectly round, but would be rounder than the Czech beads.

The beads on a strand would be very similar in size and shape, though not exactly the same size and shape.

These would have good hole sizes, and the hole sizes would be consistent from bead to bead on the strand.

These holes would be called “smooth”, and you would primarily be paying for a smoother hole. Note how I say smoother, not smooth. They would be drilled through the center.

The Japanese also use colored glass, so if your bead scratched or chipped, it would be the same color on the inside.

CHINESE GLASS: These round 8mm glass beads could also have been made in China. We would give these beads a “D” or an “F”. They would be 1/3 or less in cost than the Czech beads.

These beads would be “generally perfectly round”.

The hole sizes would be a good size hole and consistent along the strand from bead to bead.

We would call these holes “generally smooth”, meaning they look like a broken coke bottle. The holes would be a little rougher than the Czech beads.

Usually the hole is drilled through the center, but sometimes you’ll find that the hole is a little off-center. If off-center, this means the bead will more easily break when worn. It also means that the beads on a strand will not line up perfectly, which can be annoying.

The problem with the Chinese beads is that they tend to use clear beads and colored coatings. The coatings are very poorly applied. The coatings will chip off, and your beads will all-too-quickly look like chipped nail polish.

[Since 2005, the Czechs have gotten very much into coatings, as well. Their finishes seem more reliable, but will still have the issues of chipping off the core bead. But the coating technology keeps improving. For the Czechs, this has opened up great possibilities in color combinations and effects. The Czechs use their coated beads to supplement and complement their regular line of beads. ]

[NOTE, parenthetically: The best gemstone beads come from China. China gets A+ for gemstones. Their higher quality gemstone beads tend to be higher priced than gemstone beads from other countries. While India is catching up in quality and selection, they still have a ways to go. What I tend to like about the Chinese gemstone beads is that they are more careful in how they drill the holes. They know how to avoid the fracture lines in the stone, so that when finished jewelry is subjected to all the forces of movement and wear, they hold up well, and don’t break. Chinese beads have clean holes, and rarely have any cracks or wear at the hole. Chinese beads, when treated with dyes, heat, radiation, polishes and the like, seem more durable, and less affected by sunlight, water, detergents and general wear, than similarly treated ones from other countries. I usually try to avoid the beads from India, particularly the treated ones, but they are a lot less expensive. ]

INDIA GLASS: As a last example, we can picture these same 8mm round beads beads as if they were made in India. Here, we would give these beads an “F minus minus minus minus”. These beads would be a fraction of the cost of the Czech beads.

These beads would not be perfectly round.

Some holes would be OK, some too small, some too large.

Some holes would be drilled centered. Some off centered. Some somewhat at a diagonal.

These holes would be called “rough”. They can’t get away with marketing because your eye can see how rough these are.

While the Indians are beginning to adapt some of the Chinese production techniques, such as colored coatings and decals, to keep their costs down, for the most part today, you can assume that they have used colored glass, so if their beads scratched or chipped, they would be the same color on the inside.

So Many Beads, So Little Time, Which Ones Do I Choose?

This does NOT mean that you never use beads from India and China and only use beads from the Czech Republic or Japan. You always relate your choice of bead to what you’re trying to do — that is, your design goals, (and if you are selling things, to your marketing goals, as well).

For example, if you are making Fashion Jewelry, the Indian beads might be your best choice. This type of jewelry is often worn only once or twice and thrown away. Not only would the Indian beads be your best choice because they are cheap; their irregularities gives them a funky look, and this works hand in hand with Fashion jewelry. The Chinese beads would be OK because they are cheap, but there’s nothing funky about them. They look very machine made.

On the other extreme, if you were making an heirloom bracelet, and the person you made it for was going to wear it a lot, put it away, give it to their granddaughter or niece, and that person was not going to wear it, then the Czech beads might be your best choice. If the granddaughter or niece was, in fact, going to wear this heirloom bracelet, then, from a design stand-point, the Japanese beads might be your best choice.

From a marketing stand-point, however, if you were selling this piece, you might have to back down to the Czech beads. Say you presented your customer with a choice between a Czech-based heirloom bracelet and one Japanese-based bracelet, and the former might sell for $100 and the latter for $400. Four hundred dollars is a hard sell. To your customer, both bracelets would look exactly the same. The things that are different are either things they can’t see, or things that may not happen for 30 or 40 years.

So, in beading, nothing is perfect. At least should accept these facts: There is no perfect bead for every situation. No perfect clasp. No perfect stringing material. No perfect technique. Everything involves making choices and trade-offs and judgment calls. The more you understand the quality of the pieces you are using, and the clearer you are about your design goals (and if you’re selling your stuff, your marketing goals as well), the more prepared you’ll be to make these kinds of choices.

Yes, better prepared to make choices. That’s why you need an Orientation.

Making Beads By Machine

Pressed Glass. There are many ways to make glass beads by machine. The major way of making glass beads by machine is called “Pressed Glass” — basically molding them.

To oversimplify things, to make a round bead in pressed glass, you would fill two half cups with molten glass and then press them together. At the point they’ve been pressed together, this sometimes leaves a ridge, and sometimes a color change. While they are supposed to tumble the beads to smooth out the ridge, sometimes this ridge can be very pronounced. With the color change, sometimes this looks like a natural part of the bead; othertimes, it’s hideous.

The line down the center of the bead is where the two halves come together.

The Lesson here: Whenever you buy a strand of beads, you need to examine all the beads on the strand, to make sure you can live with what you’re buying. There will be production issues with some beads in any batch. You especially want to look at the equator or belly to be sure there are no ridges or hideous discolorations. You want to be sure there are no flat spots where none should be. That the shape of the bead is perfect and consistent from bead to bead on the strand. That the coloration is full and complete within each bead. And that the holes are drilled cleanly — that is, no chips around the holes of the beads, and that the holes have been drilled as a straight channel through the center.

The actual process of pressing glass into beads: The bead presser sits in front of a fiery kiln, with many rods of colored glass next to him. The tips of these rods are resting in the kiln, to make them soft. A die press (like two cookie cutters vertically hurling towards each other, then suddenly away again) is operating in front of the kiln, between the kiln and the bead presser. The bead presser grabs a rod, and moves the tip into the die press. The press stamps out the shape of a bead. Rods in the die press molds simultaneously create the hole. The presser continues to move the rod into the die press. Only a few beads can be pressed before the rod must be heated again. So the presser lays this rod next to him, with the tip in the kiln, and grabs another rod with a hot tip. The pressed glass cool as they slide into a holding container. The beads at this point are still connected to each other by the excess glass around the molded shape. The beads then get tumbled to break the beads apart from the rod. And they get tumbled again to smooth off the ridges. The quality of the beads relies mostly on the skill level of the master bead presser. These bead pressers vary widely in their craftsmanship.

Druks and Fire Polish Beads

I wanted to give you, at this point in our orientation pathway, a couple of terms for beads. The first is “Druk”. Druk means plain, smooth, roundish. Not necessarily just round. Roundish. You can have a round Druk, a Druk rondelle, an egg-shaped Druk. If you’re looking for a Plain Jane kind of glass bead, usually the word Druk will get you the furthest.

The opposite of Druk is called “Fire Polish”. Fire Polish beads have at least one slice or facet on it. Fire Polish beads start as smooth round beads and facets are grinded into them in a faceting machine. The faceted surfaces and edges can be splintery and sharp. So before these glass beads can be used, these surfaces and edges need to be smoothed out. One way this is done is to run the bead back and forth in a flame or a very hot oven so the surfaces melt, thus “fire-polishing”.

So you can have a round Fire Polish bead. A teardrop Fire Polish bead. A 5-sided Fire Polish bead. An 8-sided Fire Polish bead. A Fire Polish rondelle. If you’re looking for a faceted, dressier look, then usually the words “Fire Polish” will get you the furthest.

THE AB- AND OTHER COLORATION EFFECTS

Now on some beads, there is a special coloration finish called an “Effect”. The most common is an AB effect. AB stands for Aurora Borealis. The AB effect looks like a rainbow or oil slick. This effect appears on just one side of the bead — it doesn’t go all the way around.

There are many ways to make this effect on the glass, and the technology is always changing and evolving — mostly to keep the costs down. Typically on glass beads, a chemical is applied to one side of the bead, and then the bead is subjected to some source of heat and pressure. The chemical explodes on the glass, adheres to the glass, and creates a certain coloration. The effect is typically “fired” on the bead; it is not typically a coating. The fired finish is more durable. There are about 40 different coloration effects — such as celsian, azuro, zairit, valentinit, clarit, vega, ½ silver (cal), ½ gold (Apollo), ½ copper, among others — , and new ones invented frequently. But most often, all you see is the AB effect.

Now, they do create this where it goes all the way around the glass. To go all the way around the glass, they have to repeat the production process twice. When the effect goes all the way around the glass, the color is called AB AB or FULL AB.

If we are talking about color names, the color name for black is “jet.” With no effect the color would be called “jet.” With the effect on one side, “jet AB.” With the effect all the way around, “jet AB AB.” [On crystal beads, the shortform color name would be “jet 2X.”]

Over time, this AB effect will begin to scratch and eventually wear off. On most quality beads, this usually takes a very long time. Occasionally this happens more quickly than you would like. If this is critical to you and your piece, you’ll want to experiment with your beads before you use them. Take one bead and see how easy it is to scratch off with your fingernail. On some Chinese beads, I think they spray it on, because I can literally flick it off with my thumb nail.

Sometimes the word “Rainbow” is used to denote the AB effect. Sometimes this word is used to denote a similar but different effect called “iris”.

DRUKS AND FIRE POLISH BEADS ARE MEASURED IN MILLIMETERS

Druks and Fire Polish beads are measured in “millimeters”. Typically, these are available in 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, and 12mm. Less common are 5mm, 7mm, 9mm and sizes larger than 12mm.

Rulers are marked in inches on one side and millimeters on the other. There are 25mm in an inch. Thus 6mm would be approximately 1/4 inches (25 divided by 6).

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Jewelry Findings: Preparers

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

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

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

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

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

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Brick Stitch

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS AT THE BEAD STORE

Posted by learntobead on June 17, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Revealing Tax Cut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like the Colorado River.

On the map, it reaches the Gulf of California.

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

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

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

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

Dressing For Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Income Class Competition

I have to listen to this several times a week.

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Equalizers

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

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

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

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

The Beads always win.

And that’s reassuring.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

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

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

HOW SPARKLE ENTERS PEOPLES’ LIVES

Posted by learntobead on June 17, 2020

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

“Annyonghi kaysayo”

Good bye, the hostess replied.

And a little sparkle was added to their lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The silken pearl necklace which adorned Gena at her wedding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except in a random sense.

And that’s not good enough.

The Jewelry Designer Is A Conductor … Of Sparkle

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

The jewelry designer is a Conductor.

Of sparkle.

Avoiding discord.

Sparkle Requires No Non-Essential Elements

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

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

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

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

And sparkles.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Do You Know Where Your Beading Needles Are?

Consignment Selling: A Last Resort

Odds or Evens? What’s Your Preference?

My Clasp, My Clasp, My Kingdom For A Clasp

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

The Bead Spill: My Horrifying Initiation

The Artists At The Party

How To Bead A Rogue Elephant

You Can Never Have Enough Containers For Your Stuff

Beading While Traveling On A Plane

Contemplative Ode To A Bead

How To Bead In A Car

My Aunt Gert: Illustrating Some Lessons In Business Smarts

A Jewelry Designer’s Day Dream

A Dog’s Life by Lily

I Make All The Mistakes In The Book

How Sparkle Enters People’s Lives

Upstairs, Downstairs At The Bead Store

Beads and Race

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

Women and Their Husbands When Shopping For Beads

Women Making Choices In The Pursuit Of Fashion

Existing As A Jewelry Designer: What Befuddlement!

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

Jewelry Design: A Managed Process

Posted by learntobead on June 12, 2020

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

“Jewelry is art, but only art as it is worn.”

That’s a powerful idea, — “as it is worn” — but, when making jewelry, we somewhat ignore it. We bury it somewhere in the back of our brains, so it doesn’t get in the way of what we are trying to do. We relegate it to a phrase on the last page of a book we have promised ourselves to read sometime, so it doesn’t put any road blocks in front of our process of creation.

We like to follow steps, and are thrilled when a lot of the thinking has been done for us. We like to make beautiful things. But, we do not want to have to make a lot of choices. We don’t want anything to disrupt our creative process.

We do not want to worry about and think about and agonize over jewelry “as it is to be worn.” Let’s not deal with those movement, architectural, engineering, context, interpersonal and behavioral stuff. We just want to make things.

To most artisans, making jewelry should never be work. It should always be fun.

Making jewelry should be putting a lot of things on a table in front of you, and going for it.

Making jewelry just is. It is not something we have to worry about managing.

It is easy to make, copy or mimic jewelry someone else has designed, either through kits or through imitation.

Making jewelry is doing. Not thinking.

Creating. Not managing.

We prefer to make jewelry distinct from any context in which it might be worn or sold. We don’t want someone looking over our shoulder, while we create. We don’t want to adjust any design choice we make because the client won’t like it, or, perhaps, it is out of fashion or color-shaded with colors not everyone likes. Perhaps our design choices at-the-moment do not fit with the necessities associated with how we need to market our wares to sell them. Our pieces might somehow be off-brand.

All too often, we avoid having to think about the difficult choices and trade-offs we need to make, when searching for balance. That is balance among aesthetics, functionality, context, materials and technique. And balance between our needs as designers and the wearer’s needs, as well. So, too, we shy aware from making any extra effort to please “others” or “them”. Even though this hardly makes sense if we want these “others” or “them” to wear our jewelry or buy our jewelry creations.

