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HOW TO BEAD A ROGUE ELEPHANT The Musings Of A Jewelry Designer: The Professional

Posted by learntobead on February 17, 2023

I thought I heard some swish sound of something moving in the air. Something from the back of the room. Headed toward the front of the room. And a sudden click, perhaps a bounce, then another click, click, perhaps another bounce, another click, a rolling sound, and yes, something hit the guy speaking in the front of the room. That guy was my father. That noise I heard was the sound of a plastic pharmacy bottle and its plastic safety cap making a bee-line towards that guy in the front of the room. And bull’s-eye!

My father, you see, at the time, was President of the New Jersey Pharmaceutical Association. He had higher ambitions to get appointed as a Commissioner of Pharmacy on the New Jersey Pharmacy Board. The Board, knowing that, politely volunteered him to introduce the new safety-capped prescription bottles to the pharmacy association’s members. So here he was.

And it just wasn’t one bottle that came flying. I was so peeved. I had taken the time to go up and down the aisles of this auditorium, handing sample bottles to each and every pharmacist there. Now these bottles, one after one after one after one, were getting thrown to the front of the room. My father dodged most, but not all. Yet, at no time, did my father deviate from his presentation. He kept talking from his notes from start to finish.

The original safety capped bottles were difficult to open, to say the least. The standard was that it should take an adult 3 minutes or less to open, and a child 5 minutes or less. Forget about it if you were elderly. Opening these wasn’t going to happen. And most elderly, once they got the caps off, left them off. When my father quoted this standard, that’s when most of the bottles flew up into the air, along a curved trajectory, and ever-so-slightly towards the dais. Plastic hitting tile or concrete or whatever.

And my father’s final line: Within 3 months’ time, the state will require all pharmacies to use only these new safety capped prescription bottles. You’d have thought the room was filled with cows with slight speech defects. Boooooo…..! Boooooo…..! Boooooo…..!

I internalized all this. My father modeled what it meant to be a professional. I model for my jewelry making and beading students what it means to be a professional. My father stuck to maintaining high expectations and standards. To the chagrin of many of my students, I hold them up to high expectations and standards. Although I don’t get plastic bottles thrown at me, I have had to confront a lot of resistance when trying to have my students, my clients, my customers, my colleagues live up to that label I call professional.

There is a widespread belief that crafters and makers are not professionals. There is no law about this. Or regulation. Or rule. It is more of an assumption. Laziness. Low expectations. Low self-esteem. A lack of understanding of the role of a jewelry designer. I refuse, however, to succumb to anything less.

The very nature of jewelry itself necessitates the designer’s role as professional. Jewelry is made to a quality standard. Since jewelry is to be worn and bought and sold, the needs and desires of both designer and wearer must be taken into account. In fact, each piece of jewelry, introduced publicly in whatever way and in whatever circumstance, by definition, triggers conversation. Defines relationships. Exposes desire. Sets possibilities as well as boundaries on participation.

The designer has key responsibilities here, given all the choices which need to be made, when translating inspiration into aspiration into an actual piece of jewelry. The designer can be nothing but a professional. Whether she or he believes it or not. Or acts like it or not. Designers cannot barricade their doors to their Rogue Elephants. My point: They have to bead them.

The whole prescription bottle thing was a mess. One of the things professionals learn to get good at is in anticipating their client’s needs, then shaping what they say and what they do accordingly. It’s about establishing relationships which help clarify what each other knows, assumes, wants, desires, can or cannot do. As a professional, the preference should not be on relying on the law to force these pharmacists to comply. The preference should be to reach an understanding so that the pharmacists, no matter how skeptical or reluctant, will comply on their own. My father presented his message, but it wasn’t received well. As a professional during this time, my father needed a little more development.

The Audacity

In 1998, I created a school to teach jewelry making and beading using a professional model of education. I was literally ANGRY, and very frustrated, that so many of our shop customers had taken so many classes around town, but still could not really do much on their own. I wanted them to be more informed. To do more than making the same project over and over again. To challenge themselves. To experiment. To play. I knew Rogue Elephants loved to play.

My professional training had been in planning and design. While it was health planning and urban design, and although I hadn’t worked in this particular professional capacity for 20 years, everything I learned seemed very appropriate for jewelry design and beading.

But what I saw around me in Bead World — the types of classes taught and the types of books available and the types of articles in beading and jewelry magazines — none of these things seemed quite on the mark. None of them taught about design. None of them challenged the beader or jewelry maker to step out of some very constricted boundaries and rules. None of them seemed to result in teaching beaders and jewelry makers a set of transferable skills. None of them guided beaders and jewelry makers to develop their Designer Tool Boxes — those sets of hard and soft skills which would allow them to resolve unfamiliar or difficult problems in design.

In the jewelry making world, everything seemed oriented around sets of steps. Buy books with sets of steps. Take classes to learn sets of steps. Take more and more sets of steps. The more steps you complete, the more supposedly you learn. How many steps do you have to climb before you reach the top?

But, no matter how many steps you complete, you really don’t learn how to recognize the kinds of implications and to make the kinds of choices you need to make, in order to decide what to include, and what not to include, how to proceed, and how not to proceed, in your pieces of beadwork and jewelry. You do not learn how to make the necessary tradeoffs between beauty and function, appeal and wearability, shape and movement. You do not learn how to create jewelry with a recognition of how that jewelry sets a tone. Triggers a conversation. Defines a relationship. Fulfills needs and desires.

