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So You Want To Be A Jewelry Designer… Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Posted by learntobead on April 20, 2020

“Crystal Excitement”, FELD, 2004

What you do as an artist and designer may involve several different kinds of tasks. Your Practice, and how you define and live 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

Building that relevance into your work

What Is Your Practice?

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 of1…,

(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, © 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 work, business and creative reflection)

© 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 these venues function, 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.

Finding A Job Which Utilizes Your Jewelry Making Experience

There are actually many career pathways for people who have backgrounds in jewelry making and bead working. Besides the obvious pathways of making jewelry to sell, or teaching jewelry making, there are still many job and career opportunities for you.

You may have to do a little more leg work, and a little more tree-shaking. Don’t assume, however, when the linear pathway is blocked, that all pathways are blocked. They are not.

Some types of jobs/careers which might use your talents….

There are a lot of private companies, nonprofit agencies, government agencies, and foundations and philanthropic agencies that work with disadvantaged groups, and need people to provide technical assistance to these groups. These groups might be inner city. They might be rural. They might be overseas.

Very often, projects these businesses and organizations work on have a craft-angle to them. They may need people to teach crafts, to teach people to transfer their craft skills into marketable skills, or to assist people in applying for loans to start up businesses, usually small loans and usually things associated with selling crafts.

Banks have found it profitable to make “micro-loans”. These loans are very small amounts, and usually given to women in developing countries, to help them leverage their skills — often craft skills — to make a business out of them. Banks need personnel to
 — develop loan forms, documentation and procedures
 — find opportunities for making these loans
 — working with people to teach them how to apply for these loans
 — working with people to teach them how to be more accountable with loan moneys
 — working with people to teach them how to translate their craft skills into marketable skills (called transfer of technology). Often this means helping them find resources to get materials, make choices about materials and what would be most cost-effective, and how to market their products
 — working with people to find markets for, and otherwise promote, their products
 — helping people form cooperatives so that they can buy materials more cheaply, and sell and market their products cooperatively

Government and International Agencies need people to….
 — determine where — what communities, what demographics — they can most likely leverage local talents to better people’s lives. Crafts, particularly beading, provide very useful talents around which to leverage
 — evaluate local technologies — and these include all craft technologies — in terms of readiness and/or capability for cost-effective technology transfer
 — do some community organizing to make local people aware of governmental assistance (or other assistance), and to help them complete applications for this assistance
 — evaluate these kinds of programs to determine success, and make recommendations about how to increase these successes
 — document craft technologies, particularly among native, tribal, or isolated groups that are in danger of becoming extinct
 — similarly, to create ways to preserve craft technologies which are in danger of becoming extinct, or which became extinct a long time ago, and which be restored. A good example is how South Korea restored the art of celadon pottery making, or China’s work at preserving Yixing Tea Pot making.

Military Agencies do similar things as governmental ones, except from a slightly different perspective. They want to know, in an anthropological sense, how people value different local technologies — including craft technologies –, and which ones can military and related civilian advisors assist the locals with, to improve their economy and security.

Philanthropic Foundations have many missions. One mission is to improve and secure the health, welfare, and social economy of particular areas or population groups. Crafts are one way of accomplishing this, particularly if working with disadvantaged populations or areas.

Crafts are things people do all the time, that are attractive as products (and services if you are teaching), improve the quality of life, and form the roots of good businesses — especially start-ups.

Another mission of Philanthropic organizations is to pre-test different strategies for social and economic development. Again crafts, and beads especially, can form the basis of many strategies for business development, empowerment of minorities and women, assistance for the elderly, technology transfer, and the like.

