…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren S. Feld

Excerpts From This Ever-Evolving Tale.....

I don’t mean to drag a poor Elephant by its tail, kicking and screaming, into our bead world against its wishes. Nor do I perceive the elephant to be a threat, like you might see an Elephant in the boudoir, or the fine china store. And I don’t want you to shut your eyes and pretend not to notice that this Elephant is here, standing shoulder to shoulder with every beader and jewelry maker around.

The Elephant is not a joke. And the fact that it is “Rogue” makes it more important than ever to figure out why it’s here, among size #10 English beading needles, and Czech size 11/0 seed beads, and Austrian crystal beads. It seems so worldly, yet other-worldly, our Elephant. It’s not our muse. It’s not our Cassandra. It has no secret plan or strategy. It does not depend on its size to make its point. It does not hesitate to stomp and chomp and clomp because the beads before it are raku or glass or gemstone or crystal or metal or plastic. But a Rogue Elephant in the middle of our craft room forces upon us a completely different logic, so that we can make sense of it all.|




Shawn and Jessica brought their two adopted Korean boys to the Korean restaurant. It was important that they immerse their sons in Korean culture wherever they could. When they finished the meal, they told their two boys to say “Good-bye” to the hostess in Korean.

“Annyonghi kaysayo"

Good bye, the hostess replied.

And a little sparkle was added to their lives.

Each month, Laura and her co-workers would clean up their Adopt-A-Highway. The work was not hard. The camaraderie great. The task important. And each month she returned home with a great sense of self-satisfaction. And some sparkle was added to her life.

The two little Guatemalan girls were fascinated by the Spanish-English dictionary. They stood on the side of the road, giggling with eyes very wide open in amazement. With the Atitlan Volcano behind them and Lake Trinitaria in front of them, they marveled at seeing so many words in such a small book – so many more words than their teacher could ever write on their chalkboard. And some sparkle was added to their lives.

Like other things in life, jewelry adds a little sparkle to people’s lives. And the jewelry designer, in many ways, determines how.

Sarah had never been to a large fabric store before. So when she entered MOOD in New York City, she nearly collapsed with excitement. She was shaking. Where to begin? Where to begin? She ran here. She ran there. She ran her hands along yards and yards and yards and yards of material. She found fabric patterns to compliment the line of jewelry she made. And some sparkle was added to her life.

Sue and Allan had made reservations for the Chef’s table at Dandelion’s eleven months ago. And they were lucky to get the reservation even then, but someone had canceled just minutes before Sue called to make the reservation. This was their very special night. As they were ushered into the restaurant, past one dining room, then another, past patrons enjoying their meals, and then they entered the kitchen door and were seated at the very cozy table. The Chef greeted them. Sue lightly touched her necklace, in a reassuring manner. And their night was as special as they imagined. And, yes, some sparkle was added to their lives, as well.

Aldia was on vacation, and the store clerk asked where she was from. I live in The Villages near Orlando in Florida, she said. They have 45 golf courses in that community! Do you believe it? she continued. I love The Villages. Everyone says Hello! to you. Everyone will love the beads I bought here. And there was a sparkle that came to her eye.

And as in other situations in life, the jewelry designer must be very sensitive to how sparkle enters people’s lives.

Jewelry may help people feel attached to their surroundings, Be more aware of themselves. Their status. Their situation. Their power. Their sexuality. Jewelry may serve to open up a whole new world for someone. Jewelry may signify how people may safely interact, and not interact. It may start conversations. As well as end them.

The jewelry artist designs jewelry. She or he selects materials to use. An order or arrangement is decided upon. A hypothesis is formulated about how best to assemble the pieces. And the hypothesis is put to the test. And hopefully the finished piece is more than the sum of its parts. Because it has to add sparkle to people’s lives.

The crazy black-white-brown-black-white-brown-black-white-brown piece Lucinda wore to the Latin dance club.

The silken pearl necklace which adorned Gena at her wedding.

The long, multi-strand necklace, with strong navy blues, and very large beads with almost mirror-polished flat surfaces that Paula always wore on days of staff meetings.

The very tiny hoops with simple 3mm crystal dangles that Missy wore every day in her life, everywhere she went, every time she left her home.

Jewelry adds sparkle not only to the life of the person wearing it, but also to the person viewing it. So the jewelry designer, in actuality, has to be doubly-effective with his or her designs. The successful jewelry designer has to be able to come up with designs that create sparkled “squared” – a double dose.

Adding “sparkle” is not, however, only about bright, sparkly things. It doesn’t mean adding glitz. It is not about bling. It’s some more subtle thing. Sparkle is something that wells up within. It is completing, reassuring, reaffirming, self-actualizing, reconnecting. It is a momentary oneness with the air, a breathlessness, a feeling so good welling up within you. A smile.

