FLUENCY AND PROFICIENCY IN JEWELRY DESIGN
Book under development
A Book About How To Become
The Best and Most Successful Jewelry Designer
You Can Be…
That is my hope
By Warren Feld
I am a Jewelry Designer.
I teach classes in jewelry design and applications.
I own a bead store.
In the 1990s, my partner and I decided we wanted to set up a training program, but something different than what already existed. It was obvious to us that what already existed wasn’t working.
It came down to this: our bead store customers and our jewelry making students were not challenging us. They were not pushing us to seek out new materials. They were not demanding that we more critically evaluate various stringing materials and jewelry findings options. They were not wondering why some things broke or didn’t come together well. They were not encouraging us to explore the craft and see where we could take it.
The typical customer, at that time, would learn one technique, apply it to one pattern, and do this pattern over and over again, perhaps only varying the colors. They would make at least 10 or 12 of the exact same pieces, and carry them around in zip lock plastic bags secured in their purses. They rarely deviated from using the same materials, the same clasps, the same jewelry findings. They never asked questions about what else they could do. They never challenged themselves.
Students wanted us to tell them, step-by-step, how to do it. They didn’t want to think about it. They just wanted to make something quickly and that they could wear home. Uninterested in whether there were better stringing materials for the project. Or a more clever way to construct the clasp assembly. Or better choices of colors, patterns, textures or materials. Or things they could do to make the piece move better, drape better and be more comfortable to wear. Or even take the time to consider the appropriateness of the piece, given where and when the piece was intended to be worn.
We began to see that this was not a customer or student problem. It was not any personal characteristics. Or motivations. Or experiences. Or skill level. This was a problem about what they learned and how they were taught.
Jewelry design, at the time, was considered more an avocation than an occupation or a profession. There was the assumption that no special knowledge was required. You were either creative or you were not. And all it took was to reduce a project to a series of steps where jewelry making was basically paint-by-numbers. Art and Design concepts were dumbed down for jewelry makers, rather than elaborated and reinforced.
Around this time, the art world seemed to want to make a big push to encompass jewelry, as well. Jewelry was defined as a subset of painting or sculpture. And this lent an air of professionalization to the field. Jewelry making here became a beauty contest. But jewelry design was divorced from the materials it was made from, the constructive choices necessary for it to function, and the person who was to wear it.
Before designing jewelry, I had been a painter. For several years when I began designing jewelry, I approached jewelry projects as if I were painting them. This was very frustrating. I couldn’t get the color effects I wanted to achieve. Or the sense of line and shape and dimension. To compensate for my repeated feelings of failure, I actually pulled out my acrylic paints and canvas and painted my creations as I had visualized them in my mind. I could paint jewelry well. But, stuck as I was in this painter-as-designer-rut, I could not satisfactorily translate my vision into a satisfying piece of jewelry.
It finally began to dawn on me the things which needed to be learned and needed to be taught. My partner and I began organizing these ideas and values into something we called The Design Perspective.
These ideas and values form a sort of Design Manifesto. These were, and continue to be, as follows, and it is my hope, as you read through the book, that these become yours, as well.
First (and foremost):
Jewelry is art only as it is worn.
Jewelry should reflect the artist’s intent. Creativity is not merely Doing. It’s Thinking, as well.
Jewelry is not designed in a vacuum; rather, it results from the interaction of the artist and his or her various audiences.
Jewelry design should be seen as a constructive process; jewelry should be seen as more architectural than craft or art.
Design choices are best made and strategically managed at the boundary between jewelry and person, where the artist can best determine when enough is enough.
Jewelry must succeed aesthetically, functionally, and contexturally, and, as such, jewelry design choices must reflect the full scope of all this, if jewelry is to be judged as finished, successful and, most importantly, resonant.
Everyone has a level of creativity within them, and they can be taught how to be better jewelry designers.
Successful teaching of jewelry design requires strategies leading students to be literate in how they select, combine and arrange design elements, and to be fluent in how they manipulate, construct, and reveal their compositions.
Successful jewelry designing can only be taught within an agreed upon disciplinary literacy.
Tenth (and final):
Disciplinary literacy should be taught developmentally.