Everything comes down to a series of difficult choices. We are resistant to making many of them. So we ignore them. We pretend they are choices better left to other people, though never fully sure who those other people are. We yearn to be artists, but resign ourselves to be craft-persons. We dabble with art, but avoid design.

We hate to make trade-offs between art and function; that is, allow something to be a little less beautiful so that it won’t break or not drape and move well when worn. We hate to make things in colors or silhouettes we don’t like. We hate to make the same design over and over again, even though it might be popular or sell well.

But make these kinds of choices we must! Your jewelry is a reflection of the sum of these choices. It is a reflection of you. You as an artist. You as a creator. You as an architect and an engineer. You as a social scientist. You as a business person. You as a designer.

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

JEWELRY DESIGN IS A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DESIGN THINKING

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

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

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

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

Something to think about.

HOW DO WE TEACH JEWELRY DESIGN THINKING
AS A MANAGEMENT PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

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

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

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

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

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

I hope you found this article useful.

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

JEWELRY DESIGN COMPOSITION: PLAYING WITH BUILDING BLOCKS CALLED DESIGN ELEMENTS

Posted by learntobead on June 10, 2020

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

Jewelry Design Composition

Jewelry making is a constructive process of expression.

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

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

1) Vocabulary: Design Elements As The Basis Of Composition

2) Grammar: Principles of Construction

3) Strategy: Project Management[1]

4) Context/Culture: Shared Understandings[2]

This article focuses on the first component — Design Elements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DESIGN ELEMENTS COMPRISE A VOCABULARY
OF BASIC ARTISTIC EXPRESSION

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

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

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

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

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

The Japanese Fragrance Garden Bracelet

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

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

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

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

What I Wanted To Achieve
Design Elements I Thought About

A. Movement
B. Dimensionality
C. Color Blending

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

Technique: Fringing technique

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

Color: To mimic how moving
colors will be perceived, I varied color in flower stalks from dark at the
bottom to medium to light at the top, just under the flower, and then used
bright colors for the flowers topping off each stalk

Point, Line: Easy for viewer to perceive and follow
movement of points and lines, which are key elements in the piece

B. Dimensionality
where the piece would not be seen as flat

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

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

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

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

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

How Do You Teach Designers A Vocabulary of Design?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________

Footnotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

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

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

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

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

JEWELRY DESIGN PRINCIPLES: COMPOSING, CONSTRUCTING, MANIPULATING

Posted by learntobead on June 9, 2020

Abstract:

It is not happenstance that some pieces of jewelry draw your attention, and others do not. It is the result of an artist fluent in design. That fluency begins with selecting Design Elements, but it comes to full fruition with the application of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation. This is where the artist flourishes, shows a recognition of shared understandings about good design, and makes that cluster of jewelry design choices resulting in a piece that is seen as both finished and successful. These Principles represent different organizing schemes the artist might resort to. Jewelry artists translate these Principles a little differently than painters or sculptors, in that jewelry presents different demands and expectations on the artist. The better artist/designer achieves a level of disciplinary literacy — selecting Design Elements and applying Principles — where fluency becomes automatic, accurate, and rapidly applied.

JEWELRY DESIGN PRINCIPLES:COMPOSING, CONSTRUCTING, MANIPULATING

Some pieces of jewelry draw your attention. Others do not.

This is not a matter of happenstance. It is the result of an artist fluent in design. That fluency begins with the selection of Design Elements — the smallest meaningful units of design. But it comes to full fulfillment with the application and manipulation of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation. These “organizing schemes” reflect what the individual artist wants to express, and how the individual artist anticipates how others will understand and respond to this expression.

Design Elements, which I have discussed in an earlier article [1], are like building blocks and function a bit like the vowel and consonant letters of the alphabet. They have form. They have meaning. They can be assembled into different arrangements which extend their meaning and usefulness in expression. Examples: color, shape, texture, point/line/plane, movement, dimensionality, and the like. Each Design Element has a set of expressive attributes. Color can be expressed as a color scheme, or as proportions, or as simultaneity effects. Shape can be geometric or dimensional or recognizable or symbolic. And so forth.

Design Elements function like a vocabulary. They represent universally accepted expressive content. Visualize the analogy between design elements and vocabulary. Picture a “t”, perhaps combined with an “h”, and then with an “e”. Or, picture the difficulty in trying to combine a “th” with a “z”. Or, still yet, picture how the “c” in “cat” is pronounced differently than the “c” in “sense”, yet still recognized as a “c”. In similar ways, the artist might decide to use the design elements of “color” and “line,” and combine them to yield another design element of “movement.” Literacy begins with the ability to decode, and this ability centers on the selection and use of Design Elements.

Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation function more like a grammar. Given the Design Elements selected by the artist, Principles represent organizing strategies to which the artist resorts when attempting to achieve a piece that will be seen as both “finished” and “successful”, both by the artist, as well as that artist’s audience. The artist might arrange several design elements and their expressive attributes to yield a higher level organizing principle. For example, the artist might combine:

color(intensity)+line(direction)+shape(geometry)+placement(symmetry)+balance+material” to yield a sense of “rhythm.

To continue our analogy with vocabulary, grammar and literacy, picture our “t”, “h” and “e” put together to form a full word like ”thesaurus”, then expanded into an idea, like “teachers like to use a thesaurus”, and further expressed, in anticipation of a response, to something like “but students hate when the teacher asks them to use a thesaurus.”

Literacy goes beyond decoding; it includes a fluency in how the Design Elements are organized to evoke an emotional response. This involves an intuitive understanding of Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation, and how to apply them. While Design Elements are selected primarily based on shared, more universal understandings of what they express, often, Principles are applied in ways more reflective of artist’s hand, and its subjective expression.

The successful jewelry designer has developed a fluency in the Disciplinary Literacy of jewelry design. Fluency is the ability of the designer to select and connect Design Elements smoothly, in visually and functionally and situationally appropriate ways with understanding. The idea of understanding is broadly defined, to include the artist’s personal goals for expression, as well as the expectations of all the audiences — the wearer, the viewer, the buyer, the seller, the student, the master. The better designer achieves a level of disciplinary literacy where fluency becomes automatic, accurate, and rapidly applied.

This Disciplinary Literacy in jewelry design has a structure all its own. There are four main components to it:

1) Vocabulary: Design Elements As The Basis Of Composition

2) Grammar: Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation

3) Strategy: Project Management[2]

4) Context/Culture: Shared Understandings[3]

This article focuses on the second component — Principles.

What Are Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation?

Jewelry Design is the strategic application of basic principles of organization and expression to achieve a piece which evokes emotion, resonates, and is appealing as it is worn. Traditionally the art and design worlds referred to these as “Principles of Composition.” Often artists and designers get tripped up on the word Principles, and jewelry designers get a bit confused or frustrated with the word Composition.

The use of the word “Principles” in art and design can be somewhat confusing. These Principles do not represent a set of universal, dependable and repeatable standards to strive for, which we might assume, at first.

A different meaning about “Principles” applies here. A Principle is an organizing scheme as a way to combine design elements into a more pleasing whole composition. The design elements include things which are visual effects; but, for jewelry designers, they also include things which functional, as well as things which are more social, psychological, cultural and situational. Principles inform artists in their expressive, authentic performances. Every artist is expected to apply these Principles, but only in ways the artist chooses. There might be better or worse ways to apply them, but no right or wrong ways.

Another aspect of confusion is the use of the word “Composition”. I’ve expanded the phrase, though somewhat awkwardly, to “Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation.” The traditional art and design idea of “composition” covers two very different types of jewelry design literacy skills under a single label, namely decoding (Design Elements) and fluency (Principles). The better jewelry designer needs to learn and apply both aspects of disciplinary literacy, but each involves different ways of thinking. As a teacher, both require different sets of strategies for training and educating jewelry designers.

Jewelry designers, by the nature of jewelry, have to deal equally with functional aspects of design, not just artistic composition. Traditional Principles of Composition need to be re-oriented for the jewelry artist to be more sensitive to the more architectural aspects of design. Design choices are also best understood at the boundary between the art of design and the body it adorns.

Limited to the idea of composition, jewelry might be judged successful as “art”, as if it was displayed on a mannequin or easel. But jewelry, in reality, can only be judged as a constructive, manipulated result situated at the boundary between art and body; that is, jewelry can only be judged as “art as it is worn.”

In this article, I focus on Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation. The Principles, as organizing schemes, are intertwined, and, the use of one will often depend on another. Movement might be achieved by the placement of lines, which might also establish a rhythm. Such placement of lines might be symmetrically balanced, with line thinness and thickness statistically distributed evenly through the piece.

These organizing and arranging schemes might include:

  • the Positioning and/or Ordering of things (white/black/white/black vs. black/black/black/white)
  • the Volume or Area the piece takes up (one row of beads vs. 3 rows of beads)
  • the Scale and Size of the pieces (6mm 6mm 6mm vs. 10mm 10mm 10mm)
  • the Colors, Textures and Patterns of individual pieces, and/or sets or groupings of pieces (matte/matte/shiny/matte/matte vs. shiny/shiny/matte/shiny/shiny)
  • the Forms (identifiable sets of pieces, highly integrated)
  • the Materials
  • the interplay of Light, Dark, Shadow, Reflection and Refraction (dark/dark/transparent/dark/dark vs. transparent/transparent/dark/transparent/transparent)
  • the clasp assembly and other supporting systems

Some of these design Principles are applied in similar ways to all art forms, such as painting and sculpture, no matter what the medium.

For other Principles, jewelry creates its own challenges, because all jewelry places some different demands and expectations on the artist than painting or sculpture does. Jewelry…

  • functions in a 3-dimensional space, particularly sensitive to position, volume and scale
  • must stand on its own as an object of art
  • but must also exist as an object of art which interacts with the body, movement, personality, and quirks of the wearer
  • serves many purposes, some aesthetic, some functional, some social, cultural or situational
  • has a much more integrated and inter-dependent relationship of the center piece, strap, fringe, edge, bail and surface embellishment — an arrangement that traditional Art theory rejects. Art sees the center piece as the “art”, and these other things as supporting, not artistic details, like a frame for a painting or a pedestal for a sculpture.

Good jewelry should exude an energy. It should resonate. This energy results from how the artist applies these Principles to compose with, construct and manipulate light and shadow, and their characteristics of warmth and cold, receding and approaching, bright and dull, light and dark. The artist’s piece is judged on whether the resulting piece feels coherent, organized, controlled, and strategically designed, again, as the jewelry is worn. Successful application of these Principles results in a piece which feels finished and successful.

The Principles include,

  1. Rhythm
  2. Pointers
  3. Linear and Planar Relationships
  4. Interest
  5. Statistical Distribution
  6. Balance
  7. Forms, Their Proportions, Distributions and Dimensionality
  8. Temporal Extension: Time and Place
  9. Physical Extension: Functionality
  10. Parsimony (something similar to, but a little beyond harmony and unity)

TABLE OF PRINCIPLES

THE PRINCIPLES IN MORE DETAIL

1. Rhythm

Movement is the path our eyes follow when we look at a work of art, and it is generally very important to keep a viewer’s eyes engaged in the work. Without movement, artwork becomes stagnant. A few good strategies to evoke a sense of movement (among many others) are using diagonal lines, placing shapes so that the extend beyond the boundaries of the picture plane, and using changing values.

Rhythm is one Principle used to shape the viewer’s experience with the piece. Rhythm is how the piece leads the viewer through sequences of steps. It is a measure of the degree the piece engages the viewer’s eye.

There is a continuance, a flow or a feeling of movement from one place of the piece to another.

Repetition and pattern are key here. The artist might achieve a rhythm by varying or repeating colors, textures, sizes, forms. The rhythm might be slow, fast, predictable, random, staccato, measured, safe, edgy, and so forth. The intervals between repetitions and patterns can create a sense of rhythm in the viewer and a sense of movement. Repetitions and patterns can be random, regular, alternating, flowing, progressive — there are many directions the artist can go in establishing a rhythm.

When a piece has multiple and coordinated rhythms, we call this Symphonic Rhythm. For example, in a piece, there might be a clear rhythm set by the use of colors throughout the piece, as well as the positioning of definable forms, such as a series of beaded leaves or other shapes.

The Rhythm should assist the viewer in cognitively making a complete circle around the piece. You don’t want the viewer to lose interest, get bored, or fall flat, before the eye and brain can make that complete circle.

Example:

Black-o-Black-o-Black-o-White-o-Black-o-Black-o-Black-o-White-o
Or,

Black-o-White-o-Black-o-White-o-Black-o-White-o-Black-o-White-o

The better designer can empower the design, if using Rhythm in the right way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2. Pointers

Pointers are places of emphasis, dominance or focus. Certain elements assume more importance than others within the same composition.

Pointers guide the viewer to a specific place, or focal point. Cognitively, you want to create the place for the eye/brain to come to rest.

Examples:

  • Something can be centered
  • The color can be varied, say from dark to light, to serve as an “arrow” or “Pointer” to a section of the necklace
  • The positioning of the clasp might serve as a pointer
  • A dangling pendant might serve as a pointer
  • The size of the beads can be varied, such as smallest to largest, to serve as an “arrow” or “Pointer”
  • Coordinating the placement of Focal Point on jewelry with the pattern in the clothing upon which the piece will rest
  • Something can be strategically off-centered.