So, we must have some insight, some clue, some fathoming of how the person – whether the wearer or the viewer – begins to sparkle from within. What are they seeing? What are they noticing? How are they interpreting? How are they understanding?

How is their eye and brain working, when it interacts with jewelry, on a perceptual level? What is the eye and brain really seeing? What is it really responding to?

How is their brain interpreting what it sees? How does the brain come to evaluate the degree to which any piece of jewelry meets a person’s needs, wants, desires, motivations?

How does all this translation of lines and points and shapes and colors and textures and patterns and lights and shadows and drapes and flows and movements and silhouettes result in a sparkling from within?

The search for these answers is very much a part of what it means to hunt for your Rogue Elephant. Otherwise, you will never truly succeed, through your jewelry, at adding a little sparkle in people’s lives.

Except in a random sense.

And that’s not good enough.

Overcoming A Person’s Fears and Anxieties

One thing jewelry does for the viewer is assist in overcoming their fears and anxieties. The fears and anxieties arise because the viewer is now forced to have to interact with another person. And the viewer is now forced to relinquish some sense of power and control in a situation, as this additional person (thus unpredictable entity) is added to the situation. It is important that the eye/brain make a very quick assessment of the situation – dangerous or not? Threatening or not? Predictable or not?

Luckily for the eye/brain, we are pre-wired to avoid snakes and spiders, so much of our response is preprogrammed and automatic. This is our innate fear response. When the eye/brain interacts with an object, like a piece of jewelry, the first thing it tries to do is make sense of the object. And the first thing it does to make sense of the object is to try to make a complete visual circle around it. Anything that impedes making that complete circle gets the eye/brain on edge, and begins to get translated as boring, monotonous, not satisfying, ugly, scary, will cause death.

The second thing the eye/brain tries to do, when trying to make sense of the object, is find a place to come to rest. Anything that impedes finding that place to come to rest, again, puts the eye/brain on edge, and gets translated as boring, monotonous, not satisfying, ugly, scary, will cause death.

The jewelry designer can look at their jewelry, and determine if anything would impede the eye/brain of the viewer from making a complete circle and come to rest. A clasp assembly that seems like an afterthought, or isn’t finished off correctly. A lack of a focal point. Poor choices of colors. Thread showing.

Jewelry Is Very Orienting

Without visual clues suggesting what is up and down, or right and left, a person would tend to fall down. People need to see walls, floors and ceilings when inside, and trees, buildings, horizon lines, and the sun, when outside. Or they will fall down. We know this well with pilots who fly in bad weather and cannot read their panel instruments. They don’t know what is up and down or where the horizon is, and they tend to crash.

People need orienting clues. Jewelry, it turns out, is a very important orienting clue for people. You know this intuitively. When someone’s earring dangle is stuck at a 90 degree angle, it is very disconcerting. The same can be said when someone’s necklace has turned around their neck, and is no longer properly placed. When someone wears only one earring, do you feel your body begin to slant in that direction? Probably. The one earring, the asymmetrical necklace, can be very irritating.

Jewelry Sets A Tone and Rhythm For The Situation

Everyone has read lots of studies about how color affects situations. People are more angry in red rooms, more calm in blue rooms, heal better in green rooms, have more intellectual sharpness in yellow rooms. Some colors speak to the world of Fall, others of Summer, still others of Winter and Spring. Some colors combine well with some, and not so well with others. Some are very corporate, some very down to earth.

The jewelry designer needs to remember that any piece of jewelry is a cacophony of colors. It is one color leveraging another leveraging still another. The finished jewelry piece is much more powerful in its impact due to the resolution of all this activity around color.

Color is not the only design element that the jewelry designer has to manage. She or he must be aware of all the other little pieces we use, and the presence of shapes, points, lines and forms. And that these shapes, points, lines and forms can be straight, curved, undulating, segmented, disrupted. And that all these shapes, points, lines and forms, whether straight, curved, undulating, segmented, or disrupted, function in different lights and shadows, different convergences and reflections and refractions of light, and move and fluctuate and convolute as the wearer moves through different positions, and different contexts and different situations.

And feel all that leveraging, as each aspect of each aspect of each aspect of jewelry magnifies or suppresses another.

This is one of the cores where sparkle comes from.

Or in where it gets lost.

The jewelry designer, when designing, can ignore all this. And in that case, they are really not designing. They are crafting.

Or the jewelry designer, when designing, can try to assert some control over this, taking risks, leveraging how one component or element amplifies another. And find that Rogue Elephant of theirs.

