3 Asymmetrical Design Tips for Beginners

Oct 1, 2008

I was just paging through my friend Danielle Fox’s new book Simply Modern Jewelry and realized what a great designer she’s become. I don’t mean to embarrass Danielle (though it is fun—she’s a great blusher), but I remember that when we first met, working on the staff of Beadwork magazine, she made the rest of us look a little . . . well . . . like alley cats. She was so clean-cut! And from Wisconsin, no less, where everyone is a little more relaxed. Danielle knew a lot about fashion but hadn’t beaded much. She didn’t hesitate to jump onto the beady bandwagon with sparkling gusto, and she ended up taking the craft by storm. You know, that’s what’s great about beading: You may have never designed jewelry before or even ever done anything creative, but with a few techniques and a good sense of good style, you can create sensational designs.

Danielle’s got lots of years of beading under her belt now, especially as editor of Stringing magazine, and her book really shows it. What I like most about it—other than the gorgeous strung projects—are the really fresh step-by-step photos describing every technique in the book. Combined with her wonderful project intros, it’s like you’re sitting with Danielle in her studio for a private lesson (cold Wisconsin microbrews nearby, of course). Buy Simply Modern Jewelry.

Asymmetrical Design = Modern

I was goofily proud of Danielle after reading her book, but I was also struck by how many of her very fashion-forward pieces throw symmetry to the wind. I think that’s why her pieces look so modern. Her book inspired me to go to my jewelry box and lay out the pieces I’ve made that I wear all the time, and I found that most of them are asymmetrical!

There are a lot of beaders who just don’t go to asymmetry first when they’re designing, even though they might want to try. Their natural tendency is to always mirror the two sides in a piece, and they feel they can’t break out of the rut. For those of you who fall into that category, I’ve put together a few beginner asymmetry exercises—baby steps to do when you’re designing to get your creative eye seeing in a different way. Let’s call them “asymmetrics.”

Asymmetrics:  Tips for Beginners

1.  String the same sequence on both sides of a piece, but make one change from left to right, such as using the same bead colors but different sizes or shapes. 

Example:  Mermaid Necklace by Jean Campbell

2.  Make a rule for a simple bracelet—no two beads can be alike. 

Example:  Good Impressions by Lisa Niven Kelly

3.  Link different types of chain for a chain necklace or bracelet. 

Example:  Twiggy by Danielle Fox (Simply Modern Jewelry)

Do you have other “asymmetrics” to share? Post them on the website!


Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!



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Comments

LeslieY@2 wrote
on Oct 1, 2008 10:43 AM

I don't think I have ever broken the symmetry rut.  These are good tips.  Color could probably be used also in an asymmetrical fashion.

LY

MaryP@98 wrote
on Oct 1, 2008 11:03 AM

The easiest way for me to be asymetrical is the method I used just this week - lay a few of each of many different stones, beads, glass, etc (including leftovers from other projects) and keep placing them one by one on a beadboard.

Let your instincts guide your hand at each choice of bead. If they are all leftovers of favorite beads the choices will be easy, especially if no one bead is too small or too large compared to the others.

JanG@25 wrote
on Oct 1, 2008 11:45 AM

Another simple way to be asymmetrical is to use a fabulous clasp, link, or focal bead and string it to the side of an otherwise symmetrical necklace.  I remember one of Lisa Kan's wonderful long lampwork pieces strung with multiple strands of gemstones in an old issue of Stringing magazine.  Setting the lampwork to the side instead of making a pendant out of it really made it stand out.

I like today's tips.  I've done some asymmetrical pieces and found them a lot of fun.  Now, I'm inspired to do more.  Thanks!

MonicaP@10 wrote
on Oct 1, 2008 11:49 AM

I just received Simply Modern Jewelry yesterday and it is a great book! But I think I'll post a more detailed 'book report' on it and the other two books I ordered over in the forums later....

Asymmetrical designs are really fun. Like Mary said, it's also a great way to use up odds and ends, or odd numbers of leftover beads from other projects.

Some folks (friends and customers) really prefer things to be symmetrical, and as a Libra, you'd think I'd want that sense of balance all the time. For me it depends on the materials I'm using or the overall feeling I want for a piece.