The better designer is able to capture the viewer’s attention to more important parts of the piece.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

3. Linear and Planar Relationships

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

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

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

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

– a strategic use of lines and planes

— shapes

— boundaries

– -silhouettes

— contours

– symmetry

– or, more difficult to achieve, a satisfying asymmetry

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

– how sections of the piece interlock

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

Example:

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

Example:

Wearing a necklace, where the clasp is worn on the side, instead of the back. Again, what about the composition of the necklace, allows this to work; what about the composition doesn’t?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
4. Interest

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

Here the artist demonstrates how to balance off and control “variety” with “unity” and “harmony”. Without unity and harmony, the piece becomes chaotic. Without variety, the piece becomes boring, monotonous and uninteresting.

Arranging and organizing Design Elements might involve:
– selection of materials and mix of materials

– selection of color combinations

– varying the sizes of things

– pushing the envelop on interrelating planar relationships among the sections of the jewelry

– playing with the rhythm

– clever use of a focal point

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

5. Statistical Distribution

The artist is always concerned with the number or size or scale or measurement of things. This principle focuses on these statistics. With this principle, we are not concerned with the placement or balance of things — just the numbers and measurements.

We ask: How pleasing and satisfying are the selection of the numbers, sizes, proportions, volumes/weights, and color/textures of objects the artist wants to use in the piece. The artist might, at this point, anticipate creating a pattern, or not.

Examples:

BIG-o-BIG-o-small-o-BIG-o-BIG-o-small-o-

PURPLE-o-PURPLE-o-PURPLE-o-YELLOW-o-PURPLE-o-YELLOW-o-

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

6. Balance

Balance has to do with placement. How pleasing or satisfying is the placement of objects (and their attributes) within a piece?

Usually, the designer is trying to achieve a feeling of equality in weight, attention or attraction of the various visual design elements. The design attributes would include such things as the positioning or relative positioning of the materials used, the colors, textures and patterns, the sizes and scales.

The artist might play with placement in terms of proximity, alignment or repetition.

There are different types of balance.

(1) symmetry: the use of identical compositional units on either side of a vertical axis

(2) approximate symmetry: the use of similarly balanced compositional units on either side of a vertical axis

(3) radial symmetry: an even, radiating out from a central point to all four quadrants (directions) of the shape’s plane (surface)

(4) asymmetry: even though the compositional units are not identical on either side of a vertical axis, there is a “felt” equilibrium of the total piece. Often, with jewelry, this equilibrium depends on what clothes or other jewelry the person is wearing, or something about that person’s body/body shape.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

7. Forms, Their Proportions, Distributions and Dimensionality

Jewelry often can be structured in terms of segments, components or forms. How are pieces interconnected or amassed? Is this achieved through optical effects or reality?

The designer is concerned with managing these structures in terms of proportions, distributions and/or dimensionality. The artist makes choices about how each part relates to the whole in terms of scale or relevance.

The artist might play with things like:
Layering

Surface embellishment

Fringing

Curvature

Overlapping planes

Balance

The better designer creates pieces where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Example:

Flat loomed bracelet and a button clasp, that sits so high on the bracelet, that it detracts from the 2-dimensional reason-for-being of the piece.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

8. Temporal Extension: Time and Place

Any piece of jewelry must be acceptable within a certain historical, social, cultural or situational context.

For example, is a piece appropriate for a wedding also appropriate for office wear? Is a great University of Tennessee Orange Necklace as successful when worn to a Vanderbilt football game?

Temporal Extension may narrowly refer to one specific wearer in particular, or more broadly to group, situational, social or societal expectations.

Other examples:

  • white pearls are associated with bridal jewelry
  • using metalized plastic beads, where the plating chips off in a short period of time, should not be used in an heirloom bracelet
  • making a matching set of earrings and necklace for jewelry that typically should be worn as a matching set
  • gifting a carved jade pendant with an message-word carving inappropriate for the religion of the person receiving it

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

9. Physical Extension: Functionality

Any piece of jewelry must be functional when worn.

Functionality has to do with such things as movement, drape, comfort, flow and durability. The piece of jewelry needs to feel comfortable when worn, always look good on the wearer no matter what the wearer is doing, and be durable. This involves a lot of building in understandings of physical mechanics and architectural principles of construction.

When there is (or should be) movement in a piece, there should be clear evidence that the designer anticipated where the parts came from, and where they are going to. Jewelry is worn by people who move, so the design should be a natural physical extension to such movements, and the stress they put on the piece.

For example, in a necklace, the clasp should remain on the neck, even as the beadwork moves with the person, without the necklace turning around on the neck, or breaking.

Example: The dangle earring which has the dangle stuck in a 90 degree angle.

Example: The crimped bracelet which breaks at the crimp.

Example: The bracelet too tight when the design is turned into a circle placed around the wrist

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10. Parsimony
(something similar to, but a little bit beyond harmony and unity)

At the point where the piece is judged to be finished and successful, there should be no nonessential elements. When the piece is finished and successful, it should evoke emotions and resonate.

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

There is a tendency of beaders and jewelry makers to over-do:

– over-embellish the surface

– add too much fringe

– repeat themes and design elements too often

– use too many colors

Parsimony vs. Unity

In art, the traditional measure of completion and success was a feeling or sense of “Unity.” Unity signified how everything felt all right. All the Design Elements used, and how they were coordinated and placed, were very coherent, clear, harmonious and satisfying.

I think the idea of unity begins to get at the place we want to end up. But this concept is not concrete enough for me. You can have unity, but the piece still seen as boring when there is no variety. This condition is unacceptable as a principled outcome of jewelry construction. Finished and successful jewelry should evoke emotions and resonate. You can have unity, but the assessments rely too much on universal, objective perceptions of design elements and their attributes. The artist, the wearer, and the situation are too easily left out of the equation.

Jewelry creation usually demands a series of judgment calls and tradeoffs between aesthetics and functionality, artist goals and audience understandings and expectations, a full palette of colors, shapes and textures and a very limited one. A measure of completeness and success needs to result from the forced choice decisions of the artist. It needs to account for the significance of the results, not just the organization of them. It needs to explain the Why, not just the What.

For me, the more appropriate concept here is “Parsimony.” Parsimony is sometimes referred to in art and design as “Economy”, but the idea of economy is reserved for the visual effects. For jewelry designers, we want that economy or parsimony to apply to functional and situational effects, as well. When the finished and successful piece is parsimonious, the relationship of all the Design Elements and their expressed attributes will be so strong, that to add or remove any one thing would diminish, not just the design, but rather the significance of the design.

Parsimony…

– forces explanation; its forced-choice nature is most revealing about the artist’s understandings and intentions

– relies on evidence moreso than assumptions to get at criticality

– focuses examination of the few elements that make a difference

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THINKING ROUTINE[4]: LOOK — SCORE — EXPLAIN

___________________________________

FOOTNOTES
 [1] Feld, Warren. “Jewelry Design Composition: Playing with Building Blocks Called Design Elements,” 3/17/2018

[2] Feld, Warren. “Jewelry Design: A Managed Process,” Klimt02, 2/2/18. https://klimt02.net/forum/articles/jewelry-design-managed-process-warren-feld

[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] 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 .

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

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

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

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

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

THE JEWELRY DESIGNER’S PATH TO RESONANCE

Posted by learntobead on June 8, 2020

“Vestment”, Warren Feld, 2004, Miyuki cubes, seed beads and delicas, Austrian crystals, with 14KT, gold filled, sterling silver, and antiqued copper chain, clasps and other findings, lampwork bead by Lori Greenberg

Abstract:

Jewelry Designers want to be successful. But things can get a little muddled when thinking about how to get there. Our teachers, our friends, our colleagues often disagree on this point, and tell us to look for conflicting measures of success. We can often lose sight of what we want to end up with. The Goal-Oriented Jewelry Designer has but one guiding star: To achieve Resonance. Everything else is secondary. We achieve Resonance by gaining a comfort in communicating about design. This comfort, or disciplinary fluency, translates into all our composing, constructing and manipulating choices. This is empowering. Our pieces resonate. We achieve success.

THE GOAL-ORIENTED DESIGNER:
The Path To Resonance

Jewelry Designers want to be successful.

But things can get a little muddled when thinking about how to get there. Where should they start? What should they learn first? What materials should they accumulate? What techniques should they start with? Should they focus on the process of designing jewelry? Or moreso on making jewelry? Or still yet, on achieving certain target measures, such as numbers of pieces made, or numbers of sales, or numbers of venues in which their jewelry is sold? Are there qualitative things which are important to accumulate, such as self-satisfaction or customer-satisfaction? Or style? Or recognition? Acceptance? Understanding?

Our teachers, our friends, our colleagues often disagree on how to get there, and tell us to look for, what turn out to be in effect, conflicting measures of success. We can often lose sight of what we want to end up with. We get a lot of contradictory advice. How should we organize our creative work and our time? How should we select materials and techniques? How do we know when our piece is finished? How should we anticipate our client’s desires? How should we showcase our jewelry? How should we be judged and evaluated? We need to perform, we want to perform authentically, but how — how should we perform as a jewelry designer? The search for answers can be very frustrating, confusing, even demoralizing.

But it shouldn’t be. Every jewelry designer should have but one guiding star — Resonance. If our jewelry does not have some degree of resonance, we keep working on it. If the process of creative exploration and design does not lead us in the direction of resonance, we change it. If the results we achieve — numbers of pieces made and numbers of pieces sold — is not synced tightly with resonance, we cannot call ourselves designers.

The Goal-Oriented Jewelry Designer specifies those goals about performance which will lead to one primary outcome: To achieve Resonance. Everything else is secondary. Design elements are selected and applied with that idea of Resonance in mind. Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation are applied with that idea of Resonance in mind, with extra special attention paid to the Principle of Parsimony — knowing when enough is enough.

People may approach the performance tasks in varied ways. For some this means getting very detailed on pathways, activities, and objectives. For others, they let the process of design emerge and see where it takes them. Whatever approach they take in their creative process, for all designers, a focus on one outcome — Resonance — frees them up to think through design without encumbrance.

This singular focus becomes a framework within which to question everything and try to make sense of everything. Make sense of what the materials and techniques can allow them to do, and what they cannot. Make sense of what understandings other people — clients, sellers, buyers, students, colleagues, teachers — will bring to the situation, when exploring and evaluating their work. Make sense of why some things inspire you, and other things do not. Make sense of why you are a jewelry designer designing jewelry. Make sense of the fluency of your artistic expression, what works, how it works, why it works.

We achieve Resonance by gaining a comfort and ease in communicating about design. This comfort and ease, or disciplinary fluency, has to do with how we translate our inspirations and aspirations into all our compositional, constructive and manipulative choices. It is empowering. Our pieces resonate. We achieve success.

Resonance, communication, success, fluency — these are all words that stand in place for an intimacy between the designer and the materials, the designer and the techniques, the designer and inspiration. They reflect the designer’s aspirations. They reflect the shared understandings of everyone the designer’s jewelry is expected to touch. They reflect the designer’s managerial prowess in bringing all these things together.

Resonance and disciplinary fluency result from a well-managed jewelry design process [3]. This process of creativity involves artist, audience and context. It is very interactional. Transactional. Integrative. Contingent.

For the artist, this process functions on several, coordinated levels, including…

  1. Contemplation
  2. Inspiration
  3. Aspiration
  4. Anticipation
  5. Specification
  6. Application
  7. Fluency and Empowerment

CONTEMPLATION: 
An Intimacy with Materials and Techniques

Contemplation is a mystical theology.

Beads have a mystique to them. You stare at a bead, and, ask what it is. You put some thread on a needle, then the bead on the needle, and ask what to do. You stitch a few beads together, and wonder what will become of this. You create a necklace, and, ask how it will be worn. And you stare at each bead again, and, think where do all these feelings welling up within you come from — curiosity, beauty, peace and calm, reflection, satisfaction, magic, appeal, a sensuousness and sexuality. Your brain and eye enter into this fantastic dance, a fugue of focusing, refocusing, gauging and re-gauging light, color, shadow, a shadow’s shadow, harmony, and discord.

You don’t just bead and make jewelry. There’s a lot involved here.

You have to buy (or fabricate) beads and findings and stringing materials, organize them, buy some extra parts, think about them, create with them, live with some failed creations, and go from there. If there wasn’t something special about how our materials translate light into color, shade and shadow, then jewelry making would simply be work. But it’s not.

You have to put one piece next to another…and then another. And when you put two beads next to each other, or one on top of the other, you’re doing God’s work. There’s nothing as spectacular as painting and sculpting with light.

This bead before you — why is it so enticing? Why do you beg it to let you be addicted? An object with a hole. How ridiculous its power. Some curving, some faceting, some coloration, some crevicing or texturing, some shadow, some bending of light. That’s all it is. Yet you’re drawn to it in a slap-silly sort of way.

When you arrange many beads, the excitement explodes geometrically within your being. Two beads together are so much more than one. Four beads so much more than two. A hundred beads so much more than twenty-five times four. The pleasure is uncontainable. You feel so powerful. Creative. You can make more of what you have than with what you started.

You need to select a method or strategy for arranging your beads. There are so many choices. Your organization should be appealing. It must enhance the power the bead has for you, then transcend as a power the bead has for others. It must be architecturally correct because this architecture determines the wear, drape and flow where the jewelry meets the person at the boundary between bead and body.

And this assembling — another gift. String through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align, and string through the hole, pull, tug, align. So meditative. Calming. How could beads be so stress-relieving, other-worldly-visiting, and creative-exciting at the same time?

Contemplation. To contemplate the bead is to enter the deep reaches of your mind where emotion is one with geometry, and geometry is one with art, and art is one with physics, and beads are one with self.

Designing jewelry is an authentic performance task. This involves a profound intimacy with the materials (and techniques) the artist relies on. This intimacy means understanding how to select them, how to leverage their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, and how to manage their ability to enhance or impede resonance.