I kept thinking of an idea of a Jewelry Making and Bead School that provided classes and other learning opportunities more in line with my own professional training in health care and urban design. Not to teach sets of steps. But to teach skills. Not to learn things randomly and at will. But to learn things in an integrated ordering. However, I didn’t have the depth of beading and jewelry making experience to pull this off. It was a BIG project, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take something like this on.

And there was that headline — Little beading experience, wants to form School. I found that people thought I was very presumptuous. That I was treading into areas I had not earned the right to be in. That whatever I did, was too complex — either why bother, or why struggle? That there were enough classes at the other beading shops in Nashville, and there would not be any measurable demand for something different, more involved, more demanding.

Who did I think I was? This situation I found myself in reminded me of Picasso’s drive to create cubism. It took him 10 years to define it well enough, create enough attractive and desirable examples, and get it accepted as a force in art. I had visited the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Spain several years ago. Picasso spent his boyhood years in Barcelona. The museum showcased his early-early work through his “blue” period, and up to before the cubism painting style everyone knows him by so well. It showed the development of Picasso’s inner drive to create something great and to be famous.

What the Museum’s story told was that Picasso was basically a shit in search of a reason. Pushy, arrogant, intense. He’d work a color or motif to death. He was intent on fame, or perhaps validation. As a young man, he moved to Paris for awhile, and associated with all the new exciting artists that Paris attracted in the late 1800s, early 1900s. He learned from them, socialized with them, fraternized with them, shared political and artistic views with them, imitated some of their works, and intently developed rules for a new personal artistic style.

At one point, he was determined to create and define a new style of painting. He collaborated with George Braque over 10 years to refine ideas about cubism. At that point, he was discovered, and became the primary focus of cubism as an artistic style.

I don’t mean, in telling the story about our beadwork and jewelry making school, to compare myself to Picasso. The audacity. I don’t think I was a shit. Though I imagine some of the people I worked with thought so. I never thought it would take so long to feel that our program ideas had “clicked.” It took 7–8 years. Or that I would stay the course, despite set-backs and estrangements. Perhaps that’s for posterity to decide, or another writer, like myself, writing about me.

All About Choices and Responsibility

In my father’s drug store, I stood by the register counter one day. My father was in the pharmacy section on the phone. I eavesdropped.

He was trying to get through to a physician. He wasn’t having much luck getting beyond the first line of defense — the nurse receptionist. He was explaining, trying to, sometimes calm, sometimes with anger, often with concern, that the doctor wrote an adult dosage for a baby, and that this dosage would surely kill the baby. He wanted to ask the doctor to change the dosage. The doctor refused. And refused again.

The law in New Jersey at that time forbid pharmacists from questioning any doctor’s orders. Even my father’s phone call to the physician could be a chargeable offense. By law he was required to fill the prescription.

So my father had a difficult choice: follow the law and let the baby die, or break the law.

Although the jewelry designer is not in this kind of precarious situation, there are still choices to be made and responsibilities to be taken for their choices. Jewelry is to be worn. It may be bought. It may be exhibited and collected. In short, the designer serves someone else. The designer makes that person’s life somehow better. More satisfying. More self-affirming. More culturally-affirming. While a miscalculation in design and construction choices will not lead to death, it can still have many negative consequences. As a professional, the designer will want to anticipate, mitigate or alleviate any possibilities for negative consequences.

And what happened to the baby?

My father resorted to a little bit of civil disobedience. He called every pharmacy in a 5-county area. He got every pharmacist to agree not to fill any and all prescriptions written by this doctor. The doctor’s patients were not happy about this. But, the doctor got the message. The medical society in New Jersey got the message. The Medical Board got the message. The state legislature changed the law to give pharmacists more professional responsibility in this kind of situation.

I always wanted — probably may never succeed — in changing how jewelry makers and beaders learn their craft. It’s about high expectations, professionalism, choices, responsibilities — and developing a literacy and fluency in design and building up that Designer’s Tool Box. This makes so much sense to me … why not to everyone else, I ask myself.

I don’t know if I’m copying my father, paying homage to him, genetically predisposed to who he was. But I bring all this insight — some say, baggage — to the design of jewelry. How it is made. How it is sold. How it is taught.

It Takes A Lot Of Push and Determination

I was talking with a nationally prominent jewelry instructor about my ideas for educating jewelry makers and beaders. She thought it was a waste of time. Most students only want to follow a set of steps and end up with something. Given what they want, that’s all the effort she wanted to make into teaching them. If a student wanted to go further, she would gladly answer their questions. But it was not her job or responsibility to instill professional values, expectations, or higher level skills in her students.

I found the same attitude among local teachers. I had an extensive curriculum and needed teachers to teach the courses. I required written instructions for all classes. Teachers refused. I required that teachers provide samples of the projects in each class. Teachers refused. I required that core tasks be taught with one or more variations. Teachers refused. What really gored me was that the few teachers that agreed to create classes according to my requirements, in reality, did not. They told me one thing, and did something else. After several months, I began to notice that students were not learning what was spelled out in the curriculum. As one teacher I fired told me, she could do less work and get paid the same. I said, Goodbye, Good Luck, Good Riddance.