The elements in jewelry, and their arrangement, play a song. These can be one note. These can be many notes. Or chords. Harmonic. Orchestral. Symphonic. Jazz. Waltz. Hip Hop. Cacophony. The jewelry designer needs to be able to hear this song in their inner ear as they design. Because they are responsible for the arrangement. And tweaking or changing the arrangement.

The jewelry designer is a Conductor.

Of sparkle.

Avoiding discord.

Jewelry Is A Laying On Of Hands

We give very few people permission to touch us. We allow our doctor to touch us. And our mother and father. Our spouse and children. An occasional hug from friends and acquaintances. The comforting of our minister. A shaking of hands.

Fewer people do we allow to touch our breasts, our necks, our ears.

Yet we allow jewelry to touch these parts. The hand of the designer is very evident in their pieces. And it is this “hand” that we allow to touch our very personable parts.

The question is why?

Jewelry, and its wearing, must be very, very important to us.

We allow this “hand” of the jewelry artist to draw a line – a silhouette – on our body, separating our body into parts. We allow this “hand” of the jewelry artist to point to and call attention to some parts of our body, and away from others. We allow this “hand” of the jewelry artist to amplify our feelings and emotions, and suppress others. We allow this “hand” of the jewelry artist to help us define how we want to represent ourselves to the world around us, and how we want to assist that world in how it interprets who we are, what we want, where we want to go.

The “line” of the jewelry across our body or appended from our body signals to others our permission about where we will allow them to look, gaze and wonder, and where not. Above the breast, along the breast, below the breast, way below the breast. At the ear, at the top of the neck, and the mid-point of the neck, at the base of the neck. At the fingers, at the hand, at the wrist, at the arm, at the arm-pit and shoulder. At the toe, at the foot, at the ankle. At the lip, at the nose, at the brow, at the forehead and head.

The “line” is also suggestive of sexuality and arousal. It signals what body parts are in play, and to what degree they are in play. A pleasant play of cleavage or a romp in the hay. A holding of hands or an interplay of hands on body. An appreciation of the ear, or a kiss on the neck.


A One-Ness and A Connectedness

People wear jewelry to define themselves as both unique, and as part of a larger group. Jewelry, in fact, helps people resolve the inevitable tensions that arise between a sense of self and a sense of self as part of a larger group or community.

From experience, you know everyone wants their bracelet to be unique …. But not so Unique that no one in their group of friends or workmates or relatives thinks it’s pretty.

That means, there needs to be some sharing where everyone knows the meanings and the rules of the game. There is some acceptable range of colors, shapes, and patterns. The jewelry designer must work within the boundaries of these shared meanings, while making the experience of the individual wearer somehow special…. And unique. A paradox.

Jewelry is one type of object – and a critical object at that – that the person uses to show how she (or he) feels about themselves. How she (or he) reaffirms the values and perspectives of their group. To the extent that the jewelry reaffirms these values and perspectives, she (or he) increases personal chances for survival and protection from potential threats and actualized threats. That is, selection of the correct and appropriate piece of jewelry shows that she (or he) understands how others will view and understand the piece. This knowledge is one basis for power, and creates the opportunity to expand that power with further correct and appropriate selections.

Jewelry is Power! Social Power! The power to manipulate interpersonal activities and relationships.

So, the jewelry designer must make sure that:

- the bride looks much better than the brides maids
- the boss looks much better than the subordinates
- the teacher looks much better than the students
- the person who claims to know more about jewelry design looks much better than the person who is assumed to know less
- and that the designer looks at least as good, if not better, than the clients.

Sometimes, the connection and approval the wearer of jewelry seeks is not from any kind of peer group. Rather it is from a higher and spiritual power. Again, the jewelry is used to reconfirm values and perspectives. And the jewelry somehow resonates some spiritual connection.

There Should Be No Non-Essential Elements

The best jewelry – the most attractive, the most powerful, the most functional, the most inner-sparkling – are pieces within which there are no extraneous elements. Adding (or subtracting) anything within the pieces no longer makes it a better piece.

Here’s where many prospective jewelry designers trip up. Most try to over-embellish their pieces. If one fringe works, 12 fringes will work better. If bead-bezeled cabochons worked, 6 more will be better. The more beads, the more Power.

And others are afraid to add more pieces, for fear someone will think they are show’y. They shy away from asserting power. They are uncertain. If someone says one piece is beautiful, they wonder if they could create it again. Successful jewelry scares them.

These kinds of jewelry designers substitute more (or less) as a way of avoiding making hard choices – choices to find that parsimonious conclusion that works.

And sparkles.



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