INSPIRATION:
Becoming One with What Inspires You

Inspirations are sacred revelations you want to share through art and design.

The word inspiration comes from the Latin roots meaning “to breathe into.” But before you can breathe your inspiration into your jewelry, you need to become one with it.

There are these wonderfully exciting, sensually terrific, incredibly fulfilling things that you find as you try to imagine the jewelry you will create. They come from many sources: ideas, nature, images, people, behaviors. They might be realistic or abstract. They may be the particular color or pattern or texture or the way the light hits it and casts a shadow. They may be a need for order over chaos. They may be points of view. They may flow from some inner imagination.

For some reason, these inspirations take on a divine, sacred revelation for you — so meaningful that you want to incorporate them somehow into what you do. A fire in your soul. You want to translate these inspirations into colors, shapes, lines, patterns and textures. You want to impose an organization on them. You want to recapture their energy and power they have had over you. You feel compelled to bring these feelings into ideas.

There are many challenges to inspiration. That which we call “inspiring” can often be somewhat fuzzy. It might be a feeling. It might be a piece of an idea, or a small spot on an image. You might feel inspired, but, cannot put the What or the Why into words or images. On the surface, it may seem important to you, but unimportant to others. You the artist may not feel in control of the inspiration in that it seems like it is something that is evoked, not necessarily directed, by you.

When inspired, artists perceive new possibilities that transcend that which is ordinary around them. Too often, the artist feels passive in this process. This transcendence does not feel like a willfully generated idea. However, it needs to be. The successful artist — one who eventually can achieve a level of resonance — is one who is not only inspired by, but also inspired to. This all requires a great deal of metacognitive self-awareness. The artist must be able to perceive the intrinsic value of the inspiring object, and how to extend this value in design, where the piece of jewelry becomes its expression.

Inspiration is motivating. Inspiration is not the source of creativity; creativity does not come from it. Inspiration, instead, should be viewed as a motivational response to creativity. It motivates the artist, through jewelry and its design, to connect this inspiration with others. It serves as a mediator between the self and the anticipated shared understandings of others. The jewelry encapsulates the artist’s ability to make this connection. When the connection is well-made, resonance follows.

But finding inspirations is not only personal, but more importantly, it is an effort to influence others. It is an act of translating the emotions which resonate in you into some object of art which, in turn, will inspire and resonate with others. How does the inspiration occur to you, and how do you anticipate how this inspiration might occur to others?

Too often we lose sight of the importance of inspiration to the authentic performance task of creating jewelry. We operate with the belief that anyone can be inspired by anything. There’s nothing more to it. Moreover, inspiration gets downplayed when put next to the discussion of the effort of making jewelry itself. But it should not. Inspiration is not less important than perspiration. It plays an equal role in the creative process. The artist’s clarity about why something is inspiring, and why this inspiration motivates the artist to respond, will be critical for achieving success, that is resonance.

ASPIRATION: 
Translating Creativity into A Technical Product Design

Aspiration motivates the artist to actualize inspiration.

Aspiration is where the artist translates inspiration into a completed product design. The artist begins to control and regulate what happens next. This involves selecting Design Elements[1] and clustering them to formulate meaningful expressions. The artist then applies Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation[2] for organizing and arranging things into a more complete whole with more elaborated expressions. The greater value the artist places on resonance, the stronger the aspiration will be to achieve it.

Aspiration is future-oriented. It requires a stick-to-it-ness. The artist must be sufficiently motivated to invest the time, energy and money into designing and making the jewelry that will not necessarily be finished, displayed or sold right away. It may require some additional learning and skills-development time. The artist may need to find a level of creativity within, and discover the kinds of skills, techniques and insights necessary for bringing this creativity to the aspired task at hand.

Aspiration requires the calculus: Is it worth it? It adds a level of risk to the project. It forces the artist to pay attention to the world around her or him. This world presents dynamic clues — what I discuss below as shared understandings — about opportunities, constraints, risks, contingencies, consequences, strategies and goals, and likely successes.

For some artists, motivation primarily is seen as instinctual. Think of seat-of-the-pants. Emergent, not controlled. A search for harmony, balance, rhythm, unity as something that feels right and looks right and seems right with the universe. Expressive, yes. Imaginative, yes. But not necessarily resonant.

Achieving resonance, however, is, for the most part, more than instinctual. It has some deliberate quality to it. It is communicative. It requires a purposeful act on the part of the artist. It is a different type of motivation — intentional. The artist might want to convey a specific emotion. Or advocate for some change. Or illustrate a point of view. The artist may want to entertain or teach. Heal. Attract mates. Propagandize. Where a jewelry’s design is not reflective of an artist’s intent, there can be no resonance.

ANTICIPATION: 
Shared Understandings[4]

Shared understandings dictate opportunities, contingencies and constraints.

The question of whether the audience correctly infers the presence of the artist’s inspiration, and the sense of how the artist’s hand comes into play within the design, remains. The answer revolves around a dynamic interaction between artist and audience, dancing around an object each calls jewelry, as they anticipate understandings they share, and ones they do not.

Shared understandings should be enduring, transferable, big ideas at the heart of what we think of as good jewelry design. 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 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 good jewelry design, 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 good jewelry design, 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 good jewelry design 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 good jewelry design. The designer must dispassionately anticipate these various perspectives about 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 good jewelry design.

How the jewelry designer begins the process of creating a piece of jewelry is very revealing about the potential for success, and ultimately achieving a level of resonance. 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[5]. The designer starts with questions about assessment, and then allows this understanding to influence all other choices going forward.

Some essential shared understandings for good jewelry design, I would posit, might include the following:

  1. Every designer has some creative ability, but may need to learn concepts and techniques and ways to apply them
  2. Some understandings are universal and objective, particularly in reference to the selection, clustering and application of various Design Elements, such as color, shape, movement and dimension.
  3. Other understandings are both objective and subjective. There is universal acceptance of what various organization and arrangement schemes — Principles of Composition, Construction and Manipulation — might be applied by the artist. However, how they are actually applied, and how satisfying that is to various audiences, is very personal and subjective.
  4. The strengths and limitations of various materials or techniques should be respected, maximizing the strengths and minimizing the limitations
  5. Jewelry should communicate and reflect the artist’s intent
  6. Jewelry should affirm the wearer’s purpose and identity in context
  7. Jewelry can only be considered as art, as it is worn
  8. We know the jewelry is finished and successful when the choices made and the tradeoffs among appeal, function, and context are implemented to the point we see parsimony and resonance.

SPECIFICATION: 
Goal-Orientation

It’s not just what you do…it’s how you get there.

Jewelry designers are too quick to focus on the outcome, and too lax to focus on the process. It’s always things like getting it done. Getting it to the client on deadline. Ending up with something concrete to show someone. Too much concentration on outcome can lead to taking shortcuts. Shortsightedness. Inflexibility. A misunderstanding, perhaps illusion about, whether the piece is finished and successful.

Artists more appropriately should focus on goals. Artists who are focused on goals tend to embrace process. It’s about all the smart choices regarding composition, construction and manipulation you made at each increment along the way. By specifying goals, the artist is encouraged to find connections, and be connected to and aware of shared understandings and their impact on perceived success. When problems arise, a goal-oriented focus allows the artist to be flexible and problem solve. The artist is present from contemplation to inspiration and through to aspiration, anticipation, specification and application. The goal-orientation prevents the artist from becoming lost or paralyzed with inaction.

The jewelry artist pursues several goals at once. The jewelry should be both appealing and functional. It should evoke emotion, elicit response, and resonate. The piece should show both unity and variety. The piece should create opinions, validate status, and reconfirm a cultural and social identify. The piece should be reflective and communicative. It should be pleasurable to the maker, the wearer and the viewer alike.

When specifying goals, it is important to remember that not all goals are alike. The goals I am discussing here are the essential elements related to effective performance. That effective performance results in a finished and successful piece of jewelry reflective of the artist’s hand and which resonates among a varied set of audiences.

The artist needs to set goals which clarify what results need to be accomplished by the time any piece of jewelry is finished and showcased. Goals provide perspective. They are there to prevent the artist from achieving anything less than resonance. These goals relate to generating deep understandings and competence at performance. They are not results-specific per se; they are overarching. They serve as sign-posts to point to and highlight what jewelry designers need to engage with when thinking through and implementing design.

The jewelry designer specifies goals as standards of professional performance, such as…

  • Leveraging the strengths and minimizing the weaknesses of desired materials and techniques
  • Discussing and reflecting upon inspirations and motivations toward the expression of the creative self
  • Defining aspirational intent, point of view, and what it means to connect to various audiences
  • Delineating shared understandings among self, wearer, viewer, student, master, buyer and seller, in relationship to how the jewelry will be observed and assessed and worn within a context
  • Elaborating on all artistic and architectural elements and principles which should come into play, and why
  • Reflecting on personal learning throughout the process, particularly as it relates to developing and expanding on skills related to fluency in design
  • Determining how skills, insights and lessons learned from the current project might be transferred to your next one

Within each generalized performance goal, the designer can further identify particular tasks, knowledges and skills required in order to accomplish them. Often, with too many choices about what to do, what to include, and how to proceed, priorities and timeframes will need to be set, as well.

Resonance is more easily achieved when the designer approaches design as a process, an understanding of the myriad sets and levels of choices as made within a coherent system of creative thinking and activity, and with clear performance goals to guide the way.

APPLICATION: 
Unity, Emotions, Resonance

Think like an assessor[6]…find evidence related to desired results.

What is the evidence we need to know for determining when a piece is finished and successful? What clear and appropriate criteria specify what we should look at?

There are different opinions in craft, art and design about what are the most revealing and important aspects of the work, and which every authentic jewelry design performance must meet.

The traditional criteria used in the art world are that the designer should achieve unity, variety and evoke emotions. These, I feel, may work well when applied to paintings or sculpture, but they are insufficient measures of success when applied to jewelry. Jewelry involves the creation of objects where both artistic appeal as well as practical considerations of use are essential. The artistry of jewelry cannot be distinguished from that jewelry as it is worn, and the context within which it is worn. So, when referencing any jewelry’s design, I prefer to use criteria of parsimony and resonance, instead. We know when a piece is finished and successful when the choices of the artist are deemed parsimonious, and the various audiences perceive the piece to resonate.

Parsimony vs. Unity/Variety

In art, the traditional measure of completion and success is a feeling or sense of “Unity.” Unity signifies how everything feels all right. All the Design Elements used, and how they were coordinated and placed, are very coherent, clear, balanced, harmonious and satisfying. I think the idea of unity begins to get at the place we want to end up. But this concept is not concrete enough for me.

What bothers me the most is that you can have unity, but the piece still be seen as boring when there is no variety. Criteria provided from the art perspective recognizes this. But somehow tempering unity with variety starts to add some ambiguity to our measurements of finish and success. This ambiguity is unacceptable as a principled outcome of jewelry construction.

Another concern I have, is that you can have unity with variety, but, from the art perspective, these assessments rely too much on universal, objective perceptions of design elements and their attributes (for example, the use of color schemes). Resonance is not about picking the correct color scheme. It is more about how that color scheme is used, manipulated, leveraged or violated within the piece. We must not leave the artist, the wearer, and the situation out of the equation. We must not minimize the artist’s hand — the artist’s intent, thinking, strategizing, arranging, pushing the boundaries, even violating the universal, objective rules.

Jewelry creation usually demands a series of judgment calls and tradeoffs. Tradeoffs between aesthetics and functionality. Tradeoffs between artist goals and audience understandings and expectations. Tradeoffs between a full palette of colors-shapes-textures and a very limited one. Any measure of completeness and success needs to result from the forced choice decisions of the artist. It needs to account for the significance of the results, not just the organization of them. It needs to explain the Why, not just the What.

For me, the more appropriate concept here is Parsimony. Parsimony is when you know enough is enough. When the finished and successful piece is parsimonious, the relationship of all the Design Elements and their expressed attributes will be so strong, that to add or remove any one thing would diminish, not just the design, but rather the significance of the design.

Parsimony is sometimes referred to in art and design as Economy, but the idea of economy is reserved for the visual effects. The designer needs to be able to decide when enough is enough. For jewelry designers, we want that economy or parsimony to apply to functional and situational effects, as well.

Resonance vs. Evoking Emotions

Finished and successful jewelry should not only evoke emotions, but, should resonate.

Resonance is something more than emotion. It is some kind of additional energy we see, feel and otherwise experience. Emotion is very reactive. Resonance is intuitive, involving, identifying. Resonance is an empathetic response where artist and audience realize a shared (or contradictory) understanding without losing sight of whose views and feelings belong to whom. Emotion can be seen in the reaction, “That’s beautiful.” Resonance can be seen in the reactions, “I want to wear that, “ or “I want to buy that.”

Resonance results from how the artist controls light, shadow, and their characteristics of warmth and cold, receding and approaching, bright and dull, light and dark. Resonance results from how the artist leverages the strengths of materials and techniques and minimizes their weaknesses. Resonance results from social, cultural and situational cues. Resonance results from how the artist takes us to the edge of universal, objective understandings, and pushes us every so slightly, but not too, too far, beyond that edge.

FLUENCY[7] AND EMPOWERMENT: 
Managing Choices In Expression

Empowerment is about successfully making choices. These are choices about expressing one’s intent through art and design.

These choices could be as simple as whether to follow through on some inspiration. They might involve selection of elements of design, or principled arrangements of beads, forms and components. The designer will make choices about how to draw someone’s attention to the piece, or, present the piece to a larger audience. The designer will make choices between aesthetics and functionality. She or he may decide to submit the piece to a magazine or contest. She or he may want to sell the piece and market it. The designer will make choices about how a piece might be worn, or who might wear it, or when it might be worn, in what context.