I began to teach many of the classes myself. Had to learn a lot quickly. Over time, I regained the upper hand. I worked individually with each new teacher. I required that they create 4 interrelated, progressive courses. They had to specify how the goals for the next, related to the preceding course. This strategy worked.

At first, it was also difficult to attract students. They could take classes elsewhere that didn’t have prerequisites and requirements. Pay the same amount. End up with a finished project they could take home. Have fun, that was that. Again, over time, I regained the upper hand. I created a local demand for something more. I did not have to lower any curriculum expectations.

For me, it is such a high to learn things. Develop myself. Conquer new challenges in design, manipulation and construction. Leverage the strengths of materials and techniques, and minimize their weaknesses. I will never get it: Why others don’t share this excitement. Yet I am driven. Whether this relates somehow to my father, or not. I am driven.

In the late 1960s, my father was driven, as well. He wanted New Jersey to allow pharmacists to give injectables in the pharmacy. This could be flu shots, vaccinations, things like that. The law prohibited this. Through a lot of political manipulations, and with the support of both the New Jersey Pharmacists Association and the New Jersey Nurses Association, he convinced the Medical Board to allow a pilot test. He pushed the project forward.

A date was set. A number of pharmacies in the county agreed to participate. Pharmacists were trained. Announcements went out.

Three days before, however: another in a long line of road blocks. The Medical Board reneged on their agreement. Pharmacists would not be allowed to administer injectables. My father knew they could not, however, stop nurse practitioners from doing so. A nurse practitioner was lined up for each drug store.

The Medical Board put up another roadblock 2 days before the event. Now, injectables could only be administered in a separate area devoted to the activity, with a detail of space requirements — roughly 6’x 6’. In our store, we took down a display gondola. We took a wooden door and sat it atop two file cabinets to create a desk. A chair on either side. We put into effect all the other little required details.

The event occurred with great success. The legislature changed the professional standards to now allow pharmacists to administer injectables. Every time I walk into a Walgreens pharmacy to get my flu or COVID or whatever shot, this all started with my father, his ambition, his professionalism and his concern for good health care delivery.

The Professional

As I see it, and as I only allow myself to see it, jewelry design is not merely an activity which occupies your time. It is not something that anyone can do. It requires training, development, experience, more experience. It requires learning specialized skills.

Part of the jewelry designer’s development as a professional involves an ability to anticipate and understand how various audiences express desire and how various audiences judge a piece of jewelry to be finished and successful. Jewelry is here to amaze and intrigue. It is here to entice someone to wear it, purchase it, show it around. It is here to share the inspiration and prowess of the designer with those who see, feel, touch and inhabit it.

The more professional designer takes the time to explore how an audience is engaged with the piece. The designer learns insights in how any piece of jewelry evokes emotions and resonates with others. The designer is very sensitive to the experience people have at the point of purchase or gifting. Finish and presentation are very important. Acquiring jewelry is special and unique a process. Jewelry is not something we must have to meet some innate need; rather, it is something we desire because it stirs something within us.

At the heart of my questioning is whether we are paid and rewarded either solely for the number of jewelry pieces which we make, or rather for the skill, knowledge and intent underlying our jewelry designs.

If the former, we do not need to call ourselves professionals. We do not need much training. Entry into the activity of jewelry design would be very open, with a low bar. Our responsibility would be to turn out pieces of jewelry. We would not encumber ourselves too much with art theory or design theory. We would not concern ourselves, in any great depth, and certainly not struggle with jewelry’s psycho-socio-cultural impacts.

If the latter, we would see ourselves as professionals. We would need a lot of specialized training and experience. Entry into the activity of jewelry design would be more controlled, most likely staged from novice to master. Our responsibility would be to translate our inspirations into aspirations into designs. It would also be to influence others viewing our work to be inspired to think about and reflect and emote those things which have excited the designer, as represented by the jewelry itself. And it would also be to enable others to find personal, and even social and cultural, success and satisfaction when wearing or purchasing this piece of jewelry.

To become a professional jewelry designer is to learn, apply and experience a way of thinking like a designerFluent in terms about materials, techniques and technologies. Flexible in the applications of techniques and the organizing of design elements into compositions which excite people. Able to develop workable design strategies in unfamiliar or difficult situations. Communicative about intent, desire, purpose, no matter the context or situation within which the designer and their various audiences find themselves. Original in how concepts are introduced, organized and manipulated, and in how the designer differentiates themselves from other designers.

When I think about beading a Rogue Elephant, I think about taking ownership of my own design process. I think about finding personal meaning, and how through jewelry, this affects others. I think of myself as a professional. I think of my Rogue Elephant as something reachable. Attainable. A creative challenge. My muse.


Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

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

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

Follow my articles on Medium.com.

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

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

Check out my Jewelry Making and Beadwork Kits.

Add your name to my email list.


Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

What You Need To Know When Preparing A Portfolio

Smart Advice When Preparing Your Artist Statement

Design Debt: How Much Do You Have?

An Advertising Primer For Jewelry Designers

Selling Your Jewelry In Galleries: Some Strategic Pointers

Building Your Brand: What Every Jewelry Designer Needs To Know

Social Media Marketing For The Jewelry Designer

Often Unexpected, Always Exciting: Your First Jewelry Sale

Coming Out As A Jewelry Artist

Is Your Jewelry Fashion, Style, Taste, Art or Design?

