Monday, October 21, 2013

Change your design approach

Changing how you approach your design process can help you in your creative process. It is very typical in bead embroidery to start with an amazing focal and create a design to use it. Whether that focal is a cabochon, a large bead, shell or other wonderful object, it is the source of focus and inspiration. In fact, the ability of bead embroidery techniques to create a fabulous jewelry piece using this approach is what gets many people learning bead embroidery. This type of beading celebrates the unique and provides a vehicle to showcase that amazing thing you have.

While this is the standard starting point, it is certainly not the only one. So, for a design exercise, try a different approach and start by selecting a strand of beads. You know what I mean, that strand you saw, loved and had to buy (sometimes even though it was too expensive!). That strand. The one that you have, but haven’t used yet. Yes, start with that. The project on pg 23 in Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects does just that.

So, for this necklace, the start was a beautiful strand of flat oval millefiori beads. These beads dictated the color palette and completely influenced the design from choosing a simple pendant type of necklace (they said I’m the STAR, let ME shine, don’t compete with me), to the selection of the flower bezel technique (millefiori=thousand flowers), to finally the subtle Side Petal Edge. The result is a necklace that is easily wearable, soft and feminine.

For my second example, I start with a strand of 8mm round beads made of magnesite chips in resin. Hot, bold….the red was screaming at me! Again, since there was so much pattern in the beads, I selected a solid color cabochon (mountain jade dyed a deep red) and 8mm buri nut round beads. I selected a Twisted Bezel to introduce texture around the bold red cabochon and used some white seed beads in the surrounding rows to mimic the chips in my inspiration bead strand. I finished with a Side Petal edge and attached with a Herringbone Loop, side variation. My bold design will look absolutely fabulous on a white top and is even bold enough to handle a top with a pattern in the fabric.

In my next example I selected an Amazonite Fan bead strand. I want to focus the fan in the center, emphasize the fan shape (not use it on a bead embroidered surface). So, I chose a design variation of the project on pg 97. That project is asymmetrical, but I chose to do it as a symmetrical piece. I filled in with other Amazonite beads and Tiger Eye. Here is my design and the project I based it on.

In the next example I started with a strand of small sea urchin shells. There are many colors in these shells, but I selected the rust tones, copper, and plum. I ignore the white in the shell. This is often an effective approach (ignoring) when there are many colors. Again, this design is based on the approach in the previous mentioned project on pg 97. And, oh my, I had some left over... so of course a new design.

Oh how I love coral sticks! Often they are top drilled, but I got a strand of center drilled…. Yes, excitement that means I NEED to use ‘em! What could be better that accenting with turquoise and blending with orange calcite? I strung the necklace strand first and then worked and decided on the rest of the design. This looks so good on my chocolate brown sweater I could eat it!

Genuine stone chips are easy to find, buy and they are economical. Personally, I love the organic look they give… every chip is a little different…. freedom. However, since some are fat, others skinny, it can be challenging to use them in designs. The solution is to create designs with some freedom with the form. This piece started with a strand of New Jade chips adding in black for accent and wardrobe wear ability. It is an interpretation of the Midnight Waterfall necklace in Dimensional Bead Embroidery pg 123.

Ok, here is my point. Sometimes to kick our creative juices into a flow it is helpful to change up your approach. So stop staring at that cabochon and wondering what you are going to do with it. Instead, take a break, grab a strand of beads that you love and start the juices flowing! Get in touch with your inner stringer and honor the strand. Work it into a design and let this change in approach open your creative eye.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Design versus Style

Often these words are used interchangeably but that is not really correct, they are actually very different.

Design is:
“The elements and principles of design are the building blocks used to create a work of art. The elements of design can be thought of as the things that make up a painting, drawing, design etc. Good or bad - all paintings will contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design. The Principles of design can be thought of as what we do to the elements of design. How we apply the Principles of design determines how successful we are in creating a work of art.” As quoted from

The important point here is that this is more like a science with rules and concepts. You can learn about design by searching the internet, taking college or other courses in school. And, specifically for jewelry and beading, Margie Deeb has great books Beaders Guide to Color and The Beaders Color Palette that go in depth about one of the principles of design: color. So, just to tease you, I understand from Margie that she has a new book coming out next year about the other concepts in design specifically as they relate to jewelry! (me, I can hardly wait….)

Style is completely different. Style is more about emotion and personality. Examples work best here…. Masters of Style in bead embroidery include Sherry Serafini and Heidi Kummli and I doubt any would disagree. When you see a piece done by either of these two masters, you instantly recognize their creations. Their respective books (Sherry Serafini’s Sensational Bead Embroidery and Heidi Kummli's The Spirit of Bead Embroidery) and their joint endeavor (The Art of Bead Embroidery) show you how to duplicate their styles. But what I find more elevating is how they encourage you to use that as a starting point and grow on your own, develop your own style.

There are many styles – Victorian, grunge, western, contemporary, conservative, many different ethnics, ad infinitum…. Pure versions of any of these are usually easily recognizable. And of course there are blends. What is your style? How would you describe your wardrobe? Crafting a style that is all you and recognizable instantly is an art and often more difficult than you think. Human nature leads us to duplicate what we see, especially when learning. This is easiest to see in the master painters or potters and their students. The students work looks like the master until as time goes by, they develop their own unique twists and attributes. That is the goal, to become a master on their own.

So, I claim I don’t have a recognizable style. Friends have argued with me about this and claim they always can recognize my work. So here are some pieces out in the web world.

My contention is if you think the same person did those, then that person has multiple-personality-syndrome or is schizophrenic. Then they claim that there is a perfection of execution that is recognizable. Ok, flatter me and I’ll relent! But I still say there isn’t one “style”, I’m all over the place and this is on purpose. I’ve tried to spread the joy of the craft of bead embroidery and I want to talk to everyone, no matter their personal taste, and so I’ll channel someone else and do a design from their point of view. I’m trying to make it easier for students to find their own voice by muting mine.

So… why is this on my mind? You may know I have a new book Bead Embroidery Jewelry Projects – Design and Construction, Ideas and Inspiration that has just been released. Each project/project variation was selected to teach/instruct about a principle of design or methodology in construction. Honestly, I don’t meet many bead embroidery people who want to exactly duplicate a project by someone else; rather they want to put their own spin, colors, focal selection, etc. in the design. So, the projects are made also as easy springboards for you to do just that. If you want to duplicate a project to concentrate on your technique then the instructions are there for you to do just that.

And, key to this is what I say in Exercise 2 on page 11… “Spend time looking at designs you don’t like….. What exactly is wrong…. … What changes would you make that could turn the necklace into one that you liked?” This will help you enormously to develop your own style. Maybe the point here is to pick the project you like least! That may help you grow the most.

I’ve seen negative reviews on this book, Sherry’s book and Heidi’s book and it is almost funny. They say they don’t like the projects. If you want to duplicate projects, then you should look at a book first to see if there are projects you want to duplicate. Isn’t that just common sense and true of any bead book? That isn’t the fault of the book, it’s your fault. Now, if the instructions and advice had errors, then that is the books fault but none of that is alleged in the reviews.

But if you want, instead, to learn processes, design concepts, and meanings from generous artists to help you grow as an artist and craftsperson, then just get these books and Absorb the wonderful information.