Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Unconscious Desiging Part 3

The Edge of Design

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.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Unconscious Designing Part 2

In the last post on “Unconscious Designing” I talked about design issues caused by the failure to look at the piece as a whole. This discussion centers in on the bead embroidered portion. I have a premise here which is “techniques are tools designers use to create”. My essential point is that designs are not just about the beads and focals, nor just about the color palette. Yes, those elements are critical aspects but it is also about how these are all assembled. The stitches and techniques selected and used are an integral and important part of the design.

When I see a design failure, it is most often pieces that constructed entirely of a peyote bezel and backstitch. While those techniques are enormously useful in creating bead embroidery, if those are the ONLY and ALWAYS used techniques in Every creation, then there is cause to investigate and consider “unconscious designing”. Yes, those can work in a design, my point is they don’t work in Every design, yet some beaders do just that. It almost seems that some designs are made with more thought about “How I do this stitch in this instance” than giving any thought to “Should I use this stitch in this instance”. Conscious designing always includes the “should I” question.

One of my sensitivities is the Always use of a peyote bezel. In reality, MANY designs start with an amazing focal (bead, cabochon, donut, button, etc). This focal was often purchased at a dear price, and is clearly the focus not only of the jewelry piece, but the focus of the inspiration of the beader. When a peyote bezel is used… and it covers more of the focal than other techniques and its design is not smooth so it “fights” with the focal for attention. Probably the worst is when it invades into the picture area of some focal (eg covers the hair of a cameo, pokes the eye on a face, or covers the ears of an animal). I see other focals that are amazing, beautiful stones that I know cost a pretty penny, yet, a peyote bezel was used and covers much of the surface. I am actually mystified by the choice of using this particular technique for these focals and the only way I can make sense of it is to attribute it to unconscious designing. There was no “choice” to use this technique because no thought at all was given to alternatives, this technique is just always used.

So, back to my premise “techniques are tools designers use to create”. This is also like “knowledge is power”. When you expand your tool chest to include a variety of techniques, this will improve your designs because you can make conscious choices and choose a technique that enhances the appearance. You can look at each focal and each square inch of the surface and identify what you want to accomplish. Think about the best way to bezel to make the focal the star. Think about how you want the eye to travel over the surface of the beadwork design. Create interest not only by the surface lines but also the surface highs and lows (topography).

It’s your design, make it your choice….. not a default.