Saying Goodbye To Your Jewelry: A Rite Of Passage

So You Want To Do Craft Shows: Lesson 7: Setting Up For Success

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Metals, Metal Beads, Oxidizing

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Stringing Materials

Shared Understandings: The Conversation Embedded Within Design

How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?

Doubt / Self-Doubt: 8 Major Pitfalls For Jewelry Designers

Essential Questions For Jewelry Designers: 1 — Is What I Do Craft, Art or Design?

The Bridesmaids’ Bracelets

The Jewelry Designer’s Orientation To Choosing And Using Clasps

Beads and Race

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

Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form and Theme

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Pearls Need Re-Stringing

MiniLesson: How To Crimp

MiniLesson: Making Stretchy Bracelets

Architectural Basics Of Jewelry Design

Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry: What Works

What Glue Should I Use When Making Jewelry?


CONQUERING THE CREATIVE MARKETPLACE: Between the Fickleness of Business and the Pursuit of Design

How dreams are made
between the fickleness of business
and the pursuit of jewelry design

This guidebook is a must-have for anyone serious about making money selling jewelry. I focus on straightforward, workable strategies for integrating business practices with the creative design process. These strategies make balancing your creative self with your productive self easier and more fluid.

Based both on the creation and development of my own jewelry design business, as well as teaching countless students over the past 35+ years about business and craft, I address what should be some of your key concerns and uncertainties. I help you plan your road map.

Whether you are a hobbyist or a self-supporting business, success as a jewelry designer involves many things to think about, know and do. I share with you the kinds of things it takes to start your own jewelry business, run it, anticipate risks and rewards, and lead it to a level of success you feel is right for you, including

· Getting Started: Naming business, identifying resources, protecting intellectual property

· Financial Management: basic accounting, break even analysis, understanding risk-reward-return on investment, inventory management

· Product Development: identifying target market, specifying product attributes, developing jewelry line, production, distribution, pricing, launching

· Marketing, Promoting, Branding: competitor analysis, developing message, establishing emotional connections to your products, social media marketing

· Selling: linking product to buyer among many venues, such as store, department store, online, trunk show, home show, trade show, sales reps and showrooms, catalogs, TV shopping, galleries, advertising, cold calling, making the pitch

· Resiliency: building business, professional and psychological resiliency

· Professional Responsibilities: preparing artist statement, portfolio, look book, resume, biographical sketch, profile, FAQ, self-care



Merging Your Voice With Form

So You Want To Be A Jewelry Designer reinterprets how to apply techniques and modify art theories from the Jewelry Designer’s perspective. To go beyond craft, the jewelry designer needs to become literate in this discipline called Jewelry Design. Literacy means understanding how to answer the question: Why do some pieces of jewelry draw your attention, and others do not? How to develop the authentic, creative self, someone who is fluent, flexible and original. How to gain the necessary design skills and be able to apply them, whether the situation is familiar or not.

588pp, many images and diagrams Ebook , Kindle or Print formats

The Jewelry Journey Podcast
“Building Jewelry That Works: Why Jewelry Design Is Like Architecture”
Podcast, Part 1
Podcast, Part 2

Easy. Simple. No tools. Anyone Can Do!

I developed a nontraditional technique which does not use tools because I found tools get in the way of tying good and well-positioned knots. I decided to bring two cords through the bead to minimize any negative effects resulting from the pearl rotating around the cord. I only have you glue one knot in the piece. I use a simple overhand knot which is easily centered. I developed a rule for choosing the thickness of your bead cord. I lay out different steps for starting and ending a piece, based on how you want to attach the piece to your clasp assembly.

184pp, many images and diagrams EbookKindle or Print

SO YOU WANT TO DO CRAFT SHOWS:16 Lessons I Learned Doing Craft Shows

In this book, I discuss 16 lessons I learned, Including How To (1) Find, Evaluate and Select Craft Shows Right for You, (2) Determine a Set of Realistic Goals, (3) Compute a Simple Break-Even Analysis, (4) Develop Your Applications and Apply in the Smartest Ways, (5) Understand How Much Inventory to Bring, (6) Set Up and Present Both Yourself and Your Wares, (7) Best Promote and Operate Your Craft Show Business before, during and after the show.

198pp, many images and diagrams, EbookKindle or Print


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When You Tell Someone You Are A Jewelry Designer, Do They Fully Understand What You Do?

Posted by learntobead on May 9, 2020


How Do You Clarify What You Do 
In Your Practice As A Jewelry Designer? 
Building that relevance into your work

What do you (or will you) say to people who ask you what you do for a living? When you say, “Jewelry Designer”, you probably get a “That’s nice” or “Oh, you make jewelry,” and perhaps a far-away look. Most people can’t imagine exactly what you do. Their images and experiences with jewelry and what it can look like, the materials available to use, the techniques applied are somewhat limited. Not everyone knows you can craft jewelry by hand, not just by machine.

It can be difficult to define jewelry design. What you do as an artist and designer may involve several different kinds of tasks. Your process may be conventional or unconventional. And it’s not just the “What do you do” aspect of the question, but the concurrently implied “Can you make a living at this” aspect of the question, as well. It’s almost as if they are about to say, “What do you really do?”

