But Is It Wearable? Necklace Making From a Different Perspective

May 8, 2013
Wearing my Battle of the Beadsmith piece at last year's Bead Fest Philadelphia with friends.

In the last few years, I've seen more and more emerging bead artists who are pushing the envelope with their beautifully over-the-top beaded necklaces. That's part of the beauty of necklace making: if you can imagine it, you can make it. But upon seeing one of my wild, over-the-top, crazy complicated beaded necklace designs, I've had more than one person ask me, "It looks beautiful, but is it comfortable to wear?"

And of course, that got me thinking. Why do I love to make those kinds of scene-stealing beaded necklaces? What use is there in making something that you really can't wear comfortably? As it turns out, there are lots of reasons to just surrender yourself to making a beaded necklace that's as much a work of art as it is a piece of beaded jewelry.

Necklace Making As Art

When I created Lady In the Lake, I was more concerned with telling my story artistically instead of making a necklace that could be worn every day.
Looking through art books and artists at juried, high-end craft shows, I see a lot of beaded necklaces that are just stunning in design and execution, but that are in no way practical to wear, even on a special occasion. So, why would you want to make a necklace that no one can wear?

Allowing yourself to explore necklace making as an art form can result in some pretty spectacular pieces that can not only help you make a name for yourself in the art world, but that also allow you to develop new skills in using color and technique. Maybe you even allow yourself to explore new techniques that you've never tried before.

Using necklace making as purely an exercise in the principles of art can result in some surprising discoveries about yourself and your thoughts about art!

Necklace Making For Creative Problem-Solving

The skills I learned when creating my three-dimensional bead embroidered collar last summer will come in handy for this year's Battle of the Beadsmith!
Creating the structure of a wildly creative beaded necklace can present some pretty tough design problems. When I came up with my idea for last year's Battle of the Beadsmith piece, I wondered aloud, "Is this even possible?" I had no idea. And yet, I had to sit down and start stitching to find out what the beads could and couldn't do. In the end, I was quite pleased that I found ways around the technical issues that popped up along the way, and it made me feel even more confident to move on to my next large beaded necklace project.

When you make an over-the-top beaded necklace, you're stretching your creative problem-solving skills in ways you might never have thought possible. Who knows what else you might discover? A new bead-weaving technique, a new design element, or maybe a new love for an old beading stitch.

Necklace Making For the Joy Of It

And so what if you make an amazing, gorgeous beaded necklace and it can't be worn for more than twenty minutes without becoming uncomfortable to the wearer? I think that sometimes, we should forget about the practical applications of necklace making and jewelry-making in general and just go with the flow of it because it makes us happy.

The best part is that all of these things that you learn when making your own beautiful beaded necklace projects can be used in so many other ways. Take the ideas that pop up while you're working on your crazy, cool necklace making projects and apply them to other projects and ideas that you've had waiting patiently in your sketchbooks!

The Perfect Balance Between Art and Craft

Yes, I will always love to make showy, over-the-top, crazy complicated beaded necklaces. The skills and techniques I learn while making these kinds of beaded jewelry designs is just priceless. Even if the necklace itself never sells, I'll always have those skills that I can use to create new and innovative beaded jewelry.

Are you looking for some great beaded jewelry designs to practice your beading skills? Jean Campbell, senior editor of Beadwork magazine has a fabulous new video just for you! Check out Jean Campbell's Best Beading Workshops: Global Designs to learn about Jean's inspiration for three of her top beaded jewelry designs, plus watch and learn as she creates each one of these beading projects, step by step. Can't wait for the DVD to arrive in the mail? You can also download Jean Campbell's Best Beading Workshops: Global Designs instantly onto your favorite desktop or laptop computer!

What do you think about big, crazy, over-the-top necklace making projects? Do you enjoy making them or wearing them? Do you prefer more practical or subdued designs? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and tell us what you think!

Bead Happy,


Featured Product

Jean Campbell's Best Beading Workshops: Global Designs

Availability: In Stock
Price: $29.95


Join Jean Campbell in this beading tutorial that includes four must make beaded bracelet projects with global influence.


Related Posts
+ Add a comment


on May 8, 2013 4:29 AM

I liked this article as it really spoke to me, although I very much admire but don't actually make the wonderful bead woven necklaces I see.  I do enjoy designing and making elaborate art necklaces useing polymer clay, gemstones, glass beads etc. Almost all of them are very wearable or you could hang them in a shadow box or frame when not on the neck.  I find it very freeing working from my sketches I often use flowers, leaves or birds in my work, always learning! I rarely sell anything but life for me would be very dull if I had no creative outlet, elaborate necklaces are definitely my favourite thing.