Goddessjoy wrote
on Oct 1, 2008 12:57 PM

I started beading as a symmetry freak. I was downright obsessive with it. I realized, a few years ago, that it was a sign of my control freak tendencies. I slowly started making things that were asymmetrical as a way to break out of that pattern in my life. Now I rarely make things that are perfectly symmetrical! I make sure the piece stays balanced, and often use the same beads throughout a piece, just in a different order.

Here's a recent non symmetrical piece for fall.

<img src="blog.goddessjoy.com/.../orchardfull.jpg">

MonicaP@10 wrote
on Oct 1, 2008 1:51 PM

Love your stuff Joy!

Goddessjoy wrote
on Oct 1, 2008 3:04 PM

Thanks Monica!  You've got some beautiful pieces as well!

TerriDoodle wrote
on Oct 1, 2008 4:16 PM

Oh! How I've struggled to get out of Symmetry Mode!!  I made and wore my first asymmetrical piece yesterday and loved it!  I used the "no two beads are alike" method and strung them only on the left side of the chain.  

great article!!  

My magical local bead shop (www.beadoholique.net/...I am so fortunate) even has classes on the subject.  If only I could retire from my day job and take classes as much as I'd like!

I admire you all and am proud to be a part of this community.

on Oct 2, 2008 7:54 AM

I usually need some structure or else my project looks like my bead box threw up.  I try to assess how much pattern, color, or texture I'm employing.  I try to focus on two of the three.  If I have all three going on, it just gets too busy.

Cynthia

on Oct 2, 2008 3:42 PM

I love asymmetrical designs, and find it almost impossible to make a symmetrical one for myself, even if the difference is very subtle, like the one shown here:

jubeadilation.synthasite.com/About_Frances.php

I'm boasting about this one at the moment because it's just been selected in the Bead and Gem Show competition and will be on display in Sydney!

By the way I sell this design in kit form. Contact me through the website if you'd like to give it a go.

Frances

Gaela wrote
on Oct 3, 2008 12:59 AM

I work alot with gemstones and I believe that we were programed as kids to go symmetrical, remember learning "patterns"? I believe that it is because of that and the fact that I have a Pisces  Sun and Moon, that I dislike symmetry so much. In the last year or so I started adding at least one Art Bead to everything I make, it doesn't matter if I've made it or bought it from another bead artist, I think that by doing that, that each piece has a special touch, a gift from someones heart that adds good karma to the piece, plus I believe in supporting our endeavor to create.

on Oct 3, 2008 1:00 AM

How about trying out asymmetry with earrings. How often have you made a necklace and thought of several ways to make matching earrings. Try one of each! See if anyone notices,,,, I bet they don't.

I'm amazed how asymmetrical earrings are hardly ever sold.

Hint:  Try to keep them about the same length, but variations in width seem to work well.

Frances

on Oct 6, 2008 12:42 PM

My assymmetrical pieces are the ones that garner the most compliments, although most people feel they are not bold enough to "carry off the look". I think it makes it all the more interesting to see that not everything is perfectly symmetrical. I set out with that in mind when creating and it is something forces my brain to fire on all synapses! I usually like to repeat some elements, colors or patterns from one side to the other to make it most successful. A new technique that I love is breaking a piece into 2-, 3- or 4-sections. In one particular necklace, I chose 4 sections of 9" each. I challenged myself to use a triadic color scheme for these 4 sections: purple, orange and green. I planned it so that it could be worn long, with whatever part in front you wish (I find myself twisting it around throughout the day), but when wrapped twice (about 18") that the opposing side coordinated in weight as well (i.e., no more than 4 strands between the two sides). I would love to share a picture of this, but alas, you will have to wait, as it will be in my featured artist section in a magazine in March 2009! Enjoy the day! Erin Prais-HIntz, Tesori Trovati Jewelry Collection

on Jul 13, 2013 10:55 PM

No need to feel bold in wearing asymmetrical earrings, just feel artistic! With only two lobes worth of real estate, it just seems a waste of space to always plant the same look on each. I love my symmetricals, but get the most artistic satisfaction -- as well as the most ardent compliments -- from the asymmetrical sets. Come see them!: www.etsy.com/.../MiaMontgomery