The response you want to come up with is your personal understanding and recognition about your passion for design, and all the things that drive this passion. Your excitement in telling your story will become infectious, and, while they still might not comprehend everything you do or the how and why you do it, they will certainly see that you are a jewelry designer, one who is intent on achieving some level of success within the profession.

Your Practice, and how you define and live and succeed in it depends on gaining some clarity in terms of…,

(1) Having a definition of what success as a designer means to you

(2) Developing a production (and marketing) routine

(3) Creating a consistent and coherent body of work

(4) Being very organized

(5) If selling or exhibiting, taking a multi-venue approach

(6) Developing a Criticality where you are reflecting, evaluating, validating, legitimizing, being very metacognitive

(7) Self-Care and finding balance in your life

(1) Defining Success

Not every designer is going to define success in the same way. In fact, there will be dramatic differences. Some people may want to focus on applying their creative skills. They search for artistic excellence. Others may want to make money. They want monetary gain and, perhaps, financial stability. Still others may want to be a part of a social network of other creative types. They might want a support network, seek collaboration, or find recognition.

Some people want to do this full time, and others part time. Some want to earn enough money to pay for their habit; others want to make money to supplement their income; still others want to make enough money to be self-supporting.

Success is all about you. What do you want? How much effort and organization will it take to match your ambition and goals? How much time and money do you want to invest in your education and development? Are you aiming to be a crafter, an artist, or a designer?

Success depends on many factors. But key to all, and foremost, is that you brainstorm with yourself, be brutally honest, and list the goals you prefer and want to achieve. Prioritize these. More successful designers find some balance among creativity, business, and recognition. But your ambitions may be different, and just as legitimate in finding success.

Know that achieving any level or definition of success will take time and effort, often sacrifices. The jewelry designer should set expectations and work strategies accordingly.

(2) The Day-To-Day Routine

While everyone has their own process and their own flow, more successful designers establish some kind of work routine. They allocate a specific work space within which to create. They keep their inventory of parts and finished pieces very organized. And, key here, they set up a schedule for (a) researching ideas and inspirations, (b) working in a production mode, c) presenting or marketing their work to others, (d) reflecting on their practice.

Periodically, evaluate your process. Are there things you can do to improve your efficiency or effectiveness? Can you better manage your productivity? Do you work better at a certain time of day, or day of the week? Have you programmed in breaks? Is there a comfortable balance between work time and break time? Would it be helpful to take the last 15 minutes of your day to set up for tomorrow?

Plot out your weekly schedule on a calendar or spreadsheet. Set some objectives about how many pieces you want to finish per week or per month. If interruptions, say from friends or family, get too annoying, make them aware of your schedule and ask them to help you protect your creative time and space.

It is important to note here that there is a fundamental tension between productivity and creativity. The former tries to put you in a box. The latter tries to keep you from getting stuck in a box. This can be frustrating.

Yet artists and designers, overall, who are able to provide some structure to their creative time tend to be more successful in their practice. These artists and designers set a routine and schedule for both making jewelry time as well as thinking about designing time. They also structure in time for introducing their ideas publicly as well as reflecting on the efficiency and effectiveness of everything they do — tangible and otherwise.

(3) Creating A Consistent and Coherent Body Of Work

Jewelry designers are free to create whatever they want. And usually, novices would be wise to try out a lot of different techniques, and use a lot of different materials, and create a lot of different designs. Think of this as play and experimentation. It’s how you learn to be a designer.

But as you develop more as a designer, it makes more sense to set some limits and begin to define a personal style, coherency and brand identity.

Your style reflects what you are passionate about. It may focus on a particular technique, material or design. Or it may focus on integrating and combining several things. But with all the things you do, there is some coherence to it. It becomes more associated and identified with you and you become more recognized with it. The consistency ties you to your work.

This doesn’t limit variation and creativity in your work. It primarily means that wearers and buyers and collectors of your jewelry can sense the artist’s hand, that is you, reflected by the pieces you create.

Coherency has several dimensions to it. The designer achieves a level of coherency in how the majority of these dimensions, not necessarily all dimensions, are reflected in any one piece. Thus, the designer still has a lot of room for variation in their work and style.

These dimensions of coherency about which designers are selective include,

– The choice of materials

– The choice of techniques

– How pieces are presented, displayed, organized, situated with other pieces

– How pieces and collections are named

– Packaging

– Color palettes

– The use of forms and themes

– Personalization, differentiation and originality

– The use of negative vs. positive space

– The use of point, line, plane and shape

– Arrangements, placements, distributions of design elements within the piece

– Control over light, shadow, bright, dull

– The marriage and resulting tradeoffs between aesthetics and functionality

– Silhouettes

– Quality in materials, quality in craftsmanship, quality in finish, quality in presentation

(4) Organization

Good organization involves

(a) Inventory (how you organize, track and replenish it)

(b) Work space (how you create productive areas for creative work, business and creative reflection)

c) Bookkeeping and accounting (how you manage your finances)

(d) Business logistics, such as researching venues, getting to venues, tracking your pieces, shipping, marketing, web-presence and social media management (how you manage the other business aspects of what you do)

Good organization will help you avoid a lot of frustration and disarray. Learn to use spreadsheets and apps. These will save you a lot of time and minimize a lot of grief and worry. You’ll have more time to create, and need less time to keep things organized and up-to-date.