The fluent designer will be adept at making these choices. The better designer is able to bring a high level of coherence and consistency to the process of managing all this — intent, shared understandings, knowledge and skills, evaluative review, and reflection and adjustment. This is called “fluency in design”.

Fluency is the ability of the designer to select and connect Design Elements smoothly, in visually and functionally and situationally appropriate ways with understanding. The idea of understanding is broadly defined, to include the artist’s personal goals for expression, as well as the expectations of all the audiences — the wearer, the viewer, the buyer, the seller, the student, the master. The better designer achieves a level of disciplinary literacy where fluency becomes automatic, accurate, and rapidly applied.

The better, more fluent jewelry designer is able to anticipate how others will come to understand these mechanisms and the implications for applying them in one way or another. For example, the better and more fluent designer would be able to select and combine design elements to appropriately differentiate jewelry that would best be worn at work, and jewelry that would best be worn, say, when someone was going to a night club for dancing and socializing.

Lastly, fluency means that the designer has also been taught to look for, anticipate and incorporate context clues. Design does not occur in a vacuum. It has implications which become realized in a context. That context might be historical, cultural or situational.

RUBRIC[8] AS THINKING ROUTINE

Designers need a simple map to all these ideas about literacy and fluency — something they can easily review and determine where their strengths and weaknesses are as they gain proficiency and fluency in design. One type of map is a rubric.

A rubric is a table of criteria used to rate and rank understanding and performance. A rubric answers the question by what criteria performance should be judged. The rubric provides insightful clues for the kinds of evidence we need to make such assessments. The rubric helps us distinguish degrees of performance, from the sophisticated to the naïve. The rubric encapsulates what an authentic jewelry design performance would look like.

Such a rubric is presented below for the artist to use as a thinking routine.[9] Here I have used one rubric to represent both (1) understanding and (2) performance, but, I could have easily created two separate rubrics toward this end. In this rubric table below, the rows represent contemplation, inspiration, aspiration, anticipation, application, and fluency and empowerment. The columns represent the degrees of understanding and performance along a continuum, from proficient on one end to not there yet on the other. By way of example, I use the rubric to assess my performance with a piece I created called Vestment (Feld, 2004).

RUBRIC: How Proficient Am I In Achieving Resonance?

The Rubric…

RUBRIC: How Proficient Am I In Achieving Resonance?

The piece…

_________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES
 [1] Feld, Warren. “Jewelry Design Composition: Playing with Building Blocks Called Design Elements,” 3/17/2018

[2] Feld, Warren. “Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating,” 4/25/2018

[3] Feld, Warren. “Jewelry Design: A Managed Process,” Klimt02, 2/2/18. https://klimt02.net/forum/articles/jewelry-design-managed-process-warren-feld

[4]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.
[5] Backwards Design. One of the big take-aways from
Understanding by Design
(see footnote 3) 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 2), you can begin to introduce ideas about managing the design process in a coherent and alignable way.
[6]
Understanding by Design
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, p. 146, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
[7]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.

[8]Rubrics.
Understanding by Design
by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2nd Edition, p. 146, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005.
[9] 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 .

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

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

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

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

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

What “Ambition Type” Jewelry Designer Are You?

Posted by learntobead on June 5, 2020

Not Just One Type Of Person Wants To Become A Jewelry Designer

There is not just one type of person who becomes a jewelry designer. There are many, many types of people who find jewelry design a common passion. They may have different ambitions. They may prefer to use different techniques and materials. They may have different levels of financial success. They may have different compulsions for creating jewelry.

We can differentiate people who become jewelry designers by their aspirations (1 Neuendorf, 2016) — why they became jewelry designers. Some jewelry designers fit one type of aspiration; others, more than one. Which one are you?

Social Interactants

Creatives often seek out other creatives and form a social network. They may be makers. They may be sellers or exhibiters or collectors. But they look for ways to interact and meet and share close-knot social ties. Part of the reason is to learn new ideas. Another part is to get feedback and critique. The social group and network will offer support, advice, career and business opportunities and direction. These are people you can lean on when times get tough. There might even be some shared glamour and celebrity, depending on the artists and their group.

Social Interactants typically seek recognition for their efforts and their works. The success of any piece of jewelry depends on the judgements of the various audiences which interact with it. Social interactants allocate a good deal of their time anticipating how others will understand and react to any piece of jewelry. They spend time seeking out opportunities to display their works publicly.

Compulsive Creators

There is this innate, compulsive, don’t-fight-it desire that some jewelry designers have for creating jewelry. Composing, constructing and manipulating design elements is intrinsically rewarding. There is a strong, profound commitment to jewelry design, and this directed energy is often associated with productivity and success.

Compulsive Creators love what they do. It allows them to think creatively. They allocate a lot of their time towards achieving a high level of quality and sophistication.

Lifestyle of Freedom Seekers

These designers like to set their own pace, establish their own routines, work when the spirit moves them. A regular 9 to 5 job is not for them. They like to make their own rules and be self-directive. Any financial insecurity and uncertainty that comes with this is worth the price to pay for a lifestyle of freedom.

These designers believe that this freedom allows them to experience the world around them in a greater depth and to a greater degree. In turn, they have more understandings for how to find and then turn inspirations into finished jewelry designs.

Financial Success Achievers

Successful jewelry designers can do quite well for themselves, but it takes a lot of drive, organization and business and marketing sense. Jewelry design can be a lucrative career with such determination, gaining visibility, and a little bit of being in the right place at the right time.

But many designers primarily look for money to supplement their income or retirement. Some look to make enough money to pay for their supplies.

Sometimes, designers make jewelry to seek wealth, rather than income. They accumulate many pieces of jewelry and many unusual supplies and components to achieve wealth as success.

Financial Success Achievers typically try to create a business around their jewelry.

Happenstance and Chance

Not everyone who becomes a jewelry designer aspired to be one. Sometimes people fall into it. They need a piece of jewelry to match an outfit and decide to make something themselves, then get hooked. They watch someone make jewelry, then get intrigued. They try to repair a broken piece of jewelry by themselves. They accompany a friend to a jewelry making class, then want to try it out.

Many Ambition Types

Aspirations and ambitions vary. There is no best way or right way. It becomes a matter of the designer finding that balance of design, self, and other-life which works for them, and drives their passion.

Jewelry designers were motivated to become designers for many different reasons. But motivations are only a start. These make up only a small part of what it truly takes to be a successful designer. Designers need to develop skills and techniques, creative thinking, design process management, and disciplinary literacy, to continue on their pathway to success.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

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

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

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

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

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

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

Do You Have A Learning Style?

Posted by learntobead on June 5, 2020

There Are Many Ways To Learn

There are many ways to learn beading and jewelry making.

  • Rote Memory
  • Analogously
  • Contradictions
  • Assimilation
  • Constructing Meanings

Most people learn by Rote Memory. They follow a set of steps, and they end up with something. They memorize all the steps. In this approach, all the choices have been made for them. So they never get a chance to learn the implications of their choices. Why one bead over another? Why one stringing material over another? How would you use the same technique in a different situation? You pick up a lot of techniques, but not necessarily many skills.

Other people learn Analogously. They have experiences with other crafts, such as sewing or knitting or other craft, and they draw analogies. Such and Such is similar to Whatnot, so I do Whatnot the same way I do Such and Such. This can work to a point. However, beading and jewelry making can often be much more involved, requiring making many more types of choices, than in other crafts. And there are still the issues of understanding the quality of the pieces you use, and what happens to them, both when jewelry is worn, as well as when jewelry is worn over time.

Yet another way people learn is through Contradictions. They see cheap jewelry and expensive jewelry, and analyze the differences. They see jewelry people are happy with, and jewelry people are not happy with, and analyze the differences. They see fashion jewelry looked down upon by artists, and art jewelry looked down upon by fashionistas, and they analyze the differences.

Assimilation is a learning approach that combines Analogous Learning and Learning Through Contradictions. People pursue more than one craft, keeping one foot in one arena, and another foot in the other. They teach themselves by analogy and contradiction. This assumes that multiple media mix, and mix easily. Often, however, this is not true. Usually one medium has to predominate for any one project to be successful. So assimilative learning can lead to confusion and poor products, trying to meet the special concerns and structures of each craft simultaneously. It is challenging to mix media. Often the fundamentals of each particular craft need to be learned and understood in and of themselves.

The last approach to learning a craft is called Constructing Meanings. In this approach, you learn groups of things, and how to apply an active or thematic label to that grouping. For example, you might learn about beading threads, such as Nymo, C-Lon and FireLine, and, at the same time, learn to evaluate each one’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of Managing Thread Tension or allowing movement, drape and flow. You might learn about crystal beads, Czech glass beads, and lampwork beads, and then, again concurrently and in comparison, learn the pros and cons of each, in terms of achieving good color blending strategies. You might learn peyote stitch and ndebele stitch, and how to combine them within the same project.

The Reality

In reality, you learn a little in each of these different learning styles. The Constructing Meanings approach, what is often referred to as the Art & Design Tradition, usually is associated with more successful and satisfying learning. This approach provides you with the tools for making sense of a whole lot of information — all the information you need to bring to bear to make a successful piece of jewelry, one that is both aesthetically pleasing and optimally functioning.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Oy Ve! The Challenges of Custom Work

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

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

Don’t Just Wear Your Jewelry…Inhabit It!

Two Insightful Psych Phenomena Every Jewelry Designer Needs To Know

A Dog’s Life by Lily

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

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Design: An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

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

Beads and Race

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

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

JEWELRY MAKING MATERIALS

Posted by learntobead on June 5, 2020

Knowing What To Know

Abstract:

There are no perfect jewelry making materials for every project. Selecting materials is about making smart, strategic choices. This means relating your materials choices to your design and marketing goals. It also frequently means having to make tradeoffs and judgment calls between aesthetics and functionality. Materials differ in quality and value. They differ in their sensorial effects on people. They differ in how people perceive them. They differ in the associational and emotional connections which they evoke. They differ in their functional efficiency and effectiveness to lend pieces an ability to retain a shape, while at the same time, an ability to move, drape and flow. They differ in cost and durability. Last, materials may have different relationships with the designer, wearer or viewer depending on how they are intended to be used, and the situational or cultural contexts.

JEWELRY MAKING MATERIALS:
Knowing What To Know

The materials I use are alive

The world of jewelry design and the materials used can be complex, especially for jewelry designers just starting out in their careers. The novice, but also the more experienced designer, as well, often run up against some terms and properties of materials they have not dealt with before. Materials affect the appeal of the piece. They affect its structural
integrity. They affect the cost. They affect how people view, sense, desire and understand the piece.

You Would Be Very Aware Of…

If you want to gain an understanding of materials, you would be very aware of where they come from, how they are described, sold and marketed. You would be very aware of the beads and jewelry findings and stringing materials and tools, their qualities, when they are useful and when they are not, and what happens to them when they age. You would be very aware of what country the material is made or found in, how the material is manufactured, synthesized or gotten at, if it is modified or changed in any way, and how it comes to market. You would be very aware if the product is sold at different levels of quality, even if this is not differentiated on the product’s label. It is also important to be very aware how any of these aspects of the material have changed over time, or might change over time in the future.

You would be very aware that there is no such thing as the perfect material. There are only better materials, given your situation and goals. There is no perfect bead for every situation. No perfect clasp. No perfect stringing material. Every choice you make as a jewelry designer will require some tradeoffs and judgment calls. The more you understand the quality of the materials in the pieces you are working with are made of, and the clearer you are about your design goals, and if you are selling things, your marketing goals, as well, the more prepared you will be to make these kinds of choices.

You would be very aware that materials have different values and life spans, and this must relate to your project goals. You would not want to use metalized plastic beads, for example, in a piece you call an heirloom bracelet. Metalized plastic beads are a metal shell around a milky white plastic bead. The shell will chip easily. On the other hand, when doing fashion jewelry, these very inexpensive beads, and which have a short life-span, would be perfect. Not only are they cheap, but because they are cheap, there are lots and lots of designs and shapes and textures.

If your goal is to create more investment quality pieces, then you would not want to buy lampwork beads which have not been appropriately annealed (that is, if not cooled down correctly, they will fracture and break easily). You would buy appropriately annealed ones, but which are considerably more expensive. This may affect the look of your pieces. For an inexpensive, fashion oriented piece, your necklace made up entirely of lampwork beads which have not been appropriately annealed might be very affordable. It would have that great handmade, artisan look. It might sell for only $60.00. With more investment quality lampwork beads, however, you might just use one, or perhaps three lampwork beads, and
have a lot of cord showing, or a lot of filler beads, to keep the piece
affordable. This would be a very different design look and style. If the
necklace was made up of all quality lampwork beads, — to have the same look and style as its inexpensive cousin — it might have to retail for $600–800.00.

Again, for an investment quality piece, you would want to use crystal beads manufactured in Austria or the Czech Republic, and not ones manufactured elsewhere. And you would not let yourself be fooled when the front of the package says “Austrian Crystal” when the back says “Made In China”. Crystal beads made in China are not as bright, there are more production issues and flaws in the beads, and the holes are often drilled off-center when compared to their “Made In Austria” counterparts. But crystal beads more appropriate for that investment quality piece might be overkill for a fashion piece where you want to add a pop of brightness without a lot of additional cost.

You would want to be very aware of the treatments of beads and metals. Some things are radiated, heated, reconstituted, partly synthesized, lacquered or dyed. Sometimes this is a good thing and these treatments enhance the quality of materials in appearance and durability. Othertimes this is a bad thing, negatively affecting the quality of materials.

