Each month some of the artists from the Jewelry Artisans Community blog on the same topic. This month is about our design process.
I had to really think about this one, because I don’t consider that I have a “process”, but then I realized it is the same thing when people don’t think of themselves as “artists”. So I set about thinking through what I do when I make a piece of jewelry – that is my process, isn’t it?
Most of the time I have either a focal bead or a strand of unusual beads that I want to make something out of. With me it is usually a necklace, and it is almost always a multi-strand piece. The first thing I do is decide how many strands the necklace will be. I always choose an odd number, and most frequently, I make it five strands.
Next comes the selection phase. I go through my trays of Czech glass beads and boxes of seed beads, pulling out anything that I think might go with my chosen focus beads, and pile them up on my worktable. This is the fun part. It gives me another chance to play with my stash. At this point I will also decide which metal best goes with the piece, and get out my metal beads, findings, etc.
Now comes the hard part. I’ve got all this bling laid out in front of me, but I can’t use it all in one piece. Most things will work with the focus beads, but not necessarily with each other, and anyway, the piece would be too busy with all this variety. I have to edit the selection. This is the hardest, but also the most critical part of my process. It can take days. I’ve even been known to stop a piece in the middle and go shopping because it wasn’t working.
Over the years I have developed a trick or two to help me with the editing process. A multi-strand piece requires careful balancing among the strands so that it hangs correctly, so what I do is select a largish bead for each strand, and then two to three coordinating beads to go with it. Sometimes I repeat a group of beads on a second strand, depending on the beads and what I’m doing. This helps me narrow my focus so I’m not overwhelmed with so many choices at once.
Once the bead selection is done, stringing the piece is almost anticlimactic. I do have to pay attention to balancing and placement. I do this by stringing a few inches of each strand at a time, and then holding the necklace up on my neck to see how it is lying. (Bead stoppers are essential for this step.) Sometimes I have to unstring a section because it doesn’t look right with the other strands. Rarely do I have to change bead selections, but occasionally I have done so. Sometimes it is just a matter of switching a bead to another strand, but sometimes a bead that made it through the editing process turns out to have been a wrong move, and I have to go back through my stash – or go shopping.
I have taken up metalsmithing and follow a different process for designing pieces in metal, but I haven’t done enough to talk about it yet. Another time!
See what other members of the JAC have to say about the design process here:
Caroline – The Crafty Chimp