Think of and treat your inventory of materials, and all that it takes to achieve a satisfactory level of quality in your pieces, as investments, rather than costs. It gets more productive to reflect on What Is Your Return On Investment (ROI)?, rather than on What Does This Cost? This will go a long way in clarifying for you what is important, and what is less so, and how to prioritize things in the face of limits on time and other resources.

Your workspace might be a part of a room, it might be an entire room in your home, or even a complete studio space outside your home.

Divide your “work space” into three distinct areas: where you create, where you handle all the business things, and where you relax, think and reflect.

As you develop your work and related spaces, you should try to anticipate what it will take to scale each of these up, as you get more established as a jewelry designer. Are your spreadsheets and computer apps robust enough to grow with your developing career and business, as well?

(5) A Multi-Venue Approach Towards The Creative Marketplace

Successful jewelry designers are able to get the visibility and legitimacy they want and deserve. They know what to expect when exposing their work publicly within the creative marketplace.

They are good at communicating their ideas and their value, when approaching art and craft show vendors, stores and boutiques, galleries, and buyers and collectors, or applying for art grants or doing demonstrations. They are able to get articles written about them in blogs, newspapers, magazines and jewelry editorials. And, very importantly, they use a multi-venue approach (diversification) when introducing their jewelry into the marketplace. At a minimum, this multi-venue approach will include both an on-line strategy and a bricks-and-mortar strategy.

Legitimacy as an artist requires massive exposure, most often in diverse locations and venues. It is unusual for a single venue or location, whether you are looking for exhibitions or for sales, to be sufficient for a designer to become successful. You will need to have your jewelry pieces in many venues. There are many online directories and other resources to help you find the wide variety of venues useful to the further development of your jewelry design career.

What To Expect When Exposing Your Work Publicly

No jewelry designer works in a vacuum, and no piece of jewelry is complete until it has been shared with an audience.

No wearer or purchaser of jewelry is going to see the piece as merely an object of adornment. They will interact with the piece in a much more intimate way, and very much so influenced by the jewelry creator and all the choices made in design.

Part of the jewelry designer’s development as a professional involves an ability to anticipate and understand how various audiences express desire and how various audiences judge a piece of jewelry to be finished and successful. Jewelry is here to amaze and intrigue. It is here to entice someone to wear it, purchase it, show it around. It is here to share the inspiration and prowess of the designer with those who see, feel, touch and inhabit it.

The more successful designer takes the time to explore how an audience is engaged with the piece. The designer learns insights in how any piece of jewelry evokes emotions and resonates with others. The designer is very sensitive to the experience people have at the point of purchase or gifting. Finish and presentation are very important. Acquiring jewelry is special and unique a process. Jewelry is not something we must have to meet some innate need; rather, it is something we desire because it stirs something in us.

Approaching Stores and Galleries

Although some jewelry designers may feel uneasy mixing art with business, for most it is a necessity. You do not have to sacrifice wonder for reality. Most designers sell their pieces, so recognizing the things about coordinating art with business become very important.

Typically small stores and boutiques, websites and online sales platforms, and galleries will sell your jewelry, either outright, or on consignment. Their goal is to turn a profit, and they are at greater risk than the artist. It is the venue that displays, promotes, prices, trains employees to talk about your jewelry to customers, and keeps the pieces clean. Available selling-space is always limited. When your jewelry takes up space in these venues, it is an opportunity cost to the business — they lose the opportunity to carry someone else’s work which might be more appropriate to the setting, or might sell better.

There are different types of stores, websites and galleries. Each satisfies a different market niche for jewelry. Each has a different level of understanding about what jewelry really is, and all the choices the jewelry designer has made to design and create each piece.

When approaching stores or galleries to display and sell your pieces, it is critical that the artist understand how each specific venue functions, who their audiences are, and what the attendant risks to them are, should they decide to exhibit and/or sell your pieces.

The first step is to be your authentic, passionate self. Your jewelry will not speak for itself. So, in spite of any feelings of vulnerability you might have when approaching stores and galleries, you will need to talk about yourself and your jewelry. You do not want to feel “salesy” when speaking with business or gallery owners and representatives. You do not want to feel pushy. Or desperate. But you want them to get to Yes.

You speak to them on their terms. They want to know the real you. What excites you. The history behind the design choices you make. Your understanding of yourself as an artist, and your understanding of your virtual client, her desires, wants and motivations. How do you connect to your audience through your jewelry?

o Who are your best customers likely to be? 
o How would you describe them: demographics, shopping behaviors, wants and desires?
 o Why are they attracted to your work? 
o How and where do they find out about you and your work?
o What is your Getting Started story? 
o How would you go about persuading someone to buy a piece of jewelry you made — what’s in it for them? How does it connect with them emotionally? How would it make their lives better?

Do some research ahead of time. The internet has a wealth of information you can pull up. Before you meet with them, get an understanding of the types of jewelry artists and their materials they carry in their venues. These venues are always on the lookout for new talent. They are most likely to say Yes to a jewelry designer whose style and materials fit in, but do not duplicate, what they already are showing.

Also research who their customer base is. They are most likely to say Yes to a jewelry designer whose audience either mirrors their existing customer base, or incrementally adds to and expands it at the margin. They most likely will not want to spend resources (and add risk) by going after a completely new and different customer base.