Our curriculum emerged from our understandings about disciplinary literacy and our attempts to implement what we learned from it. This curriculum evolved into this book.
PEARL KNOTTING WARREN'S WAY
Book under development
“Over the years, I have found it very difficult for most students (and even my instructors) to get good knots and good hand-knotted construction using tools. It is difficult to maneuver the knot close to the bead, and it is difficult to keep sufficient tension on your bead cords, as you make the knot. After much trial and experimentation, I developed this set of non-traditional steps without using tools. My students usually master this approach on their very first try!” – Warren
Pearl knotting is a relatively easy technique. There are many variations in how to implement the technique. Here we present the steps for a non-traditional approach to pearl knotting. We feel that, for most people, the traditional approach, without a lot of practice, can be a bit awkward, and result in a less-than-desired functional outcome. The non-traditional approach we present here is easier to achieve a better outcome.
There are 4 different ways for starting and finishing off your pearl-knotted piece. How-to steps for each way are presented.
In this approach, we do NOT use any tools -- like tweezers, awls, or tri-cord knotters -- to make our knots. We do, however, pull two thicknesses of bead cord through each bead, as does the classical version of the traditional methodology. We minimize the use of glue.
HOW TO BEAD A ROGUE ELEPHANT
Book under development
HOW TO BEAD A ROGUE ELEPHANT
…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren Feld
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.
Only the beader or jewelry artist who is willing to submerge her-
or him-self completely in this wonderfully off-centered picture –
Rogue Elephant, beads, stringing materials, clasps and all –
will really get the fullness of this humor, this wisdom, and the splendor
of beading and jewelry making as a form of art that is worn.
do you stop an elephant from passing through the eye of a needle?
a knot in its tail.
The issues and inspirations that drive the
How to Bead a Rogue Elephant is a collection of personal perspectives
and experiences on the issues and inspirations that drive the bead
and jewelry-making artist in their designs. “Design” is
the operative word here. A Rogue Elephant does not present an obstacle,
nor create any opportunities, for the artist, unless that artist understands,
follows through and is committed to Jewelry as an Art Form, and realizes
that jewelry is art only as it is worn. Jewelry as art isn’t
a happenstance. It is made up of a lot of different kinds of parts.
These must be strategically and thoughtfully brought together. They
are brought together as a kind of construction project. The results
of this project must be beautiful and appealing. They must be functional
and wearable. And this all comes about through design. Jewelry must
be designed. And designed it is.
Rogue Elephants are big, and jewelry design is a big task. Rogue
Elephants move in unpredictable, yet forceful ways. And jewelry must
be designed with movement in mind. Rogue Elephants come with a surface
scape, texture and environment, against which the jewelry must look
good. And again, good jewelry emerges primarily from the design perspective
and control of the bead and/or jewelry artist.
Most beaders and jewelry makers don’t get to the point where
they can fully answer Why do some pieces of their jewelry get good
attention, and others do not.? They have fun making things. They match
outfits. They give gifts. They sell a few pieces. They use pretty
beads and other components. And sometimes they get compliments. Othertimes
they do not.
Thus, they don’t necessarily know what to do with the pieces
they are playing with. They don’t control these pieces, or the
process of combining them. They follow patterns and instructions.
And do these again. And again and again. Their artistic goals are
to complete the steps and end up with something. They might stick
to one or a few techniques they feel comfortable with. There is an
unfamiliarity with the “bead” – what is it? where
did it come from? what makes it special as a medium of art and light
and shadow? how does it relate to other beads or clasps or stringing
materials or jewelry findings? What happens to the bead over time?
When they look at the bead, what do they see?
But luckily, beading for many artists is an evolving obsession. This
obsession leads them to contemplate the bead and its use. The bead
and its use in art. The bead and its use in jewelry. The bead and
its relationship to the artist’s studio. Beads are addictive.
Their addictiveness leads the beader or jewelry maker to seek out
that Rogue Elephant that haunts them along the distant horizon. They
know they want to bead it. They’re not sure how. But they steer
themselves along the pathway to find out. This pathway isn’t
particularly straight, level or passable. But it’s a pathway
nonetheless. And the ensuing possibilities for learning and growing
as an artist and designer along the way reap many worthwhile and satisfying
rewards. I call this CONTEMPLATION.