Philanthropic organizations need people who can…
 — develop grants, rules and applications
 — find community organizations to apply for these grants
 — evaluate the success of grants
 — work with academics and consultant experts to generate experimental ideas to be tested through grants
 — work with local, state and national government agencies to find cost-sharing ways of testing out these “ideas”
 — in similar way, find and negotiate public-private partnerships towards this end

Information technology and website development companies, with Google a prime example, are in the business of translating reality into tables of data that can easily be accessed and assessed. These types of companies need people who can
 — translate craft terms and activities into categories for which data can be consistently collected, organized, stored and analyzed
 — work with museums and galleries which buy, own, exhibit, store or display crafts, to develop ways to collect and categorize routine data on these collections and their importance to different types of people and groups
 — sell the use of these craft-specific databases to companies or individuals that will use them
 — work with craft magazines, museums, schools, galleries and the like to help standardize some of the terminologies and valuations associated with various crafts, to make it easier to collect and sort data about them
 — assist craft artists in development of websites
 — assist craft artists in marketing their websites, especially through social media sites
 — develop blogs
 — develop advertising and marketing materials
 — develop packaging and branding materials
 — digitize images of craft items

Museums, Galleries and Libraries employ craft artists to…
 — catalog and digitize collections
 — document quality of items
 — restore aged or otherwise damaged pieces
 — write brochures and promotional materials
 — organize exhibits
 — raise funds for exhibits
 — advocate for funds among government agencies and philanthropic groups
 — organize a “crafts” section where none has existed before
 — promote fine crafts
 — organize a craft show to raise money and/or awareness

Many museums, galleries and libraries have tons of things in storage that have only loosely been documented, and need much more documentation and organization.

Non-Profit Groups employ all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds. They always need help with many fund-raising or program-targeting things. Your craft knowledge can play a very useful role here.

For example, take your local breast cancer society. Think of all the kinds of craft-type things you can make, and for which they can sell, to raise money. You could organize a craft brain trust among your friends, and turn out item after item with breast cancer awareness themes and colors. Or you could scour the internet for breast cancer awareness craft items, and make them work for you. And you could repeat this success for many other local nonprofit groups.

One of my friends went to the Atlanta Gift Show, and identified vendors that had products that could easily be adapted for breast cancer awareness. She worked out with each one what the minimum orders would be, how much lead time would be needed between placing an order and receiving the merchandise, and price. Then she went to local breast cancer groups and presented them with the options. She added 15% to the prices as her commission. These organizations fund raise all the time, and are in major need of new things to sell and promote. My friend had to lay out very little money — basically the cost of a trip to Atlanta, some phone calls and paperwork — and generated a very lucrative business for herself.

I remember spending some time in Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York City. This hospital specializes in cancer treatment. I was observing patient activities. One of these activities involved volunteers pushing a cart around with various craft activities for patients to do.

Most of the patients in the rooms in the Ward I was on could barely move their bodies, arms and hands. They were very medicated, and had many needles and IV’s stuck into them during their stay. All the craft projects on these carts required considerable manual dexterity — knitting, beading with seed beads, crocheting. The volunteers would cheerily come into the room, announce themselves, and ask if the patient wanted any of these fun crafts to do. The patients would shake their heads No, and grunt. The patients could barely move. And the volunteers left the room, unconcerned.

I took a trip to FAO Schwartz — the toy store — and came back with sets of interlocking building blocks. The blocks were made from different colors of plastic. They were different shapes. A patient could easily hold one or two pieces in their hands without requiring much manual dexterity. The pieces fit together easily by interlocking two pieces, where a slot had been cut out in each. These were a big hit on the Ward. They allowed creativity, without much manual dexterity. The pieces were large enough, that the patient could manipulate them with their hands, and not worry about losing any, if they dropped to the floor.

In hospitals and health care settings, I’ve helped create programs to assist occupational therapists with improving manual dexterity with the elderly, therapists with improving attention spans with children, conducting memory agility tests with patients, and many more programs, utilizing crafts materials and technics.

There are plenty of social and community problems to solve, many different kinds of businesses and organizations responsible for solving these problems, and many solutions which require crafts — materials or technologies which are workable, do-able, saleable, and implementable. There most likely won’t be advertised positions for these kinds of things. But you would be surprised how easy it can be to create your own job opportunities and ones which utilize your craft experiences and knowledge.