You would be very aware that many of the materials you use are described in ways that do not provide you with sufficient information to make a choice. Take the material gold-filled. The definition of gold-filled is that the material is a measurable layer of real gold fused to brass, sometimes copper. But the legal definition does not tell you how thick the gold has to be over the brass for the material to be called gold-filled. So in the market, some gold-filled has very little gold and will lose its gold very quickly, and other gold-filled has a thicker layer and will keep its gold, its shine and its shape for decades.

Or sterling silver. Sterling silver is supposed to be 92.5% silver (marked .925). The alloy, that is the remaining 7.5%, is supposed to contain, by law, a lot of copper. However, many manufacturers substitute some nickel for the copper to keep the cost down. This makes the sterling silver less expensive, yes, but it also makes it more brittle. It is the difference between being able to open and close the loop on an ear wire, off of which to hang the dangle, many, many times or only two or three times before the wire loop breaks.

Lots of sterling silver items get marked .925. And in jewelry making, many of the pieces we use are so small, there is no .925 stamp on them. Besides a change of what is in the alloy affecting the usefulness and value, many other things happen in the marketplace, as well. Many sterling silver items have been cast. What frequently happens is that some of the silver is lost in the casting process, so it is no longer at 92.5%. Manufacturers are supposed to make note of this, but many just stamp .925 on these items. Some shops label items as sterling silver, but in reality, are selling you pieces that are nickel. And some places will sell you something silver plated, and put sterling silver .925 tag which is marked .925 on it off the clasp. The tag is sterling; the jewelry is not. I’ve seen some major craft stores and some major jewelry stores sell metalized plastic jewelry and jewelry components and label it .925.

Flexible, nylon coated cable wires are one of the primary types of stringing materials. The measure of cable wire strength is called tensile strength. This has to do with what the wires are made of, what the nylon sheathing is made of, and how thick that nylon sheathing is. What makes the wire strong is the nylon sheathing’s ability to maintain the twist in the wire. As soon as the integrity of the nylon sheathing is violated, the wire untwists and immediately breaks. You will not see tensile strength referenced on the labels of these products. The information that is referenced (number of strands, wire thickness) gives you some information needed to make a choice, but insufficient to make an actual choice. Even when they list the number of strands, this doesn’t give you enough factual information to depend on. One brand’s high-end, 7-strand is stronger and more supple than that same brand’s 49-strand middle range product. This same brand’s middle range 49-strand product is stronger and more supple than another brand’s high end 49-strand product.

You would also be very aware that you cannot assume that there is consistency and uniformity for any given product. There are many production issues that arise in the manufacture of glass beads, for example. Some beads are perfect. Some have flaws. These flaws might include some flat surfaces when everything should be rounded. The color not going all the way through. Holes drilled off-centered. Bead sizes and hole sizes inconsistent from bead to bead. Some bead holes that are especially sharp. Some beads which have coated coloration which is poorly applied and chips off quickly. In clothing, these beads with flaws would be labeled irregulars, but they are not so labeled in beads. Some companies specialize in selling you perfect manufactured glass beads; other companies specialize in selling you the irregulars. They don’t advertise that fact. Either quality looks the same when you buy it; they just don’t hold up the same in close examination or from wear.

You would be aware that fabricated and stamped metal pieces are more durable than cast metal pieces, but a lot more expensive, and with a smaller palette of designs for the artist. You would be aware that the measure of pound strength on any label is the weakest piece of information to grab onto. The law only defines how pound strength should be measured. Since most products are manufactured abroad, little care is taken to guarantee the validity of this information.

You would be aware that there are a lot of things to know about the materials used in jewelry design.

It Is All About Choices

Materials play a significant role in jewelry design. You need to relate and justify the choices you make about selecting and using materials to your design goals (and your marketing goals, as well). Sometimes your choices are preformulated and planned; othertimes, these choices are spontaneous and emerge within your process of design. But these are all choices to be made, with inevitable impacts and consequences.

It is through the characteristics and qualities of the materials that the designer comes to keenly and fully appreciate values, intents, desires, and understandings associated with any design.

It is also through the most effective presentation specific to the materials that the designer experiences the piece to its best advantage and potential. The effectiveness results from the designer’s ability to maximize the strengths of each material, while minimizing its weaknesses. This is called leveraging.

It is a useful exercise, as well, to attempt to simplify the materials and reflect upon whether the piece feels more satisfying and successful, or less so. One key goal of any designer is to reach a point of parsimony where enough is enough.

Appreciation of materials, their selection, use and arrangement lead the designer to see, feel, think and listen to the visual poetry laid out before them. Jewelry is more than functional adornment. It resonates. Materials contribute to this. This appreciation allows the artist to share inspiration and intent with other audiences, the wearer and viewer included. The materials influence the artist in discovery, expression, invention, re-invention, and originality. They become part of the human experience in jewelry design.

For example, you might be in a situation having decide whether to purchase an $80.00 strand of 6mm round garnet beads, or a $28.00 strand of these same beads.

In that $80.00 strand, all the beads actually measure 6mm. They are all perfectly round. The holes are drilled well, and drilled through the center. There are no chips at the hole. There is good coloration, and the coloration from bead to bead is very consistent.

In that $28.00 strand, none of the beads measure 6mm. They are a bit smaller, perhaps 5.5mm. The beads from bead to bead on the strand are not consistent. Sizes are approximate, not exact. Several beads on the strand are not perfectly round. Some have flat surfaces on them. There are many chips at the hole, suggesting that they are not drilled well. Some are drilled off-center. The coloration is good from afar, but a close exam reveals that some beads are less desirable than others.

This situation doesn’t present an easy choice, however. If you are making fashion jewelry, the less expensive strand might be the best choice. Fashion jewelry is not worn for a long time. It is not an investment. It is a look. These beads are less expensive. In this context, the flaws, in this case, may not be so much as a flaw, as more a variation. The variations might enhance the fashion piece, adding a sense of fun, surprise and funkiness. The poorly drilled holes might mean that these beads will crack and break from wear, but given that fashion jewelry is not worn for a long time, this is a non-issue.

If you are making a more investment quality piece, the more expensive garnet beads might be the better choice. They have more value, resulting from the higher quality. The consistency in quality results in a more classic, timeless look. These beads will last a long time. Here, the inconsistencies in the less expensive strand of beads definitely would be viewed as flaws, not variations.

Types of Materials

One of the most fundamental and practical aspects of jewelry design is the importance of the materials. The choices jewelry designers make when selecting materials influence the form, content and movement of their pieces. Every material brings something special to the creative process and the finished jewelry pieces. The material influences, not only the designer, but the wearer and viewer themselves, how they perceive it, the values they place on it, and the extent they desire it.

The types of materials jewelry designers might choose are only limited by the imagination of the designer, and that designer’s budget. I have compiled a short listing of the more prevalent materials used in jewelry design. I distinguish those materials called

Stringing Materials

which are used to form the canvas of our jewelry,

from those materials called

Aesthetic Materials

which form the primary visual vocabulary and expressiveness of the piece, but also may contribute some functionality,

from those materials called

Functional Materials

which solely or primarily have practical value, but only sometimes, most likely inadvertently, add to the aesthetic expression of the piece.

STRINGING MATERIALS
(The Canvas)

The canvas is the part of the piece of jewelry onto which things are placed. The canvas is usually some kind of stringing material, and the things placed on it typically are beads and charms. The canvas supports the piece, its shaping and its silhouette. It may or may not be visible in the piece. But the canvas can be anything, including fabric and ribbon, wire mesh, chains, and the like. It can be like a string, or it can be like a flat sheet.

The designer selects the canvas or stringing material based on a vision of the structure of the piece, including both its supportive requirements as well as its appearance-related qualities. The particular selection will also impact the durability of the structure. Sometimes the selection of canvas takes on a symbolic meaning, such as using hemp in friendship bracelets or antiwar jewelry, or using leather in biker jewelry.

(1)Beading thread: Typically shaped like a typewriter ribbon, made from bonded nylon. It is something we wax before using it. Materials are strung onto thread using a beading needle. The thread is attached to the clasp assembly by tying knots. Glue should never be applied to these knots. If the beading thread is twisted, rather than bonded, it will break very easily.

Structure: Piece is very supple and moves, drapes and flows very easily. Provides little resistance to the weight of materials placed on it

Durability: Very durable when waxed, unless the holes of beads are very sharp

(2) Cable thread: This is a material where threads are braided together and encased in a nylon sheathing. Used similarly as beading thread. You use a needle. Waxing is optional, but strongly suggested. You tie knots to the clasp assembly. Glue should never be applied to these knots. Cable thread sold in bead stores is non-biodegradable. That sold in fishing stores or fishing departments is biodegradable.

Structure: Piece is very supple and moves, drapes and flows easily, but
not as easily as with beading thread.

Durability: Very durable, but the nylon sheathing can be compromised easily from body oils, perfume oils, and cosmetics. Waxing will protect the nylon sheathing.

(3) Bead cord, hemp, knotting cord: This is a material where threads or
fibers are braided or twisted together so that they look pretty. This cord
is used when you want the stringing material to show, such as putting knots
between beads, or where you have a cluster of beads, then the cord showing, another cluster of beads, the cord showing, and so forth. You use this material to macramé, knot, braid, knit, and crochet. You do not wax this material. That would make it look ugly. The primary purpose is to make your piece look attractive when the stringing material is to show. Bead cord may be nylon or silk. You use silk with real pearls, but, I suggest using the nylon with other materials. You will need a needle, usually a collapsible eye or big eye needle. You tie knots to secure the cord to a clasp assembly. You minimize the use of glue applied to knots, but you usually need to apply glue to the final knot.

Structure: Piece is a little stiffer than with bead thread or cable
thread, but still feels supple. Will drape well, but respond imperfectly to
the movement of the body.

Durability: Silk naturally deteriorates in 3–5 years; nylon does not. Bead cord made from other natural materials will also deteriorate over a relatively short period of time.

(4) Cable Wires: This flexible stringing material consists of wires braided together and encased in nylon. The strength comes from the ability of the nylon sheathing to keep the twist in the wires. If the nylon sheathing is compromised in any way, the wires will immediately untwist and the cable will break at that point. The wire is stiff enough to be its own needle. You use crimp beads to secure the cable wire to a clasp assembly because it is more difficult to tie a secure knot with the cable wire. A crushed crimp adds a more pleasing appearance than tying a knot, but it adds risk. A crushed crimp is like razor blade, always trying to saw right through the cable when the jewelry is worn.

Structure: Piece will be stiff, and never take the shape of the body. Piece will typically rotate in the opposite direction from the movement of the body or arm it rests on.

Durability: Very durable. The nylon sheathing can be compromised easily from body oils, perfume oils, and cosmetics. Usually crimp beads are used to secure the clasp, and these increase the risk the cable will break at the crimp, when compared to the durability of tying a knot.

(5) Stretchy Cords, like elastic string,
gossamer floss, elastic cord:
These materials are not particularly durable and lose their elasticity over time. People like these because they hate clasps, and you don’t use clasps with these. You secure these by tying knots, and putting glue (any glue except superglue) on the knots. Be sure
to coat the bottom of the knot, as well as the top of the knot. Elastic
cord is fabric covered around an elastic thong or floss.

Structure: Piece will stretch and return back to its original shape and size.

Durability: Material deteriorates and loses both its integrity as well as its memory over time, especially if left exposed to the air, or worn frequently. The round elastic string is the most durable among the stretchy cords. The floss is the least durable.

(6) Thicker cords like leather, waxed
cotton, ultra suede lace, rubber thong, and rat tail (satin cord):
These cords are stiff enough to be their own needle. You usually need special jewelry findings, such as crimp ends, end caps, or cones with larger interior openings, to prepare the ends of the thicker cord, so that you can attach a clasp assembly. Some are glued on; some crimped.

Structure: Similar to bead cord, but little stiffer.

Durability: Some cords, like leather, dry out over time and crack. Other cords, like waxed cotton and ultra suede, last a very long time. The rat tail tends to shred.

(7) Hard Wire: Hard wire is not a stringing wire, per se. You can use it to make a chain or bead-chain. You can use it to make shapes, like clasps and ear wires. You can bundle it so that it might be stiff enough to retain the shape of a bracelet or cuff. You can weave it or knit it to create patterns and textures. You create loops and rings to attach hard wire to a clasp assembly.

Structure: Wire stiffness comes as dead soft, half hard and hard. You determine, given how much manipulation of the wire you plan on doing, how stiff you want the wire to be when you begin your project, so that it will hold and retain its shape. Each time you manipulate the wire, it becomes stiffer and stiffer and stiffer, until it becomes brittle and breaks.

Durability: Very durable. Wire 18 gauge or thicker has little risk of losing its shape, distorting, breaking, opening up or pulling apart. As you get thinner, the risk increases dramatically. Dead soft wire requires a lot more manipulation until it can hold its shape, than half hard or hard hard wire.

(8) Chain:Wire is bent into links of various shapes and sizes, and
these are interlinked together into a chain. Sometimes the links are soldered closed. Usually they are not. You can string things onto the chain. You can use the chain as part of the clasp assembly, often to make the size adjustable. You can use the chain as a design element throughout your piece.

Structure: Thinner chains will be less able to keep their shape.

Durability: Chains can be very durable, particularly ones that have soldered links, wider links, and/or links created from thicker gauge wires.

(9) Ribbon, fabric:These wider cords are sometimes used as a stringing
material. They are secured at each end with ribbon or bar clamps, which then form either side of your clasp assembly.

Structure: Usually, these don’t by themselves support a shape.

