In the prior blogs in this series, I discussed unconscious designing from the point of view of the Whole piece and the surface design choices. Now it’s time to discuss the edge.
First, let’s discuss one design choice I’ve seen which is No edge beadwork, simply gluing the outer backing on and cutting it. Or, maybe even doing a whipstitch stitching the backing to the outerbacking. I’ve seen this justified by the mention that the surface beading goes all the way to the edge. This is an unacceptable justification since all surface beading should be all the way to the edge. The backing and outerbacking edges are NOT attractive. Edge beading covers it. If you want a good design, you must do edge beadwork, it is as simple as that. Look at how people examine a piece of jewelry – they look at the back, they look at the side and of course the front. To pretend that the front of the piece is the ONLY part that matters is, well, wrong. Unless you don’t care about the quality of your design (which in that case you can just stop reading).
The excellent designs that I have seen consider the piece as a whole with attention to each part of the piece, including technique choices within the surface, AND are designed for the entire piece, including the edge. The problem I see with many bead embroidery jewelry designs is that they just stopped at a raw edge (aka sunshine edge, or brick stitch edge). There are so many techniques for adding beads on to a raw edge. This completion of the design can provide for color balancing, and a frame that blends and completes the entire piece instead of just Stopping (which is what a raw edge does).
So, when does a raw edge work? If the design is linear, strong, clean, contemporary and bold and if the thread color completely matches the beads on the edge, then a raw edge can be the best design choice. However, even with these criteria, you should review the other edge techniques that are applied to a raw edge to see if the design could be elevated with use of another technique.
Another criteria is that the piece MUST be a necklace. Yes, the only type of jewelry that a raw edge is an acceptable design criteria is a necklace.
In other words, NEVER use the raw edge as a final edge on earrings or a bracelet. Yes you see it A LOT, and yes there are famous excellent teachers who do this. I’m saying: That doesn’t make it right. So, let me explain. When this edge is used on a necklace, it sits firmly on the body. The view of the edge showing the bead holes and thread is very limited. That limitation is important because the view of the holes and thread is simply NOT attractive. And if you think it is, then you are just accepting it and not making a conscious, critical evaluation, which is understandable since it is so prevalent and taught as the main edge by almost everyone. Take a minute and look at this edge trying to see it anew, really, it’s not very pretty…. So since you can’t see much of that view on a necklace, it is acceptable to use it.
That is not the case with a bracelet or earrings. The edge is Very visible.
There is a secondary reason to NOT use this edge on bracelets and earrings. When thread is exposed, it is vulnerable for breaking from wear and tear. This is a main tenant of ALL types of beadwork, to hide the thread, not only from an attractiveness point of view but a safety of construction perspective. And, let’s be honest - earrings are worn near the face, and faces often have makeup on them. Any rubbing of the earring on the face (dandle earrings, normal movement) can soil the thread. Ick.
So what is a conscious designer supposed to do?
1. Use the Clean Edge stitch instead of the raw edge. This provides the same lines and smooth design but the beads are turned so the hole doesn’t show. It provides for the same design line, but is attractive.
2. Add an edge technique on the raw edge. If you have a piece already made that you want to fix AND you still want a smooth clean line for the edge, use the Turn Bead Edge (pg 25 in Beading with Cabochons) with size 15 beads. This edge is performed like doing a backstitch on the edge. Use 15’s so you don’t change the size of the piece very much.
3. When you are making your design choices at the very start of the design process, include a consideration for the edge.
Creating good designs is not just about the colors you use, or the beads and components. It involves every aspect of your creation. First I wanted to create awareness which is what this series of blogs was intended to do.
Yes, this advice is in BEAD EMBROIDERY JEWELRY PROJECTS, DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION, IDEAS AND INSPIRATION. And yes you can pre-order on Amazon.