Why Simple Designs Aren't Always Simple to Make

Simply Sensationalbeaded-jewelry-design

Recently, Stringing editor Danielle Fox and I were marveling over a necklace that had been submitted to the summer issue by sisters Silvija and Taya Koschnick.  It was so simple, yet very appealing, the kind of piece that both of us would feel comfortable wearing often, even though our personal styles are quite different.  While there were many other beaded jewelry designs submitted that were more complicated or technically difficult, this simple necklace stood out in a good way.  It reminded me that simple projects aren't necessarily simple to design.  It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that more is better, especially if you sell your work.  Remember, the worth of your design is not just in the materials, but the design skill you bring to it. 

How to Design a Simple (but not Boring) Necklace

There's no question that a sensational simple design can get you noticed.  Stringing designers Silvija and Taya Koschnick of Tasi Designs are proof—some of their signature chain necklaces were recently featured in the movie Twilight.  They describe their chic, modern style as a blend of "clean lines, movable parts, and patinated silver that appeals to every type of woman, without compromising its uniqueness."  I asked them for a few design hints.

Michelle:  What advice do you have for designers who would like to create elegant, simple designs?  Are there specific materials, techniques, or design tips that you recommend?

Silvija and Taya:  Know and love your materials!  Growing up in our mother’s bead store (Bead Paradise in Oberlin, Ohio), we became interested in the stories behind the beads and materials around us.  Once we started investigating the history of the bead trade, we couldn’t stop!  Through our eagerness to learn more about beads, our eyes have naturally become more selective.

beaded-jewelry-designBeads are just the beginning; findings and technical skills both play a part in our work.  We see the hardware (clasps, jump rings, chains, wire wraps, and head pins) as more than utilitarian, but rather elements that transform the rest of the design.  Simple things like using handmade head pins as opposed to machine-made head pins make a big difference.  If a wire wrap doesn’t look good, we’ll cut it and make it again and again until it looks great.  When the findings and technical execution fall into place, they can highlight incredible beads instead of fight them for attention.

Michelle:  What elements do you think transform a design from simple and boring to simple and sensational?

Silvija and Taya: Creating jewelry that looks great on can make all the difference between a simple design that is boring and one that is sophisticated.  We spend a lot of time thinking about how a piece of jewelry will look while being worn.  If a piece of jewelry falls flat when we try it on, we take it back to the drawing board and rework it.  A great combination of color, shape, and movement complement the design as well as the wearer.

Michelle:  Why do you think some designers shy away from making simpler designs?
Silvija and Taya: It seems like many people think that simple equals boring.  When we first started designing jewelry, we felt that way, too.  We tried to make different styles to appeal to a variety of customers.  Our work looked scattered and unfocused and didn’t always appeal to us personally.  We decided we had to make a change and only make jewelry that we wanted to wear.  Once we made that decision, it was so liberating!  Through collaboration, we developed a jewelry line that we both loved.  A consistent aesthetic emerged within our work, and we felt that we could honestly tell customers how much we enjoyed wearing our own pieces.  

What do you think?  Do you have trouble with simple designs?  Do you love them or avoid them?   Share your thoughts on the website.


New Free Project

Sweet Leaves
Silvija and Taya Koschnick

For an easy necklace perfect for everyday wear, simply attach leaf beads to oxidized chain.  This web-exclusive project is from Stringing magazine.  Look for another great necklace design by Silvija and Taya Koschnick in the upcoming summer issue of Stringing, plus 80+ stylish designs, a terrific article on eco-friendly beading, and money-saving tips for production work. 


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Beading Daily Blog
Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at beadingdaily@interweave.com or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  www.michellemach.com.  You can also follow me on Twitter at:  http://twitter.com/beadsandbooks Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

22 thoughts on “Why Simple Designs Aren't Always Simple to Make

  1. I believe the reason that simple designs are so difficult to make is that when the design is simple, the focus is on the workmanship. As mentioned in the article, the findings have to be beautiful, handmade, not machine made. In particular the customer, or admirer will focus on how well the design is made rather than the numerous beads etc. that are included, so wire wrapping has to be perfect, patination has to be just right, and the overall design has to be beautiful.

  2. When I see a design that seems too elaborate for my tastes, I find myself analyzing it for a simple element that may provide some inspiration for myself or my clients without copying, of course! Some designers handle complexity very well (Lisa Kan comes to mind) because their work has a sense of balance and rightness about it. The line between sophisticated and boring can be thin, just because simplicity is so transparent. There’s no place to hide in a lovely necklace like “Sweet Leaves!”

  3. Thank you for this article. I’m re-evaluating my designs, life, and the grand scheme…. ohhhhmmmmmmm… and your words “only make what you will wear” have flowed from my mouth before too. Whenever I stray, I’m not comfortable with the result. Thanks for bringing this awareness back to me . Peace and Love … Yeah, I agree – how DID you get your designs in a movie? Congrats and way-to-go!

    Peace, love, and ENJOY (jewelry)


  4. I loved this article! I remember when I got back into beading again after a 30 year break (long story 😉 illusion necklaces were all the rage, and are still popular today. At first I found this design disturbing because it seemed so naked. Then I fell in love with beadalon wire and used it to support my designs. Finally I understood that the smallest of elements can enhance a design, yet not blast it to kingdom come. I’d like to know about that movie question too. And congrats girls, well done!