Durability: More aesthetic than functional

(10) Lacy’s Stiff Stuff, Stiff Felt, Ultra suede sheet, Paper, Card Board, Poster Board, Rolled Out Polymer or Metal Clay, Brass Cuff Blank:The canvas or stringing material does not have to be a narrow cord. It can be a wide, flat surface, off of which to bead, glue, stitch, embroider, carve, or sculpt. This type of canvas needs to have some amount of stiffness to hold a shape, but not too much that the jewelry made with it feels uncomfortable, or does not move naturally with the person.

Structure: If you were creating a pendant, you might want your
canvas o be a little stiffer than if you were creating a bracelet.

Durability: Average durability

(11) Fused Glass:Sometimes the flat canvas is a piece of
glass. Other pieces of glass are fused onto this, using a kiln, in order to create a pattern or image.

Structure: Rigid shape.

Durability: Same as any other piece of glass.

(12) Metal Sheet and Wire:Sometimes we fabricate a piece of
jewelry, either using soldering, stamping, molding, casting, 3-D printing, or cold connections. Part of the sheet and/or wire becomes our canvas or stringing material.

Structure: These are very reliable materials for creating and maintaining
shapes.

Durability: Soldered and stamped pieces are much more durable than molded or cast ones. 3-D printed materials would be used with casting. Cold connections could be used with any technique.

AESTHETIC MATERIALS

The canvas either passes through various aesthetic materials, or these are applied to the canvas or attached off the canvas in some way. These aesthetic materials are used for the yoke, the clasp assembly, the frame, the focal point, the center piece, the strap, and the bail.

Aesthetic Materials are expressive. They are part of the visual vocabulary and grammar of the jewelry. While some play functional roles, as well, they are usually selected for their expressive powers. Some materials evoke sensory or symbolic responses, as well. A touch, a feel, a color sense, sometimes a smell, which extends beyond its factual elements.

Any type of material can be selected to use as an aesthetic material. It can be something very specific, or a found object, or some kind of combobulation of things.

Aesthetic Materials we see often include,

Glass, Fused glass, lampwork glass, blown glass

Metals and Plated Metals

Fibers

Natural (gemstones, wood, bone, horn)

Synthetic (plastic)

Polymer and Precious Metal Clay

Ceramic, Porcelain, Clay, Raku

Paper, lacquered paper

Oxidizers, Patinas, Paints, Fabric Dyes and Paints, Stains, Metal Paints and Rouges

Platings, Coatings

Enameling

These aesthetic materials can be selected for their qualities of

(a) Appeal

(b) Functionality

c) Sensations or symbolism extending beyond the physical and decorative bases underlying these materials

Aesthetic Materials: Appeal

The idea of appeal is a broad concept. It is sometimes universal. But often subjective.

There are many variables underlying the ideas of appeal and beauty. These include things like,

–Clarity, translucence, opacity

–Hardness, brittleness, softness, suppleness

–Malleability

–Luminescence, brightness, reflectiveness, refraction

–Color, color combinations, intensity, value

–Weight, lightness, heaviness, volume, density

–Perceived value, worth, rarity

–Cut, faceting, smoothness, carving, sculpting

–Shapes

–Direction, pointer, focal points, markings, striations, inclusions

Aesthetic Materials: Functionality

Some materials function better than others in certain situations. For example, sterling silver is very malleable, nickel is more brittle. Bending, shaping, coiling, weaving sterling silver requires much less effort, and with this, can lead to more artistic and design success, than using nickel or other wire material that is stiffer and harder than sterling.

Another example: Using needle and thread as your stringing material is very time consuming. It is awkward using needle and thread. You have to wax it. You want to pass through each bead a minimum of three times. Using a cable wire, instead, lets you go much faster. The cable wire is a self needle. You don’t wax it. You only have to go through each bead once. If you are selling your pieces, it is virtually impossible to get your labor out of a needle and thread project. You almost have to use a cable wire, if you don’t want to commit yourself to a life of slave labor.

Aesthetic Materials: Sensations and Symbolism

Materials have sensory and symbolic powers which extend beyond the materials themselves. Obviously, this can be very subjective. It might have psychological roots, sociological roots and/or cultural roots.

Things may feel warm, cold, soft, rough, oily, weighty. Things may represent romance, power, membership, religiosity, status.

Vanderbilt University’s colors are gold and black, so using those colors in the Nashville, TN area might evoke a different emotional response than when used elsewhere. And here’s that very-difficult-to-design-with University of Tennessee orange, again, in the Nashville area will evoke a very different response than elsewhere.

Materials like amber and bone and crystal are things people like to touch, not just look at. The sensation extends beyond the visual grammar.

FUNCTIONAL MATERIALS

These materials are used in practical terms. They help things hold together. They help pieces stay in place. They help make pieces adjustable in size. They help polish, finish things off, assist materials through stages in their processing and development. They may be used to prevent or retard a change in color, such as a lacquer finish or rhodium plating over sterling to prevent tarnishing. They help capture a form or shape. They are not a part of the visual and expressive vocabulary and grammar of the piece. Nor are they any kind of canvas.

Functional Materials which are more prominent include,

·Adhesives

·Solders

·Pickling, Flux

·Molding compounds

·Bead release

·Fixatives (like Krylon, lacquering, special platings, waxes, other things which create a protective barrier over something else).

It is especially important to know a lot about adhesives. Many people reach for a tube of Superglue for everything. Superglue has few uses in jewelry design. This glue dries like glass, so the bond is like a piece of glass. When the jewelry moves, the bond shatters like glass, and the bond looks like a broken piece of glass. All jewelry moves when worn, so not a good choice.

Another glue many people reach for is hot glue. This glue melts at body temperature, so not a wise choice for necklaces, bracelets and pendants.

The best glue to use is jeweler’s glue. Two brands are E6000 and Beacon 527. Basically the same glue, but the former is thick and the latter is runny. These glues take 10 minutes to set, so you can move things around for 10 minutes. At about 20 minutes, the consistency is like rubber cement and you can use your finger or a tweezers to take off any excess glue. Both glues take 24 hours to dry hard. They dry clear and remain clear over time. The bond does not expand.

If using fabric, particularly silk (ribbon, bead cord, thread), you want to use a cement, rather than a glue. Glues work by forming a collar around an object, then tighten up as the water or other solvent evaporates. Cements work by adhering to each individual fiber. Glue on fabric, as opposed to cement, will lose its grip, so to speak. With silk, I suggest either G-S Hypo Fabric Cement, or any fabric glue.

Before using a glue, you want to know the characteristics of the bond, once dried. These include things like,

– hardness

– whether dries clear, or yellows

– whether yellows with age

– whether it expands or not when it dries

– what materials it is most useful for

– whether you have to prepare the material’s surface before using

– how long it takes to fully set

– how easy it is to wipe away and remove any excess glue

– whether where-ever you purchase the particular brand of glue, such as at a craft store or discount store or bead store, that this brand of glue is the same quality product

– how long the glue will last in its container before hardening or drying out

Besides the importance of knowing the types of materials, it is also important to know the properties of materials. These include (a) mechanical properties, (b) physical properties, and © chemical properties.

Mechanical Properties

Mechanical properties describe how a material reacts to an applied force. These include,

Strength: It’s ability not to break under stress or strain

Hardness: How easily it can be scratched, faceted, carved, sculpted, cut, sand blasted

Elasticity: The ability to regain its shape after a stress has been applied to it

Plasticity and Malleability: How much force it takes to make a material permanently deform without breaking

Stiffness and Brittleness: At some point, these materials will be so brittle, they will not bend, and will just break in response to force. Wire materials, for example, get stiffer and more brittle, the more they are worked, such as from twisting, pulling, hammering, coiling and the like. Crystal is much more brittle than glass, so it more likely to break from movement or other force.

Fatigue: When the material fails, after repeated wear and use

Impact Strength: how much a material can withstand an impact

Abrasion Resistance: When two materials rub against each other, what is the resistance before one or both break

Creep: the slow movement of a material over time

Physical Properties

Physical properties describe the inherent nature of the material. Some more important ones related to materials used in jewelry include:

Density: mass and volume

Porosity: the quality of being full of tiny holes;
these might hold in something, like a perfume oil, or that something might
easily leach out through washing or sweating, like a dye or lead

Water: absorption, permeability and solubility

Softening and Compression: how material holds up under different conditions

Resistance to Heat and Fire

Resistance to Cold

Resistance to a number of cycles of sharp temperature variations without failing

Changing form from solid to liquid to gas

Chemical Properties

Chemical properties refer to how well the material holds up when exposed to chemicals. These chemicals may be in the air. They may be present in cosmetics, perfumes or hair sprays. They may be present in a person’s sweat. These include,

-Corrosion

· Melting, Dissolving, Removing

·Etching

·Colorizing, Oxidizing, Patinas

· Platings

· Bonding, Adherring

· Biodegrading

We have looked at types of materials and their properties. Now we need to understand how materials help establish the viability, finish and success of jewelry. Here, our materials selection process begins to incorporate some value judgments.

Materials Help Establish
the Viability, Finish and Success of The Jewelry

Jewelry has character and personality. People intuitively or consciously recognize when it is finished, that is, when the addition or subtraction of any one design element would make the piece seem less satisfying or desirable. Jewelry is judged as successful, to the extent it can maintain its shape while concurrently feeling comfortable, and moving, draping and flowing with the person, as the person wears the jewelry and moves with it on.

Every piece of jewelry has its artistic and individual character due to the many facets from which it is constructed. Stringing, Aesthetic and Functional Materials are three of these facets. Mechanical, Physical and Chemical Properties add some additional facets. These among other additional material choices determine both what can be made, as well as the character of what is made.

Material selection in jewelry design is not only about choosing the most attractive, or most obvious, or most affordable, or most durable materials available. Designers also choose materials for their sensual sensations, like warmth, their formal appearance, like classical, their functional practicality, like a clamp, or their geo-locality, like using materials found locally.

The material selection process is complex. It is influenced by many preconditions, choices made, and considerations to accommodate. Too often, however, designers focus mainly on the visual aspects of the materials, and not enough on other factors. In order to make well-considered and smart choices about materials, jewelry designers need a lot more information. They need information about the entirety of the material, as created or constructed, as visually impactful, as functionally helpful, as perceptually and cognitively understood and as symbolically relevant for designer, wearer and viewer.

Stringing, Aesthetic, and sometimes, Functional Materials, coupled with their various Mechanical, Physical and Chemical properties, help to:

(1)Establish a relationship between visual quality and structural stability (physical properties, shape, silhouette)

(2)Establish a relationship between visual quality and support or jointedness (movement, drape and flow)

(3)Influence the selection of the appropriate technique

(4)Provide character and visual appeal

(5)Reflect the time, era, and socio-cultural context and historical value of the piece

(6)Mix aesthetic elements with functional ones

(7)Highlight a theme or concept expressed in the design

(8)Link the piece to a particular geography or location

(9)Link the piece to its appropriate placement on the body

(10) Determine the budget for the piece

(11) Establish the relationship between quantity and quality, that is, how many similar pieces can be made

(12) Best combine the materialistic qualities with the non-materialistic qualities of the project

(1) Establish a relationship between visual quality and structural stability (physical properties, shape, silhouette)

Jewelry making materials signify structural significance. This may relate to the physical properties of the materials, such as hardness, brittleness, softness, pliability, porousness, and this list can go on and on. This may relate to the shapes of the materials, and the placement and interaction of the shapes within the piece, or the final silhouette. The same may be said for size, weight and volume. This may relate to the stability of the material or its color or finish over time.

The choices and arrangement of materials within a piece of jewelry determines its structure. Structure means shape and material integrity. Shape in jewelry may refer to the silhouette of the piece as a whole, or to individual shapes which occupy one or more sections of our finished piece of jewelry. It may refer to the positioning of positive and negatives areas within the piece. When we refer to structure and shape and material, we imply structural integrity, and the degree we are able to maintain any shape, color or finish while the jewelry is worn over some period of time.

Example 1: We may create a bracelet using Austrian crystal beads strung on a beading thread. We achieve a high visual quality, at least initially. But these beads will cut through the threads when the bracelet is worn, thus ending with a very low structural stability.

Example 2: Sometimes a clam-shell bead tip is used to finish off each end of bead cord, when that is the stringing material. The bead cord, at its end, is tied into a knot, which sits inside the clam-shell, the cord coming out a hole in the bottom of the clam shell. We do not want the knot to work itself loose and slip through the hole. So we glue it. If we use a jeweler’s glue, like E6000 or Beacon 527, these glues dry like rubber. With these glues, the knot can actually contort and work itself through the hole. If we use a glue like Superglue or G-S Hypo Cement,
the knot will remain stiff and not be able to slip through the hole. However, the stiff knot reduces what is called support. It reduces the piece’s jointedness, or ability to respond to stress and strain, thus an ability to best move, drape and flow. An alternative to glue is to thread an 11/0 seed bead, passing through the bead twice, before bringing the cord through the hole. This is secure. No glue is used as all. Full support is preserved.

Example 3: How long a metal plated finish lasts depends partly on the metal underneath it, and if it bonds to that metal. Metal plating bonds well to brass, so it lasts a long time before it fades away. Metal plating does not bond at all to aluminum, so it quickly chips off.

(2)Establish a relationship between visual quality and support or jointedness (movement, drape and flow)

Jewelry making materials enhance or impede support or jointedness. The selection and placement of materials, their density, weight, shape, and the like may enable the jewelry to take the shape of the body and move with the body, or not.

Things strung on beading thread will always take the shape of the body and move with the body; things strung on cable wire will not. But the designer has at their disposal several jewelry design tricks in construction which will make the cable wire function closer to needle and thread.