When Approaching These Potential Employers and Consultants, Be Sure To…

1. Be able to clearly define how your craft knowledge/experience can help your prospective employer solve some of her/his (NOT YOUR) problematic situations.

2. Research prospective employers, their websites and marketing materials. Identify the key words and buzz words in their materials. Be sure to include these in your written and oral presentations to them.

3. Approach the prospective employer by phone or in person first. Then follow-up with a resume and cover letter. Don’t assume that, because you can make the intellectual link between job and solution, that the employer will see this link when reading a resume. You’ll probably have to educate the employer a bit. This really doesn’t take much effort.

4. Cite examples of what kinds of things you can do. If you can identify other programs or individuals with success stories, do so.

5. If you make your “job search” also a “mission to educate people about crafts”, you’ll be surprised how much energy and excitement you bring to the job interview situation.



(1) Horejs, Jason. “5 Strategies Successful Artists Follow to Thrive in Their Careers,” RedDotBlog, 2/21/19.

As referenced,

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 »

So You Want To Be A Jewelry Designer… 5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An…

Posted by learntobead on April 20, 2020

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer
 Should Have An Answer For

Interested in trying your hand at jewelry design? 
 Before you begin, consider the following 5 questions I pose for you…

  1. Is what you do Art, Craft or Design?
  2. How do you decide what you want to create?
  3. What materials (or techniques) work well together, and which do not?
  4. What things do you do so that your finished piece evokes an emotional response?
  5. How do you know when your piece is done?

Many people begin to explore jewelry designing as a hobby, avocation, business or career. This requires, not only strong creativity skills, but also persistence and perseverance. It means understanding that jewelry can only be judged as finished and successful as the piece is worn. Jewelry design is more than the application of a set of techniques; it is a mind-set, as well. It is a way of thinking like a designer.

A lot of the achievement and accomplishment in this pursuit of jewelry design comes down to ability to make and follow through on many artistic and design decisions. Some have to do with managing a process, which can take an extended period of time. It also comes down to being fluent, flexible and original in your thinking through design. The greater your disciplinary literacy, the more empowered and confident you become in your design work.

Susan is one example of what happens when uncertainty — that paralysis or deer-in-the-headlights feeling that we so often face — sets in. Susan felt very unsure of herself. And unsure of her jewelry. Would people like it? Was the color mix appropriate? Was the construction secure? Was the price smart and fair? She allowed all this uncertainty to affect her design work — she had difficulty finishing pieces she was working on, starting new projects, and getting her work out there.
Like many of my jewelry design and beadwork students, Susan needed to be fluent as a designer. With fluency comes empowerment, confidence and success.

Fluency and Empowerment

The fluent jewelry designer is able to think like a designer. The jewelry designer is more than a craftsperson and more than an artist. The jewelry designer must learn a specialized language, and specialized way of balancing the needs for appeal with the needs for functionality. The jewelry designer must intimately recognize and understand the roles jewelry plays for individuals as well as the society as a whole. The designer must learn how art, architecture, physical mechanics, engineering, sociology, psychology, context, even party planning, all must come together and get expressed at the point where jewelry meets the boundary of the person.

And to gain that fluency, the designer must commit to learning a lot of vocabulary, ideas and terms, and how these imply content and meaning through expression. The designer will need to be very aware of personal thoughts and thinking as these get reflected in all the choices made in design. The designer will have to be good at anticipating the understandings and judgements of many different audiences, including the wearer, viewer, seller, exhibitor, client, and collector.

With fluency comes empowerment. The empowered designer has a confidence that whatever needs to be done, or whatever must come next, the designer can get through it. Empowerment is about making and managing choices. These choices could be as simple as whether to finish a piece or not. Or whether to begin a second piece. The designer will make choices about how to draw someone’s attention to the piece, or present the piece to a larger audience. 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.
And for all these choices, the jewelry designer might need to overcome a sense of fear, boredom, or resistance. The designer might need to overcome anxiety, a sense of giving up, having designer’s block, feeling unchallenged, and even laziness.