One more thing. You can either push your way in, or use pull to get in. For most of us, particularly when we are getting started, have only push at our disposal. We might cold call, or set up a formal interview, or initiate a conversation with someone at a gallery opening or art show.

But pull always works better. Here we leverage something or someone to get to the right place or person at the right time. An established designer or academic might set up an appointment for you with one of their contacts, for example.


In today’s world, there is a manic competition for attention. Then, also, a frenetic effort to retain and manipulate that attention. Attention creates value. Often, it is difficult for the individual jewelry artist to get a leg up in this world without some significant help. Again, as mentioned above, if you can use pull, you’ll go farther, faster than if you have to rely on push.

Influencers are one of the backbones of internet culture and one way to use pull. Their business model centers on ways to shape everything we do in our lives from how we shop to how we learn to how we dress. Influencers are part micro-celebrity and part entrepreneur. They are opinion leaders and have been able to garner a large audience. They have proven themselves to be able to exploit how people distribute their time and attention.

Influencers typically work on a quid-pro-quo basis. In exchange for some products you give them, they promote them. Sometimes a fee may be involved. They take photos, they interact with audiences, they get your message out on different platforms, they sponsor content.

The Value of Collaboration

It can be so easy for any jewelry designer to get so wrapped up in creating things that they isolate themselves. But this is not the ideal situation.

At a minimum, it is very helpful, and very healthy, to have a support group. People you can talk to and talk things out with. People who can give you good feedback.

It is also very invigorating to collaborate on a project with someone else — A2A, that is, artist to artist. You can get an infusion of new ideas, sensibilities and strategies. You can get challenged. You become more self-aware of your own styles and preferences. You come up with new ideas about coordinating your own authentic, creative self with that of someone else.

Maintaining A Client Base

Much of any jewelry designer’s success comes down to maintaining a high level of visibility. Regularly keeping in touch with your client base is extremely important here.

Keep good documentation about who bought your pieces, when, why, for how much, and their address, email, phone numbers.

Maintain a web presence, either as a unique website, and/or a presence on social media platforms.

Create a mailing/emailing list, and use it frequently.

Have business cards handy at all times.

Do promotions to expand your mailing/emailing lists. Call to actions are very effective, such as offering a ‘discount coupon good for the next 7 days’. Or directing them to see your new pieces online by clicking a link.

Keep them up-to-date about where your pieces may be found, and what you are working on now.

(6) Criticality

Criticality is something you want to build into your Practice. It is not something to avoid or minimize.

Criticality is about making choices. It is about separating and confronting and going beyond your piece in order to build in that relevance jewelry needs as it gets exposed to the public.

Criticality helps you close the distance between the jewelry you create and the person it has been created for.

Criticality aids you in revealing the implications and consequences of all your choices. About materials. About techniques. About colors and patterns and textures and forms. Each form of jewelry requires endless and constant adjustments, and you should be very critically aware of what, why and how.

Criticality is necessary for you to continue to grow and develop as a professional jewelry designer.

Criticality is not a put-down of the artist. Rather it is a way of reflecting, evaluating and being very metacognitive of all the choices made in design and construction, and a lot of what-if envisioning and analysis of possible alternative choices. It is an exploratory thing. It adds understanding and comprehension.

Criticality assists in creating a dialog between artist and all the various audiences with whom the artist interacts. Towards that end, it is helpful to actively bring others into that criticality discussion, where we now have the prospects of many voices merging into a form. It can be difficult to be objective about your own work. And you may not be aware of how the quality of your work stacks up with others, and where it needs to be.


Your legitimacy as a jewelry designer, your reputation, your visibility, your opportunities, to some degree, flow from this process of criticality. Legitimacy comes from both local and more general validation. Validation results from these processes of critical observation and analysis of your work and of how you conduct yourself within your practice.

Your various audiences that view your work critically, in turn, bring your work in contact with the external world. They look for a high level of coherence within the design and its execution. They describe it critically as to its qualifications for matching desire, establishing appeal, having personal or general value and meaning. For successful jewelry designers, this contagion continues, diffuses, and grows.

Legitimacy engenders a deeper level of confidence among artist, wearer and viewer. The relationships are stimulated, enriched, given more and more value. Jewelry is more than a simple object; it is a catalyst for interaction, for relationships, for engagement, for emotion. Legitimacy results in trust and validation.

With globalization and rapid technological changes, the jewelry designer is confronted with additional burdens, making the effort to achieve legitimacy ever more difficult. That is because these larger forces bring about more and more standardization of jewelry. They rapidly bring fashions and styles to the fore, only to scrap them, in the seemingly blink of an eye, for the next hot thing. They channel images of jewelry pieces around and around the world taking on a sameness, and lowering people’s expectations to what jewelry could be about.

If the products around the world are essentially the same, then the only thing the customer will care about is price. They won’t care who made it. They won’t care about quality.

Innovation begins to disappear. With its disappearance, the role of the jewelry designer diminishes. The jewelry designer becomes more a technician with no professional identity or concerns. The jewelry simply becomes the sum of its parts — the market value of the beads, metals and other components. There are few, if any, pathways to legitimacy.