Example 1: A bracelet made up of very large beads, that when encircling the wrist, create a very stiff circle, with much strain and stress on each bead, on the stringing material and on the clasp assembly. If the designer reworks the piece, to include small round spacer beads between each very large bead, the designer, in effect, has added what is called a rotator support system. Each very large bead can freely respond to stresses and strain which result from adjusting to the body and its movement by rotating and pivoting around the spacer bead.

Example 2: People usually pick a clasp after they have designed their piece. They look for something that will make do, perhaps easier to get on and off, and hopefully have some match to the piece. A clasp, however, should be understood as more than a clasp. It should be understood as a clasp assembly, which is a type of support system.
S-clasps are very attractive and a S-clasp design can always be found that feels an organic extension of the jewelry. An S-clasp needs a soldered ring off of each arm, and, if stringing on cable wire, a loop in the wire where it connects to the soldered ring. The crimp is never pushed all the way up to the clasp or ring. Each ring or loop is a support system, so our S-clasp needs 4 support systems in this case, to function correctly. With 4 supports on the S-clasp in a necklace, the clasp will always remain on the back of the neck, no matter how the person moves. Without 4 supports, it will not, and the necklace will keep turning around.

(3)Influence the selection of the appropriate technique

The designer must coordinate the selection of Stringing, Aesthetic and Functional Materials, and their inherent Mechanical, Physical and Chemical properties, so that they work in harmony with a particular technique used to assemble, weave, or otherwise secure them together in a finished piece of jewelry.

Conversely, the technique might dictate which materials will work best, and which will not. Bead weaving works with thread or cable thread, but not as easily with elastic string or cable wire.

There was a time when the materials used in any one piece were restricted to a few. Today any material can be used, as well as any combination of materials, without losing any appeal or value or desire.

Examples: A Czech glass bead with a hole size of .8mm would not slip a leather cord with a diameter of 1.5mm. It would be very difficult to create a loomed piece with beads of widely varying sizes. If mixing metals (say, silver, gold and brass) in a fabricated and soldered bracelet, care must be taken in the soldering strategy because each metal melts at a different temperature. You could not begin a wire weaving project using hard hard-wire. We may select cable wire for our canvas. This would not be a suitable stringing material if the technique we wanted to apply was bead weaving.

(4)Provide character and visual appeal

The surface of a material has many characteristics which the jewelry designer leverages within the finished piece. Light might reflect off this surface, such as with opaque glass or shiny metal. Light might be brought into and below the surface before reflected back, such as with many gemstones and opalescent glass. Light might refract through the piece at different angles, even creating a prism effect.

The surface might be a solid color. It might be a mix of colors. It might be matte. It may have inclusions or markings. It may have fired on coloration effects. There may be tonal differences. There may be pattern or textural differences. It may have movement. It may have depth.

Example: It is often difficult to mix gemstone beads with glass beads. However, if you use glass beads which have a translucent quality to them, this glass mimics the relationship of light reflecting
back to the eye with that of the gemstones. The finished piece will feel
harmonious.

(5)Reflect the time, era, and socio-cultural context and historical value of the piece

Jewelry and its design and materials used can be iconic.

Jewelry can relate the symbolic value of the piece to certain historical themes and ideas, or to specific functions.

Jewelry can be used to preserve, conserve or restore certain cultural or historical values. The material(s) selected may glorify these. Their availability may be closely tied to the time and place. Their use within a piece may be socially subscribed.

Our understanding of how jewelry relates to these contexts can be used to document how jewelry and its design has evolved and spread.

Name an historical period, and you can visualize many of the materials used and design sense. Roman. Victorian. Prehistoric. Modern.

Name a socio-cultural context. Religious. Wedding. Military. American Southwest. Any rite of passage.

Example 1: Pearl knotted jewelry is very strongly associated with silk bead cord, pearl clasps, and bead tips. It is also very associated with Victorian jewelry. It would be difficult to substitute other materials and pieces, such as a different kind of clasp, or not knotting between beads, without the piece losing its appeal.

Example 2: A rosary is made as a bead chain, with a certain number of beads, often a certain size and material of bead, with a Y-shaped connector at its center. The rosary assists the wearer
in prayer and religiosity. It’s specific design and use of materials
differentiates Catholicism from other religions.

(6)Mix aesthetic elements with functional ones

Jewelry is art only as it is worn. Its aesthetic elements must tightly coordinate with its functional ones, if the piece is to maintain its shape and silhouette, and move with the person, without distorting, feeling uncomfortable or breaking. Thus, its quality and durability are dependent upon how the designer successfully maneuvers the tradeoffs required between function and appeal. A good part of this success stems from how materials are selected, combined and arranged.

Jewelry and its design preserve the aesthetic qualities, without disrupting and losing focus of the practical ones.

Example: The clasp assembly on a piece of jewelry can be very organic, feeling an integral part of the piece. Or it can be very disruptive and annoying, as if it were a last choice and consideration, and the designer found a clasp that would make do. For an S-clasp to function appropriately, it needs at least one soldered ring off of the arm on each side
of the clasp. This will force the clasp assembly to take up more space and
volume in the piece. This too might end up detracting from the overall appeal of the piece.

(7)Highlight a theme or concept expressed in the design

Materials may be selected, combined and arranged into forms and themes so that they represent larger meanings and concepts. Often this comes down to color, shape, placement, and arrangement. The materials bring out the theme or concept in the design.

Example: You create a piece of jewelry with a blue color scheme, using 4 shades of blue. If the piece is to be worn, say, going clubbing in the evening, you might select 4 shades of blue (metallic blue iris, montana blue, blue quartz, cornflower) which vary in intensity. That means, varying how bright or dull they are by selecting tones with more or less underlying black, gray or white. If the piece is to be worn, say, at work during the day, you might select 4 shades of blue (cobalt, sapphire, light sapphire, ultralight sapphire) which vary in value. That means, varying how light or dark they are by selecting tones that are basically the same, but some
are lighter or darker than others.

(8)Link the piece to a particular geography or location

Materials may be strongly associated with a particular geography or location. Lapis is strongly associated with Afghanistan. Paint Rock with Tennessee.

Example: A necklace by a Tennessee designer made entirely with lampwork beads made by Tennessee artisans.

(9)Link the piece to its appropriate placement on the body

Jewelry can only be judged successful at the boundary between jewelry and the body. It must be able to conform to the body’s shape. It must be able to comfortably move, drape and flow as the person moves and shifts positions.

Materials selection might begin with what materials would be most appropriate for a given type of jewelry. Or it might begin with what materials would be most appropriate for a certain body shape or size or placement.

Example: Very heavy beads used in earrings can make them uncomfortable. Creating a 4” earring dangle on a 4” head pin is not quite as a good a strategy as making a 4” earring dangle chain using eye pins. Think about what happens to the former vs. the latter when the wearer bends her head, then returns to the upright position.

(10) Determine the budget for the piece

The total expenditure incurred while designing a piece of jewelry might be, to a large extent, determined by the materials used. A designer often selects the material type based on a budget for the project. [Techniques can also have a big impact on the cost, particularly when accounting for the time it takes to design and construct a piece of jewelry.]

Example: A necklace made entirely of lapis lazuli beads might retail for $150.00. A similar necklace made entirely of lapis color glass beads might retail for $25.00. Both would look similar and take the same time to make.

(11) Establish the relationship between quantity and quality, that is, how many similar pieces can be made

The choice of materials affects the quality of the elements. Within a given project budget, and within a particular design goal, the quality of the materials may limit the number of similar pieces to be made, or the complexity or elaborateness of the design of any one piece.

Example: A stretchy bracelet made with lava beads might retail for $15.00. The materials — elastic string, lava beads, glue — are readily available and inexpensive. The designer could easily make 50 of these to sell, and stay within a reasonable budget. Change the materials to cable wire, crimp bead, horseshoe wire protector, crimp cover, black onyx beads, toggle clasp, and the investment in parts is considerably more. We have more materials and more expensive materials. This bracelet might have to retail for $45.00. Staying within the same budget framework, the designer would only be able to make 16 of these.

(12)Best combine the materialistic qualities with the non-materialistic qualities of the project

Every material has two over-arching qualities. The obvious is its physical properties and physicality. Let’s call this materialistic. It is something that is measurable. In the realm of the mystic, it is ordinary or profane.

But the material also has qualities that extend beyond this. They can be sensory. They can be symbolic. They can be psychological. They can be contextual. Let’s call this non-materialistic. It is something that is non-measurable. In the realm of the mystic, it is extraordinary and sacred.

Both properties must be considered when designing a piece of jewelry. They have equal importance, when selecting, placing and arranging materials and design elements within a piece.

Example: Take a Chakra bracelet strung on cable wire with a clasp. The beads used are gemstones. Each gemstone has spiritual and healing properties. Each gemstone has a coloration, and each different coloration, too, is associated with certain spiritual and healing properties. Moreover, every individual has their own unique needs
for which set of gemstones and which assortment of colorations are best and most appropriate. This can get even more complicated in that each situation and context may have its own requirements. The person may end up needing several Chakra bracelets for different occasions. The designer could have used glass or acrylic beads, instead, which have less non-materialistic value, and might be less durable over time. The designer could have strung the beads on elastic string without using a clasp, again, less non-materialistic value and durability.

LESSONS LEARNED

Selecting materials involves a complicated set of choices, some tangible, some intangible, some personal, some in anticipation of the perceptions of others.

Some lessons learned…

1.You can use any material you want when designing jewelry

2.Material selection is a complicated decision making process

3.No material is perfect for every project

4.Don’t assume you know what you know

5.Be skeptical

6.Always ask questions

7.Select materials on both their aesthetic as well as functional properties

8.Don’t sacrifice functionality for aesthetics

9.Anticipate what might happen to your materials over time as the jewelry is worn

10.Anticipate how your various audiences will respond to your selections of materials

11.Work within a budget

12.Match the quality of material to your design (and marketing) goals

_______________________________

FOOTNOTES

(1) WASTIELS, Lisa and WOUTERS, Ine. Material Considerations in Architectural Design: A Study of the Aspects Identified by Architects for Selecting Materials. July, 2008.

As referenced in: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/511/1/fulltext.pdf

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

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

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

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

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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

The Nature-Inspired Creations of Kathleen

Posted by learntobead on May 30, 2020

Poke Berry Lariat, by Kathleen Lynam

Kathleen

Kathleen was one of our bead-weaving instructors at the shop. Her primary sources of inspiration came from nature. I wrote this marketing intro for her jewelry making business she did on the side:

Intuitive. Inspired by Nature and the world around me. Translating feelings and senses and vague images into beautiful jewelry, wonderful beadwork, exciting wearable pieces of art. Beyond following step by step. We’re on the edge and we’re high strung about it.

Kathleen wrote:

Nature inspires all great art, including bead weaving.

Flowers, leaves, vines, and butterflies, (to name a few), are fairly common examples of attempts by bead weavers to transform nature into beadwork. Some are spectacular, like Diane Fitzgerald’s “Ginkgo Leaves.”

Along with other design elements, the color of your beads and the size of your beads and the materials of your beads play major roles in how successful your piece turns out. I have told my students that a solid foundation in the stitches, like we teach at our Stitch of the Month at The Center For Beadwork and Jewelry Arts / Be Dazzled Beads, will allow them the freedom to choose the best stitch for the project. This is particularly true when designing your own piece.

The following is an example of how I was inspired by nature and the resulting Poke Berry Lariat piece.

During a walk one day, I saw some poke weeds. I had so much fun playing with these when I was a child — I love making ink out of the berries! So I went over for a closer look.

Beading is always on my mind, as I examined the stem and berries. It could be done! At least, I could try and re-create this glorious work of nature using beads. I broke off the stem (a bright magenta) and the berries (both purple and green). I took the stem and berries to the bead shop to match up the colors.

The berries
The stem of the poke plant

The shape of the berries resembled some freshwater pearls. Again I used the actual berries (purple and bright green) to match up the colors with the pearls.

I already had certain stitches in mind. I decided to make this a lariat necklace. Bead crochet was my obvious stitch of choice for the vine-like rope. I decided to use size 8/0 seed beads for the crochet rope to provide strength and a balance to the berry clusters that I would add on to the rope.

For the berry clusters, Ndebele would have strength, provide movement and mimic the way the real clusters are attached to the vine. Using the same magenta color as the crocheted rope, I switched to size 11/0 Japanese seed beads.

The tubular Ndebele stitch was easy to begin right off the crochet rope — both from the ends and a berry cluster about 4 inches from one end. From this Ndebele base, the last stitch, fringe, was used to attach the pearls.

To represent the ripening of the berries, I used a combination of green and purple pearls on 2 of the berry clusters. I decided not to add any leaves. My “Poke Berry” necklace was ready to be worn.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works!

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?

Why Am I So Addicted To Beads?

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

The Martha Stewart Beaded Wreath Project

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

The Use of Armature In Jewelry: Legitimate or Not?

Pearl Knotting Warren’s Way

Organizing Your Craft Workspace…Some Smart Pointers

You Don’t Choose Clasps, You Choose Clasp Assemblies

Know Your Anatomy Of A Necklace

Mini Lesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Mini Lesson: Making Adjustable Slip Knots With Thicker Cords

Mini Lesson: How To Crimp

Mini Lesson: Attaching End Caps, Cones, Crimp Ends

Mini Lesson: Brick Stitch

Mini Lesson: Flat Even Count Peyote

Mini Lesson: Ndebele Stitch

Mini Lesson: Petersburg Chain

Mini Lesson: Right Angle Weave

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

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

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Glass Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Lampwork Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Crystal Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Seed and Cylinder Beads

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing and Using Clasps

How To Design An Ugly Necklace: The Ultimate Designer Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Add your name to my email list.

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