In order to make better artistic and design choices, the Fluent and Empowered Jewelry Designer should have answers to these 5 critical questions:

Question 1: Should BEADWORK and JEWELRY MAKING be considered ART or CRAFT or DESIGN?

The jewelry designer confronts a world which is unsure whether jewelry is “craft” or “art” or its own special thing I’ll call “design”. This can get very confusing and unsettling. Each approach has its own separate ideas about how the designer should work, and how he or she should be judged.
When defined as “craft,” jewelry is seen as something that anyone can do — no special powers are needed to be a jewelry designer. As “craft”, there is somewhat of a pejorative meaning — it’s looked down upon, thought of as something less than art. The craft piece has functional value but limited aesthetic value.
But as “craft”, we still recognize the interplay of the artist’s hand with the piece and the storytelling underlying it. We honor the technical prowess. People love to bring art into their personal worlds, and the craftsperson offers them functional objects which have some artistic sensibilities.
When defined as “art”, jewelry is seen as something which transcends itself and its design. It is not something that anyone can do without special insights and training.
 “Jewelry as art”
evokes an emotional response. Functionality should play no role at all, or, if an object has some functional purpose, then its functional reason-for-being should merely be supplemental. For example, the strap on a necklace is comparable to the frame around a painting, or the pedestal for a sculpture. It is not included with nor judged as part of the art work.

When defined as “design”, you begin to focus more on construction and functionality issues. You often find yourself making tradeoffs between appeal and functionality. You incorporate situational relevance into your designs. You see “choice” as more multidimensional and contingent. You define success only in reference to the jewelry as it is worn.

How you define your work as ART or CRAFT or DESIGN will determine what skills you learn, how you apply them, and how you introduce your pieces to a wider audience. [The bias in this book is to define jewelry as DESIGN, with its own disciplinary-specific, specialized knowledge and skills base, where jewelry is judged as art only at the point it is worn, and where jewelry-making is seen as a communicative process.]

QUESTION 2: How do you decide what you want to create? What kinds of things do you do to translate your passions and inspirations into jewelry? What is your creative process?

Applying yourself creatively can be fun at times, but scary at other times. It is work. You are creating something out of nothing. There is an element of risk. You might not like what you end up doing. Your friends might not like it. Nor your family. You might not finish it. Or you might do it wrong. It may seem easier to go with someone else’s project.

Applying creativity means developing abilities to generate options and alternatives, and narrowing these down to specific choices. It means developing an ease and comfort generating fix-it strategies when approaching unknown situations or problematic ones. It means figuring out how to translate inspiration into design in a way that inspires others and taps into their desires. It means differentiating yourself from other jewelry designers as a measure of your originality.

 Creative people…

Set no boundaries and set no rules. They go with the flow. Don’t conform to expectations.
They pretend they are kids again.
They take the time to do a lot of What Ifs and Variations On A Theme and Trial and Error.
 Keep good records.
They make good notes and sketches of what seems to work, and what seems to not work.
They learn from their successes and mistakes.

As jewelry designers gain more and more creative experiences, they begin to assemble what I call a Designer’s Tool Box. In this virtual box are a set of thinking routines, strategies and fix-it strategies that have worked well in the past, are very workable in and of themselves, and are highly adaptive when used in unfamiliar situations. Every jewelry designer should develop their own Tool Box. This vastly contributes to success in creative thinking and application.

QUESTION 3: What kinds of MATERIALS work well together, and which ones do not? This applies to TECHNIQUES as well. What kinds of TECHNIQUES (or combinations of techniques) work well when, and which ones do not?

The choice of materials, including beads, clasps, and stringing materials, and the choice of techniques, including stringing, weaving, wire working, glassworks, metalworks, clayworks, set the tone and chances of success for your piece.