  5. At last someone who thinks the way I do – more is less! Congratulations girls – you’ve done fabulous work. During this time of change in the world, we are downsizing, minimizing and truly focusing on the basics of what life is all about. Your work shines with craftmanship to draw focus to the main bead/beads without a lot of “wire” going on elsewhere. I applaud your vision – it is what our new world is all about. Well done!

  6. When a design is simple I feel like I am cheating with my design skills. Lately, I am learning that sometimes the simple designs DO look the best. Thanks for enforcing that idea.

  7. Thanks for reading our interview! We love spreading the word about our passion for simple, elegant design. Thanks to Danielle and Michelle for helping us bring our vision to you! As far as the Twilight movie goes, we really lucked out because the Costume Designer wanted to feature local jewelers from Portland when they were here shooting the movie. It’s always wonderful when professionals see the appeal and importance of local handmade crafts. I guess we were just in the right place at the right time, and hope our luck will continue!

  8. I recently made an elaborate necklace with a challenge bead for our local bead show. I asked myself it I was really going to wear THAT? The answer was NO, so I took the whole thing apart and made something simple, simple, simple. It won the popular vote. Most people seem to visualise wearing a simple design with things they already own.
    Go Girls!

  9. kudos to silvija & tara. your off and running now……..good job girls. on this necklace in twilight who works on it? does one design the other make or both do both? do you have a site to check out your style and work? as far as simple designs- i do some of both. i do have to please my customers that i have for years now. alittle of this, alittle of that, and a dab of that too. i myself enjoy simple work. i do find the more complex the harder i have to work. always wondering if things are even, or matching etc….

  10. What a great article! I tend to lean toward big bold jewelry it is my style. I love to wear what I make and I always find people are more moved by the work when they see it on me then in case. I could not agree more about how the little details can lend so much to the work, did they tuck in there tails are the crimps covered ? Do they take the time to round each pin head to the bead? The shell and chain necklace is so sunning primitive but modern

  11. My taste is simple and classic/vintage. While I do admire the more complex and “busy” patterned pieces and the people who make/create them, it’s just not a look for me. Great article–I’m still adding to my repitoire of skills.

  12. Judy M wrote re: Why Simple Designs Aren’t Always Simple to Make

    Thank you for a great reminder. Best Wishes to the two Young ladies and hoping to see more wonderful designs. I started my learning with my parents at age 14 and it has been too many years to count… My aim for designing has always been “Simple but Elegant”. Sometimes that is hard to put together, but usually is the best outcome for your design and costs.

  13. Hi I love all the designs that people submit.. i would like to know also how they got their neckaces into the movie. I would also like to know how do you figure out what to charge when you start making and selling jewelry?

  14. Having been in the jewelry business and designing for over 20 years, I’ve seen the pendulum swing back and forth from elaborate to the dreaded
    “Y” necklace. Simple is simple. Anyone can do it. Young people seem to love simple. And hanging and swinging. When you create a necklace that has interest, full of different beads, a focal point, an interesting clasp, wire or polymer beads it bears witness to someone’s unique labor and creative vision. You may not want to wear an elaborate necklace, but everytime I wear my wire creations of venetian beads or my lentil circle polymer necklaces, I get stopped in my tracks. And when I’m wearing them while attending and working at the Whole Bead Show in Manhattan, I’m doubly flattered by other beading artists sporting their labors of love, whose eyes light up and do a U-turn to study my neck. If you feel comfortable making and wearing (and selling) small necklaces, then that’s your “creative thing”
    more power to you. I’ll do the big, interesting ones, thank you. Laura’s Originals, New York

  15. It’s good to see beautiful simple designs. I’ve only been beading a few years but feel intimidated when I look in magazines and find all those elaborate designs that I would never try to copy. I bead because I love it and can express my own designs. I only make jewelry that I would wear. I have numerous female family members and I make what would appeal to them also. Thanks for your designs.


  16. I have a degree in Fine Art and have just begun to turn my eye to beading and jewelry, I find that the simple designs appeal to me and the genius is in the details, I also agree that you should make what you yourself would wear, if you don’t want to wear it you will not put your heart into it and that shows in the work.
    I look forward to seeing more of these articles, since they help me to see and understand the fun and design work in beading and jewelry, I am really starting to see the light.
    Thanks for the Inspiration,

  17. It’s funny, the stuff that sells at my booth are the simple , every day wearables.
    People still love the bling, but it’s the bread & butter that sells faster.
    Thanks fro the great articles,
    Wendy Lucka,
    Germantown, Wisconsin

  18. I agree that findings and small details on something that looks so simple make all the difference, which is why I always try to use SS and gold or gold-plated materials for my accents and findings. Even if people don’t recognize how much work went into the design and the small details, they do appreciate that you’ve used quality materials. I still struggle with wanting to make items with intricate beading rather than just stringing, since that is my first love, but am learning how to balance the two so that I have both styles to offer my customers. Thanks for your input. Hallie

  19. Technically my comment is not on ‘simple’ but on the point that hit me most strongly which was “make what you love and you’ll find your art”. I needed to hear that. I just found jewelry making 3 months ago and truly, I am addicted. I kept thinking “I have to make things that will appeal to others so that maybe someday I can at least pay for my addiction supples”. But my creativity got bogged down because how does one account for the myriad tastes of women today? So just yesterday I thought, “I just gotta do my thing and maybe I’ll find a niche”. It was very gratifying to hear that professional artisans thought the same way and found their art. I love Beading Daily. Susan.