on May 8, 2013 9:37 AM

I enjoyed reading this article, although my beading tends to be more wire- or stringing-oriented.  I have made a number of beautiful pieces that were too delicate to wear.  They would catch on the wearer's clothing or hair, or simply fall apart in real life.  I sold these necklaces in an art gallery's gift shop.  Each necklace came in its own felt-lined shadow box with posts on which to hang the necklace for display.  The shadow box and its contents was a work of art and was meant to hang on a wall or sit upright on a dresser!

tcwhit wrote
on May 8, 2013 10:23 AM

This article just has my name all over it. Not wanting to be a negative-Nelly, though. I admire most of the incredible artwork labeled "necklaces" but can't see making a necklace that can never be worn. Then again, I paint things just to look at. Who would have thought an article about beading would lead to some deep self-assessment?

on May 8, 2013 10:48 AM

Necklaces are the only jewelry I wear but repairing them is my big job with stringing that leaves them graceful instead of having little angles hear and there.  So,  material?

on May 8, 2013 11:53 AM

So glad I don't have to share a bathroom. The room changes throughout the year as I swap things for display: I love hanging my fetish necklaces where I can enjoy them since I only wear them a few times a year. And having my black coral necklaces in sight reminds me of lovely vacations & dear friends. Keeping my bracelets stacked on champagne bottles also keeps them handy. All this to say I can enjoy my jewelry twice as much.

Ann T2 wrote
on May 8, 2013 11:57 AM

I understand and can appreciate the idea of art pieces with a necklace-like form . . . just as art pieces can take any shape. But, to me, the bottom line is that if it isn't reasonably wearable - at least for the length of a special event - it isn't really a necklace, or even "wearable art". I'd like to see contests consider wearability (reasonable comfort) as one criterion in categories that are represented as jewelry, wearable art, or necklaces. Non-wearable pieces can be wonderful and beautiful, but they're a different sort of thing, and pieces that respect wearability should get some credit for working beautifully within that constraint.

on May 8, 2013 11:59 AM

I have made many necklaces to wear, sell or give... MANY over the years.  But I have also made necklaces "for show" knowing from the beginning that they are wall art more than actual jewelry.  No worries!

Orchidgarden wrote
on May 8, 2013 12:16 PM

I have made some bigger necklaces; bead embroidery ones; it is a pitty that i have worn them very rarely, but still i admire artists beaders who venture into this non wearability on day to day basis. I like the article a lot it tells us to love those pieces of art and value, now i know what to say to a pessimist ;-)

sharpie wrote
on May 8, 2013 1:10 PM

I think it depends more on the wearer than the necklace. I'm curently working on a necklace for my aunt using vintage pearls from one of my grandma's necklaces. The one I made for my mom is a very different style. My aunt has been known to go a bit over the top in her fashion statements so I've designed a piece to match her personality. It's all about attitude.

on May 8, 2013 2:25 PM

Hi everyone,

I love to make what I call master pieces. I can wear them in the winter time when it is cold. In the summer time I have what I call a statement necklace. These are less heavy but have a theme.

I love love love to make my master pieces. Unfortunately I have not sold one of them yet. I'd like to get a glass case to go over some an sell as artwork.

Thebragal wrote
on May 8, 2013 10:06 PM

I am not even remotely capable of making necklaces that elaborate but even if I could, I can't imagine making ones that can't be worn. If I did make something that elaborate, I'd rather make it into a wreath, mask or some other similar shape that is clearly art and not a necklace shape. Seems silly to make a necklace and then never wear it!!

tpatcheson wrote
on May 9, 2013 12:34 PM

Over the top, yes. Weird and wonderful yes. Uncomfortable, no. I personally subscribe to the idea that "form follows function", but I can see where others might want to stretch the boundaries into unwearability.

Kat West wrote
on May 9, 2013 2:08 PM

I am very impressed with the "Over The Top" designs that win the bead competitions. My own work tends to be much simpler.  But if there is no where to wear it, and if there was it is too uncomfortable to wear, then what, pray tell, is the point?

on May 10, 2013 9:31 AM

What a great discussion. I've loved coming back to read what everyone had to say. Jewelry is art. Some of it is made to wear. Some pieces are too good or fragile or awkward or special to the owner in some way, etc.

on May 10, 2013 4:13 PM

I do understand the idea behind the amazing necklaces I see that you can't wear; possibly it shows a lack of artistic vision for me that I only want to make stuff that can actually be worn. Each to our own vision.....

ctutt wrote
on May 11, 2013 12:19 PM

Pretty much every necklace I make is 'over the top', LOL!  I do try them on in mid-creation just to see how they hang and if anything is poking me in the neck. This has led to some interesting structural reconfigurations. Last summer I was given the opportunity to show my work at our favorite coffeehouse; I framed over a dozen necklaces so they could be hung on the walls.  *Factoid: if something is comfortable to wear, it does not always lay flat.*  Fitting some of them into frames was challenging, but worth it - the show was well received. ;-)

Philcesca wrote
on May 12, 2013 6:25 AM

Can you please start making these available as e downloads for iPads

Thank you Philippa