There are many implications of choice. There are light/shadow issues, pattern, texture, rhythm, dimensionality and color issues. There are mechanics, shapes, forms, durability, drape, flow and movement issues. There are positive and negative space issues.

It is important to know what happens to all these materials over time. It is important to know how each technique enhances or impedes architectural requirements, such as allowing the piece to move and drape, or assisting the piece in maintaining a shape. Each material and technique has strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, and contingencies affecting their utilization. The designer needs to leverage the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.

All of these choices:
… affect the look
 … affect the drape
 … affect the feel
 … affect the durability
 … affect both the wearer’s and viewer’s responses
 … relate to the context

Question 4: Beyond applying basic techniques and selecting quality materials, how does the Jewelry Designer evoke an emotional and resonant response to their jewelry? What skill-sets do Designers need in order to think through powerful designs?

An artistic and well-designed piece of jewelry should evoke an emotional response. In fact, ideally, it should go beyond this a bit, and have what we call “resonance”. The difference between an emotional response and resonance is reflected in the difference between someone saying, “That’s beautiful,” from saying “I need to wear that piece,” or, “I need to buy that piece.” 
Quite simply: If no emotional response, and preferably, resonance, is evoked, then the jewelry is poorly designed. Evoking an emotional and resonant response takes the successful selection and arrangement of materials, the successful application of techniques as well as the successful management of skills.
Unfortunately, beaders and jewelry makers too often focus on materials or techniques and not often enough on skills. It is important to draw distinctions here.
Materials and techniques are necessary but not sufficient to get you there. You need skills.
The classic analogy comparing materials, techniques and skills references cutting bread with a knife. Material: bread and knife. Technique: How to hold the knife relative to the bread in order to cut it. Skill: The force applied so that the bread gets cut successfully.
Skills are the kinds of things the jewelry designer applies which enhance his or her capacity to control for bad workmanship and know when the piece is finished. Skills, not techniques, are what empower the designer to evoke emotional and resonant responses to their work.

These skills include:
— Judgment
 — Presentation
 — Care and dexterity
 — Knowing when “enough is enough”
 — Understanding how art theory applies to the “bead” and to “jewelry when worn”
 — Understanding the architectural underpinnings of each technique, and how these enhance, or impede, what you are trying to do
 — Taking risks
 — Anticipating the desires, values, and shared understandings all client audiences of the designer have about when a piece should be considered finished and successful
 — Recognizing that jewelry is art only as it is worn

QUESTION #5: When is enough enough? How does the jewelry artist know when the piece is done? Overdone? Or underdone? How do you edit? What fix-it strategies do you come up with and employ?

In the bead and jewelry arenas, you see piece after piece that is either over-embellished or under-done. Things may get too repetitive with the elements and materials. Or the pieces don’t feel that they are quite there yet.
For every piece of jewelry there will be that point of parsimony when enough is enough. We want to find that point where experiencing the “whole” is more satisfying than experiencing any of the parts. That point of parsimony is where, if we added (or subtracted) one more thing, we would detract from the whole of our design.

Knowing that point of parsimony is also related to anticipating how and when others will judge the piece as successful. And what to do about it when judged unfinished or unsuccessful.

There is no one best way — only your way

The fluent and empowered jewelry designer will have answers to these 5 essential questions, though not every designer will have the same answers, nor is there one best answer.
Yet it is unacceptable to avoid answering any of these 5 questions, for fear you might not like the answer.
The fluent and empowered jewelry designer will have learned the skills for making good choices. He or she will recognize that jewelry design is a process of management and communication. The fluent and empowered designer manages how choices are made. These choices include making judgments about selecting and combining materials, both physical and aesthetic, and techniques, both alone or in tandem, into wearable art forms and adornment, expressive of the desires of self and others. The artist’s hand will be very visible in their work.
This is jewelry making and design.

This is at the core of how jewelry designers think like jewelry designers.

This is the substantive basis which informs how the designer introduces jewelry publicly.

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 »