That’s not what we want. And that makes it ever more important that jewelry designers see themselves as professionals, and develop their disciplinary literacy — fluency, flexibility and originality in design. Aspects of design which cannot be globalized. Or standardized. Or accomplished without the work, knowledge, skills, understandings and insights of a professional jewelry designer.

(7) Finding Balance — Self Care

Making jewelry and living a creative life can wear and tear on both your physical, as well as mental, health. It’s important that you have a plan of self-care and balance that you have thought about and structured ahead of time.

Take breaks. Play. Experiment. Take walks. Don’t isolate yourself. Develop a support system.

Exercise. Take good care of your hands, finger nails, wrists, arms, neck, back and eyes. If you need to read with glasses, then you need to make jewelry with glasses. There are lots of different tools specific to different situations — use them all. Elastic wrist bands, thumb-support gloves, elbow bands do great to preserve your fingers, wrists and elbows. There are lots of ergonomic tools and chairs and lighting. With a lot of metalsmithing and lampworking, you’ll need goggles, perhaps special lenses to filter out the glare of torch flames. Make these your friends.

There will be creative aspects to what you do, and administrative aspects to what you do. Find some balance between your right brain and your left brain.

Spend a lot of time feeding your creative well with ideas, inspirations, motivations and a deep appreciation for what artists do well.

Take some time to explore new materials, techniques and technologies.

There will be slow times and seasonal ups and downs. Plan ahead of time how you will occupy yourself during slow periods.

There will be times you will have designer’s block. You will be stuck, usually difficulty getting started, or if your piece is getting developed over a long period of time, some difficulty staying motivated. Develop strategies you can refer to on how to stay motivated, and on how to stop yourself from sabotaging your progress. It is important to know what you can and cannot control.

Train yourself with a mindset for rejection. Not everyone will like what you do. Not everyone will want to wear or buy the pieces you’ve invested your heart and soul in. That’s not your problem. It’s their problem. Don’t make it yours.

Get involved with your profession.

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.

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JEWELRY DESIGN: An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Posted by learntobead on November 7, 2019

JEWELRY DESIGN:  An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Jewelry design is an activity which occupies your time.

How the world understands what you do when you occupy that time, however, is in a state of flux and confusion.

Is what you are doing merely a hobby or avocation?    Is it something anyone can do, anytime they want, without much preparation and learning?

Is what you do an occupation?   Does it required learning specialized skills?   Is it something that involves your interaction with others?     Is it something you are payed to do?

Or is what you do a profession?    Is there a specialized body of knowledge, perspectives and values to learn and apply?    Do you provide a service to the public?    Do you need to learn and acquire certain insights which enable you to serve the needs of others?

Are you part of another occupation or profession, or have your own?     Is jewelry design merely a craft, where you make things by following sets of steps?

Is jewelry design an art, where your personal inspirations and artistic sense is employed to create things of aesthetic beauty for others to admire, as if they were sculptures?    Is the jewelry you create to be judged as something separate and apart from the person wearing it?

Or is jewelry design its own thing.    Is it a design activity where you learn specialized knowledge in how to integrate aesthetics and functionality, and where your success can only be judged at the boundary between jewelry and person – that is, only as the jewelry is worn?

The line of demarcation between occupation and profession is thin, often blurred, but for the jewelry designer, this distinction is very important.     It feeds into our sense of self and self-esteem.    It guides us in the choices we make to become better and better at our craft, art and trade.    It influences how we introduce our jewelry to the public, and how we influence the public to view, wear, exhibit, purchase or collect the things we make.


What does it mean to become a professional?

At the heart of this question is whether we are paid and rewarded solely for the number of jewelry pieces that we make, or for the skill, knowledge and intent underlying our jewelry designs.

If the former, we do not need much training.   Entry into the activity of jewelry design is very open, with a low bar.     Our responsibility is to turn out pieces of jewelry.     We do not encumber ourselves too much with art theory or design theory.

If the latter, we need a lot of specialized training and experience.    Entry into the activity of jewelry design is more controlled, most likely staged from novice to master.     Our responsibility it to translate our inspirations into aspirations into designs.    It is also to influence others viewing our work to be inspired to think about and reflect and emote those things which have excited the artist, as represented by the jewelry itself.    And it is also to enable others to find personal success and satisfaction when wearing or purchasing this piece of jewelry.

To become a professional jewelry designer is learn, apply and experience a way of thinking like a designer.     Fluent in terms about materials, techniques and technologies.   Flexible in the applications of techniques and the organizing of design elements into compositions which excite people.    Able to develop workable design strategies in unfamiliar or difficult situations.    Communicative about intent, desire, purpose,  no matter the context or situation within which the designer and his various audiences find themselves.   Original in how concepts are introduced, organized and manipulated.

The designs of artisans who make jewelry reflect and refract cultural norms, societal expectations, historical explanations and justifications, psychological precepts individuals apply to make sense of themselves within a larger setting.    As such, the jewelry designer has a major responsibility, both to the individual client, as well as to the larger social setting or society, to foster that the ability for the client to fulfill that hierarchy of needs, and to foster the coherency and rationality of the community-at-large.

All this can happen in a very small, narrow way, or a very large and profound way.    In either case, the professional roles of the jewelry designer remain the same.    Successfully learning how to play these roles – fluency, flexibility, communication, originality – becomes the basis for how the jewelry designer is judged and the extent of his recognition and success.

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