Putting Down the Beads

Jul 31, 2013

Lately, almost all of the design work I have done on new projects has happened on a deadline. It always seems like I am working against the clock, speeding through projects to meet an upcoming submissions due date, or finish a birthday gift on time, or move on to one of the other million things left on my to-do list. I have learned to work under pressure...and most of the time this is a good thing. But recently I realized that I haven't been making time in my fast-paced creative schedule to step back after I finish a new project and really consider and critique it.  

They might look harmless, but these
earrings are deafening when you put
them on! Lesson learned...
A few days ago, an artist who makes custom clasps got in touch with me to ask if I had any feedback about one of his clasps that I used in a recent project. He explained that he was working on a new line of clasps and would love to hear any suggestions or comments I had about his previous pieces. I'll admit: At first I drew a total blank. I was in such a hurry to get that piece finished that I barely remembered anything about it. It wasn't until I pulled it out and re-examined it that I realized I actually had a lot of ideas about how I could improve the design as a whole (as well as a few specific ideas about the clasp).

Performing this exercise reminded me that I used to sit with each of my jewelry projects after I finished it--wearing it around for a day or two, taking note of where it poked my wrist or tickled my neck, observing whether it settled into place when I had it on or if it needed constant readjustment. There were always a few tweaks that needed to be made before I was really ready to call a piece finished.

Thinking back over the projects I have made in the last few years, there are more than a few design snafus I made that could have been avoided by allowing myself enough time to "test drive" each piece after I finished it. (A particularly apt example: I finished a pair of earrings just in time to rush them off to a photo shoot, so it wasn't until I got them back from the photographer that I tried them on and realized the bead caps I used were so big that the beads inside of them clanged against their sides like little clappers. It sounded like someone was ringing a tiny bell in each of my ears every time I moved my head!) 

I am a self-taught jewelry designer, but lately I haven't been making the time to actually teach myself anything. We have a lot to learn from our own design successes and failures as long as we make the effort to notice them.

So. After you finish your next jewelry project, I urge you to take a beat before you rush on to the next one. Put the beads down and take (at least!) a few minutes to really consider your work. Try it on. See how it feels. See how it moves. Is there anything you don't like about it? Do the components work well together? Do the materials play out your color palette the way you wanted them to? Are you happy with the way you executed your abstract design ideas? What really works in the piece?

In short: What did you learn?

I think you will be surprised by how much you still have to teach yourself.

Happy beading!

Chloe


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Comments

blugnu wrote
on Aug 3, 2013 11:17 AM

Chloe, I have a 'frenemy' that keeps me on my toes about any jewelry I make. She scrutinizes everything I wear, be it clothes, shoes, hair-do and yes, jewelry. At 1st, I was put off by her constant tongue-wagging, but finally came to terms with it all and started looking at my jewelry through her eyes. I found that I'm a much better artist for it. I still do my designs [that she finds 'gaudy'], but I also put more time into pieces that might appeal to her. [She's bought some of them]  They sell as well as my original designs, but I'll never tell her that she's influenced my work and I'll continue to 'use' her for what I've re-named : Feedback. I can always count on her for that. lol

bymyhands wrote
on Aug 3, 2013 11:15 PM

Hi Chloe,

This article really had an affect on me.  I have been getting pieces ready for fall and winter.  While reading your article I realized that I have been in a zone of beading and not really scrutinizing my work just as you did.  I've had one idea after another so I get done, say OK thats done now what's next. Or I throw it in the unfinished drawer usually in frustration.

I am self taught too, so I realized that I am comparing my knowledge and skill to people who have many more years under their belts than I do.  I have given up on many of my projects because they didn't "look" as good as, say for example, Diane Fitzgerald's did.   But she didn't magically become an accomplished bead artist in a few years....she has traveled the world and studied and worked her way into being a master bead artist.

So if I slow down and enjoy the piece I just finished, which is a learning experience essentially,  I can benefit from her advice.  I have her books, and her projects along with many others so I now can have a minute to make sure I didn't lose a stitch or forget to cut a thread, etc.  And I feel like it is "done", if that makes sense.

Then I can say, "alright what's next!" and pick up another bead.  But, now I really know everything there is to know about the piece I just finished.

I really needed to hear someone say what you did in your article.  It has helped me to take that much needed breath so I can get on.  Thank you so much.

Diana

bymyhands wrote
on Aug 3, 2013 11:15 PM

Hi Chloe,

This article really had an affect on me.  I have been getting pieces ready for fall and winter.  While reading your article I realized that I have been in a zone of beading and not really scrutinizing my work just as you did.  I've had one idea after another so I get done, say OK thats done now what's next. Or I throw it in the unfinished drawer usually in frustration.

I am self taught too, so I realized that I am comparing my knowledge and skill to people who have many more years under their belts than I do.  I have given up on many of my projects because they didn't "look" as good as, say for example, Diane Fitzgerald's did.   But she didn't magically become an accomplished bead artist in a few years....she has traveled the world and studied and worked her way into being a master bead artist.

So if I slow down and enjoy the piece I just finished, which is a learning experience essentially,  I can benefit from her advice.  I have her books, and her projects along with many others so I now can have a minute to make sure I didn't lose a stitch or forget to cut a thread, etc.  And I feel like it is "done", if that makes sense.

Then I can say, "alright what's next!" and pick up another bead.  But, now I really know everything there is to know about the piece I just finished.

I really needed to hear someone say what you did in your article.  It has helped me to take that much needed breath so I can get on.  Thank you so much.

Diana