The first step in this pathway is to figure out how to get started
with beads and jewelry making. You need supplies. You need work spaces
and storage strategies and understanding how to get everything organized.
You need to anticipate bead spills and many unfinished projects. You
need to learn to plan your pieces. You need to get a handle on the
beads (and all the other pieces), and how to use them. I call this
Whatever the reason, most beaders and jewelry makers don’t
get past PLAY. They are content following patterns and making lots
of pieces, according to the step-by-step instructions in these patterns.
They might fear testing themselves against broader rules of artistic
expression. They might not want to expend the mental and physical
energy it takes to get into design. They just want to have fun. And
if they never notice that Rogue Elephant hugging the horizon, that’s
fine with them.
But for those beaders and jewelry makers for whom the Rogue Elephant
is very disturbing, no matter how far away he may be, there are these
wonderfully exciting, sensually terrific, incredibly fulfilling things
that you find as you try to bead your Rogue Elephant, ear, trunk,
feet, bodice and all. You learn to play with and dabble with and control
the interplay of light and shadow, texture and pattern, dimensionality
and perspective, strategy and technique, form and function, structure
and purpose. You begin sharing your designs with friends and strangers,
perhaps even teaching classes about how to make your favorite project,
or do your preferred technique. You might also create a small business
for yourself and sell your pieces. Your sense of artistry, your business
acumen, your developing design perspective -- you need all this, if
you are to have any chance of catching up with your Rogue Elephant,
let alone beading him. As you begin to evolve beyond the simple craft
perspective to one of artistry and then design, you enter the stage
I call DABBLING.
As your jewelry pieces become more the result of your design intuition
and acuity, you begin to wonder how other artists capture, be-jewel,
and release their own Rogue Elephants. How did they get started? What
was their inspiration? What motivated them to delve into beading,
stick with it, and take it to the next level? You begin to recognize
how some pieces of beadwork and jewelry are merely “craft”,
and others are “art”. You get frustrated with beautiful
pieces that are unwearable and fashionable pieces that lack durability
and pieces that sell that are poorly constructed. You see many good
ideas, some well-executed, but many not. I call this SAFARI.
Part of this SAFARI is historical. And the more recent socio-cultural-artistic
history of beading in America is a fantastic tale of curiosity, grit,
creative expression, ambition and technological advances in materials.
Beading exploded across America in the late 1980s and 1990s and owes
much to its many fore-mothers and a few fore-fathers that began their
beadwork careers at this time, as well as those who founded the many
beadwork magazines so prominent today. The other part of the SAFARI
is learning life’s lessons, and incorporating these into beadwork
and jewelry making approaches and designs.
As you begin to articulate what works and does not work in various
pieces in terms of form, structure, art theory, relationships to the
body, relationships to psychological and cultural and sociological
constructs, you complete your evolution as a jewelry designer. You
add a body of design theory and practice to your already honed skills
in art, color, bead-stringing, bead-weaving and wire working. You
find and bead your Rogue Elephant. I call this GALLERY HOPPING.
GALLERY HOPPING is partly a personal adventure as you self-experience
your intellectual growth as an artist. And it is partly an adventure
of evaluating how well others artists have succeeded in this same
quest, as well. One very revealing pathway is following how artists
contemporize traditional designs. Another is to look at multimedia
beadwork, and how artists seek to maintain the integrity of each medium
within the same piece. Yet another pathway is through collaboration.
And still another is how to dress and present yourself for success,
including strategies for self-promotion.
Your adventure along this pathway towards design – your success
at beading your Rogue Elephant – is very fulfilling. Whether
you walk, run, skip or crawl or some mix of the above, it’s
a pathway worth following. You’ve learned to transcend the physicality
and limitations of your workpace, tools and supplies. You’ve
learned to multi-task and organize and construct your project as if
you were engineering a bridge. You’re a designer. You’ve
evolved as a beader and jewelry-designer and are feeling a true SATISFACTION.